11 - 28 May 2011


Ed McAliece

Through the 1970’s, Gordon Matta-Clark undertook a series of architectural interventions, which radically challenged accepted notions of structure. Works such as Splitting (1974) and Caribbean Orange(1978) literally intersected and removed segments from houses and buildings. Rather than being a purely anarchic, destructive force, the building cuts and intersects expanded the boundaries of the space itself, and exposed the structure of the previously rigid boundaries. The result was an altered notion of time and space for the occupants of these spaces, an expanded, destabilised concept of the limits of a space defined by architecture.

Considering Matta-Clark’s oeuvre more broadly, with works such as Jacob’s Ladder (a man-size net ladder stretching between his hotel and an industrial chimney in Germany, 1977), and the artist-run restaurant, Food (operating within the social fabric in the form of a Diner, 1973), we can see a greater scope of practice. The artist offered not only an expanded notion of architectural space, but also a re-evaluation of the conventions of everyday life, a broader potential for structures whose limits were taken for granted.

This process of experimentation within architectural frameworks to set up open, propositional outcomes informs the spirit of this installation. The outcome here is not defined by a strict ideal form, goal or endpoint. Rather, the goal is to lay the grounds for a reaction, wherein the forms involved undermine their limits, and reconfigure the limits they in turn define.

Agar-agar powder, derived from red algae, is typically utilised as a vegetarian analogue for gelatine. While delicious in a red bean jelly, it also has applications in microbiological laboratories; as a solid substrate for culture mediums, it becomes a fine breeding ground for microbes, spores and pathogens. Here the jelly finds a new application; surface material in architectural cladding, catalyst in spatial experiments.

Laid flat onto armatures of foamcore and nylon, the agar takes on the form of a panel. Successively installed, the panels define new boundaries for a space. The materials do not comply with building standards; they are of the gelatinous and stretchy, self-moistening kind. Yet they configure to recall and suggest broad architectural forms, large scale models. At least, at the set-up stage they do.

While the panels are suspended gracefully, they are not strictly motionless; the nature of their components provokes a reaction. Floppy and opaque, weighing approximately three kilograms each when wet, each armature will return to a dry state, and will become gnarled, hardened and clear, weighing almost nothing. Moisture seeps from the porous agar; the armature, once defining the agar’s dimensions, has its own dimensions redefined by the constrictions of its core substance. This process in turn redefines the boundaries described by the series of armatures, shrinking and warping them into new forms. By the time the last panel dries, the spatial layout will be unrecognisable.

The agar substances and their subsequent transformation serve to undermine traditional notions of structure as a fixed presence, and call into question our designation of certain functions to specific materials. Is there logic beyond durability, affordability and availability for structural components? To what extent is a wall the limits of a space, and what potential do walls have beyond bounding and partitioning? How far can an absurd substance be pushed into a new context and what are the outcomes?

This exhibition invites viewers to inhabit and observe architectural forms in a process of defining and redefining spatial limits.

- Ed McAliece