In Uncategorized on March 3, 2010 at 5:28 pm


Paul Thek, installation view "Ark, Pyramid, Easter - a visiting group show", Museum of Art Lucerne, 1973 © Museum of Art Lucerne


Ahead of this weekend’s ART WRITING FIELD STATION I have been thinking about architecture. The title of this project implies some kind of purpose built structure, and although in practice the field station has so far been a nomadic affair, hosted by a number of gallery and studio spaces, the question of what kind of architecture the project implies, requires and brings into being remains for me a potent one. 

On Sunday we will launch the ART WRITING FIELD STATION ARCHITECTURAL OPPORTUNITY COMPETITION as a way of thinking through these issues over the coming months, gathering proposals and ideas that explore the conceptual, actual, fantastical, virtual, conversational and other architectures of the field station. Come along on the night to find out more. More details will be posted here next week.

Right now Hyun Jin Cho is making a 1 minute sequence of images, and I am making a 1 minute text that will introduce the project. We will put them together for the first time on Sunday night and see what happens. My own thinking has started from the possibilities opened up by the following three quotations:

(1)For many of Tatlin’s contemporaries, fellow avant-garde artists and writers, his tower exemplified the work of estrangement. The very fact that it was known primarily as a model or a project rather than a realized building reflected the possibilities and contradictions of the time. Thus, instead of speculating on the technical feasibility of its construction, a subject that has preoccupied many architects and others over the years, it is more productive to think about the tower’s actual history as a model and a project that opened up a new dimension of this intermediary and transitional architecture, which also may be called an architecture of possibility. 

“Project,” in the case of the tower, was not an end in itself, but neither was it an impasse. It was a crucible of possibilities and inspirations, not a utilitarian blueprint. Projects and models play a key part in the alternative history of the “off-modern.” In the context of the Russian avant-garde, artists and architects were frequently also writers. Their multifaceted production, often made “for the drawers” at a time when it was becoming increasingly difficult to build and publish, amounted to a different kind of a “total work,” one that was necessarily fragmented and came to constitute an avant-garde of dissent.

(2)Redesign a rainbow.
Design a labyrinth dedicated to Freud, using his photo and his writings. 
Design a Torah. 
Design a monstrance.
Design an abstract monument to Uncle Tom. 
Design a feminist crucifixion scene.
Design something to sell on the street corner.
Design something to sell to the government.
Design something to put on an altar.
Design something to put over a child’s bed. 
Design something to put over your bed when you make love.
Design a flying saucer as if it were The Ark. 
Design a black mass out of any materials you can find.
Design a work of art that fits in a matchbox, a shoebox.
Design a new clock face.
Design a box within a box to illustrate selfishness.
Design a throne.


(3)The Office for Soft Architecture came into being as I watched the city of Vancouver dissolve in the fluid called money. Buildings disappeared into newness. I tried to recall spaces, and what I remembered was surfaces. Here and there money had tarried. The result seemed emotional. I wanted to document this process. I began to research the history of surfaces. I included my own desires in the research. In this way, I became multiple. I became money.

…Soft Architecture will reverse the wrongheaded story of structural deepness. That institution is all doors but no entrances. The work of the SA paradoxically recompiles the metaphysics of surface, performing an horizontal research which greets shreds of fibre, pigment flakes, the bleaching of light, proofs of lint, ink, spore, liquid and pixilation, the strange, frail, leaky cloths and sketchings and gestures which we are.  The work of the SA, simultaneously strong and weak, makes new descriptions on the warp of former events. By descriptions, we mean mostly critical dreams, morphological thefts, authentic registers of pleasant customs, accidents posing as intentions. SA makes  up face-practices.

What if there is no “space”, only a permanent, slow-motion mystic takeover, an implausibly careening awning? Nothing is utopian. Everything wants to be, Soft Architects face the reaching middle.



(1) Svetlanya Boym, Architecture of the Off-Modern(FORuM Project, Princeton Architectural Press, 2008)

(2) Paul Thek, selections from “Teaching Notes: 4-Dimensional Design”, in Harald Falckenberg & Peter Weibel, Paul Thek: Artist’s Artist (MIT Press, 2008), 393-395.

(3) Lisa Robertson, Occasional work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture (Vancouver, Clear Cut Press, 2003).


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