The Monochrome No-image

The earth is no longer the background of human action. Now, more than ever, we can only speak of space in relation to the mobile, spontaneous and less than predictable landscape that is participating fully in our lives. As case in point, a 10,000-year-old barrier island formation named Captiva, Florida will be the focus of our studio research, helping to bring together otherwise disparate phenomena that settle upon it but have thus far been considered independent: the reprise of hurricanes, the mobility of sand, the impressions of concrete foundations and the salty, algal permanence of seawater. Because the varying patterns of human settlement across Captiva Island do little to trace the dynamics of its physical morphology, this studio proposes to engage with varying phenomena in order to land the challenges of climate disintegration that rupture everyday lives.

Residents of Captiva recognize that no one property can ‘tackle’ the issues any longer, aware that the risks no longer adhere to insurance claims, planning boundaries or the imaginary of the sunshine state. How can design respond with equal foresight? Leading this effort is the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, an organization committed to fostering the legacy of Rauschenberg’s life, work, and philosophy; embodying the same fearlessness, and multidisciplinary approaches that Rauschenberg exemplified in both his art and philanthropic endeavors. Working directly with the foundation and Rauschenberg’s studio and home on Captiva, students will refine what it means to design between intensifying global forces and community-wide awareness.

Rauschenberg’s practices are well known for exposing the shared fragments of contemporary culture: overlapping images, ghosts of newspaper clippings, slivers of discarded boxes, collages of unearthed materials and evidence of memories. Each act generates a collage and overlay to create an alternate image. Rauschenberg insisted that erasure was not a form of destruction, calling it a monochrome no-image, subverting form through subtraction. Such practices testify to a long-standing engagement with the quantitative, spatial and procedural systems that structure daily life, and his home and studio in Captiva were the center of this material commitment. In much the same way, geologic, biotic and hydrological forces will drive the design studio because we are in a moment of suspension between the usual order and the failure of most human systems, which also means that we are free to design, live and act another way.