Friday, August 18, 2006

Who Are The True Renegades?

detail from Neal Fox's 'Renegade City' flyer

A showcase of some of the most talented students graduating from London’s architecture schools opened yesterday. “Renegade City: Best in Show” is curated by Judith Van Ingen and Pieternel Vermoortel from the curating course at Goldsmiths, 10 students were invited to create proposals for architectural interventions and display their ideas in the context of a curated show with joint aims for all participants. Unlike normal architectural proposals these displays should not exist in a stand-alone capacity but exist as a dialogue between all the participants.

It constantly strikes me that for most architects the response to building and sustaining an architectural practice means losing the freshness and freedom they enjoy as students, often this freedom manifests itself in the architect appearing to have a desperate need to be an artist with only a little architectural context thrown into the mix. The projects displayed last night gave exactly the same impression. Toby Carr’s ‘anxious lounge’ appeared as a display stand with desk and a portrait of the man himself. From this portrait it seems Toby Carr is attempting to be Gilbert & George in one body, but why not Rogers and Foster or Herzog and De Meuron?.
Cynthia Leung’s mini environments on exploded stilts that protrude from open suitcases seem familiar, I have seen this visual conceit used many times before in the art context and to carry this visual language forward requires more development of the materials. Leung’s piece was an interesting and finely crafted starting point but unfortunately was just that, a starting point.

The most successful works were those that unapologetically spoke as an architect, Sebastian de la Cour’s ‘The House of Obstacles and Invitations’ was an impressively scaled model of a theoretical building with huge doors, false openings, dead end staircases and unreachable floor levels. The work was a great example of creating a false and unsettling architecture and works as a sculpture in it’s own right. de la Cour’s piece made me think of artist Gordon Matta Clark’s sculptural interventions in architecture. de la Cour could rightly be seen as making architectural interventions into sculpture.
Equally engaging was Joerg Majer’s G.U.L.L.I.V.E.R. Majer’s photos showed fantastic views of a cityscape intruded into by the hand of a giant. The living hand appears to become a building in its own right as the tiny world it has intervened in continues to live and move around it. One photo of particular note shows a tiny scale model of a building swamped in size by the fingertip that it sits upon.
Renegade City continues at The Architecture Foundation’s Yard Gallery until 2 September.

Just a few yards on the other side of Old Street was the opening of Pedro Alvarez photos at the Dazed Gallery. Portraits of surfers tired, dazed and just out of the water sit by photos of the break they have just surfed. The photos show the view at dusk with the surrounding lights of cities and towns in the distance glowing amid the grey blue tones of sea and sky. Exhaustion and calmness hangs on the faces of the surfers and juxtaposed with this distant, calm, somewhat soft water landscape is a little unsettling. The fact that the view from which the surfers have emerged can look so beautiful and settled contrast with the pain of effort that is required to tame the waves. No doubt this is exactly the point. The beauty and calm of the environment is worth the pain, fear and exhaustion when you are in its midst. I encourage you to see these photographs, any clichés you may feel about surf photography should be put to one side. These are something different.


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