»Dealing with Fear«
Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht
Since When and Why Are We Afraid
of the Future?
Bertrand Bacqué, Ingrid Wildi Merino
Beetween Fear as a Spectacle
and Interiorized Fear
Genetic Roots of Instinctive
and Learned Fear
David N. Bresch
Von irrationalen Ängsten
zu versicherbaren Risiken
Dealing with Fear
The Mise en Scène of the SS
in National Socialist Propaganda
Violent Machines for Troubled Times
Teresa Hubbard, Beate Söntgen
Home and Fear
after the Symposium’s Talk
Iassen Markov, Stephan Trüby
Temple of Janus 2.0
The 5 Codes_Space of Conflict
Jürgen Mayer H., Henry Urbach
Mind the Gap
A Transcript of the Symposium’s Talk
Matthias Aron Megyeri
Sweet Dreams Security® Est. 2003
Notes from an Orwellian City
Jasmeen Patheja, Hemangini Gupta
Fear as Experienced
by Women in Their Cities
Ortwin Renn, Andreas Klinke
Von Prometheus zur Nanotechnologie
Der gesellschaftliche Umgang
mit Risiken und Bedrohungen
The Politics of Lines.
and the Production of Space
Gerald Siegmund, Maren Rieger
Die Another Day: Dealing with Fear
Jens Martin Skibsted, Adam Thorpe
Liberty versus Security:
Bikes versus Bombs
High over the Borders
Stories of Hummingbirds, Crying Wolves,
and the Bird’s Eye View
Yi Shin Tang
Dealing with the Fear of Abuse
of Intellectual Property Rights
in a Globalized Economy
Keine Angst im Labor
Nikolaj Ladovskijs psychotechnische
Architektur im postrevolutionären Moskau
Susanne M. Winterling
Dealing with Fear: an Inside
and an Outside Perspective
|Jürgen Mayer H., Henry Urbach
Mind the Gap
A Transcript of the Symposium’s Talk
There are the darker strategies and the lighter ones. On the darker side we tend to explore issues such as the uncanny, the sublime, hybrids, mutants, disjunctions, and so forth. At times we revert to classical avant-garde strategies such as the Verfremdungseffekt announced by Bertolt Brecht or the Situationist notion of détournement. Yet, perhaps in a way that is very 1990s, the time when our ideas took form, we also share an interest in play and embodied experience that leads us to explore strategies of seduction and what we might call serious fun. At this point, for both of us, this double-edged approach is quite conscious and serves (we hope!) to draw people into the worlds we make and engage with them more deeply than they otherwise might. We both like to capture attention, build trust, and then offer a surprise, a way of thinking about things and spaces and social relations afresh. We try to draw people into experimental architecture, away from conventions that are so numbing and into a kind of new collective experience. So, maybe with those introductory words I will pass the baton to Jürgen.
So, I am going through some projects that have relationships to fear and might be, in a way, the reality that we are facing nowadays. And I am starting with an installation proposal as an exhibition design we were invited to display at the ZKM in Karlsruhe. The exhibition was called Controlled Space then curated by Tom Levin. And Controlled Space brought together, maybe for the first time, artwork related to surveillance and risk society or control society. And our understanding of this was to take the 3,000 square meters of the exhibition space as a flat surface, placing the artwork, of course in coordination with Tom Levin and his curator’s concept, and then start to create a certain modulated landscape—this was 2000/2001—according to the art work. There had to be a certain platform to show; there were dark chambers for videos and projections; there were larger paintings or photography that had to go on walls. We have the best view as human beings being upright in surveying flat landscape, now with this artificial landscape and the hills there is a certain blockage in view. And that is when technology comes in. And we have aerial cameras, we have motion detectors, we have light barriers, and so forth, infrared sensors. And all of that technology was already part of the exhibition because the artwork was also dealing with that technology anyway. So there were teddy bears with built-in surveillance cameras where parents could control their children while they play or observe them. There were certain web launches where we could look at artwork that was only happening on the web. For example, I think there was a New York performance group that performed exclusively in front of surveillance cameras on streets for the people watching or controlling these monitors—addressing questions of hierarchy and control. We came up with a kind of a barcode system that got adjusted to the specifics of the exhibition space. We worked, and I think this was part of our main interest, on architecture not only as a display system, but as something that actively becomes part of the exhibition experience. So, we collaborated with a software company that developed black-and-white checkerboard codes, individual codes that you now sometimes see on envelopes. And the idea was that if you go and buy your ticket, you would get a little sticker, you put it on, you would have an individual black-and-white pattern and all the cameras in the exhibition space would be linked to software that could trace you while you go through the exhibition space. I know, this is all very standard now, but in 2000 and 2001 it was a little bit more eye-opening than today (We all know now that if you walk around with your mobile phone, you can be traced everywhere). We simulated some personalities from high interest to low attention span, from being really involved in the beginning but then losing it towards the end. So basically, when you check out, you would get your personal walking drawing and only then you would notice that you had been followed or left traces. Our interest was not only a recording, but next time you visited you could be the one, who draws actively or consciously by going through the exhibition.
