What better site than a military camp to “raise questions about the political and ideological underpinnings of architecture and social spaces?” as stated by Tamsin Snow whose practice includes projects developing both physical and digital immersive environments. Snow utilises installation, virtual reality sequences and CGI animations to examine the legacies of modernist architecture and design.
Fort Dunree is a military fort or bastion formed of a network of barracks and bunkers set on a remote headland in rural County Donegal facing out onto the North Atlantic. The artist has proposed “an enquiry into the historic architecture of Fort Dunree and the notion of the Fort or Bastion and the legacies of such models in modernist architecture”. Modernist architecture is driven by a totalizing dynamic, accentuating the tendency of modern capitalism to integrate and rationalize everything it encompasses - with tropes such as the homogenization of space as an extension of a rational order. Le Corbusier’s concept of a dwelling as ‘a machine for living’ within the overarching modernist project may be understood within such extension.
It can be argued that Snow’s work brings this spatial rationalization into contrast with two variants of the uncanny: that of an architectural uncanny, and that of the uncanny valley.
The rationalized order of military architecture - bastion, tunnel, blockhouse, bunker, pillbox, observation post -sits as an example of military engineering against the natural headland of Fort Dunree. Le Corbusier wrote that “Nature presents itself to us as a chaos; the vault of the heavens, the shapes of lakes and seas, the outlines of hills. The actual scene which lies before our eyes, with its kaleidoscopic fragments and its vague distances, is a confusion”.
The rational, the designed, the constructed set amidst nature as chaos can seem to detach the rationalized order of military architecture from its broader social-political programme of control and power relations, and it could be argued that modernist architecture when encountered in such a detached context is experienced as ‘uncanny’ or as an alien form. The architectural uncanny may be described as the encounter with an artificial structure that is perceived as alien to the natural context in which it is set against. It may signify the repression of a broader social-political programme of control and power relations and the emergence of an ideological blind-spot.
Likewise, in the notion of the uncanny valley, there is a sense of estrangement. In 1970, Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori coined the term ‘uncanny valley’ to describe our slight revulsion toward artificial entities(robots, or more recently digital virtual representations) that appear endowed with human attributes. There is likewise a sense of estrangement in the virtual spaces of digital architectural 3D modelling in which the artist engages and creates her work: the sensation of being both engaged in the virtual space yet not feeling fully present, of being both present and absent in the same instant are linked to the uncanniness of an encounter with a spectrum of varying degrees of reality.
The artist will engage with these forms and research themes within her Fort Dunree residency – whichcarries the promise of much to encounter.
TAMSIN SNOW lives and works in Dublin and London. She completed a BA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths University, London (2008) and an MA in Sculpture at the Royal College of Art, London (2012). Upcoming exhibitions include Cross Sections, Curated byBasak Senova, Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna (2018) and Showroom, Block 336, London (2018). Recent exhibitions include Dead Rubber, UEL Project space, London; Dazed X Confused Emerging Artist Award, Royal Academy, London (2015); Lobby Part I & II, Oonagh Young Gallery, Dublin (2015) and Pavilion, Store, London and was the recipient of the HIAP/ TBG+S Residency Exchange 2017.
Text by Declan Sheehan, Independent Curator and part of selection panel for the 2017 residency programme.
Le Corbusier, The City of Tomorrow and its Planning, Dover Publications (New York), 1987, translated from French original Urbanisme, Editions Crès & Cie (Paris), 1925, p.18; 1st English publication Payson & Clarke, New York 1929.