Broken Chain: The Genes of the GenHome Exhibition
On a sunny afternoon in late November, I rolled over to the MAK Center at the Schindler House on Kings Road in order to make sense of GenHome - An exhibition of digerati-leaning architects who are engaged in “Genetic Modifications” of the Schindler House. The show was guest curated by Eran Neuman, Aaron Sprecher, and Chandler Ahrens of Open Source Architecture, and features work from both local and global practices such as Greg Lynn’s LA-based practice FORM, and Servo.
And that’s about all I could make of the content of the show.
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Architecture has always had its fetishists, and the participants in the show are certainly that. They are enraptured with technology and its effects on culture and form. The rigor about which they embrace digital methods of representation and production is admirable despite its predictable collapse when trying to relate the pieces back to the topic of architecture. What’s offensive is the total failure by the show’s curators to engage the general public who would be lucky to understand any of the pieces in the show in relation to architecture, or the Schindler House, much less their daily lives.
Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a good academic display of intellectual opacity, a rigorous investigation of form, and projects that seek to hash out innovative new architectures. However, there is nothing redeeming about this exhibition. The “genetic modifications” are mere appliqué in the space of the house- without voice or reason. The Schindler House easily overpowers them, reducing them to the anemic objects they really are.
Perhaps one success was Servo’s “Spoorg” project (pictured at top). It consisted of small spider-like devices which clung in a lattice formation to the window of the nursery. These mechanisms emitted a barely imperceptible series of “beeps” and “hums” which some compared to a robotic nursery rhyme, but to this author brought to mind the score from David Cronenberg’s 1970’s Sci-Fi classic “Scanners”. Servo ought to have secured the whole show as their own; having already demonstrated an aptitude for creating fascinating digital environments- their Lattice Archipelogics exhibition comes to mind here. It would have been nice to have seen the Schindler House completely inundated with Spoorgs, whose electronic chirping and twittering might have driven the staff of the MAK Center to the point of suicide.
Karl S. Chu’s work ZyZx displays the architect’s fascination for “Genetic Space” in a series of digitally rendered orbs, which Chu says represent a world of planets each with their own “variable potentialities”. Thought beautiful as art, one has to question how these exercises can become re-appropriated by architecture. There is a certain beauty in Chu’s work, but it fumbles any connection to humanity, leaving the viewer appreciative of the aesthetics, but without a clue as to their cultural relevance.
Finally, the most offensive piece in the show was the hulking Styrofoam mound produced by Marcos Novak. Novak’s piece was supposed to demonstrate what happens to architecture when “we stop building it and start growing it”. The mound apparently was to serve the purpose of a “hulking alien presence” which would activate the space with sound and projections, leaving the viewer in awe of the organic future that awaits mankind. I missed the projections which I assume were malfunctioning, but was impressed by the vibrations produced in the room from the speakers. In the end it seemed once again, that rather than the preferred mutation, Novak had left us with something else, and by my observations it seemed to be on hell of a sub-woofer.
Perhaps the truly sad thing about this show was the lack of attention to how and why it existed at all. It’s interrogations of the Schindler house seemed oblique at best. The craft and quality of much of the work had obviously been curtailed by the constraints of budget and execution. While gallant in their attempts to met out new meaning for architectural expression in the digital age, what the protagonists of the show gave us was a farce:real life cruelly bent by wavering sense of materiality and unrealized desire.
You can catch the GenHome Exhibition at the MAK Center in Los Angeles till February 18th, 2007.
Contributed by John Southern.
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