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Here are a few Observations on Juan Azulay's Matter Management: Vivarium from Log 19:

At the Southern California Institute of Architecture gallery in Los Angeles, a place where audiences have become accustomed to a long run of jubilant, self-assured fabrications of the algorithmically scripted kind, Juan Azulay/Matter Management’s installation Vivarium (March 26 through May 9, 2010) presented instead a techno-Gothic mise-en-scène. An Artaud inspired “Theatre of Cruelty,” this demented experiment was, in fact, a surly fiction – a sado-masochistic, sci-fi “imaginarium.”

Opposite the entrance, a massive, foreboding, and distressed graphite pyramid flipped on its side stared out from the end of the double-height room, glowering, its base lodged in the wall and its vacuum-formed, permeable panels molting as if its contents were under assault. Closer to the gallery door were two mounds of salt, the culprits in this crime scene, and a bank of computer monitors streaming collaged real-time and fabricated imagery of the imperiled, unseen inhabitants of the pyramid – purportedly, fresh and saltwater algae, crickets, Mung beetles, and brine shrimp. The two salt mounds performed the clandestine and pernicious task of slowly dehumidifying the gallery air, thus impairing the ability of the pyramid’s inhabitants to draw water from the gallery atmosphere. Real or not, the scene exuded terror.

Visitors in many ways became the missing mad scientists performing a sinister experiment on gaminelike life forms. Hanging over this slow motion mummification process was an eerily ambient sound track, further amplifying the sense of a noirish thriller. Yet, in the midst of this crime in the making one could sense Azulay’s longing, instead, for an architecture of “no shadows” – for a parched, bleached canvas on which to script, score, and triangulate other configurations of life, death, nature, and artifice. To start over.

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