Bataille and Foucault would have it that our day-to-day existence is governed by architecture: the tomb, the prison, the government office, etc. I have previously surmised that the 21st Century is a schizophrenic age, and what could be more schizophrenic (if we accept Foucault and Bataille) than a climate in which architecture is endlessly toppled and reconstructed? In my more languorous moments, I am myself guilty of making the connection between architecture and the human body (or, at any rate, the human psyche), in which social housing is issued on the merits of reproduction and death, educational institutions mirror the structural logic of the prison block (in this, one would be churlish to argue with Foucault) and the architecture of consumption – the supermarket, the fast-food outlet or the shopping complex – mimics the human digestive system, whereby consumers pass through the architectural “body” and experience change as they do so (the change in finance; the change in ownership; a re-balancing of symbolic power during the monetary exchange). The struggle to secure social housing, for the working classes, has produced an architecture of desire – or, indeed, a Deleuzian lack (regardless of the psychoanalytic attributes of the actual architecture, endlessly cycling back to the model of the panopticon).
Even in an age of site-specificity, art is still slave to architecture, as our constantly urbanised world endlessly re-interprets the metropolis in tandem with our fluctuating relationships with it. The lambent nature of semiotics within art is such that a work may not be removed from one location to another without there necessarily being a re-evaluation of its meaning – the removal and re-location itself may actually be the element which contains said meaning. Is the present-day work of art, then, an extension of architecture or is it (logically) a removable part of the architectural body itself? If we have already imbued distinct examples of architecture with psychic properties, does it not then follow that the art – created within one such property – is created with similar properties, and when we re-locate that art are creating a rift in the structural relationship between the architecture and the art?
When studying the relationship between architecture and art, it is difficult not to cite Venturi’s model of the Duck and the Decorated Shed and share the analogy across the two disciplines. Some art is as it is (just as the same is true in architecture), because its form is dictated by its functional meaning. Cinematic Art is decidedly duck because its form and meaning are both historically linked to the Platonic shadow, which retains the basic outline of the archetype without projecting the regularly-perceived reality found outside the screen’s border. Its meaning can be re-interpreted depending on the situation of the screen or the texture of the surface on which it is projected, yet it ever retains its integral nature of duck: it remains as it is due to its functionality. Paintings can be either duck or decorated shed, as history has repeatedly proven – they are both functional and ornamental (depending upon the painter’s intention). Sculpture is formally the closest artistic discipline to architecture, owing obviously to its dimensions, although that too carries a history of semiotic ambiguity.
One must then question why it is easier to apply the duck analogy to Video Art than it is to the other disciplines. One trite answer would be that it is the newest, and therefore its meaning has not been afforded the time necessary to confuse. Video Art has yet to be commodified as a soft furnishing – one can easily imagine a projection of (fittingly) three flying ducks on a living room wall and instantly mock the notion, yet there was a time when sculpture and objet d’art would not be found anywhere other than in the palace. Though Video Art has already proven itself to be semantically malleable: the masterful way in which Krzysztof Wodiczko transforms architecture with projection alters both the video and the structural surface.