caruso st john and thomas demand in dialogue at the chicago architecture biennial
 

caruso st john and thomas demand in dialogue at the chicago architecture biennial

at the chicago architecture biennial, an exhibit by architecture firm caruso st john highlights the circulation of images, references, and histories between its own office and collaborators thomas demand and hélène binet. at the center of the room, five large models — a completed building, a design in development, and three competition proposals — have been positioned to create a city-like scene. conceived as a ‘constellation of figural volumes’, the caruso st john-designed projects have been stripped of their contexts to stand as isolated architectural objects.

chicago architecture biennial caruso st john
five large models have been positioned to create a city-like scene
image by tom harris (also main image)

 

 

meanwhile, another table presents models made for caruso st john’s numerous collaborations with german sculptor and photographer thomas demand. the room’s walls are covered with a brown wallpaper titled ‘fold’, which was specially made by demand. a selection of images has been mounted directly onto the wallpaper, highlighting ‘places, art practices, and architectures from the wide history of western culture’. the photos serve as a reference to caruso st john’s completed buildings, photographed by hélène binet.

chicago architecture biennial caruso st john
the models include a completed building, a design in development, and three competition proposals
image © designboom

 

 

on view until january 7, 2018 at the chicago architecture biennial, thomas demand’s own work occupies two of the four walls. commissioned by the new york times magazine, ‘presidency V’ captures the oval office on the event of the obama election in 2008, while ‘folders’ depicts the 2017 press conference that staged piles of blank manila folders as evidence of business plans, a moment that ‘rendered explicit the modeling and imaging at play in the current american administration’.

chicago architecture biennial caruso st john
the configuration has been conceived as a ‘constellation of figural volumes’
image © designboom

 

 

‘I have worked with caruso st john for a long time. not representing their buildings, but we worked on developing ideas in whatever form,’ says thomas demand. ‘when you walk inside the exhibition you see that there is a feedback circle where I get stuff from them, and they get stuff from me. it is an ideal collaboration — give and take, and not a hierarchical relationship.’

chicago architecture biennial caruso st john
the newport street gallery displays the personal art collection of damien hirst
image © designboom

 

 

‘since peter and I started our practice 27 years ago, we’ve always used images,’ adds architect adam caruso. ‘we use photography and art as a way of understanding the world around us, and also as a way of understanding how we can use the world around us. photography in particular is interesting conceptually, because it tells us something about how we can engage with the concrete world. for instance the work of lee friedlander and the german photographers of the düsseldorf school. we also use photography and other forms of art formally. we also use them to copy, basically.’

chicago architecture biennial caruso st john
the projects have been stripped of their contexts to stand as isolated architectural objects
image © designboom

 

 

‘I try to do everything I can to make the buildings we design not have any kind of symmetrical relationship to me or our office,’ continues caruso, who established caruso st john in 1990. ‘I think it is the difference between being an artist and an architect. our use of images is one of the ways we attempt to make our work as anonymous, and have as little to do with us, as possible. I think if one makes work, as an artist or as an architect, one cannot help but make the work ones own — you don’t have to try. I never think that one needs to bother about how a work expresses ones self. I think with architecture, once you have finished a project, and it’s out there in the real world, it is quite important to be conscious of that.’

chicago architecture biennial caruso st john
photos serve as a reference to caruso st john’s completed buildings, photographed by hélène binet
image © designboom

 

 

demand, who is known for recreating and photographing models of familiar scenes, also explains how his work relates to the world around us. ‘our thinking and our digestion of a very complex environment, like the world is today, is highly reliant on the concept of modeling. you only have to think of the weather forecast, which is obviously a modeling of the environmental, or retirement funds, which are based on statistics. this modeling is really a filtering technique for technology to understand what we can do next, and what we can’t do next.’

chicago architecture biennial caruso st john
thomas demand. folders, 2017 / image via

 

 

‘when I make something, I like to make everything you see myself,’ says demand, who destroys his scale models after they have been documented. ‘I need assistance to do the general construction, as it would take me a half a year, but in the end, what you look at is done by me. it triggers a thought process which I appreciate the most, which is why I don’t want to give it to someone else. I don’t want to become a manager, and that’s why I became an artist.’

chicago architecture biennial caruso st john
thomas demand’s own work occupies two of the four walls
image © designboom

 

 

‘I take way too many photographs until I have the right one,’ he adds. however, rather than manipulating the image using computer software, demand re-stages the scene in his studio until the composition matches his vision. ‘the lab which develops my film says ‘you can do that in photoshop’, but I can also do it in reality. so I go back to the studio and change it again until I have it. once that thought process is gone, there is no point in revisiting it. it is like a ladder, you have used it to get to the next floor.’

 

 

chicago architecture biennial caruso st john

 

the second edition of the chicago architecture biennial (CAB) is the largest architecture and design exhibition in north america, showcasing the transformative global impact of creativity and innovation in these fields. this year’s biennial features over 141 practitioners from more than 20 countries addressing the 2017 theme ‘make new history.’ artistic directors sharon johnston and mark lee have selected architects and artists whose eye-opening creations will invite the public to explore how the latest architecture can and will make new history in places around the world.

 

CAB is hosted by the chicago department of cultural affairs and special events at the historic chicago cultural center. the ‘make new history’ exhibition extends to off-site locations and is amplified through six community anchor exhibitions in the neighborhoods and two special project sites — plus installations, performances, talks, films, and more hosted by over 100 local and global cultural partners.

 

the main exhibition is free and open to the public from september 16, 2017 through january 7, 2018.

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