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Venice Biennale

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Click to enlarge. Photographs (c) Sissi Roselli

From June 10 to July 3, 2016, the Ca’ Pesaro Museum of Moder Art in Venice will be holding the exhibition Drawn Theories / Teorie disegnate. The exhibition, curated by Sara Marini and Giovanni Corbellini, and organized within the international research project Recycle Italy collects an international landscape of authors who express their positions about recycling in architecture through drawing’. Among some nice graphic installments by more apt professionals, it also features a sequence of drawings by yours truly, which show the shameless recycling of a drawing that was itself using elements from a previous commission. Seeing the whole ensemble, which includes works from some usual suspects such as Jimenez Lai or Wes Jones, I wonder whether I should have produced a piece exclusively for the show, but timing forbade.

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Jimenez Lai: ‘Wrong’, via 

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That guy. Photographs (c) Sissi Roselli

The inauguration took place be on June 10 at 4 pm at Ca’ Pesaro, ground floor, in the rooms for the small temporary exhibitions. However, if you won’t be able to attend it while in the gallery, the exhibition will later  be set up at Tolentini for the PRIN Re-cycle Italy final conference on September 30, 2016).

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The authors featured are: Eduardo Arroyo, Aldo Aymonino, Carmelo Baglivo, Piotr Barbarewicz, Baukuh, Rosario Giovanni Brandolino, Pablo Castro (OBRA Architects), Fabio Alessandro Fusco, Wes Jones, Jimenez Lai, David Mangin, Luca Merlini, Riccardo Miotto, Hrvoje Njiric, Peanutz Architekten, Matteo Pericoli, Franco Purini, François Roche, Beniamino Servino, Federico Soriano, Tam Associati + Marta Gerardi, Klaus (Klaustoon), and Yellow Office.This exhibitions is organized within the international research Recycle Italy. It concerns the potential of  conceptual processing connected to drawing and its capability to observe reality, catching latent design-related points of view.

Re/Cycle Research group: Pippo Ciorra, Francesco Garofalo, Sara Marini, Giovanni Corbellini, Alberto Bertagna, Giulia Menzietti, Francesca Pignatelli.

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So, in order to continue adding my dubious contribution to Archdaily’s celebration of Mr K’s 70th birthday, here you have a cartoon originally published in Uncube Magazine #23, Mexico CityThis one was drawn by the time the Biennale opened, some months ago, but since it overlapped with some other Koolhaas-related cartoons (see Clog, for instance, or my previous post for Arquine), I decided to keep it for the Biennale’s closure. Now that time has arrived, and the fact that it now overlaps with Koolhaas’ b-day just makes it all more deliciously graphic. I’m not going to enter again the debate on how this Biennale, with its allegedly anti-star system approach, works too well as a self-celebrating vehicle: -“Let’s talk about architecture, not architects”. – “Where’s that motto from?” – “From Koolhaas’ Biennale.” By excluding everyone else, Koolhaas makes himself the only character in his own show, which unfolds to the viewer in all its full-fledged, pseudo-analytic banality. I would say “I already toldya so”, in my first contribution for Uncube, but I doubt there was anyone who thought otherwise when it was announced.

Ahhhh… rants… what would life be like without them?

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So, apparently -and because they directly told me so- the guys from ArchDaily are up for celebrating Rem Koolhaas’s 70th birthday, which seems to be today. They made an online request “to post video and/or visual tributes to Rem to your social media accounts using the hasthtag #Rem70″. I’m still trying to figure out how anyone would think anything I could do would honor him in any way; but, just to join the party, here you have the cartoon and text published in my “ArchiNOIR” section in Arquine #68: Fundamentales. In their pristine, Spanish translation. Alternatively, you can check another take -in English- on the same subject, in my contribution to CLOG: REM. More on that later.

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“La Bienal de 2014 tratará sobre arquitectura, no sobre arquitectos.” Koolhaas lo ha vuelto a hacer.” Apenas pronunciaba esta frase, todos los medios -las redes sociales, blogs, pero también las versiones online de los periódicos- se dedicaban a hablar, no sobre la Biennale, sino sobre Rem Koolhaas. Pocos días después -no hace falta más que entrar en google para comprobarlo-, “Fundamentals”, la decimocuarta edición de la  Biennale de Venecia, había pasado a ser “La Bienal de Koolhaas”. Bien jugado.

Koolhaas retomaba así la estrategia de Josep Antoni Coderch cuando pronunció su falsa proclama de que “no son Genios lo que necesitamos ahora”. Con este sencillo gesto, Coderch, bastante seguro de su propia genialidad, se posicionaba así automáticamente en el imaginario de los que lo escuchaban como el último de esa raza, en una especie de premonición de aquella escena de “La Vida de Brian” en la que un desesperado Graham Chapman gritaba a la multitud “¡Yo no soy el mesías!”, sólo para escuchar a John Cleese replicar “¡[s]ólo el verdadero mesías niega su divinidad”!  -“No hablemos de arquitectos”, dice Koolhaas. -“¡Hablemos de él!”, responden los arquitectos al unísono.

