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Friday, October 11, 2013

From Lab to Guggenheim

The exhibition Participatory City: 100 Urban Trends from the BMW Guggenheim Lab opens today at the Guggenheim in New York City, running until January 5, 2014. It comes a little over two years after the launch of the BMW Guggenheim Lab on an empty plot of city land in the East Village. As one of the presenters in yesterday's press preview noted, the size and proportions of the gallery space in the Guggenheim are about the same as those of the Atelier Bow-Wow pavilion that called NYC home before heading to Berlin for the second Lab installation (the third pavilion, in Mumbai, was also designed by Atelier Bow-Wow but was built from bamboo instead of carbon fiber). I couldn't help mashing these two environments together to see just how close this relationship is:

The exhibition—organized by Maria Nicanor, Curator, BMW Guggenheim Lab (with David van der Leer, formerly of the Guggenheim) and Associate Curator, Architecture and Urbanism, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum—does a good job of documenting what happened in the New York City, Berlin and Mumbai Labs over the course of two years.

The exhibition includes some introductory text and videos:

Clips of talks at the three venues:

Screen walls cycling through the 100 Urban Trends determined over the course of the Lab's existence:

And a wall charting each trend and its relationship to other trends:

On this last I'm a bit skeptical of the connections, since the lines drawn between the trends in the program pamphlet* do not coincide with the lines on the wall. Are the lines arbitrary, merely existing to illustrate the complexity of urban life (and create a strong visual)? Or do the connections constantly change depending on the context and the values we ascribe them?

All tolled, I wish there was more participation in the exhibition rather than the more passive engagement of watching and reading. The Lab was all about participation, so it would have been beneficial to extend this into the gallery. To me the exhibition says that the Lab's work is done, and no more participation will happen (beyond some interaction in the two scheduled lectures*); and that the Lab's participation, which worked toward making cities better places for people, does not have a place inside a museum. In the case of the latter, this must be why Nicanor and van der Leer broke outside of the walls of the Guggenheim to directly engage the city and allow for the spontaneous to happen within tightly scheduled programs.

*The exhibition also consists of a program of lectures and film screenings.

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