Fine Arts Life + Arts

‘Buildering’ exhibition makes Blaffer misbehave


The Blaffer Art Museum’s Director and Chief Curator Claudia Schmuckli led artists Gabriel Martinez, Carrie Marie Schneider and assistant professor of architecture Susan Rogers in a roundtable discussion of the exhibit “Buildering: Misbehaving the City” on Oct. 15 at the Blaffer museum.

Buildering is a kind of urban mayhem that mistreats urban structures to create a new use for space. The word stems from a combination of “building” and “bouldering,” which is a particularly daring form of rock climbing.

“We are interested in the notion of misbehaving and how it can be carried forward as a lens through which to look at art and architecture,” Schmuckli said.

“My goal as the hosting curator is to connect the exhibition to the concerns of the area that Blaffer serves. I wanted to bring the show here to Houston because so much of this misbehaving happens on a daily basis here.”

The exhibit features works by artists from across the globe and includes an outlet for local rebels with Buildering Houston, an online exhibition for art, architecture, design and parkour stunts, which anyone can submit.

Buildering has its roots in parkour, a movement and mindset that transforms the city into a literal playground. It was at its height in the 1920s and ’30s but was criminalized by the federal government after one building climber fell to his death.

Rebelliousness is a key part of the artwork in this exhibit.

“The works play with the threshold between the affect of challenging power and the threat of an actual challenge,” Schneider said.

There’s something ironic to be said about a show on urban misbehaving that is contained in a traditional space.

“The show behaves in the way it arrives at the gallery, and the museum is left intact,” Martinez said.

Rogers said that some of her architecture students were disappointed by how between-the-lines the show is.

“How transgressive can a work be when it has been sanctioned to some extent and appears in a gallery likes this?” Rogers asked.

Rogers says her view on the exhibition stems from her belief as an architect, expecting structures to be built around function first and form second. She says that a new era where the reverse is true has dawned.

“We are in a post-critical area in terms of architecture where everything is effect-driven, non-dissenting, non-utopian,” Rogers said.

“This combines utopian ideas with conditions that lead to change. This struggle is very present today.”

The exhibition deals with the issue of being both inside an institution and outside in the streets simultaneously.

“The artists lose their universal ability to communicate because the works are staged and created for an eventual gallery audience,” Schneider said.

The conversation also discussed the role of the artist in rebellious works like this and how much leeway artists are given to create their art.

“Some pieces seem deliberately about the staging of abilities that not everyone can do. The artwork is created out of a staged action and the city is just an audience,” Schneider said. “The works flaunt the artists’ ability to not be punished for their works.”

The buildering movement also concerns the changing importance of cities in society.

“When the city is no longer a place of manufacturing,” Rogers said, “it becomes an economy of experiences and information for those who live in it.”

‘Buildering: Misbehaving the City’ was originally curated by Steven Matijcio for the Contemporary Arts Center Cincinnati. It will be on display at the Blaffer Art Museum through Dec. 6.

Brown Bag Gallery Talks are coming up at noon on Oct. 22 and Nov. 12 at the Blaffer Gallery. Guests will also get to experience Dutch performance artist Allard van Hoorn morph the Blaffer Art Museum into a music box, complete with aural and visual effects, at 7 p.m. on Nov. 18.

The Blaffer gallery’s hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information on this exhibit and more, visit

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