Inherent Shortcomings /Natürliche Mängel

Irish Museum of Modern Art, 2011

Inherent Shortcomings/Natürliche Mängel, Irish Museum of Modern Art

Reading about and visiting celebrated architectural sites has become a mainstream public pursuit, and TV stations and weekend papers devote extensive coverage and analysis to architecture and its aesthetic qualities. However, not all architecture is equally successful in its aims, and it is precisely the gaps and oversights which interest Andrea Pichl. For the past few years, Pichl has been observing the architectural forms of housing units in the East and West. She has sourced utopian ideals on her travels and captured details which demonstrate the inherent shortcomings of certain social ambitions. Pichl often documents these details through photography and then responds by reconstructing elements into displays which simulate the ratio, proportion, repetition and formal elements of what she has observed.

Pichl has installed three sculptural displays in the Process Room, and each one shows different details of the buildings she has documented. One of the structures holds small models of different units of modular apartment blocks, another is an intriguing document of public furniture without function, and the third zooms in on details which Pichl calls architectural shortcomings. Much of the artist’s imagery and influences come from the suburbs of Paris, Tashkent and Berlin, and she has interspersed these with similar examples from around Dublin. On two walls of the Process Room, Pichl shows line ‘drawings’ made of thread on paper. Thus she joins simplified architectural details of various buildings, not to suggest an improvement or something more beautiful, but in order to emphasise those shortcomings.

By teasing out and reassembling the shortcomings of these buildings, Pichl manages to exaggerate them. Her work experiments with multiplicity and the re-ordering of order, and her installations often build up to a dizzying display, rather like an architectural kaleidoscope of hard edges, concrete and glimpses of the absurd.

Although Pichl’s work here concentrates on social housing from the 1960s to the 1980s, it operates as a mirror to our own contemporary built environment: the shortcomings and cracks are evident in buildings only just completed which have not yet even experienced the wear and tear of human occupation.

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