Passing Through by Saburo Murakami (1956) /// Photo by Léopold Lambert
A few days ago, I visited the exhibition Gutai: Splendid Playground at New York Guggenheim Museum. That gave me the opportunity to get to know an artistic movement I was not familiar with beforehand. Although I was not necessarily fascinated by all the artwork presented (the two reasons being that it is somehow odd to put in an institutionalized museum a movement that was frankly against the idea of institutionalization of art, and that rather than showing the artwork itself, we would have gained from having access to the creative process itself as it is the real artistic production of Gutai), some of them compelled me for their relation of the body to the matter.
First of all, let us look at the very name of Gutai in its original Japanese writing: 具体 (as currently learning how to write in Japanese, I became obsessed with characters!) associates 具, the tool with 体, the body/substance, forming together the idea of embodiment or concrete. Let us then look to the Gutai Manifesto written by Jirō Yoshihara in 1956. In it, he explicits this relationship of their art with the matter:
Gutai Art does not alter matter. Gutai Art imparts life to matter. Gutai Art does not distort matter.
In Gutai Art, the human spirit and matter shake hands with each other while keeping their distance. Matter never compromises itself with the spirit; the spirit never dominates matter. When matter remains intact and exposes its characteristics, it starts telling a story and even cries out. To make the fullest use of matter is to make use of the spirit. By enhancing the spirit, matter is brought to the height of the spirit.
We believe that by merging human qualities and material properties, we can concretely comprehend abstract space.
Utagawa Hiroshige – Ocean off Satta (1858) (detail)
I have recently visited the exhibition Edo Pop at New York’s Japan Society and so much beauty made me feel compelled to write something about it. This exhibit gathers about fifty ukiyo-e (浮世絵) prints from the Edo era including an important amount of works by Masters Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa (Ando) Hiroshige as well as others from 18th and 19th century. What fascinated me in them (and that will certainly not fully translate through the images here unfortunately) and made me stay several minutes in front of each of them consists mostly in the fact that each of the line traced on them seems to be absolutely necessary. What I mean by that is that there seems to be a purity of the gesture tracing the lines, a form of confidence, a breath which at the end, gives the impression that the print does not miss a line nor should necessitate an additional one. This could have something to do with the fact that, on the contrary of Western art, tracing those lines is a similar assignment than the one of calligraphy which is also part of these prints. As my readers would know, the art of tracing lines is how I usually define design as well: lines of space, lines of power, lines of flight, symbolical lines, conceiving architecture (building it is a very different story) is closer to calligraphy than what we might think.
One way to perpetuate my fascination for these ukiyo-e prints is to insist on one question that seems to have obsessed the Japanese artists of that time. How can one represents the formlessness we see in water, mud, lava, wind, rain, snow with the use of lines which intrinsically carry a circumscribing power, and therefore a tendency to form things rather than unform them. The various responses to this questions involve various processes that manage (sometimes without even the help of color) to represent formlessness through lines. The strength of their expressive representations carries the ones of the elements they represent and the fragility of humans who can, at best, compose with them (that is often the case for the boats in the waves, although they never seem to be perfectly comfortable with it!). Formlessness is feared at many level of consciousness, precisely for the reason that it cannot be circumscribed and therefore controlled and understood (for a political reading of it, see my essay Abject Matter). Humans in Edo prints are certainly not the Cartezian ones “masters and possessors of the nature”; on the contrary, they are surrounded and subjected to the power of these formless phenomena and, for the most skillful of them, they try to compose harmonious relations with them.
The following text was curated by Mexican magazine Arquine and is therefore available in a Spanish version on its website.
The exhibition Archizines is currently visible at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York City and touring in ten cities of Europe and North America. This display of eighty architectural journals (including the funambulist’s friends from Studio Magazine and Beyond!) is a good opportunity for us to question this medium of communication of ideas. Fifty years from now, Archigram and its ten zines publications participated to a revolution of architecture from the modernist patronizing austerity to a bold and imaginative movement for a city liberated from its bourgeoisie. Nowadays, the democratic aspect of these journals lies more in their facilitated production than in their radical contents. This mean of publication has indeed evolved with the relatively recent creation of many self-publishing services and the potential communication about the printed issues via the internet. The price reflects such means of production and contrast with more established architectural magazines with a larger run. Nevertheless, the goal of a more democratic access to knowledge has still to be pursued.
Breathing Room by Kayt Brumder (2009) / Excerpt from Imperfect Health
Before starting this article, I would like to say that I am well aware that what might distinguish this blog from others is the fact that architecture is only rarely questioned directly but rather via indirect means and disciplines. Lately I have been writing much more articles which, on the contrary, deal with architecture more explicitly. My readings and research work by phases and the recurrence of certain topics is not revealing a deep change in my editorial line but should rather be interpreted as chapters of it.
