Puzzling Evidence by Liam Oxlade
Jury citation: Puzzling Evidence is an aptly titled devotion to the ordinary and disregarded architecture of everyday life. Through an exquisite filmic narrative, it tells the story of four (apparently) public buildings in the outer Melbourne suburb of Dandenong – and provides us with an alternate reading of architectural representation in contemporary culture. From the service station to the post office, the data centre to the assembly hall, the project holds up a mirror to what we might traditionally call public space, reflecting back something far stranger. Investing the ordinary with the extraordinary, it provides a thoughtful yet humorous elegy on the unappreciated banality of suburban form.
Architect’s description: This project is not a discrete building but a suite of outcomes captured in a video format. The intent is to set up a milieu of shifting, repeating relationships to explore ideas about how architecture is represented and experienced. It is an attempt to confront contemporary discourses and issues around the way we describe buildings to people within the academy, the profession and those beyond. These interests have grown out of the many constraints of a final semester’s thesis project completed and examined entirely under lockdown in the second half of 2020.
Puzzling Evidence leverages the collective visual literacy of a generation tasked with navigating an increasingly volatile news cycle, and the upswing in “self-directed” home media consumption. The project relies on these competencies to eschew semiotic games played with words, instead charging images with ideas of polemic ambiguity and suggestive atmospherics.
This investigation is underscored by a parallel ambition. If the representational project is a study in the potency of the multiple/moving image, then the project of architecture here is a flat interest in an idea of publicness – that is, a statement of belief in those things that come closest to representing a collective ideal.
Within this schema, four buildings in Dandenong serve as a case study The hope is that we can shift those domains of architecture that overlap with film out from under-utility and into something far stranger and more closely attuned to the vague and circular ponderings of human perception or understanding.
The idea is that these twin projects
(of representation and architecture) form an object of contemplation, in which the widest possible audience is invited to consider the discrepancy of “our perceived production as a culture, and our actual material output as a civilisation.”
1. Jesús Vassallo, Epics in the Everyday: Photography, Architecture, and the Problem of Realism (Zurich: Park Books, 2020), 207.