Chicago, October 13, 2009 —
The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts is pleased
to present Actions: What You Can Do With the City, an
exhibition of 99 actions that instigate positive change in contemporary
cities around the world. The exhibition is on view at the Graham
Foundation Madlener House from October 16, 2009 through March 13, 2010.
Actions: What You Can Do With
the City features seemingly common activities such as walking,
playing, recycling, and gardening that are pushed beyond their usual
definition by the international architects, artists, and collectives
featured in the exhibition. Their experimental interactions with the
urban environment show the potential influence personal involvement
can have in shaping the city and challenge fellow residents to participate.
It highlights distinct actions including projects related to the production
of food and urban agriculture; the planning and creation of public spaces
to strengthen community interactions; the recycling of abandoned buildings
for new purposes; the appropriation of urban sites into terrain for
play, such as soccer, climbing, skateboarding, or parkour; the alternate
use of roads for walking or rail lines as park space; the design of
clothing to circumvent urban barriers against loitering or resting on
benches; and many others.
Actions: What You Can Do With
the City was originally devised by the Canadian Centre for Architecture
in Montreal – on view from 26 November 2008 to 19 April 2009 – and
was curated by Director and Chief Curator Mirko Zardini and CCA Curator
of Contemporary Architecture Giovanna Borasi. The exhibition was
conceived as an international research project, part of an on-going
investigation in topical economic, social and political issues related
to architecture and urbanism. It features international contemporary
architectural projects, design concepts and research conveyed through
a range of materials including architectural drawings, photographs,
videos, publications, artifacts and websites. Accompanying the exhibition,
the CCA co-published a catalogue in collaboration with SUN Amsterdam
and designed a micro-site to inspire actions in the city.
Commenting on the exhibition, Mirko
Zardini said “I am delighted to see the exhibition travel to Chicago
and especially to the Graham Foundation. The Graham Foundation is deeply
committed and passionately involved in sustaining a range of relevant
studies in the contemporary debate on the city. Right now Chicago is
an interesting place to discuss urbanism in a climate of openness and
experimentation. I'm looking forward to seeing how the exhibition will
continue to enhance new ways of thinking about how we interact with
Actions: What You Can Do With
the City is presented in Chicago during a year when the city
celebrates the centennial of architect Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan
of Chicago. “Actions provokes us to consider the exact
opposite of the often quoted Burnham charge to ‘Make no little plans.’”
says Sarah Herda, Graham Foundation Executive Director and Curator.
“In many ways the work brought together in the exhibition could be
considered a collection of little plans—all demonstrating that creative
thinking and participation at every scale has the potential to shape
the urban environment.”
The exhibition along with the publication presents specific projects by a diverse group of activists whose personal involvement has initiated vital transformation in today’s cities.
These human motors of change include architects, engineers, university professors, students, children, pastors, artists, skateboarders, cyclists, pedestrians, municipal employees, and many others who address the question of how to improve the urban experience. Their actions push against accepted norms of behavior in cities, at times even challenging legal limitations. The individuals and groups presented in the exhibition employ a range of approaches, from skating and parkour to dumpster diving and urban foraging. Some engage architecture directly by finding new uses for abandoned buildings, while others create tools for guerrilla gardening. In their individual critiques of urban modes of production and consumption, these actors share a conviction that the traditional processes of top-down civic planning are insufficient, and new approaches and tools must be developed from the ground level upwards.
It places particular emphasis on the
activists’ tools, which comprise unusual materials ranging from large-scale
inflatables and fruit-collecting dresses to seed-bomb rocket launchers.
Included are masks disguising children as horses and sneakers customized
for sliding along railings.