From October 2011 to April 2012, the Canadian Centre for Architecture displayed the exhibition Imperfect Health: The Medicalization of Architecture. In parallel of it has been edited a book with the same name by Giovanna Borasi and Mirko Zardini (Lars Muller Publishers). This volume – and therefore the exhibition – explores the heritage of modernism which promoted the antic ‘mens sana in corpore sano’ (a sane mind within a sane body) and was undertaking to design architecture around it. Through the various essays of the book, two approaches seems to emerge:
Lebbeus Woods: Early Drawings at the Friedman Benda Gallery (2012)
There is an on-going exhibition at the Friedman Benda Gallery (New York) presenting some of Lebbeus Woods’ early drawings. This show is still on for few more days (until April 14th) but I figured that I would release a dozen of these drawings that are not necessarily well known in his work.
Many of us have seen numerous of Lebbeus Woods’ drawings and could maybe feel, somehow blasé to the idea of looking at some more; however, it seems difficult not to feel a strong enthusiasm and inspiration from this new (old) series. What seems so appealing to me in his work is his constant ability to design architectures that seems to narrate the absence of architect. As much as a building drawn by him is immediately recognizable as such, the elements that composes this architecture clearly tell us a story in which its construction involved a spontaneous collective effort with no particular presupposed plan. Metal sheets, wood posts, loose pipes, visible truss beams, all the pieces stands together in a very interesting balance of immanent approximation and skilled control. Those drawings seems to come from an uchronia (a steam punk one !), mix between medieval age, industrial revolution and post-apocalyptic future, when architects and builders were (will be) the same person.
The Future Past symposium draws together five young architectural graduates and a group of interested attendees to discuss the possibility of using the past to re-imagine a future. It is a free event, open to all and with no affiliation to an academic or research institution.
Following the only rule of Archipelagos, the speakers will only each give a short, five-minute talk on their views about the topic, in order to dedicate at least two hours for a broader discussion between all attendees. The open forum of the debate, and the differences of opinion already within the participants will aim to seek out both the agreed terms for the hybridisation of the past, and those areas where there is friction.
In the context of the exhibition Landscape Future: Instruments, Devices and Architectural Invention curated by Geoff Manaugh at the Nevada Museum of Arts (August 13, 2011 – February 12, 2012), the Princeton Architectural Press had the good idea to create a “Landscape Futures Bundle” composed by three books written by some participants of the exhibition:
Subnature by David Gissen: As I had the occasion to write earlier, Subnature is a very interesting book, already used as a reference for another idea of ecology than the formatted one that capitalism sells every day. Express through historical and contemporaneous architectural and urban projects, this ecology is based on the consideration and integration as generator of all the sub-products of a too controlled environment: puddles, debris (see previous article), mud, dust, smoke, insects etc.
Still from the film about Slime molds by Dan Baker
Ecologias Correlativas is a small ongoing (until Saturday 29th October) exhibition at the 319 Scholes Gallery in New York. It is audaciously curated by Emma Chammah & Greg Barton who attribute the foundations of this exhibition to the short text written by Felix Guattari in 1989 under the name The Three Ecologies. In this text, F.Guattari develops his concept of ecosophy, an ethico-aesthetics that prophetically refuses the ways capitalism is able to co-opt ecology and that establishes three scales of action for another ecology: social relations, human subjectivity and environmental.
The gallery/garage itself is a good example of such an attempt of escaping capitalist logics and so are the heterogeneous work exhibited. Three items (by Fluxxlab, Dr. Manos Tentzeris & Living Environment Lab) propose Do It Yourself strategies of energy harvesting, the L.E. Lab’s one being charismatic as it allows to collect and store energy as a parasite, on cars’ lights, gutters and escalators (see the video). The way those objects influence my imaginary is directly linked to the constraints that I can currently observe in Liberty Square, especially at the very beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement when we needed to find ways to bring electricity on site. Those parasite harvesters and other DIY apparatuses do not allow us to stand outside of the system, but rather to reduce our participation and dependency to it if not sometimes even hijacking it. This attitude is seconded by the interviews realized by Ecosistema Urbano who asked David Harvey (see previous articles 1 & 2) and Santiago Cirugeda (see previous articles 1 & 2) their similar position towards ecology.
I was also happy to see the presence of the Transborder Immigrant Tool created by EDT2.0/B.A.N.G. Lab to be active on Mexican clandestines’s phones when they cross the border. This tool is a small GPS that prevent a dreadful draft in the desert as well as indicating water spots.
Theo Jansen and his beautiful Standbeests are having an exhibition in the Oita Art Museum (Japan) with Earthscape. Entitled in a very Miyazakian way, The Beach Animal that Eats Wind seems to translate very poetically T.Jansen’s narrative in which the ingenious assemblages he builds-up acquire the status of living beings once achieved.
