While the future of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) still hangs in the balance and a local nonprofit attempts to undermine its redevelopment at the ballot box next year, New York-based artist Vera Lutter has been quietly documenting the campus in its current state over the last two years. A selection of her photographs will soon be on display in the Resnick Pavilion, one of two Renzo Piano-designed gallery spaces on the LACMA site set to be saved from the wrecking ball. Lutter was invited to work in residence at the museum from February 2017 to January 2019 in order to create Museum in the Camera, her new body of photographic work focusing on the original campus architecture, gallery spaces, and individual pieces. To produce her photography, Lutter used a camera obscura, a box with a small hole on one side that filters light through its hollow interior to project an image onto film hanging on the opposite side. As one of the oldest optical technologies ever developed (first described in the 4th century BC), the camera obscura and the images it made under Lutter's careful watch turn the original LACMA campus into what looks like a centuries-old historical site. The project was sparked by an early working relationship between Lutter and LACMA director Michael Govan while he was serving as director of Dia:Beacon in New York. Throughout Lutter's LACMA residency, the artist's room-sized camera obscura was craned around the campus while being as minimally-obtrusive as possible. "Moving a camera for Vera Lutter is a very big deal," explained Govan. "Museums aren't [usually] so welcoming to giant wooden boxes." The conversations between Lutter and Govan resulted in work that seeks to document the four LACMA buildings set to be demolished in 2020: the three original 1965 structures by modernist architect William Pereira, and a street-front building erected in 1986 by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates. Museum in the Camera will be on view from March 29th to July 19, 2020.
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Architecture serves as more than just a backdrop—in our lives or in literature. In the four books below, released in the past year, the domestic and urban environments are just as central to the stories as the human protagonists. Oval by Elvia Wilk Art and architecture writer Elvia Wilk’s debut novel Oval (Soft Skull Press) takes place in a parallel-present Berlin—a weird version of our already strange techno-unreality where atop of the defunct Tempelhof Airport a great mountain, The Berg, has been placed. (The idea for 1,000-meter artificial mountain is borrowed from a 2009 proposal by Mela Architects.) What was once the largest open space in a rapidly-changing urban Europe is now an experimental eco-village of supposedly sustainable houses. Oval’s scientist protagonist, Anja, lives in one of these houses with her partner Louis, a sought after “consultant," meaning that in this semi-dystopian world he's Berlin’s version of an artist, someone who serves as more or less a decorator to a corporation or an NGO's reputation. The already dysfunctional home, itself revealed to be a piece of radical architecture (no spoilers here), decays and becomes wild as the narrative progresses, while the urban topography of Berlin is radically transformed by gentrification and other disasters. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado The origin of the word “archive” can be found in the Greek word for a house for superior magistrates. It is this etymology, by way of Jacques Derrida, that opens Carmen Maria Machado’s forceful In the Dream House (Graywolf), a memoir of an abusive relationship between two women and an essay on how stories are and aren’t told and remembered. “I was taken with the use of house (a love of haunted house stories, I’m a sucker for architecture metaphors),” she explains in the introduction to her own archival intervention. Each brief chapter is titled “The Dream House as [...],” a blank most frequently filled by a genre or form, but also architecture: “A Barn in Upstate New York,” for example. The walls of this “dream house” are flexible, able to contain and constrain so much. “Places are never just places in a piece of writing,” writes Machado. “If they are, the author has failed.” Morelia by Renee Gladman Reading Morelia by Renee Gladman (Solid Objects) feels like coming to in a foreign city, head rich with the haze of several-doses-too-many of cough syrup. It is a city where you are maybe unwanted but maybe belong. It is a city of much violence and some wonder. This short novel uses many misunderstandings and misrememberings to create a linguistic geography, spatializing the process of reading and writing fiction to take the shape of a fictional, dislocated city perhaps called Sespia. “Could syntax become a city?,” asks Morelia’s protagonist as they try to recall the meaning of an errant foreign word, one discovered in a book of medieval architecture. If not for her protagonists, syntax nearly always can become a city or something like one for Gladman herself. Her writing has an abiding interest in the way language and bodies move through urban space. Her Ravicka novels tell a story about its eponymous city as much as anything else and Morelia’s cover is decorated with one of Gladman’s “prose architectures,” drawings that render sentences into skylines. A volume of her architectural drawings accompanied by a text from theorist and poet Fred Moten, One Long Black Sentence, is forthcoming in 2020. The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom Sarah M. Broom introduces her then-incomplete memoir project, published as The Yellow House (Grove Atlantic), to her brother, nervous of her digging into family matters, in intentionally vague terms: “When he asks about my project, I am imprecise, lofty, saying I am writing about ‘architecture and belonging and space.’” This characterization is not entirely disingenuous. The National Book Award-winning The Yellow House is not just the tale of a house—now gone—but of New Orleans as an urban and social palimpsest. Moving out from the yellow shotgun house and her own life and the lives of her family members, Broom maps New Orleans across history to unpack the complex and fractured narratives of race and class embedded in the city’s architectural logic.
