On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the lively 1968 – a pivotal year in recent history that saw the birth of numerous social movements across the world, from Paris to Prague and Washington – the exhibition “Cloud ’68 – Paper Voice”, hosted at the gta exhibitions, ETH in Zürich (Switzerland), unveils the revolutionary spirit that shook the architectural world in the period between the 1950s and the 1970s.
Primarily based on the personal collection of Chilean architect Smiljan Radić of graphic pieces belonging to the Radical Architecture movement, the show explores the alternative creative mood that shaped those years, through the works of experimental practitioners such as Superstudio, Ugo La Pietra, Archizoom, Archigram and many others. Co-curated by architect Patricio Mardones and Radić himself, the exhibition is divided into two sections. The first one showcases a rarely displayed selection of lithographs, drawings, original etchings, and ephemera collected by Radić over the years. The second one presents 13 video recordings and transcriptions of interviews carried out by the Swiss art critic and art historian Hans Ulrich Obrist with some of the advocators of the radical movement.
As the two curators put it, “May ’68 was a critical moment in terms of transference of ideas and knowledge to the masses. We were very interested in the fact that, in spite of having several writings and ideological manifestos that were not easy to grasp at first sight, the radical movements were very conscious about visual communication as an effective tool to engage larger audiences. The use of drawings, collages, comics and détournements of advertisements shows the high effectiveness of images, and undoubtedly had a significant impact on the contemporary architectural discourse.” Featuring many visionary urban projects – such as Constant Nieuwenhuys’ New Babylon and Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion concept – the exhibition also brings out the Situationist International’s theories about urban appropriation with manuscripts and documents by Danish artist Asger Jørn and French philosopher Guy Debord.
But radicals did not limit themselves to the streets. Indeed, tackling the domestic realm, Cloud ’68 goes also back to some of the most utopian projects that came into being over the two decades. Celebrated by many, and questioned by some, inflatable structures are an important aspect of this experimentation. Something that the show underlines with the works by French architect and Utopia group’s founder, Jean-Paul Jungmann, the American design practice Ant Farm – known for its media van and researches on mobility – as well as the Viennese group Haus-Rucker-Co’s famous installation Oase No.7 on the facade of the Fridericianum in Kassel, back in 1972.
Radical movements were very conscious about visual communication as an effective tool to engage larger audiences.
Curators explain: “We wanted to reflect on those authors who were in a way working at the borders [of architecture]. They are not the ones that managed to build things, but they are the ones that pushed their ideas to the limits without negotiations with anyone else. That is also why inflatables and plastic bubbles are so significant for radicals. They were all about light architecture, artefacts that you could build with your own hands effortlessly.”
- Cloud '68 – Paper Voice
- Opening dates:
- until 18 May 2018
- Curated by:
- Smiljan Radić, with Patricio Mardones
- ETH Zurich, Hönggerberg