Report from Corpo-real #4
Corpo-real is a 2-year full time Masters course in Interior architecture. We provide a Lab based community in Zwolle where we investigate the corpo-real. In the word corpo-real ‘corpo’ stands for bodies in general and ‘real’ for the reality that they relate to.
Corpo-real Finals 2016, Aaltsje Venema
Design: Office for Design (Loek Kemming)/ Printing: Drukkerij Loor, Varsseveld
Corpo-real provides a communal resident programme with space and time for students to initiate innovation and emancipation within the professional field of Interior architecture. To be able to confront recent and future changes. We understand that what worked well in the past is not sufficient for the future. And that many of this is too big to confront with existing methods. We therefore encourage students to make good use of other disciplines’ knowledge through collaboration within and outside ArtEZ. Students work with research methods from different disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, theatre, or music. The Master Interior Architecture is part of the Lab based programmes within the Graduate School. ArtEZ has campuses in three cities, in Arnhem, Enschede and Zwolle, and the programmes are tailored to fit the pedagogic ambitions of our students who at the same time have access to facilities across the university. In its current phase Corpo-real collaborates closely within the Human Matters philosophy at the Academy of Art and Design in Zwolle and hence, resides with its students there.
Corpo-real/ArtEZ Master Interior Architecture Images of Intervantion#4 Participating students: Rosie van Beuningen Mariska Boer Cille van den Brink Phuong Duy Dao Xiaomin Deng Małgorzata Gniatkowska Fenne van den Heuvel Ashley Hoekerd Alana Jansen Mandela Jap-A-Joe Qi Liu Maarten Mulder Cover image Intervention#4, Fenne van den Heuvel Text editor Johanna Monk Photography Nico van Maanen
ArtEZ University of the Arts
ArtEZ University of the Arts
Report from Corpo-real #4
WORK, BODY, LEISURE by Jorn Konijn
Corpo-real Intervention #4 The Interventions are developed as a multi-layered, trans disciplinary learning experience for all Corpo-real Master students. During this Intervention they are exposed to different approaches, attitudes, insights within the theme WORK, BODY and LEISURE, the theme of the official Dutch contribution to the Architecture Biennial Venice 2018. Inspired by WORK, BODY and LEISURE the Intervention #4 addresses ‘the spatial configurations, living conditions, and notions of the human body engendered by disruptive changes in labour ethos and conditions’. Students work on their individual fascination within the theme ‘technological sensibility versus sensibility’. The human – machine interface, the quantification of the body, privacy matters and the influence of technology and the internet of things on the relationship between human and space. Their work and progress was monitored, curated and put into context by the first CiRC* curator, Jorn Konijn. In addition their process was informally discussed with an international committee of leading international experts in both the working field as academia. In collaboration with Het Nieuwe Instituut, the commissioner of the Dutch Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.
