Monday, 24 January 2011

Architecture & Utopia: Once composed...

In this short film artist Patrick Bobilin offers his own novel take on the architectural manifesto: "a manifesto between lovers in search of a reasonable paradise in the twenty-first century while living in the shadow of the structures and ideals of the nineteenth".

Inspired by the writings of Le Corbusier, Manfredo Tafuri and Siegfried Giedion who concerned themselves with the programmatic realisation of utopia, the female lover of Patrick's film poses the following question:
"Would utopia be composed of buildings? Once composed, would those buildings cease to be utopic?"
In the wonderfully poetic passage that follows his female lover elaborates on the aspects of everyday life that elude or exceed the neurotic concerns of an obsessive architectural programme.  As the aritst succinctly put it in a brief email exchange "things have changed but the buildings remain the same. Is the solution to rebuild, or is the solution to reorganise history?"

Shot in Chicago the film takes in the monumental forms of its 19th century skyscrapers before moving on to poorer outlying suburbs. When I asked Patrick about the project he told me that the writings of Walter Benjamin had been a significant influence, particularly Benjami's writings about Berlin, Paris and Baudelaire.

As for Patrick in his attempt to articulate his "own history of architecture", it is precisely by means of the experiences of others that we are able to distantiate ourselves sufficiently from the cities we already know, almost all too well, in order to be able to frame them anew. To this end another's writings, concerning other cities at other times, offer a compellingly affective route to the accomodation of these other experiences.

In this way the issues of gentrification, segregation, lack of civic responsibility and the loss of community that Patrick sought to explore were able to manifest in a way that may not have been possible before. In Patrick's film it is also key to the development of this new urban imaginary that these experiences are given another voice; that of his female lover.

Further details of Patrick's works can be found on his website:

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Undercity: New York

[Video - Undercity by Andrew Wonder on Vimeo]

In his most recent project filmmaker Andrew Wonder explores the infrastructure of New York City with 'guerrilla' urban historian Steve Duncan of Shot entirely with a DSLR while sneaking through the subways, sewers and across the bridges of the city, this film offers a highly compelling glimpse of the motivation behind this kind of Urban Exploration. As Duncan explains on his website:
I try to peel back the layers of a city to see what's underneath. From the tops of bridges to the depths of sewer tunnels, these explorations of the urban environment help me puzzle together the interconnected, multi-dimensional history and complexity of the great metropolises of the world.
While the film does not fail to romanticise UrbEx, what lover doesn't, it does succeed in striking an honest balance in depicting the fantastic excitement and many risks involved. 

For those interested in reading more about more of their adventures beneath New York with Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge I recommend the recent article The Wilderness Below Your Feet by Alan Feuer for the New York Times.