Alessandro Petti, Sandi Hilal & Eyal Weizman and their team of Decolonizing Architecture are proving to us, once again, that not only they keep being the incontrovertible thinkers of the built dimension of the Palestinian struggle, but also that they constitute a crucial avant-garde in the relationships that architecture maintains with territorial and political challenges.
Their new exhibition, in Neuchâtel (Switzerland) is entitled Common Assembly: Deterritorializing the Palestinian Parliament and focuses on the construction site/ruin that constitute the building of this Parliament. As the text that follows this article explains, this building is situated in Abu Dis as the Israel State still do not want to recognize East Jerusalem the capital city of the Palestinian State and therefore pushed the Parliament for it to be built beyond its unilaterally declared border of Jerusalem. Incidentally this same border happens to cut the building in two parts, or rather as the Decolonizing Architecture team states, in three parts. One being part of East Jerusalem, colonized by Israel, the other being part of the Palestinian controlled territory and the last one being hosted by the line itself.
This idea of a space contained within the oxymoronic thickness of the line is obviously something that needs to be celebrated in a blog that took its name, The Funambulist (another name for tight-rope walker) and manifesto (see the small text on the sidebar and the graphic novel associated with it) based on this idea. In fact, in a world and more specifically a discipline, architecture, that materialize lines into borders and walls, the space of liberation might be contained in this infinitely small thickness of the line and we should indeed exercises ourselves to become funambulists.
drawing by Dijan Malla
Knowing my interest for the notion of lines (as an example, see the recent article about Enric Miralles’ drawings), Hugh McEwen was kind enough to send me a small press release of the exhibition he is currently curating with Adam Draper and Greg Skinner in London, simply entitled Lines. This exhibition gathers a certain amount of architectural hand drawings that offers a reflection on this specific mean of representation, each author developing a short personal interpretation of his (her) use of hand drawings.
The catalogue of the exhibition can be found by following this link and the following text is the press release’s introduction:
An exhibition of original hand drawings
18.08.11 – 27.08.11
1st Floor Gallery, 3 Baltic Street East, London, EC1Y 0UJ
12:00 – 7:00 every day, including weekends
Organised by: Adam Draper, Hugh McEwen, Greg Skinner
It took me a while to decide to publish this article as my appreciation for the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum, Savage Beauty is as great as my inability to write something consistent about it. In fact, the exhibition manages well to maintain this feeling as the fascinating work is counter balanced by some flat quotes from McQueen himself that do not help us to interpret his work in a coherent way – but maybe that is a mistake to want to do so. I will try to embrace this mistake though.
Let’s start with the exhibition title then: Beauty, yes beauty is there fore sure. and it’s hard to remain indifferent in front of this work Savage, on the other hand refers to something a bit more articulated as a form of romanticism that is claimed by A.McQueen all along the show. In fact, there is something fictitious, if not mythological in his work. An important majority of dresses seems to come from an ambiguous time between several periods of the past but developing a vision of the future that envisions the body and its clothing as two things that might hybrid each other to form a sort of nostalgic cyborg. Somehow, one might even compare that to the literature current that has been called as steampunk, a branch of science fiction that mixes the traditional vision of technology – the one of the 19th century Industrial Revolution – with its new paradigm of the end of the 20th century implying the invention of cybernetics. Of course here, it is not so much about the Industrial Revolution than other periods of the past but this feeling of mix of eras is clearly tangible; a sort of uchronia in which Humans are both in perfect control of their technology but also live in a more animal realm. In this regard, this notion of savageness here allow us to think of all those dresses as new skins that compose a camouflage, which is not to be understood as a defense mechanism here but rather as a celebration and narration of their environment, both in time (as I wrote above) and in space.
The traditional High School education received in the countries winners of the Second World War does not insist much on the absolute massacre that occurred in Japan on August 6th and 9th 1945. Using only two bombs of a new generation, the US Army killed more than 250 000 people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This mass killing of civilians has been justified by the Allies as a necessary evil in order to stop the war and this official version remains the one currently taught in those countries’ schools.
By this month of August 1945, Japan had already pretty much lose the war and those monstrous attacks have to be understood more as occasions to try on “real scale” a new dreadful technology that would became crucial in the antagonism to become with the Soviet Union. Of course the official “necessary evil” version had to remain and in order to implement it, the Truman administration had forbidden the release of any documents coming from Hiroshima that could possibly shock the American population. In the meantime, they sent 1,150 military personnel and civilians, including photographers to collect information on site to observe the effect of their new weapons.
