Denari, Illuminated


The Flickering Field of Fluoroscape: Illuminated perspectives on Neil Denari.

On a culture-filled Sunday this past September 17th I tromped down to Downtown Los Angeles to take in several fantastic “Spectacles of Culture”. First, I visited the Banksy show, which was held in an out-moded industrial structure off of Santa Fe Blvd. in the heart of LA’s industrial district. Banksy, the merry prankster of the street-art world, jammed the warehouse with examples of his work, and an live elephant as well. I shall not comment on the show as it has already been done to death by the press and therefore can be summed up with the phrase “if you were there, you’d know what I’m talking about”.

The event was, however simply the primer for the next stop which was to take place at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc). Click Continue Reading for the rest of my review and another picture.


As an alumni of SCI-Arc I try and avoid the place as much as possible, and usually need a pretty good reason to go back. For those who managed to visit the Neil Denari “Fluoroscape” show during it’s roughly one month run you would probably agree that it was an excellent reason to drop in on the institution and it’s former director. Congratulations to Neil for coming back to the school who gave him the boot in 2001. As a student who spent time with both Denari and Eric Owen Moss, (Denari’s tyrannical replacement) I have always admired Neil’s clarity and his perceptive observations on contemporary culture.

Fluoroscape is a dramatic piece that functions more in the realm of installation and affect than architecture and effect. Constructed of white metal rib-work and standard T-5 fluorescent lamps (of the same kind, the press-kit notes, as “…every supermarket, school cafeteria, and office space across the global landscape”), this object somehow escapes it’s “objectness” and transcends the boundaries between architecture and installation culture. Situated in SCI-Arc’s small (but tall) “Fish-bowl” gallery, the work is indicative of Denari’s pursuit of the perfect aesthetic which might for a moment come to represent the temporality of the global commercial environment.

Described as a “solid surface object” the entire piece was meant to react to the visitors presence. I’m not sure how successful this might have been as the piece was set to alternate the light fields (three distinct bodies operating separately) via a timer. Certainly had there been more time, the designers at NMDA would’ve developed an electronic system that could’ve have sensed the viewers presence and flickered accordingly. Never-the-less the work is a stunning success and ought to travel and be tested in an assortment of venues. Only then will it’s validity as “space maker” be complete.

This project also represents another theme in Denari’s work: corporate collaboration. Neil is a firm believer in corporate sponsorship (his first installation, Project No. 9601, was sponsored by Sony). Fluoroscape was sponsored by Bartco Lighting of Huntington Beach California and demonstrates that architects and their corporate sponsors and suppliers can go beyond the simple exchange of commerce. What emerges is an art object that flaunts the wares of its sponsor, but keeps true with the architects vision of aesthetics.

Denari was there by the way, grinning broadly, and hawking Fluoroscape posters designed in the French New Wave style. No one showed up, which was a little sad, and possibly and indicator of the SCI-Arc’s waning influence in the city. Denari was positive though, playing the good host, entertained questions aplenty and held court with the few admirers who bothered to drop in for this closing event of his amazing show.

I just wish more had come to see it, because any images presented here will fail to represent this cunning installation, which acts as both architecture and phenomenology, as well as a suggestive jab at the inadequacies of the contemporary built-environment.

Contributed by John Southern.


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