Conversations on Shadow Architecture (C o S A) was born from a trip to Cairo in May 2012, in the weeks surrounding Egypt’s first democratic election after the Arab Spring. At the time I was living in Berlin, and images of Tahir Square’s makeshift tent-city – temporarily home to thousands of protestors, activists and citizens – was a nascent symbol of the revolution that became synonymous with Critical Spatial Practice (CSP). CSP can be understood as a theoretical lens and practical mode to critically engage with the cultural, social and political potential of space and architecture. A decade later and in the continuing context of global uprisings (Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, faction resurgences, climate advocacy) CSP has renewed relevance as a useful tool for collective agitation, where new and interesting ways to live in the world are consciously cultivated while drawing lessons from the past.
As a thought exercise with artists, composers, architects and thinkers since 2012, C o S A has grown like an octopus to incorporate interrelated limbs that find a nexus within CSP. Here architecture (built and unbuilt, its absence as much as presence), politics, history, economies and the future are understood as inextricably linked through complex networks of spatial variables that affect the way we think, feel, move, make decisions and operate together. C o S A invites audiences to engage with and read their daily surroundings, with the hope that this more entangled understanding will lead to new forms of empowerment for both the individual and diverse community ecologies. Rather than providing answers C o S A questions how the world around us choreographs our very being.
The project title borrows a term coined in 2012 by Warsaw-based architect Aleksandra Wasilkowska. In her book, Shadow Architecture / Architektura Cienia, Wasilkowska defines shadow architecture as spatial artefacts that emerge from the bottom up, functioning in the margins of systems and without the participation of an architect or bureaucracy. These forms of architecture are an analogue to the integration of the subconscious and the shadow archetype in Jungian therapy. Wasilkowska posits that only spontaneous and self-organised activities in official city structures and planning can create a healthy and inclusive environment. The term describes architecture that supports the shadow economy (informal, unofficially recorded or recognised) known to comprise a substantial percentage of circulating capital at any given time.
The contributors to C o S A were invited because their practices resonate with the non-hierarchical limbs of our thought exercise: creatives who disrupt the machine or reject the monotony of what’s practiced in the everyday. They step clear of the well-beaten track to provoke the core of our humanness – and its shadow – recalling the currency of fluid, liminal and responsive existence.
TARIK AHLIP (b. Australia l. Australia)
HEBA Y. AMIN (b. Egypt l. Germany)
RICHARD BELL (b. Australia l. Australia)
LAUREN BRINCAT (b. Australia l. Australia)
FIVE MILE RADIUS (Australian Studio)
GILL GATFIELD (b. Aotearoa New Zealand l. Aotearoa New Zealand)
D HARDING (b. Australia, l. Australia)
FIONNUALA HEIDENREICH (b. Australia l. United States & Australia)
HWKN (New York Studio)
SIMON JAMES PHILLIPS (b. Australia l. Germany)
VALENTINA KARGA (b. Greece, l. Germany & Greece)
NICOLAS KISIC AGUIRRE (b. Peru, l. United States & Germany)
ANRI SALA (b. Albania, l. Germany)
A partner exhibition of Dane’s ‘Conversations in Shadow Architecture’ was also be held at Metro Arts Brisbane from 2 October – 31 October 2021.
The DOMINIK MERSCH GALLERY CURATOR AWARD invites guest curators to explore their own perceptions and expertise in a unique exhibition opportunity at DMG. Ineke Dane is an award-winning curator based in Brisbane, Australia. She has a background in contemporary art theory, law, policy, photography and journalism; with each of these disciplines informing a thought-provoking and conceptually rigorous practice.
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body and by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.
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