Amy Knight is a London-based arts writer. Having gained a Masters degree with distinction in Art History and a first class BA in Illustration from the University of the Arts London, she has written for publications including Aesthetica Magazine, Amelia's Magazine, Mix Future Interiors and 'Sup Magazine, as well as trend research and writing for Dom Pérignon, M&S and Condé Nast. With specialist knowledge of late-Victorian British painting, Amy has a keen interest in everything from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and Byzantine architecture to cutting-edge contemporary art and graphic design. She currently covers all arts and media news, reviews and a dedicated blog for WAN, and will be launching a new independent art magazine early in 2012.
- 400m Imperial Tower designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill
- Interview: Jenni Reuter
- Q&A(rchitect): A discussion on how emerging architects see the future of our profession
- Souta de Moura defies critics and accepts Israel’s Wolf Prize
- Israel and the Architectural Narrative
- High-Performance Facades: Performance Attributes – What to Consider & Measure
- Interview: Peter Rich
- The Face of the Future: Façade Engineering and Environmental Performance
The ‘playful city’ theme of this year’s London Festival of Architecture has provoked something of a carnivalesque atmosphere across the capital, from the Hatwalk to the Urban Picnic Contests, but not all projects have taken such a lighthearted approach.
A talk being held this Wednesday aims to bring to light the multifaceted relationship between architecture and photography. The discussion panel – which brings together Simon Allford of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, Jack Pringle of Pringle Brandon Architects, architectural photographers Luke Hayes and Grant Smith and Building Design Editorial Director Amanda Baillieu – will analyse the different approaches of the architect and the architectural photographer, and the way in which the contrast between the architect’s familiarity with the work and the detached perspective of the photographer might inspire new ideas.
The prestigious group will also discuss the nature of dialogue between architect and photographer in order to achieve a desired image, the interest of the photographer in imaging architecture and architects’ views on this element of control in the photographers’ hands. The panel will also consider architectural photography as a publicity tool, discussing what the media expects and requires from a photograph when featuring a project.
Held in the Roca London Gallery – the most recent London project of Zaha Hadid Architects – the backdrop to the discussion will be an exhibition of 19 winning photographs from the Architects’ Eye Competition 2011. The competition, which has been running since 2007, is organised by ‘corporate art advisors’ International Art Consultants, who ‘developed the idea from observing architects’ enthusiasm when photographing buildings’ and is judged by leading figures from the architecture and photography communities.
The work on display is split into two categories: Architecture and Place, and Architecture and People, highlighting the importance of context – in terms of aesthetics in the former and interaction in the latter – in both instances.
It seems a topic of particular current interest, as the Royal Institute of British Architects recently launched its first architecture photography competition for its members, with the open brief of capturing interpretations of ‘architecture in 2012’ in any form.
An architectural photograph can describe the way in which people interact with a given environment, but it can also emphasise or even dictate the mood or quality of a space, and it is in this power of portrayal that the difference lies between photographs of architecture – which affect our interpretation of a space – and architecture itself.
In an age in which photography is growing increasingly prolific and images are encountered more often than the ‘real thing,’ it seems a relevant time to be highlighting the fact that, while the subject matter of architecture and its photography remains the same, its meanings differ greatly.
The exhibition runs from 23 June to 8 July 2012.
When I saw the words ‘Wide Open School’ titling the new event series at the Hayward Gallery, I was less than enthused. Yet upon further reading, I was pleased to discover that this is not an event aimed solely at children; and that most unappealing word – ‘school’ – is being used here in the loosest sense, to encapsulate a much more exciting idea than it initially conjures up.
In what the gallery describes as ‘an unusual experiment in learning’, the project is bringing together over 100 artists from around 40 countries, to devise and deliver alternative ‘classes’, which anyone – at any age – can attend. But although led by artists, it is not just about art. It is a physical, labyrinthine forum of workshops, collaborative projects, discussions, installations and performances based on any subject that the artists’ imaginations extend to.
