Michael Höpfner, Outpost of Progress, 2008; plastic sheeting, sisal line, wooden posts; 120 x 80 x 65 inches; courtesy the artist and Hubert Winter Gallery, Vienna

Architecture Is Not Art

Art Lies No. 68 began with the intention of augmenting the discussion of our last issue, “The New Flesh,” by following its exploration of virtual media back to physical space. In particular, I was taken by Tobias Leingruber’s parsing of the Internet as public architecture and his call for Internet users to adopt a skater mentality to online structures, to experience them creatively if not unconventionally. “Users no longer have to access information like the architect or designer of the Web service wants them to,” wrote Leingruber in his contribution to Issue No. 67.

An understanding of architecture (if not also art) as a process of multiple desires navigated and negotiated informs the pages that follow: No. 68 Guest Editorial Contributor Mary Ellen Carroll’s response to our invitation to develop an issue on “art and architecture.”

Art Lies’ Guest Editorial Contributor program—wherein we invite an outstanding artist, curator and/or critic to collaborate on determining the feature content and shaping the identity of an upcoming issue—gives a sustained media platform to dynamic voices in contemporary art, while engaging our readers and users, both local and afar, with their ideas. We found a perfect interlocutor in the Houston- and New York-based conceptual artist (and Art Lies No. 62 contributor) Mary Ellen Carroll. At the time of our intitial contact, Carroll was in the advanced stages of her ten-year project Prototype 180, making “architecture perform” in the Sharpstown subdivision of Houston by rotating “an acre of land and the existing single family home” the titular number of degrees.

Not surprisingly, No. 68 performs a series of inversions, reversals and contradictions. Under a title that claims a denial and a contrast, “Architecture Is Not Art,” these pages may not readily conform to readers’ expectations for an issue of Art Lies. I mean this formally, as designers Mevis & Van Deursen have supplanted the façade of the journal in a joint intervention with writer Domenick Ammirati. But also in terms of content, as contributions consider topics seemingly outside our “art world” purview, foremost among them: domestic marijuana production (Marcos Sánchez and Mark Wasiuta of International House of Architecture), lawn maintenance (Asmara M. Tekle) and indecency and cable television (Cynthia Chris).

If these subjects are not explicitly “Art,” they are also implicitly not inartistic but, rather, fundamentally visual. Each topic enacts a politics of display and reception; each contribution interrogates everyday ethical experiences mediated by aesthetics. Simultaneously taking the converse approach, No. 68 also looks to discern the political, social and economic implications of architecture celebrated for its aesthetic appeal. Eva Hagberg traces the flow of oil money to Philip Johnson’s edifices, while, in an especially timely contribution, Morteza Baharloo chronicles the symbolic history and potential of Tehran’s Azadi Tower.

Not unlike Mary Ellen Carroll’s own practice, or that of her introduction co-writer Peter Noever, the “expanded field” established in these pages is thoroughly interdisciplinary. Collaborations between practitioners in different fields push the production of each into novel configurations. Designer Simon Dance, architect Florian Idenburg and art historian Renée Borgonjen engage the already porous, multimedia production of artists Shezad Dawood, Paula Hayes and Berend Strik, respectively. Online contributions in the weeks to come will extend the range of positions that this multivalent production—perhaps not art, but also not equivocal—can take in relation to this journal, its history and, most significantly, the spaces shared beyond.

— Kurt Mueller, Interim Editor