Posts tagged with "Photography":

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Jacob Jonas The Company spotlights architecture through dance

The mingling of soft bodies and hard architectural structures is a guaranteed way to generate high-contrast, memorable photos, and the Los Angeles-based dance company Jacob Jonas The Company (JJTC) is certainly using that to their advantage. The company, which blends contemporary ballet with breakdancing and acrobatics, has been collaborating with photographers, other dance companies, and institutions to draw attention to each structure. Aside from putting on live shows, JJTC also functions as a production company for commercials and other visual projects; the #CamerasandDancers initiative grew out of what founder Jacob Jonas described as “Instameets.” Creatives gather in cities around the world and take photos, so Jonas extended the idea to pair photography influencers with dancers and use architectural icons as the backdrop. After the fifth shoot, the Getty Museum reached out to the group to stage a meetup, and now JJTC puts on about one a month (each photo series takes about three-to-six months to stage). The company has produced over 50 collaborations and is still actively soliciting photographers, dancers, and venues to work with. Part of the inspiration came from #emptymet, both an Instagram hashtag and series of tours the Metropolitan Museum of Art stages to take visitors through the museum sans people. As Jonas mentioned, it’s a great way for people to experience cultural institutions in a new light, where one can focus on the structure itself without worrying about being jostled. For what it’s worth, #CamerasandDancers has also come to the Met itself, staging a shoot in the soaring Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates-designed Sackler Wing that houses the Temple of Dendur and faces Central Park. Because each shoot is choreographed in entirely empty buildings without an audience, what the public sees is carefully controlled; the photography and dance itself are equally as important in creating the final image. Of course, while juxtaposing dance with historic structures isn’t new—see Gerard & Kelly’s sumptuous Villa Savoye show from last year, or Solange’s Getty installations—JJTC’s work has taken on a new poignancy at a time when most, if not all, of these institutions are now closed.
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Steven B. Smith captures the tireless, artificial quietude of suburban Utah

Your Mountain is Waiting By Steven B. Smith Radius Publishing MSRP $55.00 In his Homes for America photographic series (1966-1967), the New Jersey-raised conceptual artist Dan Graham revisited his home state to document the eerily tidy suburbs, with names like ‘Green Village’ and ‘Pleasantside,’ that appeared to have fallen from the sky during his absence. Entirely devoid of people and other personal effects, he drew attention instead to the pure seriality and geometric rigidity of post-war home developments to create a comparison between them and the then-current work of minimalist and rule-based artists. The accompanying text Graham provided is as cold and removed as the photos themselves, imagining New Jersey’s suburbs less as a place where people live and work than as an anthropological site to be examined with surveying tools. Others have since made a tradition of mining the suburbs of America with a similar intellectual distance, from architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown in their exhibition Signs of Life (1976) at the Renwick Gallery of the National Collection of Fine Arts, to British architecture professor Jason Griffiths in his book Manifest Destiny (2011), for which he drove over 22,000 miles across the country to document the “placeless” character of the suburbs. Few in the creative fields, it seems, have reflected on the suburbs after having grown up in them. Born, raised, and trained as a photographer in the low-density sprawl of Utah, Steven B. Smith has made a career documenting the transition of the Western landscape into housing developments, of which he has an intimate knowledge. His latest book of photographs, Your Mountain is Waiting (2020), presents large-format images of recently completed and nearly complete housing developments to offer a study of the suburbs centered on those who build them and call them home. While he confirms the idiosyncrasies discovered by those who precede him, Smith comes across several of his own using the sensitivity and attention to detail of a resident observer. For Smith, the suburbs are far from “placeless.” With a focus on the new neighborhoods popping up throughout Utah, his photographs document how their developers had to contend with the state's famously picturesque land formations. Rooflines effortlessly mirror the mountain behind them, backyards encompass miniature topographies of their own (amateurishly fabricated with unironic admiration), and, in one photo, a boulder appears to violently intersect with the veranda of a hilltop home. Even the image on the book cover is a tangle of natural and built elements, from the mountain-shaped gate in the foreground to the textured blocks keeping the hills from losing form. Human and geologic histories are rolled into one through the restless production of artificial mountainscapes that tirelessly attempts to conceal its own labor. The routine maintenance necessary to compete with the beauty of the surrounding landscape—taking out the garbage, watering plants, raking leaves, installing organically-shaped swimming pools—that would otherwise wish to remain invisible is exposed here in heroic compositions. The mysteries of seemingly ancient lawn objects are similarly dispelled by the presence of tractors, backhoe loaders, bricklayers, and plastic wrap fresh from the factory that all appear to be permanent fixtures of the environment themselves. In an interview with Katie Lee-Koven near the end of the book, Smith asserts that the suburbs he photographed are particularly manicured because the majority of their residents are Mormon, a religious group with a unique pride for the American soil. “The yards in Utah,” he said, “have become a place where people are professing their love four country and also for landscape.” There is little doubt, however, that if one went to other suburbs across this country of seemingly every religious and cultural stripe, with a similar sensitivity and attention to detail as Smith demonstrates, a reverence for the American sublime through adoring imitation would be all too easy to find.
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National Building Museum reopens March 13 with Alan Karchmer: The Architects’ Photographer

