I think it’s about time to say something more about the notion of Performance Architecture… Alas, this is the title of another of those curatorial projects that I was keeping on hold and that I’ve now decided to deliver “open-source”…
Perhaps this is another of those pedagogical stories about free-lance curating. The idea, originated during a discussion in Basel, was initially proposed to the then recently appointed direktorin of an Hamburg Triennale that I guess has itself disappeared.
The project was discussed with the CCA‘s Mirko Zardini, but there the recession put a halt to it. Then it got entangled into the internal politics of the Lisbon Architecture Triennale and also there it was denied its coming into being…
Lately, it was also proposed for the Asturias’ Laboral, which seemed like quite an adequate venue for it, but after a warm welcome by Rosina Gómez-Baeza, silence from the institution became quite “deafening” (as we say in Portuguese politics).
As I believe there is a proper time for projects to make their impact, particularly in a world regulated by ever tighter trends & fads, I think it’s time for the idea to be exposed. Moreover, the term is coming up already in very diverse contexts, possibly making it dejá vu by the time anyone will accomplish a show on it… (Although, at some point, I am sure someone will make an exhibition about it.)
The fact is, anyway, that one of the people who was present at the Basel discussion made it for herself and has managed to already create an event on the subject. And I’m glad she did. This was the Performing Architecture event last week at Madrid’s Matadero, as curated by Ariadna Cantis.
However, as you may read here at more length, this wasn’t exactly my idea of the notion of Performance Architecture…
Matadero’s event certainly addresses some of the protagonists I am looking at. But more than the performing arts, theatrical approach to enacting an architectural discourse within the city, I’m interested in the relationships between architecture and Performance Art.
Over the last two decades minimalism and pop art have influenced architecture with a delay of about 30 years. Now, it is the moment for the performance practices of the Seventies to make their comeback into the realm of architecture and urban intervention.
In its relation to art, architecture was quite in sync with the avant-gardes during the first decades of the XXth century, only to gain an increasing delay in regards to art’s progressive role after the Sixties. During the Sixties, even if marginally, there were still groups that were perfectly synchronized with the Pop movement, namely in the UK and Italy. Gordon Matta-Clarke, on the other hand, signals in the Seventies a definitive departure of the rebelling artist from architecture’s increasingly specialized and technicist realm.
When the Post-Modern movement explodes, architecture is certainly on the forefront… but as the leader of what Hal Foster called the movement’s reactionary side. Postmodernist architecture was regressive – and so were the immediate reactions to it. Decon is not much more than a return to Constructivism in philosopher’s garments, and even Rem Koolhaas is just cleverly –and retroactively– looking at the avant-gardes, from Melnikov right onto Superstudio.
Minimalism in architecture eventually carried out the same sort of retroactive move, and does it by looking back at the very last movement before the most progressive strain of Postmodern art appears in Rauschenberg and others.
Now, what I’m trying to get at here is the fact that, while Performance Architecture is also unconsciously looking back to art history, it does so onto an artistic movement that had a highly conscious political role. And this creates a difference.
While Minimalism in architecture was quickly devoid of its critical, perceptive overtones, the practice of Performance Architecture is actually retaining the social, political and “body” discourse that characterized the art movement. Which is highly positive, and only possible because its protagonists are not yet totally immersed in the commercial drive of today’s architecture.
This phenomenon creates the other distinctive aspect of what I’m addressing here – specially when other notions of performance in architecture are coming up in recent discourse, albeit addressing the “performativity” of architecture while directing it to economical and disciplinary efficiency.
While I also refer to “performativity” in the text I am now releasing online, I do it to precisely keep that notion at bay. And that is one reason why what I’m saying here is quintessentially different from what is coming up in David Leatherbarrow’s “Architecture Oriented otherwise.”
The inaugurating book of the obviously welcomed “Writing Matters” collection –from that other Ivy League publisher a.k.a Princeton Architectural Press– delivers the concept of analyzing architecture as a performative device rather than objectual production.
But while Leatherbarrow’s proposition is interesting and reflects important shifts in the way we should regard architecture, it also shows the typical flaw of current American theory.
While the notions put forward there are supposedly progressive, they also contains in themselves the trigger for their own “happy consumption” within a market model and an architectural regime that remains unquestioned…