Architectural Bestia at SCI-Arc will display the ambiguities of creative authorship

Stranger Than Fiction

Architectural Bestia at SCI-Arc will display the ambiguities of creative authorship

Images on display will include those from Hernan Diaz Alonso’s Shar-Pei series, which is based on his firm’s “total obsession with the posture and formal characteristics of a Shar-Pei dog.” (Courtesy SCI-Arc)

This fall, the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) will present an exhibition that attempts to draw subconscious connections between the work of several of its faculty members to potentially discover new, previously undefined methods of design practice. “Today, perhaps as never before,” the description for Architectural Bestia begins, “we share a technical language that flows from discipline to discipline, altering the paths of previously discrete branches of knowledge.”

Supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, the show will bring together the design work of several SCI-Arc faculty members that have independently relied on burgeoning digital technologies, including Liam Young, Marcelo Spina, Devyn Weiser, and Peter Testa, and Lucy McRae. Their work will be embellished through an artificial intelligence (AI) visualization software program that will expose each to “a perpetual state of transformation and mutation” in a series of animations output to television screens. Over the course of the exhibition, the images will become progressively deformed to reveal the facets of the “strange beast” that is theorized to have previously laid dormant in all of the work being presented.

The exhibitors’ images will be transformed over the duration of the exhibition through an AI program. (Courtesy SCI-Arc)

The concept for Architectural Bestia mirrors the discoveries made by Steven Johnson in his 2001 book Emergence: The Secret Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software, which attempted to lay out the history of technological and creative innovations through and the unintended interconnections of seemingly unrelated elements known as ‘complexity theory.’ Where Johnson implores his reader to “embrace serendipity; make generative mistakes; take on multiple hobbies; frequent coffeehouses and other liquid networks; follow the links; let others build on your ideas; borrow, recycle; reinvent,” and “build a tangled bank,” Architectural Bestia will perform Frankensteinian operations on carefully composed works of art and architecture to arrive at unforeseeable outcomes.

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The Architectural Beast was displayed at the 2019 Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain (FRAC) Biennale in Orléans, France, as a series of animations on televisions. (Courtesy SCI-Arc)

In small part, Architectural Bestia will be a recreation of The Architectural Beast, an exhibition that was on display at the 2019 Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain (FRAC) Biennale in Orléans, France. Conceived by SCI-Arc director Hernan Diaz Alonso and SCI-Arc professor Casey Rehm, the exhibition transformed the original work by giving creative agency to an AI program of Rehm’s design.

Architectural Bestia was originally intended to go on display April 24 but has been postponed to the fall due to ongoing coronavirus concerns.


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