Though the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed 30 years ago, we can still point to countless recently-completed buildings as testaments to the gap between the architectural profession and the needs of the people for which they are designed. Built to Scale, a solo exhibition by artist Emily Barker currently on view at the Murmurs gallery in downtown Los Angeles, adds a critical and essential voice to the national debate concerning the concept of accessibility in the built environment. A set of sculptures the artist has placed throughout the exhibition space, in collaboration with designer Tomasz Jan Groza, challenge the hidden yet highly prescriptive status quo in contemporary architectural design that perpetuates societal prejudices against those considered "abnormal" or "divergent." "Those who deviate from the norms," the press release for the show states, "have little space built to include them and can’t participate in most built environments." Many of the floor pieces depict seemingly "innocent" domestic objects rendered in commonly-used materials that become insurmountable to those with limited mobility, such as sand, dirt, grass, and steel mesh. A translucent set of kitchen cabinets, Untitled (Kitchen), partially hangs overhead in a manner akin to the fabric sculptures of Do Ho Suh. Yet where Suh's are often tangible and enveloping, Barker's are disturbingly unusable and alienating. Many of these objects and materials, the exhibition suggests, have been standardized in the name of convenience for what turns out to be a minority of the American population. Yet perhaps the most telling piece in Barker's ensemble is a neatly stacked tower of medical bills, titled Death by 7865 Paper Cuts, that "demonstrate[s] the sheer volume of bureaucratic labor required to meet your basic needs after experiencing unthinkable trauma." Normalcy is rendered as the faceless opponent throughout Built to Scale. A powerfully dangerous myth with fatal consequences, the cult of the normal has pervaded because of its ability to neatly complement modern standards of efficiency, mass production, and narrow definitions of progress. Like other architects, artists, and academics discover lapses of judgment in the construction of the built environment, exhibitions like Built to Scale will continue their mission of informing the public of the myriad relationships we have with the world around us. Built to Scale will be on view at Murmurs until January 18, 2020.
A Chromatic Wonderland
Peter Halley’s Heterotopia II explored the relationship between painting, architecture, and image
Peter Halley’s Heterotopia II, a candy-colored shrine to geometric abstraction closed on December 20 at Greene Naftali gallery in Chelsea (Manhattan). The exhibition, which embodied the relationship between painting and architectural space, brought visitors into a disorienting, hyperreal world collaged out of references to science fiction, modernist architecture, and mass media—all painted in fluorescent hues. The installation was both a fortress and a stage set and brought to mind the importance of creating alternative worlds and ways of seeing while also probing the ties between architecture, art, and image. The experience could be described as stepping into one of the Neo-Geo paintings Halley became known for in the ’80s. Or, like stepping into a Josef Albers color study—the same floor appearing to drastically transform in color as one moves from a room with pink walls to one painted orange. Housed between floor-to-ceiling yellow walls coated in Roll-A-Tex, visitors could catch small glimpses of the polychromatic, multi-level interior spaces from narrow cut-outs along the perimeter prior to entering and one could enter one of two ways: through a long hall covered in glimmering metallic tinsel, or an entry immediately confronted with a set of low, blue steps. Eight rooms in total contained eight new shaped-canvas paintings that incorporated the same Roll-A-Tex coating as the exterior walls. Like the three-dimensional space the paintings occupied, symmetry was abandoned in favor of variously sized stacked rectangles reminiscent of prison cells, circuit boards, or maybe a section taken through a PoMo building. The rooms emanated from a central glowing core which was the only space in the gallery that could not be climbed into and occupied, but only looked down into through three distinct apertures in the surrounding rooms. Both the positive and negative shapes recalled iconic elements from modernist architects—Luis Barragan or Ricardo Legorreta’s stairs (not a handrail in sight), Louis Kahn’s concentric cut-outs, or Peter Eisenman’s grid. Halley utilized such elements to compose sightlines, resulting in the most exciting views of the paintings being not from directly in front of, but mediated by the architecture itself—from the top of a staircase, at the intersection of two contrasting colored walls, between beams and columns, or framed by a “window”. The paintings themselves are worlds within a world within a world and have accordingly been named after Isaac Asimov’s fictional universes: Helicon, Galaxia, Terminus, and Gaia. Creating paintings that depicted both social isolation and connectivity, the artist's work has often looked to geometry as a metaphor for society. A heterotopia can be defined as institutions that are in opposition to the utopia, spaces that are different and that operate outside of societal norms (prisons, temples, cemeteries, and brothels are some of the examples Michel Foucault outlined in his essay "Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias"). At the same time, heterotopias often reveal as much as they conceal, acting as a mirror that reflects back the values of the dominant culture. Halley’s Heterotopia II is a labyrinthian universe that highlighted visitors’ relationship to and perception of color in the built environment whether applied to a canvas, a wall, or pixels of a photo uploaded to social media. In today’s terms, the installation is “Instagrammable,” to say the least. The work exhibited tensions and connections between rationalist geometry, color, and the relationship to technology that seem inescapable. So of course, I posted an image of the alien green room housing the painting Terminus to my Instagram story, to which my sister replied: “Wow! It looks like Mario World.” Despite her distance from any sort of contemporary art world discourse, she’s not all that far off. And perhaps like Mario World, much of the essence or aura of the installation was lost in stillness, on pause, or in a photograph. It took traversing the space, hugging the wall so as not to fall off the different heighths of stairs, moving up to go back down again, hopping over obstacles, or darting past other gallery-goers to truly experience the work. It’s impossible to enter this exhibition and not think about the thousands of uploads it will, and has, generated in digital space. In the age of pop-up experiences and Instagram museums, Heterotopia II inevitably lends itself well to fashionable stories and selfie opportunities (yes, it was listed on FOMOFeed). Perhaps the work was more of a reverie than critique. The installation depicted digitally in the square cells of Instagram, rather than the physical location itself, could be viewed as the heterotopia at hand. How we see and perceive color on the screen, as opposed to witnessing the interplay of surfaces IRL, reveals a lot about how we’ve come to relate to, consume (and share) both art and architecture on a broader level.