Lucy and Jorge Orta, from the UK and Argentina respectively, led a two-day workshop on their utopian concept of Cloud Architecture; offering ‘invented living spaces for social interaction that can change according to use, built with recycled or sustainable materials.’ The session was introduced by a discussion seminar, followed by a hands-on workshop that enabled participants to construct maquettes. The Cloud Architecture workshop has now passed, giving way to the next wave of events in this liberal pedagogic extravaganza, but the idea lingers. What particularly struck me about Lucy and Jorge’s work was highlighted in UK newspaper The Guardian, which recently questioned a group of artists participating in the WOS, including Lucy and Jorge, on their visions of cities of the future.
The pair responded by presenting a project they did in 2007 called ‘Antarctic Village – No Borders’, a scattering of fifty domed tents erected on the Antarctic Peninsula and blanketed with patchwork ensembles of flags from around the world. Their chosen location of Antarctica was selected for a very particular reason that resonates with the social ideologies that the artist duo consistently works towards. “We have selected Antarctica as a symbol for this new community. The Antarctic treaty signed in 1959 by 12 countries, set aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, established freedom of scientific investigation, environmental protection, and banned military activity. This was the first arms control agreement established during the Cold War. Drawing upon this visualisation our Antarctic Village could be considered our last fragile hope for a more equitable world, a continent that allows all nations to coexist harmoniously and a community that strives for peace and social progress.”
Their approach to this project seems to typify the mood of the WOS. It really is about artists exchanging ideas with the community, where the focus lies not on the heroic figure of the artist as ‘teacher’ but on the enriching experience these reciprocal projects might create for both the artists and the visitors. This notion mirrors the overarching concept of the Hayward’s event series – to create an equalising, all-encompassing learning experience that renders the traditional notion of the ‘teacher teaching students’ temporarily – and perhaps blissfully – obsolete.
After months of expectation, Google has officially announced its plans to expand the current capabilities of Google Earth with the introduction of a range of groundbreaking new features. Most impressively, this will include fully 3D, photorealistic and interactive mapping of entire cities for Google Earth mobile apps by the end of the year, with the desktop equivalent to follow later. Furthermore, users of the Android version of Google Maps in over 100 countries will be able to download maps for offline usage.
While the company has included photorealistic imagery in Google Earth since 2006, it has only ever been fragmentary. Many users will be familiar with the frustrating areas of inaccessibility in the interactive map, caused by the fact that Google Earth has previously relied on multiple sources to create a patchwork impression of the urban landscape. Now, as a result of new rendering processes that enable the automatic creation of 3D cityscapes from aerial photography, including detailed models of buildings, monuments and even trees, this hindrance will soon be a thing of the past.
Another aspect is that Google’s existing coverage will extend to areas not currently reachable by Google Street View vehicles. For the armchair explorers out there, the new Google Street View Trekker will grant virtual tourists unprecedented access to the most obscure parts of the wilderness. It has also announced the introduction of a Tour Guide service, which suggests places of touristic interest as users navigate their way around Google Earth.
While perhaps a chilling prospect in terms of Google’s increasing monopolisation of the (virtual) world (and apparent determination to remove all wonder and mystery from the lesser-known parts of planet Earth), in a pragmatic sense this could become an indispensable tool for architects, enabling detailed views of every corner of a city in a ‘personal helicopter’-type capacity. This immersive experience will undoubtedly assist architects in gauging a real sense of scale, detail and proximity of site surroundings for current or future projects – particularly those in countries distant from their own – that can be referred back to at the touch of a button.
The timing of Google’s announcement on 6 June is being regarded as a preemptive strike, as Apple is expected to announce at its WWDC conference this week that it will no longer be using Google Maps as its default service, replacing it with its own version in the upcoming iOS 6 software. So while Google seems set to render the term ‘uncharted territory’ obsolete once and for all, the focus will now turn towards Apple in anticipation of its own plans for the future of cartography.
