A flight of fancy

Monday 11 Apr 2011

Composite photographs take flight at Arup's London headquarters

The Muzeum Lotnictwa Polskiego (Polish Aviation Museum), which opened in 2010, was designed by German architect Justus Pysall in collaboration with Peter Ruge, Bartlomiej Kisielewski and Arup. Set in the historic airfield Rakowice-Czyzyny in Krakow, Poland, the museum has a strange, unearthly appearance, its simple geometric forms folding gently at the corners. The austere, grey concrete that drapes heavily over the glass walls gives the building a paradoxically soft appearance, like a giant piece of origami.

The inherent contradiction of this utilitarian yet fragile-looking monument is manipulated by French-Polish artist Nicolas Grospierre in his new series of work, Paper Planes, on display at Arup’s London headquarters. A series of composite photographs depict isolated sections of the museum; in one image the interior walls, in another, the ceiling, in another, the roof etc., which the artist has flattened into abstracted photo-mosaics.

Grospierre’s work is concerned with the malleable border between the disciplines of architecture and photography; in essence, the potential for a large-scale building to become a transient, two-dimensional image, whilst retaining its fundamental form.

The artist pursues this process further through the transformation of the photographic patterns of the Muzeum Lotnictwa Polskiego into three-dimensional paper planes; an echoing reference to both the aviation museum and its historic location, and an homage to the playfully folded shapes of the building’s design. This circulatory process of architectural metamorphosis attempts to deflate the notion that two- and three-dimensional objects are mutually exclusive.

Yet, despite efforts made to engage the audience with the work by inviting visitors to make their own paper planes from small-scale prints (an invitation eagerly accepted by the children at the show), the concept was hindered by the cold, clinical and cramped exhibition space. The private view had less the feel of a fine art exhibition than a celebration of Arup’s work; a notion compounded by the interactive digital installation of its architectural oeuvre, integrated within the photographic work on display.

Bearing in mind the elusive nature of the artist’s work, encapsulated in the title of his recent exhibition, One Thousand Doors, No Exit at the Graham Foundation, Chicago, it would be nice to see Grospierre’s paper poetics in a space more befitting the open-ended, boundary-defying concept of the work itself.

Paper Planes will be on display at Arup’s London office from 31 March – 1 July 2011.

Amy Knight
Arts and Media Correspondent

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