Liam Young: New Romance

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The Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery at Columbia GSAPP presents
Liam Young: New Romance, the first U.S. solo exhibition of speculative architect, artist, and filmmaker Liam Young
Press Release
08 March 2017

The Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (Columbia GSAPP) presents Liam Young: New Romance, the first U.S. solo exhibition of speculative architect, artist, and filmmaker Liam Young. Presenting three new short fiction films—In the Robot Skies (2016), Where the City Can’t See (2016), and the debut of Renderlands (2017)—the exhibition charts Young’s recent explorations of cinematic narrative as a form of architectural representation and design. Liam Young: New Romance is on view at the Ross Gallery in Buell Hall, Columbia University, from March 30 through May 13, 2017.

Thursday, March 30
6:30pm, Wood Auditorum, Avery Hall
Panel Discussion with Liam Young, Cristina Goberna (Fake Industries, Columbia GSAPP Adjunct Professor), Julia Kaganskiy (NEW INC), Tim Maughan (author and journalist), and Irene Sunwoo (Columbia GSAPP Director of Exhibitions).

7:30pm, Ross Gallery, Buell Hall
Opening Reception

Friday, March 31
7:00pm, e-flux, 311 E. Broadway, NYC
I Spy with my Machine Eye, audio-visual performance by Liam Young

The three films are screened on a loop in a purpose-built cinema inside the gallery. The installation also includes specialized props developed by Young, as well as materials and research that helped shape the fictional worlds encompassed in each film.

Liam Young has emerged as one of the most distinctive and adventurous voices in contemporary architecture. At the core of his multidisciplinary practice is a continuous interrogation of the present realities of cities. Through research expeditions, documentary film and photography, storytelling, and performance he extrapolates and exaggerates existing networks, systems, and technologies to imagine possible future urbanisms. The exhibition reveals Young’s emerging engagement with narrative film—and in particular world building, the design of a cinematic universe in which a narrative evolves—as an architectural medium. The exhibited films also demonstrate his ground-breaking experimentation with new technologies. Young deploys autonomous drones (In the Robot Skies), manipulates laser scanning and data (Where the City Can’t See), and mines the digital detritus of the global industry of outsourced renderings (Renderlands) to create new worlds where speculative scenarios unfold. Harnessing fiction and visualization technologies to craft urban imaginaries, the trio of films expand our understanding of how architectural design can uncover potential urban futures.

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“In the past few years Liam Young has established a highly original body of work that weaves architectural design, cutting-edge technologies, and visual storytelling,” said Irene Sunwoo, Curator of the Ross Gallery. “Stirring our imaginations, while at the same time provoking critical conversations about contemporary and future cities, the exhibited film projects illustrate Young’s unflinching creativity and incisive curiosity, and present exciting new directions in architectural representation, design, and thinking.”

Liam Young: New Romance is organized by Irene Sunwoo, Columbia GSAPP Director of Exhibitions, with Adam Bandler, Assistant Director of Exhibitions.

Following its New York presentation at the Ross Gallery, Liam Young: New Romance travels to Columbia GSAPP’s Studio-X in Istanbul, Turkey. It opens there to coincide with the 15th Istanbul Biennial on September 16, 2017.

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About the Films

In the Robot Skies (2016, 10 minutes) is the first narrative short film shot entirely by drones whose cameras are programmed with specific cinematic rules and behaviors. The film tells the love story of two teenagers who communicate via a hacked drone from within the digital confines of their own council estate tower block in London. The film embraces the drone as a new instrument of visual storytelling, but also as the catalyst for a new network of surveillance activists and drone hackers within the infrastructure of smart cities.

In the Robot Skies was directed by Liam Young, written by Tim Maughan, and developed in collaboration with the Embedded and Artificially Intelligent Vision Lab at the University of Leuven, Belgium. In the Robot Skies was commissioned by Channel 4 Random Acts and STUK, Belgium.

Where the City Can’t See (2016, 12 minutes) is the first fiction film shot entirely through laser scanning technology. The film is set in the fictional Detroit Economic Zone (DEZ), in a not-too-distant future where Google maps, urban management systems, and CCTV surveillance are mapping—and ruling—our cities. The film explores the subcultures that could emerge from these new technologies, following a group of young factory workers across a single night as they drift through the smart city in a driverless taxi.

Where the City Can’t See was directed by Liam Young, written by Tim Maughan, and produced by AND Festival; with support from Forestry Commission England’s Forest Art Works; and funding from Arts Council England, St. Helens Heart of Glass, and the University of Salford Art Collection.

Renderlands (2017, 8 minutes) is a mixed reality film set in the outsourced video game companies and render farms of India. The film tells the story of a digital renderer who has fallen in love with an animated actor he has created. It chronicles his construction of a dream city as the stage for his romantic fantasy, which he collages together from scavenged VFX movie models and 3D game assets—the remnants of cancelled production jobs that remain on studio hard drives. Using actual digital detritus from the film and game industries, Renderlands presents a contemporary utopia that exists in the thickness of the screen: a virtual city of demolished landmarks, drowned streetscapes, alien invasions, and synthetic actors.

Renderlands was directed by Liam Young, written by Tim Maughan, developed in collaboration with Dhurva Interactive, and Labyrinth Cinematic Solutions, and with support from Columbia GSAPP.

Trailer for In the Robot Skies, 2016
Liam Young
Liam Young is an Australian born architect who operates in the spaces between design, fiction and futures. He is founder of the think tank Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today, a group whose work explores the possibilities of fantastic, speculative and imaginary urbanisms. Building his design fictions from the realities of present, Young also co-runs the Unknown Fields Division, a nomadic research studio that travels on location shoots and expeditions to the ends of the earth to document emerging trends and uncover the weak signals of possible futures. He has been acclaimed in both mainstream and architectural media, including a 2017 BAFTA nomination for Consumed in the Best British Short Film Award category. His work is screened at international film festivals and has been collected by institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Young has taught at the Architectural Association and Princeton University and now runs an M.A. in Fiction and Entertainment at SCI-Arc.