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Ben Luzzatto

Maryland Institute College of Art
Brooklyn, NY

My Bio:

Ben is an artist living in Brooklyn, NY. He works as a Professor of Interdisciplinary Sculpture at The Maryland Institute College of Art. He holds a BA from Vassar College and an MS from MIT. His practice includes sculpture, architecture, object design, writing and pedagogy and develops both physical and perceptual tools to give individuals greater agency within larger existential threats and systems; these include the ability to sequester carbon, purify water, delimit media connectivity, and slow down time. 

Ben’s current research centers on our personal relationship to carbon structure through pyrolysis, a technology that transforms everyday bio-matter and organic waste so it can be used to sequester carbon. Some of his other projects have included, “The Tommy,” a long-term, collaborative settlement in the Adirondack mountains, that integrates systems for human survival into off-grid architecture. 

His first book of philosophy, “The Theory of Everything, Abridged,” was published by Ugly Duckling Press. It is a combination of text, image, and documentation of his site-specific, performance experiments in the service of his hypothesis that any reconciliation of quantum theory with general relativity has more to do with the language we use to describe the universe, than with the discovery of any extra-dimensional, physical reality. His forthcoming book “Observer Dependent Simultaneity” interrogates contemporary notions of mystical knowledge.

brief description of a relevant project I am working on now:

Under a global lockdown, we rely more than ever on the technologies that enable remote connection. Cell phones, tablets, laptops  -  all connect individuals to the virtual world, but they often disconnect us from people in the same room and at the same table. At every moment, the connected device competes with solitary reflection and real-life interactions.  

Despite being aware of their disruptive qualities, it is very difficult to put down our phones — they are designed to be addictive, carried at all times, always on. Because only trackable online engagements can be commodified, pervasive ubiquity underwrites surveillance capitalism. At a time when we are confined to a domestic sphere, how can we resist this digital saturation?

To wrest back control, we can monitor our screen time and set limits on different platforms. But it’s still hard to put down our phones altogether – they are meant to be carried with you, after all. Niche products have been introduced for sealing your phone in a box – but they can't ensure that the people around you will do the same. Despite our great technological advances, there are still no effective means of “mutual disconnection,” 

But what if we could control connectivity with the same degree of precision with which we can adjust lighting and set the temperature in our homes? It's time to embrace the fact that we now occupy two worlds — one virtual and one physical — and we should be able to make determinations about how and when we inhabit them.

The Dis/Connect Chandelier revises the near-archaic signifying function of formality of the traditional chandelier, and instead delineates what is now a more necessary area: one of mutual disconnection. This chandelier disables all cellular and internet connectivity only directly below it, in a 4 foot radius. It casts not only light, but unmediated space. For those who choose to sit under it, engagement with one another is transparently and effortlessly device-free. 

To be wholly present with ourselves and each other, we must design new tools to protect space “in real life.” While digital privacy can also be achieved through Faraday "cages" (unwieldy, impractical) and black market jammers (overpowering, indiscriminate), the Dis/Connect Chandelier is designed to be accessible to the ordinary citizen. It offers a simple new typology of domestic space: one which allows individuals to decide the kind of engagement they want at home.

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