Imagine a development: huge highway billboards with massive
photo blowups of landscape not unlike the landscape unwinding all
around the billboard itself - this massive artificial analogue for
the highway only on the highway.
- Jeff Wall, Landscape Manual, 1969-70
Learning from the existing landscape is a way of being
revolutionary for an architect. Not the obvious way, which is to
tear down Paris and to begin again, as Le Corbusier suggested in
the 1920s, but another, more tolerant way; that is to question how
we look at things.
- Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas, 1968
The things I make are variable, as simple as possible,
reproducible. They are components of a space, since they are like
building elements, they can always be rearranged into new
combinations or positions, thus, they alter space.
- Charlotte Posenenske, statement in Art International, 1968
The Office for Contemporary Art Norway presents 'BIG SIGN - LITTLE BUILDING', an exhibition that looks at the expanded temporal and spatial field for cultural production resulting from the modern shift in the notion of landscape from the Kantian sublime to the space of leisure time. This enquiry was pursued by the radical artists and architects who throughout the 1960s and into the 70s explored how the aesthetic experience of nature within modernity arrived at the perception of the expressiveness of nature through the expressiveness in things. In doing so, their respective investigations reflected upon the loss of faith in natural beauty and evolved into an aesthetic experience of landscape as one no longer located within the 'towering mountains eloquent in what they crush overwhelmingly', but instead as projections of space liberated beyond the proliferation of artificial things.
The exhibition departs from and extends beyond a seminal project developed by the architects Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour, who, in their book Learning from Las Vegas (1972), drew from existing critiques of urban space at the time to explore the role that signs played in providing order to the landscape. As an articulation of a space contesting the hegemony of Euclidean space, this approach also intrigued artists such as Charlotte Posenenske, Ed Ruscha, Robert Smithson, and Jeff Wall, who further challenged such traditional notions of space in order to explore new interpretations of landscape within the fields of aesthetics, art and architecture without succumbing to any one category. Other artists, such as Claes Oldenburg and Allan D'Arcangelo, cited as inspiration by the three architects, contested the sign system altogether, which increasingly reflected an attempt on the part of capital to claim nature, landscape, and public space as commodities.
'BIG SIGN - LITTLE BUILDING' exhibits, for the first time, the original glass lantern slides used by Steven Izenour for his academic lectures together with works by artists who transformed drafts, surveys, maps, and manuals into cultural artifacts, creating a new genre for cultural production at the time. The exhibition integrates artists' work, archival materials and publications that revised interpretations of landscape, building and monument reflecting upon how artists and architects attempted to dislocate traditional interpretations of these concepts in an effort to generate a critical dialogue around the effects of power inscribed in public information generated by the city and by the hierarchies, standardisations, and space-time relationships effected by corporate development.
'BIG SIGN - LITTLE BUILDING', curated by OCA's Director Marta Kuzma, is dedicated to the memory of Steven Izenour and made possible by the generous efforts of John Izenour and loans of work from Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates, John Izenour, Claes Oldenburg, Jeff Wall, Estate of Allan D'Arcangelo, the Estate of Charlotte Posenenske, Nicole Verstraeten-Daled, Frank Mosvold and Sørlandets Kunstmuseum, Nasjonalmuseet for Kunst, Arkitektur og Design, and Barney & Astrid Rosset. The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication printed by the time of the exhibition closing.