The Critical Making exhibition combines artistic work, experimentations, and short essays from two courses—Media and the Environment and Electronics for Artists—from the Master’s Programme in New Media at Aalto University. Both courses explore the notion of critical making as an artistic approach to tackle the environmental and societal implications of digital media. Critical making is a term coined by Matt Ratto to describe the bridging of two modes of designerly or artistic practices that are often considered separate—critical thinking and making things. This hands-on with minds-on approach is at the core of the topics introduced on both courses. Some of the students took part in both courses and some of them only took one. The diversity of approaches to the topic highlights the transdisciplinary nature of our MA programme and the students who gather here from around the world.
Media and the Environment investigates the Anthropocene through the lenses of extraction, fabrication, labor, and waste in relationship to contemporary media technology and culture. The course started with an excursion to the forests of Nuuksio in search of matsutake mushrooms. We were not so lucky with matsutakes, but we did find plenty of other mushrooms. More importantly, we discussed the notions of precarity, ruins, and contamination while we drank coffee by the beautiful forest lake. Later, we investigated the environmental impacts of blockchains and NFTs; discussed the geological deep time and materiality of digital devices, the cloud, and AI systems; learned about open design; and considered artistic research approaches to explore these topics further. Seven artworks and essays in this exhibition reflect the process and results of our explorations during the course.
Electronics for Artists is a course aimed for the 1st year students of the New Media Design and Production major. It introduces physical computing as a creative framework for exploring the connections between digital media and the physical world. Students explore electronics as a creative medium through hands-on exercises and examples. A critical approach is introduced through screenings, examples, and readings. Admittedly, the focus on this course is on the making side of critical making. As many of the students are completely new to the field and materials, it is important to also leave the space to experiment and explore with and through the medium without knowing exactly where it leads you. The other artworks in this exhibition are the results or process documentations of this embodied way of working with hardware, software, and fabrication.
Mathias Leopold Hörlesberger
Carlos Daniel Perez
FE Lobby (1st Floor)
F Lobby (G Floor)
Room O102 (Media Lab Home Base)