Matthew Darbyshire @ Tramway
In what is Darbyshire’s largest public exhibition to date, he has sought to fill the massive space of Tramway 1 with an installation that simulates a building site: a huge vinyl banner stretched from pillar to pillar, printed with a trompe l’oeil architectural render of the impending development.
Continuing Darbyshire’s exploration of the non-specificity of today’s design language, the sketched buildings take inspiration from the Mackintosh style but reduces it – in a typically homogenised developers’ vernacular – to bland and generic motifs.
According to the exhibition literature, the space is supposed to be eerily silent and present us with a hypothetical scenario where Tramway has been bought up by developers. But it isn’t eerie – only empty, which is often the case if you visit Tramway midweek, and the installation is simply unconvincing.
Not helping our suspension of disbelief is the sight of more artworks lurking around the edges of the ‘virtual village’, produced collaboratively with other artists. One of these, a series of wall-mounted photograms, features lurid lime and sunset-hued photos of vegetables. They appear to reference a style of advertising design that we would now think of as ‘bad taste’, but have no discernible connection to ‘Mockintosh’ architecture.
The exception to these confusing collaborative projects is a video which pans over housing exteriors while architectural critic Owen Hatherley narrates in ‘developer talk’ about housing as a barometer of social trends. The video crystallizes many interesting ideas that help improve what would otherwise have been an even blander installation. But this aside – if Darbyshire wants to open our eyes to the standardising effects of design, the installation would be more effective as an offsite project, masquerading out among the real architecture of Glasgow’s Southside. [Jac Mantle]