Architecture as Skin at Storefront

(G)HOST IN THE (S)HELL at Storefront for Art & Architecture is one of the best uses of the vintage Vito Acconci space I’ve ever seen.

A site-specific installation by Didier Fiuza Faustino/Bureau des Mésarchitecture (Paris, France), the work cleverly creates a false skin of chain-link fences that imprisons Acconci’s adjustable facade while giving the illusion of greater openness.

The corners of the fences shoot out into the public sidewalk. The Storefront curators told me that some homeless have been sleeping under the repositioned walls, finding security under what look to me like rather alienating forms.

(G)HOST IN THE (S)HELL at Storefront for Art & Architecture

Inspired by Faustino’s childhood in the Parisian suburbs, which are nothing obviously like their American variations (think riots 2005), the installation is minimal but evokes feelings of being trapped and controlled. Because of the scale, you never get a sense of being able to take in the whole installation and instead you experience it as fragments, adding to the sense of alienation.

Inside a video depicts someone (Faustino I presume) chewing gum and applying it to his face as some type of temporary mask. The city outside (traffic, snippets of conversations by those walking by) doesn’t allow for quiet contemplation and, as part of the work, a heartbeat-like sound pulses through the space.

(G)HOST IN THE (S)HELL at Storefront for Art & Architecture

“I feel like I’m walking through a checkpoint in the West Bank,” was my first reaction when I meet up with one of the curators. But many spaces in the modern world are as obstructed as this one even though we’re often oblivious to the control they exert…amusement parks, school yards, border crossings, detention centers, even public parks all use similar tactics to dictate the flow of people.

Faustino has long been interested in the issue of limits of the human body and its relations to space. The installation’s title evokes many associations: the cyberpunk manga of the same name, angry heavy metal song lyrics, postmodern theory…

What is surprising is that the temporary structure doesn’t look out of place on the congested corner where Little Italy and Soho meet…across the street scaffolding covers the front of a West Asian hummous joint, at the end of Kenmare a new condo building has an undulating facade, and the decorative metal fence of Petrosino Square across Cleveland Place seems more imposing than Faustino’s installation.

Below is a short YouTube video I shot walking through the space capturing (I hope) the slight disorientation you feel as you pass into the interior.

I’ve also posted some images here and the plan of the installation (via the Storefront website) below.

The exhibition runs from May 13 – June 28, 2008.

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