Posts tagged with "Graham Foundation":
Architecture of Independence(!): African Modernism(!). (Exclamation points mine). The title of the current exhibition at the Graham Foundation is the first hint that the show is a departure from the Graham’s usual oeuvre. More historical survey than discursive inquisition, Architecture of Independence presents an impressive catalogue of architecture from five sub-Saharan countries (rarely- or never-before-seen by Western audiences) built at the height of late-modernism, at the moment just after independence from colonial rule.
Rigorously researched and curated by Swiss architect Manuel Herz, the exhibition is the outgrowth of a book dominated by photographs by Iwan Baan and Alexia Webster. Originally presented at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery in Germany, the mounting at the Graham is the first scheduled presentation in the United States. (It will also appear at the AIA New York Center for Architecture in Feb. 2017).
According to Herz, the aim of the research is to bring the architecture into the discourse through documentation and presentation. “There is virtue in just documenting these buildings,” he said. Focusing on the multitude of public and cultural institutions built during the era, the exhibition argues that architecture was used as a nation building tool in post-colonial Africa, and that the buildings themselves act as witnesses to the complicated and often violent history and politics of the regions following independence.
Aside from a case of archival materials that includes historical photographs, postcards, and architectural plans and sketches, the exhibition is an abbreviated representation of the book, exploded throughout the galleries. Like the book, the exhibit is organized by country: Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire are on the first floor of the Madlener House, and Ghana, Zambia, and Kenya are on the second.
This approach works best with an illustrated timeline that spans the north wall of the library, charting the political, economic, demographic, and cultural histories of each country from the time of independence to the present. Where each country’s timeline is separate in the book, the exhibit overlays them all, quickly revealing trends and discrepancies between them.
Each building is presented within a wood box with photographs and texts arranged behind glass on a wooden back.
To fit over 700 images of over 80 buildings into the frames, the photographs are snapshot-sized and the text is small, forcing an intimate proximity to the walls. While the archival-style presentation unfortunately precludes large-format prints of most of the architecture, the clustering is reminiscent of a family portrait wall, which plays nicely against the residual domesticity of the Madlener House.
To absorb the scope of the assemblage is staggering. It inspires the speculation of an entire city composed of these buildings alone: skylines full of experimental, strangely expressive, beautifully dominating, concrete and steel monoliths. It is like a hyper-Brasilia, which is itself a close relative of the work on display, both in terms of architectural style and political ambitions.
The writing accompanying each building sticks mostly to close readings and formal descriptions of the architecture. The wall text introducing each country positions the architecture as intensely optimistic projections of the hopes and dreams of newly independent nations. Like La Pyramide market building in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, or Independence Square in Accra, Ghana, massive buildings were constructed to facilitate and anticipate the rapid cultural and economic development of each nation. Now both defunct, the exhibition reveals how the architectural style and utopian rhetoric of modernism were widely adopted to bring post-colonial Africa into conversation and competition with the Western world.
Also like La Pyramide and Independence Square, most of the architecture on display was designed by European or American architects, in many cases from each country’s former colonial power.
In fact, it could be argued that the work is not the Architecture of Independence at all, but is, in every way, the architecture of colonialism; the architectural manifestation of a kind of cultural Stockholm syndrome. The authorship and intentions of the architecture presented raise important questions about the meaning of freedom, autonomy, and independence in the wake of colonialism, the effects of which continue to play out today around the world. As Audre Lorde wrote, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”
In the introductory essay to the book, Herz examines the complexities and problems of authorship and architectural expression in relation to the slippery meanings of the terms “independence” and “modernism” in the context of Africa. Unfortunately, that critical framework is not explicitly carried over into the exhibition.
There is also the unavoidable problem of the white gaze. The framing and narration of the exhibition and the book are situated firmly in the scholarly, white, Western view, for a Western audience, fetishizing both the architecture and the anonymous black bodies populating the images. The existence of the white gaze is not as troubling in and of itself as the fact that it goes completely unacknowledged.
From a purely disciplinary perspective, the Architecture of Independence brings attention to a canon of architectural history (for five countries) that is full of important and interesting work by European, American, and some African architects. However, it raises the questions: Who can lay claim to this work Where does it belong? In the Western discourse of modern architecture, studied alongside other known works by Denys Lasdun, Harry Weese, and Henri Chomette, or through the lens of African politics, history, and culture? While the exhibition seems to be saying both, the framing of the work seizes it solely for the Western discourse.
