Thoughts about this project appear, change, and disappear constantly. Here is a snapshot of our most recent thoughts:
WHAT ARE THE DISAPPEARING MUSEUMS?
A study in architecture, ephemerality, and locality, the Disappearing Museums project examines environments, both built and natural, through art. Essentially life-sized “drafts” of select buildings, the Disappearing Museums themselves are realized in three dimensions and unexpectedly installed in the remote Icelandic desert. These sculptural blueprints are composed of salt core, a biodegradable material that naturally dissolves when exposed to rain, and as a result, the project aims to decontextualize and re-evaluate architecture as we traditionally know and understand it. In other words, the Disappearing Museums, which are fleeting and displaced, contrast with the sturdy, integrated, and permanent structures of contemporary society. The viewer is thus asked to reflect on the importance of architecture in daily life, as well as to consider ingrained expectations for--and dependence on--such buildings and their surroundings.
Although the project touches on a number of themes, a key characteristic of the Disappearing Museums is their focus on the intrinsically ephemeral, even sculpture-like, nature of infrastructure. Guaranteed to degrade, the drafts demonstrate, albeit in sped-up fashion, the inevitable decline and eventual deterioration of the constructed environment. In this way, evolution and the passage of time are brought to the forefront; the Disappearing Museums poetically point not only to the momentariness of humanity but also to the longevity of nature.
The Disappearing Museums’ unlikely installation in the desolate wilderness of Iceland is also central to the project. An extreme contrast to the buildings’ likely urban environments, this desert locale pointedly draws attention to all that is absent, most notably: communities, infrastructure, and other buildings. The absence of these things at the installation site is further amplified by the presence of the viewer, who, having traveled to this secluded location, also finds him or herself profoundly displaced.
WHY TEMPORARY BUILDINGS?
"The ideal building has three elements; it is sturdy, useful, and beautiful."
In his paramount work, De architectura, the Roman architect Vitruvius identifies durability – or sturdiness – as one of the three key elements that define an ideal building. The Disappearing Museums project explores the longstanding human impulse to realize indestructible structures, and it explicitly subverts this very ideal. The promised decline of the three-dimensional designs upon interaction with weather is central to the project’s conception.
Here, the inevitability of atrophy is prized rather than evaded, offering fresh perspective not only on the objectives of architecture but also on its innate nature. Likewise, as the salt core degrades, the structures function symbolically, pointing to the ephemerality of human life. In these ways and more, the Disappearing Museums project attempts to demonstrate the oft-overlooked significance of the incomplete and the transitory.
WHY NON-FUNCTIONAL ARCHITECTURE?
"Architecture shares the narrative qualities of sculpture at an essential level; both transform the relationship between object and ground into a poetic expression."
Thom Mayne, founder of Morphosis Architects
A dual responsibility to both functionality and aesthetics is indeed at the heart of an architect’s practice. To further explore these qualities, and in particular the artistic elements of a building, the Disappearing Museums project renders given structures non-functional and essentially sculptural. Uninhabitable and incomplete, the Disappearing Museums are in no way utilitarian and are thus aligned more closely to our understanding of the arts than to design, technology, or science.
By thus converting architecture into art, the Disappearing Museums project explores the potential of buildings, structures, and social interaction in a context free of limitations, rules, and common thought patterns. In this unique environment, which might be considered something approaching a utopia, creativity is fostered, enlightened perspectives adapted, and critical discourse encouraged.
WHY EXTENDING THE BLUEPRINTS?
Through the means of an art installation, the Disappearing Museums project offers a new, experimental, and sensory space for designing. The limitlessness of the vast Icelandic desert imposes little restrictions, and traditional pen-to-paper blueprints or scaled-down models are, in the context of the Disappearing Museums project, traded in for more experiential and lifelike renderings.
Translated into three dimensions, yet not fully realized, these building plans are arguably more complete versions of their two-dimensional iterations, as well as more accessible to “readers” of all backgrounds. At the same time, their incomplete states continue to foster creativity, imagination, and ideas.
Neither material nor intangible, neither shapeless nor fully formed, the architect’s draft lies somewhere between a building and the idea of one. By realizing a series of blueprints in salt core, the Disappearing Museums project allows such drafts to briefly occupy a fragment of time and space.
The Disappearing Museums project functions as commentary on the history of museums and their various incarnations in the 21st century. Museums today largely sustain centuries-old values relating to the care, preservation, presentation, and interpretation of cultural artifacts and collections.
In the context of the Disappearing Museums, however, these fundamental responsibilities are released, rendering the time-honored notion of a museum essentially obsolete. Popular conceptions of a museum are also undercut by the structures’ extreme ephemerality, isolation, and weightlessness. All of this is to demonstrate – and ultimately question – the rigid, arguably anachronistic definition of a museum that continues to be accepted by contemporary society.
WHY IN ICELAND?
