Upside-Down House at Mass MoCa

There's an old proofreading trick that involves reading a piece backwards in order to find aberrations that the mind would otherwise auto-correct. A similar experience happens when you stumble upon Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle's new installation at Mass MoCa. Gravity is a Force to be Reckoned With takes a an iconic example of modern architecture, Mies van der Rohe's uncompleted 50x50 House, and literally turns it on its head.

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At once sculpture and situation, the inverted house is replete with suspended Miesian furniture and accessories, but something is amiss. Upon closer inspection, we see the shards of a broken coffee cup — the only apparent victim of gravity's force — with its contents spilled on the pure white ceiling. Periodically, anxious voices emerge from an abandoned iphone perched on the table.

The five-page essay which accompanies the exhibit draws on a range of sources in film, art, literature, and philosophy to try and explain what's going on here. But those of us with an interest in architecture and design will likely be drawn to what the piece seems to be saying about the legacy of Modernism.

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Was the utopian vision of Mies and his cohorts an unfinished project at best? How can we abandon those ideals at a time when the need for mass housing seems more desperate than ever? How does this piece challenge your perception of the dangers and possibilities of Modernism?

Images: Ronee Saroff