Monday, November 12, 2012

Invisible Entities

It was only going to be a matter of time before Stephen Hobbs would build another model of Vladimir Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International. The tower was conceived around 1919 by the Russian artist and architect, and it is easy to see why Hobbs is fixated with its design. It was a grand scheme in every way; not only did Tatlin set out to create a building that would rival the Eiffel Tower, but it was conceived as an information and propaganda hub for the communist state – it was architecture about and in the service of an ideology. Tatlin had even planned for a projector to be located in its upper reaches so that messages could be cast on passing clouds.

The scheme itself turned out to be pie in the sky. Small models of the building were completed, but it was never built. Interestingly, it is this fact that titillates Hobbs, beyond its symbolism as a utopian project for social change. It feeds his fascination for architecture that has never been realised – can never be realised. It’s an unusual preoccupation, if not one that seems in contradiction with the objective of this discipline. There is a kind of poeticism to unrealised potential that has captured his interest, one no doubt fuelled by his own unrealised imaginings, or the limits of reality, particularly for an artist interested in urban space.
Tatlin’s unrealised building has become as iconic, certainly in artistic and architectural circles, as the Eiffel, to which it bears a strange resemblance; it’s like a twisted, contorted version of it. Many have argued that Anish Kapoor’s Orbit sculpture for the Olympic Park in London bears some resemblance to Tatlin’s tower.
Over the years Hobbs has been replicating this constructivist design in models and paintings – as in The End of Cities, shown at the Blank Gallery in 2009 – but his latest rendition of Tatlin’s model, now on show at an exhibition dubbed Dazzle Plans, presents another step in his long-standing relationship with this famously unconceived building.