After closing to the public for three months, the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., has announced it will reopen its doors on March 13 with an exhibition showcasing the work of architectural photographer Alan Karchmer. The museum’s popular long-term exhibitions, including House & Home and PLAY WORK BUILD, will also reopen. The National Building Museum, housed in the grand Renaissance Revival-style former Pension Bureau building, was shuttered to complete an extensive renovation headed by the General Services Administration. As part of the renovation, the aging concrete flooring in the 1887 building’s soaring Grand Hall, backdrop to numerous special events and the museum’s immersive annual Summer Block Party installations, was replaced with a modern foundation. A new ticketing gallery and visitor’s center was also built out, and the museum’s second-floor classrooms were converted into an exhibition space as part of the overhaul. The Karchmer exhibition, Alan Karchmer: The Architects’ Photographer, will debut in this new space. Originally trained at Tulane University as an architect, the D.C.-based Karchmer is one of the world’s preeminent photographers of contemporary architecture and the built environment. Over his career, Karchmer has stunningly captured the oft-difficult-to-capture work of numerous renowned architects and firms including, Santiago Calatrava, Tadao Ando, TEN Arquitectos, and Perkins + Will, among others. He's photographed everything from the Morphosis-designed recreational center at the University of Cincinnati to Moshe Safdie’s airport expansion in Tel Aviv. Self-taught as a photographer, “Karchmer combines his direct knowledge of the design process with his own artistic vision to express the essence of a building,” according to a press statement from the National Building Museum. In 2019, the National Building Museum announced Karchmer’s gifting of his professional archive in its entirety to the museum while “still in the prime of his career.” Several pieces from this collection will be shown as part of the upcoming exhibition. Personal photographs and artifacts of Karchmer’s will also be on display alongside his professional commissioned photography, which has been widely published and featured in previous photography exhibitions at the National Building Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Julius Shulman Institute, and elsewhere. “While the exhibition will feature numerous large prints of photographs of remarkable beauty,” said the museum, “it will also include didactic displays examining the technical and creative processes underlying such images, as well as the role of luck in achieving a particular image. It will thus illuminate why certain images are so successful in expressing both the physical and emotional aspects of architecture.” Last month, the National Building Museum revealed that it had commissioned the Folger Shakespeare Library to conceive this summer’s “Elizabethan-inspired” Summer Block Party installation. As AN has noted, this is a dramatic departure for the crowd-drawing series given that the museum has traditionally enlisted architecture firms such as Snarkitecture, Bjarke Ingels Group, and most recently, LAB at Rockwell Group to transform the Grand Hall into an air-conditioned and Instagram-ready design destination. Titled Shakespeare's Playhouse, the installation opens July 4.
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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.
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Projeto Chernobyl captures a post-human landscape on radiographic film

