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Hintergrund 50/51 – Englische Ausgabe
Alexander Brodsky

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Englische Ausgabe
134 Seiten

5 Preface Dietmar Steiner
11 Alexei Muratov: Man on the Frontier
19 Alexander Brodsky
111 Interview with Alexander Brodsky
120 Paper Architecture
128 Biography and Bibliography Alexander Brodsky
131 Team and Exhibition Az W
134 Members Architecture Lounge, xlarge partner

Who is Alexander Brodsky
The exhibition with and about Alexander Brodsky is first and foremost simply an exhibition about the work of a brilliant and fantastic artist and architect. And because a central goal of the Architekturzentrum Wien is to present new, international developments in architecture, this exhibition had to take place. And yes, it also involved a health dose of instinct and curiosity to motivate a show of works that have not been completely appropriated by the mainstream media yet. So the question is: who is Alexander Brodsky?

Born into an artist family in Moscow in 1955, he began his studies at the Moscow Art School in 1968 before transferring to the Moscow Architecture Institute in 1972. Together with Ilya Utkin, he then belonged to the movement of Russian “Paper Architects” from the mid 1970’s until the early 1990’s. Their utopian and fantastic designs sought to escape the drabness of Khrushchev-era architecture and the stagnation under Brezhnev. With the majority of the etchings dedicated to competition entries, they refused to participate in state-sponsored and soulless processes of production. As a result, Brodsky and Utkin exhibited their works world-wide and achieved international acclaim. In the 1990’s, Brodsky concentrated his artistic energies primarily on graphic arts, sculptures and installations. In 1996, he moved to New York and increasingly established himself as part of the artistic world. Brodsky can already look back over a career with a significant number of exhibitions world-wide, both solo shows and in cooperation with Ilya Utkin in his younger years. And last but not least, he founded his unconventional architecture office back in Moscow in 2000, in order to combat the construction boom of New Russia with his visionary counter-position. In this context, he began working to construct several restaurants, single-family homes and temporary architectural installations. In 2010, Brodsky was honored with one of the highest artistic awards in Russia: the Kandinsky Prize.

Approximately ten years ago, he completed his first construction, nearly by accident – the 95˚ Restaurant. Subsequent constructions followed, but always in the context of his continued artistic work. Many people first discovered “Brodsky the Architect” at the Architecture Biennale 2006 in Venice. He designed the Russian Pavilion with homage to Moscow, which stuck out from the standard, recurrent curves and arcs of the architecture pavilion with its pointedness. In the years that followed, we continued to encounter him in architecture magazines, such as Project Russia, Domus, archithese or Lotus. The decision to create an exhibition with and about him at the Architekturzentrum Wien (Az W) was connected with the exclamation, “Brodsky isn’t just an artist; he builds houses too!” And thus we began to acquaint ourselves better with Brodsky as a person.

Alexander Brodsky lives with his family in a residential community that was built in the 1930’s for Soviet officers. That is, thoroughly bourgeois living conditions, by Russian standards. The apartment is on the top floor of the building and originally served as his father’s art studio. A few years ago, Brodsky remodeled this small studio, which had been maintained in its original condition, into a living space for his family, and thereby created an architectural experiment in how space and historical layering are experienced. The miracle of “bricolage,” an artistic concept that lives off of the unintended accumulation of everyday necessities and accidental redundancies, along with the condensation of their layers into a total work of art. This, in fact, mirrors his studio, which is hidden away in an attic space called “The Ruin” in a side wing of the Schusev State Museum of Architecture in Moscow.

The Az W is displaying Brodsky’s work as an artist and as an architect – unified for the first time in a single exhibition. The installation is situated within a multitude of quotes from earlier works – sketches, plans, drawings and examples of his now-famous “paper architecture” exemplify the breadth of his work and the dynamic play between art and architecture. Photographic interpretations by Yuri Palmin, photographer and long-term professional companion, illustrate his unobtrusive and discreet approach to architecture. His works stand in stark contrast to Russia’s wild, uncontrolled and unpredictable growth. While the Western “stars” of architecture continue to manifest controversial projects, Brodsky’s architecture remains discreet and blurs the boundaries between art and architecture. Stemming from their deep roots in Russia’s cultural tradition, his projects unite a harsh critique of the system together with a subtle sense of irony. The small – though in recent years, always increasing – number of projects are characterized by a sense of clear simplicity and theatrical strength. Never kitschy and never outdated, they always manage to strike the proper tone on a very personal level. Brodsky’s architectural production is limited at the moment exclusively to Russia, and his contractors come from a small circle of well-to-do individuals who have consciously withdrawn from the currently dominant style of construction in Russia.

For the Az W, Alexander Brodsky has constructed an installation that fills the exhibition hall and is meant to captivate the visitors: day becomes night, and time and space seem to gradually fade away while walking through the artistically created, archaeological curio cabinet. This installation uniquely designed for the Az W represents a further development of Brodsky’s work with Ilya Utkin, which was shown in the US in the 1990 exhibition “Between Spring and Summer: Soviet Conceptual Art in the Era of Late Communism.”

We have worked intensively and extensively to develop an exhibition with and about Alexander Brodsky because we are convinced that the next step in the “Art of Architecture” will not occur only in the synthetic sensations and media hype of spectacular designs. Alexander Brodsky’s approach should remind us that the true art of architecture is founded on questioning our current notions of real-life and generating new hope out of the realities of our existence.

Alexander Brodsky’s works open another dimension of architecture for us besides the currently prevalent one, which is marked by a professional and technoid drunken fascination with the future. His structures are closely connected, even interwoven, with his works as an artist. Brodsky’s method for conceiving and realizing art and architecture is hardly differentiable from the path of growth from an idea to space to object. There is a certain yearning inherent in his art and architecture that strives to hold onto the everyday in the form of necessary objects and permanence. This attitude is also necessarily accompanied by skepticism about the ability of consumerism and technology to provide viable solutions. Brodsky sketches by hand, built small working models, objects and sculptures. He guides in the building process with curiosity, contemplation and a sense of playfulness. Illusions of both historicity and progress are debunked in equal portions. He neither pushes forward without reflection, nor looks back with wonder. He takes the Here and Now and gives it a new sense of order, thereby working within the conditions of “bricolage,” that amazing practice of creating form and meaning out of concrete evidence.

Bricolage is the academic term of tinkering. Bricolage constantly browses and combs through the current general pool of materials and construction methods; it questions omnipresent clichés and re-signifies symbols; it tirelessly vouches for the newness of each creation and tests combinations that have never been risked. It is, and I am shamelessly partial to this ideology, the truly realistic force that can unite the political and the cultural in today’s social conditions. Its intellectual and conceptual roots lie in Marcel Duchamp’s works; in those equally powerful and sensational works of Dieter Roth, bricolage achieved its artistic pinnacle. It is all about re-using that which is already there, about recycling materials and ideas that can be combined with the new, the unexpected, and the unfamiliar. If all of us are already living a “sampled” life in a “patchwork existence,” then why shouldn’t architecture provide a framework and a space for an elegantly and hermetically styled order? – For one thing is certain: Alexander Brodsky’s “curio cabinet” is never boring and always provides the chance to experience the infinite. (Dietmar Steiner, Katharina Ritter)

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