Because of its rootedness, architecture has always relied on the circulation of its image — an aspect of architectural work that has only been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which furthered the viewership of built architecture to increase while its visitor base was kept to a bare minimum. Not only do images of architecture circulate, so do images of architects at work — largely canonical images of architects working on or with traditional media, namely models and drawings. With their new exhibition at the Princeton University School of Architecture, MOS presents a new depiction of the architect at work and of the work of the architect all while innovating a twenty-first-century means of circulating them.
Based on artist and writer Hito Steyerl’s definition of spam, in her book Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War, Hilary Sample and Michael Meredith, who practice together as MOS, coined the term “spam architecture,” to describe work that is “repetitive, inexpensive, and without signature.” As a prolific maker that creates in multiple different media and shares their output on various platforms, MOS doesn’t necessarily think of spam architecture negatively, but rather as attempts to reach outward and “find common ground within our fragmented attention.” Even though architecture can operate this way at times — momentarily grabbing attention until it is replaced by the next image in the feed — with (662) MOS ARCH, the architects bring attention to the quieter side of their practice.
The show presents smaller-scale projects, ranging from models to notes, swatches and sketches, all presented on a single table; not unlike the central table in MOS’s Harlem office space on which objects such as those on view tend to accumulate. Visitors have the opportunity to see process work from the firm’s well-known residential, book and exhibition projects alongside everyday office ephemera and inspiration all interspersed with one another. The non-hierarchical table-scape is similarly experienced from afar by texting (662) 667 2724, the phone number that gives the show its name.
Once you start a conversation with (662) MOS ARCH, you enter a choose-your-own-adventure format of the exhibition. Graphics by Studio Lin and photography by Michael Vahrenwald come together with MOS’s curatorial statement and the show’s object list to create an immersive experience via text message. As if a friend is sending you pictures of their office or sharing what they’re currently working on, your text thread with (662) MOS ARCH quickly fills with photos that depict often-relatable modes of architectural work and practice. An interest in experimentation and iteration (and re-iteration) are apparent in what’s on show — work, though central to many practices, typically comes second to the results that they garner. As thoughtful as the pieces presented are, as too are you given the time to contemplate the exhibition, absorbing the material at your own pace, whether in an extended text exchange or in shorter bursts.
(662) MOS ARCH is on view at the Princeton School of Architecture until April 22, 2022.
(662) MOS ARCH Opens at the Princeton University School of Architecture — and via Text Message.