IFP Sessions: Maurice Carlin

For the second IFP Sessions of 2013, Institute for Provocation will host Manchester based artist Maurice Carlin, who is the current resident artist Homeshop . His work revolves around the practice of publishing, defined as ‘the creation of a public’, a collective consciousness built around actions in public space.

Maurice will give a talk about his work and how it has developed from his experience of self-organisation through Islington Mill Art Academy, a peer-led experiment into alternative modes of art education. Islington Mill is a mixed-use building providing artists with incubation, production, collaboration and performance spaces. Home to over 50 cross-disciplinary studios, an artist-run B&B, gallery, residency and club spaces, it occupies a unique position within the UK, and has evolved over eleven years to become the cultural haven that it is now.

Maurice's work has been featured in publications including Frieze, The Guardian and A-N. Recent shows include First...Next...Then...Finally, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester (2013), Blanco Blanco, La Escocesa, Barcelona (2012), Self Publisher and Other Works, Banner Repeater, London (2011), How to Stay Awake, MCP, Antwerp (2011) Other Forms of Life (with Bik van der Pol), AND Festival, various locations (2010) and Beyond the Dustheaps, Dickens House Museum, London (2010).

IFP Studio, Saturday, April 6 at 6 pm (18:00 for our 24 hour friends)

The talk is held in collaboration with Homeshop, and the following day we will join there to take the discussion further. Se below.


Open discussion at homeshop

What are the challenges of establishing and running an independent art space/community? What possible structures can enable an independent art space to become independent of its core team? From another perspective, is there a line that separates, blurrily, an art practice from institutional organization, and what are the critical capacities proper to the different gradations?

On Sunday, Institute for Provocation will be joining Michael from Homeshop, Maurice from Islington Mill and others to launch a discussion around the topic of independent art spaces. Since we all represent various types of art spaces and collectives, we thought it fit to share our experiences in a public format, inviting everyone in to join this moment of self-reflection.

We have lined up with even more questions such as:

What contexts or practices does your space arise from? Who do you consider your "stakeholders"? What is the distribution of locality/international among your concerns? How long have you been active? What have been some changes during the life of your space? e.g. moves, reorganizations, renamings? Is there a separation between your physical space and your "project"? Is the space an institution? What necessitates or allows such a title? Is the space a form of artistic practice? Is authorship involved? How do you fund your space? How much does this enter into the activities that you consider your core concern? How are decisions made? How does this shape what takes place? Do you consider the way you run your space as a "model"?

Sunday, April 7 at 6 pm at Homeshop, Jiaodaokou beiertioao number 8


Best album of 2012

John Talabot - Last Land from Stroll TV on Vimeo.



Matthew Dear - Beams

Matthew Dear - Her Fantasy from SonoroHelicoidal on Vimeo.


And  according last.fm, this is what else I listened to:

Grizzly Bear - Shields

The XX - Coexist

Cat Power - Sun

The 2 Bears - Be Strong

College - Northern Council

Bat For Lashes - The Haunted Man

The Weeknd - Trilogy

King Creosote & Jon Hopkins - Diamond Mine Jubilee Edition

Jens Lekman – I Know What Love Isn't

Rodriguez - Searching For Sugar Man

Frank Ocean - Channel Orange

Drake - Drake

Gotye – Making Mirrors

Incarnations – With All Due Respect

Active Child – You Are All I See

Glasser – Ring

Beyond Wang Shu

In connection to the recent appointment of Wang Shu as this year's Pritzker Prize winner, I recall a thought that I had around the same time last year when the prize was given to Edouardo Souto de Moura. My first reaction at the time was, probably like many others, that this prize is out of date. Not that Souto de Moura is not an accomplished architect, but in relation to the long list of previous laureates, most of them already well-known to the general public when they got the prize, he is a local Portugues architect with solid practice and a few good buildings to his name. No masterpieces, but quite nice. There had been a few laureates in the past with similar scale of output, and Souto de Moura was perhaps better known than in the architecture world than Sverre Fehn by the time he got his prize. But there was another aspect that made me conclude that this kind of prize has played out its role. The previous year, the prize went to Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, who work together but also run their own individual practices. As many of the previous laureates, they have discovered new territory in the field of architecture and also created a long line of followers in their home country and elsewhere. This can hardly be said about the modest Portuguese who is mostly known as a former disciple of master builder and laureate, Alvaro Siza. There was a sense of lack of imagination in the jury's choice. Without doubt, there were other people more qualified to enter this exclusive club solely based on their contribution to the field. Indeed, the political dimension of this kind of prestigious award; the implied geographical correctness often works as a block for giving the prize to the same country or region too often. Many issues make it problematic: Either the choice is too predictable, too controversial or not famous enough.

