From the category archives:


Singapore, the New Team Player for the Art World

by Claudia Dias on June 14, 2010

During the unprecedented emergence of Asian economies the number of entrepreneurs with high net-worth who tend to invest large portions of their wealth into fine arts and other high-value collectibles has drastically increased over the past 10 years, and so has the demand for the management and storage of these new collections. Singapore, an established world banking center and a reputable location for wealth management, also often referred to as “the Switzerland of Asia,” seems most suitable as a location, since the country is highly trusted by business community for its safety and economical and political stability within the Asian region. The structural analogue of this opened at the beginning of 2010, when for the first time Singapore FreePort, a new Fort Knox opened its vault doors to customers, located right at the trading crossroads of the Middle East, India and China.


Singapore’s government agencies such as the EDB (Economic Development Board), the National Arts Council and the National Heritage Board have been instrumental in realizing projects of such scale, partially as shareholders, who ease the financial risks. For over 40 years the EDB has focused on still undeveloped but seminal economic branches and encourages their phased development. As a public agency it is able to create public-private partnerships with the next generation of entrepreneurs and to advance them with beneficial regulations. This is exactly what is happening with art market right now.

Thanks to the new Freeport and Singapore’s substantial subsidies, the ink is hardly dry on the promotional materials for Art Stage Singapore, the new art fair scheduled for January 2011. Lorenzo Rudolf, the former director of Art Basel, inventor of  Art Basel Miami Beach and co-creator of Shanghai Contemporary, chose Singapore as the location for his newest fair of international contemporary art. It will be staged in the soon to be completed Marina Bay Sands building, with its giant roof terraces 250 meters up in the sky; a building that is already an icon for skyscraper fans. According to Rudolf “Asia is on the way to become an important platform of the international art market” and Art Stage Singapore is supposedly the key opportunity for networking galleries, collectors and art institutions. The French Art 7 Design Pavilion for 2011 is also in talks. These two events would expand the spectrum of new art fairs to Design, Modern and Contemporary art.

The idea for the Singapore FreePort, the duty-free and tax-free depot, was a brainchild of founder Alain Vandenborre already in December 2004. Thanks to his partnership with Yves Bouvier, president of the Swiss Art shipping company Natural Le Coultre, the brainchild turned into a project. After one year of planning and 2 years of construction the first phase of the “Swiss wonder” has now opened. Insurance companies “with proper risk management favor safe keeping of assets in at least two different locations” and “the Swiss Freeports have also become quite overbooked over the years,” explains Alain Vandeborre, who holds an MA in Astrophysics and works now as serial-entrepreneur in Singapore.


Technologically equipped with the most advanced climate control and security systems, not only museums, National collections and auction houses have reserved strong rooms, but also international banks are entrusting their treasures under off-shore regulations to the Singapore FreePort at Changi airport. What accelerated the completion of the project was Christie’s signing up as an anchor client in April 2009; at one go 40% of the approx. 22,000 m2 capacity of Phase1 was leased for 30 years. The additional 25,000 m2 storage area of Phase2 shall be completed by the beginning of 2014.

It is not just about high value storage, but the entire fortress is an ecological and technological gem, which was designed by the Geneva architecture office 3MB3 in close collaboration with Swiss engineers, starting with its plant-covered facade conceived for climate-control purposes. Also the building contour brings to mind a jewel; the shape however is a product of the airport’s height constraints. To avoid any kind of water damage the cooling in the strong rooms is achieved simply by air circulation and the entire roof is going to be covered with the newest thin-film solar voltaics.

For the central courtyard Vandeborre and design collector Yves Bouvier commissioned Ron Arad with a monumental metal installation, of which the cell structure reminds one of a distorted space grid. Johanna Grawunder designed light installations to interlace the softer outdoor architecture with the rough windowless interior. During the daytime narrow stainless-steel panels reflect the sky, while at night they remind of darkened “windows” in front of the LED projected wall, which creates a “bioluminescent” effect for the plant façade. Grawunder transmutes the long corridors in the more exclusive areas of the vault facility with criss-crossed textures of LED and acrylic light into human and ecologically friendly passages.


