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Tag: architecture+ruins


Still Aftershock

In December 1988 the textile factory of Leninakan in Northern Armenia was destroyed by a major earthquake, prefiguring the seismic shift that was the end of the Soviet Union.


Remnants of the Future

Remnants of the Future combines elements of documentary, sci-fi and electro-acoustics. It portrays the precarious existence in a post-Soviet ghost-town, an inverted ruin of the modern that is still waiting to fulfil its utopian ambition of communal living.

Remnants of the Future is set in Northern Armenia in a vast, unfinished housing project called Mush, named after the once flourishing Armenian town in Eastern Turkey and built on the orders of Mikhail Gorbachev to house the people displaced by the 1988 Spitak earthquake. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 abruptly halted the ambitious housing development and it has since remained in a ghostly state of incompletion and near desertion, inhabited only by migrating birds and isolated human scavengers who salvage scrap metal out of the hollow shells of concrete and live in parts of the big, skeletal housing blocks. As the day turns into night, the soundscape, composed by Mikhail Karikis, moves from the sounds of animals and everyday activities of the few inhabitants to modulations of radiowaves emitted by pulsars, or dying stars, which still reach us after the star has died. Out of this electro-acoustic cloud a woman’s voice announces: “I am an emissary from the future….”. The time traveling character from Mayakovski’s “The Bathhouse (1930)” invites those left behind by failed state capitalism and the neglect of free markets to join her in the commune of the future.


Old Haunt

In English, the idiom ‘old haunt’ refers to a place frequently visited in the past. This expression, which resists literal translation, conjures the image of the ghost. Ghosts of the living and dead alike, of both individual and collective spirits haunt places. In a word, places are personed and ghosts help constitute their very real, yet intangible historicity: namely their living memory. Memory, insofar as it is affective and magical, only accommodates those facts that suit it; it nourishes recollections that may be out of focus or telescopic, personal or political, global, local or detached, particular or allegorical. Memory is subject to both (self-)censorship and projection.

Around a table an ensemble of five speakers re-visit – in the Swiss German dialect and accompanied by wine and cigarettes – their memories of the famous Café Odeon in Zürich: a contemporary, not yet crumbled ruin in whose still intact art-nouveau interior lie former utopias, stories and characters.

The video Old Haunt re-imagines this event as a polyphony of names, dates and anecdotes performed by a choir of soliloquists who move through harmony and dissonance. Joined by members of the audience, the a capella quintet delves into the past but performs in the present.

Workshop Participants: Martin Dreyfus (literary historian), Urban Gwerder (artist), Peter K. Wehrli (author), Sissi Zoebeli (fashion designer), Stefan Zweifel (art historian). Moderated by Michael Hiltbrunner and Martin Jäggi


Ornament And Crime

The video shows a slow close-up pan which creates an tactile inventory of the surfaces and materials of the café’s interior and its ornamental vocabulary, making an implicit reference to Adolf Loos’ 1908 essay of the same name, in which Loos denounces ornament as a crime against both aesthetics and function, and which was written in the period of utopian fervour prescient of Modernism.


The Naked Palace

The camera trails a guide on a tour through the labyrinthine architectural complex of Ogiamen’s palace in Benin City (Nigeria). This extraordinary building was constructed in the 12th century and is one of only a handful of houses that survived the British punitive expedition of 1897. Ogiamen’s family inhabits it to this day. As the camera follows the guide’s navigation of the ancient palace and records his explanations, the image oscillates between jerky disorientation and lingering close-up shots of architectural details and textures. The portrait of the palace remains fragmentary and ruptures between seeing and understanding, between a historical imaginary and the contemporary conditions become palpable.


1942 (Poznan)

“As the video projection begins, we see a tiled floor. The camera rises in a vertical pan to show a swimming pool with a lone swimmer. We hear singing in Hebrew: it is the mourning prayer, ‘Aw Harakhamim’ (sung by the former cantor of the Jewish community in Szeged, Hungary). The camera continues its steady, inexorable movement, and the viewer who is familiar with Jewish places of worship begins to see, in the austere and beautiful symmetry of the building, the structure of a synagogue, with its seating area over the main door, and vaulted ceiling. The title, 1942 (Poznan) contains the clue: the site is the Poznan Synagogue, converted into a swimming pool by the Nazis in 1942.

Through the juxtaposition of the image with the sung prayer that takes us beyond the visible, Orlow releases an evocative power of the image that calls up the repressed memory of the place, turning it into a memorial to those who once worshipped there, most of whom would have perished. If the swimming pool contains the suggestion of baptism (as well as, perhaps, the Jewish ritual baths), the pull of the prayer works precisely against an art of resurrection—the dead are not resurrected by being represented, nor are they redeemed.”

– Michael Newman



Inside The Archive

Inside the Archive takes us through the interior of a small archive and library, foregrounding its material conditions, and focusing on different spaces which are devoted to archival tasks and lingering on minute and banal details. Inside the Archive reflects on the archive as something which is never fixed in meaning or material, but is nevertheless here, usually invisible yet at the same time monumental, constantly about to appear and disappear; latent. The visual exploration of the archive at the intersection of concept and matter has a profound urgency. With the dematerialisation of archives through the process of digitisation, there is a need to re-assess the material qualities of archive and document.

“Paradoxically, in Inside the Archive the still image has to do with change, and the moving image with stillness. The sequence of still images tend to take as their subject the effect of time on the archive: the signs of age and deterioration on the building. The images are still, while the building is changing.”

-Michael Newman


The Wiener Library (London)

The Wiener Library (London) shows the exterior of the Wiener Library building on a London street. Scrolling over this everyday image is the alphabetical list of thesaurus terms which allow the collection to be searched by way of keywords. This image of the Wiener Library locates it in a geographic and hermeneutic map. The constancy of the everyday image of the building is disturbed by the insistence of the catalogue entries which overlay it in a refusal of representation whose simple format brings to mind Arendt’s notion of the banality of evil.


Satellite Contact

by Uriel Orlow & Ruth Maclennan

Satellite Contact is a two-screen video portrait of the British National Archives. Satellite Contact never touches the ground: it takes the viewer on an hour-long roller-coaster ride through the guts of one of the most extensive national archives in the world. In a digital age, the two mechanical, synchronous cameras reveal an inhuman rhythm of perception, a neo-Fordist production line of knowledge and a network of material, functional, ontological and poetic connections between the archive and the fabric of the building which houses it.


Urban Inventory

Urban Inventory #1-4 consists of a series of four billboard posters which create an urban inventory by reading the city and collecting its visible and invisible signs. Close-up fragments of urban writing are recorded in the form of graffiti on walls, stickers on pipes and quotes by Italo Calvino/Michel de Certeau/Walter Benjamin/Geoges Perec/Iain Sinclair/Vito Acconci/Gilles Ivain/Frederic Jameson/Kevin Lynch/Yoko Ono. The fourth poster is a map which traces both the locations of the actual billboards and explores the experiential potential of a readable city. A book What the Billboard Saw / La Ville Mode d’Emploi recordsthe billboards’ own vision of the city.

This project was commissioned by Fri-Art, Centre d’art contemporain/Kunsthalle Fribourg and exhibited on billboards throughout the city of Fribourg from July to September 2005


What the billboard saw / La ville mode d’emploi

Bookwork by Uriel Orlow, published by Kunsthalle Fribourg (2005), limited edition of 200, signed

A notebook-sized archive of the billboards vision of the city interspersed with a compendium of reflections on the urban condition by de Certeau, Perec, Acconci, Sinclair and others.