Yesterday, between classes and getting on my weekly commuting fate back to Lisbon I happily squeezed in a book launch at Porto’s FBAUP arts school………… In fact, I was quite looking forward to (Dis)Locations: Exile, Topology, Relocation as, just after my recent contribution to Abitare, this publication brings out my latest article on curating architecture as an operative practice.
Edited by artist and researcher Gabriela Vaz-Pinheiro, (Dis)Locations has the unusual and praiseworthy attribute of conflating student’s research work with newly produced, specially commissioned theoretical reflections on the very subject of their study.
In the spirit of an exploratory, transdisciplinary object, you may thus find here essays on the mutating codes of landscaping (Laura Castro), a possible topology of media (Miguel Leal), the shifting status of public art (Jeremy Hunt & Jonathan Vickery), and even a graphic novel on non-gravity architecture as a reenacted, roving Noah’s Ark (Jimenez Lai).
In the midst of this profusion, my extravagantly titled piece, “Ex-, Post-, Re-, Dis-Locus: Curatorial Thinking and the Dislocation of Architectural Discourse,” dwells on how the practice of curating, as influenced by its developments within the contemporary art world, goes against the grain of architecture’s aspiration to permanence – and thus may offer a paradoxical resistance to the latent petrification of its connected critical discourse.
The essential argument here is that, given its “wandering nature” and its “permanent dislocation of attention” on the make, curating favors an outlook on architecture that, contrary to criticism’s traditional tendency to freeze the social and aesthetic values of architecture, rather questions such values incessantly.
As an activity that is perversely close to trend watching and cool hunting – but is also prone to reframe and orchestrate the unending “re-making of the perceptive apparatus that art pursues and provokes” – curating thus offers the dislocation of the “critical gaze as one of the tools through which architecture continuously overcomes itself.”
If you want to read more about the arguments that sustain such aggravating propositions, as well as all the other wonderful stuff included here, you will have to look for another valuable book that, for the exception of two obscure bookshops in Porto, will most likely be impossible to find anywhere in the world… and also plainly hard to order online. (Unless you go here!)
It is not necessarily the case that academic publications are trying to avoid commodification and look like as if they are rarefied. As distribution succumbs to the endless reproduction of the already known, this just seems to be the destiny of many paper publications nowadays.
As it happened with vinyl records, interesting books are turning into profligate limited editions for fierce collectors only.