Andrew Foster, COO of Christie’s Asia is confident: “The CFASS (Christie’s Fine Art Storage Facility) in London was a great success.” But with customers of the auction house frequently requesting additional storage possibilities in Asia, the Singapore FreePort project came in handy. “We are considering providing a secure storage area of an even larger share of the second Phase building.” Andrew Foster is not convinced that Singapore is going to turn into the art market hub for Asia like Hong Kong. He rather more expects the City State to play a central role for all art market supporting aspects.

Nevertheless, Singapore and the EDB are subsidizing the creation of an infrastructure for contemporary art by building innovative new museums and not a moment too soon: because 2011 the next wave of art fairs will hit Singapore.

This article was published in German in KUNSTZEITUNG May, 2010; Text and photographs by Claudia Dias, renderings are courtesy of Atelier d’Architecture 3BM3


Justice to Judd

by Claudia Dias on February 26, 2010

“It takes a great deal of time and thought to install work carefully. This should not always be thrown away. Most art is fragile and some should be placed and never moved again.” *


I never understood the whole myth around Donald Judd’s work, and probably  never will  (as long it is presented on boring white gallery walls or, in the case of his furniture, covered with stacks of paper and magazines) … if it had not been for his brief for the Chinati Foundation, a contemporary art museum, which has been created around Donald Judd’s intention to preserve and present to the public permanent large-scale installations of a limited number of artists in 1986 (many of the works displayed are his own; other works are of artists from his collection).

This idea to find the right undisturbed location, the right neutral but adaptable structures to house these works and to adjust these structures to make the art live with its surrounding changed my preconceptions.
100 reflective milled aluminum objects of the same outer size (41″x51″x72″) but with interior permutations were installed in two former Artillery Sheds, from which Judd removed the garage doors and replaced them with a continuous row of quartered windows which now floods the space with light and changes the mood of the installation depending on light and weather conditions. Judd also doubled the heights of these two buildings, adding a vaulted roof on top of the orginal flat-roof. (100 untitled works in milled aluminum, 1982-1986)

The Dia Art Foundation had already spearheaded this idea in New York with Walter de Maria’s The New York Earth Room installed in 1977 and The Broken Kilometer installed in 1979. Both installations still remain as anchors within the ever changing urban landscapes and neighborhoods of Manhattan.


The Chinati Foundation is located on 340 acres of land on the site of former Fort D.A. Russell in Marfa, Texas. Construction and installation at the site began in 1979 with initial assistance from Dia in New York.

“The art and architecture of the past that we know is that which remains. The best is that which remains where it was painted, placed or built.  Most of the art of the past that could be moved was taken by conquerors. Almost all recent art is conquered as soon as it’s made, since it’s first shown for sale and once sold is exhibited as foreign in the alien museums. The public has no idea of art other than that it is something portable that can be bought. There is no constructive effort; there is no cooperative effort. This situation is primitive in relation to a few earlier and better times.” *

Roni Horn’s pair of two identical truncated solid copper cones that are 35 inches long, tapering from a diameter of 17 inches to 12 inches were placed by the artist together with Donald Judd. The pair is part of a 1988 suite consisting of four sets of paired, solid copper forms, each hand-lathed to duplicate mechanical identity. The entire suite is titled Things That Happen Again.


Looking at both components at the same time, the viewer sees in the element at the end of the space that part which is invisible to him of the near-by object, completing the set while scanning the room. The object, as one comes upon it, tapers away into space as it presses down onto the floor (through its shape and own weight). It is far more a repetition than an architectural work could ever be, using the mobility of the sculptural object to orient the body in such a way as to generalize the effect of the room itself.  At the same time there is an inherent instability within the space, centerless and sensible to the desire to move the objects out of balance.

“Art and architecture – all the arts – do not have to exist in isolation, as they do now. This fault is very much a key to the present society. Architecture is nearly gone, but it, art, all of the arts, in fact all parts of the society, have to be rejoined, and joined more than they have ever been. This would be democratic in a good sense, unlike the present increasing fragmentation into separate but equal categories, equal within the arts, but inferior to the powerful bureaucracies.” *

Knowing that these works are installed with such permanence at a remote location in Texas will allow me to walk more easily the aisles of the next mammoth Art Fair.

