Longitudes

Cover Story – August 2017: Walden 7; or, life in Sant Just Desvern


The August 2017 Monthly Cover Story "Walden 7; or, life in Sant Just Desvern" is now up on www.lttds.org after this month it will be archived here

"Anna Moreno is waving from the roof of Walden 7, the vertiginous sixteen-storey apartment complex designed by architect Ricardo Bofill in 1975. Hola Anna, què fas!? Looming out of the greenery far below is another extraordinary building that we visited earlier in the day. La Fábrica is a former cement works whose silos and cavernous “cathedral” are home to Bofill’s Taller de Arquitectura. It is 29°C and the humidity is at 62% in Sant Just Desvern, west of Barcelona. Two rooftop swimming pools provide a refreshing respite. We don’t complain." Continue reading 

Cover Stories' are published on a monthly basis on Latitudes' homepage and feature past, present or forthcoming projects, research, writing, artworks, exhibitions, films, objects or field trips related to our curatorial activities. 

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January 2016 Monthly Cover Story: Kasper Akhøj's Eileen Gray’s E.1027


NEW YEAR / 
NEW MONTH / 
NEW MONTHLY COVER STORY /

The January "Cover Story" features a black-and-white photo by Danish artist Kasper Akhøj taken from the living room of Eileen Gray's E.1027, the seaside villa built at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France, in the late 1920s. The image is part of the series 'Welcome (TO THE TEKNIVAL)' that Kasper has been working on since 2008 examining the process of restoration and the convoluted history of this icon of modern architecture. On January 16, Kasper will open a solo show at Ellen de Bruijne PROJECTS, Amsterdam. A publication designed by Copenhagen-based designer Anni's will include an essay by Latitudes’s Max Andrews.

We first got to know Kasper in 2007 in the United Arab Emirates. Kasper was there installing 'Autoxylopyrocycloboros' (2006) for Simon Starling as part of Sharjah Biennial 8, while we were there curating the biennial’s symposium. Four years later, in 2011, we were delighted to include Kasper’s work in the Latitudes’ group show Exposition International des Art Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes & des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne (International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts & Art and Technology in Modern Life) at Meessen De Clercq, Brussels, in 2011. Here he presented a slideshow which centred on the ‘Abstracta’ display system, originally designed by the Danish architect and designer Poul Cadovious in the 1960s. 

Happy 2016! 



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"Modernitat Amagada" (Hidden Modernity), an exhibition at Casa Capell, Mataró (3–31 October 2013)

 Casa Capell at the Parc Central, Mataró.

'Modernitat Amagada' (3–31 October 2013), organised by ACM (Associació per a la Cultura i l’Art Contemporani de Mataró), was a short-lived group show at Casa Capell in Mataró, the wonderful former home of the Masjuan family ("former" as today there are hardly any traces of its original domestic use as it has been coverted into City Hall offices for its department of sustainability). It was built in 1959 by Jordi Capell (1925–1970), a little-known rationalist architect, mathematician and humanist.

The exhibition extended over two floors, presenting works by Alexander Apóstol, Xavier Arenós, Rafel G. Bianchi, Eva Fàbregas, Carla Filipe, Regina Giménez, Terence Gower and Jaume Roure, as well as works by its two organisers, the artists Domènec and Dani Montlleó. The works were mostly produced in 2013, and ranged from sculptural interventions (Eva Fàbregas), responses to the home environment and its particular architecture (Rafel G. Bianchi, Regina Giménez, Jaume Roure), to contributions by artists whose artistic practice usually navigates the field of modern architecture (Terence Gower, Domènec, Xavier Arenós). 
 First room included works by Carla Filipe (on the table), Jaume Roure (by the chimney) and Eva Fàbregas (by the window). All works from 2013. 

Carla Filipe, "Ideal City and Current Town" (2013). 10 acrylic stands with collages. 
 Detail of Carla Filipe's "Ideal City and Current Town" (2013).

