in B E T W E E N

dia

Dia : Beacon

My thesis on ‘in Between: Transforming transitional public spaces.’ took place sometimes before my term at Parsons. It happened sometime ago, when I was between school and work, when I was between two states of lifestyles, and when I was between the life I lived and the life I envisioned.

In transition, the view is constantly shifting, one has a sense of urgency, to meet a purpose, to go to a destiny. But once when we arrive at the destiny, what happens? Sometimes we take things for granted, sometimes we stop paying attention, sometimes we become bored at the stability. But stability is a shifting landscape.

I go to Dia: Beacon almost quarterly. The light changes and now it sings in spring’s optimism. The air is sweet. ‘Dia’ means in between. Robert Irwin designed to plant one tree with each parking stall. And through that landscape, tall shrubs invite our pacing steps with their quiet, unassuming presence; between these shrubs, a new reality emerges.

 

Whitney Biennial 2014

John Mason

John Mason’s ceramics find their way to the 2014 Whitney Biennial, along with Dan Walsh, Amy Sillman, and other contemporary artists. The gallery, located at East 75th Street and Madison, is going to be relocated to the Meatpacking District in 2015. Designed by Marcel Breuer, the Whitney Museum in Upper East expresses a quintessential brutalist architecture, simple and honest in its orthogonal forms, and filled with incredible details.

Of course, Renzo Piano’s work for the new Whitney does not shy from the Bauhaus master. Architecture that serves as the canvas for artworks. The question is what is at stake now for contemporary art. The present Biennial is highly versatile in its expression of media: paintings, sculpture, installations, films, some of which are fanciful, other worldly, while some are provocative, filled with sexual and political references.

A few blocks up in the neighborhood, the Met Museum has been the palace for classic art (with a small collection of contemporary artworks), a winning figure on the museum mile. Compared to the master works, the contemporary artworks at the Whitney can sometimes seem, lean. I am not particularly grabbed by any imagery in the present biennial; other than being current, contemporary art has to withstand the testing of time. Some of installations and works seen at the Whitney are highly eccentric, saturated with raw human emotions and sexual organs. We are familiar with these topics-but can the artists add another layer to reveal the subtlety and nuance of our shared experiences? Other than merely emphasizing human reproductive organs and exposed women breasts? There must exist different ways to say the same thing.

Being conservative is not the point-of course-successful art speaks to people, especially to the ones who are not in the field of art and design: it speaks to people in a universal language that we all practice, it requests us to look at it again, relate to it, and then it lives within us.

 

VOID

scarpa-brion

A void is a wonderful being; we often think void as negative because of the lack it implies.

A void is a state of contemplation, deep reflection on what is happening-more importantly, a void is the true potential of what it can become.

Sometimes, it is an opening; sometimes, it is a carved mass being replaced with new materials and new lights. This concept of the void-of what is missing-is perhaps the most influential concept in my designs. A material that is compromised with its own mass to have infills of new materials, and therefore married to the new material in its physical structure. A new incarnation.

Lightness

MIT Chapel

Light and shadow, one would not have the stage of the world without another. This pulling dichotomy, the tension between two opposite forces, similar but different, can be the birth of something truly magnificent.

The MIT Chapel altar pulls the light down, effortlessly and gracefully, accumulating quantity of light at varying height, and dispensing with a gesture that could pause one’s breath. When I think about lightness, I know it will not be possible without darkness, it is the through the edge between darkness and lightness that I begin to experience moments in life. By that, I mean I am present, neither diving in the past or leaning to the future.

Dance

The body affects the mind, although we have a tendency to think that our mind controls the body.

Dance is a spatial experience; we push the surrounding space, and our body is the architecture, the frame, the moment, beyond all of which is our spirit. Being able to dance is a humbling experience, because I realize the fragility of life, and the incredible strength of it.

