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Reading Rämistrasse #128: Oliver Cretton on Luc Deleu at Lathouse - Akademie - Kunsthalle Zürich

Reading Rämistrasse #128: Oliver Cretton on Luc Deleu at Lathouse

Within the confines of the Lathouse, two series of works by Belgian architect Luc Deleu are on show. Both take the same subject matter as their core, the city of Antwerp – the object of the architect’s ongoing fascination.

The works exhibited are focused on grand scheme thinking: through the use of a series of well-defined actions and by defining a series of rules, the underlying potentiality of the city is brought to the fore and images formed which open up new avenues to reconsider the fixed nature of the city. These operations are conducted in a manner analogous to the entropic process as studied and theorised by Deleu’s compatriots, Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers, who depart from the conventional understanding of entropy as a principle for the progressive disordering of an ordered world and instead cast it as a creative force, igniting a process of reorganisation through which novel structures and forms are created. (1)

As you enter the Lathouse, you are surrounded by collages from the series 'Symmetries', all originating from the same original aerial photo of Antwerp; a scroll with a series of proposals, or rules for the city then completes the exhibition. Both series reflect the Belgian architect's effort to use his knowledge of Antwerp to conduct a fruitful case study for a more global reinterpretation of the city.

Deleu's 'Proposals' exhibit a quality akin to surrealist aphorisms, evoking a sense of intrigue and reflection. Developed over decades, these conceptual gems, including Proposal for the complete abolishment of traffic rules (of Antwerp) amongst others, resonate with an almost poetic absurdity. Reminiscent of the surrealist phrase 'sous les pavés, la plage' often erroneously attributed to the May 1968 protests in Paris, these proposals carry an enigmatic depth beneath their surface. While they might appear whimsically improbable, they offer plenty of food for thought. Much like surrealist aphorisms, they beckon us to question apparent truths and leave the viewer with a mental image of what the city could be. Deleu's 'Proposals' transcend their initial absurdity, inviting us to traverse the realms of imagination and engage with the urban landscape in novel, thought-provoking ways.

Luc Deleu/T.O.P. office, WORKS 1973-2023, Lathouse, 2023

Bild: Oliver Cretton

The works belonging to ‘Symmetries’, take a more concrete approach in the morphosis of the urban tapestry of Antwerp. In this iteration, the cityscape serves as both a wellspring of inspiration and a nuanced backdrop, providing a canvas for the exploration of broader principles. The collages are influenced by the symmetrical marble laying technique termed ‘livre ouvert,’ where two sides of a cut of marble are set face-to-face, conjuring a kaleidoscopic tableau.

That each of the works emerges from a single image highlights the richness of Deleu’s approach. The utilisation of the city map as raw material carries twofold significance. Firstly, it embodies the holistic potentiality of the map — an architect's endeavour to perceive the city as an integrated entity, rather than an assemblage of disjointed elements. Secondly, Deleuze and Guattari's assertion resonates: ‘The map is open and connectable in all of its dimensions; it is detachable, reversible, susceptible to constant modification. It can be torn, reversed, adapted to any kind of mounting, reworked by an individual, group, or social formation.’(2) Deleu highlights the mutability of the map by carrying out two actions – the gestures of cutting and rotating – which lead to a total reconfiguration of the city. These actions remove old connections within the city, replacing them with unexpected proximities, creating new links both within and without, as suggested by the elements that go beyond the collage’s frame, suggesting a limitless reach to this recombinant method, Antwerp as a universal prototype.

A final action is operated on the map, the collage is mirrored creating two identical halves facing one another across a fault line, this action assumes a role akin to that of a punctuation mark in the midst of the chaotic process. It halts fluctuation, solidifying the outcome. In this state we are reminded of the aforementioned ‘livre-ouvert’ but also of – notoriously unreliable – Rorschach tests, which the architect took advantage of to avoid his military service. It reflects the viewer’s own psychology into the works, creating a new layer of subjectivity. In this interplay of image and technique, ‘Symmetries’ becomes a manifestation of the intermingling of vision and method.

Much like the orchestrated chaos of his ‘Proposals,’ Deleu, in this series, once again forges a realm of potential — a renewed arena of possibility. Within the walls of the Lathouse, five of these nuanced collages materialise, subtly diverging from Antwerp's material form. The existence of these five images encapsulates the essence of chaos. Again referring to Prigogine, outcomes remain indeterminate, unfolding within the realm of probabilities — a journey tracing the linear trajectory of irreversibility illustrated by the following diagram:

instability (chaos)→ probability → irreversibility. (3)

Within the interplay of order and disorder, the full creative potential of chaos is hinted at. Across both series, Antwerp becomes not just a canvas, but a fertile terrain for a more universal reinterpretation of urban dynamics and an opening to further experimentation.

(1) Prigogine, Ilya. Les Lois Du Chaos, Flammarion, Paris, 2008.
(2) Deleuze, Gilles, and Guattari, Félix. Capitalism and Schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press, 1983.
(3) Prigogine, Ilya. Les Lois Du Chaos, Flammarion, Paris, 2008.

Luc Deleu/T.O.P. office: WORKS 1973-2023, 18 August–17 September 2023, Lathouse, Neue Hard 12, rear entrance of Zentralwäscherei Zürich.

Opening hours from September:
Monday: closed
Tuesday: 11:30 am–8 pm
Wednesday: 11:30 am–11 pm
Thursday & Friday: 11:30 am–8 pm
Saturday: 1–8 pm
Sunday: 4–8 pm

Reading Rämistrasse

Geht der Raum für Kunstkritik verloren, müssen wir handeln. Deswegen schaffen wir diesen Ort für Kritik – Reading Rämistrasse – auf der Webseite der Kunsthalle Zürich und veröffentlichen Rezensionen zu aktuellen Ausstellungen in Zürich. Diese geben nicht die Meinung der Kunsthalle Zürich wieder, denn Kritik muss unabhängig sein.

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