Liz Diller on art, architecture and making movies

abelardo.jpg With the completion of the Boston ICA under its belt, Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s (DSR) blend of art and architecture has been triumphantly vindicated. Speaking to Blueprint before her Real Architecture talk last Thursday, Liz Diller said the direction of the practice has never been in doubt: 'most practices have an identity crisis, we never did'. Neither the lack of sleep nor the fact that she had made a serious detour from original plans to go to Milan, had dented her excitement to reveal the philosophy behind her projects. It became clear that process is everything to this practice. Never fully regarded as architects due to their involvement in public art installations, the only competition DSR has won for a built structure previous to the ICA was in 2002, for the Swiss Expo Pavilion, Blur Building. Finally, with the opening of the ICA Boston, they are gaining the respect from ‘both sides of the gallery wall’ says Diller. The uncompromising struggle to gain acceptance means that control is something the practice both explores and exercises: 'we have meetings three or four times a week, we are control freaks' admits Diller. A classic example was their disdain at the conventions of being curated in the Whitney Museum's recent retrospective of DSR’s projects..They came up with a novel intervention: a robotic drill mechanism that randomly punched holes in the gallery walls 24 hours a day. It created new peep holes through which to view the exhibition and also punctured the curated words that had bothered the team in first place. Their work was no longer the object, when 'it became background to the exhibition walls' says Diller relishing the intentional irony. Rethinking ways of seeing is common theme for the practice: 'continuity and spectatorship, art as establishment and display are consistent focuses in our work', says Diller. Since winning the competition to design the home of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston Harbour, interest in the office from potential clients has soared. When asked if this had changed the dynamic of the office, Diller replied, ‘No. We generated content before the influx…our work is continuous, an ongoing agenda’. What they were not prepared for was the complexity of the current urban projects they are working on, ‘the management is overwhelming and it is a lot of work trying to please all the people involved’ says Diller. DSR is juggling the politically and socially charged regeneration of the Lincoln Centre and the curious traverse-cum-park of the derelict High Line, both New York projects that demand sensitivity to the locale and history of the sites. Far from being swept up in the acclaim and publicity of having completed a permanent built project, DSR’s devotion and preoccupation with art has not wavered. The next project will be a cinematic installation with film director, Mira Nair. Set in Lille in the context of the Indian Festival, a series of ‘micro-movies’ will highlight paranoia, under the title ‘Have You Ever Been Mistaken for a Muslim?’ Forthcoming talks in the Architecture Foundation’s Real Architecture series will be Grimshaw Architects, Foster and Partners and Lacaton & Vassal.

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