Dymaxion Chronofile


Acrylic, silkscreen, laser cut wood veneer, pencil, and gouache on Somerset paper

Source Material

Tomas Vu’s Dymaxion Chronofile is a new body of work that celebrates Buckminster Fuller and seeks a utopian vision. The works are named after Buckminster (Bucky)’s project in which he documented his life – saving every piece of paper he encountered, creating a massive video archive, and documenting his actions and conditions every fifteen minutes. Dymaxion is Bucky’s portmanteau of the words “dynamic”, “maximum”, and “tension”, describing a state in which minimum energy provides maximum results. Fuller’s concerns are more pressing and prescient than ever, addressing surveillance, documentation, sustainability, and the relationship between man and machine, and from this landscape we dive into Vu’s world.

Dymaxion Chronofile presents us with a world askew. The works are broadly landscapes, often grounded by trees or architectural elements. But the recognizable grounding seems to approach from all directions, as though pulled by a tornado. The painterly backgrounds evoke wind or clouds and the graphic elements float, propelled by their own gravity. Large graphic figures of Xs appear in almost every frame; once, these were barricades on beaches used in war. Here, however, their forms stab through air with a violent thrust, but find no ground to cut or blockade. Thus the forms become unmoored from their signification, twinkling as ominous stars.

Upon close reading, the details reveal themselves as a broad narrative that speaks to our current condition. Trees descend as from spaceships. Strange shapes of wood in many colors evoke impossible buildings that seem to birth machines. Stars and landscape and foreground and background undulate in and out of each other. All of this suggests a moment where machines and man start to meld, where space is closer than ever, and in which implosion is possible at any moment, but so is exploration.

The works are each titled with a date and time. The years start in 1920, the year Bucky began his Chronofile, and will count up until 1983, the year he died. The times are fifteen minute increments to honor Bucky’s methodology.   Thus the works form a contiuum and represent a march through time, though only in snapshots. One can animate the space between one to the next, imagining the clash of titans of man and machine, but never see the whole picture in as an objective reality.

Bucky’s project of documenting his life is now being reenacted on epic scale around the globe as we all contribute to worldwide databases of the human experience that are social networks. Vu’s project, then, is to zoom out and essentially synthesize an unquantifiable and ever growing mass of information into an impression of experience. He finds us thoroughly in flux, floating on the cusp of a supernova or passengers on a ship hurtling through the void.