PRINT October 2012


Trading Spaces a roundtable on art and architecture Art and architecture meet more often and more profoundly today than ever before—from public art to the art-fair tent, from the pavilion to the installation. But if the interchange between these fields offers a host of new possibilities for structure, space, and experience, it also makes reflection on their status more urgent. To chart this complex constellation of interactions, Artforum invited critics HAL FOSTER and SYLVIA LAVIN; artists THOMAS DEMAND, HILARY LLOYD, and DORIT MARGREITER; architects STEVEN HOLL and PHILIPPE RAHM; and curator HANS ULRICH OBRIST—a group whose pioneering work marks the front lines of art-architecture exchange—to engage in a conversation moderated by Artforum senior editor Julian Rose.

Philippe Rahm Architectes, Evaporated Rooms, 2011–12, Lyon, France. Apartment interior. Photo: Nicolas Pauly, 2012.

JULIAN ROSE: While many agree that there is an unprecedented level of interchange between art and architecture today, there is surprisingly little consensus about what, specifically, these interactions entail or where they actually take place. Which models of interaction between art and architecture are most significant, and where can we begin to locate them?

STEVEN HOLL: Architecture is an art—the premise of a division is specious.

THOMAS DEMAND: I do think there is a clear difference between the practices, though. Every time I’ve ever worked with an architect, the collaboration was based on the fact that we came from separate corners, and that was precisely what made it productive.

STEVEN HOLL: Well, it’s true that differences can be useful. For me, however, to collaborate is to find a corner of convergence. Let me give some examples. When Vito Acconci and I worked together on designing the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York—rebuilding the facade of an existing building at 97 Kenmare Street as a “hinged space” enclosing a storefront gallery—it was a five-month interaction, like a revolving door. Vito would come into my office with drawings and ideas, I would show him my drawings and ideas, and we would go away and readjust to each other, only to find ourselves having passed each other in the next round. The final design evolved overnight in construction. When Walter De Maria and I collaborated on his One Sun/34 Moons [2002] at the Nelson-Atkins [Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri], I deferred to him, as I hoped his work would engulf the entrance. There was a large reflecting pool in the entrance court of our scheme, with circular skylights in its bottom to let light into the parking garage below. To achieve his thirty-four moons, Walter shifted some and added a few. Two very different models of collaboration.

HAL FOSTER: Steven’s examples suggest that distinctions, when addressed, are generative, and I agree. The question is not art or not-art. The question is relation. To be very simple about it: There’s a Gesamtkunstwerk model, one of combination; and a differential model, one of coarticulation. Art Nouveau versus the Bauhaus. James Turrell versus Richard Serra.

HANS ULRICH OBRIST: I wonder whether one can complicate this binary between fusion—Gesamtkunst­werk—and differential specificity. I am thinking of Juliet Koss’s recent book, Modernism After Wagner [2010]. Whereas the Gesamtkunstwerk is often seen in contrast to the modernist principles of medium specificity and autonomy, Koss argues that such an opposition was not present in Wagner’s original definition. The paradox is that the Gesamtkunstwerk retains the autonomy of the individual arts and at the same time transgresses it. Koss understands modernism itself as a theoretical elaboration and historical development of the Gesamtkunstwerk. And all forms of the Gesamtkunstwerk are historically specific—from Greek drama to Dada to Warhol’s Factory.

SYLVIA LAVIN: Architecture certainly serves as a foil for art, but beyond that, I would like to add a type of interaction that distinguishes the contemporary complexion of this issue from its many historical colorations: what I would call the paradisciplinary, where works use their relation to other forms of production to insist on an attenuated, networked, and proliferating way of navigating the cultural landscape.

DORIT MARGREITER: In practice, the implementation of such categories as “art” and “architecture” can also be discussed as a process of reflection, a constant negotiation. In my own work, I treat architecture as a vehicle to investigate the relations between the built environment and its mediated representations. Architecture serves as the ideal object of analysis because it can be read as a manifestation of social, economic, and cultural transformation. In the case of my project zentrum [2004–], for example, the starting point was not the architecture itself but rather the reorganization of Leipzig’s city center. I used the historic typefaces in the neon signage there as a means to investigate the transformation of the existing urban geography, but the ongoing development of the work has led from architecture and urbanism to typography, film, and—for now—mobiles. These have all offered possibilities to reflect on artistic production.