* All quotes are by Donald Judd, from the Chinati Foundation catalogue and Statement for the Chinati Foundation/La Fundacion Chinati by Donald Judd

Please refer for further information to the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas
Photographs are courtesy of the Chinati Foundation, Dia Foundation, and Essem.W


CSH #21 Still Breathes Informal Lifestyle

by Claudia Dias on July 17, 2009

Julius Shulman‘s world-famous photographs of the Case Study House #21 (1959) try to convince us that nothing must change, that perfection is here to stay.
Shulman (1910-2009) captured this special area of post-war progressive American architecture with his own seductive lens-eye view, and these images will linger with us forever. In a way, his  iconic moments of flawlessness are intimidating.


The Bailey House (CSH #21) has seen several new owners since it was commissioned to Pierre Koenig in 1957 as a single-family house by Walter and Maria Bailey. It is extremely compact (30′ x 40′), designed with an open-plan layout. Flexibility through sliding doors, the CSH #21 reminds me of a traditional Japanese house, where exterior merges with the interior with help of large movable glass-wall panels and a center courtyard that radiates pioneering intelligence and detailed finesse in all its complexity.

Even technical aspects were integrated into style. Originally there was no air conditioning installed. The average temperature was much lower at the time of construction. The cooling system of the house then are surrounding reflective (shallow) pools, a center courtyard with a water fountain and cold water cooling tubes which are run across the roof, emptying from water spouts into the pool and then are pumped-up again as part of a recirculation system. In the late afternoon the Santa Ana winds pick up in the Hollywood Hills, which enables cross- ventilation, blowing the cooler courtyard air into the house through the wide window openings. There are mosquito-screens in front of the window elements. The wall-sized sliding screen panels both protect from insects and sun, adding to the facade a shoji-esque layered light-play.


CSH #21 was constructed as part of introducing the International Style with steel, large glass elements and the newest appliances into domestic architecture after WWII. Unfortunately it did not catch on beyond the kitchen. Reyner Banham called it ‘the style that nearly‘ was: despite its (and CSH #22‘s) fame, it only proved that ‘the ingrained prejudices of the construction industry were difficult to dislodge.’
What makes the house so special are its intelligent solutions from sliding doors for closing-off the private areas; the inner courtyard to which the bathroom door-panels open up and where you can take a shower being hidden and outdoors; the kitchen that offers 3 refrigerators/freezers, but installed on eye level, meaning you never have to bend down to look for your groceries. The integrated pharmacy drawer and hidden closet door behind the kitchen (in Shulman’s photograph just across from where Pierre Koenig is standing at the music credenza) are some examples that contribute to this masterstroke.


Meanwhile, the house outlived its designer. Shulman’s pictures however remain frozen time capsules: just as we have difficulties watching actors age in real life we want to see this iconic house preserved in its pristine condition forever. 1998 the house got a final facelift by Pierre Koenig, who actually made changes to kitchen appliances and the kitchen color (it is now stainless steel, no longer yellow) and added air-conditioning and Cable TV. Koenig always perceived the kitchen as a place where technology will surpass one day his choices, and designed it for this purpose adjustable for ‘up-grades’.

The original living room furniture where designed by Pierre Koenig and McCabe, was referred to by some as lower-quality furniture (vinyl covered foam sofa, office chair, plastic laminated plywood bureau, i.e.) since the money had been spent on the building’s shell. I found a copy of the original music credenza (see Shulman’s picture again) and also a model of the vinyl sofa for an astronomical price. As much as Shulman’s images tempt to recreate that one perfect moment, I believe the house has to live with its new owners and their personal style, and living habits. When refurnishing the CSH for its new owner I realized that as long as I kept alive the concept of the house – respecting the ‘free flow of space‘, the play with inside-outside, lightness and openness, and its unconventionality of the moment then, – it will keep breathing. Aging with grace is here the challenge.


