Reflecting on architecture’s performative power, Grützner questions the extent to which it can determine human behavior.
Andrea Grützner began developing Hive in 2017, when she had the chance to shoot the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology’s (RMIT) New Academic Street, a large area of the university undergoing a major transformation. The refurbished, maze-like interiors, which contained references to retro computer games and science fiction films, inspired Grützner to create subtly manipulated images that play with uncanny and artificial spaces.
Unseen Platform: You won the Unseen INGTalent award for Hive in 2017. How has the project developed since then?
Andrea Grützner: I already knew back then that the photos I took in Melbourne were just the starting point for the series. The contemporary interior design of the university buildings made a strong impression on me, and it took me a while to realise the ambiguity of it. On the one hand, it seems playful, diverse; on the other hand it is clearly programmed for education and shows hints of gamification (when video game design is employed in interior design to encourage learning). With their bold design and elements of fun, the buildings are also quite instagrammable. By amplifying certain visual elements, I try to question this aesthetic trap.
Through reformatting the university spaces in my artwork, I felt a creative bond to them, as if I was virtually inhabiting these places. In some cases, it felt like bringing the architecture back into the design process – reverting the physical space to an architect’s sketch or model.
Why did you choose to name the project Hive?
‘The Hive’ is the name of one of the areas in the New Academic Street. But I also chose this title for its double meaning – as a noun it has connotations with bees and productivity, but as a verb it means to split or break something apart.
The original project was based entirely on RMIT's New Academic Street. Does this continue to be your subject, or have you sought out other spaces?
For me, the huge reconstruction project at RMIT combines so many different approaches to designing educational buildings that it alone is very representative of contemporary architecture. Therefore, I decided to focus on my material from this location first.
I’m now searching for similar places for further work, and am especially interested in architecture that was built to affect the behaviour of the people who use it, or that is designed with social media in mind. I want to question how architecture can have performative power, and to what extent it can determine human behavior and change our way of living.
You manipulate many of your photographs before arriving at the final image. Is this a process of experimentation, or do you have an idea of your desired result from the start?
I’d say it’s a mixture of both. I first create collages by hand with small prints of my photographs, shifting around each layer to experiment with different versions. Using my hands and physical images is a different way of thinking than doing it directly on a computer. Through these initial collages, I see which combinations work well. Then, I rebuild them in Photoshop. The program gives me more possibilities, so that the images can develop.
Text by Jenny Willcock, Unseen Platform