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John Marshall: UNESCO Creative Cities Network Exhibition

May 31, 2017

From June 30-July 13, 2017, the 11th Annual Meeting of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) presents Are You Talking to Me?, an exhibition of smart objects created in each of UNESCO’s 22 Design Cities — including Detroit, America’s only UNESCO City of Design — at the Centre des Arts in Enghien-les-Bains, France. The exhibition includes two works by rootoftwo, LLC, an award-winning hybrid design studio co-directed by Cézanne Charles and Stamps Associate Professor John Marshall. Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3) selected rootoftwo to act as sole representatives of the city of Detroit for this exhibition. After its initial run this summer at the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, Are You Talking to Me? reopens September 14, 2017-January 7, 2018 at the Cité du Design in Saint-Etienne, France. The works on view by rootoftwo include RBTS and Whithervanes: Open Hardware Kit.

RBTS is a group of three robotically-enhanced domestic appliances. The project attempts to progress the discussion from ‘symptom-focused’ approaches to sustainable design to address consumer psychology and the design of objects capable of supporting deeper and more meaningful relationships with their users. RBTS proposes that as our appliances become smarter we might change the way we live and come to think of them. In the manner of Jonathan Chapman’s ‘Emotionally Durable Design’ (2005), perhaps we would cherish these products more if we interacted with them as “pets” rather than the throwaway gadgets we currently create? This will be the first time the RBTS will be shown functioning since they were commissioned by The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan in 2010.

Whithervanes: Open Hardware Kit is for non-profits/hacker-spaces, citizen journalists, activists, artists, designers and tinkerers that want to develop new modes of access to, engagement with, and common ownership of existing data streams using newsfeeds as the starting point. It is a desktop-scaled version of rootoftwo’s Whithervanes project (headless chicken weathervanes driven by the climate of fear on the Internet) that was first commissioned by the Creative Foundation for the 2014 Folkestone Triennial. This project is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation through a Knight Arts Challenge in Detroit award.


rootoftwo makes hybrid design projects and works for the public realm — typically at the scale of devices, furniture, or small buildings. Their works create a condition where we can perceive ourselves, the here and now and the future differently. rootoftwo has worked with clients, collaborators, and institutions to present work in Australia, Austria, Brazil, China, Denmark, France, Japan, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.