WARWICK STAFFORD FELLOW
2013/14 Warwick Stafford Fellow:
Eleanor Wright’s practice looks towards prevailing cultural and societal fixations with iconographic architecture, the nature of design technology and spatial relationships between body and form. Her work is realised through sculpture and exhibition making, utilising materials that identify with cycles of industrial processing, which she manipulates in their ‘pre-composed’ states to form a complex sculptural language. In realizing her work she incorporates atypical exhibition objects such as the exhibition space, the street and even the city as a means of addressing wider cultural, social, political or economic concerns.
For the Warwick Stafford Fellowship her research was particularly concerned with form-oriented and brand-focused architecture that has come to define the ‘cultural’ city, and how the art object created and exhibited using its discourses can contribute to alternative forms of place-making. Many of these buildings are characterised by fantastical free-form geometries and gravity defying structures enabled by major advancements in digital imaging and manufacturing (particularly parametricism). Such buildings are poised for their own media representation and are thus defined and encountered as branded beacons rather than physical buildings.
Adopted by many architecture practices in the 1990s and continually dubbed the architectural style of the future (Zaha Hadid Architects), parametricism is an algorithmic digital design tool in which adaptable parameters or constraints are manipulated in order to define space, whereby architectural components are handled as a matter of behaviors rather than fixed dimensions.
The fluidity of this global style is reputedly representative of western capitalist ideology, an age determined by multiplicity and plurality; in which flows, networks and maps replace grids, structures and history. As Owen Hatherley notes in his writing on ZHA ‘parametricism is symptomatic of our unpleasant cultural and political circumstances’.
Wright’s culminating solo exhibition, Thin Cities explored the physicality of the digital interface, and the symbiotic and sometimes fraught relationship between art and architecture. Thin Cities examined the socio-political, architectural and visual discourse surrounding ‘cultural’ constructions and questioned their relationship with cities and people. She received an additional award for research into the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre in Baku, Azerbaijan, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. Found footage of this building on fire (Baku Fire, 2013) underpinned Wright’s interest in the potentially destructive relationship between digitally enabled design and its ‘concrete’ manifestation.
Also supported by the fellowship was the publication, Stop Looking up. Start Looking Down, and the symposium and screening programme, Tuned Cities with BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.
Tuned Cities included presentations by Mark Dorrian (Forbes Chair in Architecture, University of Edinburgh), Natasha Rosling and Richard Whitby and a series of artist films that explored themes of architecture and transformation.
Focussed around cities’ relationships with urban and architectural developments and the impact on inhabitants communities, tourists and cultural branding, the resulting public programme presented film and moving image works across a multiple-projection installation environment by artists Anne Tallentire, Beatrice Gibson, Cedrick Eymenier, Clemens von Wedemeyer and Maya Schweizer, Jennet Thomas, Karen Mirza and Brad Butler, Michael Stevenson, Neil Beloufa, Patrick Keiller, Riccardo Iacono, Steven Ball, William English, and Zachary Formwalt.