The gallery is online for Building Material's online call for submissions on the theme of mapping.
We initially sought submissions that explored mapping as a means of analysing and understanding the effects of our current position in the economic cycle on architecture and the built environment. We looked for submissions from all disciplines including anthropologists, archaeologists, artists, cartographers, geographers, illustrators, sociologists, scientists, surveyors… and architects.
Building Material is the journal of the Architectural Association of Ireland. The images below are Mark Halpin's N11 Traffic Analysis and James Young's Water Towers of Ireland, which can be seen in the gallery along with further images and details on both projects.
From the 1940s to the 1990s, the AAI regularly published a number of newsletters for its members capturing something of the spirit of the time from which they date. We will be uploading excerpts from these over the coming months.
The following series of ads for AAI membership are from the 1986 AAI Newsletter, designed by John O'Regan and featuring a series of luminaries berating readers into resubscribing.
Robert Venturi (Vol. 6, No. 1 - June 1986)
Oswald Mathias Ungers (Vol. 6, No. 2 - August 1986)
Aldo Van Eyck (Vol. 6, No. 3 - September 1986)
From the 1940s to the 1990s, the AAI regularly published a number of newsletters for its members capturing something of the spirit of the time from which they date. We will be uploading excerpts from these over the coming months.
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
Building Material, the journal of the Architectural Association of Ireland, is seeking submissions for an image-based project to appear online, in advance of the next issue on the theme of mapping.
The project seeks to explore mapping as a means of analysing and understanding the effects of our current position in the economic cycle on architecture and the built environment.
We are looking for submissions from all disciplines including anthropologists, archaeologists, artists, cartographers, geographers, illustrators, sociologists, scientists, surveyors... and architects.
All images are to be a minimum of 300 PPI. The deadline is Monday the 28th of February. This project will go online in March 2011.
Building Material is the journal of the Architecture Association of Ireland. If you are interested in contributing to this online project please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Hugh Campbell
Dr Hugh Campbell is Professor of Architecture in the School of Architecture,Landscape & Civil Engineering in UCD. In 2002, he and a group of UCD students spent a month based in the University of Western Australia working on a mapping project for the goldfields region. His account of development predicated on the whims of international markets is as resonant now as it was when first published in Building Material 14, Boom and Bust.
Western Australia is largely empty. 1.5 million people live in a state of 2.5 million sqkm, with 1.2 million of those living in the state capital, Perth. This vast, sparsely populated region seems to epitomise the enduring conception of Australia as the terra nullius - a blank land, free of the marks of settlement or development, a place which might be seen on the one hand as harsh, unforgiving, inimical to inhabitation and on the other, as a huge untapped resource with the potential to produce great wealth.
It was the challenge offered by the former interpretation, combined with the promise of the latter, which led explorers into the vast desert interior of Western Australia in the second half of the nineteenth century. Early accounts of these adventures, like that of Ernest Giles in his classic Australia Twice Traversed tended to emphasise the extremity of the landscape and the hardships it induces... For several years previous to my taking the field, I had desired to be the first to penetrate into this unknown region where, for a thousand miles in a straight line, no white man's foot had ever wandered, or, if it had, its owner had never brought it back, nor told the tale... But towards the end of the century it became apparent that there was indeed a great resource which might make it worthwhile venturing into this inhospitable wilderness: gold.
Initial discoveries of gold were made in the Kimberleys in the north in 1885, then a few years later gold was found further south in Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. On June 14th 1893, an Irishman, Paddy Hannan, pegged out the first claim in Kalgoorlie. What followed was an extraordinarily rapid period of speculation and development in the region. The population increased exponentially - from 35,000 in 1885 to 101,000 in 1895 and to 239,000 by the end of 1904 - as people from all over the world arrived to make their fortunes. An extensive network of gold-mining settlements quickly sprang up, and along with them, the infrastructure necessary to support the industry and transform this barren region into a profitable, inhabitable landscape. From the coast at Perth came the railway, followed by a water pipeline which ran more or less in a straight line for 350 miles from Mundaring reservoir near Perth as far as Kalgoorlie. The pipe still follows the path of the main road west from Perth. By 1903 the goldfields of Western Australia were producing 2 million ounces of gold a year - a total which has not been exceeded in the century since. Production was centred on Kalgoorlie, its so called 'Golden Mile' of poppet heads and cyanaide treatment plants reputedly the most valuable land in the world.
