What memory, asks Valeria Luiselli in her essay on Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes, can be held within a slab of stone? What is washed away when the flood comes, and how can rubble make an architect?
In memoir, essay, and conversation, the texts that compose this summer’s edition of The Fabulist ask questions of the materials that surround us, to glean from them a series of stories, big and small. Be they those of trauma inflicted on the body and recorded in sculpture—as narrated with poignant precision by Zadie Smith in an overview of the exhibition Like Life, currently on view at the Met Breuer, New York—or those of politics woven into the fabric of the city (of which the chimera-like Palacio is but one flagrant example), there is a voice to be found in the things we would ordinarily merely behold. In this chorus, the photographic landscapes of Luigi Ghirri, as evoked by Geoff Dyer, become metaphysical portals through which we apprehend the interconnectedness of the eye, the object, and the infinite. A strip of drywall tape becomes a love letter, then dozens of love letters, addressed to Rachel Kushner by Red, a mysterious figure haunting the flat next door. The walls have ears, or at the very least, feelings.
Finally, there is Alejandro Zambra’s interview of the architect Frida Escobedo, whose exquisite Pavilion will reside on the Serpentine Galleries’ lawn throughout the summer. Much as with the audio contributions of Zambra and Luiselli to the Galleries’ 2013 Bridge Commission, the interview of Escobedo as well as the Pavilion itself provide a meditation on landscapes both geological and human. The Pavilion, oriented along the Greenwich meridian, which so unyieldingly inaugurates the grandiose and brutal project of global synchronicity, reminds us that every building makes at least two marks on the landscape: one, where it sits; the other, where the stone it is made of has left a gap.
Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries
Yana Peel, CEO, Serpentine Galleries
"Make everything more flexible in every way, so that the building becomes more like a palm tree and less like a completely rigid structure, because that’s the one that will fall down. Rigid things collapse."
Even when we try to ignore the fact that we are, along with dolphins and apes, one of those rare narcissistic, self-aware, mirror-gazing sorts of animals, it proves difficult to repress for very long the shamefully rich feeling we have for ourselves.