You Build Us Up and Then You Tear Us Down: Eric Tabuchi’s “Monument to Progress”

From: Randian

By Clare Jacobson

Translated by Ling

建吾于斯,毁吾于斯:Eric Tabuchi,“进程的纪念碑”

进程的纪念碑(Monument to Progress),Eric Tabuchi

香港大学/上海研究中心 [http://ash.arch.hku.hk/tag/monument-to-progress/]

上海苏州北路298号

2013年5月18日-8月18日

开幕:2013年5月18日周六

纪念碑式的建筑往往是简单的。圆形、方形与三角形的简明几何规划;繁复的拱门与层次;或仅以庞大沉重的体量让人不容忽视。然而,建筑会否一日丧名?或反之,会否即成不朽?纪念碑式的与反纪念碑式的建筑近日于香港大学/上海研究中心的展览“进程的纪念碑”中展开较量。巴黎摄影师Eric Tabuchi在此展现了他那引人入胜的作品——摄影、现成照片与模型——激发观者对纪念碑性的重新审视。

展厅之一呈现了一些著名建筑物的建造、竣工与偶有的拆除现场的照片。“纪念碑”在这里意即“看着我”,观者流连于全球各地或美或丑的各色建筑。Tabuchi通过互联网检索到了纪念碑般过量的素材,然而其策展眼光与展示方式所呈现的建筑之间形式上的邻近性则为观者带来愉悦的体验。

其中一面展墙布满了人尽皆知的纪念碑式建筑的黑白照片:巴黎的凯旋门、北京的央视大楼、纽约的世贸中心、苏州酷似秋裤[LG1] 的“东方之门”等等。细心的观者可以分辨出巴黎正宗的埃菲尔铁塔与杭州的假冒货。建筑们百舸争流,各个建筑的独立摄影不再重要。邻墙的架子上摆着五台平板电脑,接连播放着不知名的建筑照片。两面墙联合呈现出苏维埃时期的纪念碑式气质,总体设计下,建筑、城镇、国家却难以立名。纪念碑主义在此更似一种无奈的绝望——对于这种树立纪念碑的意愿,我们并不陌生。

“进程的纪念碑”展厅之二,仍然呈现Tabuchi的摄影作品。正面的展墙展示了两组巴黎城郊的风貌,“小镇上的中国餐馆”与“流动之家”。千万别将前者错认为那些城乡结合部常见的品味低俗的购物商场里那些挂牌“金龙”或“上海”的餐馆。建筑的大红大黄暗示着内里的阳光体验,但门前宽阔的沥青路则指向不详的预感。后者拍摄下无人居住的流动之家,孤零零地伫在路旁、停车场或草坪上。紧闭的玻璃窗与摇摇欲坠的铝合金门压迫出这类建筑的典型苍凉。

“小镇上的中国餐馆”与“流动之家”都是沉闷、低矮的平房,不过日常,却随着眼前的陈列而显得特别。对这些平庸建筑的摄像让建筑本身变得非凡起来,尤其是将每座建筑都摆在画面的正中央。相片色彩明丽,装裱别致,与隔壁的满墙拼贴或平板放映相比,尊贵郑重得多。

更关键的在于,由于针对一类建筑进行系列摄影,这类建筑的档次就被骤然提升了。他重拍Ed Ruscha的《26加油站》(1963),将之称作“距离摄影的完美注解”。他受到了贝歇夫妇(Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher)与路易斯.巴尔兹(Lewis Baltz)的影响。[i]前者的德国水库与后者的美国工业园区同Tabuchi的法中餐馆和汽车旅馆并置,倒也有意思。出于对贝歇夫妇的致敬,“进程的纪念碑”还展出了五座陶瓷做的小水库(其中三座都软塌塌的),它们是按照Tabuchi对法国水库的绘稿在上海制作的。

展出的系列之一同展览同名,“进程的纪念碑”拍摄了重庆的一座古怪楼宇,同时在两个展厅展出,令人印象深刻。摄影爱好者们可能会辨认出,这座楼宇也曾在 Nadav Kander的摄影系列《扬子 – 长江》(Yangtze, The Long River)中出现过。Tabuchi还用同一座建筑的其他现成图片作为素材。其中一张被用作展览海报。另一张的复制品在摄影拼贴墙上展出。用密度板制作的这座建筑的模型被摆在了一个展厅的正中央,而其数码建模的输出图片则挂在另一展厅的墙面上。

这同一座来自重庆的楼宇以多种媒介形式重复出现,提示观者纪念碑是如何被复制的。建筑的悲剧性事实在于,看过那些著名建筑照片、手稿与模型的人远比真的在这栋建筑旁走过的人要多得多。然而,该系列中这同一座建筑的反复重复——其纯粹而简单的重复——给予了另一种解读。重复,可以将简单的一段童谣或一句广告转变为雄伟的造物。建筑同理。真正意义上的“进程的纪念碑”已然被拆除,徒有其伟岸的名声而已。徒看其表已足够,乍看的奇怪逐渐变得正常,成为恰如其分的纪念碑。这些不足挂齿的建筑——或Tabuchi对其的创作——反倒让我们反思对纪念碑的认识。


[i] 同上。


 [LG1]话说北方才说“秋裤”,南方说“棉毛裤”,呵呵。

 

Monument to Progress,” solo exhibition by Eric Tabuchi.

