Two Practices, Four Words, Multiple Questions
This architecture avoids the distractions of the contemporary media. It stays critical of the saturation of images, publications and events that deceivingly claim to announce the zeitgeist of today. This architecture channels all of its efforts at decoding the essence of the contemporary condition, and although unmistakably pays attention to the past, it roots its foundations are in the present with its gaze fixed on the unreachable horizon of the future.
Vehemently autonomous, this architecture can only exist as the product of a certain stubbornness, tireless repetition and an inexhaustible faith in methods and strategies that are yet to be defined and paths that are in the process of being discovered and perfected.
Analytical and reflexive, this architecture stands against the erosive overgeneralizations of a discipline distracted from its inherent duties and intellectual responsibility. At a glance the potential of this architecture turns microscopic. Its focus allows studying architecture from impossibly close. A scrutinizing inspection turns every detail into an encyclopedia, every line drawn into a map, every collage into an archaeological discovery, every artifact into a monument. With its sharp focus on every architectural project, lines, elements, components and ideas become transcendental pieces of a discourse still in formation, of a theory still under development.
This architecture is obsessed with architecture. It is obsessed with the intricacies and contradictions of the discipline; with the power of the built environment and the legacy of transcendental ideas.
WAI Think Tank and Ganko are different practices that share this obsession with architecture. European -founded and Beijing-based, both of these young collectives share an infatuation with architecture that undoubtedly determines their way to practice, think and operate. But, while this shared obsession might suggest the beginning of an endless list of mirroring similarities, it’s the differences, the contrasts and contradictions between WAI and Ganko that motivates this exhibition.
As the title of the exhibition suggests, the idea of an all-encompassing oversimplifying theme able to sweep any obvious difference under the deceiving carpet of homogeneity has been discarded in order to give way to a display of two practices with a broad range of contrasting fields of action, objects of attention, and representational methods. Walls, Islands, Frames, Mirrors works like a cadavre exquis, as four concepts are brought in independently from each other, in order to summon a form of curatorial experiment based on the fragmentation, variation, tension and contradictions of the ideas and concepts exhibited. Following that current of thought, four concepts open up the possibility of being read either as straightforward descriptions of elements, objects and artifacts or as allegorical nuances of the concepts that surround them. Walls, Islands, Frames, Mirrors propose a new dialogue between projects and practices, while suggesting the possibility of fresh interpretations from the observers who suddenly become part of a developing conversation between works that might not speak in the same language.
The tension between projects and subjects, exhibition and public, adds up to the friction already established among the four concepts of an exhibition title that could echo the ideas, theories, manifestoes, critiques, and narratives that are presented in video format, line drawings, collages, photomontages, scale models, and spatial objects.
However, we are left wondering if those Walls, Islands, Frames and Mirrors are clear transcriptions of pieces and elements to be found in the exhibition, or if they are reflections of the complexity of symbols and meanings to be found in the work of WAI and Ganko? AreWalls, Islands Frames, Mirrors a game of words, or words for play?
A closer inspection of each concept reveals blunt straightforwardness without necessarily closing down the doors of a maze of possible interpretations that seems to point in every direction. If it’s true that Walls can be found in projects by both, WAI and Ganko, there are also metaphoric walls that can be drawn by interpretation; walls that exclude and delimit, but also walls that create possibilities and programs. There is a wall that encircles ‘Atlas’, the Orwellesque city in the final part of WAI’s architectural narrative ‘Blindness’, and also there are walls encircling the palm trees on Ganko’s Two Rooms competition proposal in Bahrain. Are these ‘real’ or allegorical walls? Do they relate to each other, and if so, how do they interact in the realm of concepts? One wall appears sinister, intimidating, the other appears as an oasis of potential and possibilities. Is one wall a critique? And if so, where are its critical darts headed? Is the other wall an answer? If so, what is the problematic it tries to address?
The Walls are not the only concepts that raise intriguing questions. Where are the islands in this exhibition? Are the Islands a reference to a specific project or just a metaphor of two groups (or performative archipelagoes) that seem to float independently of the continental bodies of the architectural discourse? Are the islands really independent bodies? Or are they just objects of conflict? Are these islands oceanic or continental?
No questions have been answered and there are frames and mirrors still to be discussed. Frames, which seem to be at first glance a simple, concrete concept, also open a span of possible readings. Are these frames singling out any view, idea, theory, discourse? Frames delimit the sight, direct the attention to pictures, details, zones. Movie frames freeze motion pictures into still pictures, creating the possibility of completely new readings independent from the film. Frames can also make the banal an object of contemplation, and subject of desire. Frames are powerful tools that belong together with the history of museology and art collecting. Are these frames a reference to an architectural strategy, an exhibition method, an idea, an object? What are these frames showing? What are they leaving out of their encompassing capabilities? What has been excluded out of the dominance of the frame?
Which precisely bring us to the last set of questions: are these frames holding mirrors? Are the mirrors an allegory to a series of projects that seem to be everything but reflections of each other? Does the mirror provide distorted reflections or does it accurately legitimize what is seen in it? Is the mirror a project, an idea, or, is the mirror just laid out for the observer to find himself in each of the projects?
Walls, Islands, Frames, Mirrors leaves multiple questions deliberately unanswered. These four words are also an invitation to the public to figure out what they imply, while acknowledging that they are not catchy phrases to satisfy the voracious mass or to content the contemporary media.