HILARY LLOYD: In my process there’s a kind of feedback between the work and the architecture. The way a work is installed can appear to change the size and shape of a room and can affect the way someone might negotiate their way through it. I think about surface and space while making my films (which often depict facades of buildings), and then later, when I’m installing the works themselves, I think about these qualities again in terms of working with the walls, floor, ceiling, light fittings, columns: architectural elements.

Vito Acconci and Steven Holl Architects, Storefront for Art and Architecture, 1992–93, New York. Photo: Paul Warchol.

JULIAN ROSE: So we are already seeing an impressive flexibility in architecture as a partner for art—as both a subject of investigation and a venue for experience. And yet, Steven, I can’t help but notice that both your examples of collaboration take place in exhibition spaces. Perhaps we can’t separate a discussion of relations from specific points of interaction, such as the art institution?

STEVEN HOLL: In thinking about museum spaces for art, there are three obvious types: the white box, which can suck the life out of the art, as at moma; the expressionist type, which can overpower the art; and the orthogonal art space, with free organic circulation and a spatial energy to pull the user through it. Here the museum spaces defer to the art but are stimulating in the overall experience. My projects for the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art [in Helsinki] and the Nelson-Atkins attempt this.

THOMAS DEMAND: Steven, there are other types, too (like the ones that make any art seem like a nuisance), but it’s captivating that you distinguish them so clearly. I think your task is a kind of dialectic, to make a space for something that in most cases is not yet known, but with tools informed by what exists. For me, the situation is the opposite: Architecture is always already there. It shapes my surroundings whether I like it or not.

DORIT MARGREITER: I don’t think that a “white box” type sucks the life out of art; the white cube simply doesn’t exist. Spaces are never innocent. So museum spaces raise the question of primacy: architecture versus art. This could also be framed as a discussion of authorship.

JULIAN ROSE: But this question of primacy can be a red herring. In many contemporary museums, what we see is actually a staged encounter between art and architecture. Their relationship is often described as antagonistic—the architecture “overpowering” art, as Steven says, or the triumphalist rhetoric of any number of artists who like to claim that their projects subdue or subvert architecture—but perhaps it is more of an enabling relationship. Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall is the apotheosis of this trend: a monumental and spectacular space designed to invite monumental and spectacular art. Whether the Tate’s recently opened Tanks, which perhaps provide an equally spectacular space but as a venue for ephemeral performance works, will move in a different direction remains to be seen. In any event, I wonder whether the more relevant spaces today are found in the explosion of new, often temporary environments—not only galleries but pavilions, convention centers, and even art-fair tents. How are they changing both art and its interaction with architecture, for better or for worse? We are way beyond the museum.

PHILIPPE RAHM: All my installations in museums or galleries were actually experiments in architecture. Because the building industry didn’t really have time for, or interest in, more fundamental research, the art space and the temporary space became laboratories for testing forms of architecture and inventing new design processes.

HANS ULRICH OBRIST: So perhaps more than the museum or gallery per se, we could talk about exhibition design as another location for art and architecture to interact. I tested this with “Cities on the Move,” the migrating group show that Hou Hanru and I curated between 1997 and 2000. We invited architects and artists working in Asia to contribute. In the beginning, the architects just sent lots of architecture maquettes, but little by little they realized that the exhibition could be a laboratory, as Philippe says. For each incarnation of the show we invited an architect to be directly involved by developing a display feature. In Bangkok, with architect Ole Scheeren, we staged a citywide urban festival using art studios, architecture offices, and many other unexpected venues.