The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone has been devoid of human habitation for over three decades. Radiation from the 1986 nuclear accident continues to saturate the borderlands of Ukraine and Belarus, rendering thousands of square miles effectively nature preserves. The landscape has been immortalized through countless photographic projects and television series, capturing a post-human ecosystem of abandoned tower blocks and industrial facilities. Artist Alice Miceli's Projeto Chernobyl, on display at the Americas Society and curated by Gabriela Rangel and Diana Flatto, stands out from the standard documentation approach with a series of 30 radiographic negatives that map gamma-ray exposure across multiple sites within the exclusion zone. Projeto Chernobyl began in 2006 and concluded in 2010. The location of the 12-by-16-inch radiographs was determined by extensive mapping conducting by Miceli and her team, as the sheets were placed in differing proximities to the failed Reactor No. 4 and exposed for two to eight months. Each, accordingly, was subject to a unique degree of radioactive exposure. The result is a series of haunting abstracts of manmade catastrophe and a post-human landscape. Considering the distinct approach to the project and the particularities of the location, it is no surprise that Miceli depended on a unique photographic technique. The initial choice was a pinhole-like device; inside of a lead-covered steel box, there would have been a smaller two-inch by two-inch lead square with a minuscule pinhole to expose the radiographic film. Although this process succeeded in a lab-controlled environment in Rio de Janeiro, it failed within the full-scale contamination of the Exclusion zone. The second approach, what was ultimately used for the project, involved placing the autoradiographic film directly onto radioactive matter, such as open fields, walls, windows, and trees. "An autoradiograph, or autoradiogram, is an image imprinted on to a radiographic film that is produced by the decay emissions (the gamma rays) from radioactive matter," said Miceli. "The radiographic film is placed in juxtaposition to, or in direct contact with, the contaminated matter, which in this case has become a radioactive source (like most if not all contaminated matter in the Zone), thus producing life-size images of the invisible contamination." The primary exhibition space has been designed as a void; Near pitch-black and accessed through a pair of blackout curtains. The 30 radiograph negatives are mounted on five walls and backlit by LED screens and are the only form of illumination within the room. Each of the negatives has a distinct mix of markings which provide broad contours of the subject matter, and their geography of radiation contamination. Natural phenomena such as rainfall and wear and tear resulted in further representational erratic, lending a watercolor-like effect or abrasions to individual negatives. The exhibition also includes a brief introduction to Miceli's larger body of work, including In Depth, a photographic series of active minefields in Bosnia, Angola, Cambodia, and Colombia. Black-and-white film photography covering her travels from Germany to the Exclusion Zone is an additional supplement to contextualize the exhibition. Projeto Chernobyl Americas Society 680 Park Avenue New York, New York Through January 25, 2020
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The many lives of Detroit’s Berlin Wall

In 1941, the city of Detroit finished construction on a six-foot-tall, half-mile-long wall near 8 Mile Road that would keep an African American neighborhood physically segregated from an adjacent white neighborhood to “preserve property values.” This was redlining in concrete form. Almost 80 years later, “Detroit’s Berlin Wall” still stands, but when the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles asked SHAN Wallace to photograph the area for its exhibition W|ALLS: DEFEND, DIVIDE, AND THE DIVINEˆ, she discovered that the structure had taken on unexpected meanings in the interim. For elderly residents in their 90s, the wall remained an ugly embodiment of the housing loan practices of the 20th century. For those in their 50s, the wall represented a demarcation between “the cool black kids” who lived on one side and the “not so cool black kids” who dwelled on the other. “The wall was like a right of passage,” Wallace explained, relating what residents had told her about their experiences. “If you could walk the wall, you were cool, you could go meet your friend on the other side.” For children growing up in the neighborhood today, the wall has become a place to meet, a pragmatic landmark best known for its murals and proximity to a grassy park. “It was interesting to see how these different manifestations and interactions with the wall happened based on generations,” said Wallace. The Annenberg exhibition, which runs through December 2019, explores the history and varied meanings of walls throughout the world, including Hadrian’s Wall, The Great Wall of China, and the current best-known incarnation of intolerance, the U.S./Mexico border wall. Yet Wallace’s accompanying video and still photographs of the Detroit Wall, and those who live with it, are perhaps one of the most affecting surprises within the show. On an intimate level, her work demonstrates that barriers, no matter how indomitable they seem, can never contain the scope of human imagination.
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Photographer Timothy Hursley shoots the lurid back room scenes of America

This pictorial appears in the October/November print edition of The Architect's Newspaper.

Timothy Hursley has photographed the lofty heights of 20th-century American architecture: Frank Gehry, I. M. Pei, and Philip Johnson all commissioned him to document their designs. But Hursley has also trained his lens on the country’s colorful, lurid, and sometimes tragic underbelly, shooting the basements and back rooms where people struggle to survive, create art, and meet their makers.