I will never forget the moments I spent in this house. When the gaze of a beautiful wild Coyote (coming down from the mountains in search for water) woke me up at sunrise with only the window between us, was proof enough that the concept of this house is still alive and still valid. This was not a Shulman moment. This was unexpected!

Julius Shulman died  July 15, 2009.

Contemporary photographs are courtesy of the author. For Julius Shulman photographs please contact R Gallery.



by Claudia Dias on July 15, 2009

Two very large circular structures, one pointing towards the sky and one into the ground look for the visible and invisible Red-Shift. They have two very different starting points but both  are in the  search for mankind’s place in the Universe.
The Arecibo Observatory on the island of Puerto Rico is the site of the world’s largest single-unit radio telescope, observes radio waves, the part of the electromagnetic spectrum invisible to the human eye.  The other is James Turrell’s Roden Crater observatory.

roden-crator-extAfter James Turrell  bought the 400,000 year-old Roden Crater in 1979 , a 2 mile-wide volcanic crater on the edge of the Painted Desert in northern Arizona, he started to turn it into an observatory with several separate spaces, that will allow the visitor (probably in 2011) to follow celestial phenomena with their naked eye.
‘I also wanted to gather starlight that was from outside, light that’s not only from outside the planetary system which would be from the sun or reflected off of the moon or a planet, but also to emanate light from the galactic planes where you’ve got this older light that’s away from the light even of our galaxy. So that is light that would be at least three and a half billion years old. So you’re gathering light that’s older than our solar system. And it’s possible to gather that light, it takes a good bit of stars to do that, and a good look into older skies, away from the Milky Way. You can gather that light and physically have that in place so that it’s physically present to feel this old light. Now that’s a blended light, of course, but it’s also red-shifted, so it’s a different tone of light than we’re normally used to.’

roden-crator-interior-wIn his hour-glass-like crater, Turrell is working with that tiny fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum, called light, which comes in many shades.
‘Certainly when people describe near death experiences, they use a vocabulary of light. And also when we have dreams, a lucid dream that’s in this color, that really is I think quite, quite astonishing. (..) We think of color as a thing that we’re receiving. And if you go into one of the sky spaces, you can see that it’s possible to change the color of the sky. Now, I obviously don’t change the color of the sky, but I changed the context of vision. This is very similar to simultaneous contrast, where you see a yellow dot on a blue field, versus the yellow dot on a red field. Same yellow dot will be seen as two different colors. … So there isn’t something out there that we perceive, we are actually creating this vision, and that we are responsible for it is something we’re rather unaware of.’

Built in 1963, the 1000-feet spherical reflector of the Arecibo Observatory performs red-shift surveys. The reflector consists of perforated aluminum panels, focusing incoming radio waves on to movable antenna structures 550-feet above the reflector’s surface.Currently a grand-scale sky survey managed by Cornell University is in search for yet-undiscovered pulsars or ultra-fast spinning neutron stars. Radio pulsars are rapidly spinning neutron stars that emit a lighthouse-like beam of radio waves that sweeps past the Earth as frequently as 600 times per second.

Vasto Slipher was the first to discover galactic red-shifts around 1912. In the widely accepted cosmological model based on general relativity, redshift is mainly a result of the expansion of space: this means that the farther away a galaxy is from us, the more the space has expanded in the time since the light left that galaxy, so the more the wavelength of  the light has been stretched, the more redshifted the light is, and the faster it appears to be moving away from us. The luminous point-like cores of quasars were the first “high-redshift” objects discovered before the improvement of telescopes allowed for the discovery of the Great Wall, a vast supercluster of galaxies over 500 million light-years wide which provides a dramatic example of a large-scale structure that redshift surveys can detect.
The largest observed redshift, corresponding to the greatest distance and furthest back in time, is that of the cosmic microwave background radiation; and it shows the state of the Universe about 13.7 billion years ago, and 379,000 years after the initial moments of the Big Bang.

crater_pulsar-w‘I also want to say that the senses and gratification through the senses, while it can direct you toward the spiritual, is also something that will hold you from it fully. That’s the limits of art, and so I don’t think that art is terribly spiritual, but it’s something that can be along that way, be a gesture toward that,’ says Turrell about his art-work.
Meanwhile astronomers try to determine if the universe is expanding in an accelerated pace or if it is possible re-collapsing into a Big Crunch. I definitely want to visit both places!


