For Pierced, an architectural intervention that embodies the pained ambivalence evoked by home, Scott Ingram and his collaborators penetrated a recently vacated, single-family house in Ormewood Park with a 47-foot-long I-beam. The beam passes through a corner of the bathroom and two bedrooms before emerging at an acute angle from the light green western wall. The black beam is made of stained poplar rather than steel. Ingram has worked with similarly deceptive materials in the past, such as “concrete” blocks made from lightweight urethane, and the substitution here is particularly effective, since the wood displays scars and white streaks from its passage.
This intrusion into an intimate space might be interpreted as a violent gesture, but the details of the work speak against this interpretation. Cuts in the walls were carefully shaped to conform to the beam’s outline, making it almost appear to be part of the building’s structure, and the exterior paneling curls against it like a soft, fleshy lip. Bodily images run deep in the work. Consider the fact that fractured bones are often surgically drilled and pinned in place to stabilize them. Analogously, the gesture of piercing may be read not as destructive but rather as therapeutic, imposing a radical form of support in the hope of holding together an unstable home, relationship, or family. At the same time, stability and comfort are profoundly in tension. It’s impossible to move naturally through the pierced rooms; the need to duck and twist in order to avoid a painful encounter with that looming black beam evokes the emotional contortions domestic life may impose.
Seen in this light, Ingram’s work is different in kind from Gordon Matta-Clark’s, which was fundamentally hostile to architecture, treating buildings as mere raw material for the chainsaw. Matta-Clark’s aim was to open, invert, and expose interior spaces to the outside world and to destroy the pat certainties of architectural categories. The result, for viewers, was frequently spatial disorientation and vertigo.
Pierced, though, operates through increasing degrees of confinement. It leaves these interior spaces intact but obstructed, drawing us into them in order to manifest their hidden lines of stress and the invisible supports that hold them together.
Pierced can be seen at 850 Eastwood Ave, at the corner of Delaware, through June 15. The interior of the house will be open for viewing on June 14, 10AM-3PM.
Dan Weiskopf is an associate professor of philosophy and an associate faculty member in the Neuroscience Institute at Georgia StateUniversity. He is the author, with Fred Adams, of An Introduction to the Philosophy of Psychology, forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.