The photos below, from the artist’s Tainted Lens collection, show a food storage cave for members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints polygamous sect; a brothel in Tonopah, Nevada; and coffins in a funeral home in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Above, Andy Warhol stands in the last Factory in the late 1980s.

Photography Tour: Historic Theaters of Downtown Baltimore

Tour downtown Baltimore for fascinating stories and photography tips with photographer Amy Davis, author of Flickering Treasures: Rediscovering Baltimore’s Forgotten Movie Theaters. Explore the revival of the historic Hippodrome and Everyman theaters and ponder the fate of other grand picture palaces on the city's west side, the Stanley and Mayfair. Bring your smartphone or digital camera and snap away as you walk along the route. This program complements the exhibition Flickering Treasures: Rediscovering Baltimore’s Forgotten Movie Theaters. One-day Museum general admission pass with tour registration fee, which grants access to all exhibitions. Valid through November 30, 2019. Rain date September 28. $25. Pre-registration required. Space is limited to 15 people. Tickets are non-refundable and non-transferable. Online registration for this program closes at midnight the day before the program.
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New York's Fotografiska gears up for its winter opening

The 2019 fall season will open with what promises to be an exciting new photography venue in Manhattan’s Flatiron District. Fotografiska New York—a collaboration between the brothers Jan and Per Broman and the architects of CetraRuddy—intends to offer a unique kind of exhibition hall for the city. It will not function as a commercial gallery depending on market fluctuations, nor museum/institution like the International Center of Photography (ICP), but rather its stated goal is to become a center or “community” for photographers and the viewing public in general. This project reprises the first apparently wildly successful Fotografiska in Stockholm, established in 2010, with another under construction in London and a completed outpost in Tallinn, Estonia. The global approach, according to the founders, is essential to their notion of a venue dedicated to focusing on major themes that touch upon “human” issues and aspects of cultures worldwide. This large, encompassing, and admirable goal will be better understood when the roster of inaugural exhibitions finally open as well as the building into which the works will be placed. The opening shows, which begin this winter (originally October 18), will include well-known photographers such as Ellen von Unwerth, Israeli Adi Nes, who is better known regionally, and will include fashion, landscape, and more conceptual works. The following November exhibition will be a retrospective of the iconic Swedish photographer Lars Tunbjörk, followed by three solo exhibitions by Nick Brandt, Julie Blackmon, and Man Ray. The institution seems to have done their research to identify artists representative of a wide range of cultures and seem to be covering all the bases, albeit with a rather traditional or unsurprising set of works. The photographs in the first show, however, are by genuinely accomplished artists and well worth the visit. Other artists who have been previously exhibited in the Stockholm location include well-known auteurs David la Chapelle, Annie Liebowitz, Sally Mann, and Irving Penn. Because the very definition of what constitutes “photography” today is in constant flux, it will be heartening to see what Fotografiska offers as a broad definition of the medium or media. The exhibitions will be curated by Jan Broman himself in conjunction with a staff of curators headed by Amanda Hajjar, the director of exhibitions who trained at the Courtauld and had a stint at Gagosian Gallery. Unlike many photo venues, this group doesn’t seem to have funding issues, and they certainly have the means to fulfill their intended program. The choice of the landmarked building at 281 Park Ave South for the New York Fotografiska outpost has proven to be an exciting, though challenging, one for the architects. Built by Robert Gilbert Wilson as the Children’s Aid Society Mission House in 1894, the faux-gothic building was not designed to accommodate the crowds Fotografiska plans on attracting. Exits, elevators, and plans had to be entirely revised and the space revamped for viewing a wide variety of photographic works from simple black and white traditional images, to the many new mixed media projects. What has resulted from the endeavor is an impressive and exciting new venue. The project wasn’t just another commission to the group. From the onset, the architects were excited to work with what they call the “jewel of the building.” The goal was to devise a system that would retain the flavor of the old building while producing a state-of-the-art new photo venue. Interestingly, they did not have any original/historic drawings from when the building was constructed and therefore required the structural engineer to take many probes and samples of the assembly to help with the analysis of what was required. The egress requirements for the new use required the entire team to strategize very early on in the process how to plot safe pathways for the occupants. Jan Broman with a team headed by Geoffrey Newman worked with the Landmarks staff in order to preserve the distinctive faux Gothic details that gave the building its charming character, taking care to retain the stained-glass windows and refurbish the mosaic detailing. For historical accuracy in the preservation and restoration, the team consulted with engineering firm Higgins Quasebarth. CetraRuddy’s initial concept involved opening up the space to afford an easy flow through the six floors. The vast areas, some spanning 560 square feet, would be reconfigured to allow for more intimate viewing and punctuated by areas for rest and conversation. There will be three total floors for exhibition space, with one functioning as a major exhibition hall, while another will provide space for alternating experimental works. The architects managed to incorporate the building’s existing, extravagantly sculpted deep poche windows into the project by deploying them to block out the daylight while addressing passersby. The notion behind this solar shading was to develop a way to integrate Fotografiska into the neighborhood by offering a spectacle that would provide the street a taste of the activities within the center while still remaining functional. The lighting system was another complex issue because of the wide range of photographic forms to be presented at the center. The design team researched to first determine the various requisites for viewing traditional photographic prints, often with reflective surfaces, to projection systems requiring more elaborate wiring and for which the work required a darkened spaced. Then, they had to develop a complex strategy for the basic support system for the building itself. Rather than simply replacing the columnar structures, they crafted a kind of bone replacement system—reinforcing from within to preserve the original character of the structure. In addition to the exhibition floors, the design includes a ground floor bookstore with posters and prints and cafe. The entire second floor is devoted to the restaurant, designed by Roman and Williams. It will function in a way similar to the much-acclaimed restaurant in the Stockholm center. All the pieces are in place for a unique and flourishing photo center that addresses global issues, with a particularly intimate approach.
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India’s Subterranean Stepwells rise at the Fowler Museum

