I have been a long admirer of Gene Sherman, one of the most important figures in Sydney’s art scene. She was well known for Sherman Galleries when she shifted gears to open the not-for-profit Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (or SCAF) around eight years ago. More recently, Gene has turned her interest to the architecture pavilion, commissioning architects and artists to create garden pavilions and installations as part of the Fugitive Structures program. In this, the third year of the series, SCAF presents two works: Sway, a garden pavilion by Israeli architecture collective SRMZ (Matanya Sack, Uri Reicher, Liat Muller and Eyal Zur); and Owner-Occupy, an installation by Sydney-based architecture/artist duo Hugo Moline and Heidi Axelsen.
Gene’s connection to Israel (where her daughter lives) was the catalyst to commissioning SRMZ, who were selected from a pool of architects, briefed to create a pavilion inspired by Sukkot, an annual festival where families erect a sukkah – a temporary shelter commemorating the Old Testament story of the Israelites sheltering in the wilderness en route to ‘The Promised Land’ . Their response, Sway, is an ephemeral structure whose shape references the tents of the nomadic Bedouins, built with steel, an agricultural fabric and stitched with red string. The pavilion leads the visitor through the garden under a series of arches that balance fine stitching with a sense of being incomplete and mobile.
Inside, Owner-Occupy consists of a series of “dwelling machines”, thought up by Hugo Moline and Heidi Axelsen as part of a response to the housing unaffordability crisis. Hugo and Heidi envision a world where real estate as we know it is abandoned and land ownership is wiped clean, in a new state of terra nullius. In this new fantasy world, you own only what you occupy, with the dwelling machines acting as mobile shelters that can be erected anywhere – from backyards, to fields. The fabric references flags and a large wall map recreates a colonial-style map but with humourous real estate jargon for place names: “rough gem” “close to everything” etc.
In the catalogue essay, UNSW’s Sam Spurr states:
The traditional concept of the pavilion as architectural folly links fancy and madness, but it is also architecture in disguise. This disguise is usually historical, in the form of sham Piranesi ruins or faux medieval castles, provoking a duplicitous engagement with perception. Neither SCAF project is exactly what it seems, but Owner Occupy in particular enjoys this kind of deception. The structures have the bespoke quality of fashionable, designer products. Refined timber connections and sewn detailing are a stark contrast to the robust simplicity of Sway, and aim at seduction above practicality. This care to material and detail is a reminder of the domesticity of these structures – these are homes to nest in. So while they can multiply like a Brazilian favela, they look as if they have come out of an interior design magazine.
It is my absolute pleasure to be working with SCAF on the promotion of Fugitive Structures, as well as curating the conversation series, the first of which will be held on 16 September, moderated by Fenella Kernebone. Architect Penelope Seidler will open the exhibition tonight, and Owner-Occupy will run until 3 October, while Sway will continue until December.
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