By Sandra Schulman
Fusing wildly disparate worlds, a new exhibit at The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU in Miami Beach shows the vivid imagination of the husband-and-wife couple who run Monad Studios.
3-D printing has been evolving in a myriad of directions. Give this tool to an award-winning architecture, art and design practice founded by husband and wife Eric Goldemberg and Veronica Zalcberg of Monad and the result is an exhibit called La Cole (the abbreviation for the Spanish phrase la colectividad judía en Argentina) that surprises with a bizarre array of instruments both real and imagined.
The couple are originally from Argentina and transplanted from New York to Miami in 2006. As architects and artists, they are renowned for their work with 3-D printing and have been creating innovative transdisciplinary work together for 26 years.
The six instruments include a violin, a cello, a dronepipe and a piece that is a cross between a Theremin and a wearable corset. Some are printed in white acrylic while others, like the violin, are made from titanium. The shapes are fluid and sci-fi, like something H.R. Giger would imagine, or the edgy shapes the wind makes on sand dunes.
This colloquial term of “La Cole” is recognized by Argentines as lovingly referring to the local community of Jews and its close-knit, strong bonds. All of the elements of La Cole were created using state-of-the-art printers. I took a tour of the exhibit with designer Goldemberg, who explained the history of the project.
“We are architects who were given these 3-D printers. We began designing and printing these shapes that we also use in our futuristic architecture plans. These shapes are a language to us; they show up in all our work. It was a natural progression from building structure shapes to musical instruments,” he said.
“We were mainly inspired by the roots of banyan trees and how they turn and twist and overlap in their growth. These are sonic sculptures that are also playable. Some are made in pieces that were welded together like the titanium violin. We made a sculptural wall that holds the instruments. Others are made as a kind of skeletal speaker.”
The speaker shapes are large-scale, intricately ornate white panels, very insect-like, that hover above the central space of the gallery, which was originally a working Jewish temple. The ornate dome and stained-glass windows still exist and give a spiritual feel to the exhibit. Suspended from the ceiling as beacons of light, the white panels are lit from above in luminous purple and pink tones emanating down from the dome that adorns the building’s ceiling.
“Each individual panel will represent a cosmology of communal relations, fusing the singular and the multiple together, representing the coming together as a whole,” said Goldemberg.
The instruments are fully playable. A video of a concert runs on a loop at the far end of the exhibit, created by the composer Jacob Sudol specifically for this exhibition. Sudol has sonified La Cole by applying sonic transducers to each panel to create interactive sounds.
At the opening reception in October, Monad Studios’ 3-D printed titanium violin was played by Michael Klotz, and the 3-D printed monoviolincello was played by Jason Calloway. The most unusual instrument is the wearable one that straps on. The sound is produced by the movement of hands over sections of it.
“This new series, ‘Subject to Interpretation,’ is a bold departure for this institution, as we continue to spearhead the role of the museum for the 21st century,” said Susan Gladstone, the director of the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU. “Our museum team has enjoyed working with Monad Studio and the result has been to create fresh, vibrant new work in our galleries … We are very fortunate to have these talented artists set the bar so high for this new series that will propel our museum into its next phase of cultural leadership in the community.”
Zalcberg and Goldemberg consider themselves architects who work across different mediums and with different collaborators. Their work overlaps creativity, design and art, and they are constantly mining for new vehicles and modes of artistic expression to reflect the fluid transitions between architecture and art – often strongly influenced by Miami’s environment.
“We’ve always been obsessed with the native strangler fig trees, even before we decided to move to Miami, from seeing them during our visits,” said Veronica Zalcberg. “We are continually fascinated with the shapes of these trees and how they latch onto existing trunks. This installation is after all, totally about roots and growth.”
“Our work for this museum exhibition brings forth the idea of an aggregation, multiples of the same kind that multiply in a certain way to sustain the idea of singularity of the individual but at the same time associating with each other so that they create a collective – a social armature supported by tradition and religion,” adds Goldemberg.
Monad’s functioning musical instruments are in high demand, with cultural institutions requesting they be sent on loan to exhibitions and events all over the world including China, Japan, Russia, the Czech Republic, New York, London, Berlin and even at the National Library of Congress, plus technology festivals and 3-D printing festivals worldwide.
Goldemberg and Zalcberg’s projects have been exhibited and performed in New York at MoMA, PS1 Contemporary Art Center, Jacob Javits Center; at Jaroslava Fragnera Gallery (Prague); at the Library of Congress (Washington, D.C.); at South Florida Art Center, The Wolfsonian-FIU, Now Contemporary Art and Diana Lowenstein Fine Arts Gallery.
Subject to Interpretation: Monad Studio remains on view through Feb. 25. The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU is part of Florida International University and is located at 301 Washington Ave., Miami Beach.