The Materiality of Loss
The Beta-Real Exhibition offers itself as series of relays: between the tangible and the intangible, between what remains and what is left behind, between what is remembered and what is forgotten, between what is cast and the mold from which it is cast. And it is in these relays, these spaces between, that we hope to expose the Real as the Beta-Real; to expose fixed memory, fixed identity and fixed history as nothing more than traces of memories, identities and histories, each stable only for a fleeting moment, then gone, with a trace… In place of the Real, then, the Beta-Real names a beta version still in development, always already shifting, always fleeting, not yet ready for release. The work in this exhibition was made using slip casting—a technique commonly employed in the mass production of ceramics—to develop an iterative “thinking by making” protocol that offers, in its processes, and in the material results produced, an alternative to conventional architectural preservation and reconstruction. Specifically, the work exhibited here produces architectural memories, identities and histories by focusing on three seemingly banal site-types: roadways, commemorative monuments, and the sites of performative rituals. Though banal, each site is revealed and simultaneously contested through narratives that claim them as proving grounds for conflicting ideologies. As such, each site became, for us, a testing ground to explore how memory and identity shape and are shaped by architecture, by place, and by our experience of those architectures and places. We were thus forced to confront the dynamic, ambivalent, and often contested ways in which material and immaterial things are intertwined and bound together through negation, repetition, and transference. This intertwining, it should be said, shaped all our thinking and all of our making. When we cast from an original object, two molds were produced: A “negative,” plaster mold was used to cast the ceramic “positive” mold, and a “double negative” mold was used to cast the plaster mold. The original object was thus always used as the “double negative” mold (which is almost but not quite a “positive”) for the plaster mold. The original object was either destroyed during the casting process, or retained as a virtual, 3D digital scan translated into CNC milled foam.
This exhibition was created from a sustained, multi-disciplinary conversation among participants at the School of Architecture, the Departments of Ceramics and Sculpture in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, and the Department of Religion in the College of Arts and Sciences Department. All of our “making,” which is to say, nearly all of our thinking, took place in the Sculpture and Ceramic Studios housed at the Comstock Art Facility—all with the generous support of Studio Arts Ceramics Associate Professor Errol Willett, as well as all of the faculty and technicians at the Comstock Art Facility. Similarly, a multi-disciplinary conversation invested in thinking through materiality was sustained through a series of formal events and informal discussions over the academic year with Professor Biko Mandela Gray, Assistant Professor of American Religion.
Chelsey Albert, Noah Anderson, Dante Baldassin, Sarah Beaudoin, Olivia Binette, Evelyn Brooks, Deena Darby, lena Echarri Myers, Amelia Gan, Rutuja Ganoo, Raymond Guo, Seokhyung Hong, Joshua David Kayden, Thomas Byung Kim, Pattaraporn Kittisapkajon, Madeline Laberge, Amanda Liberty, Michael Thomas Lin, Natasha Liston-Beck, Sabrina Logrono, Reide McClain, Hannah Michaelson, Birani Nyanat, Virginia Paulk, Khairi Reynolds, Christine Robillard, Emma Stoll, Sarah Tsang, Ronghui Wu, and Minghuan Xie.
Structural engineering consulting and strain testing
Professor Eric M. Lui, Laura J. and L.
Douglas Meredith Professor in the
Department of Civil and Environmental
Harry der Boghosian Fellowship
With the support of Dean Michael Speaks and Associate Dean Julia Czerniak, the Harry der Boghosian Fellowship was established with a transformational gift made by Paula der Boghosian, a 1964 graduate of the School of Education, to honor her brother, Harry der Boghosian, a 1954 graduate of the School of Architecture. It has provided me with the unique opportunity to spend a year developing a body of design research focused around “making as thinking,” while teaching at the School of Architecture.