India’s Subterranean Stepwells: Photographs by Victoria Lautman University of California, Los Angeles 308 Charles E. Young Drive Los Angeles In a show at UCLA’s Fowler Museum, Chicago-based arts journalist Victoria Lautman explores the hidden beauty of an elaborate building type originating in India: the stepwell. Built throughout the subcontinent’s warm, dry regions for the past 1,500 years, stepwells allowed communities to store water from monsoonal rains. These monumental stormwater management systems were built in both Muslim and Hindu architectural styles and served as sites of worship and gathering. Lautman has visited more than 200 stepwells over the past 30 years in an effort to document their importance and ensure their survival. Organized by Joanna Barrkman, senior curator of Southeast Asian and Pacific arts, the exhibition includes 48 photographs taken by Lautman with a point-and-shoot camera, and is arranged in clusters that focus on specific architectural details. Further images, along with GPS coordinates for each stepwell, are included in Lautman’s 2017 book, The Vanishing Stepwells of India.
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Peter Lang on Cristiano Toraldo di Francia's 'incredible love'

Cristiano Toraldo di Francia sadly passed away on July 30. Cofounder, along with Adolfo Natalini, of the Florentine Radical design and architecture group Superstudio, Cristiano was the kind of person who was incredibly open-minded, shared a sharp sense of humor, and professed a deep love for humanity. While accolades spread across the internet following news of his passing, there was a lot to Cristiano that didn’t make it into these postings, tributes, and memorials. What might have been most lacking in all these accounts was the way he shrugged off fame and shunned formality. Yet he never wasted a moment, had infinite stamina, and to stick by him you needed to react fast and move quickly. Cristiano was a perceptive and ever-present photographer, and it is thanks to him that so many historical moments during their superlative adventure were captured for posterity. When I asked him about how he got into photography, he spoke about his father, Giuliano, who was a renowned physicist, recounting an odd story about how he was introduced to his first photo-camera. As Cristiano told me, in an interview at his house in Filottrano back in 2005, his father “…designed lenses for Ducati, at that time they made electronics—now they´re making motorcycles. They made cameras, radios. And they made a micro-camera, which anticipated the cameras of today, instead of the normal 35 mm film --24x36mm, they were using 24x18mm film, so it was fantastic. Italy was poor at the time, everything had to be reduced! Cristiano couldn’t help make a quip about the States, and while proudly acknowledging that Italian technology was inventing incredible things that were “almost too advanced for their time,” in America “everything was big—big cameras, big cars. But that camera was a jewel... Just to say that since I was a child I was initiated to the mysteries of photography—the images coming out of the acids, of the paper.” Probing further, I asked Cristiano what his relationship was to the burgeoning Florentine fashion industry in the early sixties when he was a professional photographer. “I was making family portraits at the time to raise money. In Florence, there is a big tradition around the Alinari family that besides all the city portraits,” now in the Alinari Archive in Florence, “they shot a lot of family portraits, but these were like paintings, all retouched, like Photoshop. “They were perfect photographers- so this tradition was present. I was trying to do a very different kind of photography. I looked more to the American model. A journalistic kind of picture, Diane Arbus... Not so much Man Ray or the historical ones.I became quite successful at the time. All these noble mothers came to make photos in my studio. After a while, I was asked to do fashion photography, but after a while, Superstudio started and I quit. But of course, I had all the contacts and all the people- I was friends with Oliviero Toscani for example,” who would go on to make the controversial photographic campaigns for Bennetton. With his usual irony, Cristiano pointed out that he also worked as a fashion model, for the kind of magazines that were constantly referencing architecture. It’s hard not to talk about the origins of the Italian Radical movement without getting into influences, of which there were many: “We started…” as Cristiano clarified in that same interview, “…on parallel levels, looking at Archigram, but even more we looked back at Dada and then to Pop-art that was bringing the Dada methods up to date. Fluxus—breaking boundaries and being completely interdisciplinary, fluctuating from one activity to the other. But on the other hand, Archigram had this political information as background—for which we could say maybe we were more idealistic than them. They were more pragmatic, more Anglo-Saxon.” Dan Graham connected his generation to Rock and Roll, and