Extending the line of her previous projects, Carla Filipe recuperated lost or forgotten memories, trying to connect unknown fragments of local history. Her modules revived the 'Moderno Escondido' (Hidden Modernity) concept which was developed by Portuguese architects in the 1950s and 60s and which resulted in a series of offices, chuches, domestic spaces and commercial spaces though now these are mostly abandoned, both physically and ideologically. 
Regina Giménez, "Composició en vermell, groc, blau i blanc" (Composition in red, yellow, blue and white, 2013).

Regina Giménez thought of her painting as a wink to Capell, the house's modernist architect who was also a fervent activist for Catalan culture, dovetailing him with two referents of Modernism, the artist Piet Mondrian and the architect Mies van der Rohe. Her work suggested a possible intervention within the dinning room of Casa Capell – the incorporatation of a red carpet, white and blue cushions and a yellow wall – based on the principles of Neoplasticism, a movement which often used these primary colours in modern architecture, colours which are coincidentally also that of the Estelada, the Catalan independence flag. 
Jaume Roure, "RE: Projecte Casa Capell" (2013). 

Upon visiting the house and realising that little trace was visible of its original domestic use, Jaume Roure decided to recuperate the family presence by trying to locate photographs and personal memories of the original inhabitants. He couldn't find any photographs and only knew they were a couple with four children. He therefore tried to put faces to them by reconstructing a series of fictional images of what he thought they would look like, and framed them as if these memories were finally coming back to their original setting. 
 Eva Fàbregas, "Collapsible Sculptures" (2013).

The series "Collapsible Sculptures" reflected on the progressive 'containerisation' of our culture  which since the 1950s has triggered a revolution in the production and transportation of merchandising. Our daily lives have also been highly affected by this shift: our food is able to be stored and transported and so are our domestic environments with modular, foldable, extensible or stackable items. Fàbregas sculptures (located in three spaces throughout the house), revealed the correspondences between mass-production and the aesthetics of Modernity.
Above: Jaume Roure, "RE: Projecte Casa Capell" (2013), and below on the screen the 17' video "New Utopias" (2010) by Terence Gower.

Still from "New Utopias" (2010) by Terence Gower.

(From the artist's website): "New Utopias is a lecture about pop culture utopias filmed in the style of a 1950s Walt Disney documentary. The set, costuming, lighting and camera work are based on 1950s television production standards. But where the original Disney documentaries celebrated rockets and nuclear technology, this updated version promotes aesthetic frivolity, sexual perversion and UFO abduction fantasies. Among the new utopias under analysis are an afrofuturist extraterrestrial society, a dreary French seaside town transformed into an aesthetic paradise, and a retelling of the Frankenstein myth set in a sexual utopia ruled by the uninhibited libido. This video is shown accompanied by the Mothership Blueprints."
 Rafel G. Bianchi, Album (2013). 6x7 slides on lightbox.

Rafel Bianchi's slides portrayed the cacti he had been documenting in his own garden in Barcelona. Upon visiting Casa Capell, he felt the need to bring some of the domesticity back to a space which was heavily restored in 2009–10 for it new adminstrative use. Cacti are a recurring motif used in the photographic documentation of architectural spaces, plants that often appear in photographs of works by the Catalan architect and city planner Josep Lluís Sert. Upon finishing a commission, Sert would arrange furniture and plants, with the aim of trying to give an appearance of domesticity and commodity as well as of Mediterraneity and modenity. 
 More "Collapsible Sculptures" by Eva Fàbregas downstairs by the window towering as cacti. These are reminiscent of those projected by Mexican architect Juan O’Gorman to protect Kahlo and Rivera's studio in Mexico City.
Lower gallery with works by Domènec (left) and Dani Montlleó (right).
Lower gallery with works by Dani Montlleó (left) and Alexander Apóstol (right).

