There was a year in my life in which I would wake up every day at 11.37am. As if possessed by an internal alarm clock, I would always be pulled out of my sleep at precisely 11.37am. There was a reason for it. Every morning, there was this luxurious radio show that would broadcast a full music LP. Unlike many of today’s play-lists, the long-play was taken in as a coherent whole, an articulate soundscape. The radio show was called Interiors. After a few words of introduction, day after day, one was allowed to enter another unexpected, personal inner landscape.
The Interiores exhibition is coming to an end this coming Saturday – with the corresponding limited edition book set for December. Today I’m also doing a one-day installation, The Golden Temple, part of the ongoing EMPTY CUBE project that, in this instance, runs parallel to the Lisbon Architecture Triennale. So, it’s a good moment for a sort of mid-term assessment.
As the wanted ambiguities of one’s own work become the subject of scrutiny, and as the focus shifts from talking about others to talking about oneself, there is a thin line that is forever broken. So let’s take that thread up.
In the scope of curatorial or critical activity – which Ethel Baraona Pohl just readdressed when referring to my recent Abitare article – you are expected to maintain a certain distance from your subject. My position, however, is that today one can be so entangled in different modes of activity, that this distance becomes truly impossible. And this is potentially not that bad.
The growing relevance of the social networks – which simply make transparent the rules that were already in place in any competitive cultural game – only adds to the impossibility. Against the progression of technical specialization, cultural personas can no longer be contained in the straightjacket of a single position.
If I have always claimed the right to contradiction, and if I have more recently reclaimed the return of operative criticism – revisiting Banham’s immersive openness as opposed to Tafuri’s historical dead ends – I must now re-embrace the strange, ridiculous notion of the one-man band. As I’ve done in my conference last week at the BIArch, in Barcelona.
Being a one-man band is hard. Doing too many different things is considered a personal offense to many people. But this notion can be useful, especially if one thinks that digital and communication technologies, rather than merely supporting a formal language, modify the way we operate. They provoke alterations both at the physiological and professional level.
Think of Mathew Herbert. Being a one-man band today simply means that you can instantly outsource all your needs and, without the burden of a large band or office, you may assume control of many different creative processes happening at the same time. Collaborations, cheap telecommunications, digital capacity are the tools that allow for this creative multitasking.
And then, wonderful things like this may happen.
This is why I think that, today, embracing apparently contradictory activities may be enriching. And this may be enriching as precisely the opposite of being superficial – like in “not going deep enough into a specific matter,” as contesters of interdisciplinarity would immediately and joyfully claim.
If different activities indeed constantly feed on each other – as has been the case of artists that pursue diverse formal or methodological strategies – the complexity of the oeuvre comes out of the fuzzy superimposition of the different tasks being performed, and not at all from the value of a single work.
Allowing yourself, on top of this, to also publicize your own self-enquiries may be deemed somewhat dubious, if not simply egocentric. But, isn’t it the advantage of the new wiki mindscape that any line of enquiry should be pursued so as to contribute to general knowledge?
As Interiores is coming to its end, and even if it its contents will live on as a special publication, this is the right moment to face up to the potential divide that may come up between what I make and what I write.
Do as I say, not as I do. This maxim, as it usually happens, is not the product of popular knowledge, but the remnant of a refined intellectual critique on hypocrisy. One that can be traced back from the New Testament right into John Selden’s “Table-Talk” back in 1689.
As I’ve been recently dubbed a moralist, and as I myself like to quote a once old friend as not wanting to preach to the converted, I guess I should go back to the core of this dictum and reflect upon a few things.
And I should do it for one simple reason: while I constantly preach for diversity and contamination – and even occasionally for an aesthetical shift towards the “ugly” – my architecture work sometimes feels too slick and polished.
It’s almost as if I wouldn’t know how to do otherwise. However, the conceptual operations that lay behind the creation of these spatial interventions – objects with which I invade existing places – are certainly becoming more hybrid and trying to avoid the repetition of basic formalist traps.
If they represent some form of minimalism – when I’ve frequently raged against minimalist chic – it’s only because they eventually intend go back to the crux of minimalism as this was once described by Hal Foster. And then again, they willfully blend with other cultural strategies, such as pop or fiction.
These interventions want to create disturbance, rather than just accommodating need. And the fact that collaborations are also involved in the presentation of these projects means that further contamination is to be added to their intrinsic invention, originating new critical layers.
João Paulo Feliciano, Around the House (Daft Punk is in my House), 2002-10.
Doing interior architecture has become more and more of a political project, and one that goes along critical curatorial practices and writing itself. In this sense, what I do does echo what I say, but within a distorted aesthetic arena that is an integral part of a practice research into both ethics and aesthetics.
I recycle existing spaces, I revive them through new narratives, just as I claim that architects should be the first to tell western society to stop building anew in yet untaken territory. And I believe those acts of recycling can again be an arena in which architects again assert an artistic and political stance.
In the middle of an arresting institutional crisis, one must find ways to still exercise one’s acquired knowledge. As such, as Brazilian singer and poet Chico Buarque once sung in the beautiful and subversive “A Good Advice”, one provocation comes to mind: do as I say, do as I do, act twice before you think.