given the times, it is clear that music played a considerable role for Cristiano. When I spoke to Cristiano about music when we met in December of 2002, he had this to say: “When I talk about the importance of music, we don’t deny having discovered a person like Bob Dylan, or the Beatles, it was a time when popular music reached great artistic levels, Laurie Anderson, the whole group of Fluxus, back then there was a system of self-propulsion, in every field…” What is critical in understanding Superstudio is precisely this level of mixing passions that the art and architecture curator Lara Vinca Masini referred to as “contaminations.” Cristiano stabbed at this point by bringing in Aldo Rossi: “Yes the work of Rossi and others was interesting, but it was always inside a discipline with few confrontations with the world that went much faster than their own reasoning.” Getting back to the Florentine music scene, Cristiano credited his father with exposing him to experimental music when he was beginning university. In a conversation I had with him in 2005, Cristiano remarked: “My father was a scientist, and as a scientist he was traveling a lot and, in a way, disillusioned and relativistic. He was asked in 1963 to become president of the young contemporary music association. One of those members was Sylvano Bussotti,” a Florentine native, musical polyglot and noted dandy. “One was Giuseppe Chiari,” the atonal musician, close to John Cage and a member of Fluxus, “and the other was Pietro Grossi,” a Venetian electronic musician and composer living in Florence. “I remember they were making concerts of electronic music, and one concert was in the Conservatorio di Musica Cherubini which is a traditional music conservatory. And after 10 minutes of this music people went crazy.” Evidently, for this generation of young architects living in Florence in the sixties, these were incredibly stimulating years. Superstudio detoured around the traditional tools of the architect, experimenting with alternative forms of expression and representation. When Emilio Ambasz showed up in Florence around 1971, scouting for ideas for the upcoming exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape for MoMA, the young curator was seeking out experimental “environments.” These would be full-scale prototypes for living, accompanied by films serving as animated captions. Yet I wanted to know just how Superstudio produced this project, what kind of technology was used to build this elaborate environment and how did they create their 12-minute film Supersurface. The main backer for the environment was the manufacturer Print but they also had to procure other funders, due to the elevated expenses. According to Cristiano, they found the supplies they needed in Florence, the special reflective glass and the electronic components key to simulate alternating moods of day and night inside the environment. It took 15 days to manually assemble it before the show opened in New York on May 26th, 1972. The movie was instead made during the winter of 1971- 72 and it was filmed in 36 mm. “I worked on that with Sandro Poli,” the Superstudio member officially present between 1970 and 1972, “we found the music, made the soundtrack, with the professional help of a guy who made advertising for TV (Marchi Producers), who had that mentality, and in fact, we wanted it to be projected as if it would be an advertisement for the Supersurface. The first part presents in a scientific way how the thing is done, and the second one tells how happy you will be living there.” In fact, both making the environment and directing the animated film were very labor-intensive hands-on processes. I asked Cristiano what role the Italian manufacturers had in producing Superstudio’s concepts. Cristiano’s response was that these factories were mostly made up of artisans. “That is why we managed to make a series of objects from very different things and from really different materials. Most of these objects are coming out of a kind of bricolage. The factory made almost nothing—we had to find artisans who did the different parts. The industry would just put the parts together. We were doing a kind of bricolage Cheap-scape—as Frank Gehry would say—for the industries.” The Italian design industry seemed to work as an artisanal chain assembly. But what was still not clear, was why did these manufacturers get behind a group like Superstudio to make things that worked against the idea of mass consumption? Why would they sponsor designs that were against their best interests? “We thought these objects we were making were a kind of trojan horses that coming from inside the system would produce criticism, which means creativity, which means refusal, or incredible love. They were objects of poetic reaction for the people. They were not mass-produced, they were in little series, multiples, like works of art.” To this day I still think about Cristiano’s trojan horses, and his incredible love.
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Amir Zaki explores broken space and empty skateparks in Empty Vessel

