Into the Open: Positioning Practice at The New School
On View at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons The New School for Design through May 1st, 2008, Into the Open: Positioning Practice brings Stateside the work of all sixteen practitioners from the U.S. pavilion at the 11th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia (September 14 through November 23, 2008). As its title might suggest, the exhibition's curators, Aaron Levy, William Menking, and Andrew Sturm, posit their project as one that focuses on the "increasing interest in civic engagement in American architectural practice."
With a roster that includes the Center for Land Use Interpretation, the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), Project Row Houses, Rebar, and the Edible Schoolyard/Yale Sustainable Food Project, Into the Open melds social consciousness with political activism in a project that was, ironically enough, commissioned by the U.S. State Department under George W. Bush's administration. Tongues planted firmly in cheek, Levy, Menking, and Sturm refer to their exhibition as "the first architectural endeavor of an Obama presidency." Like other projects conceived before the Obama administration - Jeremy Deller's It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq, on view through this weekend at the New Museum, proves another fitting example -- Into the Open represents a marked shift in the way politically-minded exhibitions now read.
By necessity, many of these initiatives were conceived as micro-interventions executed at the grassroots level in order to confront problems raised by a dearth of Federal funding. Obama's proverbial change is nigh, however: Recently approved by Congress, the new economic stimulus package has added an additional $50 million to the National Endowment for the Arts' current $145 million annual budget. The administration has also vowed to redevelop our national infrastructure while considering affordable housing issues, sustainable agricultural practices, and urban planning initiatives -- but a few of the concerns addressed in this exhibition. In light of this transitional moment in U.S. history, Into the Open: Positioning Practice captures what may be a pivotal moment in the work of sixteen individuals and collectives faced with the inevitability of change.
From the top: Spatial Information Design Lab / Laura Kurgan: Architecture and Justice: Million Dollar Blocks; Yale Sustainable Food Project: The Edible Schoolyard / Yale Sustainable Food Project