2 letters on Architecture
I hope this letter finds you well.
Pier Paolo Tamburelli suggested to discuss the fact that architecture is becoming more and more an artistic practice.
Is this a fact really? And what do we talk about when we say “artistic practice”?
It seems that the underlying idea is the artist as a romantic hero dedicated to creating an oevre detached from the constraints of everyday life.
I would rather say that artists are more and more involved in other practices such design, architecture, curating, research, archives and the like.
So it is the other way around actually: art is becoming more and more an architectural practice.
Still it is also true we are facing a situation where architects are selling themselves as heroes, unfortunately without any irony though. They sell images with a veil of populistic cynicism.
As images become increasingly important today, the starchitect wants to be a 20th Century artist hero while cutting edge artistic and architectural practice is moving actually exactly in the opposite direction: towards an understanding of relations and contexts, away from individualistic self-expression.
Let´s start saying that I don’t know if it would make sense to discuss if architecture is an artistic discipline or what are the requirements for a discipline to became art. I definitely think there are many shared points between art and architecture and their relations have been longer discussed. However, this is probably more of an epistemological issue which I don’t think is the issue of your thoughts.
What I find interesting to think about is if architecture is really finding its way of being exhibited, produced and legitimized in the last years in the art or around the economy of the art world.
I think both artists, and architects are today desperate to re-define what they are and for who they are working, more than actually thinking about what they are doing.
Excuse me if I turn around your question (which probably means that it’s a round trip)…In fact I really think architects are trying to exhibit their work and abilities more and more in art spaces, or under art biennials etc. In some cases, under the impossibility of build “buildings” and aware of an art world, hungry and looking for other experiences (no matter what), many architects have found their way of growing up under the umbrella of art institutions. Many architecture exhibitions are no more just a representation in small scale of built projects (and less if you don’t even have one) or photographs of the projects (only if these are taking in an super smart and intelectual way for and architecture photographer that also is flying between to be an artist or a photographer). The production of 1:1 scale is also becoming old fashioned. Today architects build abstract and complex installations and like to be interviewed by art critics/curators and philosophers. So, the philosophical and conceptual approach of the practice is getting more and more important than the practice per se. That’s not to say that architecture is not a tough discipline -it always has been- but now we see how architecture needs to be expressed in a way that comes really close to the language of art criticism.
However, in terms of the art institutions, I find some danger in the proliferation of architecture exhibitions (including in my own experiments)… Sometimes architects that try to make a complete abstraction of their work fall into a cliched installation that shows a complete blindness about Art History. However and because they are under the umbrella of being architects, they are allowed to repeat an experiment in project that has been already resolved/shown by artists many years ago. Another option is to establish complicated and very well designed diagrams explaining research-base projects. Sometimes it is more like an exercise in graphic design than an authentic architectural project or even a serious and accurate research.
It is the same, for instance, with underground cinema… today many filmmakers are showing their work in art spaces since there is not “enough room” for them in most of the film festivals. So yes, the art space is the space for the contamination and freedom…. Freedom and of course, a lot of “bullshit”.
Also, and just as a little comment, to jump into the art space is much easier than having an architectural office. An architect, once he has finished his studies, needs to work for many years until becoming comfortable with the idea of having their own office. Some times it’s not even an economical issue but really a kind of code or rule. However, an artist becomes an artist immediately… even if I´m completely convinced that this kind of rushing usually ends up as a complete disaster…
Curators are funnier than clients, I guess. So, just as the isolated and pristine space of the gallery space, or even the public landscape of the art biennial has become the perfect space for the architect to establish his trade mark space for architecture…, the art world also gives them a kind of legitimacy. However, some architects that basically exhibit or work under the art umbrella are criticized by their colleagues. I guess it’s the same between architect/academics versus architects/builders…
For instance… I prefer to work in terms of people with good ideas and shared opinion and see how they can work in a cross disciplinary way, learning from each other. That doesn’t mean that the artist comes with the ideas, the curator writes the text and conceptualizes through theory the artists practice and architects design the museography! It’s really a collaboration from the beginning, as a shared platform of thinking. It is not very defined yet, but as I said before, people don’t like to define themselves any more…
Visual art is probably the most contaminated, permissive and invaded of all the disciplines, and artists are the most adventurous, trying a bit of everything, sometimes without even thinking about the consequences. In my own work that it is pretty much related with performance and time-base practices, it is very easy to see how dance choreographers are working in the white cube… also how music or dance scores has been fetichazed in a very dangerous way becoming art works…(… quoting musician Charles Curtis, this is a dangerous thing since scores are primarily instructions, and as instructions they have to been interpreted and translated). However the opposite is even harder… I’m not saying that artists are not becoming architects, or work in the black box or trying to write an opera. But when they do, the people from that discipline (including architecture) find these experiments as almost a “profanation”… So yes, artists work with many tools from other disciplines, but they are “not allowed” to really jump into other territories that easily…
All the best,