The video 'Pruitt-Igoe Falls' takes its title from Pruitt-Igoe, a large urban housing project built in the 1950s in Saint Louis, United States; quickly facing decay, its demolition by implosion started in 1972, 18 years only after construction, and was the first of this kind on such a scale. Designed by American architect Minoru YAMASKI, also responsible for the World Trade Center twin towers, Pruitt-Igoe has become an emblematic icon often evoked by all sides in public housing policy debate, and its destruction was claimed by Postmodern architectural theorician Charles JENCKS to mark 'the day Modern architecture died'.
Under these auspices, Cyprien GAILLARD's video consists of two static and silent shots, linked through a subtle crossfade plan. The first part captures the demolition, at night, of a building in Sighthill housing estate in Glasgow. A city favoured by the artist, the capital of Scotland has the highest number of high-rise housing projects in the United Kingdom, some built in the middle of ancient cemeteries and many now bound to be demolished as part of a large urban rehabilitation plan. The video starts with the striking and fraught with meaning vision of a concrete monolith rising from tombstones, under a powerful lighting that makes the whole scene look like a cinema set. When the grey block implodes and collapses, a thick cloud of dust rises slowly to the foreground and eventually covers the audience and the lights, plunging the image in the dark, out of which only emerge shadows of tombs and vegetation.
A faint light appears in the center of this nocturnal romantic vision, before intensifying and outshining what remained of the first scene: the second shot is a sight of Niagara Falls when they 'light up' at night, illuminated by spotlights that transform them into a dreamy show with changing vivid colors. The falls are filmed from the United States, the 'cheap seats' for those who cannot afford to go to Canada, where the view is the most spectacular, in the same way that the inhabitants of the Glasgow building, moved out with the promise of a better future, can only watch the spectacle of their former home being demolished. As the foam of the second act formally echoes the cloud of dust of the first, Cyprien GAILLARD brings together the majestic falls, a natural phenomenon turned into an amusement park, and the fall of an architecture, also transformed into a show.