• How buildings learn / Civilization and its Discontents

      Cornford, Matthew; Cross, David (2004)
      Two site-specific installations, “How Buildings Learn” and “Civilization and its Discontents” were created for “Values - 11th Biennial of Visual Arts”, Pancevo, Serbia. The context of the Biennial was the degraded economy, polity and culture of former Yugoslavia, following a civil war of ethnic cleansing, nationalist dictatorship, economic embargo and a NATO bombing. The installations advanced knowledge by stimulating public debate on the relationship between art, the social contract and the limits of political obligation. These ideas have subsequently reached a wider audience through photographic documentation of both works. For “How Buildings Learn”, Cornford & Cross made use of ready-made material in the form of documents and books from the Public Records Office to block a doorway within the actual building. The tight-packed book surface belied its dense mass of material, and the labour that produced it. “How Buildings Learn” acted as a paradoxical sign: both for the futility of all effort, and for the painful work yet to be done in relating history to memory. “For Civilization and its Discontents” the artists signalled a call to anarchy, from a position of security as foreign nationals. The flags, five feet square, referred to Ad Reinhardt’s black paintings, which relate to his interest in Islamic art. By flying them from civic buildings throughout the city, the artists questioned the split between the philosophical ideal of anarchy and its political associations with destructive chaos.