The exhibition includes works by architects, artists and editors, all of which used animated GIFs to present their works related to spatial issues. Animated GIF is medium which is symptom of de-territorialisation when boundaries between time and space are erased. At the same time, it has capacity to document changes in history, to embody progressive architectural concepts and to give critical reflection on social realities. In short, it has capacity to present changes in topography, those smallest changes that can greatly affect living.
The focus of topographic studies spans from the largest features of the surface of the Earth to the smallest ones which are embodying local history and culture. As such, it relates to changes of cities, their growth, shrinking, demolition, greenery. Exhibition Contemporary Topography relates to these smallest units, temporarily extending from demolition of Pruitt Igoe in 1972, over the maps which show ISIS territorial control since January 2014, to the most recent works by architects and artists. Apart from two archival works, the exhibition includes 15 participants, depicting animated GIFs which are in most cases visual segments of their larger projects. The exhibition focuses on this format, because it is between documentary photography and manipulated image, capable of presenting changes of space and at the same time bound to the cyber space.
Geographically, the exhibition turns to Maldives, Mexico, Syria, and cities Berlin, Cairo, Yerevan, St Louis, Rijeka (European Capital of Culture 2020), Novi Sad (European Capital of Culture 2021), Split, Belgrade. Cairo’s Tahrir Square is seen before, during and after the 2011 protests that overthrew Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. These images of public space are juxtaposed within a GIF made by editorial team of Creative Time Reports. Public space as place for demonstration of ideologies and struggle is once again in focus with animated GIF that presents interventions in Peristil, the central square of Diocletian’s palace which after the fall of the Roman Empire became the city Split in Croatia. GIF made by Vizkultura, portal for visual art and culture, illustrates overlapping of Red Peristil (1967), Black Peristil by Igor Grubić (1998), Yellow Peristil that stated how Split is capitalised and monopolised (2009) and Green Peristil when the square was covered with artificial grass by local green movement (2015). Two animated GIFs are specific critiques of urban planning and cultural politics in Belgrade. Nikola Silic turns the façade of the National Museum into video game, since the institution and the building were under reconstruction for 15 years and the Museum has just recently opened its doors to the public. Luka Tilinger alters coat of arms of the city Belgrade, replacing the fortress with the house of cards, and animating the water as reference to the Belgrade Waterfront project.
Apart from mass protests, demolition of cities and their spectacularization, Contemporary Topography thematically includes three works related to history of architecture. Berlin’s Bierpinsel (beer brush) tower restaurant, one of the most recognisable Brutalist landmarks in Germany was built in 1976 by architects Ursula and Ralph Schuler and painted in 2010 by several artists on the occasion of the restaurant’s reopening. Soviet Modernism in Yerevan by Nineveh Khachatryan and Levon Kirakosyan includes several historically important buildings/ complexes, one of which is the Youth Palace which was constructed by the end of 1960s and demolished in 2006 to make a space for a five star hotel. The Central station in Novi Sad (1964), was venue where citizens could write their haiku poems inspired by architecture. Igor Vukičević created a GIF for the open call for this event in March 2018 which was a reference to event in 2014 when the Station celebrated 50th birthday and when one of the waiting rooms was transformed into a gallery for haiku poems, drawings and photographs.
The exhibition also includes two projects of changeable architecture — modular affordable housing by Tatiana Bilbao studio and the Flexible Bauhaus by Penda Architects. Two works were conceptualised within the ECoC 2020 programme in Rijeka — Ida Križaj Leko’s Assimilation and Saša Randić’s Children House that is part of the reanimation of old factory complex Rikard Benčić. Bureau Spectacular and Joseph Henry Kennedy Jr. focus on theory of architecture. Bureau Spectacular’s Another Primitive Hut is an “indoor tree-house” that reflects a concept of Primitive Hut proposed in 1753 by French philosopher Marc-Antoine Laugier. He believed that architecture should return to its origins and embody basic, natural qualities, which was at the time in contrast to dominant Baroque style. Conceptual project by Joseph Henry Kennedy Jr. is “neither drawing nor model, but a hybrid medium of representation that combines the detailed conventions of plan, section and elevation construction drawings with the physicality of a presentation model.” Mayank Thammalla’s Swim or Sink: Maldives Floating Future gives solution for saving habitation which is doomed by a one meter rise in sea level in the 21st Century.
The exhibition is realised as one in series within the project „GIF and Architecture: Visual Practice as Critique“.