After Munich, Copenhagen and Paris, “My Urban Living Room” has moved on to its final destination: Barcelona. At Plaça Reial we met the artists Eduardo Cassina and Josué Gamonal. Like Steffen and Benjamin, Helle, and Jeremy and David before, the two had the BoConcept smartville collection and the smart fortwo edition BoConcept at hand for their installation. Read on to find out more about the exciting project.
In your opinion: What defines a living room?
Eduardo: The people inside it. How they use it. A bench in the park, a bus stall, an airport … the way you are within that space is what defines a living room. It goes beyond sofas, wall treatments, and entertainment systems. A living room is immaterial: It is shaped by the people inside it; the furniture around it only helps to orchestrate the relationships between those people.
Josué: Yes. It is about the experiences you have inside – those are the things that make you more ‘attached’ to the living space. My kitchen, my bathroom, a car … they can all be living rooms.
How private is a living room?
Josué: That depends on the people who inhabit it and their character. It’s a wide spectrum: You can have a very public living room or an extremely private one.
Eduardo: I work with private-public boundaries, a thin line that is often invisible and movable. Within this open definition of a living room, anything can happen. But a more traditional ‘living room’ could reproduce the same wide spectrum: You could have some very private moments, like a first kiss, but also some very public ones like a party that has gotten a bit out of hand – suddenly, everyone has invited other people and it feels no different to the bar down the street.
The main idea behind your installation is that of turning a machine into inhabitable space. What made you choose this particular approach?
Eduardo: Last century, Le Corbusier famously observed how ‘a house is an inhabitable machine,’ referring to the functionality of a space … but we wanted to put a twist on his proposition. Our living room is not a technology per se, as it does not have a single dominant definition or purpose. From the moment we wake up, our everyday life is ruled by machines: We find ourselves looking at screens, which in turn become the interfaces of our reality. So, we think that rather than ‘inhabitable machines’ our lives occur within ‘mega machine ecosystems.’
Josué: This takes on extra significance in the urban environment. Just consider the invisible technology that exists all around us: satellite photography, Wi-Fi networks … And then there is all that time in our daily urban routines that we spend inside of machines: the metro, the car, elevators, metal detectors … We live in a huge mega machine made of other machines. That is something we wanted to highlight.
Where did you look for inspiration? To what extent does the installation reflect the city of Barcelona?
Josué: Barcelona boasts some of the world’s best urban art: Top graffiti and urban artists challenge the aseptic status quo that other cities try to impose on public space. This kind of freedom is what gives Barcelona its unique identity. The neon colors of signage in L’Eixample, exposed pipes on building façades … these are the elements we drew inspiration from.
Eduardo: Barcelona is a city with an industrial past, reinvented through urban life. It is glam and bling, alternative and distinguished, and it comprises some extremely different districts with very strong identities.
Take El Raval, one of the world’s most exciting neighborhoods. Inside, its invisible boundaries are constantly being challenged; think sex workers rubbing shoulders with tourists, creeping gentrification and its resistance, migrants who have come here to learn a new language or to start a new life … All of these intangible elements are captured by a very specific visual language that I haven’t encountered anywhere else, a street style that is reflected in buildings, fashion, and attitudes … and one that we have tried to capture in our installation.
Would your installation look any different if you took it to another city?
Eduardo: Yes, totally. There is only one Barcelona. It wouldn’t make much sense to stage this specific installation in, say, Fez or Rome, i. e. in cities lacking the same kind of street life and industrial past. These cities have their own visual languages and social codes, like the amazing teahouse culture in the Fez medina or Rome’s imposing historical buildings.
Josué: Barcelona is unique. In terms of architecture, populace, and geographic situation. Close to both sea and mountains, it offers an incredible, and incredibly rich, context that we cannot ignore.
Why did you choose pipes as the central element of your installation?
Josué: These pipes are about bringing ideas together: Sometimes, collaborations are less than straightforward, but eventually, they lead to something beautiful. We wanted to highlight the design of each piece, as an individual object, but also as part of a larger thing, of a collaboration. In this context, pipes are part of an urban language for an urban environment.
Eduardo: They are a metaphor for rendering the invisible visible… relationships between people and objects and their surroundings. Beyond the collaboration with BoConcept and smart, this project also involves a partnership between the two of us, Eduardo and Josué. These types of synergies occur on a daily basis, between individuals and the city. We wanted to stress the interconnectedness, how we are all part of a whole, a larger system … the urban fabric.
What kind of role does the car play in your installation? Is it the most important element?
Eduardo: We wanted to play with the idea that a small car can have a large living room inside. We imagined an ‘exploded smart’ … how would it look? What could fit inside? We discovered that it could host an entire city … a city (in a) car.
Josué: It is the central part of the installation and also its largest element. It is a designed piece, like an armchair or a table. As previously stated, even a car can be a living room – and we wanted to show how this could be true even for the smallest of cars.
What other projects are you working on at the moment? Where can we expect to see your work next?
Josué: We are both part of a cultural collective called La Pandemonio that organizes guerrilla galleries and publishes a poster-based fanzine. Right now, we are working on the next issue. We also promote young artists and try to make the city a better place.
In addition, I am currently working on a project that I developed last summer at Matadero in Madrid called ‘Ideas Farm’ : This involves inviting people to share ideas, encourage cross-fertilization … and making the results happen. For some other recent projects, check out my website. Not to forget, I am also interested in permaculture and superadobe, and I have an entrepreneurial business project in Japan.
Eduardo: I am currently living in Moscow, researching urban life at the Strelka Institute. I am fascinated by the way cities work. On my site Destination Economy I explore urban elements.
At the same time, I am also working on two documentaries shot with my friend Helena Doyle: Look See Spots, which discusses and explores the contemporary art market as we went around the world in twelve days to complete Damien Hirst’s Spot Challenge, and a more recent piece on urban life, skaters, and graffiti art in Iran. This was filmed as a road-trip piece and a truly enjoyable process (more info on www.iranlandia.jux.com).
All photos, incl. the header image, by Ignacio Navas
Interview: Alexandra Schade