Every summer, modern art museum P.S. 1 in Long Island City transforms its outdoor courtyard into an architectural institute. On the grounds on which school kids once played at recess, art lovers, folks from the neighborhood, scenesters, and people up for a musical party gather amidst a highly-coveted architectural installation. This year’s Young Architects Program has gone to MOS (Hilary Sample and Michael Merideth), part of a collective of “designers, architects, thinkers, and state-of-the-art weirdoes.” (Sounds like my kind of people.) They’ve done a wide variety of unusual projects, like the brilliant back…forward “SoftCell” gallery installation pictured below.
MoMA Award Goes to Architecture for an Economic Hangover [New York Times: Art & Design]
For P.S. 1, MOS have created towering, primitive-looking forms that seem to inhabit some space between an ancient tribal past and some mysterious future. The whole project is just US$70,000 for an install that will accommodate massive crowds over the summer. Now, of course, a lot of us are happy to have a few hundred bucks to spend on an event, but in event terms (and relative even to P.S. 1’s elder sibling, the Museum of Modern Art), that’s cheap.
The other reason I love P.S. 1 is that its installations manage to be both innovative and practical, at once high architectural art statement and casual assemblage. Whatever the critics think, many of these have proven to be crowd pleasers with partygoers.
Side rant: I appreciate the job of the NY Times headline writer in pushing relevancy with headlines regarding “architecture for an economic hangover.” But come on. P.S. 1’s installs have always been about economy and speed. Not everything is about the current economic recession – and even in times of boom, many people in the world have been starving or without shelter (sometimes especially so). Architecture’s job is always to find practical solutions for sheltering the world’s people and giving them places to party. New economic times change nothing – and, indeed, some of us aren’t hungover from major riches and could do well in these times.
Clearly, P.S. 1 could prove a superb model for people creating alternative performance spaces for other events, even on that few-hundred-dollar scale. These installs are indebted to the thinking of characters like R. Buckminster Fuller, who would regularly hold barnstorming-style events with architecture and engineering students to raise cheap, quick spaces. And in a time when everyone is feeling the economic squeeze and culture is often under attack, the rationale needs little explanation.
There’s of course a particular need among visualists. No matter how profound our visuals are, they lose something when they’re confined to blank, rectangular walls, like some sort of forlorn drive-in movie in miniature. Of course, I don’t think everything has to follow on the visual artist – you may be busy enough shooting and editing footage and writing custom OpenGL software to simultaneously brush up on architecture and engineering. What I’d love to see is more collaboration between visual artists and architects. After all, not only would these installations make your visuals look better, but with some intelligent projection design and content, you can do the same for the architects. (And no one doesn’t like to be flattered.)
Sadly, there isn’t that sort of visual element that I know of at P.S. 1, which seems to me to be a missed opportunity. But then, we do have warmer weather coming to New York – and an opportunity to do our own thing on the side. Perhaps an architectural-live visual after party for “After Party”?