Reality Cues is an online collective of architects, “offering delicious and nutritional architecture in a fast food format.” They’re best known for their two projects Graffiti Lab, a blog displaying architectural landmarks graffitied with even more architectural landmarks (including landmark architects like Mies) and Archistophanes, the voice of Reality Cues—as told through his Twitter account and blog on Architizer. We caught up with the Reality Cues Librarian, who was able to answer our questions and forward more specific ones through the collective’s network of contributors.
1. For starters, what’s the mentality behind Archistophanes and Graffiti Lab? What are these two projects setting out to accomplish (in addition to being hilarious)? How do they relate to each other?
Each project and even Reality Cues is about making and addressing architecture in a new digital and interactive/social medium. Take Tumblr, for instance, whose currency is popular culture. Professionally crafted imagery and crude Photoshop alike find a home. Graffiti Lab set out to learn this language - not just to publish photos of buildings or architectural renderings, but to actually create architecture in the medium of popular culture and collage. Similarly, Archistophanes is a character invented to address the role of the architect as a social being. One that takes on the traditional rule-maker/critic personage, but also the internet junkie who reblogs and refreshes 24-hours a day.
2. Can you give some background about the people that contribute to Archistophanes and Graffiti Lab—are many of them architects? How did they find each other?
The real nucleus is Reality Cues, which was born out of the desire for a creative outlet for a few architects who had other jobs, hence the pseudonyms. Rather quickly we have gained a number of members who feel that same urge to create within the digital world. We only communicate online, so typically someone will have an idea and send out an email, others will comment or join the project if they have time. This is how Archistophanes and Graffiti Lab were created: by a loose architectural think tank.
3. @Archistophanes says that “The Age of the Architects is coming.” Sounds ominous. What’s that going to be like? Combined with all the talk about the New Architecture, this seems like it might be a commentary on the past age of the modernists. Is it?
Modernists were masters of promoting the glory of architecture. Since then we have become more critical of the capacity and role of the architect, but in some ways may have bound our hands in the process. Archistophanes attempts to maintain the long-standing tradition of the Architectural Manifesto, while not letting the pendulum swing too far back toward over-glorification. Twitter and Facebook are a thrilling platform for this kind of manifesto, where “At the store buying socks” is considered news. Architects need to navigate this changing social landscape, although it is unclear what our role may be.
4. Regarding Graffiti Lab, what do you think graffiti can do? What does an image like this or this say about the building it’s Photoshopped onto?
Dr. Junk on ‘Less is More?’:
In the sense that this is Graffiti Lab, the question ‘what can [it] do?’ strikes at the core of this pursuit. The immediate, glib sentiment of one against the painstaking consideration of the other is a situation all too familiar to anyone of us who has gone through the rigors of our profession. The social media platform is a flat infinite plane; it’s interesting to see who’s paying attention. In that, the question is less ‘what does this say about the building,’ and more of a cultural concept asking ‘what is the New Architecture?’ GraffitiLab is one of many Johnny Appleseeds of this new landscape, sewing our own species of delicious hybrid varieties.
Smokey Joe on ‘Flaming Mies’:
In the beginning, Graffiti Lab was quite literal: tagging our names on the work of our favorite architects. We’ve become more critical of what we make, but it’s still 50% Arch History 101 and 50% US Weekly. The real hope is to get architecture to a broader audience. Whether or not combining MVDR and a classic flaming skull tattoo and putting it on the Getty Mausoleum is doing this, I can’t say, but I like to think that a few more kids will Google ‘Mies’ at the end of the day.
5. And a question for both this graphic artist in particular and everybody: Do you really not want to be friends with Mies? How do you feel about him and his legacy?
Ha! Well, this particular image is more of a personal response than a critical one. The feeling is that of wanting to actually be more than friends with Mies, in the Lady Gaga “Bad Romance” sense. While studying abroad I missed a late night connection in Barcelona and wandered around the city during the hours that I spent waiting for the subway to re-open. It began to rain and I found shelter under the roof of the Barcelona Pavillion. I ended up spending the night there and have since have felt a deep connection with the building and in some sense, with Mies as a public figure.
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