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PhD Seminar Series Features Artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle

Northwestern professor of art theory and practice discusses his creative works in the talk, “You Don’t Need a Weatherman”

During the PhD Seminar Series on January 28, conceptual artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle discussed his multimedia works, which challenge notions of the political and the cultural.

In 1997, as national debates surrounding climate change and border control heated up, conceptual artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle traveled to Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Mexico.

With literally one foot in each country, he pointed his camera to the sky and captured video of clouds moving north and south at the same time, a concept called wind shear, which often proceeds calamitous meteorological events.

Manglano-Ovalle, whose multimedia works focus on challenging political and cultural notions, edited his footage to play in reverse in a continuous loop to create Wind Shear, which was displayed on two separate screens, one facing north, the other south.

The professor of art theory and practice in the Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, gave his talk, “You Don’t Need a Weatherman,” on January 28 in the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center as part of the Whole-Brain Leadership for PhD Students Seminar Series at Northwestern Engineering.

“What I’m talking about is an overly complicated debate over what sometimes is just obvious. That might be a debate on climate change, or it might be a debate on politics,” Manglano-Ovalle said. “At some point or another, all the instruments you use to gather all the data and actually look at the situation may not be necessary if we just use common sense, so ‘you don’t need a weatherman,’ in a sense, refers to that.”

Manglano-Ovalle’s talk is the third in the series of eight which brings in scholars from outside the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science to introduce students to various disciplines such as art, theatre, economics, law, and philosophy. The series keeps with the school’s Whole Brain philosophy, encouraging collaboration among disciplines.

“The whole point of bringing in someone of Iñigo’s caliber is to stretch your brains by challenging you to ideas that are really different for some of you,” Dean Julio M. Ottino said. “All the lectures we’re going to have here are within the intellectual space of an excellent university like Northwestern, but if we’re not forced to hear from people from other departments, we might never hear from them.”

Manglano-Ovalle also showcased Sonambulo, an 11-minute sound piece that manipulates the sound of a gunshot into the soothing sounds of a rainstorm, similar to a therapeutic sleep aid recording. This project required collaboration with others outside of Manglano-Ovalle’s discipline, including a sound engineer and mathematician.

“I’m not an engineer, so I’m not suited, nor is it my role or purpose, to fix something,” he said. “But as an artist, what I do most often is just point to things or create a situation where not only I can ask the questions, but more importantly, the public can ask the questions.”

His other projects involve concepts such as utopia, war, and Modernism, including The El Niño Effect, an installation of two sensory deprivation tanks, a shower and changing room, along with video and sound pieces, which incorporated Sonambulo and Wind Shear.

Manglano-Ovalle received a 2001 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Award and a 2009 Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, and his work has been shown around the world, including at the Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

The next speaker in the Whole-Brain Leadership for PhD Students Seminar Series will be Joel Mokyr, Robert H. Strotz Professor of Economics in the Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, on Monday, February 11 at noon.