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Feb 18 - Apr 1, 2017
Environmental Communications: Contact High is the first major presentation of the prolific West Coast media collective, Environmental Communications. Formed by a group of young architects, photographers, and psychologists in the late 1960s, Environmental Communications argued that in an era of accelerating image proliferation, university slide libraries were the emerging centers of institutional and pedagogical power. The group’s core members, David Greenberg, Bernard Perloff, Ted Tokio Tanaka and Roger Mona Webster, speculated that by infiltrating slide libraries with their “environmental photography” they could alter the visual cortex of architecture schools, subvert conventional pedagogy, and spark a revolution in student consciousness.
With debts to LA’s electronically mediated counterculture and its conceptual photography movement their practice was attuned to the spatial, mediatic, and social forces they documented in Tokyo, the American Southwest, and, most often, Los Angeles, their primary object of analysis. They eventually shot hundreds of thousands of 35mm slides, forming a vast visual taxonomy of Southern California’s urban and social geography. Assembled into thematic sets their slides were packaged and sold via the Environmental Communications Catalog to museums, cultural institutions and to an international network of architecture schools. Their slide series mapped the domes, inflatables, communes, and media experiments of the late 1960s and 1970s, compiling an almanac of the era’s alternative architectural practices.
Environmental Communications: Contact High surveys the group’s process images, videotaped road trips, blimp tours and group therapy sessions as well as their sales catalogs, slide sets, and their extensive distribution network.
The exhibition was first produced by GSAPP Exhibitions for the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation.
This expanded version of the exhibition appears with the assistance of the University of Southern California School of Architecture.
Generous support for research on Environmental Communications was provided by the Graham Foundation.
Curated and designed by Mark Wasiuta, Marcos Sánchez and Adam Bandler
Curatorial Assistant: Florencia Alvarez Pacheco