ArchitectureBoston

Journeys: How Travelling Fruit, Ideas, and Buildings Rearrange Our Environment

Posted in Vol 14 No 1 by bsaab on February 3, 2011

Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal (October 20, 2010–March 13, 2011)

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Bijlmermeer petting zoos share a gallery with EU-regulated cucumbers. One wall frames (literally) definitions of “bungalow” from 1855 to 1986. A few feet away, a digital slideshow documents transnational migration between Senegal and Italy. Japanese farm tools used to cultivate crops in Bolivia encroach upon Google Earth projections of the Arctic, cross-sections of buoyant wild coconuts, and stunning Max Belcher photographs recording the translation of architecture in the American South to Arthington, Liberia.

Journeys is an ambitious investigation of the flip side of global migration — a look at its impact not on people but on places. The ideas and themes are intriguing and provocative: Soon the visitor begins to understand that maybe there really are connections between cucumbers and petting zoos.

But Journeys is also a far-reaching, perhaps over-reaching, exploration of exhibition-making. A collaboration among curators, authors, a graphic designer, and an artist, the project includes a website and a book. Which is appropriate, as the most experimental aspect of the installation is not its objects or images but its text.

Fifteen narratives take a cue from creative-writing teachers: Construct your essay by beginning with a concrete object and then bridge out toward the larger philosophical questions. And although each story has the potential to germinate thoughtful discussion on migration’s transformative consequences, the exhibition’s overall setup and multimedia mishmash (albeit well-designed mishmash) provokes ADD-like agitation in the way of an ad-ridden, dataclogged website. Has the time already come for art museums to mimic the contemporary method of frenzied information intake? Is there a novel way we can mitigate sensory overload while providing loads of new data? I want more white space. I’m reading the book.

Above: Pulling a structure across the ice to Conche, Newfoundland. Resettlement Collection, Maritime History Archive, Memorial University, PF-317.488.

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