Ger­ard and Kelly Ex­plore Time And Mod­ernism in ‘Clock­work’

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The artist duo are show­ing an in­stal­la­tion of their re­cent work at Pi­o­neer Works in Brook­lyn.

BY KRIS­TEN TAUER PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY GE­ORGE CHINSEE

The red brick en­vi­ron­ment of Pi­o­neer Works, a for­mer iron works fac­tory built in 1866, may at first seem like an odd en­vi­ron­ment for an ex­hi­bi­tion ex­plor­ing mod­ernist ar­chi­tec­ture. But the sim­plis­tic, an­gu­lar de­signs of ar­chi­tects such as Philip John­son and Ru­dolph M. Schindler have plenty in com­mon with the lofty Red Hook space — the first it­er­a­tion of which burned down less than a decade af­ter be­ing built — and the art shows and ex­hi­bi­tions now fill­ing its in­te­ri­ors. None of the afore­men­tioned is here to stay.

“We're think­ing about how a lot of these mod­ernist ar­chi­tec­tures are thought of as per­ma­nent, be­cause you're work­ing with things like glass and steel and con­crete,” says Bren­nan Ger­ard. “But ac­tu­ally, it's all im­per­ma­nent. Noth­ing is per­ma­nent.”

Artis­tic duo Ger­ard and Kelly, the other half be­ing Ryan Kelly, are show­ing an in­stal­la­tion of new works grouped to­gether as “Clock­work” at Dustin Yellin's foun­da­tion in Brook­lyn, much of which was created dur­ing their artist res­i­dency there. The show also marks the New York pre­miere of “Schindler/Glass,” a 35-minute film — the duo's first — of pub­lic move­ment per­for­mances staged at the Schindler House in West Hol­ly­wood and the Glass House in Con­necti­cut. Ger­ard and Kelly de­scribe those per­for­mances as part of their re­search on mod­ernism, which they have con­tin­ued to ex­plore in sub­se­quent work.

Through­out its run, the ex­hi­bi­tion will in­clude live pub­lic per­for­mances dur­ing the last hour on Satur­days and Sun­days, dur­ing which dancers will in­ter­act with the sun­light fil­tered through vinyl-col­ored win­dows and cast through­out the ware­house space.

“We're very in­ter­ested in these per­for­mances that are al­ready hap­pen­ing,” Ger­ard says. The space's nat­u­ral light also in­ter­acts with the trans­par­ent panes of glass that make up “skin and bones [2018],” a new work in­spired by Lud­wig Mies van der Rohe's 1951 Farnsworth House in Plano, Tex., which was com­mis­sioned by Edith Farnsworth. In that work, a record­ing of the river run­ning be­side the Farnsworth house is played through a sub­woofer sit­u­ated be­tween two panes of glass, caus­ing them to sub­tly vi­brate. It's an apt rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the fric­tion be­tween the house's ar­chi­tect and client.

“The whole nar­ra­tive of Mies and Farnsworth of­ten gets re­duced to a story of ro­mance, het­ero­sex­ual ro­mance and un­re­quited love,” Ger­ard con­tin­ues. “For us, it's a much more interesting and com­plex story. Be­cause she equally wanted to build the most im­por­tant house in the world when she com­mis­sioned this. To have a cham­pion of mod­ernist ar­chi­tec­ture at the time — the 1940s — was amaz­ing. And she was a sin­gle woman, and she had the money as a doc­tor to com­mis­sion this house. She's a to­tal rad­i­cal, it's amaz­ing. But dis­putes hap­pened around the liv­abil­ity of the house.”

“Specif­i­cally, the fact that the thing that she was so in­vested in cre­at­ing, this glass box, she ul­ti­mately found it un­liv­able,”

Kelly chimes in. “She ne­go­ti­ated a cur­tain to be in­stalled. And, you know, Mies van der Rohe, the ar­chi­tect, said, ‘Oh well, a house for a sin­gle woman, she was 45, there's no pro­gram, so I can do what­ever I want.' So he made an open plan house, and ne­glected, among other things, to build her a closet. So one of her quips was, ‘There's no where for me to hang my night­gowns.'”

“This is also a way for us to get some of the darker, over­looked parts of mod­ernism. There are some blind spots there,” Ger­ard says. (One of those blind spots is high­lighted in “Pri­vate,” which touches upon Philip John­son's dark po­lit­i­cal past as a fas­cist dur­ing the Thir­ties.)

“And the cur­tain is also one of those blind spots, too, be­cause this house was made for a sin­gle woman,” Ger­ard adds, gaz­ing at “Un­ti­tled (Edith),” a sheer hang­ing panel of fab­rics con­structed from 55 vin­tage Fifties chif­fon night­gowns. “So we gave her a cur­tain — that's a por­trait of Edith.” Dur­ing ex­hi­bi­tion hours, a side door of the build­ing is propped open, caus­ing the cur­tain to blow in the wind, be­com­ing its own in­de­pen­dent move­ment-based per­for­mance.

An­other piece in Pi­o­neer Works is a grid of silkscreen prints created from ren­der­ings of the “per­for­mance” of the space's nat­u­ral light at ex­actly 4:33 p.m. on the first day of ev­ery month. “It's a calendar,” Ger­ard says.

“It's our homage to John Cage's ‘4'33”' which is the work of si­lence, be­cause we were very struck by at that time, with­out any­body do­ing any­thing, there's this amaz­ing light per­for­mance that takes place when it's sunny. And it changes over time.”

The next chap­ter in Ger­ard and Kelly's “Modern Liv­ing” project will take them to Eileen Gray's villa in the south of France, villa E-1027; their next video will unite the per­for­mances created for the Farnsworth house and E-1027.

“The project is an ongoing story. It trav­els through these houses, and I ac­tu­ally think this ex­hi­bi­tion is the first chance to re­ally kind of start to per­ceive the whole thing,” Kelly says.

The “Clock­work” ex­hi­bi­tion also serves an­other pur­pose. “To bring the chap­ters to­gether; to bring the sites to­gether,” adds Ger­ard. “To bring the Glass

House, the Schindler House and the Farnsworth House, which are sep­a­rated by such a dis­tance — in time too, his­tor­i­cally — into this one space.”

Bren­nan Ger­ard and Ryan Kelly

In­side the ex­hi­bi­tion.

“Pri­vate.”

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