For the sixth year running, the vast interior of the Grand Palais in Paris has been transformed by one of the world’s leading contemporary artists. Following Anish Kapoor, who filled the 13,500 sq m space last year with the visceral ‘Leviathan’, this year is the turn of French conceptual artist, Daniel Buren.
The annual exhibition, ‘Monumenta’, is organised by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, and encourages artists to create original responses to the singular architectural space. Buren’s site-specific installation, named ‘Excentrique(s)’, emphasises the magnificence of the original architecture with a multiplicity of huge, translucent discs of blue, yellow, red and green, suspended on stilts, towering over the visitors that pass beneath them.
The rawness of colour and light are integral to Buren’s work. As ‘Excentrique(s)’ harnesses the natural light that filters in through the glass-domed ceiling, it submits to its shifting intensity; the shape and form of the work in situ alters as the sunlight gathers and diminishes throughout the day. As the room floods with light, the stained glass colours evoke a sense of ecclesiastical transcendence.
But as well as visual perception, sound and motion – in this case, that of the spectator – are also central to the concept of Buren’s installation. Its spectators are encouraged to actively meander their way through its network of form and colour, in order that it might reveal to them the full complexity of its existence. In the same way that Buren approaches much of his work, its sprawling, mazelike presence permits infinite viewpoints: “There are no longer one or two viewpoints fixed in advance, but a multitude, without any hierarchy or order, which interact, interfere with and induce one another, in a process of mutual enrichment and contradiction. Each viewpoint has a meaning of its own, which does not annihilate the others.”
The artist has previously transformed the Guggenheim in New York and the Cour d’Honneur at the Palais-Royal, and choreographed a ballet that physically took place amidst the banality of daily life in the districts of New York. Constantly aware of the interaction between the artwork and its environment since he began producing work in 1965, Buren’s work has almost always been created in situ, inextricably connected with its surroundings. The artist never transports a ‘work’ to another site, as its context is central to its meaning.
Like much of his work, ‘Excentrique(s)’ must be seen in fragments. Yet the order and perspective in which these fragments are perceived depends upon the journey that is chosen by the viewer; each must navigate his or her own experience of the installation, and in doing so, each perception will be rendered unique.
Monumenta 2012 is open until 21 June. Images courtesy of Monumenta.
In the years leading up to the London 2012 Olympics, East London-based artist Anne Desmet has been documenting the transformation of the site, including the controversial development of the Hackney marshes. Having seen the initial plans and artists’ impressions of the projected construction when the Olympics were awarded to London, the artist became fascinated with the ensuing metamorphoses taking place in the area in which she lives and works.
Desmet’s response to these observations has manifested in a series of wood engravings and mixed media collages, with a particular focus on the construction stages of the main Olympic Stadium and the Velodrome, all viewed from above. These circular forms, already abstracted from their familiar ground-level appearance, are layered upon one another to create single, static representations of their continual evolution, reminiscent of ancient Roman arenas or mystical crop circles. The works have been brought together in an exhibition at the Studio Gallery, PM Gallery & House in West London, under the name Olympic Metamorphoses.
Using razor shell and roofing slate, stone and glass as well as pages torn from the London A to Z, the artist retains traces of the site’s history which emphasise the geographical and cultural upheaval that this relatively fast transformation is causing in its wake. In fact for many, the negative impact of the London 2012 Olympics outweighs its advocates’ claims of patriotic glory and increased income from tourism. While the consequences of rising rent and artisanal coffee shops in the Borough of Hackney have been a creeping issue for its residents over the past decade, the recent rapidity of its gentrification is sparking debate about the immediate future of this area previously renowned for its thriving arts scene.
