May 23, 2019 - NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore - Siah Armajani: Spaces for the Public. Spaces for Democracy.
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May 23, 2019

NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore

Siah Armajani, Sacco and Vanzetti Reading Room #3, 1988. Installation view of the exhibition Siah Armajani: Follow This Line, Walker Art Center. Courtesy Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and MMK Museum for Modern Art, Frankfurt. Photo: Bobby Rogers.

Siah Armajani
Spaces for the Public. Spaces for Democracy.
July 20–November 3, 2019

NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore
Gillman Barracks
43 Malan Road
Singapore 109443
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 12–7pm

T +65 6460 0300
ntuccacomms@ntu.edu.sg

ntu.ccasingapore.org
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NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore is pleased to present the first institutional solo exhibition in Asia of Iranian-American artist Siah Armajani (b. 1939), Spaces for the Public. Spaces for Democracy. Considered a leading figure creating art in public space, Armajani merges architecture and conceptual art in his sculptures, drawings, and public installations that range from bridges to gardens, and outdoor structures such as gazebos for public use. His intrinsically interdisciplinary works dwell on political, social, economic, and philosophical considerations, inspired by democratic ideals and values, as well as by American vernacular architecture. Principles such as the “nobility of usefulness” and “art on civic scale” have guided Armajani’s lifelong practice, which continuously calls for critical reflection and communality.

Taking centre stage in the exhibition, the large-scale installation Sacco & Vanzetti Reading Room #3 (1988) will unfold along its several comprising elements, such as two rooms, tables, chairs, and racks with books, magazines, and pencils noticeably arranged like spikes. The work’s title refers to the two Italian-born American anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, whose verdict of armed robbery and murder steered global protests. Armajani has dedicated several works to the two, who were executed 1927 in Boston although believed to be innocent. The Reading Room is designed as a functional and inviting space for the visitors of the exhibition to use, but feels nevertheless ambivalent, provoking a certain uneasiness that echoes the title’s reference to systemic injustice. The dozens of books populating the space are by or about the poets, philosophers, and political activists Armajani has dedicated different works to over the decades of his practice, as for instance Theodor Adorno, Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, John Dewey, Emma Goldman, Hafez, Frank O’Hara, Sylvia Plath, Ahmad Shamlou, Henry David Thoreau, Alfred North Whitehead, Walt Whitman, and Nima Yooshij. Many are part of his Tomb series.

Initiated by Armajani in 1972, the Tomb series include drawings and models, of which seven are on view in the exhibition. A model and a drawing are devoted to Arthur Rimbaud, while the larger model references Heidegger, whose essay “Building Dwelling Thinking” (1954) inspired the artist to develop one of his most emblematic concepts—the bridge. In his writings, Heidegger conceives the bridge not only as a maker of place, but also a creator of neighbourhood, as it unites two separate places with that which divides them. Armajani has used this typology throughout his career to embody multiplicity and question difference and distance, understanding the need and difficulty of connecting between cultures, classes, and generations. Street Corner No. 1 and No. 2, two large bridge models, will be presented, as well as twelve small metal sculptures made of generic kitchen utensils, that are displayed for the first time.

Spaces for the Public. Spaces for Democracy. marks the exhibition format in itself as civic structure at the threshold of everyday life and artistic engagement. The social aspect is made prominent by an open call to various groups and organisations to inhabit the exhibition space at different times, appropriating and responding to the installation. Through readings and workshops using the provided books as material, the conversational and educational potential of works of art, as Armajani calls for, can be explored.

Siah Armajani moved to the United States from Iran in 1960. He studied philosophy at Macalester College in Minnesota, and lives and works in Minneapolis. A retrospective featuring his artistic career spanning over more than five decades was recently installed at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and is currently on view at The MET, New York. Armajani’s most celebrated public artworks include the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge (1988), Minneapolis; the World Financial Center’s promenade (in collaboration with Scott Burton and Cesar Pelli), Battery Park City, New York; Gazebo for Two Anarchists, Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, New York; Floating Poetry Room, Ijburg, Amsterdam; Bridge for Iowa, University of Iowa; and numerous gardens at Villa Arson Museum, Nice. He was commissioned to design the Cauldron for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia.

The exhibition is accompanied by a film programme in the Centre’s “Single Screen,” with Armajani’s early experimental films from 1975 serving as departure point. Armajani’s computer-generated short films are point-and-line animations of mathematical computations that create an abstract relationship between language and mathematics. The ideas presented already include visual, spatial, and architectural concerns that the artist continued to inquire.

Public programmes include talks deepening the discussion around architecture and public space, culminating in a public art symposium on October 18-20, 2019 related to the Centre’s public art project Culture City. Culture Scape. in the Centre’s “Lab” (August 23–November 3, 2019).

 

Curated by Ute Meta Bauer, Founding Director; public programmes by Magdalena Magiera, Curator, Outreach & Education, and Ana Sophie Salazar, Assistant Curator, Exhibitions, NTU CCA Singapore; film programme by Dr Marc Glöde; and symposium on art on civic scale convened by Sophie Goltz, both Assistant Professors, NTU School of Art, Design, and Media.


About NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore 
A leading international art institution, NTU CCA Singapore is a platform, host, and partner creating and driven by dynamic thinking in its three-fold constellation: Exhibitions; Residencies Programme; Research and Academic Education. A national research centre for contemporary art of Nanyang Technological University, the Centre focuses on Spaces of the Curatorial. It brings forth innovative and experimental forms of emergent artistic and curatorial practices that intersect the present and histories of contemporary art embedded in social-political spheres with other fields of knowledge.

About Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
​​​​​​A research-intensive public university, NTU has 33,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the colleges of Engineering, Business, Science, and Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, and its Graduate College. NTU’s campus is frequently listed among the top 15 most beautiful university campuses in the world and has 57 Green Mark-certified (equivalent to LEED-certified) buildings. ​Besides its 200-ha lush green, residential campus in western Singapore, NTU has a second campus in the heart of Novena, Singapore’s medical district.

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