Friday, December 09, 2016

A Gentle Collapsing

Last weekend we went to the Victoria Miro gallery to see After You Left, an exhibition of work by Alex Hartley.   The rooms contain images of modernist domestic architecture photographed around Los Angeles, ghostly and indistinct through misty layers of perspex, and also some large photographs of jungle scenery exhibited alongside what appear to be fragments of ruined buildings.  These connect with the centrepiece of the exhibition, A Gentle Collapsing II
'Resembling an International Style domestic building apparently abandoned to the elements, the major architectural intervention A Gentle Collapsing II transforms the gallery’s waterside garden into a scene of poetic dereliction and decay.  Built on the canal bank and into the water itself, the work encapsulates classic modernist tropes – the clean lines and horizontality of Bauhaus architecture as exported to the US by Mies van der Rohe in the 1930s and later exemplified by Philip Johnson and Richard Neutra, amongst others. Yet the structure and what it appears to portray – a home vacated without explanation, open to the elements, its white rendered walls peppered with black mould rising from the waterline – stands in stark contrast to images of domestic architecture and attendant aspirational lifestyles from the period.'
An installation of this kind is a landscape that you need to frame yourself by standing in the right place and focusing on one part of the visual field.  The photograph below doesn't really show the artwork; it's an image of my son standing on a walkway, with buildings in the background and a section of the installation visible in the middle distance.  This installation resembles painting, sculpture and set design without being any of these things.  In terms of the classification Rosalind Krauss introduced in her essay ‘Sculpture in the Expanded Field’, A Gentle Collapsing II could be in the group that is both landscape and architecture. 

When your gaze takes in the wider built environment around the gallery you are reminded of all the new constructions - future ruins - rising in the nearby streets (these are referred to in a recent article about the transformation of Old Street, 'The slow death of Silicon Roundabout').  For me, the installation's artificial ruin didn't necessarily imply a modernist house - it might equally well have been part of an abandoned airfield, hospital or prison camp.  The Ballardian atmosphere and London setting inevitably brought to mind The Drowned World.  Two days after our visit a water main burst in Islington, flooding the streets to the north of the gallery and causing a not-so-gentle collapsing of the public transport system.

1 comment:

Andrija said...