dialogue #15 ‘sequence of abstractions’

'sequence of abstractions'

Abstraction as a tool

Since modernity cities have been subjected to growth processes; since then they have been studied from a technical and scientific perspective. Abstraction can be understood as a tool that helps to simplify the complexity of what exists and to generate an intentional proposal for a possible urban transformation. The representation is where the abstraction take place. This sequence of drawings exposes a set of representations of the city of Barcelona, showing different types of abstraction that are the result of a certain look related to the time and to the author.  The first image is a redraw of the Pla Cerdà (1859): the winning project for the expansion of Barcelona. The three following images are redraws of Pla Macià (1933): a rationalist project that was never built. The last two images are an interpretation of the sequence by the author where the abstraction is more extreme.

23.02.2018 Barcelona

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47.372604 8.532485

47.372604, 8.532485 are the coordinates of „Haus Konstruktiv“, an Art Museum founded 1989 by a non-representational artist movement around Max Bill that called their work concrete, conceptual and constructive. It is located in the center of Zürich, along the river Sihl and was initially built 1929 as a water power plant. As an accompanying program to its 2017 exhibition of Thomas Sarazeno, the architects Stich & Oswald were commissioned an installation called „Counter Space Incubator“ that was placed in front of the entry of Haus Konstruktiv. The covered outside space, where the installation was positioned, seems to have been intended as a side entrance to the power plant, rather than the main access of an important museum that it is nowadays; a circumstance that creates an attractive tension in the urban texture.


„Counter Space Incubator“ was an inhabitable 2 x 2m wide and 3.5m tall sculpture, similar to a a balloon with the thickness of 2-5cm, constructed in concrete. Spontaneously cast by the architecture office in a cheap plastic foil, the resulting shape reminded of a huge creature’s sock. Its intention was to announce and simulate a new building for the independent art space „Counter Space“. It was neither clear where this new building could be built, nor how it would look, but it was an 1:1 quest on what the art spaces’ core values – process orientation, spontaneity, ephemerality and collectiveness – could mean in spacial and constructive terms. The resulting model was not literal – the project of the art space that is now in planning will most probably look very different – but it was opening possibilities and manifesting an idea.


In the context of Act I, the painter Dominique Jehle investigated the above described urban situation of Stich & Oswald „Counter Space Incubator“ intervention at Haus Konstruktiv. Viewed from above, buildings, spaces and focus points became layers of the white paper. The paper relief composition was new for the artist as a medium, but it continued the careful and personal way she uses when observing the surroundings depicted in her paintings. As a response to the collage that she later sent by mail to the Stich & Oswald, an interpretation of the paper composition in concrete was cast by the architects. The 60x90cm relief resulted in only three hours and only used scrap material from architectural models and prototypes. It was sent back to the artist and regarded as her work.


The process of repeated observation and interpretation – applied on an architectural project, a paper collage and a concrete relief – is like a transformation of an urban context through an intuitive copy machine that strangely appears to be simultaneously individual and collective. Even though its result might seem intuitive and formal, the transformation of an urban context into a deliberated, non referential object, works through a strict and tested set of rules by the authors. In this sense it can be seen as an interdisciplinary mute discourse on the work of the heroes that founded Haus Konstruktiv for their art in 1989.


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