Paul Kuimet: If Air Can Be Poured Like a Liquid
July 8 – August 1, 2021
FUGA: Budapest Center of Architecture, Budapest 
The Tallinn-based Paul Kuimet (b. 1984) makes 16 mm films and photo installations that cover landscapes and architecture as well as modernist objects and works of art. In his recent work Kuimet has concentrated not so much on the forms of modernist architecture, but the materials (steel and glass) and their relation to the development of global capitalism since the mid-19th century.
In the exhibition the photo series titled A Brief History of Scaffolding and the 16mm film Material Aspects (both from 2020) are on display. On the photos one can see scaffoldings placed on construction sites all over the world whose identical structures reflect the standardized forms of globalization. Yet, each object in the photographs shows its peculiarities, allowing them to be seen as found sculptural situations. A single scaffolding foot is in some ways the smallest structural unit of the modern real estate economy, a temporary and modular element that appears and disappears in every modern city as quickly and inconspicuously as the movement of capital that assembles the scaffolding in the first place.
The 16mm film Material Aspects unfolds on the desktop of an unknown collage artist working sometime in the early 21st century. Browsing through various archival excerpts, magazines, books and photographs, the history of modernist steel and glass architecture is introduced. The film refers to the paradox Marshall Berman described in the early 1980s: the dystopian glass cities depicted in Soviet science fiction became a reality on the other side of the Iron Curtain under the conditions of the so-called free market economy. The best-known example is the transparent glass city depicted by Yevgeny Zamyatin in his 1924 novel We, in which the inhabitants are constantly monitored. The film’s medium and technique of slow cross dissolves evokes the idea of infinite transparency—of always looking through something to see its relation to something else, whether in architectural form or ideology. All of it depending on the point of view, of looking at things in a certain light. This is emphasised when the voiceover of the film suddenly addresses the viewer and tries to place their body in space and in relation to the film, its materiality and looping structure.
Showing the works together, the artist draws an abstract parallel between scaffolding and the Crystal Palace – as they are both transparent, light and transient edifices based on a modular frame.
At the opening of the exhibition the artist will also present his recent book, Compositions with Passing Time (2021, Lugemik Publishing) which will be available for purchase at FUGA’s bookshop.
Photography: Paul Kuimet