n the morning of September 17, 1969, the residents of the Frederiksplein in the centre of Amsterdam woke up to see an unusual spectacle on the city square in front of their houses. Scattered around the square, the residents witnessed the construction of a 30-metre long worm-shaped plastic object. Inside, the object seemed to host a smaller, also worm-shaped object, like a giant pillow. The residents’ children ran out of their houses in curiosity. What is this?!? they wondered. One of the children soon discovered the entrance to this enormous object. And at that entrance, there was a little sign that read: Pneutube. Please enter. Curious but wary, the child entered the tube. There was not much to do inside… But it was fun to run around in there. It felt as if he was inside a cocoon. Soon enough he started jumping on the smaller worm-shaped object, and making funny faces at the other curious children that were still outside the tube. Within a few minutes, more and more children entered the tube, all running and jumping around. Some ten minutes later, the confused parents came to examine the enormous worm with their children inside it. The children were very enthusiastic and told their parents to come in and play with them. But the baffled parents remained speechless outside the tube. Just like their children, their first response was to wonder: what is this? Somewhat hidden in a corner, three young men were observing the proceedings. The three men were the Australian Jeffrey Shaw, the Dutch Theo Botschuijver and the American Sean Wellesley-Miller, all founding partners of the art collective Eventstructure Research Group (ERG). The group had been granted permission by the Amsterdam municipal government to install the giant Pneutube on the square, in addition to six similar objects, mostly inflatable tubes of various lengths and materials, at other locations throughout the city. Besides in public squares, the objects were also installed on lakes, on the city’s canals, and in the public transport system. The ERG called these objects ‘happenings’. For the ERG, these happenings were pure experiments. The inflatable tubes were simple enough to design, realise and install. The basic materials were industrially manufactured in large quantities as rolls of polythene, which the group used to create immediate, dynamic, interactive event structures. The Pneutube was one of the largest objects they created, using customised welded PVC sheeting, making it wide enough for people to go inside. The Eventstructure Research Group was inspired by the work of the Dutch artist Constant (also known by his full name Constant Nieuwenhuys) as well as the broader group of avant-garde artists, intellectuals, political theorists and architects called the Situationists, who were active in Europe between 1957 and 1972. In the late 1950s, the Situationists developed a programme for radically transforming not only the art world, but also all of contemporary everyday life. Art, according to the Situationists, was hopelessly dependent upon commodity relations, so they focused their efforts on the level of the physical city: the street and the building in relation to the city’s inhabitants. Like Constant, the members of the Eventstructure Research Group were all trained as artists but developed an interest in architecture. The ERG also followed the thinking of Guy Debord, the French Marxist theorist and founding member of the Situationist International, who wrote in 1957: ‘The life of a person is a succession of fortuitous situations, and even if none of them is exactly the same as another, the immense majority of them are so undifferentiated and so dull that they give a perfect impression of similitude. The corollary of this state of things is that the rare intensely engaging situations found in life strictly confine and limit this life. We must try to construct situations, that is to say, collective ambiances, ensembles of impressions determining the quality of a moment, constructing a milieu in dynamic relation with experiments in behaviour.’1 The Situationists thus attempted to construct dynamic works with impermanent and metamorphosing forms in which ‘all boundaries between public and private, work and leisure must be removed.’2 The notion of play was a key element in their approach toward achieving this goal. Play should flow spontaneously from the desires of each individual, so that finally there would be no sense of boredom, and no interruption between moments of play and non-play (work). Rather, play and everyday life would move naturally from one to the other in such a way that their separateness would finally disappear in a rich and poetic stream – in other
words, play and work would become one. Underlying this concept was a resolutely Marxist political ideology. The Situationists mocked the city’s serious intent by refusing to privilege commercial activities. They wished to liberate working spaces by converting them into spaces for play and, in the service of pleasure and play, these new spaces would encourage resistance to other places of work. Behind this seeming playfulness, the Situationists had a genuinely ‘ambitious desire to actually change the world, to disentangle a world trapped by its obsession with capital and consumerism. This meant radically remaking the world in the image of the poet rather than the industrialist.’3 The architectural form according to which their ideas were ultimately shaped was that of the labyrinth. The labyrinth encourages spatial disorientation and confusion (complexity), and thus opposes the kind of openness and transparency advocated by early modernists such as Le Corbusier. In the labyrinth, each space, each passageway, each thoroughfare, is directed as much toward chance and surprise as it is toward action and progress. The Situationists had two main objectives. First, they wished to transform the experiential nature of the modern city, from one of boredom to one of play. Second, they aimed to restructure modern aesthetic experience by rejecting functionalism. To them, functionalism privileged transparency (the static and ‘rational’ separation of spaces into domestic, commercial, traffic, etc.) over forms favouring complexity and opacity (the labyrinth). The Eventstructure Research Group brought these same ideas to life by staging a series of public actions in the city, such as the Pneutube at the Frederiksplein. These experimental actions