Interview, August 2021
ARCHITECTURES OF HIDING TEAMWhat was/were the inspiration(s) in the making of your piece?
ZENOVIA TOLOUDIThis piece belongs to a body of works, which are architectural apparatuses. They are about an illusionary architecture, which is real, it is physical. I have been developing a sort of language, a glossary that accompany these architectural apparatuses through notions such as: Theatricality and Temporality, Unapologetically Playful; Illusionary Mechanism, Disrupting the Norm, Infinity, Non-representational Architecture, Portal for Phantasmagoria, Post-Screen Era. More specifically, these can be explained as follows:
Theatricality and Temporality
The constant transformations of matter establish by default non-permanent structures with ever-changing patterns, effects, and vibrations. This architecture changes throughout time, as well as its relation to the user. The various living elements are often positioned as part of a stage for the viewer. As with photography and social media, a curated image is being created. According to Michael Fried this literalist espousal of the “objecthood” addresses theatricality and temporality; the literalist has a preoccupation with the time or duration of the experience, which becomes theatrical. This brings out many relationships of the work and makes them a function of space, light, and viewer’s field of vision.
Donald Winnicott, in his “Reality and Play,” examines thoroughly the function of transitional objects (eg. teddy bears, dolls, and toys) transferring from illusion to reality. By offering the illusionary experience, they smoothen the transition from inability to ability to mature. Similarly, to toys, architectural apparatuses also become transitional objects: They are agents to offer to the disconnected humans a connection to childhood, nostalgia and carefree moments, as well as a connection to their collective identity and society. Offering a getaway from reality, architectural apparatuses conceptualize humans’ need for more desired environments to live in.
Through objectification the architectural apparatuses become co-producers of space, inseparable from their environment. As Elizabeth Grosz, in “The Thing,” acknowledges that the object has a life of its own, and she explains: “It is the point of intersection of space and time, the locus of the temporal narrowing and spatial localization.” Objects (having a life of their own) and the construction of worlds constitute an inherit desire in small children and people.
Disrupting the Norm
The intervention disobediences the performance-driven, corporate architecture of sealed structures and controlled environments, which disconnects humans from natural air, light, or through public engagement and the unexpected through illusionary mechanisms out of artificial and natural materials that disrupt the spatial homogeneity and lifestyle monotony, and recalibrate the senses to escape potential psychobiological disorders of users.
Through mirrors, reflective materials and particular geometries, a generative space is being born. The multiplicity and fragmentation of one’s image and the temporal displacement and perception of the self - alters the spectator’s ego and identity. The element of incompleteness connects the viewer to the complex world.
Beyond being artifacts, carrying social, cultural, and environmental meanings, these architectural apparatuses are anti-representational. The physical dimension of the apparatuses establishes them as tools for architecture that are both speculative and pragmatic. Making them, which requires physical activity and strength, is an act of resistance to the ease of contemporary life with its emphasis on virtual space and instant gratification.
Portal for Phantasmagoria
The always-on, always-present technology requests from the physical world to provide us the opportunity to escape; to trigger our curiosity; to nurture our fantasy; to give us access to parallel universe; and to provide the thresholds to ambiguous territories and uncertain situations.
In the post-smartphone time, we would seek the option of disconnection, but without compromising the multiple and limitless possibilities of the screen world.
AofHHow did your work evolve?
ZTMy installations/exhibitions are the (first) step of my experiments in testing how people perceive these ideas. Most of these investigations take place in galleries, but lately I have been interested in grounding them in public experiences. Creating public interventions in real spaces that people use every day, such as lobbies, offices, and outdoor spaces allows me to see how the art becomes part of existing architectures and daily life, and how art can become more publicly available. I curate the experience of users/visitors/spectators to help them perceive this public-ness through particular types of design that might emphasize elements such as repetition, infinity, and/or illusion.
AofHWhat were some of the challenges faced in the making of your work?
ZT“Art is family” summarizes my practice throughout the years. As the family structure changes over time, an immediate question is, what is your role in the family? In other words, how do you find time and space to create? Many artists preserve the child in them throughout their career, preserving this way their creativity. This is challenging for artists who are parents, and even more challenging for mothers (if I may). I have been reflecting on this transition (from child to parent) and I wish to let it become a meaningful experience for my practice. Instead of continuing the “production” out of fear of not doing enough, I am interested instead to welcome the break(s), the interruptions, and to let a new type of work to come out of it. But it is an ongoing experiment (laugh)!
AofHDoes your work/piece negotiate the tension between the hidden and shown, or a process of hiding versus revealing?
ZTSome of the hidden notions of the work are being revealed throughout the glossary for architectural apparatuses. Notions such as Theatricality and Temporality, Unapologetically Playful; Illusionary Mechanism, Disrupting the Norm, Infinity, Non-representational Architecture, Portal for Phantasmagoria, Post-Screen Era may start implying how to think of space, how to construct and change the physical environment, but also how to affect our routines, and how to change or be more creative with our habits. This work which appears to be about color and geometry, but it also hopes to be generative. Can this simple intervention become the beginning of something, a new order, more play, the creation of infinite possibilities? Can this piece act as the smallest version of an open labyrinth?
AofHWhat did your process of making the piece teach you about the nature of hiding?
ZTIn public art, the word public is key.
When the piece meets the public, when the artist shares their ideas with an audience something hidden is being revealed. The audience for my work is everyone who witnesses it. I am interested in a shared experience and collective memory that might come of it. What are the feelings and views of people? Can the piece awaken some forgotten needs and desires? What can I learn about the others? For a utopia to take place, it is crucial to understand and respect the others, to reveal what is important to others, to unhide the care one needs to cultivate for the “other.” No matter where people are from or what role they play in the space where the work is located, I wish to integrate and involve these witnesses in the works I create, helping them locate their own centers and to recognize that these actors, in and of themselves, can constitute centers for others as well. Before the visitors of the piece can become witnesses of the utopia the piece imagines creating, it meets other people, along the process of its creation. Here, Krzysztof Wodiczko’s concept of “the Inner Public,” of these people who believe in the work and allowing this work to happen, is essential.