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"Systemic" by Urbanauts (Sean Orlando and Rebar)

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Systemic. Image by Sean Orlando and Rebar.

Drainage, running water, steam, sewage treatment, pumping stations, fire-suppression systems, backflow-protection valves, emergency backup water supplies—many of these systems are hidden in plain sight behind closed doors, in basements, or beneath manhole covers that we have walked across countless times. In contemporary society we rely on these expansive engineered networks of steel, brass, cast iron, and PVC in fundamental ways that we sometimes take for granted. The careful observer detects evidence of these complex systems just below and beyond perception, seeing the "tip of the iceberg" of the massive network of infrastructure that is, for most people, out of sight and out of mind.

During the month of June 2013, Urbanauts will create Systemic, an installation in the de Young’s Kimball Education Gallery that will multiply, morph, expand, and evolve over time. Systemic comprises a complex, entangled network of pipes and valves that will transform the gallery from wall to ceiling, challenging visitors to reflect on the space they inhabit and inviting them to rethink their relationship to the unseen infrastructure that supports city life.

The fellowship culminates in a final exhibition at the de Young from October 2 to November 3, 2013. Join us for two special Friday Nights events curated by the Urbanauts on August 2 and Black Rock Arts Foundation on October 25.

At the end of June Urbanauts will disassemble Systemic and prepare it for a public interactive display. Working with Black Rock Arts Foundation, they will select three locations around the city and reconfigure the installation as a site-specific temporary public artwork that will act as a sort of urban parasite, or remora, attaching itself to existing infrastructure in an attempt to simultaneously blend in with the urban landscape and reveal the inherent beauty and craft of these critical systemic structures.

For more information on the Urbanauts project or the artists, Sean Orlando and Rebar, visit the Artist Fellows page

Ticket Information

Admission into the gallery is free of charge and open to the public.


Urbanauts is presented with the support of the de Young Museum Artist Fellows Program and partner organization Black Rock Arts Foundation.  

This project has been generously funded by The James Irvine Foundation's Innovation Fund and the Institute of Museum and Library Services/Museums for America.

Contact Information

Andrea Martin