The most difficult thing to overcome though, is that an increasing amount of architecture practices are formed as collectives, without a recognizable "mastermind". All the efforts needed in the process of erecting a building are by definition in need of a collective, as everything from drafting a programme to design to construction has a number of agents who provide their part of the process. More importantly, many offices are set up so that a group collectively produce designs which are then selected, and therefore the principals work more as an editors rather than designers. This needn't reduce their influence in the design process or even the end result, but when a collective efforts of a practice of several hundred architects can be reduced to that of one, then I believe something has been missed.

Until this year's appointment of Wang Shu, I felt that giving this kind of prizes to individual architects somehow feels outdated in the current world of architecture. The whole idea of the eccentric architect sitting at his drafting table next to a dried-out cup of coffee at 10pm sketching on manifold with thick 8B pencil feels kind of murky, perhaps also because this is my experience growing up. The photo of Souto de Moura by his desk did not exactly help to erase this image.

After reading Brendan's comment in Domus that I wrote about earlier today, and getting his secondary comment, I felt I had to empty all my possible points of view on this matter, only to realise that the prize actually has a purpose, and that it can reach deeper into the system and attempt to execute its influence more than it ever has in the past. Wang Shu might still be young, perhaps too young (some of his work could use a little of Eduoardo's austerity) but he is bold and smart enough to understand how he can do the most good. He realized early in his career that building in China is about putting things together, through a poetic game of give and take with the craftsmen. So far, I have only seen a handful of building that was carried out in full according to the architect's drawings. There is simply too big a gap between what we envision and how this vision will be executed. The only way to achieve something new in architecture in China is to explore that gap, and to invent by combining the existing construction technologies into new typologies and methods.

There is actually not a big difference between the two most recent laureates. They are both simple, noncommercial, nonfamous architects firmly grounded in their local traditions. In the end, the revolutionary thing about this prize is the fact that it praises individuals, who distinguish themselves through a high level of integrity in a world where architects have taken part in the collective demolition and eradication of thousands of years of history.

The Pritzker prize will doubtlessly bring Wang Shu a lot of fame, not at least in China. But while this new spotlight has already caused an inflated sense of self-pride in the motherland,  Mr Wang himself will presumeably keep building his career with brick, tiles and mortar.

Best of 2011

It's still a bit early to list the 10 best albums of 2011 as there's still a chance to release something brilliant, but I reserve the right to  shuffle things around before the year is over. In general, this year was a better year than most recent, and I made a few discoveries, as can be concluded from the list. There are quite a few newcomers, which pushed new releases by some of (previous?) favourites off the chart. Björk, Junior Boys and Jay-Jay Johanson all released new stuff this year, but their efforts never really took off and left me quite a bit disappointed. My all-time most frequently played artists list will be hard to budge though, since I tend to get tired of an album after just 10-15 plays, thus not allowing new artists to rise very high. I often find myself looking for the next big thing 3-4 plays down the line of an album I really like. Maybe also because I don't want to get tired of it so soon, and need to balance with something more difficult. Another sad thing is that I didn't go to ANY live show this year. Visits by big (and medium and small) artists remain scarce and the last show I saw was The Whitest Boy Alive in late 2011. There are a few venues for electronic music though, and occasionally some interesting names fly by for gigs. Come to think of it, didn't I see The Field in Dos Colegas? Nope, that was also last year...

Anyway, here's the list:

1. Planningtorock - W (DFA) This is definitely this year's biggest and most overwhelming musical experience. As a big fan of The Knife I was already sort of adapted to the dark twisted world of pseudo-gamelords and masked kidnappers with crow-bar nose jobs, but this shemale opened the door to a parallel universe, seemingly governed by a strange ageless dictator whose androgynous tunes stroked me just the right way. The songs just seem to come from a place I'm carrying around inside myself, but never been confronted with before. Extremely well composed and endlessly beautiful. Most raved-to song: Manifesto

Since I cannot make up the ranking order of my other most listened-to albums this year, I'll just list them and you can imagine which ones I like better. As if it mattered. But they're all not as excellent as Planningtorock.

