The titular “translocation” process refers to the transfer of the European modernist concepts to distant regions of Asia, which took place in the 1960s. As a surprising consequence, South Asian cities uncover the less-known masterpieces of the movement. Buildings designed by Van Molyvann and NgoViet Thu, architects educated in Europe, represent international style in an elegant, harmonious and context sensitive variation.
The exhibition depicts how architecture is used by its creators as a tool for rebuilding national identity and restoring culture. Using the international language of forms, Cambodia’s and Vietnam’s modern movement managed to retain a wide spectrum of characteristics of local construction features seen from the famous Angkor temples to common rural residential houses. Expansion and major additions to the language of forms and ornaments constituted a major challenge for the simplicity and universal values ingrained in the philosophy of the modern movement. Vann Molyvann and NgoViet Thu were undoubtedly successful due to their ability to synthesize native forms and a thorough understanding of the local environment.
Awe of the magnificent architecture should not stand in the way of asking difficult, existential questions, staring with the ephemerality of architecture - seen as “decomposition”, erosion of concrete observed in expressive shots, but also the ephemerality of architecture as a result of demolition. The exhibition presents photographs of buildings, some of which are in just such a danger. Pressure of investors to acquire land in South Asian city centres has a calamitous impact on modernist masterpieces.
The story told through the photographs by Agata Bonenberg is one of seeking modernist movement jewels in little known cultural, geographical and spatial settings. The photos are the result of an encounter with international architecture driven by the search for harmony, geometry and order in photographic shots of prominent structures representing that movement. Composed with the images of surrounding scenery: an ordinary day in Cambodia and Vietnam, they speak about the architecture, people and the time that changes cities.