You Are Here: The Formative Power of Architecture

Candida Höfer, Palais Garnier Paris XXX, 2005

Candida Höfer, Biblioteca Girolamini Napoli III, 2009

Candida Höfer, Biblioteca Nazionale Napoli III, 2009

Candida Höfer, Museum Morsbroich Leverkusen I, 2008

Cyprien Gaillard, View over Sighthill, 2008

Cyprien Gaillard, Chateau d’Oiron, 2008

Cyprien Gaillard, Belief in the Age of Disbelief, 2005, Etching

You Are Here: The Formative Power of Architecture

You Are Here: Architecture and Experience is an exhibition of works by two contemporary artists at the Carnegie Museum of Art that examines the formative power of architecture, or how architectural environments influence our experiences and perceptions of the world. The exhibition brings together the photographs of German artist Candida Höfer and a video, photographs and etchings by French artist Cyprien Gaillard. Both artists express the formative power of architecture in ways that are different, but also complementary.

Candida Höfer’s lush color photographs of ornately palatial historical and contemporary interior spaces are usually devoid of humans, embodying a sense of peaceful quietude. Yet, they also reveal details that draw the viewer into considerations of what each place might mean.  In Höfer’s photographs, the experience of each room becomes completely subjective: Is it stifling in its grandiosity, or perhaps enlightening in its lavish beauty? We see spaces as moments of history and definers of class, the anachronisms, vanities, and beauty of spaces; the humanity, in all its sins and glories, that can inhabit a built environment, without so much as a glimpse of any humans. Each space can help us decide our point of view, but Höfer seems to say that deciphering these spaces is a task ultimately left up to each of us.

Contrasting with Höfer, Cyprien Gaillard’s video Desniansky Raion, his photographs and meticulously detailed etchings all probe the human legacy of Modernist high-rise housing blocks. Constructed after World War II throughout the United States, Europe and the Eastern Bloc to provide decent housing, these buildings too often have become warehouses for the poor and incubators of crime and antisocial behaviors. While Gaillard’s video alternates between order and destructive violence, packing a powerful and direct emotional punch, Höfer’s photographs embody a kind of quietude that encourages slow, sustained exploration of meanings that build through the accumulation of detail. Nevertheless, both works are equally affecting and bring the viewer into the realm of architectural experience with compelling intensity. Höfer and Gaillard capture the constant vacillation between what we make of our architectural environments, and what they make of us.

Cyprien Gaillard: Desniansky Raion (2007)

Koudlam: See You All (Music for Desniansky Raion)

Photo-Gallery: You Are Here/The Formative Power of Architecture

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