Almost seventy years later, the International Center of Photography in New York City, releases an exhibition with sixty photographs which were taken by some members of those 1150 American officials. You can watch a “trailer” to this exhibition below that seems to insists mostly on the urban damages rather than the human aspect. The latter can be approached via this link (I have yet to warn my readers about the crudity of those photographs) that among other things, describe the incredible phenomena of those silhouettes of bodies and objects that have been printed on walls in the same way than a photo on a film (see the first picture after the break).
Those two series of photographs participate to constitute a collective imaginary of the true horror that happened those two days of August 1945 when this same imaginary had been voluntarily and actively restricted from the people to disconnect the information and its reality.
In order to complement such participation, I cannot help to recommend the beautiful Hiroshima mon Amour (1959) by French director Alain Resnais (with a script by author Marguerite Duras) that introduces two characters, a French woman and a Japanese man whose love to become is troubled by their respective traumatic pasts under the Nazi occupation and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
Arne Quinze continues his obsessive beautiful work on the tracks of Tadashi Kawamata and Yona Friedman. This new installation will be soon visible at the Lousiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk (Denmark) from June 1st to October 2nd.
My Home my House my Stilthouse & my safe Garden is an investigation of the notion of domesticity and neighborhood. Each “building” is, as always, architecturally recounting its own fragility and self-construction.
You is a beautiful installation created by Swiss artist Urs Fischer for the Gavin Brown’s enterprise in 2007. The contrast between the white exhibition walls and the hole dig by the artist manages to maintain an interesting dialog between dirt and pristine.
Here is the project that Hans Schabus achieved for the Venice Art Biennale 2005: a monumental piece of rock in the middle of the Giardini. The inside part is as impressive as the outside with numerous wooden beams and posts maintaining the building’s structural integrity.
English version is lower
Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain
261 boulevard Raspail (Paris 14)
AILLEURS COMMENCE ICI
21 nov. 2008 › 15 mars 2009
« Avec Raymond Depardon, on se retrouvait sur la même question : que reste-t-il du monde, de la terre natale, de l’histoire de la seule planète habitable aujourd’hui ? » Paul Virilio
Tandis que le monde est à un moment critique de son histoire, où l’environnement conditionne ce que l’homme fait et ce qu’il va devenir, l’exposition Terre Natale, Ailleurs commence ici propose une réflexion sur le rapport au natal, à l’enracinement et au déracinement, ainsi qu’aux questions identitaires qui leurs sont attachées.
Alors que Raymond Depardon donne la parole à ceux qui, menacés de devoir partir, veulent demeurer sur leur terre, Paul Virilio expose la remise en cause de la notion même de sédentarité face aux grands phénomènes de migrations. La pensée de Paul Virilio est illustrée par la mise en scène des artistes et architectes Diller Scofidio + Renfro et Mark Hansen, Laura Kurgan et Ben Rubin.
L’exposition est ainsi conçue comme une confrontation, un dialogue contradictoire et complémentaire, entre Raymond Depardon, cinéaste et photographe, dont on connaît l’attachement à la terre, à la parole, à l’écoute, au monde des paysans et qui depuis toujours a fait le choix du politique et du poétique, et Paul Virilio, urbaniste et philosophe, qui depuis longtemps travaille sur la vitesse, l’exode, la fin de l’espace géographique, la pollution des distances.
is the last project released by our friend Francis Bitonti
. see also this former post
) and his partner Brian Osborn
) for DesCours event
in New Orleans. The project is a 500 square feet canopy interacting with people under it.
This poetic canopy seems to be composed by alive jelly fishes reacting to a mysterious rule that the visitor has to experience in order to familiarize himself to the device. Those jelly fishes are able to come sufficiently down in order to change the space configuration and the perception of it. Moreover, the very numerous possible configurations of people’s behaviors produce a unique space which keeps changing.
Here is Claude Parent’s participation project to the Venice Biennale 1970. It works as a prototype of what may be a little part of the oblique city (see former post
and Villa Drusch post
) in which the walls can host the body in positions depending on their inclination.
Here is the latest published work by R&Sie(n)
called Things which necrose
, for the current exhibition Green Architecture for the future
in Lousiana Museum of Modern Art (Denmark). By designing a bio-plastic pavilion, I feel that R&Sie(n) emphasizes the ambiguity of the paradox between biodegradable and sustainability like all their other work always question this politically correct dogma of ecology.
This pavilion is thus going to die little by little during all the time of the exhibition and its degradation can be manually controlled by the humidity degree in the atmosphere. The program asking for a temporary building is thus considered as litteral here, as long as, its own death is included in its protocol of life.
This pavilion has been realized thanks to bio-plastic with hydrosoluble polymers and then casted in CNC moulds.
Architect: R&Sie(n)… Paris
Creative team: François Roche, Stéphanie Lavaux
Collaborator : Maxime Aumon-Bemelmans
Contractor : CHD / Christian Hubert Delisle