13 Oct 2015 – 17 Oct 2015

Frieze London

åyr

Comfort Zone

A large-scale interactive installation at Frieze London will tackle the question of the ‘Smart Home’, curating a collaboration between cutting edge interior design and technology companies. The Smart Home is the first victim of the colonization of real space by digital space and has swiftly come to occupy a central position in debates around Big Data and its impact on contemporary forms of life. If, on the one hand, recent technological developments sustaining the Smart Home are framed as the latest advancements towards a smarter, technologically optimised world, they are also raising escalating concerns around privacy and control in an increasingly quantified world.

PRESS / REVIEWS

2 Jul 2016

åyr :: Home Alone

On art, architecture, and domestic effects of digitalization

Samsung’s Smart TVs come with a fine-print warning: if you enable voice recognition, your spoken words will be ‘captured and transmitted to a third party’, so you might not want to discuss personal or sensitive information in front of your TV. Even if voice recognition is disabled, Samsung will still collect your metadata – what and when you watch, and including facial recognition – though you won’t be able to use their interactive features. The SmartSeries Bluetooth toothbrush from Oral-B, a Procter & Gamble company, connects to a brushing app in your smartphone, which keeps a detailed record of your dental hygiene. The company advertises that you can share such data with your dentist, though, in a privatized health market, it’s more likely the purpose of such technology is to share data with your insurance company.

The more ubiquitous technology becomes, the less its presence is noticeable; its invisibility however, renders us, its users, transparent. The cultural logic of the information age is predicated on an inversion of the gaze: within this fusion of surveillance and control, the screen, as Jonathan Crary has noted, ‘is both the object of attention and (the object) capable of monitoring, recording and cross-referencing attentive behaviour.’ Data processing – whose reaches span the NSA, credit rating agencies, health insurance providers, up to the sorting algorithms used by Google or Instagram – is predictive, modelling future actions on previous behaviour. As such, as Orit Halpern argued in her 2015 book Beautiful Data, data processing implies a model of temporality in which the past is a standing reserve of information, waiting to be mined. This information is used to build user profiles, which in turn will determine the outcome of student loan and health insurance applications, credit scores, or whether you are placed on a ‘no-fly’ list. This might seem anodyne, but as Hito Steyerl notes in A Sea of Data (published this year in the e-flux journal) the Human Rights Data Analysis Group estimates that around 99,000 Pakistanis have been wrongly classified as terrorists by the NSA’s SKYNET program. The potential political usages of these structures include the power of any regime to stamp out dis-sidence in a preemptive manner, by meting out forms of informal punishment like employee transfers or loan denials.

After the global surveillance disclosures of the past few years, we have grown increasingly aware that our affective devices double as control mechanisms, and that sorting algorithms curate our experiences, both on- and, by extension, offline. This nexus of communication and control will be intensified by the introduction of the Internet of Things (IoT). Once our homes become fully equipped with a number of smart appliances, as Evgeny Morozov recently argued in an op–ed for the Financial Times, daily interaction with data-capturing devices will become virtually unavoidable. Your fridge will signal that you are running out of milk to Tesco’s drone delivery service. Your microchipped cat will let himself in and ‘meow’ recognition software will signal a smart can-opener to prepare his meal. Convenient as it may all sound, you will be living inside a world of biometric analyses and pattern recognition that fully captures and profiles its users to place financial wagers on their short- and long-term future.

For a film (Patterns of Life, 2015) included in the recent, large group exhibition at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin – ‘Nervous Systems: Quantified Life and the Social Question’, co-curated by Stephanie Hankey and Marek Tuszynski from the Tactical Technology Collective, and Anselm Franke – artist Julien Prévieux employed dancers from the Paris Opera Ballet. The dancers enact the ways data can be extracted from bodies in motion in order to create ‘patterns of activity’, subsequently used to marginalise or criminalise their targets. Also within ‘Nervous Systems’, the collective Tactical Tech (Maya Indira Ganesh, Stephanie Hankey and Marek Tuszynski) staged a mock customer centre called The White Room. Staffed with tech greeters, The White Room offers a tour through the newest developments in apps and wearable technologies – fitness trackers, subcutaneous contraceptive implants, biometric ID cards – along with insight into their possible grievances: punitive insurance premiums, corporate control over employees’ fertility, financial capture of even destitute citizens. The area also presents makeshift solutions for subverting their usage: a wall-plug that allows for unauthorized editing of information read on wireless devices, or a metronome to deceive your fitness tracker. Playful as these seem, the premise of the exhibition is ominous: our socialization is at odds with the current convergence of financialization and digital tech.

Architecture collective åyr, who will participate in the British Pavilion, ‘Home Economics’, for the 15th Architecture Biennale in Venice this coming May, echoed similar concerns about the changing nature of domesticity amid the corporatization of intimate spaces in a recent article for the Harvard Design Magazine. The collective describe how the family home and the nuclear family were historically co-constituted, and how the corporate capture of the former will impact the organization of the latter, as much as implying an overhauling of governmentality. The smart home, and by extension, the smart city, have the potential to become the interface for the mediatization (and subsequent financialization) of all aspects of life. For the 14th Architecture Biennale in Venice, åyr (which was formerly known as AIRBNB Pavilion, but had to change its name due to legal pressure) staged an exhibition inside apartments rented on Airbnb, and more recently, in their 2015 project Comfort Zone for Frieze London, they installed a sequence of Ikea-like bedrooms inside the fair. For the forthcoming 9th Berlin Biennale åyr plan to make an installation mimicking the aesthetics of a ‘feature wall’, entangling confinement and intimacy, addressing the way personal (even intimate) items are forced to operate as financial assets.

Within the biopolitical organization of the modern era, the domestic space functioned as a buffer zone against the violence of industrial regimentation. But this secluded domesticity also promoted social isolation, universalizing bourgeois protocols and thus curtailing working class solidarity networks and collective agency. In Living and Working: How To Live Together, 2015, the architectural office Dogma (co-founded by Pier Vittorio Aureli and Martino Tattara) examine alternative models of communal living, such as monasteries, Charles Fourier’s Phalanx, or early Soviet experiments, in order to reconfigure the notion of ‘family’. Recognizing how affective labour has been captured by the post-Fordist economy, Dogma’s forms of communal living and facility sharing aim to create a form of architectural commons which would bypass the trapping of the public-vs.-private space space debate, thus making identity less pliable to industry.

In Venice, ‘Home Economics’ (curated by Shumi Bose, Jack Self and Finn Williams), in which Dogma is included, also aims to recover the social mandate of architecture, by decoupling the notion of the home from the imperatives of real estate value. To tackle the shortage of available housing, the curators argue, novel living arrangements need to be created, ideally arrangements that can prove impervious to financial speculation. In this, the curators echo Le Corbusier’s famous statement ‘it is the question of building which lies at the root of the social unrest of today’, and the solution must be either ‘architecture or revolution.’ But within a fully financialized economy, the housing crisis might prove more difficult to solve by means of architecture alone.

