via It's Nice That
Friday, 29 June 2012
Wednesday, 27 June 2012
In 1926, Austrian architect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky designed the Frankfurt Kitchen. At the time, Lihotsky was working for Ernst May at the Municipal Building Department in Frankfurt. The department set out to standardise the design and production of kitchens for social housing, and May commissioned Lihotsky to design a kitchen prototype that would be suitable for installation in every affordable housing project.
Once the Frankfurt Kitchen had been completed, it was fitted in 10,000 homes - this was the first time a fitted kitchen had been successfully installed in such a volume of flats, and as such, it is the prototype for what we know as fitted kitchens today - a streamlined, efficient room which would enable housewives to perform their daily tasks with the minimum of fuss.
"The Frankfurt Kitchen illustrates key principles of the 1920s: objectivity, functionalism, and above all standardisation. The concept of standardisation was connected not only with production techniques, but also reflected the ideological position of the Bauhaus and Werkbund activists, who saw the uniform design of everyday objects as a contribution towards levelling the differences between classes."
Tuesday, 26 June 2012
'Although it has been a nearly a month since I visited the Pablo Bronstein: Sketches for Regency Living exhibition at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts, I can’t seem to get it out of my head. On the one hand this is due to simple bewilderment at what I’d seen, and on the other a sneaking, growing admiration for the show. This review is an attempt to figure which one of these will win out...
The London-based, Argentinian artist Pablo Bronstein's exhibition consists of series of interventions that take over the building of the ICA, tucked inside Carlton House Terrace on the Mall. Designed by the prominent 19th century architect John Nash, the Grade I listed Regency building provides the perfect setting for the combination of displays of existing work, site-specific installations and performances, all informed by an overtly postmodernist approach.
Taking place every half-hour, the first of these performances I encountered was the Tragic Stage, in which a dancer sat motionless on a chair before performing a series of choreographed movements in front of a large-scale painted backdrop of a Georgian façade and square, that could have been produced by Nash himself.
Her costume was designed Mary Katranzou, a London-based fashion designer, who combined ballet-esque taffeta with a fantastical architectural drawing.
The costume's contrast with the hard edges of the gallery space was one of a series of deliberate incongruities in the installation, most visible in the banal, mass-produced polypropylene chair that sat in front of the glorious fakery of the backdrop.
Disturbances of a different sort were on show in the other performance, that took place on the top floor of the ICA, reached by a winding staircase lined with drawings of building typologies.
Waiting for the second performance to take place, I made my way around the two rooms of the Upper Galleries, around whose walls are fantastical, highly detailed Piranesi-esque depictions of buildings and monuments. These include the large-scale Erecting of the Paternoster Square Column from 2008, displayed in a seventeenth century frame.
This is one of a number Bronstein created, based on the recent development of London’s Paternoster Square. The drawing deliberately plays tricks on the viewer, for while it appears to depict the construction of some ancient, mythical monument it actually shows this more contemporary event. Equally deceptive are the pieces of furniture that occupy each room, around which the second performance was based.
One of these was this huge, monolithic, seemingly derivative Chippendale style cabinet which the gallery attendant/performance artist (I couldn’t figure out which one was his day job) opened up in a series of orchestrated moves to reveal the office contained inside.
While firmly more in the realm of design/art rather than practical furniture, I liked the joke inherent in the cabinet's reference to the growing ubiquity of fold-out computer desks and home offices, indicative of our space and time-short lives in which work and leisure are increasing conflated. In stylistic terms, this hidden interior, with its false cupboards and MDF masquerading as mahogany are all part of the attention to surface and the denial of a unity of form and function that makes up the postmodern style. The pediment is surely a reference to one of the most ‘iconic’ examples of the period that clearly so inspires Bronstein, Philip Johnson’s AT&T Building from 1984 – an opinion shared by the architect Sam Jacob of FAT, who is no stranger to the postmodern vernacular, nor the creative potential of the idea of the copy, an idea which Bronstein clearly enjoys playing with.
As to what exactly the message is of this postmodern confusion of architectural and domestic scales, surface trickery, copying and clashing styles, I'll confess to still being a bit befuddled by it all. Amongst the show's merits was how it, perhaps unwittingly, drew attention to the beauty of Nash’s design, to its elaborate cornices and light, well-proportioned spaces (at least in the Upper Galleries) that I had otherwise overlooked in previous visits. Whether or not the exhibition is strong enough to pull the ICA out of its recent troubled history, and if its avant-garde aims are equal with its location in London's tourist heart, is uncertain. Regardless, this is a show well worth a visit if only for an introduction to the work of the young artist Bronstein, and a reintroduction to that of a past master, Nash.
Posted by Cat Rossi