were an attempt to transform the experiential nature of the modern city from boredom to play, by implementing changing spatial forms into the urban landscape. The documentation of these actions shows that they were used and enjoyed by a large and diverse group of people.4 Half a century later, the same ideas developed by the Eventstructure Research Group now provide the theme for the Dutch Pavilion at the 2018 International Venice Architecture Biennale: WORK, BODY, LEISURE. The exhibition addresses the spatial configurations, living conditions, and notions of the human body resulting from ongoing transformations in the ethos and the conditions of labour. How will these changes, both in the present and in the future, affect the relationship between work, body and leisure, and which possible scenarios could we design accordingly? The main theme and the questions raised are all derived from Constant’s thinking, and are also in line with the philosophy of the Situationists and that of the Eventstructure Research Group. An important difference, however, is that leisure seems a less powerful term than play. In contemporary usage, leisure is a passive term, associated with holidays and relaxation, a temporary break from day-to-day working life. This is merely the opposite of work, while the aim of the Situationists was actually to transform work into play, in such a way that work, play and the body eventually would become one. And so, almost 50 years after the Pneutube, the theme of work, body, leisure has returned to the foreground of the architectural discourse. Inspired by this recently rediscovered interest, the interior architecture master programme at ArtEZ University of the Arts has selected these same topics for further exploration with its students. The students were given the assignment to construct and elaborate an argument focusing on the theme of WORK, BODY and LEISURE as a contribution to formulating a scenario and proposal for an exhibition. Much has changed during the past fifty years in relation to work, the body and leisure, but the most significant and all-encompassing of these changes has surely been the ongoing digitalisation and robotisation of all three domains. Students tend to focus heavily on such changes, based on recent and rapid developments in these fields, and thus embrace these changes in defining their own future practice. The most striking observation is the high degree of faith students seem to place in these new technological developments. One student pointedly summarised this view as: ‘Our argument is that human civilisation will become more prosperous with the help of science and technology.’ Some students took this positive approach one step further: ‘As far as I know, we all agree that the human body is changing constantly due to the changes of environments, technology and the contexts in which we live. Sooner or later, our bodies will become
fully robotised as well – creating the perfect working machines.’ Only a few of the students added some sceptical footnotes: ‘It’s important to realise that we have to work hard to stay human, instead of ‘robotising’ our selves.’ However, it should be noted that the student quoted here was not rejecting technology in order to retain her humanity; rather, she opted to use the computer in order to ‘help us to stay human’. This is undoubtedly a post-Orwellian generation, that grew up not only with e-mail and WhatsApp as their primary means of communication, but also with social media as their main form of leisure. Would they have even looked up from their screens to notice the Pneutube being installed on that morning in September 1969? Would they have identified it as a new form of playground or reallife game? Would they have entered it physically, or only digitally? They might not have cared at all, and anybody born before 1980 may well fear the answers to any of these questions… And yet, perhaps the situation is not as bleak as we may think. What if we could somehow return to the aims and ambitions of the Situationists, but from the perspective of today’s students of interior architecture? The Situationists considered their own contemporary city of the late 1950s to be one of boredom, and wished to change it into a city of play. One could now argue that our own physical city has been transformed into one of continuous play: 24-hour shopping, multiplex cinemas, game consoles, texting, and whatever other myriad possibilities are available to entertain us day and night – an ongoing stream of information, impulses and encouragements for active consumption (Eat now! Drink now! Exercise now! Drive now! Play now!). The present-day city is one of continuous overstimulation. Is this the city the Situationists had in mind? Probably not. We may also ask, are all these forms of play really that effective in eliminating our boredom? Sandi Mann, author of The Upside of Downtime: Why Boredom Is Good, argues quite the opposite: ‘The more entertained we are the more entertainment we need in order to feel satisfied. The more we fill our world with fast-moving, high-intensity, ever-changing stimulation, the more we get used to that and the less tolerant we become of lower levels.’5
human wajang (a form of puppet theatre art from Indonesia telling a dramatic story through shadows). Another group constructed a scripted tour of an exhibition in which the visitor became the protagonist of a story. One could say that these students all saw the interior as an extension of the city of play. Perhaps this sums up the two sides of the coin. On one hand, we see technologies that have turned our bodies and our homes into working machines; on the other hand, we have technologies that have freed our bodies and our homes of work completely, leaving us only with the city as a playground in which to spend our time. Which side of this coin would the Situationists have chosen? Presumably the latter. A more important question, however, may well be: which side will our young architecture students choose, once they become responsible for shaping the spaces of the future? Perhaps they will choose not to choose either of these sides, but instead find some middle ground. Perhaps they will find a way to design the perfect space in between, where work is available but feels like play; where our bodies feel neither like machines nor like an amusement park. Where we feel happy, without feeling bored. Now that’s what I call a challenge.
