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Above: Archizines in Sydney; image by Jessica Clarke-Nash.
The School of Architecture at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) is the latest venue to play host to Archizines – an exhibition initiated by independent curator, Elias Redstone, as a research project to promote a perceived resurgence in independent publishing. From its first appearance as a collaboration with the Architectural Association School of Architecture in November 2011, the exhibit has toured venues in 15 cities throughout Europe, the Americas, Asia and now Australia. Its current incarnation is on display at Object: Australian Design Centre, Sydney – directed by Anthony Burke, UTS Head of School, with Amanda Clarke, an independent architectural designer and curator.
The travelling exhibition features publications from the renowned (Log, MARK, and Volume) to those produced on shoestring budgets, each striving to bring something refreshingly new to the discipline. A notable inclusion is Australia’s own POST magazine. Australia’s production, however, is rather small in comparison to other countries contributions with only three are featured (KERB, POST, and The Weather Ring). The bulk of inclusions come from the US and the UK, with special mention to Another Pamphlet, Clog, PIDGIN, PIN-UP and PRAXIS from the US; and America Deserta Revisited, Go, P.E.A.R, T-R-E-M-O-R-S and The Modernist from the UK. Intriguingly, there are publications on display from China (What About It?), Indonesia (Gerilya Urban), and Tanzania (ANZA). Particular stand-outs are OASE, a publication from the Netherlands, a peer-reviewed journal that continues to amalgamate “academic discourse and the sensibilities of design practice”. OASE was originally published by the architectural students at the Delft university (1981) as an attempt to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Another standout comes from Norway, Conditions, a magazine focused on the conditions of architecture and urbanism. Both try to forge theory and practice, analysing architecture from within the discipline with no reliance from external philosophies or ideologies. As Conditions outlines in its blurb: “Through a play of thoughts in an open ended forum, predefined ‘facts’ will be unsecured and constantly reinvented”. Both aim at larger problems in the discipline, one emanating from an established publishing house (NAi publishers) and the other is an independent venture beginning just three years ago.
Much as Beatriz Colomina’s 2007 exhibit, Clip, Stamp, Fold, explored ‘little’ magazines from the sixties and seventies, Archizines functions as a temporary library highlighting contemporary architecture from different disciplinary origins and degrees of expertise. Where at Storefront for Art & Architecture in New York the exhibition display represented the newsstand turned it on its side, Sydney’s variant has an even more temporary feel to it. As magazines come and go from a newsstand, they have a sense of ephemerality, a temporality that sees them come and go in a game of transaction between the seller and buyer, between the author and reader. Magazines, academic journals and fanzines operate in a form of exchange, enabling and facilitating dialogues across platforms. This exhibition promotes commentary, criticism and research from 20 countries on the practice of architecture. As Burke states: “Archizines is a powerful demonstration of the breadth and passion of speculation and fearless discourse active in architecture today. [It] is proof there is much to be discussed about contemporary architecture…”.
What is disconcerting, though, is not the publications on display, rather the way they are displayed. The exhibition display cabinets are, primarily, three banks of stacked recycled cardboard, which creates a sense of the temporary – like discourse is almost fleeting. Its “fully recyclable reading room”, acting as a temporary library, allows visitors to leisurely peruse the publications and also to watch video interviews with the respective authors and editors. Archizines has been a transient exhibit, but its statement on architectural discourse is a little unclear. While almost all of these publications strive to undertake a different method, many place discourse as a novelty item to be flippantly toyed with. Instead of incisive criticism and debate, there are graphic exposes and snappy monikers, like Evil People in Modern Homes in Popular Films. However, the fact that architectural publishing is heralded enough to be the defining feature in a touring exhibit is encouraging, and it is only hoped that it may enliven the younger practitioners to engage in broader discussions on the future of architectural practice and discourse.
Running in Sydney until 4 May 2013, Archizines will be accompanied by a program of events including talks and panel discussions, and also featuring prominently will be the 2013 launch of Open Agenda, a national competition of speculative research in architecture for recent graduates and emerging architects dedicated to fostering new discussions on architecture in the public realm.
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