Photographs from the period portray a society founded on the rapid growth of a precarious industry. While below ground a vast network of shafts and tunnels relentlessly expands, above ground great efforts are being made to sound a note of stability and permanence. Over the course of a decade Kalgoorlie moves from the makeshift character of a works camp to the solid certainties of brick buildings, verandahs, bicycles and afternoon tea. All the trappings of Edwardian civilisation have been translated directly into the Australian outback. Although Kalgoorlie is thought to be the first major Australian settlement created out of sight of any 'western' landscape feature, its architecture provides familiar reference points.
The speed of development in the region is even more evident from a pair of photographs of a smaller settlement in the goldfields, Kookynie. Between 1899 and 1901, the place has been transformed from a basic encampment to a fully functioning town of 2500 people. The brick-built, tin-roofed buildings include hotels, post offices, town halls and clubs. And while the flatness and expansiveness of the landscape make the establishment of towns easy - they can go anywhere, extend in any direction - these same features tend to emphasise the very thinness of the veneer of civilisation that has been drawn across the land. Raw nature is only ever one layer away.
This thinness was soon confirmed as, as quickly as it had risen, the tide of development began to recede in the wake of falling gold prices and lessening yields. The industry became focussed on a few major seams - at Kalgoorlie, Coolgardie, Leonora etc - and the scores of smaller mining towns were quickly abandoned. In most cases, the buildings were taken down and removed, so that almost no trace was left of the original settlement. This is certainly the case in Kookynie, By the early 1920s, almost everyone had left. Today the town has a population of ten, most of whom spend their evenings in the bar of the Grand Hotel, one of the few remaining buildings. It is difficult to get any sense that this remote outpost was once a thriving town. Besides piles of bricks and a fragment of building here and there, nothing remains. Former streets have reverted to bush, unpopulated apart from the occasional kangaroo. The abandoned adit attests to the existence of another, equally abandoned realm of shafts and tunnels underground. There is still gold to be found here, and prospectors still come seeking their fortune.
Nowadays, the shafts have been replaced by open-cast mining. Most of these modern operations now operate like oil-rigs, with workers being flown in for two-week stints followed by a spell back in 'civilisation' on the coast. Kalgoorlie, though, continues to thrive, thanks to the existence of the so-called 'Superpit', a vast operation which has engulfed the whole territory onf the Golden Mile. Wealth keeps coming out of the ground, but it is much more hard-won than a century ago and the profit margins on an average yield of a gram of gold per ton of rock are slim. Existence in this remote town is still precarious, reliant on supplies of water and produce from the coast. At the central crossroads, an LED monitor constantly displays the price of gold. If it dips too low, the whole settlement might yet disappear.
The following article by Eoghan O’Shea appeared in Building Material 12: Morality and Architecture.
Indenture was the contract used to bond apprentice to master. It outlined the duties of the apprentice, the length of time for which they were tied to such duties and the conditions under which he or she was entitled to leave. The term itself derives from the method used to ensure that the two copies of the contract (one for the master and the other for the parents of the apprentice) replicated each other. After the copies were drafted they were held tightly together and a strip was torn, ensuring a matching indenture on both. The duties and responsibilities could be severe but the agreement was legally binding and unquestionable.
In modern times such severity in working conditions cannot be enforced and employees are pampered with certain statutory rights. For instance, the maximum average working week is forty-eight hours, balanced out over a four-month period. While this allows bouts of productivity within an office, it will also force periods of calm in between. Employees are also entitled to eleven consecutive hours rest in a twenty-four hour period and, if work takes place on a Sunday, then premium payment or paid time in lieu are due. However, there is great value in the ability to drive one’s workforce to extremes and to do so economically, without emptying the purse into employees’ pockets. The twin rewards of education and experience can be offered instead and history has shown both the evidence and benefits of such a practice.
MORE TO LIFE THAN MONEY
Education as a reward for work was instituted at least 4,000 years ago amongst Egyptian scribes, when rules governing apprenticeships were included in the Code of Hammurabi. Hammurabi’s laws were placed in the Temple of Shamash in 2,100 BC and the sacred quality of this early legislation suggests how, within a modern architectural practice, the commitment demanded of ancient apprentices can be expected from today’s staff. Religions are often based around a cult figure about whom a mythos arises, which, in turn, creates a sense of awe. In the case of the Master Architect, the delicious wisdom held and potentially offered by this figure can draw hungry and tireless staff irresistibly towards it. The young and inexperienced best ingest this mythos; stories, whether true or fabricated, of the achievements and formative experiences of the Master Architect, can feed this sense of awe and leave a necessary distance between employer and workforce. Suggestions as to how staff should apply themselves to their work can thus be received with due reverence.
