MARKITECT and Lee Milby Architecture Thesis Presentation at The Cooper Union
So Markitect and I have been collaborating closely in the past few months. It all started with a text message from Mark asking me if I “still do video stuff,” and indeed, I do!
Since then, we have been working together developing a number of different collaborative “sketches.” Pieces of thought, articulated in performance and spacial exploration using mainly fabric as a medium, and documenting our stuff with video and photography.
It has been fun, and I believe that we’re both coming out of this with a new understanding of how one can approach study of an idea. Personally, my collaborative approach has developed and I’ve learned a lot by working with someone with such a strong personality and a diverse, yet focused psychological orientation. Markitect is OBSESSED with architecture.
For his presentation, we had two performances and a number of visual portrayals of our work together. Mark was really the one spear-heading the installation and design of this one, but I’ll take my due credit for taking most of the pictures!
Mark is working with a musician named Dave Ellenbogen. During an underground jam session / party in a Harlem apartment, I had a brief conversation with Dave. The topics jumped from discussing party decor to his dream of building a musical temple in upstate new york to house all of his musical friends and play in harmony… and all he needed was to figure out how to initiate the thing and get it built. He ran off before I got to telling him that Mark was an architectural designer who already had a building project upstate, but later on the two were able to meet and begin planning future action.
Also exhibited was The Saugerties Permaculture Farm Project, an organic art farm in upstate New York begun by permaculturists, Lala & Jared WIlliams. Mark will be helping them to develop and execute new building projects to expand the use of their farm land and create spaces for artists of all mediums to flourish in a healthy atmosphere.
The Tannersville House is a small house that Mark and a few friends decided to build from scratch upstate. Mark would regularly coordinate rotations of Cooper Union students to carpool up north and participate in the project. It was a unique opportunity to learn practical construction and design methods hands on, and to work in a truly collaborative environment. The project is reminiscent of what Rural Studios is doing in Alabama, giving students the opportunity to direct real, independent building projects that have functionality and purpose.
One project that seemed to baffle his peers and professors alike was the inclusion of the Shadow-Dance project that Jessica Chen and I are working on. Which, I can understand why they were confused because the dance has very little to do explicitly with architecture (although you could speak a lot about the relationship of dancers within spaces, or how an audience experiences a performance differently depending on the space). I felt the whole time as if the audience was searching the piece to find architecture in it, when really the purpose of the inclusion was not as a symbol, but as a demonstration of Mark’s thesis intention. The architecture not of physical structures, but the social structures that result in real, physical manifestations.
Finally, Mark exhibited one of his first building projects; helping his Uncle design and build a “bear-proof,” partially underground cabin in Canada.
In addition to his independent projects, Mark’s collaborations with me were also included. He chose to exhibit them as floating clusters of images, which I think is dually appropriate. Because our projects were more “explorations” and “sketches” than actual finished pieces, it’s nice that they are presented informally and not on individual pedestals. It’s unnecessary to identify them separately. Also for me, the digital documentation and presentation of the pieces has had a big role, and so showing the images floating in space the way that I imagine them to float in cyberspace was a nice representation.
One thing I felt was underrepresented was our research trip to Alabama, where we learned about a new and extremely effective style of education at Rural Studios, and met with permaculture/organic farmers working in the south on the Tune Farm (Harvest Roots Farm). Innovation was everywhere, and it was inspiring to see so much forward momentum. Everything was ongoing, progressing, and there was very little time wasted on questions like “what if” or concerns about legal red tape. The idea was to learn by doing. The projects that we experienced in Alabama benefitted the communities that surrounded them, educated and empowered people, and enabled design and creative evolution and innovation.