Trees, Frieze, and
AN rounds-up the best exhibitions to see before the end of the year
As the year comes to a close, AN has gathered some of the best architecture exhibitions worldwide to feast your eyes upon before (and into) 2020. Historical retrospectives, site-specific installations in starchitect designed museums, even methods for how to scale the walls of the Eastern State Penitentiary—the list represents the breadth of subjects that architectural theory and curatorial practice have explored this past year and decade. Gio Ponti. Loving Architecture November 27, 2019, through April 13, 2020 MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts Via Guido Reni, 4A, 00196 Rome, Italy
Love architecture, be it ancient or modern. Love it for its fantastic, adventurous and solemn creations; for its inventions; for the abstract, allusive and figurative forms that enchant our spirit and enrapture our thoughts. Love architecture, the stage, and support of our lives. -Gio Ponti, Amate l’architettura (In praise of architecture) 1957In collaboration with CSAC of Parma and Gio Ponti Archives, MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts has put on a major retrospective of work by Italian architect, Gio Ponti. The exhibition is curated by Maristella Casciato (the senior curator of architectural collections at the Getty Research Institute) and surveys Ponti’s prolific, multifaceted career as an architect, designer, poet, and critic through models, photographs, books, objects, and more. Margherita Guccione, director of MAXXI Architettura said in a recent press release, “Neither classical nor modern, the work of Gio Ponti was unique... ranging from the design of objects of everyday use to the invention of spatial configurations for the modern home and the creation of complex projects embedded within the urban context, maintaining architecture, setting and saving grace of our lives, as the fixed core of his research.” Alexander Rosenberg: A Climber's Guide to Eastern State Penitentiary or, Eastern State's Architecture, and How to Escape It On view now through January 1, 2020 Eastern State Penitentiary 2027 Fairmount Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19130 Alexander Rosenberg is a Philadelphia-based artist, educator, and writer. Receiving his BFA in Glass from RISD and Master of Science in Visual Studies from MIT, much of his work is a deep exploration of the study of glass as a material. In this body of work, Rosenberg produced a site-specific installation and performance in response to the architecture and preservation of Eastern State Penitentiary. Rosenberg has developed and climbed more than a dozen possible routes to scale the prison’s 30-foot walls using “clean climbing” techniques. For the climbs, the artist fabricated climbing gear from materials that would have been readily available within the penitentiary at the year of its closing in 1971, as well as maps of the climbs and a guidebook for “how to escape” the architecture. According to an artist’s statement, the project aims to “provoke discussion about conservation and preservation between nature and artifice in the built and ‘natural’ worlds.” Architecture Arboretum November 4, 2019, through January 21, 2020 Princeton University School of Architecture North Gallery School of Architecture, Princeton, NJ 08544 A new exhibition at Princeton University School of Architecture investigates the important relationship between architecture and trees. Architecture Arboretum, curated by Sylvia Lavin, a professor of history and theory of architecture at the university, evaluates trees as natural objects that have influenced major shifts in architectural thinking. The exhibition looks at how modern architectural drawings are filled with a variety of carefully considered trees that have been used as objects of observation, linguistic signs, as well as objects in themselves that can be designed. The concept of the show, as described on the University’s website, is that “Architecture and trees share important features—the capacity to define space, produce climates, and shape the visual field—but also because trees perform architectural tasks in ways that care for the earth’s surface better than most buildings.” Lauren Henkin: Props November 22, 2019, through March 2020 Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati 44 East 6 Street, Downtown Cincinnati Conceived as a dialogue between site-specific installation work and Zaha Hadid’s first U.S. building, Lauren Henkin’s, Props, will be on view at Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati through March 2020. The exhibition features eight sculptures scattered throughout the museum in locations considered “unconventional” or “unintended” exhibition spaces, never before used to display art. “Henkin’s pieces will invite visitors to consider with greater care and nuance often overlooked architectural details and spaces,” said Harris Weston, director and chief curator in a press release. The physical access given to the artist provides her with the room to interrogate the architectural and stylistic elements of the starchitect-designed museum. The Architect’s Studio: Tatiana Bilbao October 18, 2019, through March 5, 2020 Louisiana Museum of Modern Art Gl Strandvej 13, 3050 Humlebæk, Denmark Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao explores Mexico’s culture and building traditions in a new exhibition at Denmark’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. The show is the third in The Architect’s Studio series, which focuses on a new generation of architects who work with sustainability and social practice in mind. “When you come from a country without resources, you are used to not wasting them,” Bilbao explained in an interview on the museum’s website. The analysis of both landscape and cultural traditions plays a major role in Bilbao’s work which makes use of materials such as rammed earth and ideas on how the built environment influences those who occupy it. Survival Architecture and the Art of Resilience Through May 3, 2020 The Museum of Craft and Design 2569 Third Street, San Francisco, CA An exhibition at San Francisco’s Museum of Craft and Design will showcase visionary solutions for emergency shelters in the wake of natural disasters. Curated by Randy Jayne Rosenberg of Art Works for Change, Survival Architecture and The Art of Resilience imagines the future of a climate-constrained world by addressing the need for adaptable housing for vulnerable populations. One project, Cardborigami (2016) by Tina Hovsepian, is a compact and foldable cardboard structure suitable for two people to sleep in. Other projects by over 20 artists and studios illustrate similar radical proposals for navigating the possibility of extreme weather. Organized into four themes—Circular, Portable, Visionary, and Resilient—every project begs the viewers to examine how the built environment can be designed flexibly when change is the only constant.
