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City of Memes
Group Caught Smirking as Architecture Plans are Unveiled
In the world of hypothetical New Orleans architecture, the self is lifted up, loitering is a prized right, and and a grocery store could be wherever you need it.
So, at least two out of three ideas are close to reality.
While simultaneously facing facts and casting a hopeful eye to the future, the Hypothetical Development Organization introduces projects for the city that are so perfect that they would never work.
Using architectural renderings and just enough sneer, the group communicates the peculiar hopelessness -- whether in bloat of physical size or vision -- that seems to inhabit highly-touted developments everywhere.
Still in its nascency, the project currently has four renderings to its name. But more are planned, and so, too, is a gallery show in April at Freret Street's DuMois Gallery. The renderings are also currently popping up on abandoned buildings around town, bringing the "joke" to another level.
Since every conceptualization needs a concept behind it, here's that story: Rob Walker, a journalist and author (“Letters from New Orleans”), and Ellen Susan, a photographer, live in Savannah, Ga. Near the couple's house is a vacant gas station.
Proposals kept appearing on the building for its redevelopment. But, the renderings were never turned into reality.
“At some point Rob made the point that all of these things were sort of Hypothetical,” Susan said. “And as long as they weren't really going to happen, we might as well propose things that, though impossible, were entertaining to imagine.”
The idea became reality upon successful contact with GK Darby, the man behind Garrett County Press, and a co-founder of the New Orleans Bookfair.
With connections to the street art community and actual physical presence in New Orleans, Darby was instantly chosen as the group's man-on-the-ground. The group also raised money raised via Kickstarter.com, bringing things up to last Friday night.
On that night, the renderings were on view to the public at a loft above Beckham's Book Shop in the French Quarter. A short loop of the space revealed the group's current output.
The Museum of the Self is perhaps the most smug of the current offerings. Made entirely of mirrors, Dave Pinter's “proposed” building is a monument to “the most important figure of our time.” A giant thumb in the skyward direction stands as a symbol of the gratification derived from online interaction with “abstract strangers.”
Other proposals take aim at more localized customs.
The N.O. Loitering Center takes aim at the city's favorite pastime. Depicting a prostitute, a family gathering, and the inevitable guy looking sketchy, the rendering by Mark Clayton points out all of the things that happen during the act of standing still.
For a third proposal, Mobile Cornucopia, artist-about-sidewalk Candy Chang envisions Mr. Okra's truck on steroids – or spinach. The rendering shows a grocery truck on wheels, able to drive wherever food is needed.
A fourth plan, by Kristen Hively, takes aim at exclusivity, proposing a shop that manufactures the very symbol of uppity – the velvet rope. It envisions a velvet rope maker that is the envy of all others.
In these four renderings, the implausibility of the idea is the vehicle through which to view solution. “We hope that upon discovering these things, viewers will find pleasure in the absurdity of the ideas, and reflect on the absurdity inherent in many actual real estate development proposals,” Susan said.
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B. E. Mintz
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