The key project of modernism as of the early 20th century was the achievement of a society that would be more humane and contemporary. New residential forms were to be created and cities were to be totally different in appearance. The exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein
asks what became of that utopia.
The exhibition extends an invitation to explore the theme of a better society in terms of its sustainability both at the technical-practical and the intellectual-artistic level. In the early 1970s, the American artists Robert Smithson and Gordon Matta-Clark were already addressing themes such as the impact of capitalism on the structure not only of the city, but of society in general. They dealt mainly with complex ecological and social contiguities within the context of the phenomenal development of architecture in large American cities which, after the boom of the 1960s, in many cases declined into dilapidated sites of an anti-utopia, residential-estate ghettos and problem-ridden suburbs.
The term entropy borrowed from the natural sciences and used by Robert Smithson in the sense of irreversible change, desegregation, is a major reference point in many of the works on show. While presenting processes both of construction and destruction, they also preserve aspects of crystalline texture, structure.
The architect and visionary Yona Friedman, for example, points to the precarious state of modern society, the exploitation of sources of raw materials; his Ville spatiale is a model city made out of waste materials. Rob Voerman on the other hand creates hybrid buildings which are a cross between a cave, a machine and a holy place, as if envisioning the world after the apocalypse. In their film Bantar Gebang, Jeroen de Rijke and Willem de Rooij show yet another aspect of the impact of capitalism in modernism: an idyllic sunrise reveals a settlement built on a rubbish heap, a dilapidated slum.
Many of these works denote that the available resources are finite, and that we should reconsider our definition of the new, of progress.
The exhibition includes works by Yona Friedman, Giuseppe Gabellone, Cyprien Gaillard, Isa Genzken, Dan Graham, Gordon Matta-Clark, Florian Pumh÷sl, Jeroen de Rijke/Willem de Rooij, Robert Smithson, Rob Voerman and Stephen Willats. It is produced by the Generali Foundation, Vienna, curated by Sabine Folie.