ATC Revisited: Marisa Morán Jahn

10 Oct, 2019

ATC Revisited: Marisa Morán Jahn

Recap by KC Forcier, the 2019-2020 Graduate Liaison for the Art, Technology, and Culture Colloquium.

The Metal Within: Artist Marisa Morán Jahn on deploying and critiquing technology

The artist Marisa Morán Jahn named her workshop Studio Rev, “as in to rev a vehicle.” It is an apposite name: the common thread throughout all of Jahn’s work is an aim to press the accelerator on social change. Jahn’s art and activism centers on low wage workers, youth and women, frequently asking how she can harness technology to connect workers with information and advocacy tools. Examples of this include “Video Slink Uganda,” experimental films snuck onto bootlegged DVDs, a highly popular form of media in Uganda, in an effort to empower people to exercise freedom of speech. “Contratados,” a “Yelp! for migrant workers,” was a website Jahn helped develop that provides a space for migrant workers to search for or review employers and learn about their rights. “The CareForce One Travelogues” is a film documenting a cross-country road trip to record and share the stories of domestic care workers, a largely invisible and highly vulnerable workforce.

At last Monday’s ATC lecture Jahn introduced her newest endeavor, which deploys an artist’s tools in investigating the wide ranging history and ramifications of a ubiquitous technology: copper. In realizing just how little she knew about her own copper IUD contraceptive, Jahn embarked on a process of research and discovery which led from the ancient Greek goddess Aphrodite, deity of love and copper, to medical devices, submarine cables and data centers, toxic waste, colonial mining laws, reproductive rights, and racist sterilization policies. Jahn’s narrative of discovery leans into the messy contradictions in all of these intersecting associations.

As a culmination of her “Snatchural History of Copper,” Jahn proposes building a monumental copper sculpture that would function as a lightning rod. The lightning rod as a technology, Jahn observed, does not function by passively drawing lightning out of the sky as most assume. “It is always actively building ladders of electrons to the sky,” Jahn says. With the right atmospheric conditions, the clouds release electricity and connect with the metal. Jahn envisions her lightning rod as performing a “co-mingling between sky and earth in the name of love and copper and self determination.” This vision of the lightning rod is another fitting metaphor for Jahn’s work, providing a visual and active locus for the electric spark of transformation.

2019 ATC: Marisa Moran Jahn