Guerilla intervention: images that stage five events that would and could exist only within the narrative of the exhibition poster.
Re:enact is the result of a conversation between 2011 Power Corporation of Canada Curatorial Intern Cerys Wilson and TagTeam Studio.
by Cerys Wilson
“Nobody will be offended by improper portrayal of the dinosaur, not even animal rights activists.”
In October 2011, one month into my nine-month stint as a CCA Power Corporation Curatorial Intern, I was asked to present to my new colleagues my initial impressions and observations, delivered as if to an outside audience unfamiliar with the institution’s daily routines and quirks. In response, I took as inspiration Alberto Manguel’s Dictionary of Imaginary Places, creating a new entry for the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and lodging it suitably between Camphor and Cannibal Islands, in line with the Dictionary’s alphabetical logic.
The CCA as an imaginary place is no longer easy for me to portray; it is real and I have been there. Yet using the space of the galleries as a printed page once more allows me to bookend my time and experience as a Curatorial Intern in the wider context of curatorial practice, both at the CCA and beyond.
Through a series of individual and collaborative projects, I have repeatedly considered the viewer’s engagement with the exhibition object and with the space that surrounds both it and them. What power does the static, rarefied original now command in the arena of the museum gallery?
In collaboration with Montreal-based graphic design duo Tag Team Studio, I decided to stage five events that would and could exist only within the narrative of the exhibition poster. Playing on the idea that curating architecture is an action that brings to life an archive and a practice for a set audience - an engagement with spectators and spectacle - these events draw on materials from the CCA Collection and from past CCA exhibitions that I was fortunate enough to witness. The archive as time-line is ruptured and reframed, evoking single moments, structures, actions, and players in the history of architecture, all connected under the unifying superstructure of the museum exhibition. And what better way to reframe events than to restage them?
Curation implies Power and Re: enact, as a curatorial project, takes this notion to the extreme by raising the architectural dead. Within the four walls of the five posters, Palladio returns once more to the CCA for a 9 to 5 work day in the Paul Desmarais auditorium, and Gordon Matta Clark’s 1974 Splitting of a New York suburban house is dusted off and reissued in true B-movie style revenge - the CCA’s structural fault line providing a perfect readymade victim. Glass partition walls, designed for the CCA exhibition Imperfect Health by Belgian architecture firm Office, and re-worked for the current exhibition Notes From the Archive: James Frazer Stirling, are transformed into Mies van der Rohe’s 1929 Barcelona Pavilion and 1951 Farnsworth House, respectively, the latter act conjuring the flood of 2008 that submerged the building. And not to forget the children, Vladimir Tatlin’s never built Monument to the Third International finally finds a home in the CCA Garden through a Family Program model-making workshop.
“The pavilion itself will be the exhibit,” said Mies of his now mythic 1929 design. Although Re: enact constructs paper parodies of both itself and architectural events in time, it also aims to address a more earnest question about the reality of curatorial practice. Curator and filmmaker Hito Steyerl may vilify the poor digital copy, whose “dubious genealogy” prevents it from entering the exclusive institutional archive. Yet she also welcomes its power to enable user participation and communication en masse, elevating the viewer to active creator and distributor of content. With the anticipated ‘fall’ of the museum object into oblivion at the hands of its simulated poor cousin, how will the rise of curatorial programs be sustained in the long run, with fewer ‘real’ objects to curate and more curators to fight over the spoils? Will the Curator Herself soon be on show – a poor static reproduction of that once rarefied original? Curatorial residencies, as they now stand, provide both space for ideas and on-site training. But what does this training provide in terms of a reality outside such learning structures? Only time will tell.