Affect in the Greenhouse
Love in a Mist (The Politics of Fertility) deftly blends design with pregnancy politics
We might look back on 2019 as a year of perpetual crises, should we survive their enduring damages. The Amazon rainforest burned for weeks under a far-right populist in Brazil, as land long-held by indigenous peoples was effectively cleared for cattle. At the moment of writing, there is ongoing, large-scale and violent civil unrest in Hong Kong, Lebanon, Chile, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Iraq, and Iran. Even limiting our attention to the American news cycle, as we often do, it's difficult to cultivate hope for a future which, per the U.N. Emissions Gap Report, may not exist without significant infrastructural change. Millennials are increasingly opting not to have children, if not for financial insecurity, then out of an acute anxiety over the diminished prospects for life on earth. The contested appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court (to pluck one item from the trash fire of this year in American politics) has ensured a bleak outlook for the future of Roe v. Wade as well. Women dressed as Atwood’s handmaids protested a stylized dystopia of forced birth that is, in some ways, already real for poor women in states with no practical access to abortion services. Architects often feel called to address these political terrains as the conceptual and material grounds for design solutions, as if architecture is not already implicated and architects are not human actors also living under these same existential conditions. The objects in need of solutions are so immense, so out of scale, and so tangled in intersecting forces, that it’s difficult to do more than call attention to them—to try to express the unspeakable. Love in a Mist (The Politics of Fertility) is an ambitious show currently on view at the Druker Design Gallery at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design that acknowledges the urgency and complexity of an endangered reproductive future. And yet, it reaches for hope in the face of possible extinction. Conceived by the architect Malkit Shoshan, the show assumes an activist posture to address a nuanced set of concerns around the body, fertility, and seemingly detached environmental crises. By assembling research, activist artifacts, artistic works, and a deep bibliography of feminist texts, Love in a Mist locates resistance and hope in interconnection and its enunciation. As Donna Haraway pleads in her science-fiction work Children of the Compost, cited in the exhibition text, we can and must articulate new forms of relation to each other and the earth—it’s a matter of inter-species survival. The domination (and depletion) of the environment and the control over human reproduction are intimately entangled, Shoshan argues. At the fulcrum of fertility (engineered by synthetic hormones or controlled through conservative legislation), women and nature are recognized as mutually domitable objects. It’s a problematic alignment, but the show works through that tension with care. The exhibition was instigated as an urgent response to the sharp increase in anti-abortion legislation known as “heartbeat bills,” some of which were signed into law in Ohio, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Georgia this year. The exhibited work builds on the scholarship of Lori Brown, whose study of the landscapes of U.S. abortion access is presented in takeaway texts and series of infographics. From this legal ground, the sequence of the show quickly expands that predicament to an ecological scale with research on the history of synthetic estrogen. Diethylstilbestrol, or DES, had been prescribed to women suffering miscarriages beginning in the 1940s. Understood to reduce pregnancy complications and loss, its harmful effects weren’t known until the 1970s, when DES was linked to clear-cell carcinoma in women and girls. DES had also been used as a growth hormone in livestock feed and caused breast and cervical cancer in those consuming estrogen-laden poultry and meat. Introduced into the agricultural ecology, DES contaminated the surrounding land, water, and plants. Hyperproduction is an acceleration of death. The content of the exhibition is organized into four distinct chapters: Reproductive rights, accelerated growth, extinction, and compost. This framework is spatialized into a linear sequence of four wood-framed greenhouses, beginning with the heartbeat and finding its way out through the compost bin. The greenhouse is the primary architectural device in the design of the show, also by Shoshan. She acknowledges it as a “natural container” for the content on view; it’s an obvious reference to the greenhouse effect, and also a literal technology for the cultivation and control of nature. The framing also stands in for the less discernible spaces of fertility that Love in a Mist tries to access—including brick-and-mortar and mobile clinics, crisis pregnancy centers, and state legislatures, as well as fields, forests, and swamps. Multimedia work enlivens the information-rich exhibition environment. A video by Desirée Dolron shows swamps in Texas overtaken by a disruptive weed. Audio recordings of Northern California woods by Bernie Krause over nearly 30 years testify to a depleted “biophany.” Diana Witten’s documentary Vessel shows the travels of Women on Waves, whose portable abortion clinic is also represented in the show. Yael Bartana’s trailer to What if Women Ruled the World fantasizes an international government of women against an apocalyptic backdrop. Tabita Rezaire’s Sugar Walls Teardom is a vibrant video document in the compost section which acknowledges the contribution of black womxn’s wombs to advancements in biomedical technology. The work, in the end, is thoroughly documentary but it maintains an effective pulse. Rather than directly taking up representational concerns, as feminist exhibitions so often do, it leans into the artifacts and techniques of fertility politics. For that reason, the distinct outlier of the show is a figural womb sculpted by Joep van Lieshout, a Dutch architect who also collaborated with Rebecca Gomperts on the Women on Waves clinic. It makes a static object of a living organ, one we’ve come to understand as influenced by so many external forces. Love in a Mist finds recourse through the living. Named for a flower whose seeds were once ingested for their abortifacient properties, the exhibition puts as much faith in the home remedy as in the clinical procedure. Making kin, to borrow Donna Haraway’s prescription for earthly survival, must remain a matter of choice. The exhibition is on view through December 20.