It is difficult to tell what Desmet herself thinks of the process; her work presents a certain detachment, a pure interest in topographical shape and form which is reflective of the themes of geographical metamorphoses and mythical architecture that characterise much of her work, taking inspiration from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the biblical Tower of Babel. From her distant perspective, Desmet seems to be telling a story of the cycle of urban destruction and renewal, aiming ‘to suggest the sense of timelessness and solidity that architectural forms can convey, as well as their impermanence and vulnerability’; not just of London in 2012, but of the continual metamorphoses of all cities, everywhere, throughout time.
The exhibition runs at the Studio Gallery at PM Gallery & House, Ealing until 27 May 2012. Images courtesy of PM Gallery & House.
Violet seas and anthropomorphic rocks: Two American photographers confront the natural landscape in the post-industrial age
The work of two American artists, David Benjamin Sherry (born 1981) and Matthew Day Jackson (born 1974) is currently on show as part of a major new exhibition, Out of Focus: Photography at the Saatchi Gallery in London.
The exhibition spans a wide range of contemporary photographers’ work, yet these two artists have an interesting level of homogeneity; with a ‘neo-romantic’ approach, both are led by an enquiry into – and subordination to – the rocky, tempestuous landscape of the United States, yet with very different results.
Born in Woodstock, New York and now working in New York City, Sherry has created a series of large-scale analogue photographs that depict natural areas of the American West: mountain lakes, misty forests, caves and mountains, which he has saturated in filters of red, blue, yellow, acidic green and powdery violet. The hue, which is chosen depending on the artist’s mood, is imbued during exposure or afterwards in the printing process.
The titles of Sherry’s works indicate his primary concern with colour and its synthesis with cognition and spiritual meaning. For instance, a piece depicting a rough, tree-strewn beach bathed in a soft violet light is given the title All Matterings of Mind Equal One Violet, while a mountain-top steeped in faded, technicolour green is named Holy Holy, reminiscent of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s violently dreamy, mind-altering 1973 film Holy Mountain.
The vivid, transcendent colours draw the viewer into these deep expanses of natural land with their intense beauty, yet their appeal is meshed uneasily together with the seduction of artifice and sensation that dominates our post-industrial culture.
Originally from Panorama City in California, Jackson currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Led by a preoccupation with the potency of the Earth, the artist spent four months driving through the United States in search of land formations that, at certain angles, give the suggestion of anthropomorphic faces. He describes these perceptions as ‘Mother Nature’s Land Soldiers’; the hostile manifestations of a post-apocalyptic future, surfacing to reclaim the Earth after its destructive human occupation.
Jackson’s exhibited work consists of 48 large photographs, each depicting an historic region of the continent. As with Sherry’s photographs, their size and positioning on the gallery walls – towering over the viewer that stands before them – add to the sense of high Romantic deference to the immense force of Nature that these two artists are simultaneously confronting.
A twenty foot-high, inflatable model of Stonehenge has descended on Glasgow Green for the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Arts. The interactive sculpture is the latest creation of Turner prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller, and is his first major public project in Scotland.
One of England’s most notorious landmarks, the ancient Stonehenge itself is a timeless mystery; nobody knows for what this piece of strange architecture was built, or by whom, and it belongs to nobody. It is perhaps this element that attracted Deller, whose previous work has consistently attempted to distract from the concept of the author or original and elevate the power of creative collectivism.
Just as Sacrilege merges the arcane with contemporary vernacular, its title pre-empts its critics, implying the artist’s intention that his appropriation be taken with more than a hint of irony and enjoyed by the public with a sense of unashamed, yet mischievous pleasure. He counters the suggestion that it is a particularly English landmark and disregards political segregation, stating that the symbol of Stonehenge itself is ‘pre-political’, and hence is just as relevant to Scotland as anywhere beneath the border.
In its artificial appeal Sacrilege may seem anodyne, but then Deller’s work has always been concerned with questioning the division between ‘high art’ and popular/folk culture, perhaps in part due to his early friendship with Andy Warhol, who took him under his wing before Deller emerged as an artist in the 1990s.
