Felice Grodin, born in Bologna, Italy, currently lives and works in Miami Beach. She obtained her Bachelor of Architecture from Tulane University and her Masters of Architecture with Distinction from Harvard University. Her explorations in alternative landscapes have been exhibited at Diana Lowenstein Gallery, the Center on Contemporary Art in Seattle, Tampa Museum of Art, Dimensions Variable in Miami, Girls’ Club in Ft. Lauderdale, in Miami and Locust Projects in Miami. She is a member of Fall Semester and currently teaches at the School of Architecture at Florida International University.
I was interested in how you regard space your work. Upon observation, one variable is its conceptual construct but was curious to know if there are any other components to consider? I suppose its redundant to say but I was referring to your philosophical approach to the work.
It is true that I don’t think one can separate space from the notion of a conceptual construct. If we look back to Greek ritual procession and then to the Cartesian coordinate system, and now to recent discussions by people like Negarestani who is interested in the global navigation of concept-spaces – that local/global relationships activate the nature of a concept, i.e. not what is the concept, but where is the concept? So if a concept is tested through space than the line of inquiry may become a path, a trajectory. This can be quite specific and can eventually transform from virtual to physical. Well than what are those components as you say? The components may become architecture but not necessarily a predetermined one.
It’s interesting you mentioned Negarestani’s work on of global navigation between local/ global relationships. I was struck by a recent exhibit at Guccivuitton focusing on the work of Chayo Frank. He is responsible for the Amertec Building which resides in the labyrinth that is Hialeah. His practice focuses on the concept of organic architecture but is extended in such a literal way. It reminded me of notions you were addressing with A Fabricated Field at Locust Projects.
I always had this impression that modern architecture focused on stripping everything down to its essential simplicity outside of any literal representation. For me the materials and space is something that is implied in regards to what is conveyed. Why do you feel it is essential to adopt a literal approach with your work?
Image of “A Fabricated Field” exhibition at Locust Projects
When you say literal it brings to mind a central issue in architecture – one of representation. So, for example, in regards to Modernism you had LeCorbusier’s saying “Architecture or Revolution,” as an invocation to design housing in early 20th century Europe utilizing new industrial processes. Therefore, it was only possible to this with increasingly standardized technology – they were to be ‘machines for living.’
However, over time most of the housing projects failed and the import of Modernism to the US has re-contextualized it as something more exclusive.
But if I take what you say at face value and say, okay well is stripping down something closer to an essence… than what does that mean? What is that essence? Because stripping down also eludes to an exclusion or series of exclusions…
Personally, I have wanted to explore architecture – and specifically architectural representation from a more oblique point of view. Meaning the desire to streamline, to minimize or to elevate it to something in a minimal or purist sense, might be obfuscating other views, or other trajectories that are latent.
In the case of Chayo Frank’s Amertec building, I noticed in the description on the website that he was able to create a series underlying structures of curved rebars that varied. He also utilized a contractor who specialized in sprayed concrete that was to become the skin of the forms. He probably had an idea of what he wanted to do but it was not until he worked within the properties of these materials and the localities of resources and production that he could make the architecture.
In regards to ‘A Fabricated Field’ at Locust Projects, the idea was to take the inherent properties of the wood sticks – a generic off-the-shelf material and localize it in the space. So again, I had an idea but it did not materialize until I fabricated it. The word play ‘field’ was both a literal nod but also meant to address the vitalism of mass production and distribution of materials in fields or vectors of space and how through intensification or multiplication they may create spatial complexity. Stan Allen’s text ‘From Object to Field’ talks a lot about this type of study. Organic? Perhaps but not limited to the botanical —
However, you decided to focus on the botanical in this case. Why is that, but more specifically why this particular representation? It could had easily been something else.
I don’t necessarily see it as just focused on the botanical. It’s really about a system of assemblage based on both the natural and the computational. An algorithmic way of construction was inherent in the properties of the wood sticks to each other, as well as the way the ‘stalks’ connected both the floor and to the ceiling. Rather than strict edges – the old architectural template of point/line/plane – I was really trying to construct a logic of transition(s) that intensified through adjacencies. For example, I live near the beach and like to walk on the boardwalk. To be honest, the original idea for the show came from seeing a small weed growing between the wood planks. It made me think of the vitality of the vegetation here, yes, but also that the seams between the modular of materials are both ideologically and economically about limits and designated borders. But those borders are often porous and are actually places that seem to gather momentum or exchange.
Yes, but we have been talking about a representational variable within the context of architectural theories of space and material. The reason I mentioned Frank’s work is that it is clear in his case that the representation is just as important if not more so. Walking within A Fabricated Field and being very aware of its sensitivity within the ecology. I was not alone in this impression. Many of the people observing and experiencing the work felt hyper-aware as not to damage the installation. Each step one took moved everything else so slightly and one wrong step may have damaged the space.
Initially people were not willing to walk into the space for that very reason. Where in other installations this would not be the case. Christy Gast’s piece Inholdings for example is addressing similar themes but her environment is much more inviting and durable.
The representation may have played a role as well as the what Robert Morris once called the presentness of the space. In a conversation I had recently with Amanda Sanfilippo (Development Associate at Locust Projects), we talked about this idea. Morris talks about the difference between the object (where one surrounds it) versus space (where one is surrounded). There is an implied field of forces that envelopes us. It’s not subject/object but rather figure/field – and moments of hopeful dissolution of this binary.
You are right in pointing out this issue within the project space in terms of the vulnerability felt. I wanted a feeling of immersion. Going back to the issue of local/global, I was trying to create an architecture that did not necessarily account for the human. Maybe an invasive architecture or ecology based on the accumulation of materials and capitalist mass production that had as you mentioned – a botanical quality. A little like getting caught between narrow trees in a forest…the roots starting to take over the ground plane. So the viewer isn’t just viewing or necessarily taking in the installation, but is alternately being taken in. I very much liked the initial trepidation of the viewers since they were both afraid to damage the piece but also because these moments occurred at those modular borders and boundaries…ie. the seams between the plywood sheets.
Is trepidation a component you would continue to explore?
Trepidation is a component, yes. I’ll refer once again to Negarestani who has written about trauma as an integral part of the modern subject as well as of space. So if the response to trauma is to partition discomfort, ie. to wall off “..nestedness, tangled neighborhoods, topological convolutions and porosities between the brain, the streets, the national territory and the earth..” then to integrate, overlap or synthesize these tensions might produce a bit of trepidation.