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Speculations: Real Estate meets String Theory

From: Nathanael Johnson
Length: 05:38

The conceptual art of Jonathan Keats

Speculations ART, HOUSING AND STRING THEORY For many people, the cost of real estate is so high it might as well be in another dimension. But Oscar Villalon and Mary Ladd just found a place they can afford. They're part of a great speculative land grab going on in San Francisco. Properties are going up for sale in the low single digits, only to be flipped and resold at a profit. But before you get out your checkbook you should know that these are properties in the so called higher dimensions ? dimensions of space, which, according to string theory exist, but are hard to imagine, let alone get into. Nonetheless, an artist is doing brisk business selling higher-dimension real estate in a project called "Speculations." The story takes place at the opening to Speculations - following Ladd and Villalon as they make their purchase and explain their rationale. They are a lot of fun - bright and witty. Then there's the artist - Jonathon Keats. Keat's is great. He's insightful and clear (and full of crazy ideas - he recently tried to genetically engineer God). In this project, he's trying to get people to think about what it means that something so speculative - like string theory - is the leading idea in science right now. The pairing of theoretical science with real estate makes the you think: couldn't abstractions like owning air rights - or view rights - or for that matter, land itself - be just as absurd? In the gallery Keats hung these stings from the ceiling. It's supposed to be a model of the 4 dimensional house he designed - but mostly they just tangled people up. Which is a sly physical pun - Keats hopes to entagle visitors in his ideas - and hopes that as they extract themselves from his snares they'll notice all the other assumptions they are tangled up in.

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Piece Description

ART, HOUSING AND STRING THEORY For many people, the cost of real estate is so high it might as well be in another dimension. But Oscar Villalon and Mary Ladd just found a place they can afford. They're part of a great speculative land grab going on in San Francisco. Properties are going up for sale in the low single digits, only to be flipped and resold at a profit. But before you get out your checkbook you should know that these are properties in the so called higher dimensions ? dimensions of space, which, according to string theory exist, but are hard to imagine, let alone get into. Nonetheless, an artist is doing brisk business selling higher-dimension real estate in a project called "Speculations." The story takes place at the opening to Speculations - following Ladd and Villalon as they make their purchase and explain their rationale. They are a lot of fun - bright and witty. Then there's the artist - Jonathon Keats. Keat's is great. He's insightful and clear (and full of crazy ideas - he recently tried to genetically engineer God). In this project, he's trying to get people to think about what it means that something so speculative - like string theory - is the leading idea in science right now. The pairing of theoretical science with real estate makes the you think: couldn't abstractions like owning air rights - or view rights - or for that matter, land itself - be just as absurd? In the gallery Keats hung these stings from the ceiling. It's supposed to be a model of the 4 dimensional house he designed - but mostly they just tangled people up. Which is a sly physical pun - Keats hopes to entagle visitors in his ideas - and hopes that as they extract themselves from his snares they'll notice all the other assumptions they are tangled up in.

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Review of Speculations: Real Estate meets String Theory

This artist must be driving physicists bonkers. He certainly doesn't understand string theory, nor does he particularly want to; he likes his "silk and gold dust" version of quantum mechanics just fine.

I approve heartily of any efforts to make science seem more available to the public. It's great that physics has so captured Keats' imagination. However, something doesn't seem quite right about his glib, bizarre conglomeration of ideas. He comes across as a little unclear about the realities of both science and real estate.

The part of this piece that shines is the interview with the customer who bought extradimensional real estate. He was a very fortunate choice as an interviewee: an ordinary guy with a great sense of humor. His wisecracks will stay with the listener much longer than Keats' airy pronouncements.

Broadcast History

Broadcast on KALW

Transcript

Host Lede:

San Francisco is in the midst of a great speculative land grab. Properties are going up for sale in the low single digits ? that?s under 10 dollars - only to be flipped and resold at a profit. But before you get out your checkbook you should know that these are properties in the so called higher dimensions ? dimensions of space, which, according to string theory exist ? but are hard to imagine, let alone get into. Nonetheless, an artist is doing brisk business selling higher-dimension real estate in a project called ?Speculations.? Nathanael Johnson reports.

Ambi - opening

NJ1: For many people, the cost of Bay Area real estate is so high it might as well be in another dimension. But Oscar Villalon and Mary Ladd have found a place that they can afford.

ACT1 (7) JK: You are buying together right?
ML: Yeah (laughs) our first property together!
OV: It?s very exciting...
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Timing and Cues

Host Lede:

San Francisco is in the midst of a great speculative land grab. Properties are going up for sale in the low single digits ? that?s under 10 dollars - only to be flipped and resold at a profit. But before you get out your checkbook you should know that these are properties in the so called higher dimensions ? dimensions of space, which, according to string theory exist ? but are hard to imagine, let alone get into. Nonetheless, an artist is doing brisk business selling higher-dimension real estate in a project called ?Speculations.? Nathanael Johnson reports.