Lo cierto es que Rem Koolhaas, mucho más que el más modesto (en escala, que no en personalidad) Coderch, lleva décadas trabajando sostenidamente su condición de mesías de la arquitectura, de Le Corbusier del nuevo milenio (hasta el punto de construir su propia Ville Savoye en las afueras de París a principios de los 90). Y vista la unánime fascinación por su figura, su éxito parece indiscutible. Por eso la declaración de intenciones de la nueva Bienal suena tan doblemente falaz: Si la renuncia a hablar de arquitectos per se le asegura ser la única estrella de su propio show, la decisión de focalizar la bienal en el análisis de “los elementos fundamentales de nuestros edificios: el suelo, la pared, el techo, la ventana, la fachada, el balcón, el pasillo, la chimenea, el aseo, la escalera, la escalera mecánica, el ascensor, la rampa…” no goza de demasiada credibilidad en boca de un arquitecto abiertamente interesado en otros aspectos de la arquitectura que no son los físicos ni los constructivos -con la evidente excepción del ascensor y la escalera mecánica. No es la primera vez que hace esto: hace ahora cinco años, Koolhaas volvía a Harvard, tras su notable ausencia en la época Altshuler, para dar una conferencia en el simposium “Ecological Urbanism”, organizado por Mohsen Mostafavi. Y lo hacía con una charla sobre sostenibilidad -recordemos que en aquella época se encontraba terminando la sede del CCTV en Beijing- digna del mejor copypaste de wikipedia, que dejó a los asistentes con la duda de si hablaba en serio o les tomaba el pelo. Tres años después, repetiría estrategia y lugar con una nueva conferencia, “Current Preoccupations”, centrada esta vez entre otras cosas en (ver para creer) el campo y la conservación del patrimonio.

Resulta difícil, en este contexto, no recordar aquella ocasión en la que, casi en un (¿premeditado?) desliz, Koolhaas admitía ante Katrina Heron que “[h]ay una enorme, deliberada y -creo- sana discrepancia entre lo que digo y lo que hago.”[i] Y en el caso del bueno de Remment, esta cita casi parece confundirse con aquella otra de Benavente: “Bienaventurados nuestros imitadores porque de ellos serán nuestros defectos.” Koolhaas juega ciertamente a la confusión, y si bien el “estilo OMA” lleva siendo imitado incansablemente por las generaciones jóvenes desde mediados de los 90, esta imitación superficial no hace sino contribuir a la construcción de la leyenda de Koolhaas, favorecido por la comparativa de la copia y el original. El juego de Koolhaas es decididamente difícil de  imitar, hasta el punto de instalar en nosotros la duda de si hay algo de cierto en lo que dice, o todo está cuidadosamente planificado.

En “Current Preoccupations”, en la que presentaba el por aquel entonces recientemente publicado Project Japan, Koolhaas, admirador confeso de los metabolistas, lamentaba la pérdida del ‘aura mediática’ que los arquitectos aún disfrutaban en los tiempos de Kikutake: Hoy en día, los arquitectos han incrementado su presencia pública, a cambio de una pérdida de credibilidad. Es difícil estar en desacuerdo con esto, si bien el argumento de Koolhaas -que ningún arquitecto había aparecido en la portada de TIME después de Phillip Johnson en 1979- resultaba un tanto insípido, un poco demasiado pro-establishment para OMA, y francamente en discordancia con el leit motif de la subsiguiente Biennale: arquitectura frente a arquitectos. Del mismo modo, resultaba divertido escuchar a Koolhaas quejarse de la caricaturización que viene aparejada a la ubicuidad mediática de los arquitectos, habida cuenta de su papel en la postmoderna recuperación de la sátira como herramienta para la (de)construcción del discurso arquitectónico. “Siempre se escribe sobre la arquitectura como una disciplina seria (…) debemos liberarla de esta presión constante de la seriedad… [c]reo que [aún] hay vida en la arquitectura…”, dice en su discurso para la Biennale.

