At the Verge of Collapse

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By Tiffany Chu / Published by Dwell
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Artist Tobias Putrih gave a gallery talk at the List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts last week, shedding light on the ideas behind his latest exhibition, Without Out.

Without Out is third in a series of collaborations between Putrih and collective MOS. After meeting at a Buckminster Fuller symposium, Michael Meredith and Putrih decided to work together -- applying their common fascination with Processing (an open-source, parametric programming language) to design and architecture.

L-R: Tobias Putrih and Michael Meredith, photo by Colin Davison

L-R: Tobias Putrih and Michael Meredith, photo by Colin Davison

The core piece of the exhibit, Erosion, is a massive hulk of 2,180 styrofoam bricks, which at first glance seem to be a haphazard aggregation study. Upon further scrutiny (and explanation from the artist), I learned that it was derived from their previous installation at the Baltic Centre of Contemporary Art, Overhang. While Overhang was generated by a Processing-based software that added stacked bricks to maximum protrusion, Erosion is the opposite. As I tiptoed beneath the precarious pile, I could see exactly where the software eroded and dug into the form, subtracting to create negative space. "Instead of exploring architecture as a stable, static entity, this is about the notion of built form at the point precisely before collapse -- that exact moment before ruin, failure," explained Putrih.

Known for his untraditional use of common materials, Putrih showcases smaller sculptures in the other half of the exhibit -- like a series of sketch models done in preparation for the grandiose final review next door. "Each piece expresses two main concepts: modularity and non-fixedness," he stated. Referencing Friedrich Frobel, the inventor of kindergarten, Putrih drew a parallel between his work and developmental psychology theory -- "I think of these as educational and therapeutic, reinforcing the playfulness of the materials."

When I asked about the fate of all the materials after the show is over, gallery educator Mark Linga sang, "We're giving away tons of styrofoam, so...come and get it!"