Filip Dujardin’s Imaginary Buildings
— By Jose-Luis Moctezuma | April 28, 2010
Après le cubisme, Le Corbusier theorized that white concrete monoliths filled with cells of humane and effortless space would solve the quandary of 20th century urban sprawl. The Immeubles Villas were the answer to the gaping Q of Parisian slums, which grew like a fungus on the arthritic carcass of the city. Quantities would be dissolved by qualitative associations of free-jazz walls and unregulated terraces. The marriage of white-blood-celled machinery with the greenery of fields was vital. The masses would be accommodated in cells cubed by systemic purity and stacked as high up as the body or spirit or the building that housed these could handle. Purism, he called it. Le Corbusier was stoutly anti-Cube, because — forsooth — he believed space should be cubed by animate matter, by “mathematical lyricism,” and not by perspective. “Space and light and order” was the bespectacled raven-like one’s motto, the elements of a real and practicable architecture unrestrained by theory nor indivisible as a phalanx is indivisible, hived with inseparable organic units.
The “fictional” work of Belgian photographer/designer/artist Filip Dujardin proposes a return to the Cube, or by what it’s otherwise known as, synthetic cubism. This time via photoshop, that inglorious yet necessary apparatus of fiction writing, Dujardin reminds us that architecture, now sunk into a specialist’s art in service to corporate ideals and utilitarian device, was once upon a time an authorship as private as the memoirist’s and as convoluted as the novelist’s. Dujardin’s constructions slyly imply that photography may well be a closer cousin to architecture than previously believed. His buildings are fabrications: each piece, each part, each sliver and slice and fragment, sometimes whole body parts and torsos of buildings, are ingeniously slabbed together (on a predesigned mold he photographs/assembles a priori) to effect an imaginary sculpture that may or may not exist in real time — at least not in the ordinary sense of three dimensions. Some of his buildings invite speculation as to whether they’d be minutely possible in a congested cityscape that with successive generations develops innovative trends in micro-living and reductive urban planning. Like the photos of colossal grain elevators Gropius used to illustrate his theories in “The Development of Industrial Buildings,” Dujardin advances Lewis Carroll-like modernities in the shape of daydreams.
Dujardin confesses that he desired to be an architect but happened to become a professional photographer who took pictures of the buildings of other people instead. In a kind of perfect revenge, Dujardin made what was objectively nonfictional (the solidity and presence of architecture) into what was subtextually fictional (the aura-crop of photography). Using the hyperbole of advanced media, he constructed terrifying nonfictions. If Le Corbusier had motioned away from the obscene ornamentation of cubism (in which planes overlap planes to no material resolution), then Dujardin brings us back to compacted abstraction, only this time gentrified, where actual material overlaps and complexifies the deceptive wholeness of a building. We are returned to the age-old problematic of perspective.