Superficial Superglow, by UCLA AUD students @ Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions
Along the curious mixture of storefronts lining Hollywood Blvd., a perfect balance of titillation and boredom is achieved, an effect that captures the egalitarian mix of patrons and tourists. A destination of LA cruising culture, the 6500 block of Hollywood Blvd. where Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) sits, is part of a nightly ensemble of SUV's cum entertainment systems, short skirts, and party goers. Amidst this cacophony of electric sights and sounds, LACE has provided an opportunity for dialogue and rapport. On view and installed in both their storefront and the adjacent American Center for Music Theater is Superficial Superglow, projects by students in the Architecture and Urban Design department of UCLA.
The Hollywood scenery is an appropriate one. The installations beckon the viewer, predatory bodies seemingly suspended in an animation sequence, signaling its cryptic messages to pedestrians. Comprised of countless pieces of vacuum-formed plastic and carefully syncopated LED lights, these rhythmic forms hail from a digital world crafted through sleepless nights by dutiful architecture students. The passerby capitulates to these sci-fi surfaces requiring no further explanation than a fascination with the matted biological tissue and organic pods. The viscous yet machined substance is detached from immediate cultural clues, and yet they suggest a corporeal fetishism we are all familiar with. The installation sustains this theater of urban flirtation- supple signals chattering with the patent-leather glints, fluttering eyelashes, and lacquered automotive finish.
These two projects are the culmination of a 2 quarter-long investigation into the interplay of form and behavior. Both begin in the digital world as found geometries called minimal surfaces where single-surface modules can be prescribed mathematically. Minimal surfaces are cellular units that can pack and aggregate endlessly. These prototypical cells are then deformed, stretched, and designed by students so that figures emerge or layers exfoliate. Not merely a formal study, the language of geometry and plastics coalesce around fabrication techniques that are loosely theorized in the contemporary architectural world as 'rapid prototyping'. Investigating the techniques of Computer Numerically Controlled machining, vacuum-forming, and L.E.D. lighting, the students begin to address behaviors within the urban context.
Eviscerated Glow Worm snakes across LACE's storefront using gradients of interlocked modules, then splaying out into structural tendrils and glowing tissue. The contours of this plastic beast, as grotesque as its name would suggest, adapts itself to the architecture of the storefront. Its form gathers cohesion as it evolves within the constraints of the windows. This dispersal and transmission of light heightens the ambience of urban movement, tail lights, and surveillance. Adjacent is Fizzle designed by a second team. Here, the installation assumes a topological field condition, heightening the depth of the alcove space it sits in. Like a fleshy cavern, the blistered and exfoliating surface glows in different clusters.
Essential to the pedagogy of UCLA is the technology that these projects are imbued with. But here, the projects take on other urban and sculptural resonance beyond the esoteric techniques of the digital. Moving towards these glowing creatures of artifice offers intrigue- a prosthetic animal balanced between the indifference of an automaton with the supple features of the animistic. Perhaps this is the same uncanny sensation which captivated Surrealists to Parisian storefronts so many generations ago.