Volumes Cyanotype

John Hill
10. October 2018
All photographs by John Hill/World-Architects

A highlight of Queens International 2018: Volumes (QI 2018), on display at the Queens Museum in New York City until 24 February 2019, is Volumes Cyanotype, a 100-foot-long tablecloth that documents a communal meal with the exhibition’s participating artists.

Curated by Queens Museum's Sophia Marisa Lucas with artist Baseera Khan, QI 2018 brings together 43 artists from Queens, the most diverse borough in what is often considered the most diverse city in the United States. While the dedicated website for QI 2018, done by artist Ryan Kuo with Taekeun Kim, is structured about the Queens Museum building – built for the 1964 World's Fair, used briefly for the United Nations, and expanded by Grimshaw in 2013 – the most architecturally appealing piece in person is Volumes Cyanotype.

Facilitated by artist Essye Klempner and Queens Museum's Lindsey Berfond, Volumes Cyanotype is mounted beneath the skylight at the center of the museum. This space was the setting for a communal meal, where the QI 2018 artists dined at a tablecloth treated with a photosensitive chemical solution that generated a blueprint after exposure to sunlight. We see the plates and utensils common to meals but also other objects – objects the artists brought to turn the cyanotype (or sun-print) into an expression of their individual identities.

Most interesting from an architectural point of view is the way Volumes Cyanotype turned the museum into a camera. In its creation, architecture became a ​tool for making art rather than just a setting for displaying it. Sure, the building does the latter during the run of QI 2018, but the artwork suspended from the skylight – the only artwork occupying the center of the large space – conveys the potential of architecture as a medium for creation; and it illustrates how the highly diverse artists in the exhibition came together for a unified expression.

Some art is found at the edges of the skylight space, but only "Volumes Cyanotype" occupies its center.
The 100-foot-long cloth is suspended at the ends beneath the skylight.
What looks like a painted canvas from a distance...
...is read as made from the meal's actual objects (plates, utensils, etc.) when seen closer.
Standing below "Volumes Cyanotype" is to be inverted – to see the cloth from the perspective of the sun when the meal took place.
Queens Museum assistant curator Sophia Marisa Lucas (right) with artist and "QI 2018" co-curator Baseera Khan during a preview of the exhibition to the press.

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