Saturday, November 25, 2006

Clip/Stamp/Fold


If you move beyond the threadbare treatises that inform the discursive practices of architecture, if for a second, you look beyond the Giedions, Scullys, Tafuris, Benevolos, Framptons, and Colquhouns of the world, a constellation of polemic texts becomes readily apparent. These texts, often taking the form of journals and smaller publications like Baudrillard's Utopie, Negri's, Tafuri's, and Asor Rosa's Contropiano, provided an alternative forum for architectural discourse. Although such texts often ranged in their respective scopes of content, they almost tell an alternate, yet concurrent history that is indelibly woven into the skein of architecture history. Any discussion whether these publications merit a microscopic analysis, or whether they are emblematic of what Peter Galison refers to a mesoscopic history is perhaps yet to come ... and that's for a subsequent post.

Students and faculty at the Princeton University School of Architecture have taken the initiative to document the existence and trajectory of a number of such publications in an exhibit called Clip/Stamp/Fold: The Radical Architecture of Little Magazines 196X-197X, at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, 97 Kenmare Street, New York, NY 10012, from November 14, 2006 - January 31, 2007. The exhibit is temporally bounded, focusing on publications in the 1960s and 1970s, yet this proved to be a rather fertile time for alternative (or anti-modern) architectural discussions.

Perhaps the best summary is offered by the Storefront for Art and Architecture itself:

An explosion of architectural little magazines in the 1960s and 1970s instigated a radical transformation in architectural culture with the architecture of the magazines acting as the site of innovation and debate. Clip/Stamp/Fold: The Radical Architecture of Little Magazines 196X – 197X takes stock of seventy little magazines from this period, which were published in over a dozen cities. Coined in the early twentieth century to designate progressive literary journals, the term “little magazine” was remobilized during the 1960s to grapple with the contemporary proliferation of independent architectural periodicals. The terms “little” and “magazine” are not taken at face value. In addition to short-lived radical magazines, Clip/Stamp/Fold includes pamphlets and building instruction manuals along with professional magazines that experienced “moments of littleness,” influenced by the graphics and intellectual concerns of their self-published contemporaries.

The exhibition's annotated timeline serves as a cross-section, tracking the progression, upheavals, and transformations of the magazines. A selection of original magazines surveys the variety of unique formats, re-introducing rare examples from private collections, and is supplemented by complete facsimiles for visitors to browse. Audio interviews with editors and designers of these publications punctuate the room, with transcriptions appearing in the Storefront's newsletter. In addition, many of these editors and designers have been invited to respond to the exhibition through the series Little Magazines / Small Talks held at the gallery. An implicit aim of the exhibition is to invite reflection on contemporary uses of media in architecture. Assembling all these remarkable documents for the first time offers a unique view of a key period of architectural innovation and challenges today's architects to provoke a similar intensity.

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