THE PLACE OF WORK (1989)
[First published as a brochure for Canada's (maybe the world's) first faxable exhibition. "The Place of Work" exhibition and conference were organized by Eyland and Brent Ash and sponsored by The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. The exhibition began a national tour at Plug In Gallery in Winnipeg in June 1989.]
The Place of Work is an exhibition which deliberately takes on too much, as if the opportunity to highlight issues of ecology, domestic abuse and workplace critiques within the Canadian architectural discourse comes along so rarely that (however disparate) all of these voices of opposition must scramble to speak at once.
As curators, we wanted to nip at the heels of the profession, to be provocative, and to direct attention toward important and often neglected issues. This exhibition contains carefully chosen ciphers of the conditions and debate about architecture's complex alternate life as photography, drawing, painting and social theory.
We began by adapting the conventions of the exhibition of architecture to a photocopy/faxable format, a format which we hoped would facilitate a challenge to widely-held ideas about the exhibition of architectural work.
We had in the back of our minds the spirit of DADA and its cousin Futurist art, which together vaulted the techniques of photomontage, collage, word-play, appropriation and strident polemicism into European and American art during and following World War I. Many of the works in the Place of Work exhibition owe something to DADAist forbears and artists influenced by DADA.
Within the wider discourse of Western architecture, exhibitions like the Place of Work will be seen in the context of whatever the current media architecture is, and in 1989 the current media architecture is 'Deconstuctivism'.
Deconstructivism is a contemporary architecture movement which unconsciously subsumes social questions within the stylistic influence of social-minded post-revolutionary Russian architects. It has recently been the subject of a Museum of Modern Art exhibition curated by Philip Johnson and Mark Wigley.
In curating the Place of Work exhibition we were less concerned with offering alternatives to the architecture of Deconstructivism (or any other architecture) than we were in highlighting certain social realities the architectural profession consistently passes over. We also hoped to connect the worlds of art and architecture with the critical perspectives of feminism, ecological activism, politics, and theory in Canada - in one go.
Most architecture exhibitions are slick and clean; they look like trade fair displays, like advertising art (e.g. magazine advertisements) or ironically like photo-text art, critical art itself inspired by advertising art and graphic design. Photo-text art emerged in the sixties and early seventies, incorporating DADA techniques and photomontage into works which often contain stinging social messages.
Some photo-text art uses raw, reproducible photo prints and typeset text to document a project which exists or has existed, however briefly, as an installation of some sort.
The use of the advertising format in the presentation of architecture is not a radical innovation of the sixties and seventies, however, but a 'linguistic' requirement of design presentation which in turn is fundamental to the production of contemporary architecture. Whereas photo-text art of the past thirty years often attempts a critique of the ideology associated with hand-crafted paintings and sculptures in the art world, the photo-text format is inevitable in the architectural process.
Within architecture as a profession, design is the ideological peak of a mountain of related disciplines and procedures, from programming to construction management to specification writing and engineering. Architectural design culminates in the selling of an idea to a client, an idea couched in the visual conventions of graphic design and advertising.
Architectural exhibitions are not specifically directed at clients, of course - they can be of purely historical or pedagogical interest - but most architectural graphics, models and presentations used in these exhibitions are or were intended for the plying of potential patrons.
The materials of presentation of this discourse of architectural advertising were until recently collected and fetishized as fine art only by an exclusive set of patrons via galleries like Max Protect in New York and and patrons like Phyllis Lambert of the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Despite the growing interest in architectural drawings as art, an uneasy consensus runs through the architecture world that 'paper' architecture is a form of tokenism, an art gallery substitution for real buildings, a trade-off which encourages a sense that the message and purpose of most architecture exhibitions is unclear.
Like the architectural presentation to a potential client, most architectural exhibitions present art about art - second generation art: not graphic design itself, and not, obviously, architecture itself. There are also rare architecture exhibitions which present wholly theoretical or polemical material, but the standard mode of presentation of exhibitions of architecture is hide bound in its dependence on the graphic presentation methods of commercial architecture.
The flaws and problems engendered by architecture's condition of presentation and the contradictions inherent in the presentation of architecture undoubtedly extend themselves into the built environment in myriad ways, but until new modes of presentation are adapted to architectural practice, and a critique of the political economy of the representation of architecture is attempted, we can only guess at the extent to which buildings become spectral images of themselves as the 'ad' for the building becomes the built form.
