Formats_Irigaray Exhibition Postcards
The Tower Project
George Paton Gallery, Melbourne 2014
The Tower Project (subtitled ‘This Architecture Which Is Not One’) frames a seemingly banal urban scenario of building a tower through Irigarayan concepts. Key references in this pamphlet refer directly to quotes from “This Sex Which Is Not One” [TSWINO], as well as Andrea Wheeler’s “About being-two in an architectural perspective: an interview with Luce Irigaray” [ABT] and “The Forgetting of Air” [FOA]. These postcards are to be read alongside a cartoon strip presented at the exhibition, a pictorial preface that sets up the project narrative.This set of postcards present the story of Bethlehem Steel, a US postwar steel giant that produced steel for major building landmarks nationwide (as featured on each card), but was driven into bankruptcy by the very things it created. As cities expanded, a surge in steel demands caused tower developers to look offshore for cheaper imports, marking the rapid demise of the local steel manufacturer.
The postcards in your hand are photographs of major tourist attractions which were constructed out of Bethlehem Steel. But these images have been tampered with. Infrastructure from the Bethlehem Steel mills have been grafted onto them, resulting in an inextricable tangle between tower and mill; the sheer volume of heavy industrial manufacturing seems to have spontaneously erupt across surfaces of the final form. What has always been suppressed from the public eye is now made visible.
As these picture-perfect building icons become riddled with industrial machinery, there is a sense that these icons are wrestling with something bigger than itself, something that cannot be shaken away. This has not been done to glorify an infrastructural aesthetic; it aims to unnerve the current sensibility of building. The mother cannot be shrugged away or cast off simply by man building new things. Yet there is no winning or losing side here; no triumph nor defeat: it is a difficult, tenuous coexistence that will and can never cease as long as building occurs on earth.
The inclusion of bridges is, indeed, deliberate. The images begin to question Heidegger’s famed analogy of the bridge that gathers the fourfold around it. Here, the bridges are gathering something else entirely. In fact, the steel mill components appear to be spontaneously rallying together in a joint attempt to interrupt or sabotage the act of bridge-gathering. What is interesting here is that even with a tampered bridge, ‘place’ has nevertheless been created on each postcard, a medium which is in its nature the tourist marker of any well-known or famous ‘place’. In a way, the postcard acts as a cultural neutraliser. To have something so painfully superficial and touristy represent the ideologically potent theme of sexual difference, one begins ruffling the feathers of popular culture and the prevalent ‘tourist’ mentality of our times. By the gesture of the postcard, Irigaray’s sexual difference is in effect depicted as a type of cultural norm.