Series 1

Series 1: Practice on the border of architecture, performance and installation.

September 2012

Pascal Schoning

Pascal Schöning is an architect, film maker and installation artist. Teaching a Film Unit at the Architectural Association between 1991 and 2008, Schöning consistently used film to question the notion of architecture’s permanence (1). Often using polemic and emotive “sites” for architectural projects, Sarajevo in 1997 and Hiorshima on the fiftieth anniversary of its bombing for example, he argued that in such places “buildings are not enough”(2).  At times these projects involved the use of film as a documentary tool in the process of site analysis or understanding the “sense of a particular place” (3),  at others however, film became a design tool and even, in some instances, the “building project” itself.

One such example of this last phenomenon was the use of filmic projection on building facades in an attempt to “alter architectural reality through the application of light”(4). Used at the Europa Exhibition in Linz, Austria, in 1994, it was also used on a larger scale on the AA building itself in Bedford Square later that same year. This use of film as an “architectural material” was also central to Schöning’s installation works, which have also used as a platform for the exhibition of student projects. “Cinematic House”, 2006, was a perfect example. Here, a film and light installation was created in the small AA gallery which turned the space into what was called “a site of mood enhancing projections” which “dematerialised” the “solid” location (5).

Published with the exhibition and display of student work, was Schöning’s book, Manifesto for a Cinematic Architecture, in which he proposes an approach to architecture that questions its “object status”. He also proposes the idea of “spatiality”; an ultimately indefinable concept involving “a process of continually adding and subtracting perceptions from the sensorial experience”(6). Cinematic architecture is, for Schöning, representative of the conflicts between the stable and the temporal which underline experience but which cannot be captured in architecture as built, solid form. Both the installation and the student projects it displayed then, represented a particular theoretical view of architecture that he and his students sought to primarily implement through the medium of film. Their work thus became a physical and mediated synthesis; a cinematic architecture that was inherently hybrid in nature but which operated in the physical realm.

1 Helsing Almass, Ingerid. “Is it reality there?”. In” P. Schöning, J. Löffler and R. Azevedo (eds). Cinematic Architecture. AA Publications, London, p.20
2 Helsing Almass, Ingerid. “Is it reality there?” Ibid. p.20
3 Taek Park, Jean. “Space of Intensities: Intensification of experience in Waves”. In: P. Schöning, J. Löffler and R. Azevedo (eds). Cinematic Architecture. Ibid. p.144
4 Helsing Almass, Ingerid. “Is it reality there?” Ibid. p.22
5 Bailieu, Amanda (ed). “What is Cinematic Architecture”, RIBA Journal, Jan. 2006, p.7
6Schöning, Pascal. Manifesto for a Cinematic Architecture. AA Publications, London, 2006, p.19

August 2012

Hybrid Artworks

Hybrid Artworks worked throughout the 1990s and has recently reformed with new members; a combination of architects, designers, artists and actors. It deliberately plays with the notion on intangible places through the filming of spaces and the re-projection of the filmic images back into the space in question. It is a technique that attempts to layer our reading of places and blur our understanding of the physical and the mediated on the one hand; and our understanding of the present and the past on the other. The group is inspired by post structural literary theory and its insistence on multiple and simultaneous readings of texts as well as the writings of Paul Virilio and contemporary society’s obsession with the moving and mediated image.

The early works of Hybrid Artworks were experimental – formalist – architectural films; video pieces in which the camera attempts to film the familiar in ways that alter our perception of it (1). Focusing on existing built spaces these early films used the language of film to distort our reading of it; the close up, the dissolve, faded and blurred imagery of the built environment created short films that become a challenge to read. Mediation makes the built world into something deliberately strange.

