This year, as the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) celebrates the 20th anniversary of its Zaha Hadid-designed building, the CAC marks the occasion with A Permanent Nostalgia for Departure: A Rehearsal on Legacy with Zaha Hadid. This group exhibition examines legacy through a collection of new commissions by an international roster of artists that proposes a take on Hadid’s practice and the CAC building itself. The Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, which opened in 2003, was the first U.S. museum designed by a woman and Hadid’s first completed building in the U.S. The exhibition is guest curated by Maite Borjabad López-Pastor and is on view September 22, 2023–January 28, 2024.
“Zaha Hadid’s iconic design of our building symbolizes innovation and creativity. It embodies our mission as an incubator for creative expression in the Cincinnati community and beyond,” said Executive Director of the CAC, Christina Vassallo. “It only seems fitting to celebrate Hadid’s visionary work by asking a new generation of artists to reflect and respond to the impact she made and how her ideas continue to live on and inspire us all.”
The curatorial text offers that in 2011, Etel Adnan wrote in an ode to Zaha Hadid, “to discover, in this woman who built a solid rock, a permanent nostalgia for departure. Everything she made seems to always be the day before a departure, a permanent invitation to the imagination, and to the imaginary.” Adnan’s poetic words proposed an understanding of Hadid’s oeuvre as an invitation to take a trip. This exhibition expands on Adnan’s prompt, proposing a take on Zaha Hadid’s legacy not as a conclusive overview, but rather as a point of departure full of possibilities and reflections.
A Permanent Nostalgia for Departure reflects on what legacy means. It asks, what are the possibilities of actively engaging with the outcome of a creative action, which—once emancipated from the author—opens a range of questions and concepts that continue to generate an ecosystem of knowledge. This exhibition actively uses Hadid’s architectural thinking as a starting point, a source of knowledge that can be activated, transferred and evolved.
Like an Avalanche Started by a Gentle Push
Deriving from a childhood photograph of Zaha Hadid, a cascading form by Hera Büyüktaşcıyan weaves connections with the artist’s own childhood through resurfacing waves of urban traces on uncanny foundations. While the piece flows across the “Urban Carpet,” a key element of the CAC’s building that Zaha intended to be a seamless connection between the museum and the street it sits on, it reimagines the idea of the ground as an accumulation of time and memory. The idea of the ground and foundations it bears and shakes as a long term interest of Büyüktaşcıyan, through this sculptural intervention she revisits an element from her own personal history where she decomposes the façade of the apartment she was born in and delves into a deeper concept of time,erasure and transformation that overflow through the process of unfolding. Suggesting a linear continuum, horizontally placed marble and travertine slabs are often seen at the first level of 60's and 70's apartment blocks in Istanbul. Situated in Kurtuluş neighbourhood, formerly known as Tatavla in Greek, the neighbourhood where these building blocks stand, have been predominantly inhabited by the minority communities of Istanbul from the 16th century up till today. The hill where the neighbourhood is situated was surrounded by several streams and springs that once existed, whose evidence of presence today remains only in the given names of areas branching across Tatavla. Like an Avalanche Started by a Gentle Push weaves into these diminished water bodies with the linear current of the travertine slabs that overlay and frame personal and collective memories and histories, and embodies the movement between timelines, urban traces, elements and their underlying tensions that resurface throughout. Layered carpets move in a gravitating flow, unfolding as an internal score, vocalized by burnt and engraved marks on their surfaces, mirroring camouflaged snippets of traces, fragments, hollows and curves that have accumulated within the artist's memory of the place she once grew up. Büyüktaşcıyan's form that cascades like an avalanche in between softness and hardness, it resonates with Hadid's understanding of bending material reality as well as deciphering spaces and landscapes whose foundation keeps continuously shaking.