12.06.17 Presentation and script

current length: 14mins

George Fergusson Script

Hi my name is George Fergusson.


My research intends to explore the most revolutionary art exhibitions in terms of how they challenged the notion of the museum and the spaces for the exhibition of art.

I then went on to experiment its application in a contemporary context with my pavilion proposal for the Salone del Mobile 2017.

My research has been focused on the radical exhibitions of the 60s and 70s and their impact upon the space of the museum. How the museum as an institution has transformed in order to host new types of distinctly anti-institutional artwork.

You can see here how there have been two periods of performative museum space, that of the time leading up to the 60s to 70s and from the 90s to the present. The contemporary surge is largely due to economic drivers such as the rise of the experience economy, when necessities were fulfilled staging experience takes on greater economic value. To understand the impact of these exhibitions at their most radical moment I will look to the first period which was the peak of experimentation.

This period can be understood as the moment when the museum came to host art and life. I have explored relevant radical exhibitons such as the International Surrealist Exhibition, Dylaby, When Attitude Becomes Form and Documenta 5 that were inspired, epitomized and consolidated this movement according to the timeline of architect and Fluxus activist, George Maciunas.

The first exhibition I will draw your attention to is the international surrealist exhibition of 1928, an exhibition that preceded and inspired the radical exhibitions of the 60s and 70s.

It was an experiment carried out by artists such as Duchamp who sought to bring architectural conditions into the gallery such as urban and domestic spaces.

With When Attitudes Become Form in 1969, Harald Szeeman has attempted to consolidate the experiments that preceded it.

Where he included spaces such as transition for transitory artworks, impression to use the museum as a canvas and turned the gallery space into an artists studio to become a place of creation, reenaction, documentation and commoration of art pieces.

Documenta 5, was curated by Szeeman also in 1975. It was said to be the finale of the ‘experiment of art and life’ where art had finally retreated from the streets into the museum space and found its final form in the museum. You can see how these experiments took on a larger scale with Urban environements created in the rear of the museum, 100day events and large scale expanded and compressed art pieces that literally expanded the museum space into the urban realm.

These can be seen in the wider context of fluxus and questions asked of the museum as a barrier between art and life, art being inside the museum and life outside. Up until this point the experiments had been hosted in non traditional art spaces and so as you can see here Fluxist Derek Higgins labelled 1962 as the height of this clash before it petered out. This George maciunas timeline shows hwo Szeeman’s experiments were at the end and Surrealist experients were a precursor. Dylaby was at the height of this period.

Dylaby, organised by curator Willem Sandberg at the Stedelijk Museum in 1962, took place at the height of the clash between art and life.

To understand how Dylaby subverted the museum space we must look back to the principles upon which the Stedelijk museum was designed in 1874 by aw Weiss where the hierarchy of placement and lighting were perfected to a science.


For example, here you can see in Spoerri’s first room how this hierarchy was radically challenged when the light was removed to create a space of unpredictability.

It consisted of 7 rooms curated by 7 artists that each proposed a new experiential approach to museum space.



[illuminate texture plan]

I have made a model to show how light and texture were used to create spaces of drama, rather than exhaustive illumination. You can see how the Dylaby exhibition needed to create a space of detachment from the museum layout as a precondition for radicality

The first room of the Dynamic Labyrinth was Spoerri’s dark room in which spectators were asked to enter a space where the light was drowned out. The art objects were then to be felt rather than passively observed.

[Show 1:25 Spoerri dark room object] I have sought to reproduce the experiences of these radical curations of space by translating the logic of their curations into 1:25 analytical devices. In this model you can see how without sight, the textural qualities of the items enclosed are seemingly heightened.

The second room by per Olof van utvedt asked spectators to enter a space in which their movement moved walls and items around the room.

[Show Rubik’s model] I have created a model where by this mechanization of space is represented by the 27 loose blocks, able to take on any number of configurations.

Martial Raysse’s Room 4 invited the visitors to both play with and observe inflatable art objects.

[Show inflated model] My model explores this contradiction experientially with an inflated room where the walls no longer hold art objects but become the art object.

In Niki de Sant Phalle’s room the spaces of creation and spectatorship are blurred most vividly. The museum gallery becomes a shooting range where sculptures are splattered with paint. The spatial ambiguity allows for each visitor to experiences the artwork in their own unique manner.

[Show sheet model] My model articulates this mode of experience through sequential layers of glass between the spectators and the artwork to represent how the space is a unity of the perception and creation of the artworks.

Robert Rauchenberg’s space brings urban elements into the gallery, again in reference to the museum as barrier between art and life.

[Show Cast Model] My model shows how the circulation of the gallery becomes a landscape of combines into a literal landscape.

In Tinguley’s final room of the exhibition, spectators entered a compressed hallway in which balloons were floated by high powered fans.

[show compressed balloon model] I have reinterpreted this experience with a room composed of a compressed structure that creates spontaneous and playful spaces.

The third room, also by Daniel Spoerri, was a period room rotated 90 degrees to create a space of disorientation. Spectators would walk among the wall hangings rather than in front of them. This room questions if the wall was the only space for the exhibition of art.

[show warped model] with this model I have recreated a disoriented space, one in which the walls ceiling and floors are indistinguishable from one another.

Here you can see all the rooms in sequence, how each room challenged  the space of the Stedelijk in their own manner. I am taking rotation forward rotation as a driver behind my proposal for the salone del mobile.

I sought to refine the experimental approach of Spoerri by looking to the work on ramps by architect Claude Parent. Especially the experimentations he enacted for his apartment.

I looked to his diagram of the ‘limits of human adherence’ where Claude Parent suggested the excitement of living ‘in the oblique’.

I was initially looking at how a topography of the incline as a condition could create multiple interior conditions according to the curation of different book sizes.

I arrived at this point after a series of material experimentations that sought to use mass to create a perceived contradiction to challenge the spectator.

This transformed into tilting an entire volume and considering that in itself is a condition of incline.

learning from my contribution to the development of the roof component for the pavilion which explored the need for lightweight structures in a nomadic pavilion.

The final joint design became an expression of this ideal in both material and form.

these nomadic structures are itinerant and so their portability is key.`

I then became interest interested in this not only being a rotation per se but rather of balance.

Here the pavilions structure was refined to become a lightweight nomadic structure that can align the seemingly balance the weight of books and people.

The starting point from my design came from the analogue nature of the books themselves. Each one was designed with a physicality that responds to its content and how and where they are best read.

The weight of the books becomes a barometer that records sale of books during the Salone

This is seen to be balanced against the people that visit the pavilion.

In reality the entire stock of 220 books would require only three people to balance their weight.

In this section of the piazza you can see how the pavilion induces a sense of curiousity and vertigo in its visitors through its stillness in spite of the activities on top of it and surround it.

The pavilion offers an alternative route through the piazza.

The pavilion is held in constant equilibrium by a cantilevering of sheet steel and the concrete panetone.

Here you can see the rotated space seemingly balancing, challenging the spectator through the curation of the materiality of the books. Inspired by the experiential approaches to curation offered by Dylaby in 1962. This pavilion restages its radical curation in a new clash between the Life of the Salone and the Art of Lars Muller’s books.

[note photo of all models together tbc]

The questions asked of the museum in terms of its mediation of art and life were explored using the tools of an architect in Dylaby. The rotation of a room of exhibition was further reinterpreted through a series of material explorations, which concluded with a pavilion proposal for the Piazza San Marco in Milan. This years project developed not only a proposal but an experimental means by which architects today may rejuvenate radical spaces of the past. If I was to explore this further I would look at how the architect can truly innovate from his contemporary context by reinterpretation of a past context.