Much of Deller’s work directly engages with communities and celebrates the beauty in the prolific, and the sublime creations of the humble craftsperson. The gesture of Sacrilege is typical of his approach to community involvement and reflects his overarching aim as an artist to truly engage communities through his work, highlighting idiosyncratic cultural traditions, rituals and the omnipresent influence of the past on society.
Well-known for his interactive installations, documentaries and live performance art, Deller’s recent retrospective at the Hayward Gallery has already plunged him into the limelight for 2012, and the GIFVA is now showcasing Sacrilege alongside the work of over 130 other prominent artists across the city of Glasgow. The piece will eventually be moved to London for the Olympic Games.
The Glasgow International Festival of Visual Arts runs until 7 May.
Since 1734, the Bank of England has stood loftily at its Threadneedle Street site in central London, and its internal operations have remained somewhat enigmatic ever since. Its design was put into the capable hands of one of England’s most famous architects, Sir John Soane as the Bank’s designated architect and surveyor, and became his almost life-long, 45-year project from 1788 until his retirement in 1833.
Extending the site from a puny 80 feet wide by 300 feet long to a more befitting 3.5 acres, sealed with an imposing, windowless wall, Soane’s slowly perfected creation was lamentably demolished in 1925 and replaced with a new, ten-storey construction by architect Sir Herbert Baker. Although different, its latter-day silhouette has lost none of its formidable mystery. Testament to its allure is the fact that in recent years the veil has been annually lifted to the public, as the Bank allows visitors to explore a close look behind the scenes free of charge. The Open Door and Open House events enable curious minds to be satiated with rare sights of the Bank’s interior architecture, and visit the rooms in which some of the UK’s most significant financial decisions are made.
Founded in 1694 as only the second of its kind in the world, the Bank of England was originally set up as the Government’s banker and debt-manager, and now manages the nation’s currency as the centre of the UK’s financial system. While it is far from being a pride-inducing landmark of the British economy in the present climate, its inner workings are well worth a look on a purely architectural – not to mention cultural and historical – level. The Garden Court with its symbolic mulberry trees will also be revealed, as will the merchant-forecasting wind-dial of the Court Room.
The opening dates, on two Saturdays in June (23rd and 30th) and over a weekend in September (22nd-23rd), coincide with an exhibition entitled ‘Gold and the Bank of England’, revealing an anecdotal documentation of the role of gold in the Bank’s more than 300-year history.
A year after his mysterious 81-day detention by Chinese police, Ai Weiwei performed a personal human rights protest earlier this month with an ironical video project entitled ‘weiweicam’. The operation, which involved four cameras keeping surveillance over his daily activities and broadcasting them on the internet, was forced to shut down 46 hours later, leaving nothing but a blank white holding page. Recognised internationally for his art and lauded as something of a heroic political figure, the great polymath’s influential power is immense, and he is listed among China’s most controversial individuals. He is currently in the midst of a suing battle with the Beijing tax authorities for their alleged violation of the law in use against him.
All the while, his work sits silently in the Lisson Gallery in Milan, his first solo exhibition in Italy – a disparity that highlights the extraordinary contrast between the art and the socio-cultural implications surrounding the artist.
The exhibition focuses on his ceramic and marble pieces created in Jingdezhen, a region known for its ancient – and continuing – practice of earthenware manufacturing, employing traditional methods appropriate to the respective materials. In this way the artist conflates the comfortable accessibility of conservative techniques with challenging conceptual undertones, as is typical of his approach. It is here perhaps most abundantly apparent in Oil Spill (2006), a series of gleaming obsidian puddles that, in their formal allure, simultaneously invite admiration and abhorrence.
Also included are Weiwei’s handmade porcelain pieces – porcelain being traditionally regarded as the highest art form in China – and the notion of its superiority and value is something that the artist has consistently sought to challenge. Indeed, his work is deeply influenced by his specialist knowledge of Chinese antiques. But while many of his most famous works involve the destruction or manipulation of such valuable pieces, the works on display here are entirely original, handmade constructions based on these archaic designs and executed with moving sensitivity.
The display includes a marble plate which Weiwei has carved into with exquisite detail, a serene blue pillar over two metres tall which stands in the gallery garden, and Ghost Gu, a piece forming part of a series of the artist’s studies of Yuan Period porcelain (1279-1368). Whereas stories would traditionally be painted in visual form on the pots’ exterior, Weiwei has literally inverted the technique by covering the interior of the vessels with intricate drawings. The symbolism can be extrapolated to the overall impression of peacefulness, harmony, even placidity in the exhibition, which stirs beneath the surface with murmurs of distemper.
The exhibition runs from April 12th – May 25th at the Lisson Gallery, Milan.
Every photograph of Damien Hirst in recent newspapers has shown the expression of a man affronted by a surge of negative criticism, like that of a reprimanded dog. The defensive frown accompanies a plethora of articles about his ‘mid-career’ retrospective – essentially a tame shrine to the fleeting rise of his ‘90s ‘shock of the new’ art in the warm, safe and tourist-friendly environment of Tate Modern.
As this arts media-dominating show descends on London, Hirst has made the somewhat predictable revelation that he will be opening his very own gallery, Saatchi-style, in 2014. It will show off his impressive collection of work by artists far better than he will ever be, along with some who dwell alongside him in the district of cliched, everyman art, fit to adorn the walls of the rich and oblivious collector who see art as little more than a highly profitable commodity. The gallery, to be built in Vauxhall and designed by architects Caruso St John, will accommodate around 2,000 pieces and will take over an entire street.
As the hype storm gathers around these two momentous events, it is tragically needless to say that Hirst is no longer actually relevant as an artist – a figure at best faintly amusing and at worst deeply embarrassing – and the aggrandising exhibition paradoxically serves to emphasise the absurdity of his ostensible profession. The successful businessman has ceased to create anything significant since the mid-90s; even through his direction to a multitude of industrious employees, Hirst has only managed to re-hash the few pieces that ever had any indication of originality. Once a provocative young artist with a handful of good ideas, he still relies on those works that have now lost any remaining whiff of the subversion that was their main purpose during the golden age of the Young British Artists.
Anything he now (re)produces is doomed to exist in the category of materialism and brash superficiality; as Brian Sewell so acutely observes, ‘to own a Hirst is to tell the world your bathroom taps are gilded and your Rolls Royce is pink.’
Unlike their Modernist predecessors, there is no possibility for artists to be reactionary in the current artworld for the simple reason that there is nothing to react against. Everything is accepted, price-tagged and exhibited for fear of future humiliation when a once rejected artist starts to market, say, crystal-studded skulls for $100 million. And it seems that, upon finding that there was nothing left to react against, Hirst ran out of ideas pretty quickly.
Not forgetting of course his unleashing of ‘Nothing Matters’ in 2009, a series of oil paintings created, unusually, in his own hand. Latching onto Francis Bacon’s portrayal of the isolated figure in a vestigial living room defined by ghostly perimeters, powerfully and viscerally conveying the desolation and ultimate, godless wretchedness of the postwar human condition, Hirst’s public declaration of his admiration for the work of the great twentieth-century painter is executed in much the same way that a child demonstrates their love of helicopters: by drawing them, really, really badly.
While the Tate’s exhibition has effectively hammered the final nail into his coffin as an artist, Hirst continues to unabashedly pursue the life of a mercenary collector-businessman who sells souvenir ‘Spot Cufflinks’ on his own website. As the grinning, Cheshire-cat embodiment of the increasing absurdity of the economy of insecurity that fuels today’s artworld, he at least seems happy watching clueless millionaires fight over his mediocre wares, as he wallows contentedly in their residual swill.