In part three of uncube′s short series on photographers and artists who like to bend the built truth, Jeanette Kunsmann profiles the work of a British artist and designer who turns derelict buildings into surreal showstoppers.
“A hybrid of fiction and reality, a mixture of illusion and humour” is how Alex Chinneck describes his own works, adding: “fictions do not exist without reality, and my works are also dominated by the familiar and the known.” The 29-year-old artist and designer creates installations that look like photo-montages but, in contrast to the works of other artists featured in this series, they actually exist – at least temporarily. These large-scale, elaborate constructions remain standing until the empty buildings they have been wrought upon on are demolished. Last year, his public art project From the Knees of my Nose to the Belly of my Toes caused quite a stir in the British seaside resort of Margate. Chinneck appears to have tugged at the bottom of the brick façade of a derelict house like a tablecloth so that the entire outer wall slipped down by one storey and slid into the front yard.
It didn’t take long for the construction industry to become aware of the attention-grabbing effect of Chinneck’s works and a number of companies are now asking for him to make installations bearing their logos. Which is a tempting prospect for the artist since these projects are anything but cheap to produce and require a considerable amount of support and sponsoring. Public art has long been recognised as a marketing tool but “it’s a difficult balancing act,” Chinneck says, “because I rely on the funding, yet I don’t see my work as a service.”
Architecture is a means to an end. With works such as these, it is called into question, by its own means. Alex Chinneck interweaves reality with fictions that cannot exist without that reality. Ultimately, the results can be seen as part of a search for a new reality.
– Jeanette Kunsmann is a freelance journalist and editor at Baunetz
First published in Baunetzwoche #349