DORIT MARGREITER: Pavilion architecture, historically, provides the perfect example of this kind of encounter between art and architecture—the pavilion is a semifunctional space, a building, and a sculptural statement. I would argue that the type in general serves as a historical pattern for “spectacle” in architecture, and I would agree with you, Julian, that we are way beyond the museum. Showing in a pavilion, as an artist, is a double bind: [One is] placing artwork inside a sculpture that supplies its own set of artistic expressions. In my work Pavilion [2009], sited in Josef Hoffmann’s 1934 pavilion for the Giardini in Venice, I therefore chose the medium of film, to enable a kind of distance, to be able to talk about the back-and-forth between the given structure—architecture—and its purpose—art.

HANS ULRICH OBRIST: And of course there is a long legacy of pavilions and other ephemeral structures exercising enormous influence in architecture as well as art, having lasting effects on both discourse and practice and producing new models for experimental space. At the Serpentine in 2006, when Julia Peyton-Jones and I invited Rem Koolhaas to design the Serpentine Pavilion together with Cecil Balmond, Koolhaas said from the outset that he wanted it to be a “content machine.” This led us to combine the pavilions with my format of the “marathon,” an annual twenty-four- or forty-eight-hour knowledge festival, which I had started in Stuttgart in 2005. Julia invented the idea of the pavilions in 2000 with Zaha Hadid; once a year, an architect is invited to come up with a temporary pavilion so that the Serpentine has a new wing for three months. Even if the spaces are short-lived, this is a permanent reinvention of the institution.

Steven Holl Architects, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 1999–2007, Kansas City, MO. Photo: Andy Ryan, 2006.

THOMAS DEMAND: But exhibiting in pavilions or temporary structures is still the exception, like a circus coming to town. Normally in my shows the architecture is there before the invitation, and given the nature of the work I do, I need to see whether the architecture allows me to show it in the appropriate way; a clear analysis of the rhetoric of the building comes before anything else. So when I ask architects to work with me on a project, I see them acting as moderators between the existing structure and myself. For my exhibition at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, we decided early on that symmetry, transparency, and monumentality were rather overrated qualities of Mies’s building. And my collaborators, Caruso St John Architects from London, wanted to reclaim the entire interior for the show; the existing architecture forces people to go halfway into the building just to buy a ticket—only then does the display space begin. But the architectural intervention also had a narrative foundation: my experience wandering through Paris as a student, not understanding the language, not knowing anyone. I felt that all the fabulous modernist buildings were excluding me, and most of their ostensible transparency was in fact obscured by nicotine-stained venetian blinds. This experience primed my reaction to Mies’s glass jewel of modern architecture. For me, dealing with architecture is about the encounter and the manipulative quality—both good and not so good—of the surroundings we find ourselves in. An exhibition is more than just a number of artworks in a room, especially if you work as slowly as I do. It should be something like a hinge for your memory, something you remember a while after, a point in time, not just another destination. I know that’s not exactly a theory—it’s an experience.

JULIAN ROSE: It seems that what you achieve is a construction—or reconstruction—of experience. So maybe this task of shaping experience is where we really see art and architecture converging today?

STEVEN HOLL: Materials themselves play a major role in shaping experience and could be discussed as another site of interaction. The artist Tara Donovan, for example, begins her projects with an obsessive transformation of a single material. We are collaborating on a work for the VCU Institute for Contemporary Art [in Richmond, Virginia], which begins with material but eventually becomes a blurring of material and experience. One of the most exciting aspects of the porous boundaries between art and architecture today is that all materials, without exception, can act as artistic elements. In this case, our design for the building is a concrete structure with a skin of blue-green zinc and large glass sheets, which are partially infilled with Okalux, an insulated, light-diffusing glass. It’s too early to say where the work will end up, but Tara is already responding to these materials, proposing to use them in ways that variously react to, destabilize, and merge with their architectural roles as structure and skin, which will unquestionably enrich the experience of the building. And yet for me experience goes beyond materiality, perhaps to space and the parallax of movement through spaces. Space not conceived as a series of voids but rather like music in a sequence of experience.

