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Site Visits: Investigating intersections between art and architecture

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July 04 - August 16, 2008

Idea Exchange
Queen's Square
1 North Square, Cambridge, ON
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Featuring projects by over a dozen artists, architects and designers spanning two galleries, the exhibition includes a multidisciplinary range of photo and video documentation, installations, drawings, multiples, and mixed media constructions that have been inspired by, or created in direct response to architecture. Site Visits proposes that architecture be viewed not only as a built form, but as a cipher that can be used to examine a wide-range of pertinent issues; from social policy to the appropriation of public space, from icons of Modernism to sites of catastrophe, from the rise of global development to urban nomadism. Architecture forms the lens through which we can examine the urgency – and often the unease – that underlines contemporary culture.

SITE VISITS at Queen’s Square: Using nomadism as a subtext, a term that implies a unique set of survival skills defined by mobility, this segment of the exhibition investigates aspects of displacement, homelessness and cultural marginalization. The selected projects address a variety of critical social issues; ranging from the lack of affordable housing to the migratory nature of the urban work force to the wholesale displacement of cultures. Urban nomadism represents a paradigm shift in the contemporary urban experience. Its rise is an inevitable response to the rapid urban development and the architectural revitalization of cities, which often unwittingly serves to further marginalize the underprivileged, both locally and globally.

Featuring Projects by: Adrian Blackwell (Toronto), Electroland (Los Angeles), In-Sun Kim (Kitchener), Julian Montague (Buffalo), Ana Rewakowicz (Montreal), Frank Shebageget (Ottawa), Boja Vasic (Toronto)

Adrian Blackwell
Adrian Blackwell is an urban and architectural designer, artist and researcher, whose work focuses on the spaces and forces of uneven development produced through processes of Postfordist...

Adrian Blackwell is an urban and architectural designer, artist and researcher, whose work focuses on the spaces and forces of uneven development produced through processes of Postfordist urbanization.  His art and urban research have been exhibited across Canada, and at the 2005 Shenzhen Biennale of Urbanism / Architecture and LACE Gallery in Los Angeles. Blackwell co-edited Unboxed: Engagements in Social Space, with Jen Budney and co-curated Detours: Tactical Approaches to Urbanization in China with Pei Zhao. In 1997 he won Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square Design competition in collaboration with PLANT Architects, STI & Partners, and Peter Lindsay Schaudt. He teaches architecture and urban design at the University of Toronto, where he initiated al&d’s China program in 2004, and has been a visiting professor at Chongqing University and the University of Michigan. He lives in Toronto.

Electroland
Electroland, comprised of Cameron McNall and Damon Seeley, is a team that creates objects, interactive experiences and large-scale public art projects. Each project is site-specific and may employ a...

Electroland, comprised of Cameron McNall and Damon Seeley, is a team that creates objects, interactive experiences and large-scale public art projects. Each project is site-specific and may employ a broad range of media, including light, sound, images, motion, architecture and interactivity. Participants can interact with buildings, spaces and each other in new and exciting ways, creating new relationships between people and public spaces and shifting the boundaries of private experience in the public sphere. They are based in Los Angeles.

In-Sun Kim
In-Sun Kim makes artworks that deal with notions of daily living space using compartment-like objects. This leads her to examine the relationship and tension between the objects and humans in a...

In-Sun Kim makes artworks that deal with notions of daily living space using compartment-like objects. This leads her to examine the relationship and tension between the objects and humans in a limited space. She received a BFA from the E-Wha Women's University in Seoul, Korea and her MFA from the University of Waterloo. She has been included in solo exhibitions and numerous collective exhibitions both nationally and internationally. She lives in Kitchener.

Julian Montague
Julian Montague is an artist who utilizes drawing, photography and other media to explore the peripheral features of our environment. He has exhibited widely in the Eastern United States. His work...

Julian Montague is an artist who utilizes drawing, photography and other media to explore the peripheral features of our environment. He has exhibited widely in the Eastern United States. His work has received media attention from sources that include The New York Times, The Toronto Star, The Associated Press and the BBC World Service. Julian Montague is represented by Black and White Gallery in New York City. He lives and works in Buffalo, New York.

