Artist Fiona Connor and architect Erin Besler have produced a site- specific installation in the Pedway underneath the Chicago Cultural Center. This underground network was developed in the interwar period, and linked together the CBD offices for commuters and communication. When the connection to the Cultural Center was opened 1989, it was a perfunctory gesture that did little to celebrate the new entrance to the building. Besler and Connor’s project introduces two conceptual moves: bringing the grand Bedford Stone entry of Randolph Square down to the Pedway, and bringing a survey of varied fluorescent Pedway lighting up to Randolph Street. This switching of levels and languages interrupts the two worlds that are held apart from each other.
What is seen here is a provisional object, a 1:1 model that, in an idealized form, would be achieved in the same materials as the original. It has the marks of manufacturing and use, all faithfully reproduced. Rather than foreground questions of authenticity which are muddied by the history of standardization, the pair consider the ways that the act of duplication reveals the architecture as already in-flux. The doors for instance, have been changed at least once before in the building’s renovation, and the fluorescent lights replaced in regular maintenance.
Recent histories of industry are applying a finer grain to understanding the procedures, documents, and figures involved in what was once seen as a smooth and anonymous standardization in art and architecture. Besler and Connor’s Front Door that demonstrates the complicated narratives and contributions embedded in seemingly benign building finishes.
Erin Besler and Fiona Connor met in Los Angeles in 2014.
Fiona Connor is a New Zealander born in 1981, currently living and practicing her art in Los Angeles. She received a degree in Fine Arts and History from the University of Auckland, and she earned her Masters in Fine Arts at California Institute of the Arts. After graduating from the University of Auckland, Fiona concentrated on exhibiting installations in Auckland and Melbourne. In 2007, she was a founding member of Gambia Castle: a cooperative gallery of like-minded artists. Connor’s work uses strategies of repetition to produce objects that interrogate their own form by engaging different histories embedded within our built environment. For her, fabrication is a form of research. Her work was recognized in New Zealand when she was shortlisted in 2010 as one of four finalists for the bi-annual Walter's Prize for contemporary art. Her installations are held by the Auckland City Art Gallery, The Dowse Gallery, the Te Papa in Wellington, the Christchurch Art Gallery, and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Fiona Connor has held artist residencies at Monash University in Melbourne and at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. During the past eight years since being resident in Los Angeles Connor has devoted her energies both locally and across a global spread with exhibitions in New York, Barcelona, Basel, Istanbul, Sydney and Auckland. Connor's artistic career has displayed a consistent attraction to working in a collaborative way and fluidly between curating, facilitating and object making. An example being the Newspaper Reading Club founded in 2011, and the conversion of her own Los Angeles apartment over 12 months into a gallery titled Laurel Doody in 2016. Connor is now initiating the Varese Group: a loose collective of her associates, mentors, and fellow artists will meet annually in an old house in Marzio, Northern Italy over the next five years for a month starting May, 2017.
Erin Besler was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1982. She is a co-founder of the Los Angeles based practice Besler & Sons, an interdisciplinary architecture and design studio that works on buildings, mockups, interfaces and software. Recently they were finalists for MoMA PS1's Young Architects Program, participants in the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial, and the Shenzhen & Hong Kong Bi-City Biennial of Architecture/Urbanism as part of the exhibition "Now, There," which was awarded the UABB Bronze Dragon. Erin is currently faculty at UCLA in the Department of Architecture and Urban Design where she was the 2013-2014 Teaching Fellow. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Yale University and a Master of Architecture with distinction from the Southern California Institute of Architecture. Her work is situated within the gap between disciplinary problems and practical problems and seeks to refit things that have been relegated to architectural practice, such as everyday aspects of construction, building information modeling and architectural mockups, into a conceptual framework. Recently she was awarded the Architectural League of New York Young Architects Prize. Her work has been presented and exhibited in Beijing, Los Angeles, Paris, Chicago, New York and San Francisco with publications in Log, Pidgin, FutureAnterior, Project, San Rocco and Perspecta.