HAL FOSTER: These phenomenological questions are key. They seem to emerge whenever there is a perceived threat to bodily experience from technological advance. Think of Bergson and the mechanical, or Heidegger and the “world picture.” The Minimalists seized on Merleau-Ponty against a Pop world of mediation in an effort to reclaim a sensuous immediacy. This move was radical but rearguard: It was too late even then. I cherish direct experience as much as the next person, but we have to admit it is a rare thing—precious in all senses of the word. Our general condition is much the opposite, one of faux phenomenology, and so a crucial question for art and architecture now is how to address a situation in which mediation and immediacy are often inseparable. Aestheticize it further? Normalize it? Query it somehow? Explore other possibilities within it?

JULIAN ROSE: I agree with Steven that movement is a crucial term here. An essential attribute of architecture has always been—and continues to be—its ability to engage the subject through movement. Most faux phenomenology, I would argue, relies on an arrested subject. Could it be that the basic need to circulate, to move through space, is one thing architecture can still take advantage of? Or is movement no longer enough: Do we circulate in a state of hopeless distraction?

HANS ULRICH OBRIST: There are also other ways for architecture to activate the spectator. To return again to the Serpentine Pavilions, one method is to work through program, transforming the space into a site for dialogue, creating an informational space—not in the mediated sense we associate with the information age, but in the sense of real exchange of knowledge and genuine engagement. This year’s pavilion suggests another strategy: to engage viewers on the level of memory, which is, I think, what Thomas was getting at when he spoke about his exhibitions becoming a hinge for remembering. It was designed in collaboration by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei and created a palimpsest of architectural forms. Their structure is buried halfway underground; this excavation actually uncovered the foundations of the previous eleven pavilions to have occupied this site. This architecture bears witness to historical memory, and in that sense it takes the form of what Eric Hobsbawm once referred to as a “protest against forgetting,” resisting the systematic amnesia that is so symptomatic of our age of distraction. It also seems significant to me that the structure itself is resolutely unspectacular; it resists reduction to an image, and so is unlike most temporary architecture today. Because half of the structure is buried, the pavilion is not even as tall as a person. Walking through Kensington Gardens, where it is located, you could almost look right past it.

View of “Cities on the Move,” 1997, Secession, Vienna. Photo: Margherita Spilittini.

HILARY LLOYD: Yet sometimes I wonder whether spectacle isn’t becoming more important than architecture itself. I’m almost consumed by the new buildings and building sites in London: how these buildings are being made, the way they are being constructed on top of or as part of previous buildings. I loved watching how the Shard was constructed. But now that it’s finished, it doesn’t cast quite the same spell. When I watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics from my studio this summer, I could hear everything but see only the sky above the event. The choreography above the stadium was fantastic, with a hot-air balloon moving back so James Bond’s helicopter could get in and James could parachute out with the queen. I liked this space above the real thing. It was thrilling, but it wasn’t what we were supposed to be seeing in the stadium.

JULIAN ROSE: In architecture, a term closely associated with spectacle is iconic. A kind of iconic architecture certainly played a role in the fascist spectacles that were the more sinister legacy of the Gesamtkunstwerk, and as Hal recently argued in The Art-Architecture Complex [2011], iconic architecture plays a key role in the neoliberal ideologies of the present. Steven, some of your projects have an immediate formal, even graphic, appeal at the urban scale—the Horizontal Skyscraper comes to mind here—but still retain a more human scale of phenomenological and material engagement. Is there a way to think of these registers as not mutually exclusive?

STEVEN HOLL: Yes, it’s crucial to find a third space outside the dialectic. “Iconic” architecture tends to value external form at the expense of interior spatial experience and urban connections. Yet these latter qualities are the most important. If, after creating these, we arrive at distinctive form—great. But I am not sure we are working today in a way that allows us to see this. We are distracted. So perhaps the urgent question is the isolation of information from experience: breaking the ubiquitous and automatic fusion of media and experience—which even Silicon Valley leaders acknowledge is tedious—with architecture’s power to use the haptic experience of materials to engage the body’s movement through space and light. It is no longer a matter of simply objecting to this tedium—or at least we must no longer start with this objection. Every project we have realized has in some sense been an alternative that was possible only because enough people believed another option existed: engineers, developers, clients.

