The Eye of the Fish

August 22, 2008

Beauty, Damnation and Architecture

Yesterday we had a rather interesting talk from Sam Kebbel of Kebbell Daish Architects, discussing Joanna Langford’s The Beautiful and the Damned – a piece currently installed in the Michael Hirschfeld Gallery.

The artwork creates an ethereal urban skyline, pieced together from the glowing windows of unbalanced buildings, with a sharp scale shift provided by the odd street lamp. This is all constructed from the soft glows of backlit computer keyboards, and the odd street level LED – producing a memorable, sublime image of the urban landscape. (more in the introduction)

The stunning use of materials is a great neighbour to Fiona Hall’s Force Fields, which feature similarly inquisitive recylcings, except utilised at a smaller, and more natural scale.

Between Sam’s lecture and the audience discussion, the piece was given a number of architectural interpretations and contexts. To try and assert some sort of common-thread to the discussion, the artwork seemed to speak of unfulfilled – but beautiful – promises – a decaying utopianism, whether it be….

The end of the architecture as iconography, as spectacle?

The tragically flawed agendas of socialism and modernity?

The odd beauty that can be found in decay?

The failings of consumerism – highlighted by a RuralStudio-like recycling as both criticism and antidote?

Anyway, I enjoyed both the work and the variety of themes that were suggested and discussed. Unfortunately I’m unable to find a photo of the installed work, so you best be along and see it sometime over the next week – the exhibition ends along with August.

27 - 08 - 08

Hello Philip,

Thanks for your posting on Sam Kebbell’s talk – it certainly got the synapses firing for many of us here at the Gallery with its range of examples and the discussion about failed / co-opted Modernist (utopian) initiatives. It was a great turnout – including many architects, and has got us thinking about what other discussions might be possible in the future. Any architectural ideas/ideals or pressing investigations ripe for elucidation (or batting around) from Eye of the Fish readers and posters can be directed either to me or my colleague Anna who runs our public programmes, I can also send you an installation view of Joanna Langford’s work to add to the post. Let me know the best email address to send it to.


(Senior Curator/Manager Curatorial Programmes, City Gallery Wellington, Te Whare Toi)