Many of these issues could have been addressed by simply changing the title from a statement to a question. Changing “The Architecture of Independence” to “The Architecture of Independence?” would not only shift grammar and tone to be more reflective of the complexities and idiosyncrasies presented, but it would also provide a more compelling framework for the exhibition.
Go see this show. The architecture is stunning, the research rigorous, and the images striking. Stand too close to images of iconic architecture you have probably never seen, get a crash course in the recent history of five African countries, take in the sublime photography of Iwan Baan and Alexia Webster. Do it. It’s worth it. But do so with one eye sideways, craning around the singular gaze presented to the complex questions that the exhibition raises.
It evolved from a small group of artists in New York to a large group of folks across the country … neighbors have started to talk about performances or people in their families who perform that might get involved. And so we've really expanded from an immediate, emergency kind of dialogue to one that's about culture and talent that's already in the neighborhood, and how it can have a stage there at the House Opera.McEwen bought the two-story home for just $1,200 in a public auction, paid off its delinquent property taxes, and got to work raising money for its second act. So far the project has received financial support from Graham Foundation, Knight Foundation, Taubman College – University of Michigan, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, as well as numerous individual benefactors including Mark Gardner, Theaster Gates and Dr. Larry Weiss.
Recipients of this year's grants run the gamut in terms of media, from films and photography to exhibitions and public programming. (Full disclosure: Graham Foundation Director Sarah Herda sits on AN's editorial advisory board.) The awards ceremony is being livestreamed on YouTube:Here's the full list of recipients, by category: EXHIBITION [6 awards] Zoe Beloff (New York, NY) Gabriela Burkhalter (Basel, Switzerland) Allied Works Architecture: Brad Cloepfil (New York, NY/Portland, OR) Kari Cwynar (Toronto, Canada) & Kendra Sullivan (Brooklyn, NY) Jamila Moore Pewu (Hanover, MA) Michael Rakowitz (Chicago, IL) FILM/VIDEO/NEW MEDIA [7 awards] Gavin Browning, Glen Cummings & Laura Hanna (New York, NY) Etienne Desrosiers (Montreal, Canada) Granny Cart Productions: Elettra Fiumi & Lea Khayata (New York, NY) Chad Freidrichs (Columbia, MO) New-Territories/[eIf/b^t/c]: Camille Lacadée & François Roche (Bangkok, Thailand) Léopold Lambert (Paris, France) Candacy Taylor (Los Angeles, CA) PUBLIC PROGRAM [3 awards] Elizabeth Lennard (Sausalito, CA) Marije van Lidth de Jeude & Oliver Schütte (Curridabat, Costa Rica) Noam Toran (London, England) PUBLICATION [33 awards] Ethel Baraona Pohl (Barcelona, Spain), Marina Otero Verzier (Rotterdam, the Netherlands) & Malkit Shoshan (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) Alessandro Bava (London, England) Silvia Benedito (Cambridge, MA) & Iwan Baan (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) Emilia Bergmark (Malmö, Sweden), Corinne Gisel (Zürich, Switzerland) & Nina Paim (St. Gallen, Switzerland) David Chambers & Kevin Haley (London, England) Esther Choi (Brooklyn, NY) & Marrikka Trotter (Cambridge, MA) Thomas Daniell (Fukuoka, Japan) Charles L. Davis II (Charlotte, NC) Alexander Eisenschmidt (Chicago, IL) Institut für Raumexperimente: Olafur Eliasson (Berlin, Germany), Eric Ellingsen (Ithaca, NY) & Christina Werner (Berlin, Germany) Didier Faustino (Paris, France) Todd Gannon (Orange, CA) & Craig Hodgetts (Culver City, CA) Kersten Geers, Joris Kritis (Brussels, Belgium), Jelena Pancevac (Paris, France) & Andrea Zanderigo (Milan, Italy) Chris Grimley, Michael Kubo & Mark Pasnik (Boston, MA) Georgina Huljich & Marcelo Spina (Los Angeles, CA) Daniel Ibañez (Cambridge, MA), Clare Lyster (Chicago, IL), Charles Waldheim (Cambridge, MA) & Mason White (Toronto, Canada) Catherine Ingraham (Brooklyn, NY) Doug Jackson (San Luis Obispo, CA) Daniel López-Pérez (San Diego, CA) Sébastien Marot (Paris, France) Noritaka Minami (Cambridge, MA) & Ken Yoshida (Merced, CA) Joan Ockman (Elkins Park, PA) Kathryn E. O’Rourke (San Antonio, TX) Lluís Ortega (Chicago, IL) Miriam Paeslack (Buffalo, NY) Richard Pare (Richmond, England) Stephen Phillips (Los Angeles, CA) Jesse Reiser & Nanako Umemoto (New York, NY) Charles Rice (Sydney, Australia) Sara Stevens (Houston, TX) Despina Stratigakos (Buffalo, NY) Alice Twemlow (Brooklyn, NY) Rebecca Zorach (Chicago, IL) RESEARCH [14 awards] Shumi Bose (London, England) Marshall Brown (Chicago, IL) Fabrizio Gallanti (Montreal, Canada) David J. Getsy (Chicago, IL) Rob Holmes (Gainesville, FL) & Brett Milligan (Davis, CA) Sabine Horlitz (Berlin, Germany) Andres Kurg (Tallinn, Estonia) Tiffany Lambert (Brooklyn, NY) Gregorio Carboni Maestri (Milan, Italy) Mary McLeod (New York, NY) Ara H. Merjian (New York, NY) Meredith Miller (Ann Arbor, MI) Spyros Papapetros (Princeton, NJ) & Gerd Zillner (Vienna, Austria) Benedikt Reichenbach (Berlin, Germany)
