Susa Templin

Cato Jans der Raum

The history of mankind is manifest in its architecture—houses, temples, streets, markets, parks, and graves. It is a story that is continually being built, seen, and told anew. With her recent exhibition, “3 Feet 6 Inches Deep,” Susa Templin contributes her own chapter to this narrative with a watery vision of the city.

Templin’s photo collages, small models, and fleeting sketches propose a Manhattan filled with water. This seems appropriate on one level, because her work itself might be described as fluid, osmotic, and dynamic, all qualities that she imagines for the architecture of the future—as such titles as City proposals, Space available, and Underwater make clear. “Fluid architecture” is a utopian aesthetic that for the moment finds expression principally in video art and at times, allusively, in real buildings. In Templin’s work, fluidity becomes a material reality, as water is converted into an architectural element of equal value to the static components—cement sidewalks, brick buildings—of New York neighborhoods.

Although the work was not included in the show, Templin’s 1998 drawing, A pool is negative-architecture, might be seen as explanatory of its underlying logic: Templin’s primary interest appears to be in bright blue swimming pools, their four cornered spaces lifted out of the ground and placed upright in urban settings. Sometimes full, sometimes waterless, these pools are found in numerous collages; even empty, in their contrast to the surrounding buildings, they form metaphoric collecting pools for a new architecture.

In other collages of the city, Templin inserts a fragment of an image of pool water on which she has sketched a rectangular prism. These blue transparent boxes sit at intersections or rise out of the construction sites between skyscrapers. Bubbles from an untraceable source have formed on their surfaces. Hermetically sealed yet seemingly boundless, Templin’s idiosyncratic “fountains” are typical of her work, an integral part of her amusing visual attempts to bring the element of water into the city via sketches and architectural models.

Visitors were invited to experience what it might be like to actually move through fluid architecture with Room, 1999, an underwater photographic image printed on five strips of Mylar that covered an entire wall of the gallery. The sputtering bubbles in blue water transformed the exhibition space into a virtual aquarium, while a foot dangling in the water seemed to suggest a kind of grounded weightlessness—a state that might ideally take place more in thought and perception than in reality.

Wolf Jahn

Translated from German by Elizabeth Felicella.