Monday, April 28, 2008

Dan Graham


Dan Graham, originally uploaded by BobSingleton.

The issue of redevelopment and the changing the character of urban space is not restricted to Blackburn or indeed England and a number of conceptual artists have addressed the matter. One worthy of note in connection with this particular project is Dan Graham an American whose project "Homes in America" was exhibited a number of years ago.

It is pertinent to quote here because when interviewed he discussed the changes in character using parts of Manhattan to illustration his points and I find this particularly easy to relate to since I have only recently returned from Manhattan and seen the development on 7th Ave and at South Street Seaport he refers to. The following is an extract from the interview.

Doroshenko: Do you feel there is a right or wrong way to understand your recent works?

Graham: Yes. The newest projects deal with architecture, urban space and power.

Doroshenko: Power?

Graham: The way corporations are changing the urban landscape of New York and the continued suburbanization of high traffic pedestrian locations.

Doroshenko: So, does the suburbanization of New York continue with the construction of shopping malls such as Pier 17, Trump Tower and Winter Garden over the last ten years?

Graham: Originally, the mall concept was tied into luxury housing, offering suburban convenience in the city. The first mall was South Street Sea Port and later the addition of Pier 17. This project was built as a fake market space, an early 1980s concept of historical restoration. Buildings were rehabed and then leased out to national retail chains and upscale restaurants. It proved to be a financial disaster because our historical curiosity with this fabricated past came to an end. The problem with the South Street area is that it was set up as a major tourist attraction and the community in and around the development suffered in the long run — overcrowding, lack of services and higher real estate costs. What people living in that area want is less tourism and more of a real neighborhood. The same could be said for the other mall projects.

Doroshenko: Whether it's a small strip mall on 7th Avenue or a gigantic multilevel mall at Herald Square, they seem to be changing the urban landscape. Even the airports are mimicking the mall idea.

The idea or perhaps more properly acceptance that there is a homogenisation of the urban landscape and that our high streets are becoming indistinguishable from each other because of the commonality of architectural styles and the predominance of chain retailers and restaurants is something that I must try to bring into my own project. The development in Audley of a retail entertainment/park is an illustration of this point incorporating as it does fake Italian and Mexican restaurants.

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