The current media ecology doesn’t simply do away with any reasonable expectation of privacy: it also erodes traditional forms of ownership. Millennials are priced out of the housing market not because there is a housing shortage but because the economy is geared towards asset inflation and rent extraction. General Motors and John Deere, for instance, have argued that copyright law cannot conflate ownership of a vehicle with ownership of the underlying computer software, denying owners the right to repair electronic equipment they’ve purchased. Under the twin pressures of financialization and what is called the ‘sharing economy’, capital has also overcome the need to pay formal salaries: the digital economy replaces formal benefits, like salaries, pensions, and social safety nets, with informal ones, like the ability to lease your apartment, spare time or even your appliances. Dogma’s project for Venice relates to temporary, precarious forms of labour: from student visas to internships and zero-hour contracts. From this perspective economical exploitation is intimately linked with political oppression. The question of privacy versus surveillance pales in comparison to the question of privatization versus public property. As McKenzie Wark noted in his essay Renotopia (2015) (a portmanteau combining ‘renovation’ and ‘utopia’) the great socialist utopia that actually got built is service infrastructure; having private companies as the sole providers of publicly needed services implies a fundamental social division between a digital plutocracy and its ‘dumb’ users.

Evgeny Morozov recently argued in The Guardian that whereas the struggles for post-colonial emancipation were fought over the ownership of land, the defining struggle of our times will be fought over the ownership of the digital infrastructure. But the battle will be uphill, as Seb Franklin suggests in Control (2015), digital technologies provide us not simply with the tools but also with the body of metaphors we use to describe today’s challenges. Bill Gates talks about the digital nervous system; we tend to describe the internet as if it were a sentient being, endowed with agency; our material objects are permeated by information flows, from the DNA code to financial algorithms. And we fantasize about immersive environments in which our neural activities would be directly linked onto networks. Artist Melanie Gilligan fictionalized these epistemic materials in her miniseries, The Common Sense (2014): through the usage of an oral prosthesis called ‘the Patch’, users are able to tap into each other’s emotions. In order to stave off her mounting debt, a young mother-to-be decides to monetize the experience of her unborn child, which is seemingly soothing to other users. Tawdry as it may sound, ‘the Patch’ is a logical extension of our current modalities of mediated experience; rather than a prospective future, it provides us with a magnified picture of our present.

Ana Teixeira Pinto Frieze D/E No. 24 Summer 2016

 

 


2 Jun 2016

åyr :: Philipp Ekardt in conversation with åyr

Philipp Ekardt What’s your relationship with contemporary art?

Alessandro Bava I think that our relationship to contemporary art is, at least initially, almost parasitical. Since our backgrounds are in architecture, our interest in contemporary art was a very deliberate move towards another field and another way of operating. We were interested in the type of agency you have as an artist rather than as an architect. So I think our interest in contemporary art has to do with opportunity and opportunism.

Octave Perrault Also when we were architecture students a few years ago, we found that artists were addressing questions that were being ignored within architecture education.

PE Would you have an example for how an artist would approach these questions?

OP I’m thinking mainly about things related to the Internet. I remember the first time I saw a Ryan Trecartin video. I was in L.A. and I was just mind-blown. I thought “wow, that is exactly what I would like to see,” but I just didn’t know where to start in architecture.

AB I think we started working at a time in which there was a vacuum in architecture, it was very conservative and obsessed with the canon. So I think we all drifted towards this other realm.

PE As an outsider I find it really interesting to hear you say that it’s an alternative in terms of the agency you might have had within the architect/client relationship. There was a moment when there was a very strong interest in architecture in other realms, in film or in media theory, and now it seems to be that architecture is also falling for what I like to call “the promise of art.” For some reason the art system at this point really draws in all these discourses, it seems to be very accommodating. It’s also from within the art system that there’s an interest in architecture. It’s mutual.

AB Absolutely. I think, beyond us and what we do, maybe you see a problem in art being too accommodating, but at the same time it’s also a matter of architecture being in crisis. So people are looking for other outputs.

PE Looking at your show at Project Native Informant I thought “this is really interesting, and I can see where they’re coming from and also that this emerges out of an engagement with the digital which they’re probably aware of through their own skill, through architecture.” There’s probably a difference now vis-à-vis the art system where a lot of people are interested in the digital as a phenomenon but it’s not really part of their training.

AB This is actually for me a big part of why we decided to work as an art collective, because there was this gap that I perceived while I was studying architecture, acquiring this set of skills, and being interested in the digital, certain technologies, certain approaches from a purely pragmatic point of view. Then I saw artists being interested in the same things from this different metaphorical or symbolic angle. There was an urgency to investigate what was happening and try to address it critically rather than just acquiring the skills.

Fabrizio Ballabio Whereas it seems to me that within art practices digital technologies are often conceived of as instruments through which a work is then produced which might convey a completely different meaning, we actually work with the instrument as a piece in itself. For our works in the Newcomers show at Project Native Informant, we didn’t just use the renders as an art form; the rendering as a medium and our collaboration with the renders was also part of the work.

PE Which is really interesting because all of you guys probably have a much more thorough and practical understanding of rendering as a tool. But the art system also allows you to thematize that tool. You were using the art system to investigate the instrumentality of the digital. Which is really different from a lot of post-Internet art which often just builds a rhetoric around digitality.

AB There’s a big fascination with what was almost a big uncovering of this whole set of approaches that in architecture were completely unquestioned. Things that for architects are just technical.

PE How does your collaboration function? Are there rules? How do you collaborate?

AB We try to structure it in a way that is a hallucination of how an architectural office works. It’s almost a parody of that. The structure is horizontal, an exchange that has very few rules. It’s very flexible.

Luis Ortega Govela Everyone has their own process and it comes in in this very schizophrenic way. So everyone respects each other’s process, but then at the same time it is like ‘baby’s first architecture office’ somehow, this imagination of how it would work.

FB I would say now that we’re two years in, we’re starting to find more consolidated ways in which each one of us contributes. So, it is becoming more structured, even though how things happen is still very much a mystery.

AB The most interesting thing in our process is the idea of the project, actually. We approach an artwork as a project, a sculpture as a project, and that has a completely different set of rules and dynamics from another type of process.

PE One specific aspect I wanted to ask you about relates to the translation of the digital, implementing something in analog spaces that exists also in the digital realm. Looking at your work in situ it’s very clear to me that this is a pictorial type that emerges really from digital technologies, but then you have to think about how you get that into the analog. Do you have rules for that?

AB I think we also exploit the absurdity of the render as a tool. When the render is the work we always also produce renders of the exhibitions beforehand, because it’s pushing the fictional aspect of the render and doing something that will never end up looking like the exhibition. We translate the digital image into the reality of the installation.

PE This is really interesting to me because it situates your practice as an in-between system, but also within the architectural system. You were saying there’s always this divide between the render and the built house, which used to be the model and the built house... but an analog model can never be as striking or as sexy as a digital render. Also, you operate in a sort of meta-office, which is also a subject per se within the architectural discourse. OMA for instance used to be an office that communicated very strongly “we are an office, we have researchers...,” you seem to be also drawing on that experience.

AB I think we definitely situate ourselves in that lineage of people and the evolution of the architectural office. But there is this idea of multidisciplinarity and the office as something that is part of the architectural discourse, as you say, and I think maybe we are the extreme consequence of that kind of evolution.

FB At the same time I think what really distinguishes us on the one hand from the art collective and on the other from the architecture office is that somehow there is a really strong tension within the way we work together between radical individualism and complete subjection to the collective force. So it starts to become almost a second character through which I can express independently of taste, of identity, of self-definition. It’s very liberating and it also gives you something to work against.