RECYCLING WASTE TIME
Nights full of sleep and mornings full of wake are comforts easily forfeited with no evident result beyond sunken eyes and throbbing head. An excess of free time can often lead to a deceleration in tempo. It is thus unproductive to offer rest periods of eleven hours to one’s employees. Sixty hours or more at a sitting are possible, although this can lead to episodes of hallucination. To get workers to perform for such periods can be difficult, given the frivolous pursuits with which many choose to fill their time and their tendency to extend their sleeping hours well beyond what is strictly necessary. The drive to encourage such efforts, however, is very much worth it and can create a reinforcing cycle; once one begins to chip away at the spare hours of one’s staff, their goals and aims in life become their goals and aims at work. Abraham Maslow’s pronouncement, given in his hierarchy of human needs, to ‘[A]ssume in all people the impulse for achievement,’ begins, therefore, to work for the employer. Slowly, the employees’ valuation of their own needs will change.
BOUNDARIES OF THE NEW WORLD
During the Middle Ages, the apprenticeship system became widespread across Europe as the skills and tools required in craft became more complex. Parents could not teach their children enough to guarantee them a living so they paid a fee to have them apprenticed to Master-artisans. The children received no pay during the lengthy period of apprenticeship - often between two and seven years - but were given basic food and lodging, often beneath the shop counter. They effectively lived their work for the period of indenture. It might be considered a cruelty, but to be trapped so tightly within the universe of work is not as restrictive as it might first appear. Indeed, a life spent solely within an office need not necessarily be an isolated or disadvantaged existence. Essential needs are easily satisfied; food can be prepared in well-equipped office kitchens or be delivered ready-made. Highly stacked libraries are full of reading: periodicals, monographs, weighty books of theory - therein lie all the merits of the world, carefully filtered for all conditions of human habitation. Exercise can be maintained by placing plotters a good distance from the main working area. Having their operation needlessly complicated maintains frantic movement.
As we have seen, spirituality is also accommodated within these walls. The Master Architect at the centre of this work/life cult - he who provides work and thus gives life - can be admired as a true deity. The Master Architect becomes the demiurge, the Ein Sof, the Alpha, from whose genius emerges this mechanistic office and from which in turn, whole worlds can emerge: a city, visible but unseen, will burst forth. Devotion to this deity can be most efficiently expressed through labour, according to the maxim advocated by St. Bernard, ‘Laborare est orare’: to work is to pray. Echoes of religion can also be heard in the sequence of the design project which begins its life within the office then disappears into the increasingly abstract outside world, before finally achieving resurrection in the Architectural Periodical as flesh once again becomes word.
Medieval Arab artists copied landscapes onto grains of rice, even detailing each leaf on each tree because they believed Allah read the world like a flat page with all things perceived at once. These miniaturists give example in terms of commitment, even to the indentured apprentice. According to the master Seyyit Mirek, the blindness that all in his profession feared, and most succumbed to, was a blessing. The art of illustrating was the miniaturist’s search for Allah’s vision of his earthly realm and could only be attained through recollection after the colourless veil of darkness had descended; only, in other words, after both eyes of the miniaturist had been expended. When he could see the world solely through memory and darkness, then he would realise his destiny.
Likewise, the young architect can, from memory of the world foregone, seek to improve it. And, he can draw on that memory day and night in a quest for a type of blindness. The designs created can be intricately represented and detailed, even if the worth of this work isn’t apparent to client or contractor. No hour will be wasted in the infinity of time the staff can offer. Each drawing can be requested as a microcosm of every other on the project, with the beauty of the whole scheme screaming from every single page. More detail than the eye can see can be demanded. When the feeling and sense of the design does not talk directly to the soul and if a single contradiction can be felt - even if not observed - then the work must be re-done.