Own Your Own Bucky

by Claudia Dias on July 9, 2009

Ephemeralization‘, one of R. Buckminster Fuller’s theories shows how to approach the serious purpose of design, as opposed to the triviality of mere styling, in his own words, with ‘applying the principles of science to solving the problems of humanity.’ 
Although his work is based on the concept of mass-production (ca. 300,000 geodesic domes based on his patent where erected between 1954-1983 world wide), Buckminster Fuller’s smaller works have reached collectable value and can be acquired in some US galleries (some as secondary market).


Setting up an exhibition with Buckminster Fuller prints and collapsable models last year for Sebastian+Barquet Gallery (NY) at the DesignArt London fair, I was surprised how Fuller’s work was still being ignored and was completely unrecognized compared to his European contemporary colleagues. Carl Solway Gallery in Cincinnati started collaborating with Fuller in 1972, issuing limited editions of the Dymaxion World Map, collapsable models and sculptures,  a two-hull rowing shell (catamaran in an edition of 100) and a portfolio with 13 screenprinted sheets of Fuller’s inventions.

DYMAXION AIR OCEAN WORLD MAP, 1980 (Signed edition of 85). The Dymaxion Air-Ocean World Map designed and patented by Buckminster Fuller is the first in the history of cartography to show the whole surface of the Earth with no visible distortion of the relative size and shape of the land and sea areas and no breaks in the continental contours. 


WATERCRAFT—ROWING NEEDLES: United States Patent Office no.3,524,422, filed March 28,1968, serial no. 716,957, granted August 18, 1970. During his lifetime, only four examples of Fuller’s patent were fabricated. The first two examples had round aluminum hulls. Determining that V-shaped hulls would be more efficient, the final two prototype examples were made with fiberglass hulls. This also further reduced the weight, a primary objective in every Fuller designed structure. Each bow and stern end is socket-assembled in lengths of light aluminum tube. The oarsman sits in a light plastic nacelle and the width can be adjusted to suit. Unique advantage of the catamaran form is stability: lone oarsman can climb back aboard without additional help.


‘MONOHEX’ or ‘Fly’s Eye’ dome: UnitedStates Patent Office no. 3,197,927, filed December 19, 1961, serial no. 160,450, granted August 3, 1965. First patented in 1965 was a method of reducing the structural weight – and thus the cost – of a simple dwelling to the lowest possible level. Fuller developed it in various materials including steel, aluminum, and fiber glass until 1978. Constructed from nestable, single-shape component, when assembled formed a 5/8 geodesic sphere. It represented the last and simplest of all Fuller’s approaches to mass-production low-cost housing. Additionally, 3/4 of the dome’s surface constituted of 7′ diameter circular openings which served as doors, windows, mounts for solar collectors and wind-driven air turbines, etc. All rainwater feeds into the dome’s watercourse cistern system.

Next to original sketches, photographs and the catamaran, Max Protech‘s gallery in New York showed the original Buckminster Fuller Fly’s-Eye dome, which was made of 50 fiberglass sections, weighs a total of 3,500 lbs, is 24ft in height, and is assembled by hand with approximately 1,050 stainless steel bolts.  This prototype was fabricated in California in 1976/77, and is the only 24’ dome Fuller produced. 

monohex-w1The more I get into R. Buckminster Fuller’s work, the more the modern movement of 20th century European architects (like Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe) starts looking like a fraction of the radical modern concept envisioned and partially built by Fuller. The two words, ‘Synergy‘ and ‘Design Science‘ stand out, suggesting that there can be still individual feats of design even with the bewildering speed of technological advance which gives a limited shelf-life to even the finest manufactures. This is because scientific and technical development is continuous, and every single design must eventually vacate in favor of something cheaper and better, or become part of another composite element, incorporated into a greater whole.


