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Exhibition: Datasutra by (ab)Normal at Anise Gallery

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A collective of architects from OMA and Herzog & de Meuron explore digital drawing

Datasutra at Anise Gallery, Shad Thames, is an immersive exhibition of drawings and installation by a group calling itself (ab)Normal.

(ab)Normal developed from the frustration that four young architects experienced rendering photorealistic images while working in architecture offices across Europe.

The group says: ‘Behind the layer of perfect photo-realism, architecture gets often banalised and reduced to its realisability. We wanted to explore the fantasies abandoned during the design process. For us, it is a therapeutic release of unexplored obsessions through illustrations.’

Unleashed by (ab)Normal

In its work under the (ab)Normal label it attempts to ‘manifest the liturgic unfolding of digital routines soaking our daily life, the architecture supporting this body of rituals and the consequent landscape’. In practice, this means deconstructing photorealistic renders before rearranging them as illustrations based on normal vectors. In so doing, the group avoids the traditional structure that builds the contemporary, familiar visual notion of space to produce ’an allegory of a culture that revolves obsessively around the internet, gaming and religion’.

While these three topics sound at first unrelated, (ab)Normal posits that it ‘structured the prehistory of the metadata society… What led us to embrace religions in the past, brought us to accept the internet as the main societal manager. If the internet is a religion, gaming represents its heroic beginning, the rebellion against a pre-existing status quo.’

A heady mix of ideas and expression, the aesthetic is very pastel millennial internet-friendly (check out its Instagram). The candy-coloured environments that (ab)Normal construct through its imagery are reimagined in the gallery setting through material collage, lighting and planting. It’s an overstimulating immersion into the surreal drawings, brought to 3D life, recladding the gallery space in silver foil, fabric and copper mesh. Naturally, there is also VR in the mix. 

second generation graveyard by (ab)Normal

second generation graveyard by (ab)Normal

Second Generation Graveyard by (ab)Normal

This exhibition only adds more weight to the growing interest in exploring the possibility of architectural drawing, sometimes considered an indulgence or an irrelevance. 

Architecture Drawing Prize judge Ken Shuttleworth said when reflecting on the second annual award this year, ’For architects, drawing is often the same as thinking. It’s about getting under the skin of what you do when you design’. This was evident in winner Li Han’s The Samsara of Building No 42 on Dirty Street (pictured below), which simultaneously chronicles the visual narrative of the development of a residential building in Beijing while challenging ideas of representation and exploring more abstract ideas examining the relationship between civil society and the state in urban development. In short; getting under the skin of the project in original and imaginative ways.

The Samsara of Building No. 42 on Dirty Street by Li Han

The Samsara of Building No. 42 on Dirty Street by Li Han

Datasutra by (ab)Normal is free at Anise Gallery, 13a Shad Thames, London, until 22 December

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