Es por ello que cuesta no ver todo esto como una inmensa orquestación. Coincidiendo con la inminente inauguración de la exposición OMA/Progress en el Barbican Centre de Londres, Dezeen mostraba dos vídeos en los que el propio Rem-the-Man, ofrecía, visiblemente -o aparentemente- incómodo, un improvisado tour por los espacios de la misma, aún sin terminar. Con ello, ofrecía también al espectador el placer de disfrutar de la domesticidad ‘backstage’ que estos vídeos exhalaban, mirando fugazmente a la cámara mientras caminaba apresuradamente por salas aún  medio vacías ofreciendo descripciones entretenidamente parciales y torpes de los proyectos allí exhibidos. Pero incluso este deambular nervioso, que puede en último término contribuir a la empatía del espectador con el difícil personaje, no hace sino contribuir al halo de misterio que lo rodea, mostrando a un Koolhaas que no acertamos a decir si resulta frágil o despectivo en su desapasionada, incómoda prisa por acabar cuanto antes; la misma estrategia, en el fondo, que sus cuidadosamente descuidadas conferencias,  una suerte de material ‘en bruto’ que parece expresamente diseñada para evocar el aura de autenticidad de la descarnada, entre espartana y decadente aproximación al diseño de OMA[ii]. Por supuesto, es difícil distinguir lo que es real de lo que es una mera actuación, pero Koolhaas ganó en el momento en que consiguió instalar la duda permanente en su público, generando para sí mismo una imagen de gran manipulador que no hace sino cultivar su dimensión legendaria.

¿Caricaturas? ¿Críticas aceradas?…

En el fondo, trabajamos para él.

[i] “There is an enormous, deliberate, and – I think – healthy discrepancy between what I write and what I do.” Heron, Katrina: ‘From Bauhaus to Koolhaas’ en Wired nº 4.07, Julio de 1996.

[ii] Ver Rose Etherington: “Rem Koolhaas on OMA/Progress”, en Dezeen, 7 de Octubre de 2011.

Fundamentalmente, Yo: REMdamentals: La Biennale de Koolhaas y la construcción continua del propio mito. Arquine #68: Fundamentals, June 2014.

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“[…] For those who were already, let’s say, ‘architecturally active’ in the 90s, the second half of the decade featured an increasing presence of Koolhaas-isms in the architecture published  by architectural media. Be it young offices paging Bakema through the Educatorium (those ubliquitous ‘single surfaces’ Jeff Kipnis still chitchatted on in his lectures more than ten years later), forests of tilted pilotis, cheap rubber surfaces or else, OMA’s supposed ‘house style’ had permeated through a whole generation that made justice to the old Spanish writer’s adagio: “Blessed are our imitators, for theirs will be our flaws”. Because, notwithstanding their varying degrees of success, none of those byproducts of OMA’s discourse seemed able to grasp its spirit. And it still goes on… monkey see, monkey do.

But, which is this discourse? Certainly, Koolhaas’ scant prose is, within its own scarcity, rich in suggestive, elusive terms: Manhattanization, Junkspace, Bigness -and you really know you have made it when Hal Foster writes a review of something like the Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping [ii]. However, as in Foucault’s Other Spaces/Hetrotopias, these are texts and terms that one seems to be able to make less sense of with each subsequent reading. All in all, it seems just a private a game, carefully designed to keep his audience intrigued while feeding his own legend by building an aura of impenetrability, to the point that one’s tempted to believe that every move is carefully staged: His carefully careless lectures, his unsophisticated, even clumsy descriptions of his own buildings, or his nervous, uncomfortable responses in interviews, all contribute to enlarge the halo of mystery that surrounds him. And, as I deduce from his always packed , rock-star-like conferences, it definitely works.

Five years ago, I published the first ‘Hope’ cartoon, with Mr. K posing as Shepard Fairey’s Obama. Five years later, I still wonder how many people did not get it was a joke.”

[i] See Heron, Katrina: ‘From Bauhaus to Koolhaas’ in Wired issue 4.07, July 1996.

[ii] See Foster, Hal: ‘Bigness’, in London Review of Books Vol. 23, no. 23, 29 November 2001.

Klaus: It’s not easy being Kool – 2001 ways to misinterpret Koolhaas… and help him have it his way (excerpt) in VV.AA: Clog: REM, June 2014.

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So, in a sort of smart, happy and -also- inevitable move, the guys at Clog magazine sort of celebrated their 3rd anniversary (really, 11 issues already??) with their issue CLOG: REM, just in time for the Biennale. They also thought –as, apparently, everyone else– it was sort of inevitable to ask me to contribute. Of course, they were particularly entitled to, since they made sure to have me in Clog from the very beginning. Just  click on the “clog” tag in this very site and you’ll get the idea. Also, they decided to open the issue with my contribution, which was very nice on their part. Thanks, guys! Oh, and a tip of the hat to Benjamin Greaves (@MrGreavesSaysfor providing me with the title.

P.S.: For those among you who may have noticed, I’ve made a point of celebrating the 5 anniversary of “On Starchitecture” by using vriations of the “Hope” cartoon on all my contributions published around the time of the Biennale’s opening (all of them revolving about REMdamentals, of course). So far, you can check “Fundamentally… Myself” (in Spanish) in Mexican Magazine Arquine #68, and Keep your eyes open for Uncube #24: Mexico City.

