The Glucksman’s director, Fiona Kearney, co-curated the exhibition with Gary Boyd, a reader in architecture in Queens University Belfast. Boyd is also co-curator of the Irish Pavilion at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition, in Venice, this year.
Kearney invited Jeff Carter to take part in ‘Folly’ after seeing his work in a catalogue for the Chicago exhibition, ‘Skyscraper: Art and Architecture Against Gravity’. Carter uses reconfigured IKEA furniture components to build models of iconic skyscrapers.
“Looking at IKEA rekindled my interest, from undergraduate school, in early modern thinkers,” he says, “and the Bauhaus school, in particular. I started thinking of IKEA as an extension of avant-garde modernism, which it is, but it has also broken away from the ideals of someone like Walter Gropius, in very significant ways. So there is sort of a tension there that I was hoping to explore.”
Carter’s sculpture appears lighthearted, and has occasional fun touches, which nod to architectural practice, such as baby cacti plants and kinetic elements. “What you’re seeing at the Glucksman are two of a series of models of a building that was never made. It was designed by Walter Gropius and proposed as the Chicago Tribune tower. The Chicago Tribune newspaper held an international architecture competition, in 1922, to design their new corporate headquarters tower. Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer proposed a Bauhaus skyscraper and it didn’t win. We have a neo-gothic skyscraper to this day and I like the building very much, but the rejected Gropius proposal is one of the most famous un-built buildings in the world.”
Laura Gannon’s two-channel film work considers the controversial legacy of Eileen Gray’s South of France house, E1027. “I’m always interested in the notion of place,” she says, “and not only domestic, but place where rituals and events happen. I always had the understanding of power remaining in a place after the inhabitants have left. Regardless of the style of architecture, that buildings can retain energy and power.”
E-1027 has a well-documented history. Gray camped on the site for the building of what was her first architectural endeavour, a gift to her collaborator, friend and lover, Jean Badovici.
Gannon considers the house as a sculpture, because it was a shadow of its former glory when she filmed it in 2006, before its renovation began.
“In the second screen, I have this older woman,” says Gannon, “the imagined Eileen Gray circling the outside of the house. The fragility of the house is reflected in the fragility of the older woman. When you watch her walking, some of her steps are quite unsteady and she uses the house as a connection point to get her around.”
Gannon set the tone for the work in reaction to some correspondence of Gray’s, who is said to have exiled herself from the house after Le Corbusier painted murals inside it. “I was thinking of the intermediate point of where she would so often visit the house in her mind,” she says. “The idea of where she goes, but she doesn’t enter. It’s this in-between place of visitation and also imagination.”