A MANNERIST TRANSPARENCY

Posted in: Uncategorized- Jan 18, 2011 Comments Off

A MANNERIST TRANSPARENCY
Essay by Peter Zuspan
. . .
katsushige nakahashi, zero project, 2006, photographs, tape

I’ve regained the ability to watch “Entertainment Tonight.” I couldn’t watch it for a while. It wasn’t that my Hollywood news index had weakened or that I’d lost an appreciation for the content. My reluctance to view the program came from a frustration with the method of its presentation. The problem was that each story, when finally revealed, would more often than not feature the same content and last the same amount of time as the countless teasers before to the commercial breaks. I felt swindled. repair foundation cracks . recycled glass jars . But when a bit distracted from my disappointment, I noticed that beyond whatever capitalist agenda drives these unfortunate narrative decisions, there is actually a beautiful model of transparency in this form of presentation. The body of the broadcast is almost identical to that which lies on its flashy cover: the façade is a copy of the interior. The news magazine operates with a sort of mannerist transparency, by which inside and outside are not negotiated and theorized around a border of politicized reciprocity, but rather they are more or less simply repeated, using recognizable pop conventions of glitz, glamour, and celebrity exposure.

I’m an architect. I think about architecture even while watching news magazines sometimes. Recently, I’ve become increasingly interested in looking at architecture as a problem of distraction. A subject’s experience of a building is rarely contemplativeâ€far less so than his experience of most other art forms. Contemplating architecture as one would a painting or a photograph is an esoteric mode of vision reserved largely for academics; however, the institutional context of the gallery or the museum forces even the non-connoisseur into a contemplative position with artwork. Architecture is rarely placed in such an environment. Instead, it often provides this environment. Architecture lingers peripherally within the subject’s realm of perception, where it seeps into his consciousness as a background for other events. This kind of spatial perception requires a farsighted attention, while perceiving objects within architectureâ€books, paintings, photographs, and filmsâ€demands a nearsighted attention from the viewing subject. Each of these objects produces anti-spatial qualities in architecture. Each requires a close inspection and a duration of contemplative attention to comprehend it. In choosing to do so, the subject’s attention is cast away from the farsighted architectural gaze towards the nearsighted material. His attention falls into the narrative or experience of these images and thereby temporarily escapes the larger architectural space. On this level, architecture exhibits symptoms that suggest its contemplative irrelevance to the modern subject.

The “Zero Project,” a series of sculptures by Katsushige Nakahashi, calls to mind the method by which architecture positions the subject in a relationship between contemplation and distraction, between image and architecture. Each work in the series is constructed from more than 20,000 close-range photographs of the surface of a toy model Zero Fighter, the historic airplane of Japan’s World War II fleet. The photographs are taped together to form a life-sized replica of the airplane.

katsushige nakahashi, Zero Project, 2006, photographs, tape

These sculptures use a similar technique as “Entertainment Tonight,” a kind of tabloidal repetition. This repetition is not used to negotiate inside and outside per se, but rather each sculpture takes “Entertainment Tonight’s” model of transparency and nests it in a sort of tertiary repetition, where the large iconic sculptural form, the array of photographs, and even the toy itself (represented in the photographs) each present the same referent in an ever-decreasing degree of scale. Because these different levels of material all reference the same content, any contemplative focus on any levelâ€the form, the photograph, or the toyâ€offers a type of feedback. The viewer’s attention, once invested in the detail of the photograph, for instance, would easily loop back into the larger architectural scale, since the toy plane depicted in the photograph is also apparent in the larger sculptural form. repair foundation cracks . Thus, due to the nested repetition of content, the project presents images in a manner that tempers their digressive contemplation. Instead of dissipating attention, distraction concentrates it by feeding back into the larger architectural scale.

Beyond the repetition of content, the sculpture’s mode of production also offers a blending of nearsightedness and farsightedness. The gridded assembly of photographs constitutes an affinity between the media of photography and architecture. Architecture’s size requires that it be made of parts. The sculpture’s assembly of rectilinear photographs is stereotomic, arranged as an architectural patterning of construction that aligns itself with the orthogonal frame of the photograph. This provides a pivot for the subject to negotiate both with the photograph and the larger-scale form. Moreover, each photograph of the toy model is taken at extremely close range. These macroscopic images produce a space in which the viewers cannot imagine themselves; they cannot project themselves into the photograph as it is too shallow. This method presents an animosity towards a contemplative digression, as only the eye can inhabit the image. A productive relay ensues between the photographic and the architectural via an overlapping technique of both media: the camera zoom lens meets the architectural preoccupation with scale. The images force the eye back to the larger scale.

In addition to these techniques of production, the material quality of the photographsâ€their glossâ€adds yet another level of animosity to a nearsighted contemplative attention to the image. Gloss presents an albedo effect, a glistening reflection of light that migrates from one photograph to the next, tracing the relationship between the subject and sculptural form and linking the stereotomic assembly of parts into one topological whole. This gloss provides a surface tension to the photographic space that is a constant reminder of its material flatness, where reflected light often obscures the shallow space depicted in it.

katsushige nakahashi, zero project, 2006, photographs, tape

In the Zero Project, the image does not demand contemplative attention away from the architectural scale. The individual images are simple enough that they do not require intensive contemplation. They are not iconic. They do not reference anything but the zero fighter itself. And should the subject’s attention collapse into the picture-window of the photographic detail, his gaze would travel through the photograph to the “interior” space where the toy model resides, only to proceed back “outside” to the overall scale of the artwork. The project suggests a space in which the image’s life in architecture could operate outside the arrogance of formalist readings or the opposing alternative arrogance in the presumption of the subject’s popular culture awareness. The project suggests an architecture where image does not destroy space, but rather constructs it. The contemplative image still distracts the subject, but in this case, it forces architecture into the contemplative foreground. A future of architecture lies in the use of this model of repetition, one in which popular culture’s stockpile of calculated mannerist distractive techniques spills into buildings. Let the architect be swindled.

. . .
2008

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