Architect Andrea Shin Ling’s bio-design installation anchors Canada’s longest-running experimental works festival
The world’s largest and longest-running queer theatre played host to a large-scale installation by award-winning designer and architect Andrea Shin Ling this year as part of their Annual Rhubarb Festival. Since 1979, Rhubarb has been a hotbed of experimentation, exploring new possibilities in art-making and performance.
Curated by festival director Clayton Lee, Andrea’s project, Calculus of an infinite rot, part 1, experiments with the designed decay of organic material with the intent that they fuel new creation, highlighting the coupled nature of decay and regeneration. Collected from fallen maple and spruce trees, 34 stumps have been processed to various levels of finish. Many of them were then inoculated with fungus and bacteria and left to incubate for a month in the theatre space. The work fits into Ling’s larger body of which focuses on the generation of living, responsive material via biological and digital design processes. The installation also serves as a living container for this year’s Rhubarb performances, where performers are asked how to regenerate their practice after 2 years of COVID, especially for art forms that require in-person experiences such as theatre.
“Andrea’s work addresses concerns about the present, while simultaneously using technology and research that propels us decades into the future. The installation she’s created for Rhubarb is a response to this moment, and the festival artists, in turn, have created work that responds to it,” says festival director Clayton Lee.
“Calculus of an infinite rot, part 1, is a reflection on philosopher Reza Negarestani’s position that decay is not the marked absence of life or wholeness, but rather the negotiation between shifting states of living and dying,” says Ling. “Decay and regeneration are paired processes, where the entropy of one system is used for the organization of another. Through decay, the differentiation occurs between humans, trees, insects, and microbes blurs, as parts of us become parts of them and vice versa, in a process that is leaky, smelly, and messy.”
During the Festival (February 4-13), different artists intervened with the installation, creating performances responding to both the physical and thematic proposals that it puts forward. Throughout the festival, these objects changed in subtle and sometimes invisible ways, and making use of the theatre’s ecosystem in order to transform. Critically, these objects continue to move through stages of rot, decay, and regenerations well beyond the time boundaries of the festival itself.
Project title: Calculus of an infinite rot, part 1
Location: Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto, ON
Dates: February 4-13, 2022 at the Rhubarb Festival
Concept + design lead Andrea Shin Ling
Curator Clayton Lee
fabricators Leah Ataide + Nicholas Hoban
technical support Betty Poon + Anna Gregorczyk + Olga Chomiak + Natasha Christie-Holmes (Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto)
View the complete gallery
About Andrea Shin Ling
Andrea Ling (CA) is an architect, artist, and researcher working at the intersection of design, fabrication, and biology. Her work focuses on how the critical application of biological and computational processes can move society away from exploitative systems of production and toward regenerative ones. She is the 2020 S+T+ARTS prize winner for her work as the 2019 Creative Resident at Ginkgo Bioworks, designing the decay of artifacts in order to access material circularity. She graduated from the MIT Media Lab, Mediated Matter group, where she was a research assistant on the Aguahoja project. Andrea is an architect with the Ontario Association of Architects and a founding partner at designGUILD, a Toronto-based art & design collective. She is currently an A&T fellow at the Institute of Technology and Architecture at ETH Zurich working on living material synthesis.