Sunday, April 4, 2010

smallBIG: flatworks

Eleven artists/architects contributed flatworks -- drawings, paintings, or photographs -- to the "small architecture BIG LANDSCAPES" show at the Swope Art Museum. Artists from Argentina, Canada, Germany, Slovenia, Spain, and the U.S. considered subject matter in their home countries, and in Brazil, China, Kenya, Venezuela, and the West Bank. In so doing, they brought an international awareness to the show's content, highlighting that some issues and strategies are somewhat consistent globally, even as local pressures and potentials bring distinctiveness to the small architecture and big landscapes that are being created every day and every second around the world.

Marjetica Potrc
Lubljana, Slovenia
"Temporary Territories"
Ink on Paper, 2003-2007

Marjetica Potrc works closely with local communities to devise homegrown, sustainable solutions to the daily quality-of-life dilemmas that affect people who live in the world's city slums. As part of a process she calls "participatory design," Potrc has spent months immersed in places such as settlements in the Western Balkans and the barrios of Caracas, Venezuela, engaging the knowledge of local people and drawing from existing materials to create designs to improve their living conditions. Her work is driven by her belief that, "Citizens are the ones who make the city." Potrc has had solo exhibitions at the Guggenheim Museum and Max Protech Gallery (New York), Nordenhake Gallery (Berlin), the List Visual Arts Center at MIT, and the De Appel Foundation in Amsterdam. Her installation "Genesis" is on permanent display at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway.


Santiago Cirugeda
Seville, Spain

The project "Insect-House: The Tick's Stratagem" came about when Alameda Viva invited Cirugeda to support their act of resistance to the cutting down of trees in Seville by occupying those same trees. By following the fundamental premises of the efficacious urban guerrilla, the activist-architect designed shelters that allowed for immediate construction. The outside shell protected occupants from possible aggressors. The shelter's bottom was usually 4.5 meters off the ground and provided storage space; the top had a sliding shell for protection. The implicit goal was remind people that even if their voice is considerably quieted, they still can act and decide. They have a say. Beyond a mere ecological attitude concerning the protection of trees, this is a strategy of opposition to plans directed, and often imposed, on the population and its style of urban life.


Craig McCormick
Indianapolis, Indiana
"Thonet" and "Lebanon, Indiana"
color photographs, 2008

As an architect, I witness a side of real estate development and consumer culture that many people never see. Developers and bankers have a language all their won, referring to buildings as "product" and "vehicles for profit." I came to the realization that most of what is built around us today is really not for our use or enjoyment, not to better our lives, but simply to wrangle a dollar from out pockets or to feed a proforma. This change how I fundamentally think about making buildings and pictures. Begun in early 2008, Economic Entropy is a visual documentation of change in the American built environment caused by short sighted economic methods. Economic Entropy is a depiction of randomness and inevitable deterioration in a social system caused by economic change. It is nature and the objects of consumerism together reaching a state of inert uniformity.


Alan Frakes
Tulsa, Oklahoma
"Mini Mall Reflections," Oil on Canvas, 30" x 40" 2007
"Dumpster at Elder Paint," Oil on Canvas, 12" x 15" 2007 (collection of Wes Janz)
also in the smallBIG show by not included here:
"Dumpster Graveyard," Oil on Canvas, 30" x 40" 2007 (collection of Wendy Ford Parker)

Dumpsters exist in everyday environments, alongside each of us. I find beauty and potential existing within this subject, typically understood to be leftover, ugly, or rubbish -- sometimes relegated to the back lot, out of the way, sometimes right under our noses in plain sight. Always, like dutiful soldiers, continually collecting more and more waste. We take them for granted, but they are always there as a part of our landscape. The Dumpster as subject was "discovered" by looking for simple colorist subject matter as a challenge for an unattractive setting and then portraying it to illustrate the beauty within that subject, through light and shadow. These paintings are among those selected from "Sites Unseen," an artistic collaboration between artist Alan Frakes and the photography of Wes Janz, and address the impression the common everyday dumpster has made on the landscape.


Wes Janz
Indianapolis, Indiana

Prefabricated houses roll south, 70 miles per hour, on I-69. I daydream north, 13+ years, same speed, same road, from my Indianapolis home to Ball State University. The prefabs are sourced in northern Indiana, in Elhart--the "RV Capital of the World," Middlebury, and places with fun names: Goshen, Wakarusa, Nappanee, Shipshewana. The photos are inspired by Chris Jones' "chance processes" and John Cage's 4'33" composition. A house approaches, camera up, shutter plush, gone. Three seconds. Converging high speeds, closeness, and one-eye-on-prefab-one-eye-on-traffic bring blurs and out-of-frame experiences. Houses are backgrounded as overpasses, yellow lines, guardrails, vehicles, dirty windows, weather, seasonal landscapes, and signage come into view. January to July 2009. Prefabricated houses keep rolling, their mobility reflecting our confidence in the best of times, tagging along now with the contradictory and complementary forces of foreclosing, vacating, and on-the-moving in our unsettling and resettling lives.


