The Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (Columbia GSAPP) presents Liam Young: New Romance, the first U.S. solo exhibition of speculative architect, artist, and filmmaker Liam Young. Presenting three new short fiction films—In the Robot Skies (2016), Where the City Can’t See (2016), and the debut of Renderlands (2017)—the exhibition charts Young’s recent explorations of cinematic narrative as a form of architectural representation and design. Liam Young: New Romance is on view at the Ross Gallery in Buell Hall, Columbia University through June 9, 2017.

Liam Young is an Australian born architect who operates in the spaces between design, fiction and futures. He is founder of the think tank Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today, a group whose work explores the possibilities of fantastic, speculative and imaginary urbanisms. Building his design fictions from the realities of present, Young also co-runs the Unknown Fields Division, a nomadic research studio that travels on location shoots and expeditions to the ends of the earth to document emerging trends and uncover the weak signals of possible futures. He has been acclaimed in both mainstream and architectural media, including a 2017 BAFTA nomination for Consumed in the Best British Short Film Award category. His work is screened at international film festivals and has been collected by institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Young has taught at the Architectural Association and Princeton University and now runs an M.A. in Fiction and Entertainment at SCI-Arc.

In the Robot Skies is the  first narrative shot entirely through autonomous drones. Above a council estate tower block in London a network of surveillance drones monitor the residents below like a roving flock off CCTV cameras. In the way the New York subway car of the 80’s gave birth to a youth culture of wild style graffiti and hip hop the age of ubiquitous drones as smart city infrastructure is creating a new network of data activists and drone jockeys. Through the eyes of the drones two teenagers are kept apart, each held by police order within the digital confines of their own tower block in London. Jazmin is a drone hacker and has hijacked and decorated one of the aerial cameras as her own. Like kids in an old fashioned classroom passing notes to each other under the table she scrawls messages on her drone with a marker, using it to send notes back and forth to her boyfriend Tamir in the tower opposite. In this near future city drones form both agents of state surveillance but also become co-opted as the aerial vehicles through which two teens fall in love.

In the Robot Skies was directed by Liam Young, written by Tim Maughan, and developed in collaboration with the Embedded and Artificially Intelligent Vision Lab at the University of Leuven, Belgium. In the Robot Skies was commissioned by Channel 4 Random Acts and STUK, Belgium.

Renderlands (2017, 8 minutes) is a mixed reality film set in the outsourced video game companies and render farms of India. The film tells the story of a digital renderer who has fallen in love with an animated actor he has created. It chronicles his construction of a dream city as the stage for his romantic fantasy, which he collages together from scavenged VFX movie models and 3D game assets—the remnants of cancelled production jobs that remain on studio hard drives. Using actual digital detritus from the film and game industries, Renderlands presents a contemporary utopia that exists in the thickness of the screen: a virtual city of demolished landmarks, drowned streetscapes, alien invasions, and synthetic actors.

Renderlands was directed by Liam Young, written by Tim Maughan, developed in collaboration with Dhurva Interactive, and Labyrinth Cinematic Solutions, and with support from Columbia GSAPP.

Where the City Can’t See is the first narrative fiction film captured entirely with laser scanners. Set in the Chinese owned and controlled Detroit Economic Zone (DEZ) and shot with the same scanning technologies used by autonomous vehicles, the near future city is recorded through the eyes of the robots that manage it. Across a single night a group of young car factory workers drift through Detroit in a driverless taxi, searching for a place they know exists but that their car doesn’t recognize. They are part of an underground community that work on the production lines by day but at night, adorn themselves in machine vision camouflage and the tribal masks of anti-facial recognition to enact their escapist fantasies in the hidden spaces of the city. They hack the city and journey through a network of stealth buildings, ruinous landscapes, ghost architectures, anomalies, glitches and sprites, searching for the wilds beyond the machine. We have always found the eccentric and imaginary in the spaces the city can’t see.

Irene Sunwoo is an architectural historian, curator, and educator based in New York. She is Director of Exhibitions the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP), where she is also Curator of the school’s Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery. Before joining GSAPP she was Associate Curator of the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial, a new global platform for contemporary architecture that launched in 2015.
Her book In Progress: IID Summer Sessions was published this year (AA Publications), and she is currently preparing a second book on the history of the Architectural Association. Her scholarly writing has appeared in Grey Room, AA Files, Journal of Architectural Education, The Avery Review, and Domus, among other journals.

She holds a PhD from Princeton University, MA degrees from the Architectural Association and the Bard Graduate Center, and a BA from New York University.

Founded in 1990, the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery presents exhibitions that explore emerging architectural practices, research, and ideas. Through collaborations with architects and artists, historical research, and programming, the gallery produces and supports exhibitions that seek to challenge disciplinary conventions and advance architectural discourse.

Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery
Columbia University
Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
Buell Hall, 1172 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10027
(enter through 116th Street Amsterdam or Broadway)

Gallery hours:
Tuesday – Saturday: 12-6pm

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