In this exhibition, the notion of 'advertising' is used by the artists and architects to 'sell' an ideological point of view, or a position on architecture that is related to larger social issues. Each artist/architect in the Place of Work exhibition produced work composed of one to sixteen 8.5"x11" black and white components. The format makes reproduction by photocopy machines and transmission by facsimile machines convenient. Many of the works are reproduced in larger scales at installation sites outside gallery settings.
To our knowledge there has never been a similar art and architecture exhibition in Canada. In a sense, the exhibition introduces the Canadian art and architecture worlds to each other and to a wider Canadian public. As curators, we hoped that the exhibition and conference would encourage Canada's fledgling community of critical and theoretical architects, while developing innovative means of disseminating exhibitions of architecture.
The artists/architects in this exhibition are: Academy K/F (the curators), Brian Boigon, Carole Conde´/Karl Beveridge, Steven Fong, Don Gill, Will Gorlitz, HOUSEWORK (Paula Bowley, Kathryn Firth, Anne Sinclair), Marie-Paule Macdonald, Brian Mackay-Lyons, Rita McKeough, Nolan Natale, Henry Orenstein, SITU (Mark Ostry, David Hepworth et al), Gerard Päs, Jacques Rousseau, Frederic Urban, and Lebbeus Woods.
These seventeen artists and art groups comprise twenty-four people. The work ranges from portions of actual architectural projects or proposals, such as those submitted by Steven Fong, Nolan Natale, Jacques Rousseau, Brian Mackay-Lyons and Marie-Paule Macdonald; to the fantasy architecture of Lebbeus Woods; to the subject of domestic abuse in the work of artist Rita McKeough; to the story of worker/management relations as told by factory workers themselves in Carole Conde´ and Karl Beveridge's piece; to the Romanticism of Will Gorlitz' assemblage of book covers and graphics.
The architectural proposals included in this exhibition fit a scale ranging from the buildable to fantastic to the purely polemical. In other words, some of the architectural projects are literal proposals for buildings, while some are graphic-driven polemics which do not include specific designs.
Jacques Rousseau's piece includes a convoluted essay on the city and architecture, along with images of one of his (recently completed) buildings. A current Prix De Rome winner, Rousseau gained notoriety for his Bar Braque and Bar Business projects in Montreal.
"The values of society are transmitted through architecture..." says Rousseau. His illustrated architectural essay/manifesto falls within the tradition of Le Corbusier's Vers un Architecture, a kind of manifesto writing which is still common in architectural discourse, but rare in contemporary art writing outside architecture.
The architects Brian Mackay-Lyons, Nolan Natale and Steven Fong include excerpts from recent architectural projects which act as samples of a wider body work.
Mackay-Lyons chose to display pieces of architectural drawings, six working details from built projects chosen because"...they work as totems for the concept of the projects in which they are found." Mackay-Lyons ' work is grounded in Nova Scotia vernacular, Charles Moore, and 'folk-tech', a regionalist movement as far-flung as Glen Murcott in Australia. Mackay-Lyons is also motivated by an abiding belief in the tradition of 'the architect as Master Builder'.
Marie-Paule Macdonald includes a proposal for a studio 'micro-tower', a buildable project, of which she says...
At a time when a typical skyscraper is associated with an 'ideal' floor plate of 20,000 square feet, based on corporate leasing statistics, the smaller towers and vernacular industrial buildings of the early part of the century, with their smaller surface areas and higher floor to floor dimensions offer the kind of proportions that accommodate the smaller autonomous and dynamic enterprises nurtured by the computer age. The wide clear loft space so highly prized for living and working environments , and the heavy-duty concrete frame construction suitable for a place of various kinds of production are combined in this micro-tower proposal. In a post-industrial society, the possibility of living in a miniature centre of production - whether it be artisanal, intellectual , or light industrial, might point towards very simple architectural volumes that serve a range of requirements both qualitative and quantitative....
Both Macdonald and the group SITU (see below) address the urban studio/loft, live/work space as as an alternative housing form to the suburbs - these are urban living arrangements which reject North America's 'Broadacre City' values. Strangely enough, many of the artist/architects in this exhibition, having been born in the fifties, probably grew up in the suburbs. But they have various reasons for proposing urban-core live/work solutions as contemporary housing alternatives.