PE I imagine it’s a way of exploring that way of working which is also liberated from the client/office relationship, where you would always have to take into consideration certain conditions of realization.

OP I was wondering if the installations we make are not model in themselves, or experiments for things that would be. They are some kind of tests with the ghost ideas of maybe building a building at some point. It’s probably never going to happen, but it’s been a driving force for our thinking.

PE The interesting thing is that within the history of art there are various practices that talk of that real life or actual-to-size model. Think of Thomas Demand’s practice: photograph something, then rebuild it in paper to size and re-photograph it. Even in contemporary discourse there is the idea of the generic. Laruelle provides one version of it.

AB We deal with the generic in terms of decoration, in patterns. We wrote a lot about Airbnb and this new generic image of the interior and the new international style which is emerging.

LOG The generic as a normative thing, as a way to construct a norm and a habit somehow. I’m really interested in that, in how that image of the generic also creates a normative attitude towards space.

PE One could think of a phenomenon that I’d like to call “aesthetic normalism” responding to this new taste for the normal. The idea is how can I influence this by making it modular for instance, whereas we’re dealing with something which is like a new normal now.

FB Well, it’s a different way also of understanding flexibility as a concept. It’s something which is easily adaptable and which you can easily adapt to. I guess that’s also interesting in relation to the normal, the norm.

AB But to me the new normal as it presents itself today is also tied to identity and in a way lifestyle. The idea of the generic in modernism is trying to take away identity and present itself as flexible and adaptable.

PE I first encountered you online, when you were still “that other Pavilion.” I was wondering if that makes a difference to you or if also your experience was that suddenly something you were doing for some reason generated that immense response online.

LOG Totally, but I think it was also a very conscious decision for the first pavilion to have a digital existence. It was almost never considered to be an actual physical space.

AB It was actually constructed as a performance, as an event played out online. Not in a corny way of being an online thing, but it generated this wave online that had to do with a certain fascination or unlocking of a certain idea. 

PE It’s probably the case with your entire practice: as you say it’s “not the corny online thing,” it’s not digital art, it’s not an online practice, but it used online as a tool.

LOG I think that’s how we conceptualize most of our work: you can operate within the digital and the physical but they don’t need to be the same. They can be different strategies that try to subvert the same thing we’re trying to deal with.

OP We try not to separate them, we don’t see them as different. The digital is just a thing of the world that we are trying to reconcile with what is ‘really’ there.

AB The installations we’re doing for the two Biennales we’re participating in, the Architecture Biennale in Venice and the Art Biennale in Berlin, have essentially to do with these ideas.

CURA NO. 22 2016

 


16 Mar 2016

åyr :: Where have all the art punks gone?

For more than 100 years, art has been defined by rebellion. From the surrealists’ rejection of the rational to the political paintings of Picasso, from the rage of the punks to the sly irony of the YBAs, the work that adorns the walls of our art institutions is overwhelmingly countercultural.

So what happened with millennials? Where is their rebellious spirit? Why, as Gregor Muir of the Institute of Contemporary Art asked recently, have they yet to produce an avant garde movement? Where are the revolutionary artists rattling the bars?

The answer is far from straightforward. In the age of “hypercapitalism”, the tentacles of the corporate world extend further into our lives than ever before. Even the words that were once used to signify creative rebellion – DIY, pop-up, grassroots, punk – have been co-opted, fetishised, used to sell coffee, flog old furniture and entice property buyers to up-and-coming areas.

Spaces that once spawned and nurtured a countercultural spirit are also disappearing. Since 2005, the number of nightclubs in the UK has fallen from 3,144 to 1,733 and there are now only 88 live music venues left in London. Studio spaces for artists in the city are being shut down and redeveloped into flats at a breakneck pace, while rents on those that remain are often unaffordable. Even the squats and council housing once occupied by many an artist are no more.

But look beyond the traditional spaces and what emerges are a group of Generation Y artists who are arguably more avant garde than ever. There is now The art world might be international, but it's also closed-minded. And making work only for art fairs isn’t very risky a growing movement working fluidly with both physical objects and digital platforms such as social media websites, and creating work that reappropriates and even hijacks the corporate, tech and art worlds from the inside out. “Using art to find some agency in all the bullshit,” as one artist bluntly phrased it.

Simon Denny, 33, typifies this approach. Denny, who’s had shows at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Venice Biennale and recently the Serpentine in London, takes management jargon and advertising slogans (“Failure is just one step to success”) and recontextualises them. The results, which often look a bit like a strange trade fair, aim to expose the foundations of the companies that shape our world.

“This generation of artists are much more interested in investigating the textures and fabrics of the system we are actually under,” says Denny, “rather than presenting nostalgic alternatives that are outdated or unrealistic. It is about occupying the worlds of technology and the corporate world, getting close to them and their people.”

The internet hasn’t only changed our lives and jobs, says Denny, it has also changed the very definition of an artist. “A few years ago,” he says, “if you were a creatively minded person, you might have become a sculptor or a painter. Now you are equally likely to become the founder of a tech startup, channelling your creative ideas and risk into what is, ultimately, a business.”

Does that undermine an artist’s credibility? Denny believes not. “A lot of young startup people are viewing their companies as an artwork,” he says. “I think the creativity involved in painting, say, and that of tech are getting This idea of an artist sitting alone in the studio all day is a myth now – it's unaffordable closer. The incredible risk - with vision and values - that artists once represented is now embodied in these tech companies. That has a real resonance for me. People can make a beautiful business or a beautiful venture.”

 

 

As Yuri Pattison, an emerging 29-year-old artist, points out, Generation Y have not grown up in the age of the faceless corporation. Figures such as Steve Jobs are portrayed as wild artistic geniuses, not CEOs of multibillion-dollar businesses. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Assemble, the collective who won last year’s Turner prize, are also a registered corporation. For a recent installation, Pattison, who started out as part of the London art collective Lucky PDF, collaborated virtually with a man in Kangding, China, working for a Bitcoin mine (where online currency is generated). Like much of Pattison’s work, the piece had an online counterpart: a website that displayed live data from the international Bitcoin network.

By creating work that is freely accessible online, Pattison is part of this current generation who are unpicking the golden seams of the art market, where value lies in rarity and the need for an “authentic original object”. While these artists do exhibit in galleries, their work often continues to evolve and be shared beyond those white boxes.

“The art world might be big and international, but it is also very flat and closed-minded. And making work only for art fairs isn’t very risky. So allowing your work to circulate in areas without such strictly defined and elite audiences is really interesting, because then you are hopefully participating in a bigger conversation.”

It also makes economic sense. In the UK, many emerging artists cannot afford studios, so they turn to the infinite space and creative resources online.This has given rise to “post-studio practice”, where Generation Y artists work mainly from their laptops and outsource major practical aspects of their work.

But if the cost of studio space – and art school – is not making art an entirely elitist enterprise in Britain, money of course, continues to drive artists towards tech, if only as a sideline to support their own work. Even for major biennale commissions such as Venice, artists will often only earn around £500 for a show that might takes months to prepare.

In response to the harsh economic climate facing Generation Y artists, and the resistance of established institutions to much of their work, collaborative organisations such as Auto Italia South East in London and Eastside Projects in Birmingham have sprung up. Kate Cooper, who co-founded Auto Italia in 2007, says that while the trend of this generation to create work from their laptops was partly creatively driven, it is “dangerous to romanticise this way of working” because it was often born out of necessity.

