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Objet de Refuse
Katie Kurtz, 22 Feb 07
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Environment: Approaches for Tomorrow at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montreal features new and old work by French horticultural engineer and landscape architect Gilles Clément and Swiss architect Philippe Rahm. The show "…proposes a shift in perspective that takes the environment, and not human demands on the environment, as the starting point for reflection."

Rahm's work investigates energy transmission in various forms and his "Interior Weather" seems driven more by sixties conceptual art sensibilities than typical architectural concerns. Clément's past projects explore what he calls the Tiers-paysage (third landscape). The Tiers-paysage is created from the intervention of man into nature, sites that are no longer natural yet not wholly manmade, but transitional spaces forged when the two intersect.

For this show, Clément gathered refuse and wild plants from a vacant lot near the CCA, suspended them in acrylic casings, and arranged them to resemble a chandelier. When you think of how the chandelier began as a utilitarian object – planks of woods with candles stuck on top – and morphed into an expensive objet d'art, the artwork's meaning expands. Castoff everyday objects (cell phones, toothpaste tubes, pens, and hypodermic needles) preserved alongside plants that tumbled onto the site (rather than being native or planted) and expressed in a high art form illuminate our ever shifting attitude toward what we conceive of as beautiful and what we consider negligible.

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This isn't a wholly new concept. People are always recycling old favorites into new forms. The facade of St. Mark's in Venice incorporates several decorative marbles taken from the collapsing Byzantine Empire. There are lots of jewelery makers who make beautiful iridescent pendants out of ancient Roman glass. Africans have been making beautiful glass beads out of Coke bottles for a century, and children's lunch boxes out of brightly decorated tins.

Posted by: Rob Platt on 22 Feb 07



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