“Virtual Control – Security and the Urban Imagination” at RIBA, Max Colson interrogates security design in UK cities

This summer, The Practice Space at RIBA will host an exhibition of photography, video and installation by the artist Max Colson, interrogating privatised public space and security design.

 

'Images of Enjoyment and Spectacle' Westfield, Stratford © Max Colson

‘Images of Enjoyment and Spectacle’ Westfield, Stratford © Max Colson

 

Presented by the UCL Urban Laboratory, with support from The Leverhulme Trust, ‘Virtual Control’ focuses on urban environments that are nominally public, but owned and managed by commercial entities. Elements of the exhibition explore how carefully camouflaged surveillance technology is used to monitor these areas, and, potentially, to manipulate behaviour, whilst other sections repurpose ‘photorealistic’ imagery, marketing material and 3D animation techniques used to present idealised versions of urban environments.

 

'Images of Enjoyment and Spectacle' Canary Wharf © Max Colson

‘Images of Enjoyment and Spectacle’ Canary Wharf © Max Colson

'Images of Enjoyment and Spectacle' © Max Colson

‘Images of Enjoyment and Spectacle’ © Max Colson

 

Playfully walking between urban facts and fictions, this exhibition by artist/photographer Max Colson presents a series of investigations on controlled urban areas. The focus is privatised public space – urban environments which are nominally public, but owned and managed by commercial entities. The images on display explore how carefully camouflaged surveillance technology is used to monitor these areas, and, potentially, to manipulate behaviour. Other parts of the exhibition look at how these spaces are marketed and present an idealized version of urban environments. Whether documenting the networks of sensors designed to ‘track’ suspect individuals or exploring how plants are used to disguise security architecture, this exhibition suggests how paranoia intrudes upon the urban imagination.

Dr Ben Campkin, Director, UCL Urban Laboratory, and mentor of Max Colson’s residency, says: “Max Colson photographs privatised public spaces with a forensic eye for the strange and the suspicious in otherwise banal corporate environments. Whether or not these images present actual security and surveillance features or innocuous decoration, with humour and insight they capture the atmosphere of distrust that pervades contemporary cities. ‘Virtual Control’ prompts us to question how control operates in the built environment. Building on the traditions of investigative photojournalism, and displaying manipulated ‘photo-real’ visualisations which heighten their weirdness, it also leaves us to wonder whether the trust we place in images is justified.”

 

'Hide and Seek: The Dubious Nature of Plant Life in High Security Spaces' © Max Colson

‘Hide and Seek: The Dubious Nature of Plant Life in High Security Spaces’ © Max Colson

'Hide and Seek: The Dubious Nature of Plant Life in High Security Spaces' © Max Colson

‘Hide and Seek: The Dubious Nature of Plant Life in High Security Spaces’ © Max Colson

'Hide and Seek: The Dubious Nature of Plant Life in High Security Spaces' © Max Colson

‘Hide and Seek: The Dubious Nature of Plant Life in High Security Spaces’ © Max Colson

 

Mike Althorpe, Programmes Manager, RIBA says: “We are delighted to be hosting the first exhibition by Max Colson in the Practice Space. The Virtual Control project raises important issues about the contemporary dynamics of urban space in a compelling and alternative way – we are sure it will stimulate much debate over summer.”

 

'Friendly Proposals' Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford © Max Colson

‘Friendly Proposals’ Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford © Max Colson

'Friendly Proposals' Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford © Max Colson

‘Friendly Proposals’ Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford © Max Colson

Max Colson says: “I’m really excited to have my first UK solo exhibition take place at RIBA, and to showcase the work I have been developing at UCL over the past ten months. Being in residence at the Urban Lab and being funded by the Leverhulme Trust has given me the ideal critical environment to explore how urban planning and security design can radically alter our use and our understanding of urban space. It’s been a fantastic opportunity to produce an exhibition that speaks not only to the change that has been happening in the capital over the last decade but to contested models of redevelopment in the rest of the country.”

 

'Character Areas' © Max Colson

‘Character Areas’ © Max Colson

'Friendly Proposals' Media City, Salford © Max Colson

‘Friendly Proposals’ Media City, Salford © Max Colson

 

Max’s work has previously been selected as one of the UK Winners of the 2013 Flash Forward Emerging Photographer competition, and has been shortlisted to the OPEN14 at the Brighton Photo Fringe. In addition to this he has exhibited his work in Berlin, London, and this summer as part of the Noorderlicht Photo Festival in the Netherlands. Virtual Control – Security and the Urban Imagination has been curated by Sunil Shah.

 


 

Practical Information

Virtual Control – Security and the Urban Imagination
9 July – 25 August 2015
The Practice Space, RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AD
Free entry

 


 

News source: RIBA