The Vancouver group SITU are architects whose poster project is not architectural design, but architectural propaganda.
SITU contributed a multi-panelled piece meant to be used as a poster outside POW venues. Its subject is the zoning/housing crisis brought to a head a few years ago in Vancouver. Newsclips tell the story of a battle by artists to rezone warehouse space for habitation, space already occupied by artists and craftspeople. SITU 's architectural design work is largely studio/work spaces for artists, so the firm aligns itself philosophically and architecturally with the sentiments of the newspaper articles it includes in the poster.
HOUSEWORK, a group composed of the architects Paula Bowley, Kathryn Firth, and Anne Sinclair, address the traditional house form, not it terms of specific proposed architectural designs, but in general social terms:
No building type is currently undergoing more strain than the traditional house form. At last, housework is becoming recognized by society as real labour, deserving distinct amenities which have not been accommodated by past forms of housing. The concept of home as haven from the "real" place of work, which has perpetuated a notion of society based on career/life separation, is being challenged. It is becoming increasingly popular to use the home as a place to work at jobs other than traditional housework.... By examining how we would like to occupy these buildings, as opposed to allowing their architectural limitations to dictate how we function, we will eventually see not only new "places of work" evolve, but hopefully the architectural recognition of alternative patterns of living.
HOUSEWORK 's statement is shown along with a white on black collage/drawing of houseplans superimposed on a city grid. Images of coiled telephone wires link parts of the drawing together. Rather than proposing specific house designs, HOUSEWORK's drawing acts as an illustration of the text, something one might look at while meditating on the statement. The notion of advertising one's services as an architect (certain forms of which are discouraged by the profession) is twisted in SITU and HOUSEWORK's pieces toward statements of solidarity which address the social underpinnings of architectural problems they deal with on many levels, including, of course, design.
(One can't help thinking of the work of Krzystof Wodiczco. in the presence of the architectural agit-prop pieces in this exhibition by SITU, HOUSEWORK, Conde/Beveridge, and Rita McKeough.
Wodiczco is best-known for his slide projections on buildings and memorials in city centres throughout Europe and North America: for example, he has projected slide images of locks and chains on the facade of empty luxury condo developments
His most recent work, The Homeless Vehicle Project. is a mobile work/live vehicle for homeless people meant to act as a public intervention more than a practical alternative to homelessness. Like his public projections, the Homeless Vehicle contributes to Wodiczco's attempt at a redefinition of public space. The project was discussed recently by Eleanor Heartney (C Magazine, Fall 1989. p.45): "...the vehicle...[points] out the fallacy of the notion that public spaces have some sort of preexisting function beyond that which people make of them."
Like the work of several Place of Work artists, Wodiczco's practice suggests public strategies for challenging the fundamentals of urban architecture.)
Lebbeus Woods, whose fantasy architecture is widely published, has contributed a (likely hard to build) visionary architectural scheme for the Berlin Underground couched in a semi-fictional setting. Once again in this exhibition, a work presents a scheme we read allegorically:
Underground Berlin is a city beneath a city. It is organized as a secret community of resistance to the occupying political powers above and follows existing U-Bahn subway lines. Below these is the civic space of the underground city. The structures that penetrate this space are inverted towers--places of living and work--related to the upper datum of the surface city...
Artist Rita McKeough's piece highlights the inadequacies of traditional domestic milieu and the house-bound worker. The work grew out of an installation Rita McKeough made recently at Halifax's Eye Level Gallery . She constructed a series of rooms to simulate a house interior in the gallery and covered the stud walls with translucent paper. The paper had bruises painted on it. A powerful text runs over the photographs of the installation. The texts address domestic abuse:
IN THIS HOME/THIS OPEN WOUND/ HER PLACE OF WORK,
THE BODY OF THESE WALLS/THIS SKIN OF HER HOME
BEARS THESE MARKS/THE BRUISES,THE CUTS, THE SCARS
FOR AS THEY ARE SEEN, HER VOICE IS HEARD.
OUR SILENCE DOES NOT ERASE WHAT WE DO TO EACH OTHER.
Directly on the photographs, McKeough writes a likely script of the domestic scene:
"You pinned me against the wall, put your hand over my mouth. You threw me to the floor, spit on my face, you bit my tongue!...
