The South still identifies itself as separate from other regions. New York art is simply “art,” but when Simone Leigh has a show in Atlanta she’s “Gone South.” As Southerners, we support the stereotype of regionalism—this is detrimental. There’s a superfluous solidarity in our collective mediocrity and lack of accountability. Perhaps our region is more concerned with preserving the community than advancing the arts. Everyone is too busy socializing to think critically.
The rise of modernity is the development and exacerbation of an historical consciousness; some form of historicism thus essentially inheres to it. To be modern, moreover, is not so much a matter of committing oneself to the new conditions from a realist point of view, as it is to engage in an act of separation: “to move away from something, to cut oneself off,” as Octavio Paz wrote in Children of the Mire. One of the principal modes of criticizing the present is to invoke the past.
In America kitsch is Nature. The Rocky Mountains have resembled fake art for over a century.
LAI Engineering, Expansion to DeKalb Farmers Market, Decatur, GA, 2014 (via clatl)
The scale of this addition is immense. This sprawling architectural “solution” is not one at all, it will only compound congestion and enhance disorientation, unless that is the goal. One of Metro Atlanta’s most complex systems continues to push the architectural into the infrastructural.
Mockery, of course, is nothing new. It’s just been on a steady incline throughout the 20th century. … Skeptics would say the pillorying parallels the ludicrous forms that star architects feel they must create to outdo each other, and accordingly the way contemporary architecture has lost its way. Much more urgent needs – affordable, efficient housing, the revitalization of places like Detroit, planning the urban expansion of cities in the developing world – should be occupying the design profession, the argument goes. Part of the super-charged, everybody’s-a-critic dynamic is clearly due to, what else, the Internet and social media, which has expanded architectural criticism to new audiences and put it into hyperdrive. Scrutiny that was once confined to the neighborhood zoning hearing is now blasted out via a design blog, shared on Facebook, and chewed over in hundreds upon thousands of comments.
First comes the human being and then the system, or that’s how it was in antiquity. Today, however, society presumes to make prepackaged human beings, ready for consumption. Anyone can propose reform, criticize, violate, and demystify, but always with the obligation to remain within the system. It is forbidden to be free. Once you create an object, you always have to remain by its side. That’s what the system commands. This expectation is never to be frustrated, and once an individual has assumed a role, he has to continue to perform it until death. Each of his gestures has to be absolutely consistent with his behavior in the past and has to foreshadow his future. To exist from outside the system amounts to revolution.
Nick Kahler vs. GoogleMaps, Trash Ziggurat, Smyrna, GA, 2013
Adjacent to the Smyrna location for the Waste Management corporation, there is a landfill created as a terraced mountain capped with a retired dumptruck as instant billboard / duck made decorated shed, fixed in place. This constructed environment, created through capitalist material and methods as a mountain of waste, approximates the 21st Century version of the Mesopotamian Ziggurat temple. These temples were some of the original megastructures, designed to be the phenomenological junction between heaven and earth as well as the residence of the gods. Viewed through this lens, garbage is now our transcendental medium, and our god and holy of the holies is that collector of refuse, the dumptruck. We are all invited to gather along I-285 to worship at the feet of capitalist modes of production and consumption.
For my next project, Beam Drop: Brazil, I’m recreating a piece I originally constructed in 1985. The piece is meant to be both a large abstract expressionist painting and a steel sculpture… constructed by filling in a 10-foot deep pit with loose dirt and wet concrete and dropping 100 vertically-raised steel I-beams into the pit. The process and end result are filmed. Beam Drop is a significant work because the I-beam is the building block of corporate architecture. The capricious way in which the piece is enacted – the serious, rigid, precise process and using the material, steel, in a light-hearted way – is anti-architecture and anti-corporate architecture. Not many artists have used steel. Everyone is very careful because the material has so much potential for danger.
Jacque Fresco, The Venus Project, 1994-2013
Apparently Fresco didn’t get the memo that Modernist urban planning doesn’t work in the real world. This scheme is the Ville Radieuse updated to late 20th Century aesthetics, a smorgasbord of utopian schemes that if built would generate Dubai-esque products. This criticism is only the tip of the iceberg of why someone would continue misguided Corbusian schemes from the Modernist era.
Rufus W. Holsinger, Fire Engulfs the Rotunda at UVA, Charlottesville, VA, 1895
The Rotunda at UVA is famous also for what it is not: a church. A church typically framed the spatial organization of most universities before UVA, and in Thomas Jefferson’s substitution of that institution of faith for one of knowledge and reason is just as significant, if not more so, than its formal origin.
Cesar Santos, Aftermath, c. 2010
Cesar Santos is a contemporary artist focused on the idea of syncretism, “the amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought.” Like others before him, Santos engages in the postmodern referencing of great historical works through unexpected juxtaposition and layering. Using one or fragments of one artistic masterpiece as a background and another as foreground, he combines new forms with old in a hybridized fashion. Like a James Joyce novel, these references operate at a series of intellectual registers, from the obvious to the vague, which provides endless interest for those steeped in the lore of art history.