THE NEW BABYLON
When apprentices were taken from house to workshop, which became their home, the boundary between work and home-life was dissolved. The collapse of this boundary in a new age would modify Le Corbusier’s claim. It is not the house but the office that is the machine for living in, where life is honed to precise and continuous production. Think of it. Our humming offices filled day and night with toiling employees. The need for housing will pass; our offices will fill cities and factories their peripheries; shops will remain open twenty-four hours in support, with tireless workers and fleets of delivery vehicles; the new apprentices with indentured souls will sign away their lives with pens sharpened to compass points to draw blood from their own veins and will work tirelessly through the new working day which now becomes a beginningless and endless mélange of successive periods of light and dark – a day broken solely by the music of the dawn chorus, when birdsong is drowned by the drumming of the Kango hammers prophesying new edifices; the trumpet of traffic delivering potential clients and the deep bass notes of trucks filled with building material to create potential photographs in magazines.
At the time of writing, Eoghan-Conor O’ Shea lived in Dublin and worked part of the day as an architect.
The following article by Hugh Campbell appeared in Building Material 12: Morality and Architecture.
What’s the problem with Peter Zumthor? He is, after all, one of the most widely revered architects of the last decade: creator of seminal works at Chur, at Vals, at Bregenz, renowned teacher, source of a thousand student projects, deployer of delicious details, transcender of fashion and taste, champion of architecture’s enduring value. Everything about Zumthor exudes an unassailable rectitude. And yet despite all this, and despite the undoubted accomplishment and beauty of the architecture, there remains, for me, something fundamentally unsatisfactory about Zumthor’s work.
After a recent visit to the Kunsthaus at Bregenz, the reasons for this became a little clearer. On a side excursion from a college trip, four of us arrive, slightly bleary-eyed, in Bregenz on a grey Sunday morning. When, replenished by black coffee in the black café, we finally enter the gallery building, a slowly unwinding joke is set in motion. We’re greeted by a scattering of acro-props spanning floor to ceiling. A moment of doubt (is Zumthor falling down?) is followed by a flicker of Schadenfreude (Zumthor has failed!) before it becomes clear that the current exhibition, by the Spanish artist Sebastiao Sierra, is called 300 TONNES, which presumably means there’s something very big and heavy upstairs that needs to be supported down here. Accordingly, as we mount from floor to floor, we find each space disrupted by a field of props. Glass panels from the suspended ceiling are removed and leant against the side walls to allow the props uninterrupted passage. The serenity of the spaces is rudely interrupted. The crude, roughly painted metal of the props jars with the exquisite perfection of the spaces’ finishes - the jointless terrazzo floor, the chromed doorframes. And after this long set-up, on the top floor, the punchline. We emerge from the stairs to find that the whole space is occupied by large stacks of concrete blocks, sitting on plastic sheeting. Builders’ debris is scattered across the floor. In one corner, a table is laden with hardhats, tabloids and teacups. The effect is uncanny – a builders’ yard stacked with the base materials of construction is secreted within a lovingly crafted casket. The raw meets the cooked.
While most of the impressive roster of artists who have inhabited the Kunsthaus - from James Turrell to Olafur Eliasson – have seemed content to work with its serenely precious atmosphere, Sierra’s witty installation is determined to challenge the architecture’s self-importance. 300 tonnes - the combined weight of the blocks and a maximum 100 visitors (there’s a counter at the entrance, keeping tally) – is apparently the safe limit of the building’s structure, but what Sierra is really testing are the limits of Zumthor’s architectural thinking.
For Zumthor, architecture is fundamentally concerned with making: ‘Construction is the art of making a meaningful whole out of many parts. Buildings are witnesses to the human ability to construct concrete things. I believe that the real core of all architectural work lies in the act of construction.’i Hence, his buildings are presented as constructs – as elements and components joined together carefully and systematically. The ‘feathered’ glass skin of the Kunsthaus is an obvious example: it reveals its own construction; the constituent parts are evident in the finished product. There is an interest in tectonic truth-telling here which can be traced back through Kahn and Mies to Perret and Viollet-le-Duc. And for Zumthor, as for many of these figures, construction, truth and morality are fundamentally linked. The attention paid to construction and, maybe more importantly, to the presentation of construction allows architecture to become coherent and comprehensible. This comprehensibility in turn begins to acquire - in Zumthor’s view – an ontological status. The constructed object – the made thing – stands as a quiet sentinel of truth in a world devoid of ‘the real’. Here’s a passage that typifies this thinking:
Post-modern life could be described as a state in which everything beyond our own personal biography seems vague, blurred and somehow unreal. The world is full of signs and information which stand for things which no-one fully understands because they, too, turn out to be mere signs for other things. The real thing remains hidden. No-one ever gets to see it.
