In plumbing the already-extensive depths of the MAS Context archives for this edition of In Context, I found myself confronted by a menagerie of resistant objects that cropped up from issue to issue. These are physical things, whether found or invented by those who introduce them to us, whose stubborn agency and incommensurability has provoked a series of unconventional practices — not just writing but making souvenirs, filing lawsuits, drawing obsessively, or collaging histories — for the authors and audiences that encounter them.
Tom Keeley’s Boom Boom Rubble Dust gives poignant homage to a pair of industrial objects that unwittingly became heroic bastions of resistance against the generic “airbrushing and botox-ing” of Northern English cities, “tarted up beyond recognition” under the market economy: the Tinsley Cooling Towers of Sheffield. Abandoned as relics, memorialized as icons, nearly transmuted into artworks, circulated as memorabilia, finally reduced to rubble: for Keeley, the Towers offer a stubborn reminder that cities like Sheffield have a history, too, one that deserves to be folded into the transformations of the present.
“Social architect” Santiago Cirugeda clearly relishes the resistant nature of the objects he introduces aggressively into urban contexts in Spain. He gleefully notes “the interest of the police to fine him” for his Containers project in Seville, and faithfully reproduces the newspaper articles through which an ongoing debate about the legality of his work has been conducted in the Spanish press. In one instance, he even sued himself in order to be able to erect temporary scaffolding, a canny exploitation of legal codes to convert a resistant act (grafitti) into the pretext for an even more intrusive spatial intervention (extra room).
Mika Savela’s form of resistance to reactionary cultural politics in Switzerland is mediatic rather than physical. In The Great Mosques of Lake Geneva, a highly charged series of images are used to subvert the country’s recent constitutional ban on the construction of minarets by projecting the fictional history of a nation in which the Ottomans, rather than the Habsburgs, had won the decisive battle at Zenta of 1697. Savela fuses the classical landscapes of nineteenth-century Switzerland with the minaret-studded panoramas of Constantinople, forcing us to confront challenging questions about the idealized constructions of nations and histories.
The objects that generate discomfort for Kate Bingaman Burt are the everyday detritus of products, packaging, fast food, energy drinks, movie tickets, and other remains of a consumer lifestyle faithfully catalogued. Obsessive Consumption is itself an obsessive recording of these items — everything Burt has purchased since 2006 — through drawings accompanied by captions which betray both attraction to and repulsion from these products. The “gross” Chick-fil-a sandwich Burt guilted a student into buying (“I need to stop”), the admission of temptation of Powerade’s “orangy sweet goodness” instead of drinking water—the process of documenting these objects amounts, for Burt, to a measure of her resistance or submission to their seductions.
To produce an architectural object that resists classification: that was the aim, or at least the result, of Antón García-Abril’s project “The Truffle.” Fittingly aberrant for an issue on speed, the Truffle undoes the conventionalized processes of design and construction to produce a formless register of the animal and mineral traces of compression, erosion, cutting, grazing, and hollowing. Is it a grotto? A hollow rock? A bunker? The object stands there silently, both suggesting and resisting interpretation.
BOOM BOOM RUBBLE DUST
Essay by Tom Keeley
Issue: 12 | ABERRATION WINTER 11
Projects by Santiago Cirugeda
Issue: 13 | OWNERSHIP SPRING 12
THE GREAT MOSQUES OF LAKE GENEVA
Essay by Mika Savela
Issue: 10 | CONFLICT SUMMER 11
Text and Illustrations by Kate Bingaman Burt
Issue: 13 | OWNERSHIP SPRING 12
Project by Antón García-Abril
Issue: 11 | SPEED FALL 11
Michael Kubo is a writer and editor currently pursuing a Ph.D. in the History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture at MIT. His research focuses on topics such as history of publishing as a strategic form of architectural practice and the Cold War architecture of the RAND Corporation. He is also the director (along with Chris Grimley and Mark Pasnik) of pinkcomma gallery in Boston.
www.architizer.com/en_us/people/profile/michael_kubo/ | @microkubo