Keynote: JORGE OTERO-PAILOS (Columbia University) – “Art as a Method of Experimental Preservation” (online presentation)

In this talk, I will discuss my approach to art as a method of experimental preservation, and argue for its relevance in imagining a future for the existing built environment centered on mutual care. I will draw from a series of recent works in which I employ material residues of buildings and sites – including airborne atmospheric dust, waterways, traces of sweat, and body sounds – to render their invisible meanings visible. In particular, I will focus on my experimental preservation of the security fence that surrounded the U.S. Embassy in Oslo, a modernist masterpiece designed by Eero Saarinen in 1959. Recently listed as a National Norwegian Monument and sold to a private owner, the listing carefully excluded the fence as unsightly, making it impossible to preserve by traditional methods. However, the fence represents an important chapter in the building’s history that is worthy of preservation. To prevent its imminent erasure required a detournement of the demolition process: upcycling the twisted remains of the fence into 51 sculptures. Both art and material evidence, each sculpture is a fragment of a larger story of place and diplomacy that is made legible through the tensions between the movements the fence affords and disallows.