Although they began with films however, Hyrbrid Artworks is primarily an installation-performance group for whom the architectural spaces used as sets are partly physical – partly ephemeral filmic ensembles in which live action and filmed events interact. They have used standard theatre settings and completely non-standard performance venues in city centres. Their largest project however used an intermediate space; an art gallery. The project entitled Incidental Legacy was split into three events; each performed as part of a different arts, literate and music festivals over a period of one year (2).  Entitled Shadows, Memories and Echoes these three consecutive pieces represented a variation on the use of filmic imagery and recorded soundscapes to alter the physical perception of the performance space and, by extension, the audience interpretation of the work’s narrative content (3).

In the first piece the audience was seated as per standard conventions of theatre. In the second, the audience was free to move around the piece and in the final work, the audience was absent from the event as a body; the work took on the form of an installation and the audience entered and left over a period of two weeks. The piece was intended to move from the world of theatre, into performance art and finally to installation. In the process there was gradually more use of pre-recorded and re-projected filmic and sound material and fewer physical elements and props. The piece and the space became gradually more mediated as t progressed. In its final manifestation, the piece had no actors, was made up of only TV monitors and video projectors and the audience as a holistic body dissipated into a slow stream of visitors, They entered a gallery fully of projected images of the gallery itself; a fully filmic reconstruction of the space; an intangible place.

1 Cairns, Graham. El arquitecto detrás de la cámara. Abada Editores, Madrid. 2007. p.105
2 Hybrid Artworks: Experimentations in space – a documentary film. Hybrid Artworks, UK. 1999
3 Furnival, Marc. “Hybrid Artworks – Hybrid Sapces”. Review. In: Art-hitecture. Liverpool, December, 1988. p.38

July 2012

Diller and Scofidio:

The New York based architects Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scoffidio use architecture, installation and performance as the media through which they question the character of the contemporary image, screen and lens based society in which we live. The duo set up in 1979 and in recent years have begun to collaborate with Charles Renfro; a collaboration that coincided with their success as architects and thus their gradual move away from pure performance and installation.

Their performance pieces have been presented in Europe and the United States, their installations too have had international repercussions whilst their buildings and architectural projects have grown in significance and can be found in several countries and states. Amongst their projects are Cloud building constructed for the Yverdon Expo in Switzerland, 2002, The Institute of Contemporary Arts in Boston and the redevelopment of the Lincoln Centre in New York City.

Central to their work and its theoretical underpinnings is their questioning of visioning technologies, and in particular, how the moving image has weaved its way into the cultural fabric of the twentieth century. In short, they explore the impact of the media on contemporary culture (1). In some pieces they introduce CCTV into the fabric of buildings, in others they deliberately film the public in order to turn them into the objects of display whilst sometimes they investigate how visioning technologies alter our relationship to each other and indeed to ourselves. In some pieces they have used imagery to invert our sense of place and almost literally turn buildings inside out. Although the practical building requirements of their latest projects have inevitably limited their overt theoretical investigations they continue to be committed to probing questions like the blurring of the real and the virtual, the standardisation of sight and our dependency of technologies of vision.

In examining these issues over the past thirty years Diller and Scofidio have been involved in collaborations with actors, dancers and performance artists of various kinds and have produced a wide variety of performance pieces. These include Who’s Your Dada produced to coincide with the Dada exhibition at MOMA New York in 2006, Moving Target, a dance piece choreographed by Charleri Danses and performed internationally in 1996 and Rotary Notary and His Hot Plate based on the work of Marcel Duchamp in 1987 (2). One of their most lauded pieces was Jet Lag; a piece involving digital artists, actors and sound engineers. Other notable works include their 1998 exhibition at MOMA, New York, entitled entitled Para – Site and their 1992 work Loophole. Installed at the Artillery Armory building in Chicago, USA, Loophole.
1 Incerti, G. Ricchi, D. Simpson, D. Diller and Scofidio (+ Renfro); the capillary function. Skira. Boston. 2008. p33
2 Diller, E and Scofidio, R. Flesh: Architectural Probes. Princeton Architectural Press. New York. 1994 p7


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