CONTINUE in Speaking


23 October 2012
SPOKEN at Stockholm

THE Talk in Brief

Doppler Effects : Exhibitions and the Post-Critical Turn

For: Exhibitions and the Canon of Modern Architecture, Art History Conference NORDIK 2012

Chairs: Wallis Miller and Mari Lending

Abstract: Terence Riley once told me that the question Philip Johnson always asked when mounting an exhibition was: “Who are you going to the make the man?” The attitude is telling, in more ways than canonisation. Leaving aside the gender specifics for the moment Johnson’s credo points to the phenomenon of the architectural exhibition and its doppler effect of fame, notoriety, and historicity. Johnson’s vision was a self-fulfilling prophecy. It reinforced its own making.

The purpose of this paper, however, is to explore in greater depth what is arguably Johnson’s last perceived major exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art: Deconstructivist Architecture, co-organised with Mark Wigley with the assistance of Fredereike Taylor. While many of Johnson’s exhibitions, from the renowned International Style show to Deconstructivist Architecture, are commonly thought to hold a canonical role, the purpose of this paper is to take a longer, and more controversial, if not disruptive view.

The exhibition will be framed by two pivotal articles: Robert Somol and Sarah Whiting’s “Notes Around the Doppler Effect” (2001) and Michael Hays “Critical Architecture: Between Culture and Form” (1984). The transformative power of an exhibition as read against texts that follow and proceed it will be considered, as will texts and ideas that the exhibition itself constructed. At issue is the work within the exhibition and the exhibition as architecture. It will be argued that Deconstructivist Architecture works in and against the traditions of modernism to codify and change directions in architecture. Such changes are reflected within the contemporary, post-critical discourse and subsequently, within exhibition making. Dialectic terms such as disciplinarity and criticality, indexical and projective, praxis and form, autonomy and engagement as problematized in the articles, and reflected in the exhibition, will be challenged.

The exhibition will be situated with the socio-political-cultural context of the time when the architecture museum and exhibitions began to proliferate. The paper will not chart progressive histories, but consider the doppler effects within spatio-temporal margins of the exhibition on critical discourse. Subsequent changes in architecture exhibitions will be considered recurrent, as they reference modernist bauausstellung and architekturausstellung.


Work: Speaking