|Architecture and Disaster
Sabine Bitter and Helmut Weber, Tacita Dean, Adriana Kuiper and Geoffrey Pyke
September 8 October 14, 2006
Opening: September 7, 2006 8PM
Curated by Candice Hopkins
The works in this exhibition touch in turn on invention and failure, the fetishization of fear and disaster through the built environment, and tragedy and catharsis. In a work entitled The Russian Ending Tacita Dean creates fictional endings to historical photographs. Written over the images are their potential finalespossible tragedies, failures and disasters. Her endings make reference to the early days of film screening in Russia: it is said that Russian audiences only enjoyed tragedy forcing studios to craft new, sad conclusions for each of their films. As the photographs in The Russian Ending suggest, much of Deans work is centered on the relic, which through the shift in time and the loss of an original signifying context, becomes a metaphor for dislocation.
Adriana Kuiper takes DIY plans from contemporary underground storm shelters as a starting point for her work. The shelters, reminiscent of those built in the 1950s and 1960s to shield from potential nuclear disaster, are also marketed as a safe haven from terrorism. Constructed to protect from the unknown, the shelters that Kuiper references become underground monuments for a hollow promise of safety. In a poetic response to the idea of bunkers as devices for protection and hiding, Kuiper reconfigures the shelter plans into kitesobjects evocative of lightness, freedom, and play. Bunkers, in a sense, are emblematic of fantasy and desire (they are built in reaction to imagined rather than actual disasters) and more often than not remain unused becoming time capsules of a time characterized by fear and trepidation.
A decade earlier, in 1942 near the end of the Second World War, a British inventor Geoffrey Pyke, presented the British militarys Chief of Combined Operations with an invention. In a gesture similar to bomb and fall-out shelters that Kuiper references, Pyke proposed another kind of architecture built in reaction to potential war and disaster: a floating island made of ice. Pyke intended to use the island as an airfield that could be built larger than conventional aircraft carriers at that time, enabling it to hold fighting planes like spitfires and possibly even larger bombers. What made Pykes ice island so unconventional was its strengthhe found that by mixing sawdust with water and freezing it you coul create a material (pykrete) that was remarkably strong, thawed at a very low rate, and could be easily repaired. The project was abandoned after the first prototype was built in Patricia Lake, near Jasper, Alberta. The H.M.S Habbakuk, as it was named, took nearly a year to thaw.
Accompanying the exhibition is a print edition on the theme of architecture and disaster by Sabine Bitter and Helmut Weber. This edition, which includes a text by Clint Burnham, is commissioned by the Western Front Exhibitions Program as part of its ongoing series of artist projects in print.
1. Clarrie Wallis, introduction to Tacita Dean: Recent Films and Other Works (London: Tate Gallery Publishing, 2001), 9.