More than a profession or a repertoire of built artifacts, architecture is a dynamic cultural practice that manifests at different scales and through various media: buildings and cities, but also art, performance, film, landscape and new technologies. It permeates fundamental registers of everyday life—from housing to education, from environmental awareness to economic growth, from local communities to global networks.The biennial's first commission was announced Wednesday by co-directors Joseph Grima—a former curator of the Storefront for Art and Architecture, and director of the Ideas City platform of the New Museum—and Sarah Herda, director of the Graham Foundation and AN editorial advisor. Renowned photographer Iwan Baan will contribute an original photo essay about Chicago featuring aerial shots taken at sunrise. The work will “capture the city during a moment of its daily routine,” according to the press release. “Like the Biennial itself, Baan’s expansive photographs interpret Chicago as a realm of architectural possibility, past and future.” The free festival's home base will be the Chicago Cultural Center, but organizers say it won't be restricted to downtown. “Using the city as a canvas, installations will be created in Millennium Park and other Chicago neighborhoods, including new projects and public programs developed by renowned artist Theaster Gates on Chicago’s south side,” reads a press release. “The Biennial will also feature collateral exhibitions and events with partner institutions throughout the city, and will offer educational programming for local and international students.” Tigerman, whose 1977 exhibition is the inspiration for the 2015 show's title, sits on the biennial's International Advisory Committee, which also includes architects David Adjaye, Elizabeth Diller, Jeanne Gang, and Frank Gehry, along with critic Sylvia Lavin, Lord Peter Palumbo and Hans Ulrich Obrist. Ty Tabing, former executive director of the Chicago Loop Alliance and founder of Singapore River One, will serve as the biennial's executive director. Oil giant BP has agreed to donate $2.5 million for the show, but Mayor Emanuel is reportedly seeking $1.5 million more.
"Obviously there's an economic benefit in tourism and travel. Chicago will continue to be seen worldwide as an epicenter of modern architecture… The real question is: Why wasn't Chicago doing this before?"The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and the Graham Foundation will present the show, which will be based in the Chicago Cultural Center. The Chicago Architecture Foundation, whose annual Open House Chicago will coincide with the start of the initial biennial, will help coordinate the first exhibition, which is planned for October 1, 2015 through January 3, 2016. Oil company BP donated $2.5 million for the first show. Kamin reported that Emanuel personally solicited BP’s grant funding, and that the city’s still looking to raise $1.5 million more. While the Chicago event makes no secret of taking after its prestigious namesake in Venice, there will be several differences from that event, which reportedly drew more than 175,000 visitors in 2012. Admission to Chicago’s event will be free, and the show will not have national pavilions. It will have a theme, which has yet to be determined, and will seek to compete in an increasingly crowded field of international design exhibitions. Venice has mounted its exhibition 14 times in 34 years, deviating occasionally from its biennial schedule. If Chicago’s initial event is deemed a success, officials say they’ll duplicate it every two years. Joseph Grima, who co-curated the Istanbul biennial in 2012, and Graham Foundation Director Sarah Herda will co-direct the inaugural Chicago event. Another Chicago-based design curator, Zöe Ryan of the Art Institute of Chicago, is coordinating Istanbul’s next biennial, which will run concurrently with Chicago’s.