Alison and Peter Smithson et al., Parallel of Life and Art, installation at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 1952 © 2011 Tate, London
From the catalogue for Graphic Design: Now in Production:
In 1953, Alison and Peter Smithson, along with Nigel Henderson, Eduardo Paolozzi, and Ronald Jenkins mounted the exhibition Parallel of Life and Art at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London. Associated with the Independent Group, which emerged in postwar Britain seeking to introduce mass and popular culture into discussions of high culture. The installation was composed of 122 photographic panels with images drawn from a wide swath of society and culture arranged in a dynamic display utilizing the wall, floor, and ceiling planes.
Dubbing themselves “editors” rather than curators of the exhibition, the group explains in a press release: “In this exhibition an encyclopaedic range of material from past and present is brought together through the medium of the camera which is used as recorder, reporter, and scientific investigator. As recorder of nature objects, works of art, architecture and technics; as reporter of human events the images of which sometimes come to have a power of expression and plastic organisation analogous to the symbol in art; and as scientific investigator extending the visual scale and range, by use of enlargements, X rays, wide angle lens, high speed aerial photography. The editors of this exhibition … have selected more than a hundred images of significance for them. These have been ranged in categories suggested by the materials, which underline a common visual denominator independent of the field from which the image is taken. There is no single simple aim in this procedure. No watertight scientific or philosophical system is demonstrated. In short it forms a poetic-lyrical order where images create a series of cross-relationships.” —AB