Alex Hartley reveals a new way of experiencing our built environment in ‘The world is still big’
Above Waiting for Daylight to End (Kaczynski’s Cabin), 2011. Constructed mixed media on C-type photograph, 150 x 120 x 5 cm. (©Alex Hartley/Courtesy of the Victoria Miro Gallery).
Primarily working with photography which he combines with sculpture and installation, London based artist Alex Hartley addresses the complicated, and at times contradictory attitudes towards the built environment. Whilst our encounters and views of the built environment are grounded by ‘conventions and expectations,’ Hartley reveals to the viewer new ways of experiencing and thinking about the ‘constructed world’ we inhabit, in The world is still big, at London’s Victoria Miro Gallery.
In his large-scale sculptural photographic compositions, room-sized architectural installations and, more recently, unique photographic works with sculptural elements inserted as low-relief into the surface of the photographic print, he investigates modern architecture, and the ways in which it is conceived and presented; often destabilising our ideas of ‘iconic’ architecture.
These works to not reflect upon the idealised case study houses so familiar of architecture, but instead the architectural emblems represented by the counter culture movement, which includes the iconic Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome. In The world is still big, he references the 1960s experimental artists’ community, and first rural hippie commune, Drop City, situated in Colorado: an early adopter of geodesic dome architecture; ‘constructions that reflected the aspirations of a group of radical artists and filmmakers to create a live-in work of art. What resulted was the most famous countercultural experiment in communal living of the decade. Yet, for all its forward-thinking aspirations, Drop City was disbanded less than ten years later.’
On the garden terrace of the Victoria Miro Gallery, Hartley has reconstructed his own Drop City dome — ‘rusted, aged and out of time’ — which he will inhabit throughout the duration of the exhibition. Whilst nineteen new and unique photographs, each with an intricately detailed architectural model, embedded directly into the surface of the photographic print, form a unique approach to the photograph; presenting a narratives which alludes to the ‘creation of something which has turned against us and become uninhabitable, rather than as intended sanctuary from the outside world.’
The world is still big, is at the Victoria Miro Gallery until 21 January 2012.