Glenn Walls

Superlost: Prototype for Sophisticated Living 1

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Superstudio: The Continuous Monument, 1968 – 71          Glenn Walls: Prototype No 1


This work is based on Superstudio’s, The Continuous Monument 1968 – 71.

For many, to seek status through the accumulation of things is what drives us, and to a certain degree drove the members of the radical architectural movement of the 1960s. Structures such as Superstudio’s The Continuous Monument were devised as a way of counteracting the need to consume. Nevertheless these structures’ presence in the landscape created a sense of dominance and power. The fact that they are termed ‘monuments’ by Superstudio connects them to a tradition of publicly visible memorials ranging from the pyramids of Giza on the outskirts of Cairo to the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne. Although there is much merit in Superstudio’s theories, I found their failure to acknowledge cultural, social and moral differences in their concepts for architectural change opens up the possibility of re-evaluating their concepts and objects as another consumer product, ready for consumption.

Placed to the left of the entrance of the gallery space at Seventh was the work Prototype for Sophisticated Living 1 (2007). Based on Superstudio’s The Continuous Monument, which was devised by the group to relieve society of its superfluous objects, I have taken their iconic structure and reduced its scale. Superstudio intended their rectangular mirrored grided structures to be monumental in the landscape, however, my intention was to reduce this monumental building to the scale of a consumable, collectable object. There were two reasons for attempting this. First, the idea was to see whether the structure still maintained the same visual impact as the monumental structure in the landscape when reduced in size. Second, the work shows that the grid can be applied to objects of any scale.

Using glass grid mirror tiles adhered to a wooden frame, I reduced the scale of Superstudio’s rectangular Continuous Monument structure. I then added skate wheels to the bottom of the structure. The work was then placed onto a plinth that measured half a metre square. The structure thus becomes a consumer object that, just like architecture, is to be desired. However, the inclusion of the wheels renders it directionless: the very point that Superstudio claimed architecture had reached.

Who are Superstudio?

Superstudio was founded in 1966 by two radicals – Adolfo Natalini and Cristiano Toraldo di Francia – who had met while studying architecture at the University of Florence. Later they were joined by Alessandro and Roberto Magris and Piero Frassinelli.

The central theme of Superstudio’s agenda over the next 12 years would be its disillusionment with the modernist ideals that had dominated architectural and design thinking since the early 1900s. Once fresh and dynamic, by the late 1960s, modernism had hit intellectual stasis. Rather than blithely regarding architecture as a benevolent force, the members of Superstudio blamed it for having aggravated the world’s social and environmental problems. Equally pessimistic about politics, the group developed visionary scenarios in the form of photo-montages, sketches, collages and storyboards of a new ‘Anti-Design’ culture in which everyone is given a sparse, but functional space to live in free from superfluous objects.

Superstudio was not alone in its concerns. The collective emerged in 1966 at the moment when the technocratic optimism of the first half of the 1960s was souring. The watershed was the beginning of the Cultural Revolution in China in 1966 when Mao Tse-tung gave Western intellectuals a new cause to believe in after a decade of disillusion since their faith in communism was shattered by Khrushchev’s exposure of Stalin’s brutalities. Events in China made Western society seem spiritually barren at a time of growing concern about the Vietnam War. In the visual arts, radicals rebelled against the extrovert imagery of Pop Art in favour of the politically engaged work of Fluxus artists like Joseph Beuys and Nam June Paik. The rising tide of political frustration culminated in the 1968 student riots in Paris and copycat protests in London, Tokyo and Prague. Women formed fledgling feminist movements such as the Women’s Liberation Front in the US and Mouvement de Libération des Femmes in France.

During this period, Superstudio still clung to the conventional wisdom that architecture could be a powerful – and positive – force for progress. By 1968, the group had dismissed this notion as improbably optimistic. The following year Superstudio unveiled The Continuous Monument project in which the apparently endless framework of a mirror or black and white grid – which was to become the group’s best known motif – extends across the earth’s surface in a critique of what Superstudio saw as the absurdities of contemporary urban planning. The group created photo-collages to show the grid cloaking the Rocky Coast, Coketown and Manhattan.

During the early 1970s, Superstudio made a series of films intending to raise awareness of the potentially negative environmental impact of architecture at a time when such issues were seldom explored.

© Design Museum

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Above: Glenn Walls. Superlost: Prototype for Sophisticated Living No 1 & I am one of God’s mistakes, 2007

Superlost: Prototypes for Sophisticated Living 1. Exhibited at Seventh Gallery late 2007 as was  part of Broke at The Carlton Hotel & Studios Feb 2008

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