The Center for Architecture’s 02.09.15 Oculus Book Talk celebrated a small and provocative book, Architecture/Astrology. Devised by artists Dan Graham and Mieko Meguro and architect Jessica Russell, this volume compiles a column Graham put forth in Domus magazine from 2010 to 2011. The small black book contains a combination of Graham’s intense and illuminating commentary on architects’ true nature via astrology, Meguro’s absorbing and succinct sketchbook drawings, and Russell’s pointed references to the stars (real, non-architecture stars), which make for a charming bonbon. In the forum of the tOculus Book Talk this cavalcade of energy was extremely entertaining.
AIANY and Center for Architecture Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, started the evening off by divulging his astrological sign, Aquarius, and describing his sign’s personality traits. He was particularly concerned that Aquarians are supposedly “bereft of all humor.” As a fellow Aquarian, I concur that this may not be an accurate portrayal. I, for instance, thought Aquarian Dan Graham was very funny.
Graham’s presentation was enlightening because of his rapid-fire train of thought, however mercurial. No canned concept statements here; he thinks about and makes scholarly connections faster than the speed of light. He began the presentation with three videos of varying degrees of polish. The most interesting was from a recent project, Two-Mirror Hedge Arabesque at the Vegna Foundation in Italy, featuring Graham as the cameraman. In this, you hear him directing visitors to walk through, stand, and pose in various places in the installation. His way of speaking about the materiality of his projects was very interesting. He explained his interest in two-way glass and its references to corporate structures and a society of surveillance.
The rest of the program was a panel discussion with Graham, Meguro, and Russell. Graham again stole the show with his epic knowledge of “Great Architecture.” Russell gently egged him on with provocative comments, such as the fact that only two Americans calculatingly wore capes: Frank Lloyd Wright and Stevie Nicks. Meguro brought a calming air to the free-wheeling conversation. I do wish we could have seen slides of her delightful work, and will make a point of seeking out other volumes of her drawings.
The book itself reminded me of the Le Corbusier’s sketchbook volumes – portable and pleasing. Again, I really responded to Meguro’s drawings of both great buildings and intimate moments between Atelier Bow-Wow’s design partners Yoshihara Tsukamoto and Momoyo Kajima. If I were not so in the spirit of sketches, astrology, and architecture coming together, I would say that Graham’s insights into these great buildings deserve a volume of their own. He is a real aficionado of 20th-century and contemporary buildings, and I would buy that book, too.
The evening will be most memorable for the question and answer session. Russell, with her usual rigor, asked everyone to state their astrological sign prior to asking their questions. I have never wished a Q&A session to last longer – it was a delight. The evening, mirroring the book, was a light touch and refreshing, and reminded all that Aquarians and architects both have a terrific sense of humor.
Annie Coggan is a Principal with Coggan and Crawford Architects, and teaches at the Fashion Institute of Technology and the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
Want more? Watch the Dan Graham’s Oculus Book Talk on Vimeo.
Event: Oculus Book Talk: Architecture/Astrology
Location: Center for Architecture, 02.09.15
Speakers: Dan Graham, Artist, Jessica Russell, Architect, and Mieko Meguro, Artist
Organizers: AIANY Oculus Committee
Oculus Book Seller: McNally Jackson Books