Small Worlds, Handcrafted and Photographed
November 14, 2011
With the rise of virtual CAD/CAM protocols (“tooling”), architecture has, for the most part, deserted its analog heritage for the promises and exuberant displays of digitalia. The work of artist Frank Kunert, along with that of his contemporaries, struggles against this positivism by presenting alternative worlds wherein impossible structures and imaginary environments attain a haptic quality utterly lacking in these new virtual architectures. More after the break!
Through the artist’s manic attention to detail, Kunert’s miniatures authentically construct and simulate the structures and spaces they portray. The artist goes to great lengths–working months at a time on a single model–to ensure the work’s realism: the models exists in physical space, casting shadows on the dirty road below them, and obey the laws of gravity, with precarious cantilevers accounted for by accurate structural design. A crack in a concrete wall, a drawn curtain in a bedroom window, or the wood grain of an old television set–probably the one that sat in the living room of your childhood home–all trigger memories in the viewer which lend to their physicality.
At first, Kunert’s methods may invite criticism, faulting the product for its nostalgia for the historical role of the artist and the traditional methods which define him/her. Yet, Kunert is well aware of the critical game he is playing, pointedly calling the viewer’s attention to the work’s artificiality. His ”constructed” photography here devolves into a kind of “magical realism,” whereby the precise recreations of physical structures are subverted by playful narratives, such as a subway track elevated into the stratosphere amid the clouds, ostensibly awaiting the arrival of a commuter plane.
The fact that Kunert photographs his models after they’re completed only heightens the effect. Whereas digital capabilities have produced an academic and professional culture where the virtual image has eclipsed the material product, the artist’s concerns reside with a renewed engagement with the tangible, and in making it possible again to dream in architecture.