Ana Rewakowicz
Ana Rewakowicz is a multidisciplinary artist and researcher born in Poland of Ukrainian parents, and is presently living in Montréal, Canada. Her inflatable clothes, site-specific installations and...

Ana Rewakowicz is a multidisciplinary artist and researcher born in Poland of Ukrainian parents, and is presently living in Montréal, Canada. Her inflatable clothes, site-specific installations and public interventions have been exhibited and experienced nationally and internationally in Mexico, USA, France, Belgium, Estonia, Scotland, Bulgaria, Germany, Netherlands and Finland. Recent exhibitions include: Wäinö Aaltonen Museo, Turku, Finland (2007), Kunstverein Wolfsburg, Germany (2006), Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (2005), ISEA 2004 (Tallinn, Estonia), AlaPlage, Toulouse, France (2004) and Musée du Québec, Québec City, Canada (2002). She is presently living in Montréal, Canada.

Frank Shebageget
Frank Shebageget is an Anishnabe (Ojibwa) artist and curator who was born and raised in Upsala, Northwestern Ontario and now lives and works in Ottawa. He graduated from the Ontario College of Art...

Frank Shebageget is an Anishnabe (Ojibwa) artist and curator who was born and raised in Upsala, Northwestern Ontario and now lives and works in Ottawa. He graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1996, and received his Master’s in Fine Arts from the University of Victoria in 2000. His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions in Canada and the United States, and has been collected by the Canada Council Art Bank and the Aboriginal Achievement Foundation in Toronto, among others.

Boja Vasic
Boja Vasic is a Toronto based media artist and photographer. His work has been shown at the 8th Havana Biennial in Cuba, VI Yugoslav Biennial of Youth Vrsac in Serbia, XIII and XIV International Art...

Boja Vasic is a Toronto based media artist and photographer. His work has been shown at the 8th Havana Biennial in Cuba, VI Yugoslav Biennial of Youth Vrsac in Serbia, XIII and XIV International Art Biennial of Vila Nova de Cerveira in Portugal, Third Tirana Biennial in Albania, and at the Liverpool Biennial, Independents. His video installations and photo based works were exhibited at the Definitely Superior Gallery (Thunder Bay), VU Center for Photography (Quebec City), Centre D’Exposition (Mont-Laurier), Alternator Gallery (Kelowna), A Space, Mercer Union, YYZ and Glendon Gallery (Toronto), La Galerie de Nouvel Ontario (Sudbury), Language Plus (Alma), Espace Virtuel (Chicoutimi), Occurrence Gallery (Montreal), Modern Fuel Gallery (Kingston) and E:vent Gallery (London, UK). His video were shown at festivals in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Chicago, Denver, Toronto, and he has won several international awards including the Chris Award at the Columbus International Film and Video Festival, a Bronze Medal at New York Festivals,  and the Gold Award at Dallas HeSCA Media Festival.



  • Image courtesy of the artist.
    Image courtesy of the artist.
  • Site Visits: Investigating intersections between art and architecture (installation), 2008. Photo: David Popplow
    Site Visits: Investigating intersections between art and architecture (installation), 2008. Photo: David Popplow
  • Site Visits: Investigating intersections between art and architecture (installation), 2008. Photo: David Popplow
    Site Visits: Investigating intersections between art and architecture (installation), 2008. Photo: David Popplow
  • Site Visits: Investigating intersections between art and architecture (installation), 2008. Photo: David Popplow
    Site Visits: Investigating intersections between art and architecture (installation), 2008. Photo: David Popplow
  • Site Visits: Investigating intersections between art and architecture (installation), 2008. Photo: David Popplow
    Site Visits: Investigating intersections between art and architecture (installation), 2008. Photo: David Popplow
  • Image courtesy of the artist.
    Image courtesy of the artist.
  • Image courtesy of the artist.
    Image courtesy of the artist.

List of Works

List of works and artist statements for Site Visits at Queen’s Square.

ELECTROLAND
Urban Nomad Shelter
2004

vinyl inflatable
The Urban Nomad inflatable shelter is conceived as both a social and a humanitarian act. As a social act, the intention is to distribute thousands of these brightly colored structures in order to foster a dialog about the invisibility and marginalization of the homeless. As a humanitarian act, the shelter provides a portable and inexpensive shelter to protect from cold, rain and hard sidewalks, and is aesthetically pleasing to both occupants and passersby. As a social provocation the shelter is designed to provoke a dialog about the invisibility and marginalization of the homeless. We employ current design culture aesthetics to contribute to the rebranding of the homeless by confounding expectations regarding the ability of the homeless to appreciate and to be served by consumer designer culture.

