Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes

An interesting looking exhibition at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis:
Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes.

I like the idea that it brings together the work of photographers (who surely have been the most prolific in examining and exploring the suburbs visually? And probably over the longest period of time?), along with other visual artists and architects.

(Gregory Crewdson, Untitled from the series Dream House)

"Because suburbia occupies a dominant presence in so many lives—a place of not only residence but also of work, commerce, worship, education, and leisure—it has become a focal point for competing interests and viewpoints. The suburbs have always been a fertile space for imagining both the best and the worst of modern social life. On the one hand, the suburbs are portrayed as a middle-class domestic utopia and on the other as a dystopic world of homogeneity and conformity. Both of these stereotypes belie a more realistic understanding of contemporary suburbia and its dynamic transformations, and how these representations and realities shape our society, influence our culture, and impact our lives.

(Coen + Partners, Mayo Plan #1: Reinventing a Midwestern Suburb)

The intention of Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes is to demonstrate how the American suburb has played a catalytic role in the creation of new art. Challenging preconceived ideas and expectations about suburbia (either pro or con), the exhibition hopes to impart a better understanding of how those ideas were formed and how they are challenged by contemporary realities. The exhibition features artwork by Gregory Crewdson, Dan Graham, Catherine Opie, and Edward Ruscha, among others, and architectural projects by firms such as Fashion.Architecture.Taste, The Center for Land Use Interpretation, MVRDV, and Estudio Teddy Cruz."

(Chris Faust, The Edge, Eden Prairie, MN)

There is an associated book - Worlds Away - that looks well worth the cost, and which includes some good looking essays from architects and urbanists to accompany the work. In the arena of the city and the suburbs there is a whole matrix of different disciplines often looking at the same things, from different directions and perspectives, but not always relating their findings to one another - indeed, often not even realising the others are there, exploring the same things.

(Michael Vahrenwald, Straw Hill, Wal-Mart, Bloomsburg, PA)

I like Stefano Boeri's idea of the Eclectic Atlas - the bringing of all these views together to interact and interrelate. He sees the view of the photographer - often poetic, frequently oblique, to be of equal weight with that of the urban planner or the architect or the geographer in mapping and understanding the urban condition and the suburban state of mind.

(Paho Mann, Re-inhabited Circle K’s (Phoenix))

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