Sarah Breen Lovett
Expanded Architecture 01 - 06
The Intersection of Moving Image Installation and Architecture
This practice-based research of Expanded Architecture aims to use moving image installation to explore our relationship to architecture, how we physically and psychologically relate to the architectural elements around us. This site-specific research is carried out by re-framing, re-focusing and literally re-projecting the existing architecture of the installation back on itself with moving image installation.
Fundamentally, the pairing of architecture and moving image installation, has an inherent contradiction; architecture is normally experienced in a state of distraction, while art work, especially film is experienced in a state of awe. (Benjamin 1936). By reframing the architecture back on itself, this inherent contradiction leads to an interesting wavering of consciousness between the moving image installation, and the architecture. By using one to explore our relationship to the other, a third entity is formed. One is not totally ignorant of the architecture, nor in awe of the moving image, but sits in tension between these elements.
This practice-based research of Expanded Architecture, has revealed that folding the architecture back on itself through the moving image installation, creates certain tensions between self and space. Where ‘tension’ is understood as being held in a state between two opposing states. The mirroring of the architecture back on itself either through footage used in the moving image, or the construct of the installation has a destabilising effect on the sense of self within the space, because the sense of self in space is held between the architecture and the moving image.
It can be explained that, in a wavering state between the moving image and the architecture, one's sense of self within space becomes decentred (Bishop 2005). The un-noticed or ignored comes into focus; the familiar architecture becomes strangely unfamiliar (Vidler 2000). The elements of spatial exteriority of time and space become unreliable, further creating a tension between self and space.
Expanded Architecture explores a gap in practice by shifting the focus of the moving image installation, from the moving image content or multi-screen installation to the architecture present in the installation. This folding the architecture back on itself, extends the narrative, representative, image focused, screen based works that pervade the contemporary moving image installation landscape.
The body of practice-based work extends and builds on a lineage of artists and architects that have explored the relationships between moving image and architecture.
Since the mid 1980s moving image installation has been accepted as a main-stream art practice (Foster, 2004:654), contemporary artists that explore the relationships between moving image installation and architecture do so by primarily focusing on the viewer's experience of the content of the moving image in a multi-screened environment (Aitken 2006) (Penz 2003) (Shoning 2009), or creating a relationship between the architecture of the installation and some other networked site condition (Kwon 2002) (Rendell 2008).
The most noted artists who use imagery of architecture as moving image content are Jane and Louise Wilson. They use filmed footage of various architectures and construct moving image installations from these, such as A Free and Anonymous Monument (2003), in which a dialogue is set up between the architectural content in the moving image and the series of floating screens being projected upon. This is primarily set up for installation in a gallery or museum context and does not necessarily include of the existing architecture of the installation within the image.
The focus with these kinds of multi-screened moving image installations is to create a relationship between architecture and the multi-screened environment, focusing on motion and emotion (Bruno 2002), triggers to memory and nostalgia (Connolly 2009), sense making, perceptions of void space, creating a sense of the ‘other’ and warped spaces (Vidler 2000).
One of the better-known contemporary artists, creating a relationship between the architecture of the installation, and some other networked site condition is Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. Lozano-Hemmer has developed a concept called Relational Architecture (1997-2008), where he looks at a series of relationships between the viewer and the artwork, but not specifically the viewer and the existing architecture.
Within this broad picture of contemporary practice, the Expanded Architecture research is neither solely concerned with the viewer’s experience of the artwork, nor with expanding the notion of site beyond the space that the installation is in. Concepts exploring the relationship between the art work and the viewer have been the focus of many artists over the past few decades in installation art practices and are now considered par for the course. (Bishop 2005)
Rather, the Expanded Architecture series of works aim to reflect upon the relationship between the viewer and architecture, through the medium of the moving image. As such, broadly speaking, the Expanded Architecture practice would be positioned between gallery installations that use imagery of architecture as its content and contemporary architectural projection based ‘site’ works. This area of art is a contested ground that highlights a tension between gallery, cinema and site (White 2008).
On a finer grain, the Expanded Architecture research would position itself with between the site specific filmic installations of Lisa Roberts, Blind Side and Betraying a Portrait 1995, which re-projects the original architecture back on itself, blurring the line between the real and the projected, and Gigi Scaria, whose installation at the Venice Biennale 2011 (alongside his writing) reflects on the relationship between the viewer and architectural elements.
Historically speaking this contemporary terrain can be traced back to the 1920s, where there have been installations that explore the relationship between moving image and the space around it. Early examples can be seen in Rythmus 21 by Hans Richter and Anaemic Cinema by Marcel Duchamp. In both of these films the ‘space’ of the screen, in terms of its depth and our perceptual awareness of it, were played off in tension to the image being projected. Through the use of black and white imagery in graphic tension (ciascuro) the screen surface itself appeared three dimensional and was just as much a focus as the image portrayed upon it.
During this time Laszlo Moholy-Nagy in his Light-Play and Poly-Cinema experiments at the Bauhaus, aimed to explore the various relationships between moving image installation and architecture. Specifically his experiments were focused on stabilising the time space continuum. Amongst others, Moholy-Nagy believed that there was a certain balance (equipoise) to be attained through the intersection of moving image installation and architecture. He specifically aimed to explore the relationship between space and time with his Poly-Cinema concept, whereby layers of different films would be played together in various shapes and arrangements, in order to heighten the awareness of the relationships between time and space. However Moholy-Nagy did not have the technology at the time to extend these experiments into practice and they remained in theory. The Light-Space Modulator can be seen as an extrapolation of the Poly-Cinematic proposals, because of its ambitions to create a dialogue between space and time.
In the 1960s and 1970s one motivation of Installation Art was to expand art beyond the single object, physically into space (Krauss 1979) and conceptually into ideas (LeWitt 1967). This period of art set up a dialogue between art and architecture, where the defining lines between the two were becoming blurred. Specifically some artists of this time used architecture within their installations to comment on the relationship between art and architecture, where one is foregrounded over the other or makes comment on the other.
Dan Graham’s Picture Window Piece (1974) focused on the relationship between a picture window and other types of viewing platforms. Gordon Matta Clarke’s Anarchitecture, foregrounded pre-conditioned expectations of what architecture is. Mel Bochner’s Measurement Rooms (1969) looked at how the architecture is experienced in a state of distraction, while the art is foregrounded. While Blinky Palermo and Michael Asher specifically took architectural elements from one part of the gallery space and relocated, or re-presented, them in another part of the gallery in order to question our normative understandings of art and architecture (Rormier 2001:228-274).
During this time the Expanded Cinema movement was concerned with expanding cinema beyond the traditional cinema experience (Youngblood 1970). This was done in a variety of ways, but the most significant for this research, was the way in which they expanded the projection of the moving images into the space of the architecture using multi projection surfaces. In this way the Expanded Cinema practices shifted attention from the moving image to focus on the existing architecture in the installation itself. This kind of expanded cinema was most notably explored by certain ‘Para-Cinemas’ (Sconce, 1995) of Anthony McCall (Walley 2007), specifically his Long Film For Ambient Light (1975), where the moving image was reduced or removed all together, to focus purely on the architecture of the installation (Walley 2004) (Joseph 2005). This piece of work by McCall marked a significant tension between the moving image and the architecture. Where invariably the moving image gains precedence over the architecture in the installation space. The movement of the image either distracts from the architecture or changes perception of the architecture.
The practice based research of Expanded Architecture, extends this lineage of artists and architects exploring the relationship between moving image, installation and architecture.