Will Gorlitz and Gerard Päs are artists of considerable reputation in Canada. Gorlitz is known for his large paintings, Päs for his play on aspects of architecture having to do with disability.
Gorlitz is the only artist in the exhibition to contest our request for faxable work. He explains his mistrust of the means of reproduction in terms of the importance of the materiality of the work. At either end of a tower of open book covers, Gorlitz has positioned a drawing of a hand and a seedling. One's impression is of an implied critique of technical sheen and ambition of the contemporary city highrise.
Päs' work as an artist has always carried on a skirmish with the world of architecture. He is best known among architects for his Rietveld wheelchair, a variation on Rietveld's famous red/blue chair of 1918. Päs also makes an industrial designed 'crutches' which fold up into unusable masses. No doubt architects read his work in terms of disabled access to buildings (and are reminded perhaps that disabled access provisions are being written into Canada's upcoming 1990 building code). Päs' work has much wider resonances, however, in its interrogation of how modernism can go somehow terribly awry.
Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge are Toronto artists who work with unions in a sort of politically engaged tableau theatre. The result is a tableau vivant of images which have gained wide circulation within the art world and union circles. As artists, Condé and Beveridge have taken tableau photography to its photo-text maturity. They hire actors to play parts in their scenes. The 'dialogue' for these scenes is composed of actual statements and observations by workers. Condé/Beveridge's Place of Work piece is a storyboard essay of the effects of Free Trade and Japanese-style corporate management techniques on factory workers.
Frederic Urban appropriates images from one of the Holy Books of architecture, the Nuefert book of graphic standards for architects. The Office, the Hotel, the Laboratory, and The Factory become in Urban's piece Duchampian readymade architectural images. The profession uses books like Nuefert and Architectural Graphic Standards as guides to everything from interior proportions of furniture to schemes for stadia: Urban pushes this material to the foreground in a parody of the unreflective way in which these standards are applied.
Brian Boigon is another artist, as well as a teacher at the University of Toronto's School of Architecture. His image of a man with dice in his eyes is derived from the work of a 1989 exhibition at S.L.Simpson Gallery. His work is a crazy-quilt world of dazzling media images. In this exhibition in the form of large blueprints as well as page-size faxable units.
Don Gill is a photographer who takes up another strain of practice in current art world. Like Boigon, and Fong, he exhibits one image. His Into Every Life a Little Rain Must Fall makes a point about acid rain. A woman is shown holding a bottle of anachemia. In the background a pulp mill spews smoke into the atmosphere.
Henry Orenstein is a print maker, painter and film animator whose work was first published (coincidentally) in an RAIC magazine in the late '40's. His Fur Worker Triptych includes a self-portrait as fur worker and a lithograph-based picture of a fellow fur worker. Both images were made in the late forties and document Orienstein's life as a worker/artist.
1. ACADEMY K/F is an interdisciplinary art/architecture collective begun by Brent Ash (b. 1953) and Cliff Eyland (b. 1954) in 1987. They live in Halifax and Vancouver.
The Body Still Knows Best, 1989 (detail)
Two sets of three 8.5"x11" (27.9x21.5 cm) panels; Photo-mechanical transfer dry-mounted onto Gaterboard
Collection: the artists
(One set Installed at Plug-In Gallery and one set installed at Lemar Tool & Die Co. Ltd., 201 Main St., Winnipeg)
2. Brian Boigon teaches architecture at the University of Toronto. He is an editor of Impulse magazine. Boigon is represented by S.L. Simpson Gallery in Toronto.
Title: THX 124 ( )
Two copies of one 8.5"x11" (27.9x21.5 cm) panel; Photo-mechanical transfer dry-mounted onto Gaterboard; also blueprints reproduced at
- courtesy S.L Simpson Gallery, Toronto
Work installed at Plug-In Gallery . Blueprints distributed at Plug-in and at Westin Hotel, Two Lombard Place.
3. Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge . work in Toronto and are members of the Independent Artists Union. They have exhibited in Union Halls and public galleries across Canada and internationally.
Title: Class Work
Work installed at Plug-In Gallery and at Union Centre, 570 Portage Avenue.
4. Steven Fong is an architect and chair of the program in architecture at the University of Toronto.
Title: Urban Place
Work installed at Plug-In Gallery and at Hilderman, Witty, Crosby & Hanna Assoc. Landscape Architects & Planners, #500, 115 Bannatyne.