“This idea of an artist as a single person, sitting in the studio all day, is a myth now,” says Cooper. “It’s unaffordable and unrealistic. Every artist is in this precarious world. Everyone does five different jobs to support themselves. Some might be coders, others working on feature films or building apps. But what’s interesting is that people will bring the tools from their day jobs into their art. And that’s how new practices have emerged.”

Recent Auto Italia projects include Golden Age Problems, in which a dozen artists examined their own seduction by mass media through everything from images to performances and a website. “For the older generation, this can all seem quite alienating,” says Cooper. “These works are still perceived as less accessible, so they are less likely to be brought into the big institutions. I think that’s a cultural misunderstanding that needs to be overcome.”

Artists are also using online platforms to explore something much more personal: questions of who we are online. Ed Fornieles, 32, is one of many artists examining the murky waters of digital identity. For his most recent project, he took on the persona of a virtual cartoon fox to explore how people create new identities. “Facebook has become this space where the most meaningful moments of one’s life are mixed with ‘corporate narrative’ adverts,” he says. “Personally, I don’t see the difference between them any more. They are all part of the same mush. I think it all has value. Today, with art and commerce constantly feeding off each other, it is a super exciting place to look for ideas.”

For Fornieles, the key role his work – and that of his contemporaries – can play is to force a disruption from the mindless clicking that defines most people’s digital experience: only then can we step back, re-evaluate, and regain control of our identities online. Fornieles – who once used Facebook to invite 120 people to a fake frat party for his Animal House project – also responded to Gregor Muir.

“If you look at the YBAs, you have a bunch of people who, on the whole, just created a strand of work and then just repeated it again and again, so it became very easily categoriseable. And there’s nothing more conservative than that.”

Yet the use of social media by Generation Y artists is more complicated than simple critique or celebration, just as these spaces themselves occupy muddy moral waters. Instagram is both an aspirational platform and the place where inequalities become glaringly apparent.

This was thrown into stark relief by the artist Amalia Ulman. As part of her piece Excellences and Perfections, she created a persona on Instagram over a year, sharing everything from pole-dancing classes to breast enhancement and a nervous breakdown. She gained thousands of followers for her carefully documented life, but recently revealed it was entirely false. Her dedicated fanbase cried betrayal, while some art critics decried it as genius. 

Staging the work on instagram, says Ulman, confronted her audiences with their own fabrications and personas, the ones they had adopted on social media, often unconsciously. “The work made people into internet trolls without them even realising. People hated the character but would still follow, make comments and share with their friends. It then forced them to think about why they were enjoying the suffering of this girl they didn’t even know, using her as entertainment.”

Another group exploring how technology and the internet have colonised our personal lives are the art collective Åyr, who will participate in Home Economics, the British pavilion at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale. They began life as the Airbnb collective, named after the website at the forefront of the “sharing economy”, which encourages us to put our homes online. There are now even websites for people to rent out their homes during the day for others to use as work spaces.

“The domestic space was once the last bastion of untouched individual identity” says Åyr member Alessandro Bava. “But right now it is being challenged in a very direct way.” To demonstrate the point, their Airbnb “pavilion” at the 2014 biennale was staged across three apartments they rented via the website.

“Global corporations have changed our relationship with our own our homes. Technology means most of us can work from home, and websites are encouraging us to profit from them, make every moment that you spend at home productive. So the home is now becoming the ultimate place of labour. And we are the first generation to really experience that.”

For the Frieze art fair in London last year, the group created six interlocking bedrooms, where people could sit on the beds and charge their phones – showing the lack of distinction people now make between intimate private spaces and public ones.

The intangible nature of this art still dogs Generation Y. Unlike the YBAs, it does not have a snappy name that makes it easy to talk about, and its highly conceptual nature lends itself to cries of the emperor’s new clothes. Fornieles recalls his encounters with Hans-Ulrich Obrist, the co-director of exhibitions at the Serpentine: “He always asks me if we have a name yet. In some ways we do need one, I guess.”

Whatever their troubles, it feels like a pivotal moment for this new generation. Electronic Superhighway, which recently opened at the Whitechapel Gallery, is the most thorough survey of digital art to date, Ulman features in a new photography show at the Tate Modern, and this year’s Berlin Biennale is being curated by the DIS collective, a pioneering group who blend art and fashion with mass media and commerce.

“It is weird and hard and I think it’s taken a long time to filter into the mainstream,” says Åyr’s Bava. “But slowly it is being acknowledged as something that is not just kids over-identifying with their oppressor. This work is now being understood as something powerful – and even quite punk.”

Hannah Ellis-Petersen The Guardian 16 March 2016


15 Oct 2015

åyr :: åyr go through the keyhole

Ever wondered what Cy Twombly's house looked like? Or Rick Owens'? Or MoMA curator Klaus Bisenbach's? Åyr's exhibition, Newcomers, at Project Native Informant, peels back and reveals the home lives of the rich of the famous.

Although, of course, it doesn't quite. In a series of lightbox renders of these interiors, the UK-based collective instead critique the aspirational perfection of people who open their homes to interior photographers to document them, and who seek to place a certain image of themselves in the perfectly arranged world of their. A window frames each image, we're directly looking in like voyeurs, and repeats, infinitely and uncannily, into the distance of a window too. Each image is punctured and interrupted by a incongruous element; a sombrero, a portrait of Portia and Ellen, a Michael Kors bag, a Dyptique candle, a satire on their perfection, but also revealing the break in the construction of self. The images are hyperreal and hypnotic, but also violent and dystopian in the way they reach for perfection. The renders' power comes from the fact they are both unnaturally real though obviously constructed and fake; they seem at first glance attainable and beautiful but then reveal their falsity and darkness.

They also were part of Frieze Projects this year, with Comfort Zone, which like Newcomers relies on the optical illusion of repetition, and the symbolism of the home and bed, to critique the domestic environment. One of the fair's stand out booths, Comfort Zone is part chill out zone, part critique of the hyper connectivity of the smart home, whilst exploring the gap between art and play.

Can you describe a little about the history and idea behind ÅYR?

The four of us came together a little over a year ago when we worked on the AIRBNB Pavilion, an independent pavilion that happened over the opening weekend of the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale. We continued to operate under that name until spring this year, when, after a long summer of legal back and forth (after receiving a cease and desist letter by lawyers representing AIRBNB), we settled on this new name, which we see as transitory, a temporary name to the now nameless pavilion.

We are obsessed with the idea of how our name can be constantly changing, in an age when branding and the value attach to this is so important , we want to explore this continuous untraceable body of work. It's not anonymous, just eternally confusing.

You mainly come from architectural backgrounds, how does this affect your place within the "art world"?
its funny because both architecture and art always function with some sort of gate- keeper figure deciding who or what can be considered part of the discipline. so for us to fully prescribe to either is just reinforcing very outdated forms of control. i think as individuals the four of us look at this from different perspectives as a collective we conceived of ourselves as an art project that works with an architectural vocabulary. But given the nature of ÅYR as a constantly transitioning project, maybe in the future we might think of it as an architectural project in an art context.

Architecture is always affirmative and never critical that's its inherent limit, so we could never imagine ÅYR's work to be perceived as architecture...