ARTISTS AND ARCHITECTS
The exhibition features the work of
Chicago-based artist Michael Rakowitz and radical ecologist Nancy Klehm,
as well as the work of Graham Foundation grantees: Damon Rich /Center
for Urban Pedagogy, Emily Scott, Amy Franceschini, Vikram Bhatt, Tali
Hatuka, and Project Projects. Also featured is work by Steve Alba, Atelier
Bow-wow, Buggy-Rollin, Coloco, CIRCA, James Graham and Thaddeus Jusczyk,
Layla Curtis, Döll, Fergus Drennan, Fallen Fruit, Halfway Home for
Wayward plants, Harmen de Hoop, iSee, Muf art / architecture, Office
of Unsolicited Architecture, Recetas Urbanas, Sarah Ross, Shared Space,
Whitney Stump, Superuse, Three Miles, Topotek, WHAT IF: projects Ltd.,
and WORK Architecture Company, among others.
Actions: What You Can Do With
the City is accompanied by a book of the same title,
which presents original research and writing that further examines the
exhibition’s exploration of how the design and experience of contemporary
cities can be shaped by human actions. International in scope, the 30
essays are published for the first time and include personal observations
by a range of activists alongside scholarly reflections on the positive
impact these individual initiatives have on the city. The texts are
interspersed with 34 specific actions drawn from the exhibition.
Introductory essays by the editors
Mirko Zardini and Giovanna Borasi provide historical perspective and
establish the curatorial framework for the exhibition and publication.
Original essays are contributed by
Jochen Becker, Vikram Bhatt, Katrin Bohn, Brendan
M. Brogan, Coloco, Henk Döll, Fergus the Forager,
Omar Freilla, George J. Grella Jr., Fritz Haeg,
Tali Hatuka, Dan Hill, Sarah Hill, Ocean Howell,
Hans Ibelings, Momoyo Kaijima, David Ker Thomson, Zoe Laughlin,
Sonia Lavadinho, Nina-Marie Lister, Alejandra López,
Thomas Leo Ogren, Emily Rauhala, Richard Reynolds,
Debra Solomon, Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, Jeroen van Nieuwenhuizen, and Andre
Co-published by Canadian Centre for
Architecture, Montreal, and SUN, Amsterdam, the catalogue is designed
by Novak, Amsterdam. The 240-page, soft-cover book includes 70 color
and black and white illustrations, and features a folded poster as cover
wrap. The volume is available for purchase at the Graham Foundation.
ACTIONS EXHIBITION DESIGN
As it was the case in Montreal, the
exhibition was designed by Andrea Sala, Milan, and the graphic design
including display brochures is by Project Projects, New York City.
The exhibition is accompanied by the
award-winning website www.cca-actions.org, which presents a toolkit
to inspire actions in the city. This databank of individual actions
featured in the exhibition can be sorted and browsed in multiple ways,
including by the type of tool employed in the action or the curatorial
organization of the exhibition. The website features photographs and
video resources and challenges users to respond by posting their own
thoughts or initiatives on how to improve the city through individual
The website is created by Montreal
based web design agency Bluesponge, with creative direction by Marian
Kolev and concept by Mouna Andraos.
The Graham Foundation will host a series
of talks during the run of the exhibition that explore the themes of
Actions: What You Can Do With the City. Fall events include
October 29, 2009, 6pm
“Make No Medium Sized Plans”
Amale Andraos and Dan Wood, Work ac
November 4, 2009, 6pm
“Did Someone Say Participate?”
Markus Miessen, Studio Miessen
November 12, 2009, 6pm
Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss, Normal Architecture Office
All talks are held at the Graham Foundation’s
Madlener House and are free of charge.
Accessibility: Talks are held in the ballroom on the third floor which is only accessible by stairs. The first floor of the Madlener House is accessible via an outdoor lift. Please call 312.787.4071 to make arrangements.
Space is limited, to make reservations
Actions: What You Can Do With
the City is curated by CCA Director and Chief Curator Mirko
Zardini and CCA Curator for Contemporary Architecture Giovanna Borasi,
with Lev Bratishenko, Meredith Carruthers, Daria Der Kaloustian, and
Mirko Zardini is the Director and Chief
Curator of the CCA since 2005. Under his direction, the CCA is deepening
its commitment to investigating the social, environmental, and political
issues facing contemporary architecture through its exhibitions, publications,
programs, and internationally acclaimed research center. At the CCA,
he curated the exhibitions 1973: Sorry, Out of Gas (with Giovanna
Borasi, 2007), Sense of the City (2005), Out of the Box: Price,
Rossi, Stirling + Matta-Clark (2004), and has initiated a series
of exhibitions developed with universities including Massachusetts Institute
of Technology (MIT), Princeton University, and Columbia University.