Nevertheless, I am convinced that real things do exist, however endangered they may be. There are earth and water, the light of the sun, landscapes and vegetation; and there are objects, made by man, such as machines, tools or musical instruments which are what they are, which are not mere vehicles for an artistic message, whosepresence is self-evident.
When we look at objects or buildings which seem to be at peace within themselves, our perception becomes calm and dulled. The objects we perceive have no message for us, they are simply there. Our perceptive faculties grow quiet, unprejudiced and unacquisitive. They reach beyond signs and symbols, they are open, empty. Here, in this perceptual vacuum, a memory may surface, a memory which seems to issue from the depths of time. Now, our observation of the object embraces a presentiment of the world in all its whole ness, because there is nothing that cannot be understood.ii
Even as it drifts into mystical obfuscation, the argument here remains clear - clear to the point of banality. Contemporary life bad – confusing, you see. No truth anymore. If only things could just...eh... be what they are. Like in the old days, you know - way back. (Needless to say, the childhood memories of the aunt’s kitchen have already been wheeled out earlier in the essay.) All the usual characteristics of Zumthor’s writing are present: the preachy tone, the peremptory dismissal of contemporary society, the nostalgia for simple, ‘true’ things, the appeal to some prelapsarian state of grace (to be found, presumably, somewhere in ‘the depths of time’.) To the arbitrariness of ‘post-modern life’ is opposed the certainty of the ‘real’ object, the supposed value of the latter completely dependent on the supposed bankruptcy of the former. Well, if postmodernism revealed anything to us, it was precisely the inadequacy of thinking through such binary oppositions. If the achievement of true ‘meaning’ and understanding is made possible only through an outright rejection of the ‘mere signs’ of the contemporary world, then it seems a fairly hollow achievement. But this is exactly the premise embodied in Zumthor’s architecture: it sets itself in opposition to what, for him, are the unmanageable complexities of our contemporary existence. It turns its back on the world and in so doing, actually admits its own weakness. The unalloyed reverence for craft and construction now begins to seem suspiciously like a substitute for any real engagement with the world. Within the bounds of the building, a resplendent perfection reigns. Beyond its limits... well, there’s nothing to be done. There is a joke told in Samuel Beckett’s play Endgame about a man who goes to a tailor for a pair of trousers. After weeks of innumerable fittings, adjustments and refinements, the trousers are still not ready, and the man eventually explodes with exasperation: “‘God damn you to hell, Sir, no, its indecent, there are limits! In six days, do you hear me, six days, God made the world. Yes Sir, no less Sir, the WORLD! And you are not bloody well capable of making me a pair of trousers in three months!’ [Tailor’s voice, scandalised] ‘But my dear Sir, my dear Sir, look – [disdainful gesture, disgustedly] – at the world – [pause] – and look – [loving gesture, proudly] – at my TROUSERS!’”iii
Of course, caring about tailoring doesn’t mean not caring about the world. Mies van der Rohe, for instance, who pursued purity and perfection in steel for thirty years, always did so out of a desire that his architecture might quietly reconstitute the relationship between people and the world. He quoted Schinkel on the subject: ‘A work of architecture must not stand as a finished and self-sufficient object. True and pure imagination, having once entered the stream of the idea that it expresses, has to expand forever beyond this work, and it must venture out, leading ultimately to the infinite. It must be regarded as the point at which one can make an orderly entry into the unbreakable chain of the universe.’ Architecture is required to open itself out, rather than closing itself off. It should be a point of entry, rather than a dead end.
In very obvious ways, the Kunsthaus at Bregenz epitomises the closed nature of Zumthor’s thinking. From the inside, the outside world is completely absent. There are no views out. Even the light has to be modulated and filtered before being allowed entry. From outside, the building seems an alien presence along the lakefront. It is in the world, but not of it. Its evanescent glass shroud is akin to the transparent mac worn by Gene Hackman in Francis Ford Copolla’s brilliant 1973 film The Conversation. Hackman played Harry Caul, a sound surveillance expert who preferred to experience the world at one remove, who avoided direct engagement at all costs. But if Caul comes across as reticent and withdrawn, he is also remarkably self- absorbed. In Zumthor, we find a similar solipsism. What is most problematic about his work is not really its narrow focus, and certainly not its interest in materials and construction, but rather his conviction of the absolute moral superiority of these concerns. His architecture claims for itself a position outside the relativism and the ‘arbitrariness’ of contemporary society. But in fact Zumthor’s position is just as arbitrary, just as ideologically loaded, just as much a cultural construct as any other. The potency of Sebastiao Sierra’s installation lies in the way it draws attention to this piece of misdirection. The raw power of those dense stacks of rough concrete blocks points up the extreme self-consciousness of the gallery’s construction. It’s the blocks which, to use Zumthor’s words, ‘are not mere vehicles for an artistic message, whose presence is self- evident’, while the building becomes a ‘mere sign for something else.’ This role reversal is then further complicated by the knowledge that the stacks of blocks themselves are, in fact, the vehicle for an artistic message. Suddenly nothing seems absolute or certain; nothing seems pure or simple. By upsetting the insistent equilibrium of Zumthor’s architecture, Sierra reveals the narrowness, and the precariousness, of its ideological foundations.
