“-say it, no ideas but in things – nothing but the blank faces of the houses and cylindrical trees bent, forked by preconception and accident-split, furrowed, creased, mottled, stained-secret – into the body of the light! from above, higher than the spires, higher even than the office towers, from oozy fields abandoned to gray beds of dead grass, black sumac, withered weed-stalks, mud and thickets cluttered with dead leaves – the river comes pouring in above the city and crashes from the edge of the gorge in a recoil of spray and rainbow mists” – william carlos william [1]

29/07/2011 § 1 Comment

gianni pettena, ice house ii (1972)

 

in a conversation between gianni pettena and robert smithson [2], pettena declared his interested in the urban context because this is, “ where you can make something more social and less esthetic.”  pettena and smithson go on to discuss the value of avoiding picturesque scenery in order to find a closer connection to social elements.  i’ll get back to this idea later.  while smithson focused on ways of sculpting the land, pettena chose to utilize the pre-existing canvas of urban homes to push the boundary between architecture and landscape.

this complex relationship with architecture connects pettena to one of his contemporaries, gordon matta-clark [3].  gordon’s splitting house (1974) also utilizes a house in the effort elevate the discussion of architecture and its role in a social context.  both of their works are like poems, crisply indefinite, focusing your view but allowing your imagination to flow.  they also both avoid the picturesque.  while the images seem enthralling they don’t feel overtly composed.

this entire week i’ve been focused on viewing gianni’s work in relation to contemporary artists.  i’m ending this foray with a trio of frozen buildings.  though there is no direct correlation between these pieces they are all clearly working with the same elements – buildings, water, and the cold.  some outcomes are more successful than others in terms of their honesty.  below are two projects one also in minnesota and the other in detroit.

 

chris larson, deep north (2008)

 

chris larson’s deep north is entirely picturesque.  deep north wraps itself in fantasy, imaging what the world may look like if the climate were to suddenly plunged into an ice age.  the entire scene was constructed for the photographs, even the house.  larson built the structure in the fall of 2008 and doused it in water during february, historically the coldest month in minnesota.  despite the fantasy, there are also social foundations to the project.  larson describes how he like many, didn’t realize that global warming meant that severe drops in temperature could also occur [4].  this lead him to create a pompeii like space, an existence frozen in time.  ultimately this haunting project feels more focused on exploring whimsy and fantasy than in addressing any real threat.

 

greg holm and matthew radune, ice house detroit (2010)

 

in comparison, greg holme and matthew radune’s ice house detroit project has me a little confused.  during the winter of 2010 they spent two weeks freezing an abandoned home slated for demolition in detroit.  the project seems to be principally aimed at addressing how homes are removed in detriot.  the goal was to freeze the house, have it thaw and then reclaim building material by deconstructing the building rather than demolishing it and then creating a community garden on the plot.

the project seems too focused on the picturesque and composed photograph.  as of today, their blog gives little indication of the house being deconstructed rather than demolished.  nor is there much mention of the garden being installed.  i would have preferred to see the artists focus more on this notion of deconstruction – by trying to create a new structure out of the reusable material rather than creating a set of beautifully haunting images of a frozen house [5].  gianni pettena and chris larson froze houses in order to create conversation with architecture and the role it plays in relation to landscape or nature.  on their blog, greg holme and matthew radune’s project doesn’t seem to be about landscape, but more about deconstruction and materials, which has very little to do with covering a building with water.

 

google street view of gianni pettena’s ice house ii 40 years later

 

this final image is the house which gianni pettena surrounded in ice in 1972.  accounts seem to indicate that a scaffold-like structure was built around the building, encasing the building rather than dousing the building in water.  today, the house is still inhabitable, though several of the houses next door are boarded up, victims of the foreclosure crisis.

 

hoping for a cool weekend

a young hare

 

 

notes:

[1]     excerpt of from william carlos william’s poem paterson.

[2]     smithson, robert and gianni pettena. “A conversation in Salt Lake City.” Gianni Pettena. Ed. Dario Cimorelli. Cinisello Balsamo (Milano): Silvana Editoriale, 2003. Print.

[UPDATE]     if you want to read a bit more from their conversation follow this link over to greg.org who recently published more of the essay for your enjoyment.

[3]     coincidentally both individuals have associated themselves with anarchitecture.  gordon matta-clark starting a the “anarchitecture” group in 1973 and gianni pettena, who wrote a book titled l’anarchitetto, also in 1973.

[4]     chris larson mentions this realization on this webpage.

[5]     i’m still impressed with the furniture design that my friend seth welty came up with, which utilized old floor boards removed from a house in new orleans.

§ One Response to “-say it, no ideas but in things – nothing but the blank faces of the houses and cylindrical trees bent, forked by preconception and accident-split, furrowed, creased, mottled, stained-secret – into the body of the light! from above, higher than the spires, higher even than the office towers, from oozy fields abandoned to gray beds of dead grass, black sumac, withered weed-stalks, mud and thickets cluttered with dead leaves – the river comes pouring in above the city and crashes from the edge of the gorge in a recoil of spray and rainbow mists” – william carlos william [1]

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You are currently reading “-say it, no ideas but in things – nothing but the blank faces of the houses and cylindrical trees bent, forked by preconception and accident-split, furrowed, creased, mottled, stained-secret – into the body of the light! from above, higher than the spires, higher even than the office towers, from oozy fields abandoned to gray beds of dead grass, black sumac, withered weed-stalks, mud and thickets cluttered with dead leaves – the river comes pouring in above the city and crashes from the edge of the gorge in a recoil of spray and rainbow mists” – william carlos william [1] at a young hare.

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