I slipped into Kavi Gupta last week to check out Susan Giles‘ new show, Buildings and Gestures. I’d seen some of the promotional shots and remembered her sculptures from last year’s NEXT fair and had been expecting some average sized memory based sculptures, the kind of architectural combinations that show off the novelty of form removed from practicality that I’d heard about.
And had the side room been the only space, I would have been pretty much right – Giles’ works there were well crafted paper sculptures were awesome in form and detail. They looked to have been as much fun to design and build as they were to look at (maybe more-so) and were plenty smart, but as demonstrations of the artist’s ideas about the power of architecture on the mind, they would have gotten stuck in form.
They would have needed something else to really activate Giles’ structural/deep structural content, like maybe a giant shapeless cardboard and wood spacial installation with a completely appropriate and engaging video piece projected inside of it.
Standing inside of the sculpture and watching the video, where figures gestured and swept while describing monuments they’d seen, I felt part of the feedback loop I think Giles was aiming for. How would I describe this weird moment, or this weird thing I was standing in? By shape or by function, by its representation or meaning, or by my experience of it? Would an architect describe it differently? If Frank Gehry’s big sweeping forms on the Jay Pritzker Pavilion really do help with the acoustics, can they still be called post-structuralist?
Call it a narrow field of attention, but sometimes I have a hard time thinking about concepts like memory and the psychic impact of monumental architecture while looking at things that are really cool to look at. Pulling off that kind of simultaneity isn’t an easy thing to do, but Buildings and Gestures managed it; I thought Giles brought out her ideas very well and smoothly despite a potentially distracting high craft coolness factor in all of her works.
I give the show an: