Instantaneous and rhythmic, sensual and varied in aspect, harmonious or contrasting in structure — a philosophy in action — “ink” may incite a similarly moderated discussion of relations between abstraction and figuration; of oscillations between the material and the conceptual; of locality and temporality in indexical marks and associative meanings.
— Michelle Fornabai
When I began programming Studio-X in July 2008, I was given a beautiful and largely empty room overlooking the Hudson River, and the mandate to “create a scene.” At first, it felt daunting. But through trial and error, and with the advice of many who felt invested in the success of the space, a scene has emerged. Studio-X is informal and collaborative — a place where exhibitions, research, public events and publications can coexist, overlap and, ideally, converse with each other. The scene is also dynamic and process-oriented. Ideas are workshopped during evening lectures and conversations, and they are materialized during the day.
All of which is why “ink,” an exhibition of ink on mylar drawings by artist and architect Michelle Fornabai, is perfect for the space. Because “ink” is a process in itself — not only a journey of mark-making and perception that “imaginatively projects future events of construction,” but also a series of events and conversations between Chinese and US designers over the course of one year.
“Ink” debuted in July 2009 at Studio-X Beijing, the second hub of the Studio-X Global Network, a new initiative by the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation of Columbia University. Tonight, New Yorkers will be able to jump into the conversation that began last year on the other side of the world, and interact with respondents and audience members in Beijing. Live simulcast conversations and idea-sharing events will occur more and more as the Studio-X Network grows (plans are underway to open Studio-Xs in high-density areas in India, Brazil and Russia). In a recent statement, GSAPP Dean Mark Wigley suggested that “[s]uch a global think tank must be based on the deep conviction that those parts of the world that are changing the most have the most to teach us. Older centers of power and wisdom must learn from the newer centers, which in turn learn from each other.”
The accompanying slideshow represents some of the work on display, alongside a commentary and statement by Michelle Fornabai. “Rather than acting as a material trace or as a record of events,” she suggests, “construction documents in architecture are projective: both as an abstract system of orthogonal projection and as a set of instructions for a future event.” The drawings, paintings and mock material studies in this exhibition question the irrational potentials of these documents through a series of acts in ink and concrete. They evoke American Abstract Expressionism, Rorschach testing, Chinese calligraphy and a newly minted literary and architectural genre, “Concrete Poetry,” to explore marks and meaning, material stimuli and making sense, psychic readings and programmatic possibilities. According to Fornabai, “Using emergent theories in neurophysiology which explore the intersection of sensation, perception and cognitive processing, the project will document an experience of events in a material — both as a series of constructive acts in making, and in manifesting corporeal experiences for the viewer.”