Hans Ulrich Obrist: Interviews, Volume 1
Charta,2003.968pp. £39.95 Hans Ulrich
Obrist of ARC / Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris is probably best known here for curating the Hayward's 'Cities on the Move' show in 1999 and one of the Soane Museum's excursions into contemporary art, 'Retrace Your Steps, Remember Tomorrow', writes Andrew Mead.But - curating, writing, collaborating - he seems to be everywhere and know everyone; and not just in the world of art.
This new book from Charta contains 66 of the 400 or more interviews that Obrist has conducted in the past few years (two more volumes are promised).As the introduction puts it: 'The circle of those interviewed now includes curators and museum professionals, art historians and critics, writers, filmmakers and photographers, philosophers and scientists, architects and urbanists.'The interviews tend to be byproducts of other occasions, and conducted on the run - hence the one with Gilbert & George takes place in Mexico City, not the usual Spitalfields (and Obrist gets them talking about the Barragán House).
Even polymaths are likely to be more in tune with one subject than another and it happens that Obrist seems especially drawn to architecture and urbanism.Some of the most substantial interviews in the book are with architects:
Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid, for instance, but also Giancarlo de Carlo - Obrist isn't at the whim of fashion.
Moreover, the topic often crops up when he interviews nonarchitects (as with G&G, or J G Ballard, or Olafur Eliasson, the latest artist to occupy Tate Modern's Turbine Hall), not to mention his frequent references to Cedric Price.
'I don't claim that light is good and heavy is bad.Rather, the right parts of buildings should be heavy or light, ' says Frei Otto.'The Heathrow Hilton by Michael Manser is my favourite building in London. It's part space-age hangar and part hightech medical centre.Sitting in its atrium one becomes, briefly, a more advanced kind of human being, ' says Ballard; though, as you can't hear his tone of voice, you can't gauge how ironic that remark might be.But there are many memorable quotes in this collection, while the alphabetical arrangement of interviewees - collocating architect with artist and scientist - does a little bit to foster the connections between disciplines that Obrist applauds.