While making very different work, both Jean-Pascal Flavien and Mika Tajima investigate social relationships to built environments and attempt to expose the constructed nature of these designed systems. The artists postulate in various forms such as architectural interventions or deconstructions of design objects, all in relation to the human subject.
Artist(s) Jean-Pascal Flavien and Mika Tajima
Venue Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Los Angeles
Photography Robert Wedemeyer
This exhibition is centered around spaces of possibility that exceed ideological and functional determination – beyond structures that constrain social behavior and ways of living. This is realized in hypothetical, metaphorical, and physical manifestations by both artists. Public and private structures are tested by each artist in a search for potential and failure.
An ongoing subject in Mika Tajima’s practice is the examination of sites of production — such as work and factory environments — in relation to the contemporary imperative to produce oneself. The sculptures in the exhibition invoke this amorphous zone of productivity and recreation through two chair forms designed to produce social interaction: the collaborative office lounge chair and the communal hot tub.
The casualization of today’s workplace marked by relaxation lounges, connective desking and fitness areas rely on the formalization of collaborative social relationships. Tajima highlights the contradictions in this development by examining the coopted language of “public” and “social” within the enclosure of a corporate environment. The exhibition features a sculpture resembling the Social Chair form found in the evolutionary Public Office Landscape furniture system that debuted in workplaces in 2013 — a low casual bench design now ubiquitous in airports, cafes, and bank lounges. Tajima’s version, made from traditional walnut and perforated with hot tub jet nozzles, draws on a conflicted seating configuration where collaborating office workers sit facing away from one another.
Similar to the evolution of communal workspaces from solitary cubicles to collaborative hubs, hot tubs were developed for isolated medical therapy before evolving into a recreational device with its multi-seat design. The Epimelesthai Sautou (Take Care) series is comprised of cast acrylic hot tub sculptures that are reverse-spray enameled in saturated gradient colors. These hot tub objects are ergonomically molded to the human form, underlining how the body is articulated in relation to an object. In Tajima’s work, the tub form acts as a container for the body and paint, fusing figuration with abstraction.
Tajima’s recent work focuses on techniques that shape bodily experience of space and time in a built environment. HerMeridian mood light sculpture series focuses particularly on ambient techniques that shape our embodied experience of spaces such as an exhibition space, workplace, or city. Comprised of a globally networked lighting system, the light installation illuminates the exhibition space creating a visualization of distant sensing bodies. The color of the lights respond in real time to the aggregate sentiment scraped from Twitter of citizens in New Songdo City, a new master plan in South Korea, 5,000 miles away, considered to be a template for urban futurity in which the entire environment is embedded with computational technologies that provide urban management and regulation. This is a space where the human body comes in tension with the machinic body.
Tajima’s Negative Entropy textile works are portraits of human mediators within the landscape of production: a systems engineer in a data center server room, a weaving designer at a 3D Jacquard loom textile mill, and a language translator at her desk. Their presence is represented in subtle and apparent pattern irregularities, woven as abstract traces. Each work is made from field recordings that are digitally transmuted into images and physically interpreted by a weaving designer to produce a Jacquard fabric. Passing through different processes and hands, these textiles are woven on an industrial Jacquard loom, considered a predecessor to mass automated technology and a prototype for computers.
Jean-Pascal Flavien’s practice is focused around the design and construction of houses, which in turn are inhabited and become platforms for other modes of inquiry. His projects embrace a plurality of mediums, including drawing, video, performance, writing, and book publishing. Designed as functional habitations, each house sets up, by way of a predetermined relationship between the space and its occupants, a singular living situation; and always accompanied by a conceptual element of language. To this date, six houses have been completed: the viewer, Rio de Janeiro (2007); the no drama house, Berlin (2009); the two persons house, Sao Paulo (2010); the breathing house, Parc Saint Leger, France (2012); the statement house (temporary title), Royal College of Arts, London (2015); and the folding house (to be continued), Nouveau Musee National de Monaco (2016). An eighth house titled, dancers sleeping inside a building will open this September in France.
Although they are posed as characters, the houses are not to be understood as psychological beings but rather as conceptual entities, representing ideas, locations, and events in which the architectural conditions can determine the behavior of its inhabitants (and vice versa). Jean-Pascal Flavien’s work explores how architecture shapes our experience of physical and linguistic space but also how it can fundamentally determine our experience of ourselves and of others.
For this exhibition, Flavien will present his seventh constructed house and second version of statement house (temporary title) in the adjacent courtyard of the gallery, as well as hanging ‘plans’ (cutout floorplans of the house). The work began as an exhibition in 2014 where the aforementioned hanging ‘plans’, moved into another stage of development in the form of statement house (temporary title). This house includes in its design elements that indicate its flexibility, such as a circular indentation in the floor marking where the bathroom could have been. The hanging ‘plans’ – each slight variations of the structure’s present configuration – as well as cutouts and truncated corners (geometrical remnants of these failed plans) are also present in the space. These document the process of the house’s making: what it is, what it might have been, and what it can still become.
The statement house (temporary title) is tied to the ideas of language. These variables of potential are the framework for the written component to the project. In addition to its physical presence, the statement house also occupies a digital arena on social media. Twitter accounts are managed by writers interacting with and creating the life of the house. The London version was activated through the collaboration of media writer and poet, Tan Lin. In Los Angeles, the artist has invited two screenwriters, David L. Brundige and Max Kopelowicz, to script the daily activities of the house, each on separate twitter accounts. Brundige and Kopelowicz take the position of writers and inhabitant and in the scripts, the house will shift between protagonist and sight of action. The house conceptually assumes the writing platform’s – twitter, poetry, script – architectural plan.