Alexander Apóstol's photographic series "Le Corbusier quemado en Bogotá" (2005), documented the interior of the burnt Centro Nariño, a residencial campus of 23 buildings built in Bogotá, developed by Colombian architects following the doctrines of Le Corbusier, who earlier proposed a modern city that was finally never built. Amindst student revolts in the 60s, the buildings were set on fire, destroying most of its interiors, which are still intact amongst the ashes and electric wiring revealing some of the important traces that the Modern thinking left in Latin American cities.

 Domènec, "Conversation Piece: Narkomfin" (2013). Maquette and formica chairs.

"Conversation Piece: Narkomfin" (2013) was supported on two formica chairs, typically used in 1950s and 60s homes, and a maquette of the social housing Narkomfin, a building that fascinated Le Corbusier in his 1930s trip to the Soviet Union and that later inspired his Unité Habitation in Marseille.

 
Maquette of Jean Prouvé's ’Maison Bulldog’ (2011) by Dani Montlleó

This little half-bunker, half-trench-looking house of Dani Montlleó's work was also planned in 1959 (as was Can Masjuan house) for the writer Louis-Ferdinand Céline, although he died shortly after in 1961. The house was a replica of the Villa Arpel, designed by Jacques Lagrange for Jacques Tati's film "Mon Oncle" (1958).
 
Xavier Arenós, ’Madriguera#10. Proun. Desenterrament’ (2012). 15' with music by Rafa Ruiz.

Arenós' video, suitably projected in the lower floor storage room, recreated an excavation in which a Proun – a projection of an imaginary space, a term coined by El Lissitsky in the 1920s – is seemingly unearthed, like an anachronic residue of a remote civilisation, a transitional object. The accompanying futuristic soundtrack enhanced its science-fiction atmosphere.


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Max Andrews reviews 'Utopia is possible' in frieze magazine's October 2012 issue

Below Max Andrews' frieze review on the exhibition 'Utopia is possible. ICSID. Eivissa, 1971' currently on show (on view until 20 January 2013) at the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)An interesting follow up is Ethel Baraona Pohl's review on Domus (published 15 October 2012) which is accompanied by a lot more photodocumentation presented in the exhibition.

 Instant City, 1971. Col·lecció MACBA. Centre d'Estudis i Documentació. Fons Xavier Miserachs

‘This will be an ICSID Congress only 10 metres from the sea,’ read the welcoming Bulletin of the Seventh Congress of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design in 1971. ‘The environment, the climate and the sea bathing will act as a stimulant to the general business of the Congress.’ As 1,500 delegates registered at the ziggurat-like hotel venue in northern Ibiza, the more adventurous made their way to
 Instant City, an inflatable camp below on Sant Miquel bay. Three days of meetings, debates, performances and partying were to follow –a professional design conference that was also a beach-side experiment in leisure and the creative potential of industrial plastic. The exhibition ‘Utopia is Possible’ was not only significant as an exercise in advocating the pioneering importance of an interdisciplinary festival that predated the better-known Encuentros de Pamplona’ (Pamplona Meetings) the following year – both all the more astonishing as Spain remained under the grip of dictatorship until 1975 – but also (and following a sprawling exhibition about the latter at Madrid’s Museo Reina Sofía in 2009) as a corollary of the emergence of curatorial and exhibition history as legitimate fields of study, as exhibition.