Reflecting City Pride
Palo Alto receives trippy public art pavilion courtesy of FreelandBuck
The city of Palo Alto, California, has a new public art installation in King Plaza, facing City Hall, that packs a significant number of architectural effects within a minuscule footprint. Titled Cache Me If You Can, the installation is a product of the Los Angeles– and–New York–based architecture office FreelandBuck and is made up of 20 triangular PVC plastic sheets, each of which features photographs taken by Alex Kim that document the life of King Plaza over the course a single day (May 31st, 2019, to be specific). The installation is centered within the plaza's gridded pattern to minimize interrupting pedestrian traffic while offering a visual treat for those with a moment to spare. During the day, the images play a series of optical illusions that invite visitors to visually "line up" the structure with the plaza it foregrounds while walking through its tunnel-like interior. At night, the installation is lit from the inside, causing the perforated surfaces to emit a glow that will keep a portion of the plaza illuminated and reveal a new set of images of the surrounding area. “This project follows several of our previous large-scale installations designed as constructed drawings," remarked FreelandBuck cofounder and principal Brennan Buck. "In this case, we worked with images of the site, articulating them graphically as a pattern of overlapping circles. Each pixel of the photograph produced five circles in a range of hues that, when averaged together, match the hue of the original pixel. From a distance, the photograph is clear, but up close, the surface of the pavilion disintegrates into an abstract pattern of vibrating discs.” Cache Me If You Can is a reflection of FreelandBuck's continuing interest in the relationship between architecture and narrative. Just as no two people can experience a city in the same way, so too does the installation offer an unlimited number of vantage points as visitors make connections between the pavilion and its surroundings. Cache Me If You Can is on view until June 2020.
"There’s so much modern and contemporary art that isn’t shown," the mononymous artist Damjanski said as we walked around the fifth-floor galleries of MoMA, iPhones in hand. "What if we could bring even more in?" Along with Monique Baltzer and David Lobser, Damjanski has come up with a solution to these limitations with MoMAR, an "unauthorized gallery" that lives inside the recently-reopened museum from which it derives its name. The gallery takes the form of an iPhone app that uses augmented reality (AR) to introduce new art into MoMA by latching onto physical artwork as triggers. Initial exhibitions earlier this year featured new works layered on top of the existing paintings, offering a sort of secret secondary exhibition.
