Since 1979 at the founding of Group Material - the artist collaborative based in New York - we have seen the practice of art installations as a medium of the artist slowly dissipate as a valid practice. At times chaotic, exhilarating or alternatively subversive, the "activist installations" as they were known have been forfeited for a deliberate gentrification of the gallery and museum space. As a consequence the art we see more and more of, at arms length from Felix Gonzales Torres early political art and what now fills this installation void today, is a combination of art as "personal disclosure"1 and art as "full disclosure" (as in narrative-based exhibits and retrospectives). History has shown us that the material of art can't be legislated into such limited boundaries. And yet the practice we see today seems to say otherwise. Fortunately there are refreshingly new(dis)courses being taken - and gallery formats - that fall outside this common dichotomy of private and public practice (from Magasin 3 in Stocklom to e-flux on the Lower East Side).
As designers, it is a slippery slope to raise issues of societal ethics with a client (how accessible their resources might be), so we used the design to address these as best we could. The offices opened earlier this spring in conjunction with ICFF. The working staff are more then contented with their new spaces, a wholly different organizational layout then they had anticipated. One example is the conference room at center of their 12,000sq.ft office, resolutely unplayful, which acts both as a closed space and a circulation link between the public and fee paying sectors. This was not asked for in the Material Connexion brief, but with our creative - and oppositional streak - we provided them with a less then neutral space where they least expected it.
The design for Material Connexion, and not the least importantly the client's final choices in the build-out, never met that ambition. We will have to try better next time.