THIS USED TO BE THE FUTURE
11 - 28 March 2015
Opening Night | Thursday 12 March 6-8pm
Usingsculpture and printmaking, Kirsty Lillico addresses the pervasive architecture of Brutalism that swept through institutional New Zealand in the 1960s and 70s. This exhibition compares the benevolent social policies of post-war NZ that Brutalism was embedded in, to the grotesque iniquities of today. Lillico uses cardboard to both highlight the current poverty of means and playfully evoke the raw textures and hermetic spaces of these monumental concrete buildings.
An artist’s book will be published as an addendum to the exhibition.
Interview with Chris Clements:
You have made cardboard works that climb up the gallery wall and collages that seem to climb up the page. There is an emphasis on building. The first association I make is with Constructivist activities.
I thought formally about Constructivism while I was making the collages, with their sharp edges and high contrast. My prints show similarities to Eduardo Paolozzi’s work of the 50’s. He made prints and sculptures from collaged industrial detritus, combining science-fiction imagery and totemic forms. He also printed textiles and wallpaper.
I also think of them in light of Constructivism in the sense of the work changing states and adapting. In This used to be the future you have made work that has had to travel here from New Zealand, and is partially created and recreated in the gallery. How important is this conditional setting to the making of these works?
I was thinking about the logistics of transport from the very beginning, and this gave me the idea for building sculpture in boxes. The walls of the box unfold to make a landscape table or plinth. The unpacking of these is a kind of performance. The way that the walls of the box fall down when the strap is removed is a particularly pleasing action to me – sort of reminds me of that Buster Keaton movie with the house falling down around him.
Yeh right, like a kid with a dolls house; you automatically shrink yourself to inhabit it.
Gaston Bachelard talks about rooms housing imagined space for our memories and emotions. In your box works ‘S’ ‘M’ and ‘L,’ I imagine entering rooms and hallways, only they’re not folkloric homes, they’re stark, even bleak industrial places for whole communities, they’re workplaces or housing estates.
We’ve talked about your fascination with Brutalist architecture before. There is a definite sympathy with this architecture in your work.
Brutalist buildings definitely had an impact on me as a youngster – so imposing. They seemed representative of authority and the institution. Because, where I grew up they were the big buildings; The university, the council chambers, the library. Even so, I am drawn to them, I sympathize with them as underdogs, although
I am concerned about my artwork being seen as straight out advocacy – It’s more ambivalent than that I think.
I was once talking to an architect involved in green design.
I remember his face when I’d mentioned having an affection for an awkward, hard-edged example of Brutalist architecture in Wellington.
“You can’t be serious!” he’d said, “that building is an abortion!”
I hadn’t considered why I’d liked the building. Was I just fetishizing my own fear of an authoritarian monolith in the same way I’d gleaned joy from being trapped in Kafka’s nightmarish universe of bureaucracy?
The problem is, I think, that during my lifetime they have mostly been misunderstood. Used as sets for dystopian sci-fi movies, as menacing environments. They have been disconnected from the utopian aims of their early modernist tenets.
Yeh, that’s the bind. So they’re like monumental failures. And it is a double bind when you frame it like this, if they’re underdogs – not appreciated for their ideology – yet palpably oppressive.
On the other hand Jonathan Meades asks: why should a building show a friendly face?
Apart from that, I am a visual artist and I’m attracted to the irrational ‘image’ aspect, the proto-postmodern. Irrational, in that some have nooks and crannies of no functional purpose. Reyner Banham talks about the buildings as image, having strong shape, silhouette, form; being fully comprehensible as images.
…another curious feature of an architecture that was ostensibly born out the ‘form follows function’ predicate.
They are giant sculpture. That’s why I like them.
The mono-prints you’ve made from corrugated cardboard pick up the machine’s pattern as well as the human mark and stain. This is interesting to me. When they’re flattened in ink they seem to chart lives lived against the machinated grid of mass produced packaging. The boxes themselves are well used, empty and broken, but it seems as though we should be able to read the wrinkles like palmistry.
Yes, I like this, there’s a recycling bin in the car-park outside my studio, I try to get all my materials from my immediate surrounds. So, while the material is – practically speaking – arbitrary, it does bring up so many of the things I’m thinking about. The wrinkles and crumples in the cardboard echoes the deterioration of these newly old buildings. The concrete looks invulnerable but is susceptible to staining, like paper is. And, like paper, once it’s marred you can’t do anything to ‘fix’ it. I’m interested the functionality of modernism; in that you cant predict the way nature is going to spill over, apprehend or react to the strictures of its models.
Looking over the forays into New Brutalism throughout the New Zealand, I think there is a jarring irony to the Brutalist university campuses. When ‘packaging’ is considered alongside the dissolution of the socialist ethos the architecture grew out of, I have an idea my use of packaging boxes alludes to education as product. An ‘off the shelf’ package deal.
It’s also funny to think of a cardboard box from a psychological perspective, at once a haven for cats, a plaything for children, a place full of promise and imagination that, later in life, can be the last resort for the homeless guy under the bridge.
It is a place of refuge throughout but the tone shifts so much, these double-edged associations compel me in your work.
Bachelard, G. (1994), The Poetics of Space. Maria Jolas (Trans.) Boston MA: Beacon Press. (Original work published 1958)
Banham, R. (2013) The New Brutalism. In K. May, J. Van den Hout, et al (Eds.), CLOG: Brutalism (pp. 10-15) New York. (Reprinted from Architectural Review, pp. 855-861, Dec 1955, London)
Meades, J. (Writer), & Hanly, F. (Director). (2014). Episode 1 [Television series episode]. In F. Moyle (Executive producer), Bunkers, Brutalism, Bloodymindedness: Concrete Poetry, London: BBC Four
Schenck, J. (Producer), & Reisner, C. (Director). (1928). Steamboat Bill Jr. [Motion Picture]. United States: Buster Keaton Productions & Joseph M. Schenck Productions
IMAGES | Kirsty Lillico, Bunker, 2015, collage and monoprint on paper, 42 x 59.4cm | Images courtesy of the artist.