International exhibitions

International 2009 Archives

Automatic Cities
Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (USA)
26.09.2009 - 31.01.2010

07.09 - 25.11.2012

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Press release

AUTOMATIC CITIES : The Architectural Imaginary in Contemporary Art

Automatic Cities explores the psychological, social, political, and metaphorical influences of architecture on contemporary visual art. The "architecture imaginary" in the exhibition title refers to architecture in the broadest sense, comprising images of sites and cities built and unbuilt, rising from collective experience and imagination.

Automatic Cities maps the architectural imaginary in an international context by prominent artists (and one artist collective) hailing from eleven countries, setting projects by prominent artists in dialogue with that of emerging practitioners. Automtic Cities in curated by MCASD Curator Robin Clark.

Several themes recur throughout Automatic Cities, including the relationships of architecture to language, memory, and surveillance ; architecture as a conceptual model is also a topic mined by many of the participating artists. Paul Noble's drawings of a fictional city constructed from a typographical font, Matthew Buckingham's installation inspired by the garret where Samuel Johnson, penned the first English language dictionary, and Ann Lislegaard's 3D animation based on J. G. Ballard's novel The Crystal World all address relationships between architecture and language.

Memory projected onto the architectural surround is the topic of videos by Hiraki Sawa and Saskia Olde Wolbers, while Rachel Whiteread's sculptures and related drawings make material the idea of architecture as a locus of somatic memory.

A third theme, architecture as model, manifests in installations by Los Carpinteros, Catharina van Eetvelde, Matthew Ritchie, Katrin Sigurdadóttir and Michaël Borremans. Los Carpinteros creates work that humorously and poignantly speaks to the failed utopian dreams of Cuba, while Sigurdadóttir's installations use models to evoke the coastline and folklore of her native Iceland. Painting and drawings by Borremans demonstrate the uncanny potential of architectural models, while embedded within Ritchie's collapsed radio transmission tower is an inundated, three-dimensionnally rendered city. Catharina van Eetvelde's drawn animations of architectural elements morphing alternately into plant life, computer circuitry, and animal forms combine to create "a city with the metabolism of a hummingbird".


Exhibition 26 September 2009 - 31 January 2010. Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolia, 700 Prospect Street, La Jolia - CA 92037 (USA). Tel.: (858) 454 35 41.

Michael Najjar, High Altitude, Bitforms Gallery, New York

© ArtCatalyse International / Marika Prévosto 2012. All Rights Reserved

The final section of the exhibition addresses questions of surveillance. Julie Mehretu's layered paintings provide chaotic and polemic images of militarized urban surrounds. Sarah Oppeheimer's installation, conceived as a "movie made with architecture", consists of constructed portails that frame views, which in turn are animated by the movement of visitors, creating a mutual surveillance that has opportunities and losses for the viewer and the viewed. Jakob Kolding's collages and posters critique the shortcommings of urban renewal while simultaneously embracing the cultural collisions made possible by the density of cities.