Thursday, September 13, 2012

9+1 Ways of Being Political

[The 9+1 posters stitched together near the entrance to the gallery]

Last night I visited MoMA to check out the new exhibition 9+1 Ways of Being Political: 50 Years of Political Stances in Architecture and Urban Design, curated by Pedro Gadanho with Margot Weller. MoMA's architecture shows tend to alternate between activist projects -- Foreclosed, Rising Currents -- and exhibits that utilize the museum's permanent collection to explore a theme. 9+1 is certainly the latter. As Gadanho's first show in his still relatively young post as MoMA's Curator of Contemporary Architecture, it is also an ambitious idea that benefits from the exhibit's organization, clarity, and design.

Each one of the 9+1 ways (the +1 refers to a new acquisition, a performance piece that will take place off site at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City) is explained on a poster-sized piece of paper that can actually be taken home after being pulled off the wall. These ways, or themes, include a range of years that coincides with their influence and the pieces from the collection, but the time frames are not sequential; there is plenty of overlap among them. Below is a list of those 9+1 ways and one piece from each that was a highlight for me. All tolled, there are just over 100 pieces in the show, many more than the ten linked below to their place in the MoMA Collection.

[My least blurry shot of the exhibition]

1 - Radical Stances: 1961-1973 - Utopie Dynamit, Gunther Rambow

2 - Fiction and Dystopia: 1963-1978 - Urban Construction, Aldo Rossi

3 - Deconstruction: 1975-1999 - Terrain, Lebbeus Woods

4 - Consuming Brandscapes: 1969-2004 - IIT Mies Wallpaper, 2x4 (visible below)

5 - Performing Public Space: 1978-2011 - Following Piece, Vito Acconci

6 - Iconoclasm and Institutional Critique: 1964-2003 - Study of Perspective - White House, Ai Weiwei (visible in photo above)

7 - Enacting Transparency: 1967-2011 - Alteration to a Suburban House, Dan Graham

8 - Occupying Social Borders: 1974-2011 - Stairway to Heaven, Didier Faustino

9 - Interrogating Shelter: 1971-2003 - House of the Century, Ant Farm (a photo of the house on Chip Lord's flickr page)

+1 - Politics of the Domestic: 2002-2011 - Burn, Reynold Reynolds and Patrick Jolley

[A more typically blurry shot of the exhibition by me]

Usually the third-floor architecture gallery is left fairly open, with models floating in the middle and drawings along the walls, be it for activist or collection shows. But Gadanho has shaped the space very deliberately, something I noticed and sketched on my visit (below -- the dotted line is the path one takes to sequentially follow the 9+1 ways in order). While the curator said last night that the walls, model stands (heavy lines in center of plan), and space work to create Rem Koolhaas's famous ¥$, in which everything is based on money, I didn't pick up on that intention besides the Y-shaped walls. Yet there is a deliberate path that ends in a dark space where a video (Burn) is projected. The prescribed movement and the propaganda-like posters are two layers over the content that seem to relate to the political theme. These also, respectively, make each section more intimate and the exhibition more interactive and potentially memorable. It's a strong start for Gadanho and a show worth seeing in person.

[My quick sketch of the exhibition's layout]