IN-SUN KIM
P.L.U. (Personal Living Unit)

2005
newspaper, white glue, wood
People tend to want more space, sometimes more than they need. Instead of more space I am interested in less space that individuals may actually need, perhaps ‘minimum space’. PLU (Personal Living Unit) is one of the attempts I have made to express this interest. It is about questioning ourselves, how we deal with existing or new space, or how we define essential living space. This idea is generated from realizing that every city has congested living quarters, areas where people will fight for a single square foot of space. I use newspaper as a reflection of daily life by layering and compressing each sheet of paper. This technique also encases a sealed snapshot of the past. PLU consists of different compartments to represent basic spaces-- such as toilet, table, seat, storage, and bed. Each compartment can be pulled out in order to perform its purpose. It is designed to encompass twenty-four square feet equaling a house for a single person. 

JULIAN MONTAGUE
Stray Shopping Cart Project: Cleveland
and Environs
2005

Lambda prints, sign vinyl
Over the last several decades, the stray shopping cart has quietly become an integral part of the urban and suburban landscapes of the industrialized world. To the average person, the stray shopping cart is most often thought of as a signifier of urban blight or as an indicator of a consumer society gone too far. Unfortunately, the acceptance of these oversimplified designations has discouraged any serious examination of the stray shopping cart phenomenon.

Until now, the major obstacle that has prevented people from thinking critically about stray shopping carts has been that we have not had any formalized language to differentiate one shopping cart from another.

The resulting Stray Shopping Cart Identification System consists of two classes and thirty-three subtypes that can be used singly or in combination to describe and thereby “identify” any found cart. One of the unfortunate difficulties in implementing a situational taxonomy of this kind is that one is often required to speculate about where a cart is coming from and where it is going next. While this uncertainty can at times be vexing, it must be remembered that this system is the first attempt to categorize and analyze the transient nature of the shopping cart. The refinement of this system is an ongoing process.

By assigning an intricately thorough vocabulary to describe a mundane, previously unexamined phenomenon, I mean to explore, experiment with, the ways in which scientific classification constructs meaning and imposes order through language. In tandem with this is an interest in revealing, and thus sensitizing and complicating, viewers’ responses to a feature of their environment that is often either virtually invisible to them or an oversimplified signifier of urban decay or the perils of consumerism.

ANA REWAKOWICZ
SleepingBagDress Prototype 2
2004

polyurethane, reversible foil, solar panel, NiMH batteries, fan, synthetic foam, zippers, mannequin

The need for a secure, comfortable shelter is one of the basic human requirements. At the present time, global mobility calls for a new kind of shelter to be designed: one that is light enough to carry in a suitcase or to be worn, while simultaneously able to be self-sustaining and adapt to different environments. Imagine travelling through an unknown land, through its cities and natural reserves, without relying on overbooked hotel-rooms, intricate tent-structures, or camping sites. The traveller of the future can trek around the globe fully ‘off-the-grid’ independently and comfortably.

The SleepingBagDress prototype was inspired by the legacy of Archigram, a British architectural group from the 1960’s that investigated the relation between cities and new technologies, regarding fun, play and pleasure as their projects rationale. Expanding on Archigram’s concept of ‘clothing for living in’, the SleepingBagDress prototype evolves around the idea of clothing as portable architecture in ‘you never know WEAR?’ situations of local and global emergencies. Considering how our lives have become multi-dimensional and multi-demanding, this work attempts to comment on global uncertainties and the relation between technology and everyday life.

The prototype involves a multipurpose kimono-dress that when inflated changes into a cylindrical container inhabitable by one or two people and looks at the portability and self-sustainability of a wearable cell, comfortable as both, a dress and a temporary shelter. The prototype 2 operates on a small computer fan powered by NiMH batteries that are charged by a solar panel incorporated into the dress itself and it was used in walking performances in Mexico City; Toulouse, France; Brussels, Belgium; and, as part of the 2004 International Symposium of Electronic Art (ISEA2004), in Tallinn, Estonia.