Please refer to the Galleries for inquiries and prices.
Carl Solway Gallery
424 Findlay Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45214, Tel.+1 513 621 0069

Max Protech
511 W 22nd St, New York, NY 1001, Tel +1 212 633 6999

Sebastian + Barquet
601 W 26th St, New York, NY 10011, Tel +1 212 488 2245


‘More For Less’

by Claudia Dias on July 8, 2009

In use since 1956 many of the radome-geodesic structures, referred to as ‘Golfballs,’ were conceived by Buckminster Fuller.  Many are still in service. After having failed to introduce his radical concept of the Dymaxion House (from 1927/29!), which was ‘a hexagonal ring of dwelling-space, walled in double skins of plastic in different transparencies according to lighting needs, and hung by wires from the apex of a central duralumin mast which also housed all the mechanical services’, Buckminster Fuller turned with his Dome concepts to the US military, after he discovered a way to construct the type of ‘minimum structure/maximum volume’ enclosure that he believed was necessary to defeat the old economy of scarcity and exploitation in the real world.


Fuller submitted his most important patent application on Dec 12th 1951 to the United States patent office on the geodesic dome: “My invention relates to a framework for enclosing space. A good index to the performance of any building frame is the structural weight required to shelter a square foot of floor from the weather. In conventional wall and roof designs the figure is often 2500 kg/square meter. I have discovered how to do the job at around 4 kg per square meter by constructing a frame of generally spherical form in which the main structural elements are interconnected in a geodesic pattern of approximately great circle arcs intersecting to form a three-way grid, and covering or lining this frame with a skin of plastic material.


In 1949 Fuller formed a private company called ‘Geodesics Inc.‘ with him as president and a second one ‘Synergetics Inc.’ with Shoji Sadao in 1954. After his patent was granted in 1954 Fuller received royalties on all the geodesic domes built under it for the next 17 years until the patent’s expiration. Radomes for the Army and the Air Force proved an important market for Fuller’s geodesics. Often sited at high altitude and in inaccessible regions, the standard structure he proposed was a 16.5 meter diameter 75 percent non-metallic sphere made of diamond-shaped fiber glass components that could be delivered by helicopter in kit form to the most difficult places and erected in 14 hours. 


Although Buckminster Fuller was only credited very late in his life for his accomplishments (and never really by architectural critics except Reyner Banham), none equalled the posthumous christening of a virtually indestructible carbon atom with his name in 1985. One of earth’s most common substances probably occurs even in the gas clouds between the stars, which the discoverers dubbed ‘Buckminsterfullerene‘, after its pattern of hexagons and pentagons made familiar by the shape of he geodesic dome.

Today, Buckminster Fuller’s importance is being rediscovered and smaller domes, models, maps and drawings are sold in New York’s established galleries.

Photographs are courtesy of Buckminster Fuller Institute and Martin Pawley.

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‘ECHELON For Beginners’ On Ascension Island

by Claudia Dias on July 7, 2009

Since the rise of the mobile telephone we grew familiar with the sight of antennas, even in cities, those giant, nearly weightless structures, which only have to withstand weather and their own weight. A panoply of different antenna-structures cover most of Ascension Island’s surface, a tiny British colony in the middle of the South Atlantic. On a background of volcanic ashes a assortment from wire versions to delicate cones or spirals were installed by Echelon, and later documented by Simon Norfolk

sn_echelon1-wright: BBC World Service Relay Station at English Bay

Simon Norfolk explains how these most elegant and fragile looking structures aggressively tab into our daily lives:
ECHELON is a global, computerized electronic surveillance system. (…) The system works by indiscriminately intercepting truly enormous quantities of communications and using computers to identify and extract messages of interest from he mass of unwanted ones, then sorting them for more detailed analysis later. (…) The command center for this spider’s web is the National Security Agency (NSA) HQ at Fort Meade, Maryland. GCHQ at Chaltenham in the UK is the co-ordinateng center for Europe.’

