Magazine article Artforum International

Knut Asdam

Magazine article Artforum International

Knut Asdam

Article excerpt

Ever given much thought to the human figures populating architectural models? Those tiny characters involved in a variety of generic activities indicating the potential life of spaces yet to he constructed? Ciphers of normality, Man and Woman Engaged in Conversation, Group of Businessmen Crossing a Square, and Teenagers Hanging Out are placed there to convince us of the purposeful plenitude of a design in which the interests of all relevant parties can be served. Imagine, then, what such abstract figures would look like if the construction in question were no longer on the drawing board but in a state of half-finished abandonment. Or, alternatively, integrated into the messy heterogeneity of an urban landscape where human "designs" of various orders compete for attention.

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To engage in this mental exercise is to start approaching Knut Asdam's new films Abyss and Tripoli (all works 2010), which were presented at Bergen Kunsthall alongside two photographic works (one documents a 1960s suburban project outside Oslo, and the other is a tapestry-like photomontage of global urbanisms). Yet the real protagonists of these films are not human subjects but architecture itself: in Tripoli, a sprawling, dreamlike setting for an international fairground in Lebanon, conceived in 1966 by Oscar Niemeyer and left unfinished with the 1975 outbreak of civil war; in Abyss, a London cityscape where the futuristic megaconstructions for the 2012 Olympic Games emerge as if mediated through a dismal array of subway stations, cheap market stalls, gyms, and metered parking spaces. Both sites hold enough complexity and fascination to materialize as fully formed cinematic subjects in their own right, but the authority with which they impose themselves is of course also a function of a well-established and multiply determined relation between architecture and film. …

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