Bernice Donszelmann, Mary Maclean, Tim Renshaw Stephen Lawrence Gallery, University of Greenwich, February-March, 2009
Outside Architecture is a curatorial project involving three artists and three different forms of practice- painting, photography and installation- that in different ways take architecture as its subject matter. The exhibition is conceived of as an ensemble piece. Looked at separately the working methods of the three artists are very disparate, connected only by a concern with what has been referred to as the environment of the non-place. The role of the exhibition, then, is to create a stage where shared perspectives might converge, be fleshed out and developed in situ and in dialogue with the site itself. In the different kinds of overlaps and connections, whether physical, visual or conceptual, the exhibition aims to look at how the work of installation itself can constitute a form of architectural construction.
The exhibition title refers, firstly, to the fact that the work is conceived and made outside of the discipline and protocols of architecture. What does it mean to examine or engage with architecture from a viewpoint outside of the field? Do art practices have a vantage point from which to reflect upon modes of occupation? And in its materials and techniques do they possess means of recovering latent tendencies in what might otherwise be blank, generic or traceless spaces?
The title also refers to spaces other than those planned or intended by an architect. The building in which the Stephen Lawrence Gallery is housed is part of the historic Greenwich site built by Christopher Wren and one of the interest of this site is in how the original architecture has been transformed by its current institutional context. The architectural historian Robin Evan’s observes that from the 17th century onwards the strict distinction between an architecture of views and an architecture of contained functional and domestic spaces “…cut an unbridgeable gap dividing commodity from delight, utility from beauty, and function from form.” His observation is particularly apt in this context where the tension between aesthetics and institutional function is attenuated across the whole of the site. It also provides a context for one of the other critical questions of the project. While the question of beauty is not a direct concern here, the issue of aesthetics- in the sense of sensory, corporeal experience- is a concern. The exhibition as a whole aims to address the question of how aesthetics within the domain of the functional and the mundane contributes to the practiced experience of space.