BBC World Service Relay Station at English Bay

‘Data is collected by satellite interception, aerial arrays at strategic places and the direct tapping on underground and submarine cables . Computer manufacturers have ’back-doors‘ into the system software to allow the NSA to read everything on your computer. (…) One of the few places ECHELON can be seen or pictures is Ascension Island. In places, hills of ash have been leveled at the tops to allow the positioning of radomes and tracking devices.’

‘Warfare is becoming increasingly intangible. It is a paradox that whilst ‘rolling news’ and ‘embedded journalists,’ saturate us with the show-biz of war, when the really interesting developments: submarine warfare, space weapons, electronic warfare and electronic eavesdropping are essentially invisible.’

right: Electronic eavesdropping equipment at One Boat, owned by a partner of GCHQ spy services

Quotes by Simon Norfolk

Ascension Island: the Panopticon (ECHELON for beginners)
Photographs courtesy of the artist.

Please refer to the artist for inquiries.


Tiny Crack In A World Of Secrets

by Claudia Dias on July 3, 2009

Last year I saw that the most serene and breathtaking landscapes in the America hide launch bases for missiles and rockets. Photographer Simon Norfolk worked several years on ‘sights whose boundless beauty is countervailed by feelings of fearfulness and powerlessness‘ and put my ambivalence and fascination with the precision-obsessed rocket industry into another perspective.

Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA: Interior of a preserved Titan 2 nuclear missile launch complex. Looking down the 160′ deep silo which would have contained a ‘ready to launch’ missile. The final Titan nuclear missile was decommissioned in 1987 / Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, March 2008: Launch of a Delta II rocket carrying a USAF GPS 2 satellite.

‘The bewildering beauty of what human ingenuity can achieve when given endless resources collides with the appalling disposal of those assets on new and more brilliant ways to kill people. Nowhere is this clearer that what I call the Military Sublime – for example the nuclear missiles and satellite launches pictured here.’

But there is one moment in their lives when they advertise their existence with a ground-trembling exuberant din that lights the night skies like a second sunset: the 45 seconds or so it takes for them to lift from their launch pads and disappear thousands of miles downrange, way up high. The leaping into the void is what I’ve chosen to concentrate on; this tiny (photographable) crack in a world of secrets.’

sn_sublime-rocketrySaturn V rocket engine / Wallos Island Flight Facility, Virginia: The emergency destruction, 27 seconds from launch, of an ALV-X1 rocket carrying NASA experiments and classified US Navy satellites.

‘Satellites and missiles are born in worlds of utter secrecy – in skunkworks  and shady research facilities. They are launched from closed military bases – and live out their lives in the soundless dark of deep space, silently listening and processing. 

‘(..) the purpose of all this sublime technology (down here in the sub-luminary world) is to sharpen the knife: to finesse America’s ability to find, follow and kill its enemies.’ 

Quoted from Simon Norfolk.


Full Spectrum Dominance: Missiles, Rockets, Satellites in America, 2008
Photographs courtesy of the artist.

Please refer to the artist for inquiries.


Invisible Structures

by Claudia Dias on July 2, 2009

The photographer Simon Norfolk is one of a handful of people who received permission to experience the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland during its final stages of construction. The LHC opened this year but had to be shut down temporarily for repairs to its superconducting magnets. 


Simon Norfolk’s images were commissioned for an article in the New York Times, but they linger on in my mind. They are testimony of one of a few invisible structures, in this case a ring collider, which possibly might be the window to our understanding of the fundamental building blocks of the universe in its very first moments of existence.

The LHC at ‘CERN is the largest experiment – the largest gathering of knowledge – in the history of mankind, larger even than the Apollo moon mission. In an explosion of all notions of scale, thousand of scientists are lowering hundreds of tons of equipment into the (570 feet / 175 meters) deep underground cavern in order to examine the most microscopic particles (..): ‘dark matter’, ‘God particles’, ‘muons’, ‘tau neutrinos’, (..) its main target is the 95% of matter in the universe that the theories say must exist, yet is invisible and undiscovered.’