Derek Mills
Indianapolis, Indiana
"[Re]Dress Distress: A Systematic [Re]Purposing of Urban Decay" 2010

Throughout the Rust Belt, many thousands of long-vacant structures sit alone, boarded up. Indianapolis is a leading contributor with approximately 10,000 abandoned houses. This proposal explored the potential of the "gone" architectural stock of West Indianapolis. Talking with a local resident led the author to a "turnkey moment ... I came into the conversation with Antoine influenced by my preconceptions about urban decay ... but left with a memorable personal connection that went far beyond any purely academic concern. As a result, I recast my design knowledge first as a 'person' and then as an 'architect.'" Four hierarchical and interdependent approached were proposed. "Transfer" anticipates 100% material reuse. "Soft Demolition" reuses raw wood framing for small pavilions. "Band-aid" rehabilitates parts of houses thought the use of new enclosure systems, and "Architectural Transfer" introduces a "plug-n-stay" manufactured kit to revive abandoned houses.


Steve Jessmore
Flint, Michigan

"9/11 Corner" (digital stitched portrait). Moose and Suzi Fitch changed the landscape of their inner city Flint neighborhood by purchasing vacant lots and transforming them into patriotic memorials. They've often said that someone has to remember the sacrifices made to secure our freedom.

"Sense of Community: Mr. Smith." One in a series of 175 images and stories from a weekly photocolumn by Jessmore, published between 2004-2008, when he was the chief photographer for the Flint Journal. The series recognized Flint citizens who had not lost hope and vision that Flint could become a better place to live and work. The column received numerous state and national photojournalism awards.

"150 Steps--A Walk Through Flint on Its Sesquicentennial" (2005-2006). Hi-resolution digital images manually stitched together document Flint streets in the city's 150th year. In all, 21 miles of city blocks were photographed. Saginaw Street and Third Avenue are shown.


Rufina Wu / Stefan Canham
"Portraits from Above - Hong Kong's Informal Rooftop Communities"

Self-built settlements on the roofs of high-rise buildings have been an integral part of Hong Kong's history for over half a century. Rooftop structures range from basic shelters for the disadvantaged to intricate multi-storey constructions equipped with the amenities of modern life. Rufina Wu (Canada) and Stefan Canham (Germany) utilize the tools of an architect and the tools of a photographer to document rooftop communities on five buildings located in older districts in the Kowloon Peninsula, slated for redevelopment by the Urban Renewal Authority of Hong Kong. Text records of the residents' stories, measured drawings of each distinct rooftop structure, and high-resolution images of the domestic interiors of more than twenty households offer an unprecedented insight into the everyday life on Hong Kong's rooftops.

(Their recently published book on the subject can be found @ Portraits from Above.


Chelina Odbert and Jen Toy
Nairobi, Kenya

Kounkuey Design Initiative practices architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning in areas where environmental degradation compromises quality of life. Kibera, the largest informal settlement in Sub-Saharan Africa, is home to over 1,000,000 million residents, yet it has no trash collection system or formal dumping site and only 1 toilet per 250 people. Robert Neuwirth writes in Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World: "Some part of Kibera ... are so unsafe that you cannot walk from your hut to the latrine at night for fear of being mugged. So you either hold it until morning, or you use what Kenyans artfully but uncomfortably call 'flying toilets'--you use a plastic bag and then, after sunrise, you fling it as far from your home as you can." KDI designed a poster campaign to engage people throughout Nairobi in understanding the need for proper waste facilities in Kibera.


Richard Saxton
Boulder, Colorado

Richard Saxton is an artist working in the fields of sculpture, architecture, design, and public art. The work presented here, Research Archive (Selected Pictures), is part of an ongoing investigation by Saxton into the construction of the built landscape. Serving a larger purpose of informing Saxton's other creative endeavors, the archive also exists as a work in itself, an accumulation of pictures that looks beyond the obvious, showing how disparate perspectives can inform interrelated but different spaces. The images come from a number of locales from across the world, including the Great Plains and Mountain West regions of the U.S., Europe, Haiti, and South America. Saxton's Research Archive primarily focuses on rural and owner-built structures, constructions that do not conform to any design standards or building codes. The archive is a celebration of freedom and autonomy in building, and is a testament to chance, resourcefulness, simplicity, unpredictability, and everyday ingenuity.

Medium: Archival Ink Jet Prints


Daniel Miranda
Buenos Aires, Argentina
(with Adam Miller)
"Slum 31 -- Interpretations / Observations"
01 (landscape, shown above), o2, 03, 04

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