Jay-Z + Kanye West - Watch The Throne

Nicolas Jaar - Space Is Only Noise

Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes

Radiohead - The King Of Limbs

James Blake - James Blake

M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

Kate Bush - Director's Cut


Crystal Fighters - Star Of Love


Myspace, future archive

In order to find how well Google treats my new site, I just googled myself. To my pleasant surprise, it turned up as No 1. Olé! Strange, though, was that as No 4 in search turnout list was an old blog post I made on Myspace ages ago. The title of the post was listed in google's search (doesn't google own myspace btw?) and so suddenly I found myself on myspace for the first time in at least one year, to find that they have restyled the entire site. It looks good, the only problem is that the first time I entered the site my VPN was set to Hong Kong, so now all text is in traditional Chinese characters. Even after restarting Firefox and setting my IP to Vancouver, I'm still getting the Hong Kong site. They still have some things to figure out...

Anyway, below is my last post on myspace. The setting: Early January 2008. I'm in Paris finishing the internship at Edouard François and preparing for my trip to China. Let's just say one thing: Rien, je ne regrette rien...

It feels better afterwards

Paris is a city of stone. A white, wrinkly old face that doesn't turn to see if you're alright. Everywhere I go I see blankets covering the souls that also found out that city is made of stone. And that so are the hearts of the people living here.

Yet I always seem to be coming back. I get hypnotized by its beauty and elegance, its contrasts and decadence. Finding words for this ambivalence is beyond my writing capacity and, as I struggle to imagine a different means of expression the city and its stories flow through me. Inspiration comes swiftly, inflating me with images and formulas, but the expiration is weightless, like a fart. So far I am formulating ideas that I know I won't, but still hope to realise. Now I can only live and hope that this tree I am watering will one day bare fruit.

Working with every bit of my own production for two months last summer left me no clue to my capabilities. Is there anything more than self criticism to be found in a retrospect? My life is currently dedicated to the thought that all this input, my designing my destiny is going to result in a new language to speak my mind. New perspectives on old territories and virgin projections on the most extatic world.

Will all of this give me what I want?

Field of interest

While my dirty laundry is getting new life at the Vascomat down the street here in Islands Brygge Copenhagen, I am taking this half hour (although I'm expecting it to be extended after the laundry is done) to review what I have produced in the past three weeks and sum up what the project is about. The fact that I haven't taken the time to reflect, instead carrying on like a streamlined bulldozer producing mostly drawings, diagrams and a few models in various scales, might be my most serious mistake. Evidence of this came up in the rather exhaustive crit session yesterday. My biggest challenge as an architect (and as a person?) is and has always been to locate a specific field of interest and to investigate its possibilities as far as possible without losing interest after one or two trials. Basically, I have an underlying fear to lose touch with the bigger picture if I indulge myself in something seemingly small an insignificant. That the big pictures, the grand gestures and utopian political statements are more compelling than the small steps and informal inventions that really move society forward, albeit inconspicuously. Which is about as far from true as could possibly be. The problem is, of course, that I am better at this retrospective self-evaluation than actually changing my way of thinking. It is inexplicably difficult to radically shift focus as a designer, from abstract concepts of axes, points, slabs and junctions to non-architectural elements like blood cells, 1967 Cadillacs and Emmental cheese. How do I know that my specific point of interest has the potential to tell a bigger story? How does a park pavilion change the world? The last question is very close to what my project should be. The problem is, I did not formulate that question until now. The question so far has been: How do I turn a steelworks and dried-out river in Beijing into a productive and recreational space and dwellings using an axis? Needless to say, the answer to that question is probably not a doorknob or even Emmental cheese. But perhaps this juxtaposition is my best bid for finding the key to this project. So far, I've been trying to solve all the problems (cleaning of polluted soil, laying out of agricultural plots, legitimization and transformation of existing industrial structures, finding strategic principles for the development of the village, finding suitable plants for the almost dry riverbed etc) individually through a sort of composition, each problem relying on the other but without strong conceptual guidelines. The result is a heavy pile of drawings that compose without being specific and speculate without being consequential. In short, I am lost inside my project.

Until now, perhaps. As I am writing this, I am getting inspired to sketch down the outlines of my project in a different way. Using familiar concepts and excluding my seemingly unnecessary investigations of 'site-specific morphology', I am kind of back to square one. Everything that I wrote in my programme is still extremely valid and surprisingly solid as a framework. The problem is that the most logic approach should have been to use parametric tools, not by building an explicitly analogue drawing table that produces compelling photo prints. Especially since I'm not really using it according to my original intent.

So, again by breaking my programme down into two categories; Bottom-up and Top-down, I can start to understand where I can get the most juice out of my expertise as a designer and planner respectively. Basically, Bottom-up is a generic framework within which things can take place, informally and without the involvement of the designer. In the case of building matrixes, a general FAR and height is specified. Top-down is the layout and design of the specific functions that support and stimulate occupation of the generic.