‘(..) I was amazed that it resembled the view one has bending one’s neck back and looking up into the cupola of an English cathedral (..). In vast, columned chambers, the blades of the LHC were being assembled in an atmosphere of methodical, industrial piety. But when I made the final prints, they seemed to resemble crop circles or Tibetan mandalas.

The LHC with its 17 miles (27 km) circumference is the shrunken version of the older Superconducting Super Collider (SSC), which after 1/3 of completion in Waxahachie, Texas got decommissioned in 1993 and since then its existing 14.6 miles (23.5 km) of tunnel and 17 shafts of what should have become a 54 miles (87 km) ring accelerator have been slowly filling up with water. In 2003 Trace Life Science from Texas bought the SSC’s magnets, which originally were meant to detect the Higgs boson, but now are used for radioisotopes, medical imaging and radiation therapy.


The concept and the name for a hypothetical future collider already exists: the Very Large Hadron Collider (VLHC) with performance way beyond the LHC. No schedule or plan for the VLHC exist yet; at this point it is only discussed on the basis of technological feasibility and the accelerator’s possible design.
In 2010, however, the International Linear Collider (ILC) is planned to be completed, meant for more accurate precision measurements of particles, which might still be discovered at the LHC. Let’s hope the LHC will start up soon again and resume calibrating and discovering the unseen.

Quoted from  Simon Norfolk.


The LHC: The Spirit of Enquiry, 2007
Photographs of the LHC courtesy of the artist and Bonnie Benrubi Gallery.

Please refer to the Gallery for inquiries and prices.

Bonnie Benrubi Gallery
41 East 57th Street 13th Floor, New York, NY 10022, Tel +1 212 888 6007

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Beate Gütschow’s Chilling Utopias

by Claudia Dias on June 25, 2009

Beate Gütschow’s photographs irritate. In her “S” series which stands for City (“Stadt”), Beate Gütschow’s newly conceived utopias live off their contradictions. Within montages of her analog black/white photographs she creates utopias of disassembled visions, where architectural symbolic language has been overwritten and all but eliminated, where the master-plan has been diminished to a random collection of unrelated objects, to a post-war city scenario. 


While using collage as her technique it seems to me that in the end, removal  is the larger effort of composing the photographs. Erasing the symbolism, erasing the people, erasing a the idea of a city, erasing the moment, erasing time. All we see are traces of a society gone empty, at a time when cities like Chandigarh and Brasilia are starting to crumble and parts of them (lamps and library tables etc.) are being auctioned off and sold on the art market, as a testimony of a failed idea.


‘Typically I shoot the source material myself, using analog cameras. I digitize and archive the photographs. and from this store I draw the images for my final pictures. In Photoshop I build new composites, which are at first glance realistic.’ 

‘Architecture sets a timeframe that reveals to the viewer when the photo was taken. Due to the fact that certain buildings are missing (e.g., the Twin Towers) there is an »afterwards«. Or through the presence of certain stylistic elements there is an »already«. In my pictures there is no uniform time of shooting. The source material was shot at different times and places. In the montage, I detach the source photo from the time and place of shooting.’


‘(…) Some of the source materials I’ve drawn from—the overturned cars in S#10, for example—are from images taken during the first Iraq War. You remember the freeway to Baghdad that was bombed, and left strewn with cars? I think over a thousand people died in that inferno. In the original images, you can see bodies, burned people. I chose not to use them. It would be a totally different work if I decided to explore that theme.’

‘I think that architecture is always an expression of society and I believe that this is what my works are about: Precisely by collecting photos from different countries I produce a summarisation of what modernism has been. Perhaps a form of modernism that lies fifty years back, while we are already much further (in the future?). Modernism is disintegrating, it has not worked, and is now nothing more than a sort of shelter.’

Quotes are from conversation with Beate Gütschow


Beate Gütschow  @ Sonnabend Gallery (May 2nd-July 31st, 2009)

Photographs shown on this post are courtesy of  Beate Gütschow‘s website: S#33 2009, S#32, 2009, S#29 2008, S#24 2007, S#31 2009 .

Please refer to the Gallery for inquiries and prices.

Sonnabend Gallery
536 W 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011, Tel +1 212 627 1018