HAL FOSTER: Steven, I’m not sure it’s possible to isolate information from experience. Distraction itself isn’t hopeless; it is the modern mode of experience for Benjamin, vis-à-vis architecture above all. Immersion is another matter, however, and that’s often our condition today. It gets worse, too: Sometimes I’d settle for the usual disorientation in what Koolhaas calls “Junkspace” if it weren’t complemented by its corollary, which is “control space,” the space of general surveillance, of Google-maps-you, of algorithmic direction. Even in its benign mode—If you liked that, you’ll love this!”—this algorithmic interpellation isn’t so benign. It’s a regime that knows you—that predicts you—because it has all your data. That’s an order that exceeds spectacle, for it is not primarily visual or perhaps even spatial, which complicates any response from art or architecture. How do art and architecture address Junkspace on the one hand and control space on the other? In the breaks in between, we can move through special spaces designed by Steven and others, but that’s a holiday!

THOMAS DEMAND: Isn’t Rem’s Junkspace still the same, only now it’s called “augmented space”? In any case, the little device in your hand is giving you a chance to reintegrate into your surroundings, albeit by sharing information rather than space. What is that information as a modality? Social? Or the opposite?

SYLVIA LAVIN: The reception of architecture today oscillates between seeing it as a totally determined object—as pure mediation—and seeing it as a repository of unvarnished experience: a holdout against mediation, a place of sensual escape. Since neither option obtains, the chain of events that links the nervous system to thought is an important territory for speculation. The most interesting work today operates on more than one link at a time. Thomas’s The Dailies [2008–12] in Sydney, which hovered between hotel art, interior design, photography, urban dérive, and atmospheric intervention, would be one example. I can well imagine Condillac using The Dailies rather than the Pygmalion statue as a philosophical object in the exploration of the construction of affect! Indeed, my interest in affect begins with the simple fact that it is not the same word as experience, or feeling, or sensation, all of which have become at least discursively murky if not conceptually tainted. It provokes a reflection on the essentialism that still pervades some purveyors of phenomenology. Affect, like architecture, is always necessarily constructed, rather than found or innate. And through this process architecture engages, conflicts with, resists, the broadest range of historically determining social and political forces. The more the visual arts deal with equally mediating processes, the more art and architecture converge.

View of “Thomas Demand: Nationalgalerie,” 2009, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin. Photo: David von Becker.

HAL FOSTER: When I hear the word affect I reach for my Taser. An unfair reflex, I know, but affect seems to me a prime medium of ideology today—an implanted emotionality that is worse—because more effective—than false consciousness. But Sylvia, I like your idea of affect as a term that complicates “experience”—that allows for technological mediation, for example, that does not insist on bodily immediacy. Can the nervous system be “innervated” in a way that opens up new possibilities for the human today? Or are we subjected to ever more technological enervation? A false dichotomy, no doubt, but perhaps a helpful heuristic as to the politics of some art and architecture today.

On that note, I wonder whether one model of interaction we might discuss is a convergence of art and architecture around a heuristic concept or shared project. A historical example is that of “construction” in Russian Constructivism—a heuristic that both artists and architects, searching for a progressive practice adequate to an industrial age, pursued in their own ways. This is not about combining or borrowing, aggrandizing or belittling. It’s about challenging the given terms of each discipline. What might be a contemporary version of “construction” for our current stage of modernization?

PHILIPPE RAHM: Hal, if we need to find a heuristic today that could join architects and artists, it’s the question of the atmosphere. Are we living in an “atmospheric age”? Peter Sloterdijk has argued that today’s challenge is to design the atmosphere, because we are living on a planet that has become essentially one big interior, which we have already air-conditioned. For me, the question of designing the atmosphere, the invisible, the climate, is paramount. New technologies, like climatic software, permit us to design not only the solid but also the void, from its convective movements to its humidity gradients.

JULIAN ROSE: But how do you implement these phenomena in a way that gets away from a sort of stimulus response and moves toward the more positive innervation Hal is talking about? Or do they merely provide yet another register of control?