ANA REWAKOWICZ
A modern-day nomad who moves as she pleases
2005

video installation, vinyl, nylon, mattress, blower
A modern-day nomad who moves as she pleases is a video installation documenting walking performances in the SleepingBagDress prototypes, projected into a large-scale replica of the cylinder that the dress changes into. Viewers are able to enter the large-scale inflatable cylinder, lie down comfortably and remotely select different parts of the 24 minute video documentation.

FRANK SHEBAGEGET
Small Village II
2004

Millboard, MDF, cedar shelves
Collection of the Ottawa Art Gallery / Collection de La Galerie d’art d’Ottawa: Gift of Frank Shebageget, 2005.
Small Village II features a series of nine small grey houses lined up on cedar shelves that approximates the uniformity of family residences in the artist’s home community of Upsala, approximately 120 kilometers west of Thunder Bay. Shebageget uses these identical architectural models to comment not only on the substandard federal housing projects on First Nations reserves across Canada, but on the uniformity of many suburban developments.

BOJA VASIC
Parallel World – The Architecture of Survival
2006

digital prints, video, recycled materials
Parallel World – The Architecture of Survival explores the notion of architecture as a reflection of economic, social and political reality, where certain groups of people are constantly forced to move from place to place, thus creating a new category of forced nomads. From the architectural point of view this new phenomenon is reflected in the form of habitats created in the middle of the contemporary cities - temporary makeshift structures built from discarded materials. The structures echo the social position of their inhabitants – in this case the Roma, derisively called Gypsies, in the city of Belgrade – a people who are largely ignored, ostracized and perceived as invisible.

By reorganizing waste into living quarters the Roma perform an act of ‘recycling’. The resulting ‘organic’ edifices are perishable, forced to extinction much like their inhabitants. This type of architecture can only be seen as the other ‘international style’ of the late modern era. Made from found materials, primarily waste form large urban centers, these ephemeral structures can today be found in most parts of the world; from South America to Southeast Asia. They represent a parallel, yet antithetical world to the structures typical of global capitalism: ephemeral shantytowns versus the glitzy high-rises, the nomadic architecture of survival versus the architecture of profit.

ADRIAN BLACKWELL
Evicted May 1, 2000 (9 Hanna Avenue)

2001
Cibachrome contact prints from pinhole camera transparencies
These images document workspaces in a former Toronto’s munitions plant.  By the 1970s the larger floorspace of the factory was subdivided to provide space for small shops and artists studios. These spaces were cheap to rent and easily adaptable.  Each photo illustrates a space in which everyday life and creative practice are organically integrated.  The project contrasts the generic architecture of the factory with interiors constructed by their occupants.  On May 1, 2000 all residents were evicted from their spaces to make way for a fibre optics server. These evictions were part of the neighbourhood’s gentrification, through which almost all industrial and studio spaces were replaced by design and animation companies.

  1. Adrian Blackwell’s Studio
  2. Mike Moquin’s Studio
  3. John Redekop Studio
  4. Darren O’Donnell’s Studio
  5. Gerald Baer’s Studio (living)
  6. Gerald Baer’s Studio (working)
  7. Peter Bowyer’s Studio
  8. Gordon Anderson’s Studio
  9. Roy Miya’s Studio

ADRIAN BLACKWELL
People give us land and we’ll pay you back with a city!

2008
Digital Photographs, Chongqing, China
Formerly part of Sichuan, Chongqing was designated as one of four provincial level municipalities in 2001, alongside Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin. It is currently the fastest developing non-coastal city in China. Called the mountain city, because of its extreme topography, Chongqing is a polycentric metropolis that is organized around 5 sub-centres.

Chongqing Tian Di (Chongqing heaven earth) a vast new office, commercial and residential development is strategically positioned along the Jialing River between the Yuzhong peninsula, the Central business district, and Shapingba, the university center and connected to the first line of the Chongqing Subway. The project is being developed by Shui On Land Ltd., now world famous for Xin Tian Di in the French concession in Shanghai. Completed in 2002, it was the first historic renovation project in China dedicated to the re-use of traditional Shanghai lane housing; Shi Ku Men (stone gate) housing. The Chongqing development includes an office building complex by Skidmore Owings and Merrill, the well known US based transnational architectural firm responsible for Shanghai’s Jin Mao tower.