The first projects were critiques and investigations into the sharing economy, these last projects are more concerned with a critique and investigation into the luxury industry (interiors, hipster aesthetics, contemporary art, etc, etc) -- how do you see these two strands being related in your work?

The sharing economy has this drive towards the accessibility of luxury but with a twist in models of ownership. We don't see them as being two distinct things but rather the same. Luxury and its accessibility has a certain allure but deep down there is a violence there. For example Interior Illusions Lounge, from which the works at

Project Native Informant stem from are so sexy because of their hyperreal and hyper aspirational representation of luxury. It becomes so attainable, but that's just the surface, deep down we see these pieces as dark and violent.

What attracted you to each of the people whose interiors you've reimagined.

The reasons for each one vary, some are arbitrary if we like what the interior communicates (like Klaus Biesenbach's all white interior) or because of the history of Cy Twombly's house, but they all look into the artist interior as the mythical birthplace of aesthetic tendencies, urban demeanours, and incubators of metropolitan subjectivity.

 
 

To what extent can we think of interiors as self-portraits?

The construction of the renders starts with existing photographs of these spaces. These photographs could only have happened by inviting photographers to come into their houses and photograph their intimate spaces. There is a certain ritual of inviting people over, where you prepare the house so it represents a different reality to the actual lived one. The construction of an interior is one that is charged with self- portraiture, you construct it to construct yourself.

How much of the critique comes through the small interventions in these images (the Doritos, the sombrero, the portrait of Ellen and Portia, the dog) that puncture that ideal of ourselves?
I like how you talk about these as punctures, because that's exactly how we conceptualise them, they are the cracks of the pristine rendering and the control embedded in the interior as portrait. They come naturally once the image has been fully constructed and comes from a desire to present these as archetypes and autonomous images that go beyond the subject. In a sense, more than the trompe- l'oeil quality of the images these bear a certain discomfort to the image. They fuck the househole up.

What, if anything, do you think we can understand about the people who "live" within these interiors through viewing them?

We've been looking at Warhol's portraits, the ones in which he would photograph collectors and personalities on a polaroid with the idea to construct a collective portrait of society at the time by only displaying a surface representation of identity. That's how we think about the Interior Illusions Lounge.

 

The bed is a recurring motif in many of the renders, and in your Frieze Projects installation too. What attracts you to the symbolism of the bed?
The bed has always been there for us. We see it as the object that condenses a lot the affect we deal with. There is a long history of looking at the bed as biographical and emotional, as a space for comfort and love, as the space of the couple, and the only space where physical intimacy is allowed and encouraged. Its very coded. But at the same time we also look at it as really boring piece of designed technology: it's just a padded cube that nonetheless manages to regulate so much of our interactions. In this sense, it epitomises the idea of a domestic signifier: it is simple and global, it defines the function of its room and the action of bodies. It is a condition of productivity and it shows that even the most vertical bodies need full horizontality vis a vis productive laziness.

Can you explain a bit about your Frieze Project?

It uses the bed to construct an anachronism around notions of comfort, privacy and display within a seemingly domestic environment. It is firstly an enfilade—a baroque architectural typology that anticipated the corridor in modulating degrees of intimacy and publicness. The suite of six rooms cuts throughout the central tent at the moment in which it meets its neighbouring one so that, while walking by, it almost appears as a hallucination. The rooms are the size of a standard master bedroom, differently coloured according to global domestic palettes we found researching for "calming neutrals", and furnished with the most comfortable beds available on the market and pendant ceiling lights augmented with smart technology. It draws upon the recent emergence of cosiness, chilling and entertainment in entrepreneurial rhetoric, caricatured in start up and freelancing cultures. This shift is visible in the design of these spaces that freely employ domestic signifiers like fireplaces and hot tubs to transform the sterile corporate lounges into homey interiors. We see that as embodying a shift from having a job to having an occupation. Nonchalance, laziness, happiness has become a mainstream cachet of professional success; probably helped by the fact that it is still a form of production. Conversely, the rhetoric of efficiency and production drive the products of the smart home, not to say that watching a movie in bed or texting your mum already generates data that has some sort of value. We are interested in the ways these dynamics are transforming the home as an aesthetic, as a concept and as a feeling.

Felix Petty åyr go through the keyhole I.D. Magazine 15 October 2015

Can you describe a little about the history and idea behind ÅYR?
The four of us came together a little over a year ago when we worked on the AIRBNB Pavilion, an independent pavilion that happened over the opening weekend of the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale. We continued to operate under that name until spring this year, when, after a long summer of legal back and forth (after receiving a cease and desist letter by lawyers representing AIRBNB), we settled on this new name, which we see as transitory, a temporary name to the now nameless pavilion.

We are obsessed with the idea of how our name can be constantly changing, in an age when branding and the value attach to this is so important , we want to explore this continuous untraceable body of work. It's not anonymous, just eternally confusing. 

You mainly come from architectural backgrounds, how does this affect your place within the "art world"?
its funny because both architecture and art always function with some sort of gate-keeper figure deciding who or what can be considered part of the discipline. so for us to fully prescribe to either is just reinforcing very outdated forms of control. i think as individuals the four of us look at this from different perspectives as a collective we conceived of ourselves as an art project that works with an architectural vocabulary. But given the nature of ÅYR as a constantly transitioning project, maybe in the future we might think of it as an architectural project in an art context.

Architecture is always affirmative and never critical that's its inherent limit, so we could never imagine ÅYR's work to be perceived as architecture…

The first projects were critiques and investigations into the sharing economy, these last projects are more concerned with a critique and investigation into the luxury industry (interiors, hipster aesthetics, contemporary art, etc, etc) -- how do you see these two strands being related in your work?
The sharing economy has this drive towards the accessibility of luxury but with a twist in models of ownership. We don't see them as being two distinct things but rather the same. Luxury and its accessibility has a certain allure but deep down there is a violence there. For example Interior Illusions Lounge, from which the works at Project Native Informant stem from are so sexy because of their hyperreal and hyper aspirational representation of luxury. It becomes so attainable, but that's just the surface, deep down we see these pieces as dark and violent.

What attracted you to each of the people whose interiors you've reimagined.
The reasons for each one vary, some are arbitrary if we like what the interior communicates (like Klaus Biesenbach's all white interior) or because of the history of Cy Twombly's house, but they all look into the artist interior as the mythical birthplace of aesthetic tendencies, urban demeanours, and incubators of metropolitan subjectivity.

To what extent can we think of interiors as self-portraits?
The construction of the renders starts with existing photographs of these spaces. These photographs could only have happened by inviting photographers to come into their houses and photograph their intimate spaces. There is a certain ritual of inviting people over, where you prepare the house so it represents a different reality to the actual lived one. The construction of an interior is one that is charged with self-portraiture, you construct it to construct yourself. 

How much of the critique comes through the small interventions in these images (the Doritos, the sombrero, the portrait of Ellen and Portia, the dog) that puncture that ideal of ourselves?
I like how you talk about these as punctures, because that's exactly how we conceptualise them, they are the cracks of the pristine rendering and the control embedded in the interior as portrait. They come naturally once the image has been fully constructed and comes from a desire to present these as archetypes and autonomous images that go beyond the subject. In a sense, more than the trompe-l'oeil quality of the images these bear a certain discomfort to the image. They fuck the househole up.