My first reaction to the text above was the conclusion that I had to go back to square one and build a Chinese version of Parc de la Villette; Tschumi's proposal, which was built and works by distributing programme in the follies, liberating the surfaces to be more generic, essentially an updated version of the classical French Garden. The buildings are the main carrier of meaning while the fields produce the “event space” in between where anything can happen. Koolhaas' proposal was more radical and urban. By being much more specific in the treatment of the fields, he wanted to create a condensed social environment. Moving through the park across the 'strips' would be like taking the elevator through a skyscraper. Moving along the strips would thus be equivalent to staying on one floor. It's rather a shame that Tschumi won with his rather classical distribution strategy. Instead, we missed the chance to see how Koolhaas would perform as landscape architect.

In my first analysis of these two proposals, I concluded that Tschumi's generic element was the follies, while Koolhaas' was the strips. In fact, I am now beginning to realize that it is the other way around. The follies are, at least in practice, rather rigid in their programmatic content. Today, almost all the follies have a fixed specific function, disabling their ability to change over time. The same goes for the theme gardens. The surfaces remain generic, being open green lawns, pretty much as we know them from your typical 19th century urban park.

In the proposal that OMA submitted to the second competition phase, the strips were clearly specified, creating a compact barcode of different vegetations and social functions. As Koolhaas describes in his book: “In the first submission we explained how it works. Now we will show how it looks”. And the pictures of the giant model that filled up a whole room in the office, leaves no doubt that there was a high level of specificity in their final proposal.

Returning to my own trials and tribulations, I can conclude that I have spent a lot of time designing the fields, how they work and develop over time. They are thus not any more generic than my buildings, which remain rather undeveloped. So maybe this project will be better off following Koolhaas' Villette strategy; By being extremely specific about the landscape, I can let the buildings remain as supporters of that landscape. This is essentially much more interesting as a critique of Chinese planning and architecture. The experience of moving through the urban landscape is far more interesting than the individual buildings that make up it.

A New Beginning

Swarm Intelligence I haven't blogged for a year! Now I'm not really sure whether the exclamation point was there to emphasize the positive or negative bias of this statement, I'll let that keep it hanging.

So, it's time to start again, since this is a good chance to log my experiences for the coming three months which constitute my Final Project. Let's just admit, prematurely, that I probably won't be able to follow myself as much as I'd like to. But that doesn't stop me from trying, does it? It would be a nice thing to be able to look back on my thoughts during bright and dark moments, written in deep presence.

Today I've been starting up the actual work, which seems slightly hard to grasp considering the size of the site and the fact that I don't know what I'm doing. And there has been troubles. Firstly, whenever I try to import the rather extensive dwg into rhino, it fails and crashes. Out of memory. Well, with so many calculations, I guess it's easy to forget. But it is an important step. I really need to get started on a model, whether physical or 3D, in order to understand the space within which I'll be working. Once I have a rough model I can start planning how to make it physical. But that's just one part of the plan.

The next part of the plan is to start trying a few different digital tools. Yes, I'm familiar with grasshopper and I think I could start do some basic scripting, but I am also realizing that what I am attempting to do - simulating variations in differentiated modules over time - is actually closer to animation than parametrics. So that's why I'm going to spend a few days to get started on Processing, a "programming environment that was created to make it easier to develop visually oriented applications with an emphasis on animation and providing users with instant feedback through interaction." Sounds cryptic? Well I'm not too sure myself. But I thought it could be worth trying out before I decide to drop my initial ambitions and focus on a more analog approach.

So let us see where this could lead! I'm looking forward to updating on a more regular basis, maybe even daily. But no promises that I can't keep.

The cold Danish winter


Too many options cluster on my doorstep. The menu of life contains exotic delicacies as well as fast food and familiar home made stews, and as usual, it is impossible to choose. What would this taste like? Ah, I know this dish, but I don't know if they make it well here... This one looks appealing, but expensive and seemingly only for an exclusive clientele. Could I be a part of that? or is it better to stick with the well-known...

As Ellen Allien is whispering through my speakers, a trembling sense of unease settles on my shoulders. So many things to finish before tomorrow. This endless retrospect called portfolio is consuming my precious hours. I couldn't even call them precious anymore as they constantly slip through my fingers without a sound. My mind is sometimes so fast that something I do can become rejected before it has become substantial enough to give feedback. It is a dangerous game, and I am losing to my own worst enemy: me.

Fine. Let's cut the cryptics and get back to reality. In order to keep one option alive I have to finish this retrospective tonight without being too sentimental. Superficiality is the motto as time is of the essence. And there are bigger challenges to come.