PHILIPPE RAHM: Working on architecture at the level of the body and at the level of the atmosphere can give more freedom to its inhabitants by producing spaces without the visual and solid delimitation of walls and ceilings. This is a new approach to space, more physiological and sustainability conscious than aesthetic or programmatic. In our Domestic Astronomy [2009] at the Louisiana Museum [of Modern Art] in Den­mark, we used the art space as a laboratory to challenge new European building-energy ordinances. These ordinances mandated that the different functional spaces in a house be thermally isolated so that they can be maintained at specific temperatures to reduce energy consumption. The ordinances account for the variation in clothing and physical-activity levels in the house by requiring that the kitchen be kept at eighteen degrees Celsius and the bathroom at twenty-two degrees, for example. But to strictly follow them would be to abandon the free plan and spatial continuity acquired during modernity and return to a nineteenth-century understanding of the plan, where each room was separated from the others by walls and doors. We can avoid this regression by working with the intrinsic physical behavior of hot air, which rises, and cool air, which stays closer to the ground. We can compose spaces by placing them at different altitudes and different temperatures, without delineating contours of rooms. This experience was the starting point for many projects we have realized since.

SYLVIA LAVIN: I must confess that I get hives the minute anyone wants me to walk into something they have made so that I will encounter a real experience or a better environment. The mandate that I interpolate their real is neither a sensuous offering nor the specter of a control mechanism to be eluded, but a set of category errors so profound that it produces nothing but an extreme conversion reaction for me. I say: Keep your real to yourself! On the other hand, the building industry stands at the epicenter of the world’s economic and environmental crises, and developing an effective response to this “reality” will constitute one of architecture’s primary preoccupations in the immediate future. Architecture is neither reducible nor privileged in relation to either of these reals, but its proximity to both is one reason the field has become so central in our efforts to understand the conditions of possibility that shape us.

HAL FOSTER: “Atmosphere” raises alarms for me. It suggests that the apparent immateriality of a networked world requires “lightness” in all things (like “light construction” in architecture), which is little more than the old fantasy of technological disembodiment retooled for a cyberspatial age, and advances the fact of social derealization to boot. “Construction” was a utopian idea, but then, that was a utopian age. Ours isn’t, and perhaps shouldn’t be. There is too much rote utopianism, too much technological avant-gardism, today, even—or especially—in the intersection of art and architecture. There is a very real persistence of industrial infrastructure alongside “weightless” technology; detritus and Junkspace exist in tandem with informational realms. One thing art and architecture can do together is to highlight the nonfits between old structures and new systems, the nonsynchronicities between our different modernities.

Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei, Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012, London. Photo: Iwan Baan.

JULIAN ROSE: One concern I have with atmosphere, aside from lightness, is that it always also implies the bubble. We know that from Banham’s “home that was not a house” and we know that from Sloterdijk, who tells us about not only atmospheres but bubbles and foams. The atmosphere is always a “tempered” environment; that’s why you need a bubble to seal yourself inside. And once you’re sealed in a bubble, social interaction seems very difficult: I worry about atmospheres of solipsism. Or, worse, a kind of “ventilated shed,” a reprise of postmodernism where the guts of architecture—structure, envelope, etc.—are simplified and ignored, here in favor of atmosphere rather than image.

PHILIPPE RAHM: Atmospheres and bubbles are not synonymous. They can be distinguished by the kind of energy being used. If we use clean, renewable energy, we can create new atmospheric conditions without the required enclosure of the bubble. Historically, atmospheres were designed in two ways: open or closed. The first one is linked to energy profusion, as in Yves Klein’s proposal for an “Air Architecture” circa 1950, when everyone thought nuclear energy would be limitless. The second is linked to the oil crisis in the 1970s and the widespread recognition of global warming more recently, which prompted the thinking that spaces should be enclosed by insulation to minimize use of scarce energy resources. Today, we are entering an age of renewable energy that will provide new freedom in design. In our project for the Taichung Gateway Park in Taiwan, we will be able to sustainably produce a new form of public space simply by using renewable energy to blow cool air outside, creating a loosely defined zone of conditioned comfort. By avoiding nuclear- and fossil-energy sources, we can avoid the bubble as well. This example shows that, perhaps as “construction” did for the industrial age, the heuristic of atmosphere reveals the material and environmental conditions underlying—even motivating—the social and political realities of our time; interventions into these conditions are perhaps inherently political, even if they don’t take an explicitly critical stance.

