Castlefield Gallery draws a range of intriguingly discursive works into one show which interrogates the potentiality for architecture to preserve ideas long after its existence. It exemplifies the role bricks and mortar have in solidifying intangible notions like ideas, memory and identity. Exhibitors range from students of Manchester School of Architecture, video artists, architecture practitioners, sculptors, visual artists and photographers.
Situated throughout the gallery are the works of James Ackerley, some of which pertain to his ‘Prototype for Uncomfortable Chairs’ series. Using MDF and repurposed upholstery foam, Ackerley has assembled temporary seating which, as a function of his project, have been redesigned from pervious forms. His project is intended to last in an ongoing transaction of ever changing forms.
In a way, Ackerleys work touches on the polar ends of the shows concerns. The self-proclaimed discomfort in his work has echoes of ‘hostile architecture’; a rising occurrence in urban design used to discourage public idling, especially that of the homeless, whose refuge in cities have been eradicated (by some property owners) with the use of spikes, emblematic of current political policy towards the most vulnerable in society. However, the joyous playful invention and reinvention inherent in his work has an ideology that can be traced back to 1960’s avant-garde group the Situationist International. This group has a special place in the history of Manchester having conceptualised a city built with moveable walls, the inhabitants of which could manipulate to create a living space of endless inspiration. The Situationist’s city was called the Hacienda, which the iconic club of Manchester’s 80’s heyday took its name.
No coincidence then is the inclusion of ‘The Hacienda, Re-imagined model’ by MSA students Simina Lonescu, Christina Lipcheva and Charlotte Fuller. The students have envisioned their own Hacienda in model form, complete with sliding walls. Considering the proximity in time of these students to the long deceased night club and the even longer deceased Situationists, their work follows a similar invention/reinvention function found in Ackerleys work.
Artist Abigail Reynolds offers a meditation on the loss of public spaces and the knowledge they once contained in her work ‘Library Displacements’. Through a 5-month excursion, Reynolds visited the locations of fifteen defunct libraries, all situated along the Silk Road global shipping route; now a channel of ideas severed by political unrest and geological catastrophe. A testament to the importance of the exchange of ideas, Reynolds work offers a timely acknowledgement to the fragility of accumulated knowledge and the ideological ties of global understanding.
Anyone with an eye for architecture will see the ‘Machines’ in Tom Dale’s ‘Visions Machines’ as a reference to Modernist Architect, Le Corbusier and his proclamation that “a house is a machine for living”. Dale’s work begs the question, who then operates the machine? And to what purpose? In this series Dale photographs communist era housing, built with the constraints of authoritarian rule. Now in present time their owners have since been granted the freedom to extend and adapt their homes as the political regime has significantly softened. Dale imperceptibly retouches the images with digital renderings to make visible the confines of former communist rule, creating hybrid abodes that stand on the cusp of past and present and call in to question the foundations on which our futures lie.
The sci-fi narrative film piece ‘In the Future, They Ate From The Finest Porcelain’ by Larissa Sansour is simply stunning. Arguably the most complex work in the show, it presents a conversation detailing dreams and family history. The protagonist of the film tells of her acts of archaeological subterfuge; contaminating porcelain with radioactivity, bait for future archaeologies to discover and in turn redefine her people’s identity. The people of this story are tellingly situated beyond the sprawl of a distant city, in desert and scrub lands, outcasts from the realms of big politics, acting as gorilla architects for the understanding of their nations future. Mesmeric in tone, pace and image, the film resonates long after viewing. It conjures thoughts of mythology and it’s process in defining the epistemology of past, present and future.
‘Undoing’ fascinates by refracting the subject of Architecture with prismatic effect into an array of interrelated concerns. By using practitioners of such diverse investigations, the show fluctuates between formality and abstraction, potentiality and fatality, political rule and autonomy, preservation and destruction, neither favouring of one and allowing any ensuing collision between ideas the time to exist in fermentation.