Dr. Hugh Campbell is Professor of Architecture at the School of Architecture, University College Dublin.
Drawing by Catherine de Groot, 3rd Year, School of Architecture, University College Dublin.
i Zumthor, P. - A Way of Looking at Things, Architecture and Urbanism, February 1998 extra edition, p. 8.
ii Ibid., p. 14.
iii Beckett S. - Endgame, in The Complete Dramatic Works, London: Faber and Faber, 1990, p. 103.
Building Material, the journal of the Architectural Association of Ireland has been invited to join the Architecture and Design section of the international academic database JSTOR. All back copies of the journal will soon be accessible to millions of academics, students and teachers worldwide. See: http://www.jstor.org/ for more information.
Siobhán McDonald, artist, is launching her new website:
Siobhán’s work features in Building Material 19 Art & Architecture.
Siobhán McDonald was born in New York and brought up in Monaghan, Ireland. She trained in Dublin, Belfast and New York and is based in Dublin. She received her BA (Hons) in Fine Art at the University of Ulster. Recent solo shows include: Ash and Ether, Threshold, Heaven in Earth, Seed (Cross Gallery Dublin, 2003 - 2009); Shroud, Clodagh Gallery, New York (2008); Sojourn, Catherine Hammond Gallery, West Cork; Messenger, Vangard Gallery, Cork; Moon, the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) Ashford Gallery (2001); Thread Softly, the Kevin Kavanagh Gallery. Recent group shows include: the Boyle Arts Festival (2009); Flora Farinbairns Gallery London (2009); Pallas Heights (2008); Dublin Art Fair (2008-09); RHA Annual Exhibition (2008). Her paintings are in many public collections including: the Office of Public Works, University College Dublin, Bank of Ireland, University of Ulster, Allied Irish Bank, and are collected by private collectors nationally and internationally.
Images from top:
Pigeon House, Dublin, April 2009
Osmosis 1, Oil paint on canvas
Building Material 19 Art & Architecture is featured on publicart.ie:
Publicart.ie offers in-depth and practical material about public art practice in Ireland.
Corban Walker (born 1967, Dublin) gained recognition for his installations, sculptures and drawings that relate to his perception of scale and architectural constructs. Local, cultural and specific philosophies of scale are fundamental to how he defines and develops his work. He received his BFA from the National College of Art and Design, Ireland in 1992. His first solo exhibition in 1994 was at City Arts Centre, Dublin. He has since shown regularly at Green on Red Gallery. Walker’s work has been the subject of many international solo shows and has been selected for group museums exhibitions. He has realised eight public commissions for important institutions including Mitsubishi Estate Corp, Ltd. Tokyo and Royal Bank of Scotland, Dublin. His work is part of numerous public collections in Ireland including the Irish Museum of Modern Art and many private collections throughout the world. Walker has been awarded a Visual Arts Bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland on four occasions since 1995. Corban Walker first exhibited with PaceWildenstein in 2000 and subsequently in the gallery’s Logical Conclusions exhibition in 2005, before his second solo show Grid Stack in 2007. Walker moved to New York in 2004 where he is now based.
