News for January 2014
excerpt from Toward a Lexicon of Usership by Stephen Wright
Christine Dong: What is public space?
Public space is a place of adventure. A place used to make ends meet. An infinite abyss of different foods and faces. A place of many surprises—a place to escape.
Saigon, December 2012. Images and text courtesy of Christine Dong.
CHRISTINE DONG lives with her camera in Portland, Oregon.
Coleman Stevenson: from Breakfast, No. 13
Just because something falls apart in your hands doesn’t mean you broke it.
They need to decide— the rest of us are waiting.
He is buying an axe to take apart the used up Xmas tree
but that is not an answer. In the Vietnamese
restaurant window, another month will turn these
green globes orange as they ought to be,
now already as orange on the inside as secret suns.
But I am too hot to be patient. I need to freeze.
Make my face into cold flowers,
leaves so iced over they’d snap if touched.
Could the garden stay encased this way all winter,
emerging still fully grown at its end?
I’ve stored heat and light, given none away.
So much curious energy burns through me
I blow the lightbulb when my finger flicks the switch.
Let’s build an ice cave and live in it.
I promise I’ll wear nothing but furs.
COLEMAN STEVENSON’s poems often deal with how the built environment is inhabited: how its structure impacts the paths of our stories or how it is manipulated to suit human need as we construct our ongoing narratives. Really excited about her presentation with Nora Wendl on February 24 for The New Structure!
Nora Wendl: Attempts at Breaking into a Glass House
from the artist’s website:
It is impossible to occupy history. Seeing an historical photograph, we balance the historian’s responsibility to document with the researcher’s desire to project: we project ourselves into events and spaces of the past with difficulty, unable to surmount the distance of years, decades, centuries. This is nowhere more evident than in the images of canonical buildings, a visual discourse that is composed and curated to suggest timelessness and inevitability. Dr. Edith Farnsworth, patron of Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House (1947-51), confused this discourse by commissioning Plano, Illinois-based “Gorman’s Child Photography” to document the house—complete with her own interior appointments. These records are doubly wrong—staged and composed by Farnsworth, and full of her own furniture, they remake the image of the Farnsworth House, muddling Mies’ aspirations to “beinache nichts,” almost nothing. A testament to the deviousness of these photographs is that they have never circulated in architectural histories or theorizations of the house.
How might we inhabit such a photograph? How might we inhabit the space between an outside observer’s casual detachment—the architect, the historian—and the interior perspective offered here, through the body of Dr. Farnsworth? At times we might find ourselves sympathetic, reaching to rest our hand on the image of a cold, steel surface in the kitchen, watching the horizon of an Illinois floodplain recede into a pixelated line. At other times, we might lie on the filthy floor of the studio, writhing in mockery of Farnsworth’s gestures of apparent desperation. It is as impossible to occupy history as it is to remain objective in constructing it.
NORA WENDL questions the composition of architecture—seeking to expand the perception of what the discipline’s built forms and histories are (and could be). Operating on a spectrum between the written artifact and the built artifact, she often aligns architecture and its histories with the adjacent fields of fiction, poetry, contemporary art and literature. Cityscope is lucky to have Nora and Coleman Stevenson presenting at the inaugural event for The New Structure on February 24, 7:00pm.
Inspiration and Process In Architecture | Moleskine
Moleskine is publishing Inspiration and Process In Architecture, a new series of illustrated monographs dedicated to key figures in contemporary architecture.
Hernandez, Diego. Aug 2013. ArchDaily.
Open Letters | Harvard Graduate School of Design
Launched in September 2013 by students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Open Letters is a print experiment that tests the epistolary form as a device for generating conversations about architecture and design. The project stems from an earnest curiosity about what people have to say to each other about architecture, landscapes, cities, ideas, history, practice, experience and learning.
New issues are released every other Friday, each presenting one open letter, i.e. a letter addressed to a particular party, but intended for publication, about any topic relating to the design disciplines. Past correspondents have written to mentors, chairs, trees, mystical creatures, those in need of advice and to NCARB. All issues can be read online.
Quintal, Becky. 11 Jan 2014. ArchDaily.
Sheila Crane’s Inventing Informality
“We are presently witnessing an efflorescence of interest amongst architects and designers in informal terrains and processes, conceived at once as a symptom of the effects of distinctively twenty-first-century urban conditions and as a productive model for contemporary design thinking. Inventing Informality opens a critically historical perspective onto this discussion, by bringing to light a series of formative attempts by designers and social scientists to document, describe, theorize, and ameliorate informal urban areas, from the 1950s through the 1970s. This study traces the historical emergence of urban areas in Europe and North Africa, as understood through distinct terms of informality, and intimately tied to late colonial policies and the struggle for decolonization. At the same time, this project excavates the history of knowledge production about informality, by examining the documentary techniques, representational tools, and analytic strategies trained on informal urban areas and their inhabitants.”
SHEILA CRANE is assistant professor of architectural history at the University of Virginia. Her book Mediterranean Crossroads: Marseille and Modern Architecturewas supported by a publication grant from the Graham Foundation and received the 2013 Spiro Kostof Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians. Her research focuses on the history and theory of modern architecture and urbanism, particularly in Europe, North Africa, and the Mediterranean region. The recipient of fellowships at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal and the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University, Crane has published essays in the Journal of Architecture and Future Anterior, as well as in numerous anthologies, including Modern Architecture and the Mediterranean,Spaces of the Modern City, and the forthcoming Use Matters.
Frances Richard’s Physical Poetics: Gordon Matta-Clark and Language
Congratulations to Frances Richard, recipient of a Graham Foundation grant for Physical Poetics: Gordon Matta-Clark and Language. This book considers language-use by the artist and architect Gordon Matta-Clark (1943–78). Examining his notes, project proposals, letters, titles, and interviews, as well as words embedded in his films and photographs, this book-in-progress explores the semiotic element in what Matta-Clark called “anarchitecture,” UN-REG-U-TECTURE, and the NON-U-MENT. Accepting his often deliberately whimsical writings as artifacts of serious thought, the author contends that Matta-Clark’s puns, neologisms, and architectonic verbal/visual layouts enact on the page the obsessions with in-between spaces and multiperspectival gaps that mark his interventions in built space. Part close reading and part biography, Physical Poetics assesses the paradoxical durability of Matta-Clark’s words and their role in the reception of a vividly material oeuvre whose major site-specific works have without exception been destroyed.
You can read more about this project, Frances Richard, and Miranda Mellis at The Conversant.
FRANCES RICHARD is a critic and poet. She has been nonfiction editor at Fence and an editor at Cabinet; with Jeffrey Kastner and Sina Najafi, she cocurated the 2005 exhibition Odd Lots: Revisiting Gordon Matta-Clark’s Fake Estates. Physical Poetics: Gordon Matta-Clark and Language has been supported by an Arts Writers Grant from the Warhol Foundation, a Visiting Scholars Fellowship from the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montréal, and residencies at the Farpath Foundation in Dijon and the Dora Maar House in Ménerbes, both in France. Richard has taught at Barnard College and the Rhode Island School of Design, and has published three books of poems, See Through (Four Way Books, 2003), The Phonemes (Les Figues Press, 2012), and Anarch. (Futurepoem, 2012). She currently teaches at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco.