Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner is chiefly remembered for its dystopian setting; most notably for the distinctive architecture of the Ennis House in Los Angeles, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1924. Its so-called ‘textile block’ design of ornamental, Mayan-inspired concrete cubes turn up repeatedly in the film. Indeed, it’s often the reconstruction of a bit of wall from the Ennis House that makes up the backdrop of particular scenes. Dorit Margreiter’s exhibition Broken Sequences takes this procedural tactic as its point of departure, situating itself between architecture and the parameters of its representation.
Bearing Masonry, Concrete Block (1923) (2012) is a large-scale black and white photograph of two pieces of broken masonry. Seen together with another photograph depicting the crumbling façade of the Ennis House (Original Condition (Ennis Brown House, 1924), 2006), however, the picture becomes clear. The fragments in the first photograph, which are also present in the gallery space in the form of a two-part bronze cast (Bearing Masonry, Concrete Block (2014), 2015), are identifiable as fragments from the Ennis House. In the same room the photograph Untitled (Notes) (2015) shows a notebook cover from a Kodak photography course dating from 1923. A reference to the medium in the medium itself, this photograph, through its citation of the year the Ennis House was designed, forms yet another link in the chain. All in all: these are translation processes made visible, from three-dimensional object into two-dimensional representation and back again. These are framing devices whereby contexts are initially eliminated and then added back in, arriving in the end at the sculpture displayed in the exhibition space.
In the video Broken Sequence (2013), architecture is again the protagonist. In a strict sequence, Margreiter uses long, quiet shots to explore the architecture of an abandoned amusement park in Beijing based on a recreation of the Disneyland castle. This, too – the failed reconstruction of a very real reconstruction of cinematic fantasy worlds – is a matryoshka doll: a Western fairy-tale building exported to Asia, a symbol of the reach and charisma of the capitalist dream machine. The images alternate between interior and exterior shots of crumbling façades and rooms. The background ambient noise brings this derelict site back to the present. Today, the ruins serve, among other things, as a secret meeting place for the local LGBT community.
Margreiter’s investigation into shifting states of architecture leads to a confrontation with the effects of this mediation but also to its connection with social spaces. In the process, modern architecture’s utopian promise and its attempt at contributing to the renewal of society, reveal itself to be a ruin. One, however, that can be made newly productive.
Translated by Andrea Scrima