Since that took a little longer as a starting point, I can show you now a couple of works that happened or that work along that line of this tracing, leaving marks, bringing out something that is invisible. Seducing people after a first minor shock when you see that actually you display your underwear, you display certain information about your body, you show a temperature landscape of your body. After that first shock happens you would start to play. There is a certain interaction and a feedback that starts to happen. That goes from smaller objects to larger spaces. And this was the last show that happened in Henry’s gallery in 2005, which was called In Heat, and it took these walls or these surfaces onto the architectural surfaces, onto seating elements. The exhibition was a portrait gallery where you would only see if you directly interacted with the architectural surfaces. Another continuation of that was a large installation this year at the Vitra museum. In this case, this kind of graphic became even more a super graphic. In that case, it echoed Frank Gehry’s architecture into the interior. And also, for the first time, we decided to build in hot wires, where certain temporary ornaments would appear and disappear by heating up the wires or letting them cooling down. There was already a kind of a built-in reaction ornament that would disappear and appear at the same time the body would come onto the space and leave traces.
I am jumping now to an architectural project where you saw the details before. And in a way it works for me conceptually because that is a town hall that actually deals with the data of its citizens. The town hall became kind of a manifestation for a movement in public administrations called the transparent town hall or the virtual town hall. And this city Ostfildern was one of three cities in Germany that won the competition called “Media@com” (how do new city administrations nowadays deal with new technology, internet, new media, and data handling). What are the advantages of dealing with the citizens via these new communication devices? You could hand in your building permit via internet, even the 3D-data, and slowly a whole 3D-set would grow not only with the masses of the building of the outside but even the interiors of the building. And just imagine—back to the first work that we saw—that you walk around with your mobile phone, you could be traced wherever you are not only outside of buildings but even within spaces or within buildings. So, our consciousness, how to move and how to occupy public space, has to change through that kind of knowledge that we now have.
That town hall was built in Ostfildern, Scharnhauser Park, which was an American military site (again somehow related to fear and protection). Nellingen Barracks was given up in 1992 and the city decided to build a whole new town on that former American military site. What do we do with a site completely non-public, basically protected from the public, now wanting to become super-attractive, creating a new community, creating an active life? And so, if the outside is quite, let’s say, a monolithic building that gives a certain weight to the center or gravity point to that new city, the interior is a very complex three dimensional labyrinth with focus on the public circulation area to celebrate the citizens instead of the administration. This is the meeting room. This is the wedding chamber. Basically, a whole world to discover within that wonder box of a civic center.
The other elements are these poles that you see on the right. If the rain is nature animated by technology than these elements here are technology animated by nature because these hanging light wires with an optic that would project the light onto the floor would move with the wind. And so they would swing and the light point would also swing on the floor. The idea was to build in a web cam and we have 16 of these poles and a software, a regular software from supermarkets would collect all the 16 images and would bring them back onto the website of the city with this animated wind.light. The idea was also to anchor the real public space back into the virtual public space, which is maybe where the town hall gets more visited than the real building. All these things, how this new technology, new understandings of communication, new expectations of what a public space can do were brought together in this project in a very dense and compressed way. But what we learned from this was that there is an extreme curiosity and a hope and an acceptance or actually an embrace of a different kind of celebration of public space or communal space. And if it was in the beginning difficult to have the city board convinced that something extra actually would add to the city and they would profit from it, not only atmospherically, which I think is very important, but in the end it also becomes an economic factor because it just radiates and attracts more attention. A lot of what we discussed before seemed to have a fruitful resonance somehow.
Another project is the Mensa in Karlsruhe as a new center for three universities: the arts academy, the pedagogical school, and the technical university. The university closed down three small dining halls to create one larger one that is more economical in the long rum. At the same time, they were also hoping that different disciplines could mingle and the students would start to create a cross communication between the disciplines. And beyond being a special-looking building we also discovered a couple of new technologies. In this case, it is a wood building with a polyurethane coating.