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CLOG: REM, with contributions by Michael Abrahamson, Stan Allen, Joseph Altshuler, Serafina Amoroso, Haik Avanian, Cecil Balmond, Dorin Baul, Aaron Betsky, Petra Blaisse, Jim Bogle, Ole Bouman, Mat Bower, Eric de Broche des Combes, Brian Bruegge, Galo Canizares, Stephen Cassell, Archie Lee Coates IV, Rene Daalder, Ozge Diler, Ryan Drummond, Keefer Dunn, A. A. Dutto, Erez Ella, Valeria Federighi, Kim Förster, Jeffrey Franklin, Joseph Godlewski, Adam Himes, Matthias Hollwich, Julia van den Hout, Frances Hsu, Bernard Hulsman, Hans Ibelings, Klaus, Charlie Koolhaas, Tomas Koolhaas, Andrew Kovacs, Jimenez Lai, Stephanie Lee, Thomas Lozada, Winy Maas and Jacob van Rijs, Brandon Martinez, Isaac Mathew, Kyle May, Philipp Oswalt, Roberto Otero, Steven K. Peterson, Wim Pijbes, Jacob Reidel, Michael Rock, Joanna Rodriguez-Noyola, Fernando Romero, Alejandro Sanchez, Mika Savela, Jonathan A. Scelsa, Kyle Schumann, Brian Slocum, Galia Solomonoff, Frederieke Taylor, Will Thomson, Madelon Vriesendrop, Luke Yosuke Willis, Human Wu, Albena Yaneva, Alejandro Zaera-Polo and Zoe Zenghelis

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They’ve built schools like wedding cakes and are making a real-life gingerbread house with Grayson Perry. But the UK’s most playful practice is breaking up after 23 years. They have built a romanesque church out of sparkly blue sequins, a school that looks like a gothic wedding cake and turned the head of Hercules into a squishy seat. Now, in an unexpected twist, the mischievous London architecture practice FAT has announced it will be no more. Architects usually die, divorce, or go bust – so why the boyband-style break-up?

“We all feel we’ve completed what we set out to do,” says Sam Jacob, who has worked with fellow partners Sean Griffiths and Charles Holland for the last 23 years on everything from art installations to social housing, alongside a prolific volume of writing and teaching. “FAT was only ever intended to be a project, a way of taking a set of ideas out into the world,” he says. “We still can’t believe we’ve had so many opportunities to make buildings.” […]

The three partners have yet to announce their future plans, but will end their collaboration at the Venice Architecture Biennale next summer, where they are curating the British Pavilion with Dutch practice Crimson and writer Owen Hatherley.

“They remain open to offers for a lucrative reunion in 20 years’ time,” concludes the official press release. “We’ve got to go on a victory tour,” grins Jacob. “Bands used to take 30 years to reunite, but nowadays they’re back together in a couple of months, so who knows …”

— Oliver Wainwright: The end of FAT: architecture’s biggest pranksters call it quits – boyband style.” The Guardian, Tuesday 17 December 2013

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The original cartoon can be found as originally published in the “Klaus Kube” section of Uncube Magazine #18: Slovenia, edited by Sophie Lovell, Florian Heilmeyer, Jessica Bridger, Elvia Wilk et al. And yes, that is Foster’s “Cycling Utopia” (for God’s sake…) in the foreground.

A tip of the hat to Sam Jacob and the rest of FAT. I’m really sorry to see them disbanding, but I’m also looking forward to seeing what comes out of this in the future. Best of lucks!

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Ok, let’s see if I can bring this back on trail. I really need to catch up with the blog.

This comes from Uncube Magazine # 07 : Off-places. The published version is slightly different. In the same issue, there’s an interview with Gottfried Böhm by Florian Heilmeyer which is really worth checking, if you’re a Brutalist fanatic such as myself. So go check it.

Come on.

Koolhaas receives the Golden Lion at Venice, possibly awarded to his groundbraking film “The Towering Inferno”.

The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement for the 12th International Architecture Exhibition (Venice, Giardini and Arsenale, 29th August – 21st November, 2010) has been awarded to the  Pope of Architecture, Rem Koolhaas. The decision was taken by the Board of the Biennale di Venezia, chaired by Paolo Baratta, upon the proposal of the Director of the 12th Exhibition, Kazuyo Sejima.

“Rem Koolhaas has expanded the possibilities of architecture. He has focused on the exchanges between people in space. He creates buildings that bring people together and in this way forms ambitious goals for architecture. His influence on the world has come well beyond architecture. People from very diverse fields feel a great freedom from his work.“

Original announcement at the Venezia Biennale Webpage, at Art Knowledge News, Artdaily,  and a selection of pics at designboom.

Don’t know what this is about? Check here, here and here.

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