What, if anything, do you think we can understand about the people who "live" within these interiors through viewing them?
We've been looking at Warhol's portraits, the ones in which he would photograph collectors and personalities on a polaroid with the idea to construct a collective portrait of society at the time by only displaying a surface representation of identity. That's how we think about the Interior Illusions Lounge.

The bed is a recurring motif in many of the renders, and in your Frieze Projects installation too. What attracts you to the symbolism of the bed?
The bed has always been there for us. We see it as the object that condenses a lot the affect we deal with. There is a long history of looking at the bed as biographical and emotional, as a space for comfort and love, as the space of the couple, and the only space where physical intimacy is allowed and encouraged. Its very coded. But at the same time we also look at it as really boring piece of designed technology: it's just a padded cube that nonetheless manages to regulate so much of our interactions. In this sense, it epitomises the idea of a domestic signifier: it is simple and global, it defines the function of its room and the action of bodies. It is a condition of productivity and it shows that even the most vertical bodies need full horizontality vis a vis productive laziness.

Can you explain a bit about your Frieze Project?
It uses the bed to construct an anachronism around notions of comfort, privacy and display within a seemingly domestic environment. It is firstly an enfilade—a baroque architectural typology that anticipated the corridor in modulating degrees of intimacy and publicness. The suite of six rooms cuts throughout the central tent at the moment in which it meets its neighbouring one so that, while walking by, it almost appears as a hallucination. The rooms are the size of a standard master bedroom, differently coloured according to global domestic palettes we found researching for "calming neutrals", and furnished with the most comfortable beds available on the market and pendant ceiling lights augmented with smart technology. It draws upon the recent emergence of cosiness, chilling and entertainment in entrepreneurial rhetoric, caricatured in start up and freelancing cultures. This shift is visible in the design of these spaces that freely employ domestic signifiers like fireplaces and hot tubs to transform the sterile corporate lounges into homey interiors. We see that as embodying a shift from having a job to having an occupation. Nonchalance, laziness, happiness has become a mainstream cachet of professional success; probably helped by the fact that it is still a form of production. Conversely, the rhetoric of efficiency and production drive the products of the smart home, not to say that watching a movie in bed or texting your mum already generates data that has some sort of value. We are interested in the ways these dynamics are transforming the home as an aesthetic, as a concept and as a feeling.


2 Oct 2015

åyr :: The artists that shone out at Frieze

Korean minimalism, post-photographic experiments and 80s-style airbrushing: these are ten artists who rocked the boat at Frieze

åyr

This was the stand out Frieze Projects booth – a pop up row of beds where visitors could lie down, and if they were lucky, get a massage and most importantly, charge their phone. AYR emerged as Airbnb project (not endorsed by the company) at the Venice Biennale and have extended under their new names as a collective reexamination our relationship to interiors, architecture and modernity. They have a show on at Project Native Informant too for those you want more.

Francesca Gavin Dazed Digital October 2015


2 Oct 2015

åyr :: Fancy a quick lie down at Frieze? You’re in luck!

Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing? First posed by Richard Hamilton it's also a question raised in ÅYR’s work. The art collective was founded in London by Fabrizio Ballabio, Alessandro Bava, Luis Ortega Govela, and Octave Perrault, originally under the name AIRBNB Pavilion, after the satellite event the group held at the 2014 Venice Biennale. Renting a series of Venetian apartments via the home-sharing site Airbnb, the group’s show sought to examine how design responds “to new conditions of lifestyle and inhabitation.”

Unsurprisingly, Airbnb Inc. didn’t take kindly to the use of their trademark, and issued the group with a cease-and-desist letter. However this hasn’t prevented Fabrizio, Alessandro, Luis and Octave from continuing their critique of contemporary domesticity. Read on to find out how their smart-bedroom Frieze Project, called Comfort Zone, examines the commodification and digitization of cosiness, and why, for them, it is a privilege to be at the fair.

What have you got planned for Frieze? "Our project for Frieze constructs an anachronism around notions of comfort, privacy and display within a seemingly domestic environment. The suite of six rooms cuts throughout the central tent at the point at which it meets its neighbouring one so that, while walking by, it almost appears as a hallucination. The rooms are the size of a standard master bedroom, differently coloured according to global domestic palettes we found researching “calming neutrals”, and furnished with the most comfortable beds available on the market, as well as pendant ceiling lights augmented with smart technology.

It draws upon the recent emergence of cosiness, chilling and entertainment in entrepreneurial rhetoric, caricatured in the start-up and freelancing cultures. This shift is visible in the design of these spaces that freely employ domestic signifiers like fireplaces and hot tubs to transform the sterile corporate lounges into homey interiors. Nonchalance, laziness, happiness has become a mainstream cachet of professional success, probably helped by the fact that it is still a form of production. Conversely, the rhetorics of efficiency and production drive the products of the smart home, not to say that watching a movie in bed or texting your mom already generates data that has some sort of value. We are interested in the ways these dynamics are transforming the home as an aesthetic and as an architecture, as a concept and as a feeling."

How do you hope viewers will react to your Frieze Project? "We hope visitors will use this space in a spontaneous, unmediated way. We want people to believe in the candour and the welcoming aura of the space. To relax and to escape. To work and to finalise deals. But then again we are not so concerned with the use of the space or the reaction, we have designed an experience and an ambiance, so that’s what we care about. Trying to design uses or reactions is hopeless."

What do you make of art fairs like Frieze? How would you change them? "The question for us is how a context like Frieze can influence our work. The context of the work takes an important place in our creative process. The spirit of the place is something that works better in art rather than architecture. We were mainly interested in the fair part of an art fair: Comfort Zone only uses products that are available in retail and that are used the way they are supposed to be, just like any commercial fair. They are altered, but an important aspect of our intervention is to combine them specifically for that context. It was also interesting to deal with Frieze Real Estate to define our location and size of our space. Since we are commissioned by Frieze Project, the nonprofit programme of the fair, we had to be strategic to get what we wanted because galleries pay thousands for each extra square meter: this resulted in the amazing privilege to be squatting at the fair!"

How did you all meet? "We all met at the Architectural Association in London, and even though we were in different courses our interests overlapped somehow in respect to the urgencies we found within the architectural discourse. So naturally we all worked together on different projects, but it was only until the 2014 Venice Biennale when we did the AIRBNB Pavilion that the four of us worked as a group."

Are you all architects? "Yes but more than a title, it is our interest. It’s funny because an architect means different things for example in the eyes of the RIBA in actual fact none of us can really call ourselves architects, which points out the disparities between the profession and its content. What has drawn us to study architecture, is that it formalizes problems spatially, so that the world as an aesthetic phenomenon begins to resonate with meaning. ÅYR is strictly an art collective, so within this framework it determines the subjects we are exploring, and at the same time it influences the way in which we work as a collective and the work itself."

Could you tell us a little bit about your Venice Architecture Biennale exhibition? "The exhibition in Venice came out of a feeling of frustration towards the official Biennale, which focused on what Rem Koolhaas had defined as “fundamentals”: rather arbitrary ‘eternal’ elements of architecture, which failed to directly address present issues. We were interested in how internet-enabled phenomena, like the sharing economy, affects the built environment, and more specifically domestic space, in its aesthetic and affective qualities. The exhibition happened in a series of apartments rented on a home sharing website; we actually were also staying in one of the apartments which made the whole thing a meta experiment on contemporary domesticity."

