French architect Arthur Mamou-Mani poses for a photograph near his office in London, England, Thursday, July 7, 2016. (David Azia for The New York Times)
Arthur Mamou-Mani AA dipl, ARB/RIBA FRSA is a French architect and director of the award-winning practice Mamou-Mani Architects, specialised in a new kind of digitally designed and fabricated architecture. He is a lecturer at the University of Westminster and UCL-Bartlett in London and owns a digital fabrication laboratory called the Fab.Pub which allows people to experiment with large 3D Printers and Laser Cutters. Since 2016, he is a fellow of the The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. He has won the Gold Prize at the American Architecture Prize for the Wooden Wave project installed at BuroHappold Engineering. Mamou-Mani’s clients include ARUP, Buro Happold Engineering, Karen Millen Fashion, The Burning Man Festival, FoodInk and Imagination ltd. Prior to founding Mamou-Mani in 2011, he worked with Atelier Jean Nouvel, Zaha Hadid Architects and Proctor and Matthews Architects.
Catharsis was realised in Black Rock City in 2022 as a fractal amphitheatre and public space dedicated to cultivating artistic expression, conversation and engagement. Co-designed by architect Arthur Mamou-Mani in collaboration with Therme Art and Ikona Collection, planning for Catharsis began in 2019 in preparation for 2020. Following the outbreak of COVID-19, the physical construction of Catharsis was postponed. Mamou-Mani took the opportunity to collaborate with gaming engineers and VR specialists to create a virtual rendering of Catharsis in the Metaverse, alongside a virtual edition of his 2018 temple, Galaxia, where the structure has resided until this year.
The geometric structure of Catharsis, modelled after mathematician Henri Poincaré’s Hyperbolic Disk, unfolds with a large central space including seven gateways that extend out towards the sky. A dedicated team of volunteers came together to build the intricate physical structure of Catharsis for the very first time in the summer of 2022. The gallery amphitheatre was host to a diverse and exciting group show curated to offer the community a multi-sensorial and immersive experience in the heart of Nevada’s desert. The programme was designed to welcome a variety of different practices in the spirit of radical inclusion, self-expression and participation.
Arthur Mamou Mani, Mikolaj Sekutowicz and new media artist Refik Anadol led a talk on the creative journey of bringing Catharsis to life; discussing the potential and limitations of new technologies, co-creation and problem-solving at the heart of creativity, and the transformative powers of art for our mental and physical wellbeing. Interactive works such as Paragraph Zero by artist Joulia Strauss were unveiled in Catharsis. The piece features an immersive shamanic school garden created through VR explorations. The virtual sculptural environment, along with a body of text painted directly onto the structure itself, acted as a draft for a universal law of environmental personhood for Mother Earth.
Strauss gave an accompanying lecture on ancestral healing and performed on an ancient Greek lyre, drawing attention to the musical history of indigenous Europe and highlighting the Dorian Scale and its healing capacity in relationship with nature. The work asks us to consider structures of knowledge that might allow our civilisation to escape reductionist approaches to the Anthropocene.
Refik Anadol presented an iteration of his innovative work Machine Hallucinations, which was projected onto the walls of Catharsis. Machine Hallucinations visualises data from cutting-edge neurotechnology to create an experiential, synaesthetic work responding to viewers’ neurological and emotional impulses, expanding the possibilities of mental healing through artistic production. The programme also included performances by Dr. Sian Proctor, the first black female civil astronaut, and acclaimed pianist Romain Collin, contributing to the diverse and enriching activations presented in Catharsis throughout the week.
Catharsis was carefully disassembled piece by piece, to be resurrected in different locations around the world, hereby allowing audiences far and wide to experience, participate and play with the work and its cultural legacy, as both amphitheatre and museum.
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