Notes 1. Guy Debord, Report on the Construction of Situations, originally published in 1957. Knabb, 1981, p.24. 2. Jan Bryant, ‘Play and Transformation: Constant Nieuwenhuys and the Situationists’, in: Drain (magazine), Vol 3:1, 2006. Republished in: Fondation Constant (website), www.stichtingconstant.nl/system/files/20060101_play_and_ transformation-drainmag.com_.pdf, p.4. 3. Ibid., p.3. 4. Jeffrey Shaw, ‘Pneutube’, in: Jeffrey Shaw Compendium (website). www.jeffreyshawcompendium.com/portfolio/pneutube/ 5. Sandi Mann, ‘Why are we so bored?’, in: The Guardian (website), April 24, 2016. www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/apr/24/ why-are-we-so-bored
About Jorn Konijn Jorn Konijn is an architecture & design curator and writer based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He curated several exhibitions, such as the
The Situationists also aimed to restructure the modern aesthetic experience by rejecting functionalism. Rather than a ‘rational’ separation of static spaces, Situationism called for forms that favoured complexity and opacity. Contemporary cities have become exactly that: a complex and multi-layered space of physical infrastructure, roads, waterways, air routes, subway tubes, electrical power lines, antennas, digital highways, and so on. And we’re not done yet! The near future will most likely see a steady increase in the complexity of this infrastructure, including drone-based postal services and personal air transportation. We are surrounded in all dimensions by this complexity of infrastructure – and of play. The city the Situationists imagined is here, now, and far beyond that: it has stepped up its game, pushed the fast-forward button and gone in overdrive. And this is what makes the discipline of interior architecture nowadays such an interesting and challenging field of study. Will the future domestic space become the space where we can escape the city of 24-hour play? Will it become an extension of this city? Will it become a flexible space where we can achieve some kind of balance between a retreat and a playground? Or will it become something completely different from any and all of this? Finally, what will be the role of our changing bodies in these scenarios? One student wrote: ‘The body is controlled by our brains and so should our space be controlled by our intelligence. Emotions are highly important within this interaction, our brains use these to store memories and activate behaviour quicker. Spaces should respond to the emotional state of the inhabitants and the activities taking place within.’ In other words: the domestic space should be understood as an expression of our emotional state of being. But how much is left of our emotions when our bodies have turned into the ‘perfect working machines’ envisioned by another student quoted earlier? And how much is left of our domestic space when our bodies have become machines? Will the domestic space become the ultimate workspace? It wasn’t really surprising to see that almost all of the students’ final works were performative: a form of play. One group even more or less abandoned interior design in order to create a kind of
official Dutch pavilion for the International Architecture Biennale of Sao Paulo (Brazil) on Unsolicited Architecture, the award winning Housing with a Mission exhibition for the Urbanism & Architecture Bi-City Biennale of Hong Kong and Shenzhen 2011 and the exhibition Lelé – Architect of health and happiness for the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi) in 2012. In 2013 he was curator for the overall Urbanism & Architecture Bi-City Biennale of Hong Kong and Shenzhen 2013. In 2015, he was appointed as curator of the 5th Bienal Brasileira de Design, which took place in Florianopolis, Brazil May 2015. He remained working in Brazil as curator for the official cultural program of the Olympic Games Rio de Janeiro 2016. In 2017 he was appointed researcher at the Professorship Product & Interior Design at ArtEZ Arnhem.