For its third iteration, titled Open to the Public, the MoMAR curators wanted to push the boundaries of the museum further, digitally intervening into the museum's architecture more directly. Manuel Rossner’s contribution, Reef, reconfigures the room it "sits" in. The German artist, who primarily works in virtual reality, has created a colorful cavern that expands beyond the gallery’s wall. Rather than simply replacing a painting, it cannibalizes it, and in turn considers what environments—physical or digital—might be made within the white-walled constraints of the museum. This vibrant, biomorphic intervention, which is algorithmically generated, adds a dash of play to the relatively rigid structure of the institution. One can imagine the artificial depth causing problems for the less attentive, and MoMA does officially restrict panning phones through rooms if you’re filming. Other artworks cheekily deconstruct our relationships to how we consume (and make) images in the museum. Akihiko Taniguchi has introduced an "augmented selfie" into the gallery, where a 3D avatar of the artist floats in the iPhone’s view. The digital Taniguchi’s arm is outstretched, phone in hand. If you press your screen it will save a picture to your phone and the animated avatar will take a photo too, his virtual self capturing his face in front of a wall of Morris Hirshfield paintings. Strokes, by the Japanese duo exonemo, is an act of artistic intervention (or vandalism). Just what it sounds like, when an iPhone is pointed at its tag (Joseph Pickett's painting Manchester Valley) random Pollock-esque strokes of "paint" will appear on the screen, disrupting and damaging the otherwise pristinely kept MoMA and its carefully kept goods. New York-based Erin Ko’s La Barrera diffuses glitchy fractured signs throughout the gallery—shattered emojis, 3D pyramids and bottles, all what Ko calls "floating garbage." Black brushstrokes cover a canvas that digitally displays quickly changing insipid networked truisms: "You don’t know stress until you own a charger that only works if your phone is at a certain angle." Is that stress? By disrupting the art on display and its vaulted home with her own internet throw up, Ko seems to point out the banality of the glut of content online and off, the constant distractions that the privileged find on their phones and in museums, in buildings and on networks developed by so much labor and producing so much waste, all of which so often is ignored. Where some smaller works hang on the wall a hole opens up, a portal beyond the museum, to nowhere real. An outside we can never reach, the hole reveals the museum as a trap. Despite the ways these works might prod at the museum that made and continues to makes the modern canon, flouting its celebrated art and its architectural integrity, Damjanski noted that he is not anti-museum in the least. He loves coming to the MoMA, but he sees many new opportunities in and beyond traditional institutions. "Museums are so often a one-way conversation," he pointed out. "We want to see if it could be a three- or four-way conversation instead." By involving the user and new artists in the museum, disconnected from its official institutional and curatorial structures, a more democratic, flexible, and updatable MoMA—an augmented one—can be imagined. MoMAR also provides and proposes new ways of exhibiting net art and other creative practices that engage with emerging technology that museums, excluding certain projects such as Rhizome, have been relatively slow to keep up with—though there are some net works like JODI’s video My%Desktop in MoMA’s rehang. Of course, to visit Open to the Public you still have to get to MoMA and pay admission or attend on a free night, which is also when MoMAR hosts its openings. To further the democratizing potential of AR exhibitions, MoMAR’s team offers up its Unity-based platform as an open-source tool so that people around the world can create their own installations and exhibitions well beyond MoMA’s rarefied walls. Open to the Public Viewable with the MoMAR app at MoMA, gallery 521, fifth floor Through January 25, 2020View this post on Instagram
Orchids sprout their spindly stems skywards in search of water on rainy days. Leaves bunch in boxes, fighting one another for space in the light, vibrant pink. Not so distantly, a piano can be heard. This is the scene at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. It is a scene reminiscent of the lush floral paintings of Martin Johnson Heade, a citation noted by David Hartt, the artist behind this installation, The Histories (Le Mancenillier), on view at the synagogue through December 19. (Other references include the classical historian Herodotus, the Creole-Jewish composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, and the Canadian experimental filmmaker Michael Snow). Heade was born not 25 miles from where the synagogue stands today, however, he traveled widely, visiting Jamaica, Brazil, Colombia, and other locales to create sensitive paintings of misty miniature worlds, all orchids and bugs and hummingbirds—a migratory creature with symbolic “affinity to abolitionist movement,” according to Hartt. Heade was himself a prominent abolitionist. Hartt too traveled for this work, filming scenes of waving foliage in Haiti and Louisiana for videos on display on two 98-inch monitors. The orchids, however, were filmed in his Philadelphia studio; a seed can travel far, after all. Movement, displacement, diaspora, and homebuilding figure and reconfigure themselves in The Histories. Hartt was inspired by discovering that the Beth Sholom congregation’s original home in Philadelphia’s Logan neighborhood now serves as the home of a Black evangelical congregation. During the mass suburbanization that took hold of America after the Second World War, which coincided with the so-called “Synagogue Boom,” the congregation moved, enlisting Wright to build their new home, which would be completed just after his death in 1959. With its shocking pyramid form, designed to be in Wright’s words “luminous Mount Sinai,” it’s the only synagogue Wright ever built. Curated by the Glass House’s Cole Akers, The Histories (Le Mancenillier), overtakes the Wright’s bold structure without overwhelming it. Entering through the back, as most people do, you’ll encounter a large flat screen on black scaffolding, about human height, though much larger than any human being. On it, plants move and flow, including orchids and fronds. An occasional white X flashes across the screen, a reference to Snow, whose structuralist films considered the presence of the camera and materiality of that more analog medium. Video is not as tangible a thing as celluloid film, and so here the X seems to index the physicality of the screens (another monitor be found, oriented vertically, across the synagogue). These TVs are more sculptures than frames. While at times the view in the videos is fixed, trained watchfully on fronds swaying in brackish water, other times they float and flutter with videos taken by choreographed drones and flipped upside-down. In planters where artificial plants once sat, Hartt has inserted live tropical flora lit with pink grow lights to keep them alive in the subterranean settings. In the main sanctuary, a jaw-dropping