Many people have already been forced to move to other locations in the city. The store keepers and small businesses photographed along this road all await eviction. The majority are not officially urban residents. They have rural household registration, which means they are unable to move permanently to the city and are instead forced to work there on temporary work permits. These workers are precarious and cannot afford other housing, so they live in their stores. Their businesses sit open late into the night, with their workers playing cards, talking or watching TV. Many shops are open to the street with only full width roll down metal garage doors, their interior worlds fully exposed to the street.

These scenes are typical in Chinese cities today. The slogan above serves as one illustration of the symbiotic relationship between the centralized and authoritarian governance of the Chinese communist party and mobile capital in the transformation of the contemporary urban landscapes: gentrification with Chinese characteristics.

  1. Street vendor
  2. Dry cleaner
  3. Work unit gate house
  4. Chongqing hot pot Restaurant
  5. Hairdresser / sex work

Thanks to Eddie Kwong, Xu Jian and Jane Hutton for their help in making this work.




Curatorial Writing

by Ivan Jurakic, Curator, Queen's Square.  Nomads are defined as itinerant people with no fixed residence that move from place to place within a defined territory. Furthermore, nomadism implies a...

by Ivan Jurakic, Curator, Queen's Square. 

Nomads are defined as itinerant people with no fixed residence that move from place to place within a defined territory. Furthermore, nomadism implies a unique set of skills defined by mobility and an adaptability to different environments. The Bedouins of Saudi Arabia and the so-called Five-animal people of Mongolia are examples of cultures that have maintained their nomadic cultures into the 21st century. These traditional forms of nomadism find a contemporary parallel in the urban nomad, an iteration that has less to do with tribalism and tradition than it does with displacement and economic hardship.

Ironically, the urban nomad can be traced back to the work of designer Ken Isaacs who developed a modular living and storage system in the late 1950s. His Matrix design maximized the use of space in small urban dwellings decades before loft living and modular furniture became the norm. Deeply rooted in the utopian idealism of the period, his projects were the inspiration behind the urban nomad movement, a loose knit affiliation of architects and designers who published several manuals including Isaacs’ “How To Build Your Own Living Structures”. Promoting do-it-yourself building projects such as the microhouse, the movement’s potential may have never fully been realized beyond a core of practitioners but their seminal work has proven to be inspirational to succeeding generations.

A further precedent can be found in the work of Krystof Wodiczko, who unveiled his Homeless Vehicle Project in New York City in 1988. Inspired by the shopping carts that street people commonly use to store and move their belongings and recycled materials in, Wodiczko designed a telescoping container on wheels that doubled as both mobile storage and shelter. While his controversial prototype was plausible– so much so that authorities apparently confiscated a number of carts being demonstrated – the work was never intended as a practical solution to homelessness. It was instead an ideological prop that Wodiczko used to demonstrate the basic needs of the urban homeless. Like Isaacs’ work before him, Wodiczko’s radically functional prototype proved to be remarkably prescient.

The works of Isaacs and Wodiczko serve as a curatorial vector for this component of the exhibition. Their respective efforts form the lens through which we can examine more recent projects by Electroland, Boja Vasic, Ana Rewakowicz, Frank Shebageget, Julian Montague, In-Sun Kim, and Adrian Blackwell. This diverse group of artists, designers and architects investigates the material, social and political implications of contemporary urban nomadism. Their individual projects creatively address aspects of adaptive reuse, portable architecture and community activism to make artifacts and documents that astutely question the status quo.

Using mobility and shelter as a common theme, they not only conjure the urban nomad but in so doing also embrace the other – including itinerant subcultures, migrant workers, refugees, and cultural producers like themselves, who are increasingly forced out of neighbourhoods by gentrification and real estate speculation. In the wake of the recent sub-prime mortgage meltdown in the US and a looming global recession these themes take on added urgency as the economic ripples strike close to home. Like the solitary man who was often seen pushing a shopping cart across Queen’s Square during the course of the exhibition wearing a sandwich board that read: “Homeless Hungry Man Needs One One $1.00 Dollar”, the urban nomad can be seen as a prescient herald of troubling times.




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Funders

City of Cambridge Canada Council for the Arts Ontario Arts Council