DORIT MARGREITER: Interactions between the material and the immaterial are indeed crucial to consider but don’t need to be discussed only in terms of atmosphere or environment. The material and immaterial also meet in forms of mediation like film and photography. In using such forms, I wouldn’t say that I have withdrawn the work from realms of experience; rather, I see the work operating strictly within an artistic practice, and analysis and descriptive modes are a part of that. Hal, I agree that Junkspaces and zones of surveillance are significant conjunctions of art and architecture today. It seems to me that architects as well as artists play a complicit role in such developments. Both are basically asked to provide a “public experience” in the context of highly controlled spaces. Even though the users create a public space in their interaction, as urban critic Anette Baldauf argues in her investigation of places such as the MuseumsQuartier in Vienna or CityWalk in Los Angeles, they primarily serve the purpose of consumption. This reminds me a bit of the mid-’90s, when institutional critique was suddenly and very subtly incorporated by the institutions themselves. My understanding of the architect—and in this case also the artist—is not so much focused on his or her ability to produce “better spaces” and “better environments” but on the capacity to challenge our perception of space, in a positive as well as negative manner.

HILARY LLOYD: While projection is often thought of as immaterial or atmospheric—“light,” in Hal’s terms—there is also a tremendous amount of physical infrastructure necessary to produce projected images themselves. I don’t try to suppress this dimension of my work, and in fact I encourage a tension between the two. But at the same time all this equipment—and even the light traveling from the projector to the projected image—is a powerful presence connecting the projectors to the walls and the architecture. For example, my work Striped Man [2011] was inspired by my excitement about a particular configuration of walls in the Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Basel. Within a large rectangular gallery, a T-shaped partition wall divides the room so that one half mirrors the other. Responding to this spatial configuration, Striped Man was filmed to make three large-scale floor-to-ceiling projections in different formations; one long, continuous double projection; a vertical projection; and finally a U-shaped projection. The position of this partition wall meant that you could never see all the projections at once; as you walked through the space, some were revealed while others were obliterated. Here, as in many of my pieces, the spatial context and equipment necessary to produce the projections almost become an obstacle to seeing them. So these spaces are highly controlled, in the sense of their physical organization. But the videos being projected are much less so, because they are more descriptive and largely dictated by their subjects: They can be schizophrenic at times or sometimes fantastically slow, almost still. I like this uncontrollable state. I think that the projections themselves can sometimes appear more solid than their projectors or DVD players. It’s interesting to me that people often forget what form the works took, whether they were projections or shown on monitors. I want the video, the space, and the structuring of the equipment to work together as a single thing. But the architecture always dictates the configuration to me; I never feel I have many alternatives in terms of the placement of cabling, equipment, a projection. For me, everything revolves around the architecture.

House of the Wu family, Chongqing, China, March 27, 2007. Photo: Associated Press.

JULIAN ROSE: In this description of your work you seem to be getting exactly at the highlighting of nonfits and nonsynchronicities that Hal mentioned earlier. But is this task, like Dorit’s notion of challenging perception, perhaps a luxury that architecture doesn’t have? Architecture can’t just produce a moment of shock, pause, or reflection, because it does have function, program, things it has to get on with. Maybe there’s a way forward that wouldn’t be based only on making legible or baring the device?

HAL FOSTER: I don’t think it’s critical distance or die. One alternative is what Kracauer called “go for broke,” or what I call “mimetic exacerbation.” You take what is given and exceed it; you take the bad and make it worse. This strategy might not be viable for architecture in a world of Junkspace, but it is possible in art: Isa Genzken, Thomas Hirschhorn, and Rachel Harrison excel at this practice of mimetic exacerbation. If there is no other side of Junkspace, indeed no outside at all, they are still able to find fissures within its world, to pressure these cracks, and to open up a little running room there. Running room, then, not critical distance.