Excerpt from: Eye to Eye: An interview with Thomas Demand
“I like to imagine the sum of all the media representations of the event as a kind of landscape, and the media industry as the tour bus company that takes us through these colourful surrounds.” Thomas Demand
Subjects gain a new - if brief - life in the media, in a manner similar to that of the life of the mayfly: short and glorious, but soon fading to obsolescence. Thomas Demand is one of a growing number of artists addressing this phenomenon. Demand sifts through the media, selecting images that represent an important moment. His subjects are seemingly banal empty rooms: offices, auditoria, hallways, kitchens, bathrooms and staircases. He meticulously re-constructs the spaces shown using paper, from the vantage point of the original image. He then photographs and destroys it. His photographs offer a cleaner, neater vision of the world, the surfaces are smooth and the edges sharp. At first glance they appear to be straightforward records, but there is a palpable uncanniness inherent in them. His true talent is not as a sculptor or as a photographer, but as a detective: choosing material from newspapers and photo archives, looking for those seemingly neutral spaces in which wars are declared, bombs are designed and murders occur. Through the presentation of his images and work process, Demand encourages us to look more closely and assess the images presented to us, both their construction and their meaning. For Demand, looking at an image is not a purely visual experience, but a structural one.
...Read more in Building Material 19, Art & Architecture.
Biography: Thomas Demand
Thomas Demand is an artist based in Berlin. He documents our media worlds and is both a reproducer and an illusionist, making photographs of life-scale three dimensional models of rooms and spaces. The subjects depicted in Demand's photographs often bear cultural or political relevance. He was educated at Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich, Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and Goldsmiths College, London. His work has been exhibited widely, including the Fondation Cartier Paris, the Serpentine Gallery, London, and MOMA New York. He will exhibit at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin in September 2009.
Excerpt from: A cloud, a house, from here to Mars.
In 1906, Albert Einstein, when defining a methodology for the system of co-ordinates, suggested that, if a cloud was hovering over Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, in order to measure its position we should erect a pole up to it. The length of the pole coupled with the position of the foot of the pole would then give us the exact co-ordinates of the cloud. He wrote that, while in practice, the rigid surfaces which constitute the system of co-ordinates were generally not available, this was an example of a distance AB.
I had spent some time filming clouds and knew them to be large chaotic systems constantly forming and dissipating. They had a surfacelessness that defied a point and therefore an order. They gave the lie to the possibility of definition. But I was so charmed with the idea of erecting sticks up to clouds in order to measure their height that I went to Potsdamer Platz and made a film which depicts a man carrying out the act of raising a walking stick up to a cloud. The stick appears to reach the cloud when seen from his point of view while lying on his back looking up at it. In 2001 I made another work where, using a helicopter, I flew a perfect circle around a cloud, filming both views, the view in towards the cloud and the view out into the surrounding skyscape. Projected simultaneously opposite each other on two screens, these films cause the viewer to float, turning in the in-between space of the two points of view.
...Read more in Building Material 19, Art & Architecture.
Biography: Grace Weir
Grace Weir is interested in aligning a lived experience of the world with scientific knowledge and theory, in making work that examines and transcends reason through rational means. She works mostly in film and video and is interested in making a critical appraisal of film through the actual making of film. Her work is wide ranging, from structural cinematic works to more personal experimental video works, installations and web projects.
Toby Paterson was born in Glasgow in 1974. He studied at the Glasgow School of Art and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, graduating from the former in 1995. In Glasgow he is represented by The Modern Institute and in London by Sutton Lane. Paterson won the 2002 Beck’s Futures prize and received a Creative Scotland award in 2006. Recent projects include solo shows in The Hague, London, Glasgow and Derry; group exhibitions in San Francisco, Belgrade, Madrid and Middlesborough; commission of permanent works at Tramway in Glasgow, BBC Scotland’s new headquarters and at Warwick University campus. He is also developing work for the seven stations that constitute the Docklands Light Railway’s Stratford International extension. Paterson’s interest in cities and their architecture is manifested in the form of painting, sculpture and photography. He currently lives and works in Glasgow.
Dara McGrath is a photographic artist. He is interested in exploring the transitional lives of spaces, the in-between places where architecture, landscape and the built environment intersect, and where a dialogue – of absence rather than presence – is created. His photo works are realised both within the structure of the gallery space and as site specific interventions/installations and collaborations. Recent projects include:The Lives of Spaces, Irish Pavilion 11th International Architecture Biennale Venice (2008); European Night, Rencontres d’Arles, France (2008); Singapore Photo Festival 2008, National Museum of Singapore (2008); The City, Nordic Arts Centre (2008); Beyond the Country, Lewis-Glucksman Gallery, Ireland (2007); Idensitat ’07, Priorat Centre d’Art, Barcelona, (2008). He was the recipient of the 2003 AIB Arts Prize and several Arts Council of Ireland Awards.