'Worlds Away' at the Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis 2008

Posted by Gemma on the 6th of October, 2011

On the subject of art and suburbia, which is topical right now at OK, the The Walker Art Centre in Minneapolis programmed an exhibition of artists responding to American Suburbia in 2008:

Because suburbia occupies a dominant presence in so many lives--a place of not only residence but also of work, commerce, worship, education, and leisure--it has become a focal point for competing interests and viewpoints. The suburbs have always been a fertile space for imagining both the best and the worst of modern social life. On the one hand, the suburbs are portrayed as a middle-class domestic utopia and on the other as a dystopic world of homogeneity and conformity. Both of these stereotypes belie a more realistic understanding of contemporary suburbia and its dynamic transformations, and how these representations and realities shape our society, influence our culture, and impact our lives.

The intention of Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes is to demonstrate how the American suburb has played a catalytic role in the creation of new art. Challenging preconceived ideas and expectations about suburbia (either pro or con), the exhibition hopes to impart a better understanding of how those ideas were formed and how they are challenged by contemporary realities. The exhibition features artwork by Gregory Crewdson, Dan Graham, Catherine Opie, and Edward Ruscha, among others, and architectural projects by firms such as Fashion.Architecture.Taste, The Center for Land Use Interpretation, MVRDV, and Estudio Teddy Cruz.

What interests me is the uncanny similarity between the 'readings' of suburbia in western cities. I was talking to my friend Derek, who's Canadian, on the opening night of True North and he told me that he found Emma's work unsettling because it dislodged memories that he weren't sure legitimately belonged to him, as while there are certain elements of Emma's images that render then unavoidably Australian, there's also something beyond the local in there that taps into a kind of collective suburban consciousness.

Here's a short video on the Walker show, which is worth comparing and contrasting with the Australian one Andrew posted a while back. Both have really daggy soundtracks, but that's not really what I mean: