Scanning: The Aberrant Architectures of Diller + Scofidio

May 17, 2003 /

Whitney Museum of American Art
New York, New York, USA
On view: March 01, 2003 - May 25, 2003

Photo: Mark LaRosa

Their work is extraordinary and important - it questions architecture but also celebrates the potential of architecture./Paul Goldberger, The New Yorker

Among the most provocative architects practising today, Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio have created an astonishing range of buildings, site-specific artworks, video works, and performance pieces. Registered both as architects and designers, the husband/wife team crosses media boundaries to explore how technology informs and affects our lives.

The Whitney retrospective focuses on new work as well as a sampling of their output from the past 20 years; investigating the issues that pervade the work of Diller + Scofidio: display, tourism, surveillance, ritual, and control.

Photo courtesy Diller + Scofidio

Selling and buying are themes frequently explored in Diller + Scofidio's work.
A giant pair of lips offers various come-ons and questions notions of "currency" in the video installation Soft Sell, first presented in 1993 in the entrance to an abandoned porn theater in Times Square.

Photo courtesy Diller + Scofidio

The dark side of domestic life is a recurring subject. The project Bad Press: Dissident Ironing (1993 - 98) uses men's shirts to rethink the everyday task of ironing, coming up with unexpected alternatives for folding, buttoning and pressing a man's shirt, and examining expectations of domestic perfection.

Photo courtesy Diller + Scofidio

Travel is a motif throughout the work of Diller + Scofidio. Interclone Hotel (1997) is an advertising campaign for a fictional hotel chain in six pilot locations, all newly emerging economies where globalization is erasing distinctions between the "third world" and the "first world." The project superimposes prototypical regional features onto a basic backdrop that remains the same.

Photo: Glen Halvorson

Continuing the theme of travel, Tourisms: suitCase Studies (1991) is made up of 50 identical suitcases suspended from the ceiling, each opened to reveal a shrine to a particular tourist attraction in each of the states of the U.S. Each "case study" critically analyzes the attraction using official and unofficial data. Only two types of sites are represented: famous beds and famous battlefields.

Photo: arcspaceDiller + Scofidio by suitCase Study

One of the "case study" quotes:
The very word vacation comes from the Latin "vacare"; "to leave (one's house) empty"  and emphasizes the fact that we cannot properly vacation at home.  

Photo: arcspaceCollection of Rolf Fehlbaum

Surveillance may be the signature subject of Diller + Scofidio's work. In 1999 they created the installation Master/Slave to display a private toy robot collection. Dozens of miniature Japanese robots move single file along a 300-foot-long conveyor belt.

Photo: arcspace

The path of the conveyor belt places the robots in bureaucratic situations, keeping them lined up and releasing them arbitrarily. The robots are subjected to the scrutiny of an invasive security surveillance system; viewers watch the images on monitors around the gallery, transformed from spectators into inspectors.

Photo courtesy Diller + Scofidio

The most talked-about project of their career to date, the Blur Building (2002), is presented in an interpretive installation that uses artifacts, computer drawings, and video. The building consisted of a fog of mist (made of filtered lake water shot through 31,000 fog nozzles) around a steel structure, with the result appearing to be a massive white cloud floating on a lake. "It was an exhibition pavilion with nothing on display, except for our cultural dependency on vision," noted Elizabeth Diller. The building was created for Swiss Expo 2002, held off the shore of Neuchâtel in Switzerland.

Computer rendering courtesy Diller + Scofidio

A section of the exhibition devoted to architectural models includes both a model and a projection for the planned Eyebeam Museum of Art & Technology, a new-media arts institution to be built in Chelsea. The building, scheduled to begin construction in 2005, will house a 90,000-square foot new media art center where exhibitions, educational facilities and artists' studios will exist side by side along a curving, space-defining, concrete ribbon.

Photo: arcspace

Throughout the run of the exhibition a robotic drill, entitled "Mural", will randomly pierce the wall.  Holes on both sides of a wall may eventually align, opening views from gallery to gallery, while clusters of holes may open up larger sections of the wall surface. The drill will disturb the acoustic isolation of the galleries, providing a constant drone and making visitors aware of the walls themselves, which become more than merely a background for the work on view.

Computer rendering courtesy Diller + Scofidio


The exhibition is on view through May 25, 2003

The exhibition design was developed by Diller + Scofidio in collaboration with co-curators, Aaron Betsky, Director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute, Rotterdam, and K. Michael Hays, adjunct curator of architecture at the Whitney.

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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