Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Architects in Gwangju Biennale

TL: Why architects are involved in the Gwangju Biennale?

C: When the people from the IT PARK people asked me to be the architect for the exhibition, I wasn’t sure about about my role in this.

Later, I found my task was to catch the moment of IT PARK as people gathering in, rather to bring the physical space of this altered street-house with illegal additions, and manage to acquire eight installation works of the participating artists within a tight budget and given conditions.

The size of space we proposed was asked to be reduced several times, which was a drama to us as each reduction unveiled a new idea and new dimension of our work, or a trauma at the same time as we had to keep the communications, negotiations and drawings through emails and faxes with the Gwangju side. The situation was close to working in constraint projects at norm for we also flew to the site for further clarification and supervision two weeks before the opening.

TL: How do you see the show as a whole?

C: The show was a mess.

I like their attempt to push the alternative further to include architectonic aspect with the milieu for genuine art production, or to present the genius loci of contemporary art with context.

One could find that the layout of the exhibition space was followed after the orthogonal grid in the earlier drawing and another set of drawing showed how these bulky boxes were scattered to simulate a spontaneous and chaotic condition to make the mock up seem more interesting with gesturesque and image-making stuff buzzing around.

TL: Which art piece you like most and why ?

C: I must say that I like works that are least about cultural heritage but culturally dense and clever. Yoshiharu Tsukamoto’s shrine of comic books quickly came to my mind, a funny and nice piece.

I think culture prevails when unprecedented novelty and mutation occur. Established legacy will collapse at times. Architects and artists are key persons to pick up by instinct and knowledge. It is by no means a creation in a conventional sense, which is the culture product leading the society.

TL: Would you consider yourself an“artist”? why and why not?

C: Sure, but speaking of it does not do me any good as an architect in Asia.

Architects have to appropriate the world and open up the world as if were in the position of artists in an epistemological sense. I think we Asians need some time to recollect this awareness and appreciation buried under our utilitarian mindsets.

On the other hand, artists and architects are already taking different roles in the society. It is not a question of an architect being an artist or vise and versa. Architects need to identify themselves once in a while and fight their way through the social-cultural complexity of today.

TL: When and How did you get involved in the first art show?

C: I did graphic works and experimental films back in my college years, but never given serious considerations to exhibiting them. I think it was after my study with Frank Gehry in 1986 when we held an exhibition in the A&A gallery at Yale had I gained a sense of being a cultural creator.

TL: How does the art scene react to architect’s work ?

C: I feel that artists today are kind of spoiled by being treasured as “artists” and being tied up to their history. Architects are often obliged to confront the reality and somehow are not satisfied with the status quo. Courageous works do not necessarily seem bold and are sometimes about subversive act taken in the daily life as architects might do.

For my project in Gwangju, I think artists were more receptive to the designed space than to tempering with it, as the Tate Modern, an overwhelming space for the art scene to stage to which artists are being tamed.

TL: How do you see public art as an architect?

C: Public art is really problematic. I saw quite a few bad works produced in the city, regardless in Europe or Asia.

The division of public art and public architecture since 60’s was a tragedy. The system today is even more hopeless and domed to failure as the definition of public and the mechanism behind it is rapidly changed.

There was time that architect could work coherently with artists or as an artist at the same time to tailor the public space. I always like to remind myself of the city design of less known cities before Modern planning such as those in Eastern Europe. I think we need to find a new equilibrium for the future public realm in which all elements are active in the plasmordial whole.

TL: What projects you are working on right now ?

C: Europe is reaching a crucial point of change. It is not unexpected that Europeans are looking for remedies for their problems from the outside world. I have been recently approached by a number of European urban projects which seek new proposals and new tactics for city centers.

I'm also working with members of the Urban Flashes on a global boogazine of architecture and urbanism which is intended to be a truly transnational investigation on the dirty reality of our environment.

( Interview with Ti-Nan Chi by Tim Li, Hinge, Hong Kong, 2002)