Speed and its limits

“The world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed.” Such was the founding manifesto of Italian Futurism, which celebrates its 100th anniversarythis year. To mark the occasion, Montreal’s Canadian Centre for Architecture is presenting an exhibition devoted to the inescapable presence of speed in modern life — in art, architecture and urbanism, the graphic arts, economics and material culture. The exhibition is co-organized with the Wolfsonian-Florida International University in Miami Beach, and curated by Jeffrey T. Schnapp of the Stanford Humanities Lab.

Speed Limits probes the powers and limits of the modern era’s cult of speed in the domains of circulation and transit, construction and the built environment, efficiency, the measurement and representation of rapid motion, and the mind/body relationship. A variety of objects spanning a 100-year cultural history reveal the long-standing polarities and closely intertwined relationship between the fast and the slow.

“In recent years, the Canadian Centre for Architecture has undertaken a number of projects addressing the question of limits, including the limits of visual perception in Sense of the City and of postwar notions of progress in 1973: Sorry, Out of Gas,” says CCA director Mirko Zardini. “These exhibitions challenged some founding myths of contemporary life, while bringing to light practices shaping daily experience. Speed Limits investigates one of the greatest of these myths, and challenges us to find alternatives to the reliance on speed in contemporary society.”

Presented in the CCA’s main galleries, the exhibition features more than 240 objects from the collections of the CCA and the Wolfsonian — including books, photographs, advertising posters, architectural drawings, publications and videos. Together they present a multifaceted view that is both a defence of speed and an implicit criticism of its negative effect on contemporary life. Covering the period from 1900 to the present, the exhibition analyzes the evolution of the process of production and construction, the beginnings of prefabrication, the household, traffic and transit, and the workplace, as viewed through the prism of speed.

Conceived and installed in a linear fashion, each of the six distinct but interrelated themes is explored in its own gallery: Pace, Traffic, Fast Construction, Efficiency, Motion Capture and Measuring, and Mind/Body.

Speed Limits runs at the CCA until Oct. 12.