Travulgar Square: Ben Nicholson Drawing, 1976-77

Friday, November 2, 2012

Milstein Hall, Milstein Hall Gallery 943 University Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA

Travulgar Square began its life in 1975, at a time when London was suffering a hangover from the 1960s and the stark realization that the post WWII Welfare State was unaffordable. London’s government had bought up vast tracts of land, with the intention of building idealized Corbusian cities-in-the-sky to replace the endless row houses of the industrial revolution. By the mid 70s the city was plagued with rotten housing stock, good for little else but squatting adolescents.

Trafalgar Square is Britain’s most visible public space and arranged around the open space are the icons of its lost Empire. It displays how Great Britain was supreme on the battlefield (Nelson’s Column), cultured (National Gallery), had an empire (Canada and South Africa House), a monarchy (Admiralty Arch) a government (view down Whitehall) and divine guidance (St. Martin’s Church). The Travulgar Square project continued the translation of city mood into built form, but this time not in the image of Imperialism, but as a mirror of late bourgeois consumer culture.

The square, renamed Travulgar Square, is scraped clean of its street furniture and stone balustrades and paved right up to the undisturbed existing buildings, leaving only Nelson’s Column in the center. A trilogy of structures is arranged higgledy-piggledy around the square, each emphasizing a different aspect of urbanity. The Consumption Bird shows the ability of our culture to extract without giving anything in return, the Palindromic Man describes the degradation and beauty within our bodies; and lastly the Hands signal hope for the future derived from the undestroyable past.

The existing streets leading from the corners of genteel London come physically and symbolically to dead-ends, evoking the crisis and its dissolution.

This exhibition was first shown at the Ohio State University, Knowlton School of Architecture, Banvard Gallery and was curated by Kristy Balliet and Phil Arnold.

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