You used to be called AIRBNB Pavilion. What happened? "A little less than a year after working under that name we received a cease-and-desist letter from the lawyers acting on behalf of Airbnb Inc. for trademark infringement. So we changed our name to ÅYR. While this was happening all our followers on Instagram were transferred to the official @airbnb account. All that is solid melts into ÅYR."

Phaidon October 2015

 


15 Jul 2015

åyr :: My Flip Phone Brought Me Here

The Modern subject is usually defined by its epistemological capacity. Enlightened at heart, it is composed of a body and a mind evolving in an homogeneous space and time; it is mostly conscious, aware of the world to the extent of his/her knowledge. This model for subjectivity continues to produce the city both formally and as an abstraction. If this model has been under criticism since it emerged, today, the lived experience of space is being transformed more directly than before through the devices, software and networks that affect the sensing capacity of the subject. As it is possible to access quantities of information at a distance, through deserts and walls, it is also possible to be governed in the same manner. This aspect of the contemporary urban experience has notably exposed the inadequacy of the dialectical separation between spheres that have produced the modern subject and its habitat: the modern city. How to think the city when the domestic is public, the personal is political, and reproduction is production? How is the city transformed by the digital quantification of space which indexes both the living and nonliving and allows it to be managed in almost real-time? These are only partial formulations of the actual challenges brought by the heterogeneous dynamics at work today with the evolution of labor, technologies and subjectivity. A contemporary analysis of the city needs to account for the destabilization of the dichotomies that still constitute the subject at large, whether they are body or mind, human or nonhuman, and material or immaterial. In this regard, there is something actually fascinating in the fact that objects or cities are now wished with a particular personality trait, and be called smart.

The image of the smart city made of an endless assemblage of automated connected machines is impressive and daunting. Whether it one sees it as exploiting or liberating, it is problematic to reduce the smart city to a perfectly oiled system constantly monitoring and optimizing everything and every one’s behavior. Techno-utopian enthusiasm and the total hopelessness of usual critique are mirror images of each other. Both views bear many traits of that fin de siecle feeling that was generated by the industrial city: the anxious fascination for the machines that dehumanize, for the labor that individualizes and for the spectacle that depoliticizes. Yet, the industrial city hasn’t produced only evils, or eradicated the political altogether. The technological has a sublime and it is ambivalent: machines do not serve or enslave, they do both and neither simultaneously. This is an important premise for a conceptualization of the interplay between subjectivity, technology and the city that doesn’t essentialize burdensome humanisms.

In the project of the smart city, it is the smart home that raises the most concerns. The infiltration of sensing and connected machines within the domestic unit disturbs. Not even the home is safe ; there is no place to go, no room to hide as surveillance appears to be ubiquitous and commodification is subsuming the unconscious. Faced with these observations that imperil the precious separations of spheres, some architects turn to Ray Kurzweil (the inventor of the ‘singularity’) or opt for an exodus from technology, while others attempt to reincarnate the past home by building Faraday cages like they used to build atomic bunkers. It is not that the techs of the smart home are innocent but that it only seems difficult to analyze a condition based on the uncertain effects of objects and gadgets that are still at the stage of prototypes. It is more productive to analyze the infrastructure and the habits that are already in operation and have allowed the imagination of the smart thermostats and fridges that are threatening to invade our homes. Technology isn’t reducible to machines and techniques. It is an immersive presence that hardly leaves anything spare, especially in this so-called information age. From the street to the home, from the self to the world, the city as a whole has already been transformed by portable personal devices, the internet, and the oligopoly of online platforms.

The home points somewhere, to a place which doesn’t need to be described too precisely. It is diffuse, but it has a permanence which confers comfort and belonging. It brings psychic appeasement and physical protection. It is the space of personal intimacy and of the ‘family’, that inalienable and natural-ized datum of the community, the one that continues to condition all futurity. In spite of the generalized precarity that is hitting our cities and turning our houses into temporary places of occupation that are most often impersonal, dysfunctional and constantly subject to the landlord’s or the state’s invitation to leave, the home doesn’t show much wear. The home is a (idealized) feeling rather than a typology. Renting, short-term jobs and serial monogamy are destroying the house-home, yet the home can exist quite autonomously from its architectural concretization. Even the homey aesthetics – an image, an ambience, a feeling – is seemingly strengthened by the very processes that are destroying its typology. The abundant flux of images that are produced and shared online show the home clearly and coherently even if its actual access is increasingly hazardous. One only has to compare the domestic reality glimpsed on a Skype catch-up with the CG imagery of the IKEA catalogue to see the gap between reality and representation. This tension is certainly unsettling yet it doesn’t only lead to somber conclusions. The widening distance between image and reality may very well be a heightened form of alienation with techno-fascist undertones, but we should prevent ourselves from this modernist masculine idealism that believes in actual reality and fears illusions. We should also avoid regretting the home as a safe haven of peacefulness. That would blatantly disregard the invaluable feminist critiques and only demonstrates a conservative empathy for one of the keystone of the bourgeois project and its rampant forms of oppressions. Without belittling the violence of the neoliberal dynamics that are currently at work, it is politically more promising to see the tension between the reality and the image of the home as the chance to liberate hominess from certain power relations. There might be opportunity in crisis, even for emancipatory politics. Thus, could we disentangle these questions by considering that it is not a disappearance of the home, but a displacement? What if the home was able to detach itself from the house as a consequence of the devices and platforms accommodating some of its qualities, or rather providing aspects of its presence?

It is frightening to know that the companies of the smart city are now developing ridiculously small and cheap sensing devices powered by the electromagnetic wave of surrounding WiFi signals and communicating with their headquarters on 3G. Even if there are Smart TVs that have already been busted recording all our living room conversations, it is still unlikely that the appliances of the smart home have more potential for evil than the portable devices that centralize our sociability and have already become extension of our memories. Even as an undeniable instrument of surveillance, the smartphone still confers a feeling which is more comforting than threatening. With it, it is hard to be alone or to be lost as a map or a contact are always at hand. It possesses an affective presence which is particularly palpable when the battery runs out. The smart devices that are currently in use extend the mind in such a way that they have become a part of the body. The subject of contemporary metropolises can hardly be thought without her devices, and the contemporary city has to be understood as populated by smart bodies made of flesh and smartphones. In addition to this, the smart objects and the smart city originate from what the smart bodies are already performing together. It is this body who is able to bring the exterior inside the house and to bring that homey presence to the exterior. It is the smart body that allows the home to be partially autonomous from the materiality of what is still thought as domestic space. This extended model of subjectivity goes beyond the irreducible fleshiness of the modern subject. The devices, networks and platforms produce the materiality and the spatiality through which the contemporary subject comes to being. They cannot be seen as external to its constitution. They are the infrastructure within which bodies bathe and through which they develop. They structure contemporary subjectivity, and they provide are strange combination of comfort and control that isn’t dissimilar to the one of the bourgeois home.

