Tower Ghosts and Swing Shifts
- Corin Sworn: Atmosphere and Architecture
- Access Artist Run Centre, Vancouver
- 7 January to 11 February 2006
Three sequential viewing spaces in Corin Sworn’s exhibition, Atmosphere and Architecture, frame several photographs and a projection installation that consider the gaps and erasures in escalating technologies of perception and the phenomenologies of experience that these sprawling representational systems cannot describe.
Entitled The Toronto Dominion Towers 1969–2005 (2006), the first work in the show merges two photographs of the Toronto Dominion tower complex designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, whose International Style architecture aimed to accentuate functional and technological coherence through the use of exposed structural frameworks and mass-produced building materials (iron, steel, reinforced concrete, and glass). Complicating our view of these structures, Sworn superimposes two exterior shots of the TD complex through a cross-dissolve technique borrowed from film. Each photograph, taken from a different vantage point in 1969 and 2005, is made partially transparent so that the other is visible through it. The 1969 image, taken just following the Towers’ construction, surveys the two skyscrapers from the ground. The other photograph, taken in 2005, overlooks the entire complex from the height of the CN Tower and includes the Commercial Union Tower, a third Mies-designed TD tower that was built in 1974, just following the architect’s death.
The oblique angle produced by Sworn’s superimposed perspectives presents an aporia: its implausible span connects a vanished viewpoint situated on an area of land now usurped by the third tower, with a vista taken above the TD complex from its priapic, camera-friendly vanquisher. While the earlier photograph only faintly registers the significant expanse of lawn space designed to integrate the domain of the towers with street-level Toronto, evoking perhaps the later development of civic bonuses for the corporate accommodation of public amenities, the more recent photograph records the built-up area around the complex and brings to mind shifting conditions of labour under advanced capitalism. Yet, in the composite, neither appears distinct, setting up a representational impasse that confronts architecture’s social claim to present an object for simultaneous collective experience. If, as Walter Benjamin suggests in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936), buildings are appropriated by habitual use and incidental perception, might this subjective mode demur the recording of history Would it emit any symptoms
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About this Article
Tower Ghosts and Swing Shifts was first published in Fillip 3 in Summer 2006. For more articles from this issue, see the Table of Contents.
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