Lost and Found Department

Glenn Walls
The Carlton Hotel & Studios, Melbourne
February 2008

Confounding the notion of being without or losing one’s bearings, Glenn Walls’ most recent works, under the title Superlost, connote a condition of considered abandon rather than an ominous predicament. Many of Walls’ previous projects have verged on the obsessive in terms of their preoccupation with modernist architecture and theory. His practice has paid homage to some of the most iconic architectural works of the last century, referencing the likes of Philip Johnson, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. Yet these tributes have always been tempered with a degree of derision of their conceptual ideologies. Past works have involved detailed dioramas of architectural structures, serving as exemplars of modernist ideology and aesthetics. The representations, extracted from the formal qualities so exemplified by their creators, have been sullied with the addition of peculiar animals and dirty jokes. This tactic undermines the integrity of the architectural form through the new dialogues created by the relationship between the buildings and the inhabitants.

Superlost: Prototype for Sophisticated Living was presented across two separate rooms at The Carlton Hotel & Studios as part of the larger curated exhibition, Broke. With the absence of the architectural forms which had previously been prominent in Walls’ work, he has been able to create a project that utilises the vernacular of modernist architecture whilst distancing itself from the structures themselves. Through this, the works become more domestic, as a collection of internal environments in their own right rather than an appropriation of extant architectural structures used as a device to question the ideologies and legacy of modernity. The work develops into something more spatial, rather than a critique of the architects’ deployment of space. This, it could be suggested, gives the work a far more personal character, although not biographically revelational, as Walls begins to tease out his architectural concerns with a more self determined spatial sensibility. With its aesthetic heavily vested in the 1970s, it could be argued that here Walls is attempting to present artefacts from the final stage of modernist aesthetics, before they were restructured, redefined and refuted through the post-modernist canon. Perhaps this is a gesture situating itself (if it were plausible to construct an accurate chronological axis) somewhere at a point between modernism and post modernism.

Departing slightly from the impersonal grip of modernism, Walls creates hand-crafted tributes to the emergence of youth culture as a specific consumer market at a period of developing product, economic and media globalisation. A mass-produced shoe of 1972, rendered in balsa wood, serves as a permanent model of something that may have been destined to become temporally fashionable. The irony being that the Adidas Superstar the work immortalises, has recently celebrated its thirty-fifth birthday, and has many times been reissued. So the work operates as a tribute to something not forgotten and in no way erased from the global mainstream. In this respect, the sports shoe continues a common path with the wider modernist period, far from relegated to the past.

In another work within the Superlost project, Walls again presents an icon of sport recontextualised within this static environment. In this work the sphere is collapsed as a soccer ball is rendered dysfunctional by its transformation into a skull. The death of the ball may allude to the death of formalism, or alternatively may draw parallels between the form and modernism. Situated in a current context the work reflects the fact that even after the death of the form (modernism) the structure remains the same (post-modernism).

In a pointed reaction to the minimalism of modernistic aesthetics, a plywood skateboard reads, Less is a bore, consume more. Once again, Walls traffics in the symbols of 1970s youth and counter culture as a zone of transition out of modernism while still being aligned to the worldwide distribution of a distinctly ‘western’ commodity. This position is one of resistance but also ultimately still one of reliance upon the formalism, production, universalism and media technologies incubated and developed within the period of modernism.

These sculptural works sit within a neo-geometric wall and floor installation which operates not only as a framing device for the sculptures themselves, but also for their relationship to the wider environment. The yellow and black palette alludes to the process of constructing space and furthermore to space as a significant determiner of how we exist. Every architectural movement leaves its trace or legacy upon the way our lives are determined within it and the period of modernism is by no means an exception. In Superlost this reference to construction, or a site of construction, reminds us of this process which continues in the location of the exhibition, but most especially and perpetually in its vicinity.

It is the signifier that our environment is in the process of being altered and that our lives too must alter with it. As this environment is changed structurally, there is a necessity for us to continually adapt with it, or rather to it. If we fail in this undertaking than we will undoubtedly lose ourselves, as inhabitants without bearing, superlost.