HKU/ Shanghai Study Centre (298 Suzhou Bei Lu, Shanghai, China). May 18, 2013 – Aug 18, 2013.

Monumental architecture is simple. Its strict geometries of circles, squares and triangles; its complex arches or layers; or its great mass or height simply demand attention. But can a renowned building lose its esteemed position? And can the commonplace gain monumental status? The monumental and anti-monumental trade punches in “Monument to Progress” at the HKU/ Shanghai Study Centre. Parisian photographer Eric Tabuchi’s engaging mix of work — including his own photographs, found photographs and scale models — calls for a reconsideration of the concept of monumentality.

The first room of the exhibition presents found photographs of the construction, realization and occasional destruction of prominent buildings. Here “monument” means “look at me,” and it is easy to get caught up in both the wonderful and the wacky architecture that covers the globe. The internet that Tabuchi uses as source material could offer monumental overload, but his curatorial eye is strong and his way of displaying formal proximities between buildings is delightful.

Exhibition view of Eric Tabuchi’s “Monument to Progress” at HKU/ Study Center
Eric Tabuchi《前进的丰碑》的展览现场,香港大学上海学习中心。

One wall features a black and white collage of recognizable monuments: Paris’s Grande Arche, Beijing’s CCTV Headquarters, New York’s World Trade Center, Suzhou’s “Long Underpants” Gate of the Orient, and the like. Careful viewers will spot both the original Eiffel Tower and its reproduction in Hangzhou. The mash of buildings, each vying for position in a wallpaper of images, diminishes the significance of individual photos. An adjacent wall contains a single shelf supporting five tablet computers; each holds image after image of mostly anonymous buildings. As a group, they produce a sense of Soviet-era monumentality, with over-the-top designs struggling to make a name for themselves, their town, or their country. Here, monumentalism feels like desperation — a not unfamiliar motive for erecting monuments.

The second room of “Monument to Progress” includes Tabuchi’s own photographs. Facing walls hold two series shot in the outskirts of Paris, Small Town Chinese Restaurants and Mobile Homes. The former could easily be mistaken for restaurants in New Jersey strip malls were it not for signs announcing “Dragon D’Or” and “Le Shanghai.” The buildings’ bright red and yellow texts suggest that a sunny experience awaits within, but the expanse of asphalt in the foreground of each photo is more foreboding. The latter series shows seemingly uninhabited mobile homes standing alone on a roadside, parking lot, or patch of grass. Shuttered windows and peeling aluminum siding emphasize the stereotypical desolation of this building type.

The dull, low-lying, horizontal buildings in both “Small Town Chinese Restaurants” and “Mobile Homes” should evoke the everyday. But instead the room projects a kind of monumentality. The mere act of shooting these banal buildings brings them out of obscurity. Framing a single building in the center of each photo offers it prominence. And the richly colored prints, mounted and hung just so, give the buildings much more prestige than the collaged or computer-displayed monuments in the adjacent room.

Most significantly, by shooting a series of a building type, that type is instantly elevated. Tabuchi understands the precedence for this. He re-created Ed Ruscha’s 1963 series Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations, a project he calls “a perfect illustration of the distancing of photography.”(1) He cites Bernd and Hilla Becher and Lewis Baltz as influences. (2) Consider their German water towers and American industrial parks, and Tabuchi’s French Chinese restaurants and motor homes make sense. In what may be a nod to the Bechers, “Monument to Progress” exhibits five small ceramic water towers (three of which are flaccid) produced in Shanghai from Tabuchi’s drawings of French water towers.

Exhibition view of Eric Tabuchi’s “Monument to Progress” at HKU/ Study Center
Eric Tabuchi《前进的丰碑》的展览现场,香港大学上海学习中心。

A series-less series rounds out the exhibition and gives it its name. “The Monument to Progress,” an oddly shaped tower in Chongqing, appears and reappears in the two rooms. Photography buffs may recognize the unique building from Nadav Kander’s Yangtze, The Long River series. Tabuchi used other found photographs of the building as his source. One photo is used for the exhibition poster. Another is reproduced in the collage of monuments. A model of the building made of medium-density fiberboard takes up the central space in one room, while a photo of a digital model of it covers a wall in the other.

The multimedia representations of the Chongqing tower allow visitors to consider how monuments are reproduced. The terrible truth of architecture is that more people know famous buildings from drawings, models, and photographs than from walking inside them. But this tower’s participation in a series — its pure and simple repetition — allows for another reading. Repetition can transport a nursery rhyme or an advertising jingle from the realm of simplicity into that of grandeur. The same might be true for a building. The actual “Monument to Progress,” now demolished, may have been monumental in name only. But see representations of it often enough, and the odd structure starts to look like a right and proper monument. It is a testament to the building — or more likely to Tabuchi’s use of it — that a seemingly undeserving structure makes us rethink our conception of monumentality.

(1) Eric Tabuchi, “Q/A,” Eric Tabuchi, http://erictabuchi.fr/index.php?/images-2009/links/ (accessed May 20, 2013).

(2) Ibid.

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