theatrical space with a glass roof soaring 110 feet above, orchids have been placed throughout: on the floor, over chairs, and on large tables straddling whole swaths of seats. The roof, impressive as it might be, leaks. When Hartt first encountered the synagogue, there were buckets and kiddie pools placed throughout to collect rainwater and snowmelt. The orchids serve as a more expressive and a no less functional replacement. What is the medium of a building, of architectural experience? In conversations with Hartt, he said that he had been thinking about Wright’s notion of “total design”—of not just creating the architecture of a building, but the architecture of living, down to the smallest details. The exhibition's two tapestries perhaps evince the clearest example of this. Classic design objects and textiles make physical the most immaterial of things. Light hitting a camera sensor, the semiconductors revealing the facts of themselves as pixels, become most obvious in the fabric forest and lens flare hanging in one room. The Histories is not just objects. Music is central to the exhibition, with renditions of Gottschalk’s music, as recorded by Ethiopian pianist Girma Yifrashewa, playing in the main sanctuary, not only creating a new sonic texture, but building on the exhibition’s story of hybridization, travel, and transmission. Gottschalk had a mixed-race and mixed-faith background and synthesized European and African-American musical traditions, spending much of his life outside the United States. As Gottschalk serves as a “cipher” for Hartt, music serves as an anchor for the exhibition. Hartt invited Yifrashewa, who trained in Bulgaria, to score the exhibition with Gottschalk’s music. In addition, performers were invited in throughout the exhibition’s run and a piano and mixer on display serve as a sort of sculptural intervention that constantly hint at latent performative possibilities. Hartt describes his artistic process as “peripatetic,” both intellectually and formally, but also spatially. At home in transit, Hartt traces shifting vectors of time and space that despite their motion, become the stabilizing forces that create communities. But these flights are fraught. Drone footage and landscape travel paintings can show new sights and celebrate the richness of life, but they can also serve to surveil or as colonial capture. The conditions that create diaspora are often stories of painful displacement, which might serve in some ways as unifying forces for this primarily white Jewish congregation and the Black church that replaced their former home, but the synagogue also stands as an index to the white flight suburbanization that took place in the 20th century. History, this exhibition's subject, is a story of entanglements and estrangements that echo into the hybrid present. The installation’s parenthetical title, Le Mancenillier, wryly acknowledges this messiness. It refers to both a song by Gottschalk, and to the Caribbean manchineel tree, which produces a fruit that the Christopher Columbus referred to as the death apple: it is enticingly sweet, and deadly. David Hartt: The Histories (Le Mancenillier) Through December 19 Beth Sholom Synagogue Elkins Park, Pennsylvania
No food or drink allowed
Someone ate Maurizio Cattelan's $120,000 banana
In case you missed it, a banana duct-taped to a blank wall, that fruit whose peel has been the basis of so much slapstick comedy, sold for no less than $120,000 at Art Basel Miami Beach, the sun-soaked winter outpost of the Swiss art fair. Called Comedian, the sculpture—three editions available—was the creation of the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, who recently had another brush with mainstream press when his full-functioning 18 karat gold toilet, America, was stolen from Blenheim Palace in England less than two months ago. The banana attracted a great deal of attention at the fair, with people lining up to take selfies with the fruit mounted to the wall of the global mega gallery Perrotin. It also attracted, depending on your perspective, vandalism or critical intervention: The performance artist David Datuna ate the banana on Saturday. Comedian was taken down for the last day of the fair because of the disruption it was causing, after which someone used the opportunity to scrawl “EPSTIEN [SIC] DIDN’T KILL HIMSELF” in blood-red paint on the now-bare wall. It was promptly covered up. https://twitter.com/GiancarloSopo/status/1203875430803087367 While Datuna’s performance may appeal to some as a means of pointing out the relative valuelessness of the work, they would be missing the point. Of course Comedian is just a fruit and some household tape. Nobody is meant to believe that the materials are in-themselves valuable beyond their grocery store price points. What is sold to collectors is not duct tape and a banana, but rather a certificate, which presumably includes maintenance instructions. The inherent ephemerality of the fruit is part of the work: owners can change the banana whenever they see fit. Obviously anybody could make this work at home, that's not in dispute. What’s sold, supposedly, is an idea (and the right to resell it). That is to say, that it is not about the objects. Like much art of the past 100 years, which has included urinals, apples, and canned feces as high-value objects, the intention of art like Comedian is to question how value is produced in the context of art. The controversy, mainstream and art world press, and social media presence is presumably as much as part of the work as the banana mounted in almost painterly gesture by a diagonal strip of duct tape somewhere it doesn’t belong. Even if we were to take Comedian at face value, putting decay on display through constantly-rotting produce isn't a new idea, either. Comedian also references the history of Cattelan’s own practice. The 1999 A Perfect Day, a mainstay of art history classes, used a whole lot more tape to attach Cattelan’s gallerist Massimo De Carlo to the wall for an entire day. Now, 20 years later, with a title that suggests a person—maybe himself, maybe his gallerist—perhaps we can see this banana as a stand-in for the body. Or, depending on one's leanings, it might just be rendering all the art system’s actors (this writer included) as charlatans and jesters. Whoever the joke may be on, Comedian is at the very least an ironic critique of the art market. As Jason Farago points out in his "grudging defense" in the New York Times: “[Cattelan’s] entire career has been a testament to an impossible desire to create art sincerely, stunted here by money, there by his own doubts.” By asking so much money for an idea (successfully, at least one edition has sold) that unifies two cheap, common objects, and creating so much controversy along with it, Cattelan attempts to expose the ways value is generated in art, as well as issues of authorship. Of course, at a time of rising inequality and rising seas that threaten Miami Beach, one might not find it so funny and fairly see it as a further indictment of an art system awash in cash, a playground for the one percent. That's what Comedian has to tell us: it’s all a charade, fresh fruit and painted canvas and plain-old dollar bills alike. Regardless, Cattelan will surely be happy to take his 50 percent cut.
