September 21, 2017


For 2nd Chicago Architecture Biennial, UChicago Commissions Sculpture By Artist and Alumnus Dan Peterman
The Arts, Science + Culture Initiative Presents Slipping and Jamming: Variable Installation of Z-Forms


(Chicago, IL – September 21, 2017) This fall, the Arts, Science + Culture Initiative at UChicago presents Slipping and Jamming: Variable Installation of Z-Forms, by Chicago-based artist Dan Peterman. Commissioned for the 2nd Chicago Architecture Biennial, Slipping and Jamming is a sculptural installation that explores the tension between structural stability and instability. The work is composed of thousands of "Z-Forms"—post-consumer reprocessed plastic elements each cut in the form of a Z. Assembled into large sculptural forms, they embody a highly counterintuitive idea: The possibility to create load-bearing, stable forms not by the orderly arrangement of the individual elements, but by random, disordered configurations that structurally resemble a potentially flowing liquid.

This new installation grew out of a 2016 Graham Foundation-funded collaborative project between Peterman and the laboratory of University of Chicago physicist Heinrich Jaeger. The work is based on radically new concepts at the intersection of contemporary sculptural practice and research related to the physics of granular materials. Conceptually original and forward-thinking, Peterman translates concepts from granular physics, typically researched at small scales, to a larger, essentially architectural scale through his artistic practice. 

From a sculptural perspective, jamming is an evocative concept. It is applicable on both micro and macro scales; the behavior of a ball of shaving cream in the palm of your hand or that of polar ice sheets. In both cases, the jammed, effectively solid behavior has the possibility to deform like a liquid when forced strongly enough. "My work as an artist has an ecological focus, and this shifting range of scale is relevant to how I think about the world,” says Peterman. “For me, jamming behavior carries along with it the companion idea of slippage—a fine line between material conditions of either stability or flow, useful engagement or abandonment.” 

In Slipping and Jamming, these concepts assume an additional role for Peterman. Fabricating the elements themselves from post-consumer reprocessed plastic material reflects the cycle of jamming and unjamming, the changing forms and states of being, and the complete reconfigurability of the structure itself. The dual nature of the particles, both composed of a constituent material and also comprising a greater structure, points toward a cycle of “invention, production, and generation” with echoes in ecological responsibility and petrochemical dependency. In this way, Peterman’s sculpture is placed prominently into the larger context of a materials lifecycle that minimizes waste.  

The sculpture will be installed in the William Eckhardt Research Center on the University of Chicago campus through November 30. Slipping and Jamming is curated by Julie Marie Lemon, the Program Director & Curator of the University-wide Arts, Science + Culture Initiative and supported by the University of Chicago Public Arts Fund.  

Exhibition: October 3 – November 30, 2017  

Opening Reception
October 3, 6pm

The William Eckhardt Research Center at the University of Chicago, 5640 S Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637
Gallery Hours: October 3–November 30, 2017, Mon–Fri 9am–5pm; Sat-Sun by appointment (

Public Talk:  Dan Peterman and Heinrich Jaeger in Conversation
November 9, 6pm

The Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry at the University of Chicago, 929 E. 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
A public talk with artist Dan Peterman and UChicago physicist Heinrich Jaeger about the collaboration that generated the sculptural installation Slipping and Jamming: Variable Installation of Z-Forms. Free and open to the public.

About the Artist
Dan Peterman is an internationally renowned Chicago-based artist, an alumnus of UChicago, and co-founder of the Experimental Station. He combines innovative strategies of local engagement and activism with national and international exhibitions, projects, and installations. Among his diverse projects, Peterman explores networks of recycled or discarded materials frequently producing starkly minimal works that function interchangeably as stockpiles, sculpture, functional objects, and critiques of environmental oversight and neglect. Peterman is also a Professor in the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He participated in the 2017 Documenta in Germany and Greece and is currently represented by Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York.

About the Curator
Julie Marie Lemon is the Program Director & Curator of the University-wide Arts, Science + Culture Initiative, developing the strategic and intellectual direction of programming in collaboration with of the Arts, Science + Culture Faculty Advisory Committee. The Initiative serves faculty, students, and beyond. She has 15 years of experience in visual arts interpretation and education and has worked at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; as Art Director at the International School, Rotterdam, the Netherlands; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. She has a Master of Liberal Arts from the University of Chicago. 

About the Arts, Science + Culture Initiative
The Arts, Science + Culture Initiative at the University of Chicago cultivates collaboration, active exchange, and sustained dialogue among those engaged in artistic and scientific inquiry within the University and beyond. The Initiative provides opportunities for scholars, students, and arts practitioners, in multiple domains, to pursue original investigations and explore new modes of artistic production and scientific inquiry. Breaking intellectual ground requires transcending disciplinary boundaries and venturing into unfamiliar territory. To that effect, the Initiative’s programs are designed to spark conversations and critically engage faculty, students and the public across a broad spectrum of areas including art history, astronomy and astrophysics, biology, chemistry, cinema and media studies, computer and information science, creative writing, literature, mathematics, medicine, music, molecular engineering, physics, theater, and visual arts. 

Julie Marie Lemon
Program Director and Curator, Arts, Science + Culture Initiative
Office of the Provost | 773.702.8029


Public Talk with Dan Peterman and Heinrich Jaeger
"Slipping and Jamming," commissioned by the Arts, Science + Culture Initiative for the 2nd Chicago Architecture Biennial
De-installation of "Slipping and Jamming"