In 2004, seven years after opening my gallery I did my first show of architectural drawings, Vanishing Points. Architectural Drawings by Hand, and included this 1917 drawing by Le Corbusier as well as works by Lebbeus Woods, Aldo Rossi, Peter Eisenman, and others. The reason I mention it first is that it took me many years to overcome my own anxiety of doing a show of architectural drawings in a gallery of architecture. I dealt with it by pairing this exhibition with an installation in the gallery’s project room.
Together these shows made an argument for architectural drawing as a form of conceptual research and not just visualization. And they were also meant to demonstrate—as I think, in one way or another all of the shows that I have been involved with do—what I call the projective impulse of architecture, which is to say that by comparison with artistic practices, which are largely interpretative, conceptual architecture is really a project of transformation. It aims to hypostasize new states of being, new kinds of situations, and new forms of participation.
We are now jumping back to 1997 where I managed to sneak my way into an art fair, the Gramercy Art Fair in the Gramercy Park Hotel; there, about 50 galleries were invited to take over individual hotel rooms. Most of the galleries treated the hotel rooms as bad galleries with imperfect walls and so on. Instead I saw the room as an already charged space and invited nine architects—some well known such as Bernard Tschumi and others not so known at the time such as Jürgen—to contribute a work that dealt with the hotel room itself. And so you see Diller + Scofidio’s His and Her Towels, Jürgen’s Lie sheets on the bed and his work on Euros attached to the windows.
After about a year and a half of staging interventions in art fairs—I did five in the course of 18 months—I was invited by Jeffrey Deitch to do a show in his gallery and worked with LOT-EK to present TV TANK. They took a 40-foot long petroleum trailer truck and sliced it into rings, each of which became an individual viewing lounge, a media environment where you could lie down and watch television. That project gave me some momentum and at that point I felt fearless enough to open my own gallery. My first show was Richard Barnes’ Unabomber photographs and nearly 50 projects followed before the gallery closed in 2005.
Here we have a collaborative project by Lebbeus Woods and Kiki Smith in the same space you just saw; it was typical of my shows in that the space became completely transformed with each project. And here is an installation by Freecell; they transformed the gallery one hot New York summer into a kind of garden. You stepped inside the greenhouse of suspended planes in a steel matrix covered in different kinds of moss over a floor that was made of shredded rubber; inside, the ground felt different, it was very damp and cool, and you could inhabit a kind of pure space of artificial nature.
Here is an installation by R&Sie, a project called Mosquito Bottleneck, which was a design for a house in the Caribbean. The idea of this house was that environmental threats, such as a huge mosquito population, could be incorporated into the building’s skin. This project connected with a parallel line of research and writing I began many years ago about ways that architecture organizes the relationship between inside and outside and, with that, between the pure and impure. We can see something of that again in this installation by An Te Liu where he stacked air purifiers into columns and created a kind of hypostyle hall. The air purifiers were all turned on; it was very noisy and the air was purified at an alarming rate. The piece offered a critical perspective on the modernist preoccupation with hygiene and the relationship of hygiene and interiority.
The complementary show to Jürgen’s In Heat, the last show in my gallery in 2005, was this one by Alex Schweder. This piece was called Lovesick Room and the idea was that the wallpaper emitted the smell of cake, which was delicious but also a little sickening. In the wall was a tiny monitor that showed the inside of someone’s’ body through an endoscope. Alex’s piece presented a deliberate confusion between inside and outside; this room got inside of you through smell. And that was paired with Jürgen’s In Heat, which offered something normally taboo, a gallery experience staged through touch.
There were a number of artists who showed with my gallery over the years; they all shared a certain courage insofar as they showed in a gallery called Henry Urbach Architecture. We would sometimes get calls from roofers and contractors who were hoping to do business with us. I think what joined the artists who were willing to go along on this ride with me was their interest in the gallery as a space for staging a parallel world—hypostasizing, as architects do, an alternative arrangement. So, here we have a piece by E.V. Day called Transporter. E.V.’s work deals with women’s bodies and tries to posit a state of a kind of unleashing where a more internal sense of autonomy and pleasure actually bursts out very often in very violent ways. Here is a silver sequin dress, shredded and held in a state of suspension as if being beamed up in Star Trek. And here is another show by E.V. called Galaxy, where mutant creatures fly through the gallery. Or Marsha Cottrell’s drawings; these are landscapes but also galaxies made of marks that begin in word processing programs. They are quite dazzling, even blinding, in their complexity. Or here Larry Mantello’s installation: thousands of icons of American pop culture reorganized in a way that reveals their political, sexual, and racial undertones; it is a work that one viewer, I think wisely, called Al Qaeda’s worst nightmare.