Sarasota Art Museum's The Worker Project shows the faces of preservation work
A permanent exhibition at the new headquarters of the Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College of Art and Design in Florida highlights the diligent work of the people contracted to help preserve the 93-year-old building around the show. For the last year, local photographer Barbara Banks has quietly observed construction at the M. Leo Elliott-designed Sarasota High School, a Collegiate Gothic-style building at the edge of downtown that’s being renovated by Lawson Group Architects and K/R Architects. The result of her study, a photo series entitled The Worker Project, will be on view starting Saturday, December 14, when the museum officially opens to the public. The behind-the-scenes work of restoration often goes unnoticed, Banks explained. “Much of it you won’t see like welding, painting, piping, or men working on masonry,” she said. “Each element of work on the historic building was very carefully administered by each person and I wanted to be there for the intimate moments.” Through traversing the site each day, Banks cultivated relationships with many of the workers, all of which were contracted through the Sarasota-based Willis Smith Construction. Some of the men and women on-site (including Banks) were graduates of Sarasota High School and expressed pride working on their alma mater, which includes the 1959 annex building designed by Paul Rudolph. Both structures were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Because of the site’s storied history, the quality of craftsmanship was elevated, Banks said. “It immediately engendered respect from everyone involved.” Anne-Marie Russell, director of the Sarasota Art Museum, has been working to move the institution into its new home for the past five years. The expansion to the Ringling College Museum Campus complex, also designed by Rudolph and Victory Lundy, was necessary due to the organization’s growing needs. According to Sarasota Magazine, it’s expected to receive 125,000 visitors in the coming year. The Sarasota High building that the museum now sits in hasn’t been active with students in 23 years, and Russell’s team was eager to infuse its three stories with contemporary art. Demolition and construction work on the project began in June 2017 and wrapped up this October. To Russell, The Worker Project will serve as a reminder of the museum’s rich legacy and the meticulous work done to bring it into the 21st century. “The through-line here exists in the quality of skills used on this site,” said Russell. “We work with artists and we know that manual labor is intellectual labor and vice versa. The overriding theme of this project was to shed light on the skilled people who do this work, especially against the backdrop of automation when all craftsmanship and connoisseurship is disappearing before our eyes.” Just like the men who built Elliott and Rudolph’s design with their own hands decades ago, those profiled in The Worker Project are part of a shared history. “That’s the power of adaptive reuse,” said Russell. “When you’re responding to an existing condition rather than just working off a drawing from scratch, every single person becomes a collaborator on improving the project. Everyone here demonstrated their unique expertise.” David Stershic, a 1974 graduate of Sarasota High, served as the general superintendent on the project. He oversaw the daily work of over 100 people and expressed how Banks’ own work affected him. “As the project evolved, I began to see it as paying homage to the common man who made this project successful.” But what’s more, he said, was the way Banks interacted with his team. “It amazed me that she got personal with all the workers. Every day she came in and took time to get to know their stories—what their talents are, what they’ve been through, what their lives are like.” The Worker Project will be on display at the new Sarasota Art Museum at 1001 S Tamiami Trail in Sarasota, Florida starting next week.
Budapest’s new mayor, Gergely Karácsony, has moved to block the construction of Hungary’s New National Gallery, due to the SANAA-designed building’s supposed “enormous impact on its environment.” Elected in October on a green platform, the Mayor has expressed his concerns over the building being built on “one of Budapest’s few and very precious green areas,” and construction has since stalled on the $277 million project. On November 5, Budapest’s General Assembly backed Karácsony’s proposal to halt the centerpiece of the Liget Budapest Project, which is said to be Europe’s “largest and most ambitious urban cultural development.” Construction on the House of Hungarian Innovation, a new $110 million science museum, has also been suspended. The entire project was slated to be fully completed by 2023 and included a Museum of Ethnography, House of Hungarian Music, and an expanded zoo. The National Museum Restoration and Storage Centre opened to the public earlier this year. While many residents shared the Mayor’s concerns about the environmental impact, project organizers have defended the construction. “The new buildings are not being constructed on green areas but are instead replacing parking spaces and long-outdated buildings planned to be demolished,” László Baán, director of Budapest’s Museum of Fine Arts, argued, according to The Art Newspaper. He has also stated that the green space in the park will actually increase by five percent. The New National Gallery was due to begin construction in early 2020 with the goal of closing the Hungarian National Gallery in Buda Castle and dividing the collection between the Museum of Fine Arts and the New National Gallery. Because the project is being funded by the central government, negotiations with the mayor will continue, and he has even suggested alternative sites in Budapest where he believes construction will not damage the environment.