The project Re:enact staged five events that could exist only within the narrative of the exhibition poster. Playing on the idea that curating architecture is an action that brings to life a space – a practice for a set audience, and an engagement with spectators and spectacle – these events drew on materials from the CCA Collection and from past exhibitions. The gallery became a printed page. The archive was reframed, evoking single moments, structures and players in the history of architecture, connected under the unifying superstructure of the exhibition. Curation implies a certain power. Re:enact as a curatorial project took this notion to the extreme by raising the architectural dead.
Within the four walls of the five posters different events occurred. Palladio returned once more to the CCA for a 9-to-5 workday in the Paul Desmarais auditorium, and Gordon Matta-Clark’s 1974 Splitting of a New York suburban house was dusted off and reissued in true B-movie-style revenge: the CCA’s structural fault line providing a perfect readymade victim. Glass partition walls, designed for the 2011 CCA exhibition Imperfect Health: The Medicalization of Architecture, and re-worked for the next exhibition Notes From the Archive: James Frazer Stirling, were transformed into Mies van der Rohe’s 1929 Barcelona Pavilion and 1951 Farnsworth House, respectively, the latter act conjuring the flood of 2008 that submerged the building. And not to forget the children, Vladimir Tatlin’s unbuilt Monument to the Third International finally found a home in the CCA Garden through a family program model-making workshop.
“The pavilion itself will be the exhibit,” said Mies of his now mythic 1929 design. Although Re:enact constructed paper parodies of architectural events in time, it also asked more earnest questions about the reality of current and future curatorial practices, through audiences’ changing engagement with the object in an exhibition and with the space that surrounds both it and them – the power that the static, rarefied original now commands in the arena of the museum. Reconstructive projects like David Gissen’s Museums of the City or Petition for the Mound of Vendome have sought – to varying degrees of success and seriousness – to liberate architectural history from architectural practice. Yet in so doing, they relinquish this history to the curatorial vultures that circle above. “An architecture that resurrects,” said Gissen of his call to reinstate the mound of dirt placed by Communards around the Vendome Column in Paris in 1871 to protect the surrounding buildings as the column was destroyed. The mound would be protected by glass, bringing the museum into the open before sealing it back up. Manaugh also seeks to bring interior supports to an exterior environment, thus extending curatorial possibilities to the city at large.
Re:enact’s resurrection of the Barcelona Pavilion in the CCA galleries gave visitors the chance to see themselves in the “building that shaped modern architecture.” Re:enact as a final project also granted a form of self-reflection: a consideration of the Curatorial Internship through its structure and teachings – its support system. Curatorial residencies – and residents – are on the rise, this new blood providing fresh outlooks and, as such, innovative ways to reframe curatorial practice. Less a resurrection of old models and practices, we are perhaps in the midst of an insurrection – Curatorial Communards they might call us one day. But with this surge, are there not also risks of a surplus? Does that mound of dirt not recall death as equally as it does life? Curatorial residencies as they now stand provide both space for ideas and on-site training. But what does this training provide in terms of a reality outside such learning structures?
Cerys Wilson was a Curatorial Intern at the CCA in 2011. Re:enact was created in collaboration with Montreal-based graphic design duo TagTeam Studio.