Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Swimming Pool

I was fascinated by Leanodro Erlich's Swimming Pool at PS1. Conceived almost 10 years ago, it still looks amazing to me. The main reason, I guess, is that I found it very architectural.

The ordinary and the extraordinary
It is a swimming pool. But it is more than a swimming pool. The "hidden" space underneath has turned a mundane household object into magic. The surreal unexpectedness shakes our understandings of reality. What we take for granted in our everyday life is challenged, defamiliarized, and given another layer of meanings. Oh, I almost forgot, the "reality" we see is mostly constructed anyways.

The object and the non-object
What are we seeing here? The beautifully crafted wood deck? The shiny stainless steel ladder? Or the elegant rounded corners?
None. The art is not the object itself - it is just a stage. It is a stage for a play of participation and interaction. The artist becomes the director. Surprise as an experience, is the result of physical and emotional involvements of the viewer.

The viewer and the viewed
When you think you are watching people on the other side of the thin layer of water, they are watching you as well. This is not a classic case of voyeurism. As a spatial result, what is in and what is out becomes a dialectical question.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Art patronage now

Jenny Holzer turned the Guggenheim into a giant screen for her projection work. It looks pretty cool. I also found it very funny to read about the real intention behind this commission - the museum wants to show how smooth the newly restored concrete facade is!
OK, maybe this is not funny...

Psychedelia returns

Remember those images from the 60s and the 70s? Exploding Plastic Inevitable? Phantasy Landscape? Pipilotti Rist's Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters) at MoMA kind of reminds of those. Yet, the viewers behave differently now - they are just lying down or sitting on the comfortable donut in the middle, no LSD, no sex...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

REX's Calvin Klein Dollhouse

A "miniature residence" to display Calvin Klein's spring collection (clothes and furniture).
It will be there at the Calvin Klein Madison Ave store (at 60th St) through Jan 5, 2008.

New International Style

Sanlitun Village, Beijing

Walking in some parts of Beijing, I really don't know where I am. The buildings look so generic that it could be any place in the world. Oddly, this sense of genericity does not come from homogeneity or standardization. Rather, it is the wide range or variations within the same category that makes it look like the same thing repeated over and over again. There is a new type of International Style going on right now. But it's not the same as the International Style we know from the 1920s and 30s.

What is this new style then? I would give you this formular:
no matter how they are justified.
"Skyline of Icons," caricature by OMA

A funny shape can be the result of programmatic thinking, contextual considerations, and/or purely formal intuitions. The most convenient excuse may be the site - oh yea, the building envelope just looks like that. Another popular reason is programmatic connections. It may result in a bridge, a loop (including Mobius strip) , or an entirely warped form. Not many people are satisfied with just boxes nowadays, especially when they don't have fancy skins. When you are making boxes, they must be stacked in a funny way (different types of spaces) or carved out with a funny void (to engage urban activities).

A fancy skin implies ornament and decoration. It's ultimately a pattern no matter how you want to theorize it. It can be 2D or 3D, structural or cladding, hard or soft, transparent or translucent or opaque, black or white or color... It's like fashion design - an endless game of fetishization.

The power of rumor

You were told that Marie Antoinette suggested the starving Parisians to eat cake if they have no bread. That was just a rumor. In fact, it could be Marie Therese, or any of the numerous 18th-century ladies who would have said that. The story could even be entirely made up for propaganda purposes against the royal court.

People like to gossip about things. During this process, guesses become certain, and fabrications become true. The Chinese are pretty sure that the Bird's Nest was conceived to appear like a bird's nest. Some people start from there and criticize: "Why do we have to use 45,000 tons of steel and build a stadium that looks like a bird's nest?"

Even so, people in general are still very proud of the Bird's Nest - it has created such a spectacular stage for the Olympics. Also in Beijing, the new CCTV tower is not so lucky. "That building looks so strange... Don't know what it looks like..." OK, a building must look like something. "Boxer shorts" becomes the nickname of CCTV. Nobody cares about the "coherent loop of TV-making" sh*t - it just looks like a giant pair of boxer shorts. Some people even say that this weird form comes from the original intention of this foreign architect to make fun of the twisted Chinese media...

Architecture becomes merely images for the general public, and it has to be figural. If you are lucky, your design looks like a dragon, a jewel box, or a cloud. If not, it could become a tomb (National Opera), some cofins (Guangzhou Baiyun convention center), or genitals. But hey, look at the bright side! At least right now, architecture is a gossip-worthy subject for them!