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The Crystal Palace & The Temple of Doom

Curator: Hlia Cohen-Schneiderman

02.07.2015 - 24.10.15

In 1936 the Crystal Palace had burned to the ground. It was an exhibition venue built for the first Great Exhibition (the 1851 World Fair) held in London, and designed by the gardener Joseph Paxton. The construction was greenhouse-like in nature and boasted cast-iron frame and plate-glass walls, allowing for easy dismantling and reconstruction. Trees surrounded it but were also planted inside it, the inside and the outside were reflected in one another, flowing into each other, and the structure seemed to merge with its surroundings. As light as its construction was, the palatial Victorian style of the structure betrayed the agenda that stood at the heart of the British Empire, which was then at its height. The construction aimed to be all-encompassing, and serve as a small-scale manifestation of the entire Empire and its accomplishments. As the product of the 19th century, the Crystal Palace was considered a tremendous technological achievement. When it was destroyed by fire, Churchill commented that it was the end of an age. The dawn of the 20th century heralded the Modernist era, which introduced a new type of exhibiting – cube shaped and omniscient. Devoid of decorations and the traces of time, its walls stark white, its angles straight and confident – the white cube unequivocally differentiated the inside from the outside, pushing the outdoors away, and in the process also taking itself out of everything. Since the 1960s, this cube is the focus of a love-hate relationship with institutional critique and with its visitors, due to that detachment from what might be referred to as "reality", and so it became a doomed but desirable temple. We could say that the exhibition The Crystal Palace and the Temple of Doom navigates between these two models, as the artists featured in the exhibition turn to reality as their point of departure, and use the museal space in order to isolate and examine elements from it. This move aims to maintain a space of temporary autonomy, which at the same time feeds off of the outside world, is rooted in it, and moves away from it only to return to it. This experiment, which started in September 2012, is the product of a shared learning and working process of 11 artists and a curator, who possess intertwining and conflicting passions, and negotiate the design and perception of space. Naturally, such a period of time allows the dynamics between the participants to grow deeper, shifting between holding on and letting go, and summons friction between one artist and another, between artist and object, and between one object and another.


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