Current Issue #488

Adelaide//International maps the juncture of art and architecture

Sia Duff
Samstag Museum of Art, John Wardle Architects, Somewhere Other, installation view as part of 2020 Adelaide//International

In its second iteration the Adelaide//International again presents a range of thought-provoking exhibitions, this time exploring architecture and how it shapes our experience.

Somewhere Other by John Wardle Architects in collaboration with Natasha Johns-Messenger becomes the centrepiece of the second Adelaide//International after being shown as Australia’s contribution to the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale.

Johns-Messenger, a spatial installation artist whose works are more about the experience than the objects per se, and Wardle, an award-winning architect, together have created an intriguing and beautiful structure made of wood, steel and mirrors. It also includes a commissioned film work by filmmakers Coco and Maximilian. The work invites the audience to look through apertures and frames and walk through and around the spaces within.

“It was an interesting conceptual shift for me,” explains Johns-Messenger. “Usually I respond and integrate with existing spaces. That’s why working with a space that didn’t exist but was being created by an architect was extra special. I like to collaborate and I like to experiment in order to rethink the ways I approach creating.”

John Wardle Architects, Somewhere Other

The work was originally created for the Venice Architecture Biennale under the theme of ‘freespace’, with a curatorial brief that asked participating architects to reconsider the broader global contexts (social, cultural, political, technological and economic) in which architecture operates.

The curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara created a manifesto, and the following paragraph particularly resonated with Johns-Messenger: “FREESPACE encourages reviewing ways of thinking, new ways of seeing the world, of inventing solutions where architecture provides for the wellbeing and dignity of each citizen of this fragile planet.”

Somewhere Other challenges the audience’s perceptual awareness and explores the space between what we think we know and what we perceive. Johns-Messenger has strategically placed mirrors throughout the structure, redefining the space and creating the illusion of a long narrow passage.

“I think being aware of where you are and opening up perceptual awareness is a core part of my practice. It’s the gap between what you think you know and what you’re perceiving, as in what your body is experiencing, that’s a very interesting place for me,” says Johns- Messenger.

Samstag Museum of Art, 2020 Adelaide//International

While the collaborative piece blurs the boundaries of art and architecture and combines elements of both, the work fits more into the category of an artwork. There was no client, allowing Wardle and Johns-Messenger to focus on conceptual, material and experimental outcomes and create a work that distorts our perception of what’s real and what’s not and challenges how we see things.

The work of Belgian artist David Claerbout, a monumental real-time moving-image work charting the disintegration of the Berlin Olympic Stadium over 1000 years is on display alongside Brad Darkson’s sound and sculptural work Hold Me, a critique of antagonistic systems and architectures. Works by Zoë Croggon, Helen Grogan and Georgia Saxelby explore connections between architecture and the human form.

“At the adjacent SASA Gallery, Matthew Bird responds to the Adelaide//International with Inspiral, a speculation on the afterlife of architecture.”

Samstag Museum of Art
28 February – 12 June 2020

Jane Llewellyn

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