A Seedless Grape - Conditions for Air 'Taming the Horror Vacui' Haseeb Ahmed & guests, RIB, Rotterdam (NL)


‘Taming the Horror Vacui’, Haseeb Ahmed & guests, RIB, Rotterdam (NL)

Session #6: ‘A Seedless Grape – Conditions for Air’ by James Beckett

Taming the Horror Vacui
​Session #6: ‘A Seedless Grape – Conditions for Air’.
​Online talk by James Beckett
Including Q&A moderated by Haseeb Ahmed
​28.01.2021, 18:30-19:30 CET

​Rib is pleased to present a talk by artist James Beckett, ‘A Seedless Grape – Conditions for Air’. This talk is part of Haseeb Ahmed’s ‘Taming the Horror Vacui’, a long-term project (January 2020–June 2021).

The notion of the Horror Vacui tells us that “nature abhors a vacuum” and explains that air moves to fill voids wherever they may exist. This may be so in open atmosphere but at ground-level many factors shape the movement of wind. Rib and Haseeb Ahmed invite artist James Beckett to walk us through his current research on the history and broader cultural implications of air conditioning. This research was sparked by the fact that his current studio is the first building to be truly air conditioned, when it was a printing house back in 1902.

In session 3 Emiel Arendts showed us how the wind shapes and is shaped by the architecture of the city. For session six Beckett will address air-conditioning as “artefactual event” – an ephemeral entity, which is manufactured, distributed then dispersed. Beckett’s practice explores such histories concerned with industrial development and the built environment. In the amassing of his own collections, and working with those of museums, Beckett activates objects in order to unpack their abstract and metaphysical potential, often employing the absurd and uncanny to form new perspectives on formative events.

This talk is site-specific to Haseeb Ahmed’s ‘Taming the Horror Vacui’ program at Rib. Ahmed often works with the wind and over the last few months he and James Beckett have collaborated on a wind tunnel test of a failed invention from 1934, namely the Coolrest – “an air-conditioned tent that you can erect over your bed, in your own bed-room!” (brought to light by Salvatore Basile, in his book ‘Cool: How Air Conditioning Changed Everything’). The wind tunnel has been created by Ahmed at Rib as an experimental set up to study how objects interact with the wind and how practitioners of various disciplines interact with one another.

James Beckett’s talk will be the subject of issue six of the Taming the Horror Vacui publication edited by Piero Bisello.

​Image: Model of Coolrest bed for James Beckett and Haseeb Ahmed’s wind tunnel test. 2020

​Supported by Gemeente Rotterdam, Mondriaan Fund, VSB Fund, Creative Industries Fund NL and Mondriaan Fund Experimenteerregeling contributed to the honorarium of the artist.