New York


Artists Space Exhibitions

“Sequences” is not a program like Krier’s “reconstruction”; it is an investigation of method. In the projects of five young architects we see how the sequence is used to (re)present and reflect on architectural activity. Bernard Tschumi, who curated the show, adds a Barthes-like essay on the concept of the sequence, which, he says, is basic to architecture “insofar as it allies notions of route as well as ritual, movement as well as method, program as well as narrative.” Many of the thoughts that follow are his.

A sequence may be based on transformation—on a set of ordered and reordered elements. In Rien Nier, Images du Monumental, Philippe Guerrier transforms a few blocks (arches, columns, steps) into many toy/monuments. His play is serious: it examines our basic intuitions of architectural order and representation. Though the elements are few, the sequence is not closed. Nor is the sequence of Jenny Lowe. A Surrealist fiction about space, it is a random series of episodes in which anything, or nothing, can occur. Based on a performance, Detached House is an “exploration of method” which no law governs. Perspectives change radically (as in film), and spaces seem created by the desires that also inhabit them. In these etchings we are initiates to an unknown ritual.

The sequence as a passage is also important to Deborah Oliver, though her “ritual” is orderly—or, rather, destructured very subtly. Like many architects, she is engaged in “border” forms. Of her Athens Project she writes: “A building on the edge of the city and the ruins. A building that frames the ruins. A road and a railway line that bend the frame.” Her sequence may be read as an enigmatic allegory, an architectural narrative in which the order of past and present is put in question. Peter Wilson’s sequence is also allegorical in nature. Its narrative, however, occurs on the site rather than in the sequence, and as Wilson notes, it is without a center, inasmuch as modern and surreal forms are applied to an historic and stately design. Is such a reconstruction a comedy or a tragedy—or a tragicomedy? Wilson includes the traditional masks of both in a restoration that resembles nothing more than a modern revival of an old play.

Lorna McNeur also is interested in reconstruction, but not in the historical or histrionic fashion of Wilson. In Central Park she sees the shape of Manhattan as a whole, and her sequence “abstracts” the park into the island. As a sort of proof, it is a closed sequence, and though it is properly architectural, concerned with urban design—she notes how the park decenters New York and allows for neighborhoods—it seems theoretically influenced by earthworks, in particular those of Robert Smithson.

The real import of “Sequences” is the recognition that experiences thought to be foreign to architecture may not be: these projects show the influence of performance, Surrealist theater, film and earthworks. Through the notion of the sequence new ways to apprehend architecture are explored, and we see again that architectural issues are not merely those of design.

Hal Foster