Now we’ll move to my work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I had reached a point where my gallery and its situation came into a kind of tension. The New York art scene, as many of you know, has become increasingly commercial and is now reaching a kind of fever pitch; in this context my gallery became increasingly unsustainable. And in order to grow in the way that I was hoping, it would have required a kind of not only investment but also a shift in the whole logic of the gallery towards something much less experimental.
I believed that I would have a chance to explore curatorial practice more deeply in the context of a museum and picked myself up and moved to San Francisco a year ago. And the first show that I did there was actually a project that I inherited but did my best to change. The idea was a very modest show of design objects from the collection by graduates from California College of Arts, which is a local art and design school. I was concerned that … we faced certain problems in exhibition design and architecture, first of all with architecture. Typically, you are showing something other than what the person is making, you are showing something that is not there. And with design objects you are showing things that are often too familiar in a different context. And each of these conditions really sets up certain limits and possibilities for a curator. So, I invited architect Douglas Burnham to stage these objects and he proposed a kind of ark. The idea was to imbed vitrines in a solid box such that each would hold an object and allow you to see past it into an interior space that was emblematic of school as a collective environment and also quite wonderful to see. Here, you have a sense of it; it was a kind of kaleidoscopic space in which objects became doubled and redoubled and seen through each other.
Then I thought I would give you a sense—because I am not only responsible for exhibitions but also for developing our permanent collection—of some of the works I have been buying; I think they also recapitulate the themes we have been discussing. Here on the left, we have the Boston bike by Biomega, a bike that incorporates risk, the threat of the urban environment, into its own design through a cable that, if cut, destroys the structural stability of the bike. And here is Tobias Wong’s Coke Spoon 2, a re-appropriation of a McDonald’s coffee spoon from the 1980s which was itself appropriated by drug users; it kept turning up as evidence in court trials, so McDonald’s pulled it and, two decades later, forced Wong to cease and desist production. Here are two photographs, on the left a photograph by Richard Barnes of the annual starling migration outside of Rome: an erosion of the sky that clearly evokes a sense of menace; and on the right, one of the works by Mauro Restiffe, a photograph of the monumental axis in Brasilia taken over by a vast crowd on the occasion of President Lula’s inauguration. So again, a kind of space is being undone. On the left photograph by Olivo Barbieri, who photographs urban sites from a helicopter using a camera with a tilt-focus lens that shifts scale radically within the image. Or this work by Peter Wegner, which shows Manhattan streetscapes inverted at 180 degrees. A different kind of disorientation is captured in Ron Arad's 1992 At Your Own Risk chair, a rocking chair filled with lead; the idea is you sit in it and when you get up it smacks you in the back.
And finally, the project now on view until the middle of January in our galleries, Your Mobile Expectations, by Olafur Eliasson, also known as the ice car. Here, a glimpse through the window of the freezer in which it is housed. This is a project that Eliasson did with BMW as part of their art car program which has been going on for about 30 years. Eliasson removed the shell from BMW’s hydrogen-powered race car and replaced it with a new skin with steel and ice. I am interested in this project for a number of reasons, especially as it creates a kind of architectural or atmospheric condition in the galleries. You arrive, you get a blanket and enter a freezer; inside it is about -10 degree Celsius, which is really a shock in San Francisco, where people often arrive at the museum wearing short pants and sandals. And then, with about 20 other people, you have this experience of being in a very strange bright cold space, a space at odds with the moderate, controlled atmosphere of the museum. And here is a detail: the process of icing the car on-site. Finally, an installation on the side walls with photographs of holes in the glacier, the Vatnajökull glacier in southern Iceland, which is Europe’s largest glacier. These holes are naturally occurring but also accelerating with climate change across the northern regions. I think these also offer a nice emblem for the aporia we face and form as we do our work.
Why do people fear good architecture, not as much as museums? I am really still a bit depressed about the point that most of the spaces people live in are very mediocre, and it is strange. And I think probably one idea could be, as you pointed out, by having public spaces be of a superior quality, people might be attracted to just better, quality-wise better space. Do you have a few words on that?