It is important to insist that this detachment of the home from its architecture isn’t an apology for homelessness or the transfiguration of dispossession into nomadism. This frame of thought does not disregard the vital necessity of shelter. On the contrary, the ambition behind this conception of the smart home is to find means to produce architecture that remedies the urgency of the contemporary housing question, both conceptually and materially. It isn’t that the materiality of the house has been replaced by networks and devices, but that the typology of the house is being separated from the feeling of the home partly because of network and devices. One still needs a place to sleep, a place to cook, a place to be alone, a place to wash, a place to be comfortable, but it may not be owned, or designed for a family or a bachelor. Who and what to design it for? Access to this type of place is essential to feeling home and the challenge is to figure an architectural rationale in tune with contemporary hominess. The typology of the house may not be completely outdated but it drags with it a burdened history regarding ownership, permanence, labour and gender. Disentangling the home from the house is an attempt to retain the political, communal and collective concepts associated to the home while discharging it from some of its problematic elements. And by analogy, the ubiquitous presence of the new technology suggests that there is much to learn from the subjectivities that have historically existed in the home and the ones that have managed to construct themselves within and against the oppression of the norms. The home needs to be queered as a whole, as a set of social relations, a series of aesthetic codes, and as an architectural typology.

In the same way that the nuclear family, the home and the factory were the paradigmatic models of the modern city and its subject, the contemporary city needs the smart subject, the devices, the network and the platforms. Production is increasingly mediated and managed directly through them. Online profiles are becoming forms of identification that condition the access to certain production platforms to a greater extent than National identification systems. This is operative on many websites like Airbnb for instance, but there is also TaskRabbit who directly discriminates bodies that aren’t smart: one is asked to possess a smartphone in order to open an account on the platform and begin exchanging his/her labour power. There is also a strange parallel between the platforms of the (sharing) economy and the stock market as both places allow incorporated individuals to exchange shares depending on their reputations. Not to mention Ethereum, the latest project of extreme technoliberals who wish to establish this form of management of life to virtually everything. The emergence of this form of administration coincides with the post-Fordist inclination towards human capital as the dominant form of capitalist accumulation. Indeed, the profile is a proof of identity that defines individuality less by its mere existence as a living person than by its activity in a variety of existential domains. By archiving habits, friendships, diets, professional or religious practices, the subject is directly associated to a portfolio of conducts specifically related to his or her own behaviour with the world. In this manner, the profile becomes a medium that monitors the investments made by a person in its own self, and therefore its value. Human capital is so intrinsically embedded in the subject and its history that labor power can only be rented out or invested in through education programs, lifestyle choices, reputations and social associations. In this sense, the profile is the currency of the (sharing) economy to which individuals have to comply in order to be intelligible on the market. This new form of identification and valuation is intrinsically linked to informatics, computation and networks. Capitalist exchange and governance has relied on the the description of things – including bodies and ideas – into administrable data, which today is computable data. By creating and compiling its profiles, the contemporary subject makes its own self, its possessions and its experience of the world amenable to informatics, and therefore subject to being managed in this manner. The difficulty to resist this system comes from the fact that withdrawal excludes from work, and thus, excludes from life. It is what regulates the access to work and thus the capacity to live. It is an apparatus for the administration of life itself, i.e biopolitics.

We are at a moment when production is less about manufacture than the referencing of everything that exists into a format that suits this administration paradigm. Contemporary production is a metaproduction that operates through the seizing of unused resources, assets and talents with informatics. Architecture wasn’t spared from this process, and understanding the primacy of the packaging of things into computable information is crucial to the understanding of the contemporary city and its subjects.

Google Maps and Airbnb are archetypal to the current making of the world into computable and cognizable data. They are both platforms that map, archive and reference things according to a set of criteria that are intelligible to both computers and subjects so that they can be managed, administered and potentially monetized, either directly or indirectly. On Airbnb, what is exchanged between users on the platform is the temporary access to spaces. In order to make its platform functional, Airbnb had to build a database of both users and spaces according to a set of computable indexes that made their exchange possible. The profile requirements of the users and the ‘Certified by Airbnb’ flanked over the pictures of homes are parts of the formatting process that is required by the platform economy. These standards allow for such things to be cognizable by humans, manageable by computers and networks and ultimately to make them comparable according to the abstract system of universal equivalence i.e. money. Adorno illustrates this necessary process through the invention of the phonograph and the record. Together, the phonograph and the record allowed the resistant immateriality and ephemerality of music to be transformed into a commodity that can be desired and exchanged as such. He doesn’t fail to insist on the instrumental role that advertising and “the private arty home” plays to crystallize these into habits, lifestyles and needs. Without them, the commodity doesn’t come to life. Transposing this example to architecture in the age of platforms, the immediate questions are: Are certain architectural forms more intelligible to computer than others? What are the criteria that make a space more fit to its indexation? How to measure the indexability of architecture by platforms? Could a spatial taxonomy be constructed from this measure? What makes a space resistant to that form of biopolitical management?

To approach these new architectural challenges, a starting point is to look at the reasons why the only spaces that have been widely incorporated by platforms until now are the street and the home. On the one hand, the street is a continuous, public and accessible space along which punctual and rather fixed events are located. Google Maps could index this data and render it usable in a relatively straightforward manner by drawing on existing mapping technologies and orientation practices. On the other hand, the typical Western home was ripe to be exploited by platforms for a variety of reasons. First, a home is clearly identifiable due to its long history and the distinctness of its codes, norms and aesthetics. Because the image and the feeling of the home is globally shared (at least amongst the groups using these platforms), the signifiers of the home can perform like a currency. On a more architectonic register, the typology of the house is also adequate to its exchange on platforms because it is a precisely delineated spatial unit which possesses a specific set of describable functions, and which access to is regulated by one single individual (or a limited group i.e. the family, the couple, the roommate). These architectonic and aesthetic attributes of houses have allowed them to be referenced and made exchangeable with minimal logistics on platforms like Airbnb for instance. When the phonograph required the construction of an appreciation of music as recordings before being turned into a commodity, the typology of the house/home already possessed a heterogeneous set of qualities (representability, accessibility, materiality, price, usage, security, … ) that made it suited to the platforms of contemporary societies of control and its subjects. Apart from the domestic typology, the analysis of space according to their capacity to be assimilated by platforms questions other spaces: Why does the open-plan office seem to be a resistant typology to platforms? Being the archetypal typology for the most neoliberal forms of lives where there are no separation between production and reproduction, is the white cube gallery the prototype of platform architecture? It is also worth wondering if the curvaceous and continuous objects and spaces of parametric architecture are actually suited to this evolution of neoliberalism. How to index a chair when it also morphs into a table and a shelf? How to reference out a room when it is separated from the lobby and the café with a glass panel or a tilted plane? Is it a sort of cryptographic design practice, or what would be one? The delineation of spaces and objects is essential for their indexation and their assimilation on platforms. Nonetheless, the parametricists may have touched upon something by focusing on the envelope: it is easier to index a building that distinctly stands out from the rest of the city fabric.

If these interrogations are only sketches for a possible angle of analysis of the contemporary city, they nonetheless challenge architecture to develop a model of the city that overcomes the current limitations of the modern triad of the house/home, the factory and the street that have structured the city both materially and as an abstraction. However, what is proposed here isn’t calling for the complete rejection of the previous models. The uneven and antagonistic nature of capitalism asks for models that represent the contemporary condition not only more productively but chiefly, more strategically. In the same way that the house/home was never a purely reproductive unit or a place for inevitable love, framing the separation between the house and the home through devices, networks and platforms isn’t a perfect representation of the contemporary city. Today, it seems urgent to produce an image of the city that integrates the ways in which power operates through the emergent material and affective infrastructures that manage bodies, objects, rooms, streets, sociality and capital.

Volume #44 ‘On Display’ 15 July 2015