Last Saturday, I met Brandon Thornton and Justin Morris, two of the producers for the art show Mad Science PDX, opening tomorrow night at Gallery 135. I am no stranger to these two gentlemen; I know them as Wieden +Kennedy employees, tastemakers around town (they’ve both been featured on my blog), and art show producers (last year they put together Adventures In Milk at Union/Pine).
The only thing I knew about the show was what little information they gave up via teaser videos. (Ummm, it's about science? And they not only got a cute brunette to pretend she was a scientist, they also scored a DeLorean?) So here’s what I wanted to ask them.
Q&A after the cut!
MERCURY: How long have you been working on this?
BT & JM: It’s been about 10 months of preparation. Around late October we started concepting and fell on the idea of a science fair. But ultimately we got bored with that and wanted something less nostalgic. We wanted it to be different and we landed on Mad Science.
What is mad science?
BT: Basically it's a science lab based in the future transporting some of the greatest minds in science from 2013 to 2045, and they create solutions for problems today before they become catastrophic or deadly [in the future]. This lab will be open to the public July 12, when we will transport the attendees into the future. That’s where the Deloreans come into play, because that’s the only car that can travel to the future. Up until now, it’s been a secret, like area 51.
Your website and videos are great teasers for what I think is going to be a high tech art show. Am I on the right track?
BT: The teaser videos were all about giving you elements of the show without giving anything away. The first video was all about science; the second video was all about the future, and the third video we just want you to be like, "damn, I wanna go there." And when you get to the show you’ll put all three of those together and you’ll get it.
But how we got from science fair to a futuristic Fifth Element type of thing was a lot of movies for inspiration: Wall-E, Tron, Back to the Future, Star Wars, Star Trek. Pharrell’s whole vibe is futuristic, and Kanye’s "Glow In The Dark Tour" proved to be the biggest inspiration. Kanye had a European tour in 2007, and when he came to the states he completely redid his tour in two months—for us it was the same type of situation. It needed to be better than last year's Adventures In Milk. [We thought] yo, let’s solve problems today, so the artists work as the "mad scientists" who work at the lab, and each one of their pieces is based on a problem that’s going on in the world right now, and the whole art piece is a solution to a problem today, whether it's realistic or imaginary.
JM: We (with Tina Snow Le) were looking for multi-disciplinary artists that don’t do one thing. Like, they could easily have prints on the wall and also make a sculpture. And we wanted them to look at the artwork through the scientific method.
Q: Who all is involved?
BT & JM: The core producers were Brandon Thorton, Justin Morris, Tina Snow Le, Matt Vu, but multiple people at Wieden + Kennedy have helped. Caitlin Alexander designed the whole VIP section, where you’ll have a badge with your name on it and a QR code that will scan and say “welcome Marissa”. We had to think through all the little details, and we are doing this thing all out of pocket, so we’ll get this crazy idea and then we have to think about the cost, but the show is free—we thought about charging but ultimately knew it would be a turnoff. We honestly just want this to be a good experience and that’s why we started throwing shows. I’ve gone to art shows where I’ve been completely blown away. We felt like there weren’t many shows in Portland that are an experience, most are just paintings on a wall. We want people to leave talking about it, and really remember it.
The artists involved are Jason Rens, Eric Trine, Mr. Kiji, Shawna X, Nick Stokes, Jason Blackheart, and Will Bryant. We recruited them for this lab with a classified folder that we mailed (in the actual mail) to them like it was classified papers from the government, and they all accepted.
Q: Will there be a DeLorean there?
BT & JM: You’ll have to go to the show to find out…
Full disclosure: You've invited my buddy Jaeho to DJ the event. How important do you think the music selection is for this art show? You want them to go hand and hand? Is this a full body experience art show?
BT: Music is super important to this show. I mean, how can we create a futuristic environment and get people in the mindset that they’re not in the present day? A big part of that, besides the visuals, is going to be the sounds they hear. Usually when you go to an art show all you hear is the people talking. It’s one of the senses that isn’t really touched upon, so that’s a big element for us, and then the last two hours, we’ll just party... The DJs have been briefed on the field, we’ve showed them what the show is going to be about, and we’ve been working back and forth with both Jaeho and Gemo. Also, Gemo is making a Mad Science mix tape that's on the site now.
Finish this sentence: Science is a process where we keep making discoveries...
BT: Science is a process where we must keep making discoveries because true knowledge only exists in the absence of it.
JM: Science is a process where we keep making discoveries and realizing there’s still so much more to discover.
How long will it be up for?
July 12 until the end of July.
135 NW Park Ave
7 pm … in the year 2045