Zardini is a practicing architect whose research, writings, and design
projects engage contemporary architecture, its transformations, and
its relationship with the city and landscape. He has taught at prestigious
architectural schools, including the Swiss Federal Polytechnic University
in Zurich and Lausanne, Harvard University, and Princeton University,
and is a former editor of Casabella magazine and Lotus International.
Giovanna Borasi is CCA Curator of Contemporary
Architecture since 2005. She curated the exhibitions Some Ideas on
Living in London and Tokyo by Stephen Taylor and Ryue Nishizawa
(2008); 1973: Sorry, Out of Gas (with Mirko Zardini, 2007); and
Environment: Approaches for Tomorrow on the work of Gilles Clément
and Philippe Rahm (2006). Before joining the CCA, she co-curated
House Sweet Home, Different Ways to
Live, Spazio Ventisette, Milan (2000), and collaborated on several
exhibitions with Mirko Zardini including Asphalt, The Character of
Cities at the Milan Triennale (2003). Borasi was an editor and writer
for Lotus International and Navigator. She served as Assistant
Editor for the book series Quaderni di Lotus, and was a member
of the editorial staff of Lettera, the graphic design supplement
ABOUT THE CCA
The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) is an international research centre and
museum founded in 1979 on the conviction that architecture is a public concern. Based on
its extensive collections, the CCA is a leading voice in advancing knowledge, promoting
public understanding, and widening thought and debate on the art of architecture and its
history, theory, practice and role
in society today. The CCA celebrates the 20th
anniversary of its public opening throughout 2009 with an ambitious
series of programs and initiatives that underscore the achievements
of the CCA.
Actions: What You
Can Do With the City is part of the CCA’s ongoing exploration
of key issues in contemporary architecture with a specific focus on
urban, social, and environmental concerns. The exhibition follows
Some Ideas on Living in London and Tokyo by Stephen Taylor and Ryue
Nishizawa (2008); 1973: Sorry, Out of Gas (2007); Environment:
Approaches for Tomorrow, with Gilles Clément and Philippe Rahm
(2006); and Sense of the City (2005), the groundbreaking exhibition
dedicated to the sensory dimensions of urban life that have traditionally
been ignored or repressed.
ABOUT THE GRAHAM FOUNDATION
Founded in 1956, the Graham Foundation
for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts makes project-based grants to
individuals and organizations and produces public programs to foster
the development and exchange of diverse and challenging ideas about
architecture and its role in the arts, culture, and society. The Graham
Foundation was created by a bequest from Ernest R. Graham (1866–1936),
a prominent Chicago architect who was a protégé of Daniel Burnham.
Since 1963, the Graham Foundation has
been located in the Madlener House, a 9,000-square-foot turn of the
century Prairie-style mansion, by architect Richard E. Schmidt and designer
Hugh M. G. Garden, located in the historic Gold Coast neighborhood of
Chicago. In 2007, under the direction of Sarah Herda, the Graham Foundation
launched an expanded exhibition program, reconceiving the use of the
historic mansion to showcase contemporary work and issues in the world
of architecture. Actions: What You Can Do With the City
is the third exhibition in this new program that has included the work
of Bjarke Ingels (Copenhagen) and Cecil Balmond (London).
The Graham Foundation has collaborated
with the CCA in the past, providing support for such projects as the
Actions publication, the oral history research project “Mies
and His American Colleagues,” and the forthcoming Architecture
in Uniform by Jean-Louis Cohen, a publication accompanying the 2011
CCA exhibition of the same name.
EXHIBITION LOCATION & HOURS
Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts
4 West Burton Place
Chicago, IL 60610
Gallery Hours: Wednesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm; every third Thursday of the month, 10am to 9pm. Group tours available.
Accessibility: The first floor of the Madlener House is accessible via an outdoor lift. Please call 312.787.4071 to make arrangements.