Andrea Shin Ling presents innovative stage design for Rhubarb Festival

Award-winning designer and architect Andrea Shin Ling presents an installation that embraces decay rather than fighting against it at this year’s Rhubarb Festival in Toronto. The project, Calculus of an infinite rot, part 1 experiments with designed decay in organic objects, complicating ideas around decay and regeneration as paired processes in nature.

Andrea Shin Ling – Calculus of an Infinite Rot
Photo credit: photo by Gabriel Li; lighting design by Echo Zhou

Calculus of an infinite rot, part 1, is a reflection on philosopher Reza Negarestani’s position that decay is not the marked absence of life or wholeness, but rather the negotiation between shifting states of living and dying,” says Ling. “Decay and regeneration are paired processes, where the entropy of one system is used for the organization of another. Through decay, the differentiation occurs between humans, trees, insects, and microbes.”

Andrea Shin Ling – Calculus of an Infinite Rot (detail shot)
Photo credit: photo by Gabriel Li

The work fits into Ling’s broader body of work, which focuses on how biological and digital processes can intersect in design. Her recent project, Design by Decay, Decay by Design, won the STARTS prize for innovation at the nexus of Science, Technology, and the Arts in 2020.

Collected from fallen maple and spruce trees, 34 stumps were processed to various levels of finish, with many of them inoculated with fungus and bacteria and left to incubate for a month in the theatre space.

Louise Liliefeldt – performance – Land of the Living
Photo credit: photo by Henry Chan; lighting design by Echo Zhou

“Andrea’s work addresses concerns about the present, while simultaneously using technology and research that propels us decades into the future. The installation she’s created for Rhubarb is a response to this moment, and the festival artists, in turn, have created work that responds to it,” says festival director Clayton Lee.

During the Festival, different artists intervened with the installation, creating performances responding to both the physical and thematic proposals that it puts forward.

Throughout the festival, these objects were ‘in transit’, changing in subtle and sometimes invisible ways, and making use of the theatre’s ecosystem. Critically, as well, these objects continue to move through stages of rot, decay, and regenerations well beyond the time boundaries of the festival itself.

Andrea Shin Ling – Calculus of an Infinite Rot (detail shot)
Photo credit: photo by Gabriel Li

Technical Sheet
Project title: Calculus of an infinite rot, part 1
Location: Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto, ON
Dates: February 4-13, 2022 at the Rhubarb Festival
Concept + design lead Andrea Shin Ling
Curator Clayton Lee
fabricators Leah Ataide + Nicholas Hoban
technical support Betty Poon + Anna Gregorczyk + Olga Chomiak + Natasha Christie-Holmes (Temerty Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto)