Trading Spaces: A Roundtable on Art and Architecture

Artforum International, October 2012 | Go to article overview
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Trading Spaces: A Roundtable on Art and Architecture


Art and architecture meet more often and more profoundly today than ever before-from public art to the art-fair tent, from the pavilion to the installation. But if the interchange between these fields offers a host of new possibilities for structure, space, and experience, it also makes reflection on their status more urgent. To chart this complex constellation of interactions, Artforum invited critics HAL FOSTER and SYLVIA LAVIN; artists THOMAS DEMAND, HILARY LLOYD, and DORIT MARGREITER; architects STEVEN HOLL and PHILIPPE RAHM; and curator HANS ULRICH OBRIST- a group whose pioneering work marks the front lines of art-architecture exchange-to engage in a conversation moderated by Artforum senior editor JULIAN ROSE.

JULIAN ROSE: While many agree that there is an unprecedented level of interchange between art and architecture today, there is surprisingly little consensus about what, specifically, these interactions entail or where they actually take place. Which models of interaction between art and architecture are most significant, and where can we begin to locate them? STEVEN HOLL: Architecture is an art--the premise of a division is specious.

THOMAS DEMAND: I do think there is a clear difference between the practices, though. Every time I've ever worked with an architect, the collaboration was based on the fact that we came from separate corners, and that was precisely what made it productive. STEVEN HOLL: Well, it's true that differences can be useful. For me, however, to collaborate is to find a corner of convergence. Let me give some examples. When Vito Acconci and I worked together on designing the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York--rebuilding the facade of an existing building at 97 Kenmarc Street as a "hinged space" enclosing a storefront gallery--it was a five-month interaction, like a revolving door. Vito would come into my office with drawings and ideas, I would show him my drawings and ideas, and we would go away and readjust to each other, only to find ourselves having passed each other in the next round. The final design evolved overnight in construction. When Walter De Maria and I collaborated on his One Sun/34 Moons |2002] at the Nelson-Atkins [Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri], I deferred to him, as I hoped his work would engulf the entrance. There was a large reflecting pool in the entrance court of our scheme, with circular skylights in its bottom to let light into the parking garage below. To achieve his thirty-four moons, Walter shifted some and added a few. Two very different models of collaboration. HAL FOSTER: Steven's examples suggest that distinctions, when addressed, are generative, and I agree. The question is not art or not-art. The question is relation.

To be very simple about it: There's a Gesamtkunstwerk model, one of combination; and a differential model, one of coarticulation. Art Nouveau versus the Bauhaus. James Turrell versus Richard Serra.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

HANS ULRICH OBRIST: I wonder whether one can complicate this binary between fusion--Gesamtkunstwerk--and differential specificity. I am thinking of Juliet Koss's recent book, Modernism After Wagner [2010]. Whereas the Gesamtkunstwerk is often seen in contrast to the modernist principles of medium specificity and autonomy, Koss argues that such an opposition was not present in Wagner's original definition. The paradox is that the Gesamtkunstwerk retains the autonomy of the individual arts and at the same time transgresses it. Koss understands modern-negotiation. In my own work, I treat architecture as a vehicle to investigate the relations between the built environment and its mediated representations. Architecture serves as the ideal object of analysis because it can be read as a manifestation of social, economic, and cultural transformation. In the case of my project zentrurm [2004-], for example, the starting point was not the architecture itself but rather the reorganization of Leipzig's city center.

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