On the occasion of the Carpenter Center’s 60th anniversary, This Machine Creates Opacities restages four major works by artists Robert Fulton, Renée Green, Pierre Huyghe, and Pope.L that examine the ways buildings choreograph, shape, and control social life, learning, and cultural structures. With its title borrowed from statements the artist Pope.L made about navigating the Carpenter Center building upon an invitation to make a new commission, the exhibition reflects on the program, affect, history, and various complexities of Le Corbusier’s iconic architecture. Each one of the included film-based works was created directly in response to the Carpenter Center as an institutional site and explores architecture through the lens of experimental cinematography and the expansive formal, technological possibilities of video installation to excavate a building’s aesthetic and social functions. This Machine Creates Opacities is divided between two floors of the building and presents Pierre Huyghe’s video This is Not a Time for Dreaming (2004), alongside documentation of the performance and sculptural elements from Pope.L’s Corbu Pops (2009) on level 3, while Reality’s Invisible by Robert Fulton (1971), and Renée Green’s Americas: Veritas (2018) are screened on level 1.
When creating his commission Corbu Pops (2009) for the Carpenter Center’s level 1 space, Pope.L referred to the building as a “confusing machine,” one that “manufactures disorientation in the form of a dark, viscous liquid. Unlike a washing machine, this machine creates opacity.” In its original form, the site-specific project consisted of an elevated stage with head holes for actors, hand-crafted masks, a video documenting Dada-inspired performance rehearsals, photocopies of modernist architectural critique, cast scale models of the Carpenter Center mounted on sticks like large popsicles, a glass of water, sound, and drawings made of stationary. The video element of the installation entitled Modernism, Race, and Mr. C fuses narration on the formation of the project, art historical debates about modernism’s indebtedness to African visual culture, an interview with Sheldon Cheek from the Image of the Black Archive and Library at Harvard University, and an amalgam of other archival materials. The video of this performance, and various installation elements of this pivotal work will be restaged for This Machine Creates Opacities.
This Machine Creates Opacities revives these important past site-specific commissions to both celebrate the building’s capacity to inspire but also to reflect on the Carpenter Center’s institutional memory since it opened to often skeptical audiences in 1963. On view will also be a variety of ephemera and process-related materials related to each work. Writing in Le Corbusier at Work: The Genesis of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts (1978) the Carpenter Center’s first director Eduard Sekler explained the foremost obligation of the Center’s program, to perform “an educational task in making students from all departments of the University more intensely aware of their visual environment. It will encourage them to develop within themselves, in visual rather than verbal terms, a grasp of the sensory values involved in their total experience.” Through the lens of these works made in this context, This Machine Creates Opacities reopens and hopefully reinvigorates questions around fugitive narrative and history, distortion as access to deeper realities, social performance and architecture, and the complex nature of creativity within pedagogical institutions.