July 9, 2020 - Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta) | ETH Zürich - Jacques Herzog, Atelier E.B and Rem Koolhaas in conversation
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July 9, 2020
July 9, 2020

Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta) | ETH Zürich

Courtesy gta exhibitions, ETH Zurich.

Jacques Herzog, Atelier E.B and Rem Koolhaas in conversation
Videos on the occasion of the exhibition Retail Apocalypse

gta exhibitions
ETH Zurich, Stefano-Franscini-Platz 5
8093 Zürich
Switzerland

ausstellungen.gta.arch.ethz.ch

During these talks Fredi Fischli and Niels Olsen raise speculative questions about the relationship of shopping and architecture: how can you introduce critique into commercial architecture? What are the urban implications of the so-called retail apocalypse? How can we read the historical avant-garde’s obsession with consumer culture? These discussions with various artists and architects, including Claire Fontaine, Anne Holtrop, Dominique Gonzales Foerster, Mark Lee, Smiljan Radic, James Wines, and more, have led to a forthcoming publication on the subject.

"Actually, beauty is sometimes even based on such controversial iconoclastic debris. I think you can probably find a principle of this kind in our work, but it’s not a working method; it’s not something that is done proactively. This is maybe an instinct that we share with artists, the idea of looking at the other side of the coin. Things can always be turned around, can always be looked at from different sides. And that’s also 'critique,' as you put it; you could also call it juxtaposition or contrast. All of these are ways to find new paths." –Jacques Herzog

"I wrote that the mannequin by Duchamp is by far the most interesting, as it’s the only one that looks like she could have decided to wear what she wears herself. There’s a legacy in the 20th century, which I consider more interesting, of art works that engage with mannequins without destroying them. For example Fred Wilson’s amazing piece Guarded View, it’s so simple because they are just doing the job which they were meant to have—which is so different from those tortured surrealist mannequins." –Lucy McKenzie

"As we discussed, the work of window trimmers is completely overlooked. You can’t study it anymore, and when you do study it it’s more about visual merchandizing. I suppose it’s because it’s commerce and these props would be made and discarded, but not kept because they weren’t seen as art objects. We have to try to put the fragments together ourselves. We have possibly every book on different window trimmers and window display possible but I am sure that there is so much that is left out and that is quite frustrating." –Beca Lipscombe

"When I look at the book cover, an illustration from an Otis Elevator company brochure, I can’t help thinking that the Harvard Guide to Shopping was in fact a very critical book on shopping. It was really a critique of neoliberalism, and the statement that shopping is the last form of public activity known to humanity was also a critical take on a terminal stage of neoliberalism. So, for me, it’s a forensic book that looks at the scale, the technologies, and the current mutation." –Rem Koolhaas

Watch the videos here.

About the exhibition
The research for this exhibition, undertaken long before the current pandemic, was prompted by the realization that “shopping” is history—that it is not merely a practice that can be historicized (for what practice cannot?), but that the physical, commercial, and social practices that converged to make it a unified field have now parted company, perhaps irreversibly. We are all familiar with stories of the urban arcade giving way to the suburban mall in the twentieth century, and the flaneur disappearing in the wake of the automobile. More recently, however, we find ourselves in the throes of even more radical change. As the bulk of shopping shifts online, “The Bahnhofstrasse,” the English “High Street,” and “Main Street” in small-town USA are entering what might be a terminal phase.

Online documentation of the exhibition here.

In 2021, new iterations of Retail Apocalypse will take place at Harvard Graduate School of Design in Cambridge, MA and The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montreal.

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