Alternative Living Strategies

On Sunday i went for the second time (first time they confiscated my camera phone too early) to see LESS, Alternative Living Strategies at the Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea in Milan. Among the new forms of living proposed by 18 artists i found many works blogged here and there: Dré Wapenaar‘s Treetents were much bigger than what i had imagined, Andrea Zittel‘s living units (“People in Japan are already living in stuff like that,” commented a visior!), Marjetica Potrc‘s Hippo Water Roller and favelas-inspired Hybrid Houses, one of Krzysztof Wodiczko’s Critical Vehicles for the homeless, Lucy Orta’s wearable architecture, N55’s Snail Shell System, Michael Rakowitz’s inflatable paraSITE sucked air at the entrance of the museum, etc.

4430e7aa038f5_big.jpg4430e45bb085b_big.jpgJimmie Durham, Nature Morte with Stone on Metal and the Adjustable Wall Bra

The most striking pieces for me are by Atelier Van Lieshout and Vito Acconci (but i’ve always had a soft spot for their work.)

Acconci’s gigantesque Adjustable Wall Bra (1990-91) is a double chair where each cup provides seating, with surrounding music and the sounds of breathing (image top right).

Looking for more information about the piece, i stumbled upon one Acconci’s old projects: 3 masks based on conventional fencing masks. The Virtual Pleasure Mask “has a penis for nose, a vagina for mouth, and two televisions sets facing in for the eyes. On the other side of the vagina is a pacifier. So when you’re wearing the mask, someone can be fucking you on the outside, and you can be watching television on the inside, sucking on a pacifier in a world of your own.”


“The Virtual Relations Mask has a penis for nose, vagina for mouth, one television facing in at the eyes, and a surveillance camera on the top of the mask that mechanically rotates, up and down. So if you’re wearing the mask and someone is fucking you from the outside, you can see who’s fucking you by means of the camera, and if you don’t like who’s fucking you, there’s a whistle on the inside you can blow. The Virtual Intelligence Mask has 3 televisions: one larger television facing out, and 2 miniature TVs facing in. The miniature televisions cover the eyes of the person wearing the mask, he/she seems blindfolded by the TVs. At one side of the mask is a small radio, positioned at the ear of the person wearing the mask; the radio’s speaker is directed out. On top of the mask are two surveillance cameras, one on top of the other, one directed toward the front and the other toward the rear. They rotate mechanically, side to side. The person wearing the mask can see his/her environment on the screens in front of his/her eyes. In the meantime, passers-by may switch the TV channels outside the mask, or change from one radio station to another. A passer-by can literally «dial» the person wearing the mask; a passer-by can literally «turn the person on.»” (excerpt from one of Acconci’s talks)


Back to the show. Atelier Van Lieshout were showing a tiny mustard Capsule and the majestuous Maxi Capsule Luxus which Joep Van Leshout descibes as “like a farm for people. It looks like a chicken coop, but the units basically offer a simple solution for storing people.” Complete with a big bed, a TV set, a mini-bar, heating and other amenities, there isn’t much more to do inside the capsule than sleep and watch TV.

Also by Atelier Van Lieshout: The Disciplinator and The Call Centre. More on AVL in Icon magazine.

Virgilio has an image gallery of the show. My pics on flickr. Acconci images: world image, Mediakunstnetz.