Photographer Amir Zaki is turning his lens towards "California concrete"—empty skateparks—for his upcoming exhibition at the Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion on the campus of Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California. The uncannily clear images of the undulating bowls and ramps of the parks, while ubiquitous in Zaki’s Southern California, exist as alien landscapes outside the expectation of what you’d typically see outside your window.  Zaki unites both his bodies of work, photography and ceramics, in the upcoming exhibition Empty Vessel, which will run at the Doyle from September 19 through December 5. Using with a GigaPan attachment, a device that creates the same effect as a long exposure shot on film for his digital camera, Zaki took 50-to-60 photos of a scene or detail, and stitched the disparate takes together into one high definition image. The result is eerie, hyper-real prints, not dissimilar to the multiple exposures taken by architectural photographers to fine-tune the perfection of a space.  Hanging on the walls of the Doyle are these laser-sharp images of skateparks as sculpture or land art, accompanied by images of colorful broken ceramics. Destroyed by Zaki in his backyard, the visual juxtaposition of the different scales of "vessels" in the gallery is intended as a commentary on architecture—spaces and emptiness. The broken ceramics and the early morning, skaterless skateparks are brought out of the context of their accepted usefulness, purely just existing, as Zaki’s lens focuses our eye on the spaces they create. The idea of both the ceramics and the skateparks being vessels has to do with their sunken earth nature—while the ceramics are formed from the earth, fired, and then subsequently broken by the artist on his concrete back patio, when skateparks are devoid of skaters they become just concrete forms sunken into the earth. They are the reverse of high-rise contemporary urban architectures, scooped out forms of concrete instead of soaring roofed structures. However, while skateparks and their odd manmade topologies are not meant to be inhabited, they hold people and culture. While the cracked ceramics can no longer hold water or smaller objects, they still create dynamic, jagged spaces in Zaki’s eye. Shot from the bottom of the bowls and looking up at ramps and rails, the chosen perspective gives the parks an authority over the photographer as well as the viewer. It is as if they are inhabiting the space, taking time to understand and occupy a place that is usually seen as a fleeting blur atop a skateboard. Skateparks were not meant for human inhabitation or celebration, and neither was his ceramic earthenware. Zaki has sustained a unique interest in architectural subjects throughout his career, notably in his earlier collection of candy-colored lifeguard towers, titled Relics (2010). Using digital manipulation, nonhuman scale or horizonless perspectives, Zaki makes his built environments appear subtly irrational, made to be seen not experienced. He presents us with buildings that exist for themselves, not for us.  The juxtaposition of the ceramic shards can be read as a visual way to explore and question the origins of architectural form-making. The skatepark is like a shard of a building, no longer enclosed and warped at the edges. Yet it is still a functional piece, a place where the fringes meet. A broken jar may no longer hold water, a roofless building may not be an office. But architecture can be broken, shattered, and reclaimed.