Jean Nouvel’s distinctive glass exhibition spaces in the Fondation Cartier have been a provocation to artists and curators for two decades, upending the conventions of the white box gallery and pushing the limits of architecture. The large, transparent walls of the building were at the forefront of glass technology in the ‘90s, aspiring to one of Modernism’s highest goals: to dematerialize the wall and seamlessly connect interior to exterior.
Musings on a Glass Box empties the ground floor galleries in order to put them on display. Their visual and acoustic qualities are heightened through a few strategically placed interventions in the building’s plumbing, electrical, and façade systems. Using a cliché of time lapsed and the appearance of neglect, the project begins with a single, mischievous leak from the ceiling. A response ensues with the aid of a bucket, a chorus, sensors, robotics, remote communications, video, and real-time sound processing. The two ground floor galleries interconnect in a feedback loop. Small gestures in the large gallery are amplified in the smaller one, making the familiar seem uncanny and turning the banal into the grotesque. The project is a collaboration with composer David Lang and sound artist Jody Elff.