oma/amo & the spectacle of failures

In a world of perfection and appearances, we become more and more eager to peep at failures. Specially, we enjoy finding out that celebrities and myths also belong to our everyday realm. With irony, sense of humor and a great dose of Dutch transparency, emergent Rotor collective has just curated the work of OMA/AMO for barbican under the title Progress. But far from being a standard show of chronologically ordered fetishized projects, we are delighted with a labyrinth of things that could conventionally been regarded as failures. They are however celebrated here as part of a successful trajectory to generate spaces. Walls are recycled from former shows without repainting; everyday objects are shamelessly displayed with a honest attitude towards the audience.

Tired as we are of overabundance of glamorous and glossy representations of OMA/AMO’s projects, this exhibition provides a representation of reality through images mediated by failures. Hidden stories from processes of building a building are rescued; politically incorrect tricks behind-the-scenes are simply revealed. Therefore, labels underneath every piece of work become even more important than the physical work itself. This exhibition of exhibits resembles a cabinet of curiosities compiled by some enlightened collector; but every item is here for a specific reason. Thus, they make a close connection between the visitor’s experience and the everyday reality at OMA/AMO.

Rotor collective debuted in Venice Biennale 2010 with a brilliant exhibition on users wearing out building materials and leaving trace evidence (Usus/Usures):

As a trace of use, wear reminds us that most of the time other users have gone before us, and still more will follow. In some cases, wear even provides a valuable clue as to the nature of these uses. In this sense, traces of wear play a vital part in our ability to read our environment and, by extension, appreciate it. […] Wear is always about situations.

One of their most relevant study cases when tracing back how building environment mutates was their photograph Blue Limestone Plinth (Brussels, 2010). It automatically unveiled how an area of the city was informally used:

The traces of wear on the plinth shown in this picture reveal the activity of prostitutes leaning against it, on a strategic corner in the centre of Brussels. The darkest marks show a polishing of the stone’s surface by different parts of the women’s bodies, while the lighter marks are scratches caused by their high heels. An analysis of the different traces of wear on the entire wall reveal the most popular spots, either because they are in full view of the street or because they offer slight protection from the rain.

This approach to architecture is what made them been commissioned for a similar curatorial concept. The unusual tandem at barbican composed of a curator that is not a great fan of the curated has made the collaboration even more thrilling. In words of Rem Koolhaas: This exhibition was a risk for us and we multiplied the risk by suggesting Rotor for curating it.

In addition, and following OMA/AMO’s current research on Preservation, the exhibition has opened up the Gallery West Entrance for the first time in history after completion of the building. A dead end has been turned into a public path, where pedestrians are allowed to see (only) part of the show free of charge.

[images 1-13> OMA/Progress, Curated by Rotor. barbican art gallery London 6/10/11-19/2/12. By deconcrete2011] [14> Blue Limestone Plinth by Rotor 2010]










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