JULIAN ROSE: But I think there is an endgame to this strategy of excess, particularly in the face of increasing mediation. On the one hand, art and architecture—the latter even more so—are already major sources of spectacle, the bad kind of affect, and immersion: These increasingly sophisticated and overwhelming practices are hard to exceed, and in any event, they don’t need exacerbation! Can we afford to simply draw attention to conditions any longer? Don’t architecture and art have the power to establish conditions, not only critique them? Architecture may have always had this power—even if rarely used for good—while art, thrust ever further into the public realm by the very convergences we’re discussing, seems to be rapidly gaining it.

HAL FOSTER: I hope it’s not an either-or: critique or condition making.

THOMAS DEMAND: Perhaps it’s not such a binary problem? For example, the most intensive collaboration I have had with architects so far was a proposal with Caruso St John for the Nagelhaus in Zurich, which we lost two years ago. We were asked to collaborate on a scheme for an unaffecting square under a Brutalist highway bridge. The square was not exactly up to Swiss standards of urban redevelopment—drugs, raves, sex, you get the picture—so what was needed was a therapeutic act, delivered by an artistic intervention: a way of changing the experience. We thought about making a space with a social function that would justify its existence by its sheer practicability: a twenty-four-hour restaurant, which doesn’t exist in Zurich but which is “s-o-o-o contemporary.” But that alone was too pat. The question remained: How could we provide this function and experience while readjusting people’s idea of that space at the same time? The collaboration was a bit like a Ping-Pong game, and my next volley was to mention the famous house in Chongqing, China—owned by a single family, the Wus, who held out against selling to developers for years until it was finally torn down in 2007—and we proposed that this house be reconstructed under the bridge in Zurich.

JULIAN ROSE: I’m glad you’re returning to this issue of intervention in public space, which Dorit brought up earlier. To me, it raises a final question about relational aesthetics, perhaps the contemporary attempt at condition making par excellence, but one that largely lost its criticality. Relational aesthetics attempted to open art up to new possibilities of real life and real social space through architecture, but of course the convivial “experience” it implied was always also one of entertainment and consumption (in part because the “real” it invoked was already Junkspace). So, much installation art and architecture-as-installation today poses the question: After relational aesthetics, what is the fate of public experience? Can we still imagine art or architecture operating on space in a credibly political way?

THOMAS DEMAND: I believe that the project would have answered the demands of the site with a narrative that actually paid respect to the space and its historical permutations without being didactic. Ms. Wu’s nail house suggested an architectural trope of resistance—simultaneously claiming individual space and refusing to make space for replacement or displacement in the guise of urban renewal or “progress”—that is a blunt answer to, rather than a critique of, what the public thinks it needs. We won the competition, but then the right-wing party (the same one that banned minarets in Switzerland) ran a campaign to stir up outrage about the project by focusing on the cost of the disabled toilet that would be inside the house. They eventually succeeded in organizing a plebiscite on the project.

My main decision at that point—and I think this says volumes about art and architecture, maybe even more about artists and architects—was not to go on a public panel to defend the work. I thought that an artist would not survive the politics of such a platform, fecal as it was, and that the artwork itself should be able to make an argument in a totally different—and less placating—way. I am not afraid of public panels, but I realized that I don’t have to win the majority; the politician has to. I just want to win over that one thinking individual. Adam Caruso, however, worked brilliantly and restlessly to convince the electorate. Ironically, the left-leaning art world stayed totally mute and appeared shocked afterward that the measure was defeated, with the opposition winning 51 percent. But we had a large majority in the urban district where the project was supposed to go. The poster used by the right-wing party to incite opposition to the project was all over Zurich, and it still makes me proud, probably prouder than the actual construction would have: 5.9 MILLION FRANCS FOR A SHIT! NO TO NAGELHAUS, illustrated by a golden toilet! What other artist ever got that far?