These are the moments when magic happens. When one realizes what freedom means in one single condensed moment: when the feet leap off the floor, defying gravity and at the same time being pulled to it. Lightness and darkness. From and foundation. One cannot exist without another.

Travel

2013 has been a particular year of travels. The Pacific Northwest has its alluring landscape, of massive trees and undulating water lines. Such beauty is untiring, particularly when I find myself amongst the over-populated beaches and park fields in New York.

One cannot treat different materials with the same method. Fundamentally natural landscapes and manufactured landscapes nurture different intentions. As I am mesmerized by how the cool, clean, salty west coast air cleans my mind and washes my mind with quietness, I am also open to different sets of possibilities in New York. Here massive edifices occupy avenues with infinite details; there a coastal landscape extends to the infinite horizon.

Perhaps what travels ultimately brings is solace. Stopping time, or turning time. Zooming in and out of our immediate moment, and perhaps the meaning is entirely arbitrary, as Ken Price puts, you can leave and come back, and perhaps you have changed, but the subject remains the same.

Pattern Making

The Rug Company

Sometimes we urge to change. It seems as if to refine a certain physical aspect of ourselves, we would feel psychologically more content.

Sometimes we change our surroundings. Perhaps adding an decorative element is always easier than subtracting an existing spatial element, such as buying a rug as opposed to taking off the interior partitioning. Companies such as the Rug Company (featured image) pride on design, quality, as well craftsmanship.

Most contemporary pattern designs resonate with me on an intuitive level.¬†Beyond the immediate act of designing a pattern, there exists the social-geographical context of patterns. Patterns that survive sustain both mass interest in beauty, as well the designer’s intention of a particular meaning that is either idiosyncratic, referential, or both.

Lines and shapes, connected, or separated, interlocked, or floating as independent islands but threaded together with a fatal connection: making pattern that can generate infinite variations is tremendously gratifying. There, lines become shapes, and voids transcend to masses.

Shifting Forms

Chrysler Building

I never quite get Art Deco. I looked out for it in LA but was overwhelmed by the mid-century modernism, where in commercial sites of Los Angeles, mid-century modernism is reduced to the strong presence of Arco lamps.

What is about Art Deco that feels like another world? Its feminine, delicate line works that at times may feel too frivolous or weak, lack of will. Yet its power soared. The Chrysler Building today still amazes me with its exquisite proportion and details that forever demand a second, closer look from its audience. I saw photos of the construction stage of the Chrysler, men with no harness dangling their feet in the air smoking cigarettes on the iron structure that protrudes out to the thin, crispy air of nothingness. How incredible!

What is beautiful is always supported by remarkable strength, otherwise like fashion it would be ephemeral and fleeting. At the turn of 20th century poet Paul Scheerbart wrote the famous Glass Architecture. By saluting to the possibilities of lighter-weight structure of the new era, Scheerbart envisioned a world that was illuminous and incredible, unparalleled compared to the heaviness of brick architecture of previous centuries.

A century later, in a place like New York, the old and the new exist at ease with each other. Through a shifting landscape of architectural designs in the past centuries, we ask ourselves questions as where do we go now? With all the references to the past establishments, the future seems predictable. Yet hardly. The decades before us now are unfolding in their own fantastical, dreamlike colours.

Extra-Ordinary

West Side Highway 29th Installation AW

Using simple, honest daily materials to uplift everyday experiences is mastering a craft. Such as designing seating.

A chair is simple. It comprises a seat, legs, a back, and perhaps an armrest. These elements that make a chair a chair we do not seem to think twice. What if the back extends to become the armrest? What if the legs begin to intertwine and become a discrete moment of platform? How does a chair still maintain its structural integrity then?

Works of Allan Wexler (www.allanwexlerstudio.com) test our taken-for-granted notions of daily phenomena, and in turn transform them into magic moments of experiencing, an “AHA!” that requests us to take a closer look at our 24-hour rituals and ceremonies, and how we are impressed by what we choose to enact in our life.

 

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