‘Utopia is Possible’ remembered and celebrated an event that evoked a meltdown of academia, inflatable architecture, cinema, Catalan artistic vanguardism and countercultural ceremonies – part ‘Exploding Plastic Inevitable’, part technology enthusiast craft convention. Through teeming type and handwritten correspondence arranged in vitrines, hundreds of photographs, technical notes and newspaper reports – as well as four projections showing archival footage and a dozen monitors presenting newsreels and newly-made interviews with those involved – it revealed a project that clearly had a life-changing impact on those who experienced it. ICSID 1971 championed liberal social innovation and user-generated content. ‘This is an “open” congress’, declared its introductory statement, ‘a new experience […] for the first time the congress members will be able to participate to the utmost […] this is YOUR congress.’ The proceedings in the hotel comprised ‘Speaking Rooms’ with themes proposed by delegates, 65 talks including ‘The House Style of the Netherlands railway’,‘What We Are Doing in the Belgrade School of Design’, and ‘Basic Design with Computers’ – the latter led by the pioneering Centro de Cálculo (Computing Centre), a collaboration between Madrid’s Complutense University and IBM.

Down by the beach, meanwhile, the participation was of a somewhat different order – kinetic sculptural events with air, water, fire and food. Josep Ponsatí collaborated with members of the Grup Obert de Disseny Urquinaona (Urquinaona Open Design Group), who themselves collaborated in the pop-style signage of the congress, which was replicated in the show’s exhibition design. They tethered together 12 pairs of huge air-filled white plastic pillows that floated out over and on the bay like a giant flower. Vacuflex-3 (1971) by Antoni Muntadas and Gonzalo Mezza is a portable sculpture in the form of a 150-metre flexible plastic pipe which, with teamwork, can be variously carried around, used to spell out words on the sand (‘LOVE’, ‘LAND’, ‘HERE’) or floated on the sea. The opening dinner took the form of a multi-colour ritual orchestrated by Antoni Miralda, Jaume Xifra and Dorothée Selz; masked performers and diners wore green, red, blue and yellow cloaks, and feasted on similarly coloured paella and wine.

Yet Instant City took such multi-coloured experiences to architectonic dimensions, and it remains the ideological and pictorial emblem of the congress. Architecture students Carlos Ferrater and Fernando Bendito had persuaded architecture professor José Miguel de Prada Poole to transform their idea of inflatable student accommodation into reality. What resulted was a global manifesto for a new way of living intended to embrace the ‘nomadic and mobile’ values of impermanence and flexibility. Following publicity in colleges and magazines around the world, scores of volunteers came in the weeks before the congress to collaborate in stapling together a pop-up plastic community. Instant City was the backdrop to some of the exhibition’s most striking images, of bemused locals in traditional dress watching bearded design hippies building something between Hélio Oiticica’s ‘Penetrables’ and Maurice Agis’s ill-fated Dreamspace V (an inflatable environment that killed two women when it broke free from moorings in 2006). And although the taste of Utopian living was evidently challenged by the whiff of residing in sweltering polytunnel tentacles with too few toilets, it also inspired some soaring prog rock poetry that, perhaps more succinctly than any other words in the exhibition, gave a blast ofthe elaborate techno-paganism which must have blown minds at this extraordinary Congress. ‘Green cornfields alongside Instant City / Awaken to Ibizan sunrise’, read a typewritten sheet alongside module construction diagrams. ‘We are children of the future / Born into the paleo-cybernetic age / our minds extended electrically through the video sphere.’ 

‘Utopia is Possible’ offered a timely pre-history of participatory practice from a Spanish perspective and, against the backdrop of contemporary funding cuts, an object lesson in artistic solidarity and internationalism against the odds. 

– Max Andrews

 (Originally published in Frieze, October 2012, Issue 150)  


 Antoni Muntadas and Gonzalo Mezza Ceremonial and Vacuflex-3, 1971.  


Related materials:
  • Video where participants' discuss their experience here 
  • Tour of the exhibition by exhibition co-curator Teresa Grandas, here (both in Catalan)
  • Latitudes' writing archive

Spot the typo!




Longitudes cuts across Latitudes’s projects and research with news, updates, and reportage.

Latitudes | www.LTTDS.org (except when otherwise noted).

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Founded in 2005 by Max Andrews and Mariana Cánepa Luna, Latitudes is a curatorial office based in Barcelona, Spain, that works internationally across contemporary art practices.

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2005—2019