Chris Barr, Nov 2004
The habits that have come to form
my practice in its constituent parts have evolved alongside various
notions of the city or the built environment, which
have played such an integral role in its development that I am left
to consider whether art itself is not solely an urban activity?
Within an urban environment that serves to consistently remind us
of our own physical limitations, my work operates best somewhere
in the middle ground between sculptural intervention and architectural
My research so far has included
early writings by Mike Kelley such as Urban Gothic*
where Kelley explores cultures in which urban decay is redesigned
with a new infusion of Gothic-romantic imagery; of structures that
no longer function he remarks they have slipped into my territory
the realm of non-functionality, the world of aesthetics.
I have also started to look at some of the architects that have
helped shape the modern day Helsinki such as Alvar Aalto, so it
seems fitting perhaps that my practice should take on an architectural
hunt in some way; in attempting to approach some of the questions
that this exchange between two cities conjures up.
As Walter Benjamin has observed
in regard to architecture, buildings are appropriated in a
twofold manner: by use and by perception - habit determines to a
large extent even optical reception.
Tactile appropriation evokes a physical gesture rather than a contemplative
gaze in that it is accomplished not so much by attention as by habit.
This idea of optical reception in relation to architecture suggests
that the former also occurs much less through rapt attention than
by noticing the object in an incidental fashion.
It is not uncommon for city dwellers to develop the ability to master
certain tasks in a state of distraction or absent-mindedness. It
is this condition of perpetual distraction that I find interesting
in regards to exploring the solutions formed by habit within a built
Materials often dictate their own
formal solutions within this context as a result of a latent economy
of sorts, but what is their emotional content? Despite the knowledge
that we have invented our world this form of tactile appropriation,
developed in reference to architecture can in certain circumstances
acquire a canonical value. Does the neo-primitive confusion between
utility and perception place certain objects within a different
register of value where experiences of every day objects
and their functional origins do not necessarily erase the possibility
that we might believe in them?
I am fascinated in attempting to
re-create this theatrical flux between an ideal and a more disparate
actuality, yet the architectural hunt will be somewhat
hapless if I do not find a clearer objective at this stage.
* First printed in the journal spectacle,
published in 1985.