For Polly Gould’s second solo exhibition at the gallery, the artist presents a series of works in paper, glass and sound, representing visionary fantasies and utopian manifestos in art and architecture. The works revisit some historic visions of the future in order to engage with contemporary debates on our survival. References include a late nineteenth century science fiction pamphlet Utopia; Or, the History of an Extinct Planet Psychometrically Explained (1884) by Alfred Denton Cridge, Glass Architecture (1914) and The Gray Cloth with Ten Percent White: A Ladies’ Novel (1914) by architectural critic Paul Scheerbart and the publication of utopian designs titled Alpine Architecture (1917) by German architect Bruno Taut.
In 1919-1920, after being deeply affected by the misery of the First World War, Taut began The Crystal Chain Letters as a correspondence between a small group of artists and architects whose aim was to discuss and imagine how the future might be shaped through ‘paper architecture’; speculative works that were not intended to be built. They envisaged an ideal society on the alpine mountain tops housed in an architecture built entirely of coloured glass. If the edifice of modernist architecture was based upon the three pillars of the innovation of new materials - glass, concrete and steel - then this exhibition wonders what pillars our current period requires to build hope for the future.
The piece from which the show’s title is drawn, Architecture for an Extinct Planet: Birds of Paradise, is an architectural maquette in coloured glass, copper and solder, partially constructed out of magic lantern glass slides illustrated with exotic birds. The series Zoological Garden is also in coloured glass and lantern slides of zoo animals in captivity. The Crystal Chain: habit/refuge is figured as a tent/dress wearable shelter in paper and fabric for multiple inhabitants/wearers. In a human-scale model of the Mont Blanc alpine range, contemporary alpine huts and refuges are imagined as dwellings for those becoming refugees in a changing climate. Manifesto for an Architecture of Atmospheres uses sound installation with voice to explore the relation between the built environment and the collective political voice. It asks the audience to repeat in call and response a sequence of phrases, including ‘Concrete is no more concrete than air.’
Polly Gould works across media with an interest in fictions and histories, collections and archives, exploration and ecology. Gould has shown work in the British Library, and various Botanic Gardens and Natural History Museums. She also shows in gallery spaces internationally. Gould studied Fine Art at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London, and Fine Art and Theory residencies at the Jan van Eyck Academy, Maastricht, The Netherlands, and has a PhD in Art and Architecture from the Bartlett School of Architecture, London. She has also been Post-doctoral Research Fellow in Design-led Architectural Research, Newcastle University. Gould co-curated, with Anne Eggebert, the touring exhibition TOPOPHOBIA: Fear of Place in Contemporary Art in 2012. She has a forthcoming monograph titled Antarctica, Art and Archive published by Bloomsbury.