5. Don Gill is a Vancouver-based artists and photographer. He is currently involved in the production of public art projects.
Title: Into Every Life a Little Rain Must Fall
Two sets of one 8.5"x11" (27.9x21.5 cm) photo-mechanical transfer dry-mounted onto Gaterboard panel; two sets of one PMT at
Work installed at Plug-In Gallery and at Manitoba Environmental Network, #202 - 128 James Ave.
6. Will Gorlitz is a painter who lives in Wellington, Ontario. He is represented by the Sable-Castelli Gallery in Toronto.
Title: Lost Ground
Two sets of two 8.5"x11" (27.9x21.5 cm) photo-mechanical transfer dry-mounted onto Gaterboard panels and three book covers; (book covers three sizes taken from second hand books).
One set installed at Plug-In Gallery and one set installed at Prairie Sky Books, 871 Westminster.
7. HOUSEWORK is a group undertaking feminist research, development and action in architecture. HOUSEWORK includes the architects Paula Bowley , Kathryn Firth and Anne Sinclair.
Work installed at Plug-In Gallery and at City Hall, Council Bldg., Lower Level.
8. The Montreal architect and writer Marie-Paule Macdonald works for the firm Peter Rose Architect. Her writings have been published in Parachute magazine, and she has done collaborative projects with Dan Graham, among others.
Title: Micro-tower / Microtour-Séries
Work installed at Plug-In Gallery and at Fort Garry Place, 85 Garry.
9. Brian Mackay-Lyons of Brian Mackay-Lyons Architecture & Urban Planning lives in Halifax. He is a Governor General's Medal Winner (1986) for a house on Nova Scotia's South Shore.
Title: WORKING DETAILS
Work installed at Plug-In Gallery and at Winnipeg Blueprint, 210 - 123 Bannatyne.
10. Rita McKeough is an artist who lives in Toronto and Halifax. She currently teaches at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.
Title: Here in this silent kitchen simmering!
Work installed at Plug-In Gallery and at posters in various locations.
11. Nolan Natale is an architect who lives in Toronto. He formed Natale Scott Browne Architects with Tim Scott and Chris Brown in 1986. Natale participated in 'The Interpretation of Architecture' Exhibition in 1986.
Title: Place of Work #1: Jefferson Avenue Study: Jefferson/Elements
Work installed at Plug-In Gallery and at Confederation Life Building, 515 Main St.
12. Henry Orenstein is a visual artist who lives in Halifax. His first published work of graphic art appeared in the Journal of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada in 1948.
Title: Fur Shop Triptych
Work installed at Plug-In Gallery and at Western Glove Works, 555 Logan.
13. Gerald Päs is an artist who lives in London Ontario. His 'Red - Blue Wheelchair, 1987'(a version of a Reitveld chair with wheels) has been reproduced recently in several architecture and art magazines.
Title: Nature is Man - Man is Style, Style is Abstract - Abstract is Atrophy
Work installed at Plug-In Gallery and at the Rehabilitation Centre for Children, 633 Wellington Cres.
14. Jacques Rousseau is a (1989) recipient of the Canada Council's Rome Prize. He practices architecture in Montreal.
Title: THE PLACE OF WORK AND THE PLACE OF THE WORK OF ARCHITECTURE IN CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY
Work installed at Plug-In Gallery and at Burron Lumber, 911 Lagimodiere Blvd.
15. SITU/Nan Legate & Eric Fiss.SITU is Mark Ostry and David Hepworth. They are architects who live in Vancouver. They collaborated on their contribution to this exhibition with architects Nan Legate and Eric Fiss.
Work installed at Plug-In Gallery and at the New Union Centre construction site hoarding at Smith at Broadway.
16. Frederic Urban is an artist living in Toronto. For the past seven years he has taught first year design at the Waterloo School of Architecture.
Title: The Place of Work.
Work installed at Plug-In Gallery and at Main/Access Gallery, Art Space, 100 Arthur St.
17. Lebbeus Woods is an architect and teacher who lives in New York.
Title: Berlin Underground - Inverted Geomechanical tower: Interior
Work installed at Plug-In Gallery and at Blizzard Publishers, 3rd floor, 89 Princess St.