Monday, April 6, 2009

What design anarchy looks like

Big Ideas! So there's this guy who is like an anti-architect in that he doesn't want to solve problems, he wants to create more problems. Or at least raise the issue that there is a problem. This is what he says. Michael Rakowitz. Inspired by the design of Bedouin encampments in Jordan, he got the idea to make structures for urban homeless people out of plastic bags and tape. He calls them ParaSITES and they are fixed onto the hot air exhaust of buildings. The structure is double-walled so the hot air isn't blowing directly onto the person inside like a hair dryer. He consulted with some homeless guys in modifying the designs and one of the things they didn't like about the prototype was that it was made of black plastic and they couldn't see out. So he changed the materials to create increased visibility. He made a bunch of them to the specifications of his clientele and the paraSITES fold up into a bag.

I went to a lecture that he presented tonight and it was super interesting and subversive. Another project involved creating reproductions of the objects looted from the National Museum of Iraq. That piece is called The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist. The name is a direct translation from the ancient Babylonian street, Aj-ibur-shapu, that ran through the Ishtar Gate in Babylon, now Bagdad. The work is an installation/homage to the former director of the museum. The scale models of the looted works are reproduced using arab newspapers and commercial packaging. In describing this work, he offered a sardonic description of Donald Rumsfeld as "Satan's favorite poet," referencing how the Pentagon reacted to the destruction of the museum in 2003.

The final piece he discussed was The Return. Based on his family's jewish/iraqi merchant heritage and their former store in New York, he opened a temporary shop in Brooklyn. It was established to dually send things to Iraq for free and to import Iraqi dates, which are supposedly the best in the world. He told the story of the tremendous obstacles and expense of trying to import anything from Iraq. He was finally was able to bring over a few boxes of dates, which were reported as delicious. I am not doing the story justice here, but if you try the link, there's a little movie about it that is very cool.

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