An exhibition that investigates the utopian aspirations of urban planners, and how their idealistic visions sometimes become static and incapable of adapting to changing environments and systems. The works in this show warn us of the hazards of 'thinking big', while urging us to consider the centrality of dynamism in successful urban design. Work by: Liset Castillo, Dionisio Gonzalez, Andrew Harrison, Tim Long, David Maisel, Simon Menner, Danielle Roney, Christina Seely, Eric Smith, Joel Sternfeld.
The Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago is proud
to present The Edge of Intent, an exhibition that investigates the utopian aspirations of urban
planners, and how their idealistic visions sometimes become static and incapable of adapting to
changing environments and systems. The works in this exhibition warn us of the hazards of
“thinking big,” while urging us to consider the centrality of dynamism in successful urban design.
The Edge of Intent opens May 1, 2009 and runs through July 5, 2009.
The Edge of Intent exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Photography coincides with the centennial celebration of Daniel Burnhamʼs 1909 plan for the city of Chicago. The exhibition will reflect the centennial celebrationʼs statement of “advancing bold new plans” by encouraging and inspiring viewers to look at the ways urban planning has been instituted in a variety of settings, and to learn from the past successes or failures in implementing these plans. By looking through the unique lens these artists provide in their work, the exhibition will challenge the audience to see beyond existing notions of a cityʼs layout and to consider the effects a working plan can have upon an areaʼs inhabitants, and vice-versa.
The exhibition will present the work of ten artists whose works offer diverse perspectives on urban planning:
Liset Castilloʼs (Cuban, b. 1974) photographs of sand castles document her construction of a fictitious city, a utopian microcosm where particular aspects of different world civilizations converge and fuse in the universal experience of creation and destruction. Castillo builds intricate sand castles collapsing different world civilizations and architectural monuments, such as the Taj Mahal, the Coliseum, the Vatican, the Great Wall of China, Wrightʼs Guggenheim in New York, Rioʼs monumental Christ the Redeemer and the Empire State Building. Utilizing projections, drawings, her hands, and a trowel, among other tools, Castillo builds, photographs, destroys, and photographs again her sand sculptures in her backyard in Brooklyn. The resulting images resemble dilapidated cities surrounded by rubble, mountains, and craggy terrain.
Dionisio González (Spanish, b. 1965) pieces together images of the favelas, or shanty towns, of São Paulo, Brazil into long panoramas to which he adds bits and pieces of pristine, contemporary architecture. Very much a reaction against the government project Proyecto Cingapura, a re-urbanization scheme meant to provide better living conditions to the favela residents that has recently been criticized for not maintaining its buildings and not living up to its goals, González conceives of his works as proposals for new social centers. Instead of imposing a systematic, orderly structure from an outside urban planner, Gonzálezʼs structures reflect the spatial order that already exists in these neighborhoods, one that is chaotic and in flux.
Andrew Harrisonʼs (American, b. 1970) work explores the utopian aspects of urban planning by reconstructing the current layout of cities and states into unobtainable and fictional settings. Through the systematic transformation of idealized forms into maps, models, photographs, and short films, his work simultaneously engages the viewer with the history of utopian production and the unfolding of the utopian now. Focusing specifically on the Burnham plan for this exhibition he will continue his investigation of remapping the Garden State of New Jersey, his home state, into the idealized formation of Burnhamʼs 1909 Plan of Chicago. This map will be added to his collection of re-contextualized maps of New Jersey as utopian.
From a kayak and along the shore, Tim Long (American, b. 1951) records the balance between industry and recreation and the transition from urban to rural along the Illinois Waterway to the Mississippi River. Initially flowing east into Lake Michigan, the Chicago River was reversed in 1900 by the Sanitary District of Chicago due to the massive amounts of sewage and pollution that were poured into the river from industrial sources. While the pollution remains a constant to this day, Longʼs photographs document the awkward proximity of leisure and commerce in this environment.
Seen from the air, David Maiselʼs (American, b. 1961)The Lake Project photographs of the Owens Valley in southeastern California appear otherworldly. The history of this region is the stuff of California legend: a story of engineers, politicians, and big land owners working together to divert water to the rapidly growing desert city of Los Angeles, generating a thriving agricultural industry and an environmental disaster in the process. Serving as a coda to The Lake Project, Maiselʼs Oblivion series records Los Angeles from overhead as a self-generating, self-replicating force that exists outside nature.
Simon Mennerʼs (German, b. 1978) project Metacity records the informal structures of the homeless in the cities of Bombay, Chicago, and Paris while asking whether or not there exists connecting elements to this kind of poverty in different cities around the globe. Menner isnʼt as interested in documenting the homeless existing in the classic slums of third world countries, but more in the single homeless person and how they inhabit the modern city.
Danielle Roney's (American, 1968) three-channel video installation eGoli imagines a fantastical landscape in a mythical "city of gold" (once a sobriquet for Johannesburg, South Africa). The Atlanta- and Bejing-based artist conducts extensive research on urban centers to create her multimedia projects. In eGoli, Roney utilizes imagery from the real African countryside and Johannesburg's environs to craft a hypperreal, digitized cyber-city that evokes the city's struggles and its place in a growing global community.
Christina Seelyʼs (American, b. 1976) series Lux examines the disconnect between the immense beauty created by man-made light through satellite maps of the world at night and the carbon emissions that are created by the worldʼs wealthiest countries which show up as the brightest areas on the map. The three regions most visible in the series from NASA images are the United States, Western Europe and Japan. The inclusion of Seelyʼs work in the exhibition explores the realities faced when dealing with the infrastructure of these urban environments and the consequences resulting from the excessive energy requirements.
Eric Smithʼs (American, b. 1947) photographs record the Michigan Central Train Station in Detroit, once a vibrant hub of transportation, but now an abandoned, neglected and graffiti-strewn monument to Detroitʼs past. Built in 1913 in the Beaux Arts Style and closed in 1988, the buildingʼs marble walls and Doric columns are solidly intact and the space retains its majestic scale. Smith uses digital techniques to depict the setting with a sensuous, intensified luminosity, giving resemblance to meticulously painted illustrations. On a cursory view his photographs can easily be taken for inventive depictions of a mythical setting.
Over the past few years, artist Joel Sternfeld (American, b. 1944) has documented the degraded landscape of Manhattanʼs High Line –– the abandoned elevated tracks that run between the West Village and 34th Street. Originally built in 1934, the existence of the derelict tracks has caused great debate in a city trying to balance a high demand for real estate development and the need for open space. Its beauty is in part generated by the marks left on it from the fractured social history of its surroundings, here the long history of New York as a point of departure and arrival for goods and people.
Image: Liset Castillo, Pain Is Universal but So Is Hope (White), 2007, museum purchase
Audrey Michelle Mast
P: 773.459.5777 F: 312.344.8067 mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening reception May 1, 2009, 5 – 7pm
The Museum of Contemporary Photography
Columbia College - 600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago USA
The Museum is free and open to the public
Monday through Saturday, 10am – 5pm
Thursday, 10am – 8pm
Sunday, 12 – 5pm