HU: It depends on what you mean by “good” and “quality.” I think people really appreciate quality in design, good craft and spaciousness and so on. And I think, fortunately, those traditions are quite alive in much of Europe and Japan and in certain parts of the world. But I think what we are thinking about more is not so much good architecture as much as challenging architecture, an architecture that imbeds itself as social and political critique.
JMH: I would also say that it depends very much on what is the understanding of our future and if this future has a certain positive or threatening aspect. Just as a very minor example: when I was young I had the feeling that the generation of our parents at least in this area of Germany, they all built really nice modern houses, they had these landscapes inside with fire places and a pool, quite modern and, in a way, innovative. If you look at what is built now it is very conservative, mostly conventional, but in a way it is a certain fear of loss of value. These things might be more easily sold later on, they might treat home and security in a different way that I think reflects what our understanding of future insecurity might be. And nowadays, for young architects, it is mostly clubs, lounges, maybe bars, restaurants or fair stands where we can experiment or do interesting things, mostly related to a very economic issue, because there is a certain event character built in a certain experimentation and doing something new. That completely shifted away from the single-family house towards different things like fair stands, stores, and restaurants. Since there is a lot of money involved, it also means that you have to feel comfortable with what you do with the money as a company, as a family, as a single person. It is a very difficult question for us. Then you see cultural differences. In Spain there is a huge interest in exploring and having something new, kind of updating the country to the twenty-first century. In Germany we are obsessed with rebuilding our castles. So I think, it is very culturally specific what is defined as “good” or where the risks or the potentials are happening.
JMH: I think that you could talk about the American market in a second, like gated communities. There is, of course, a big difference in different cultures. If you look at Japan, there is a quite big freedom in how you build within the city and this randomness or this chaotic structure is considered as normal because you are focusing on something else. Of course, Berlin is different and has other regulations that have been quite strict in the last years. That might change now. But I guess, that gives you either an opportunity or drives you away to other sites and countries to work. But then think about this in the US, it is even harder to have a possibility to do something different.
HU:What I find in Germany and much of Europe is that there is a kind of very dense public realm; it has a very particular atmosphere and a literal even spatial thickness as, for example, the edge between buildings and street is often very alive and inhabited. In America we have, I think, much more anxiety about public space, whether it is because it is a nation of immigrants and there was never the same sense of collective experience or because of the rise of the suburb and automobile culture and, later, the sense of threat the Americans imagine. So we see more and more attention towards private experience which, paradoxically, brings people back into the public realm of the internet in a certain way, but that is a different kind of space again.
HU: The jury is out. I am experimenting also with how can one operate in the museum with its slowness and bureaucracy. Nonetheless there is a dedicated space for work to take place. I think it is worth pursuing and it also allows a different depth of engagement with publications, for example, and public programs. A commercial gallery, on the other hand, has to be concerned with the bottom line and making sales.
JMH: It is also interesting that here we hardly have a museum that takes architecture or design as part of an all-inclusive cultural collection, it is mostly separated from an art museum. You want to see a Monet show, but then you might see a puzzling architectural object or a drawing. And I think there is a different understanding of cross-referencing, certain questions and concerns from one media to the other, from photography to video to sculpture to architecture to design.
JMH: I might have been interested in certain issues of patterns beforehand, or not ornaments, but geometry as a principle to deal with. But without any context; there was always a fascination with that. And I think it was helpful in the theory classes in architecture school, like Semper’s textile theory, or Mark Wigley’s book on the white wall. I think it was a moment where the surface was quite strongly discussed. But it was quite limited to a specific modernistic architectural language and I was very uncomfortable with that. It seemed like there was a kind of clear visual rhetoric. I felt I had to leave that context of New York to add something that became more my work or have a different take on that discussion and move it to somewhere else—a more complex understanding of architecture in an atmospheric sensorial way.
HU: I think that there was a critique of the modernist project that was taking place then and an effort to move as far as possible from postmodern historicism which, at that point, was not so old yet. In many domains of cultural theory people were moving towards radically subjective positions and trying to map their effects. I think queer studies had a lot to say to architectural theory because it was took on the body and erotic space and also the way that theories of performativity came to bear. And to go from that, you know, what people describe in Jürgen’s work as performative surfaces, that was a clear trajectory.
JMH: I am not really a specialist in virtual reality. For the last five to six years, there is so much work done on questions of digital production, of representation, and of even the narrative coming into architecture. And parametric design is a big issue, how certain conditions can adapt easily if the program or the project changes. The digital does not only happen on the screen but also changes structure, production and construction.