The Disappearing Museums project is specifically conceived as an installation for the uninhabited landscape of Iceland. In part a nod to Iceland’s rich architectural history, the project demonstrates a deep respect for the nation’s tradition of harmonious relationships between nature and the built environment (the development of grass-and-turf-covered houses comes to mind, for instance). Moreover, the project embraces the unpredictability of the Icelandic weather and the element of chance it introduces into the works’ atrophy.
On a more social and political level, the appearance--and disappearance--of the salt core installations in unspoiled nature demonstrates a harmless approach to building, a particularly striking action against today’s backdrop of global overdevelopment.Thoughts by Sandino Scheidegger & Lindsey Cash
Who knows when it will finally take place? Good things take time, and we are in no hurry.
Two North African artists were invited to Switzerland to speak about their work: one who meets the necessary visa requirements to enter the country and one who doesn’t. These two scenarios, to be presented at the Belluard Festival, are the starting points for a story that isn’t afraid to touch upon our collective prejudices and the controversial question looming behind its creation:
Will the visiting artist overstay his visa after his talk to start a new life in Switzerland?
Presenting both of the following scenarios will allow Belluard Festival visitors to experience two different possible outcomes that reflect upon the realities of border crossing.
SCENARIO 1 An artist was invited to Switzerland, but he did not fulfill the visa requirements.
SCENARIO 2 An artist was invited to Switzerland, and his visa application was accepted.
For Scenario 2, an artist talk will be held on Sunday, June 28th at 8pm titled:ART PRACTICE BEYOND THE FENCEor why the artist may overstay his visa to start a new life after this talk.
In addition to the artist talk, both of these scenarios will be incorporated into separate but identical exhibition spaces at the Belluard Festival, where each artist’s body of work is exposed in documentary form, and the spectator is confronted with the curatorial underpinning for each given situation.
Upon entering the festival, spectators are assigned a number, the significance of which will be revealed once inside the two exhibition spaces. Each space will unveil a number leading to a different outcome based on the status of the artists’ visa applications.
In the rejected artist’s space, the selected number will send a visitor to North Africa to the artist talk of Mohamed Arejdal, held in his home.
In the accepted artist’s space, the holder of the selected number will be asked to host the above mentioned artist talk with Mohammed Laouli in their own home, taking into account both the political sensitivity of the project’s underlying questions and the artist’s own motivations.
Borders are plural, so any project dealing with the questions they raise must be too.
The artist talk with Mohammed Laouli will take place on Sunday, June 28th at 8pm in a private apartment in Fribourg.
CREDITS Documentary pictures by Juliette Chrétien. Additional installation views by Youssef Ouchra, Javier Melian, Francisco Alejandro, Chourouk Hriech, Aziz Nadif, Mohssin Harraki, and Ly Mamadou.
THANKS For sharing your insights on the Moroccan contemporary art world: Siham Halli, Dr. Mehdi Zouak, Bérénice Saliou, Younes Rahmoun, Mohammed Laouli, Mohamed Arejdal, Maud Houss, Touda Bouanani, Randa Maroufi, Hassan Quazzani, Mohamed Fariji, Léa Morin, and Marie Moignard.
SUPPORT This project is a Random Institute production for the Belluard Bollwerk International, supported by Migros Kulturprozent and Kanton Fribourg. The on-site display is supported by Ernst & Olga Gubler-Hablützel.
Amid China's tumultuous dash to become rich, one man's photographs of families posing with their worldly possessions will soon seem like records from a distant era. Huang Qingjun has spent nearly a decade travelling to remote parts of China to persuade people, who in some cases have never been photographed, to carry outside all their household goods and pose for him.
Who says we live in a materialistic age?
The results offer glimpses into the utilitarian lives of millions of ordinary Chinese who, at first glance, appear not to have been swept up by the same modernization that has seen hundreds of millions of others leave for the cities.
Huang Qingjun, born in 1971, joined the Chinese Photographers’ Association in 1999. His works have been exhibited at 798 Photo Gallery, Beijing, China (2013); Photoquai Photography Biennial, Paris (2013); Conceptual Renewal-A Brief History of Chinese Contemporary Photographic Art, Beijing, China (2013); National Communication Museum, Germany (2007); National Train Museum, Nuremberg, Germany (2006); and Steam Locomotive Photo Exhibition in Beijing Dazhong Photo Gallery (2001).
His photographs have also been published and reported on by many media outlets, including BBC, The New York Times, Guardian Weekly, GEO, CCTV-2, CCTV-9, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and Bloomberg News.
More details can be found on Huang Qingjun's website.
Upon answering, Chilette not only announced that she would gladly forward all messages, but she also revealed—by reading from a script written by the curators—her low daily rate.
Chilette then offered to either engage in a conversation about the project with the surprised caller or perform additional work at the caller’s request (anything from performing research to creating artworks for artists on the other end of the line), all on the curators’ dime.
The protocols of the calls have not been published so far.