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Displacement

 

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Cancelled "The project was not an object but an action. A prolonged meditation on the act of building..." Martin Tite

Our desire in this project was to work with the school building as directly as possible. After our initial inspection of the school, what struck us as most problematic was the existence of a non-structural, but massive (10' high x 16' wide) set of brick arches crammed between two structural columns. The building is a cast-in place concrete structure designed in the early seventies. At that time, the unauthorized arches created a furor in the institution; charges of dishonesty, disrespect and absurdity were hurled in every direction. It seemed certain that the arches would be removed.

However, after more than a decade, the arches remained. It was clear to us that these arches imposed an arthritic condition on the thought of the school. Not only were the arches blocking what was originally a well formed, well lit space, but they were also blocking something else - or rather, they supported something else. The arches


had become symbolic of historic tradition and craft. Yet they were only substitutes. They concealed the lack of these aspects in current architectural production. This form, by allowing itself to be possessed as a sign of this institution, allowed a guilt free immersion into a self-absorbed pluralism which considered itself avant-garde. This was a school ruled by a postmodern substitute.

Our proposal as carried out was simple. First we disengaged the material, the bricks, from their mythological duties by dismantling the arches. The bricks were cleaned and then reformed into a mass measuring 4'-4" x 3'-8" x 8' high. This labour took three days

The administration's first response was that of having been cheated. They felt that we had done nothing, and that our work lacked significance. This was almost the case. By eliminating the mytho-poetic content of the

arches, we had created a void. Our lack of willingness to signify, or to sanction signification in our work, offended the institution. They were horrified at the prospect of unnamable and unconsumable work. We had evaporated a voluble myth, and offered in its place a mute presence, which could not be reproduced or communicated.

In the end, the institution cancelled the exhibition of our work. It chose to conceal our presence, and thereby maintain its task of mythological obfuscation unchallenged.

Terence Van Elslander


Arch displacement process