Revealed by clouds

By | Art & Design
Fog test in preparation for Fujiko Nakaya: Veil at the Glass House, image courtesy Fujiko Nakaya and The Glass House

Another masterpiece of modern architecture will be the object of art experimentation this spring.After the installation at the Villa Savoye by artist Haroon Mirza, this time is an even more controversial building to play a game with installation art: the Glass House of Philip Johnson in Connecticut.  The building of one of the most prominent figures of modern architecture is famous for its design oriented towards absolute transparency; wiAn atmospheric veil to reveal transparencyth a glass envelope and no internal partitions the house declares pure visibility and dissolves in the surrounding landscape. For the first time, in occasion of its 65th anniversary and the 2014 tour season, the house will be the locus of a site-specific art installation signed by Japanese artist and “fog sculptor” Fujiko Nakaya, simply titled Fujiko Nakaya: Veil, which will be staged from the 1st of May to November the 30th.

From 1949 to 2005 the Glass House and the surrounding landscape became a site of constant experimentation for Philip Johnson, who built a series of small scale buildings around the house, including pavilions, follies and natural elements which the architect used to refer to as “events on the landscape”. The Glass House is a typical example of architecture and the landscape merging together, with the structure being barely visible from down the hill where it is located. In addition the site presents a series of historical references and quotes from the classical tradition to the baroque, from the picturesque garden design of the 18th Century to American colonial tradition, which are significant comments on the relationship between building and natural environment. In other words, a discourse around architecture and landscape remained a consistent theme for the Glass House work-in-progress campus over the years.

Fujiko Nakaya, who has worked since 1970 with “atmospheric” installations realised with artificial fog, will magically make the building disappear behind a veil of mist for 10 minutes every hour, materialising the architect’s former intentions. Nakaya has been designing closely to architecture in most of her previous “fog works” such as the installation at the Osaka World Expo’s Pepsi Pavilion, the Australian national Gallery in Canberra, the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao and many more.  The project clearly seems to interpret the obsession of modern architects with transparency (phenomenological and literal to borrow Colin Rowe terminology) along with their aspiration of extending design to the scale and level of environment. The fog installation showcases and hides the House at different times, resembling the idea of a change of state from solid to liquid to gas as if the house was a natural element subject to these transformations in a sort of metamorphosis.

The house vanishes enveloped within the cloud of mist; Nakaya says: “Fog responds constantly to its own surroundings, revealing and concealing the features of the environment. Fog makes visible things become invisible and invisible things — like wind — become visible.” Playing on this dialectic of visible/invisible the art project questions the material aspect of architecture; in other words by focusing on the “weather” or phenomenological qualities, the artist highlights some of the characteristics of architecture’s material existence especially the ones related to time, reminding us both of its timelessness and its perishable side, its permanent condition and its presence staged as an “event on the landscape”.

The fog artificially generated acts also as “veil” on the interior. As a sort of addition to the original design without curtains, the veil restores one of the primary functions of shelter, namely concealment from the outside world.

How does the installation contribute to re-invent the Glass house and its image?


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