The Architecture of Readymade Air

Haus_Rucker_Co[Image: Haus-Rucker-Co, Grüne Lunge (Green Lung), Kunsthalle Hamburg (1973); photo by Haus-Rucker Co, courtesy of the Archive Zamp Kelp; via Walker Art Center].

I’ve got a short post up over at the Walker Art Center, as part of their new Hippie Modernism show featuring work by Archigram, Ant Farm, Haus-Rucker-Co, and many more. The exhibition, curated by Andrew Blauvelt, “examines the intersections of art, architecture, and design with the counterculture of the 1960s and early 1970s.”

A time of great upheaval, this period witnessed a variety of radical experiments that challenged societal and professional expectations, overturned traditional hierarchies, explored new media and materials, and formed alternative communities and new ways of living and working together. During this key moment, many artists, architects, and designers individually and collectively began a search for a new kind of utopia, whether technological, ecological, or political, and with it offered a critique of the existing society.

While the exhibition and its accompanying, very nicely designed catalog are both worth checking out in full, my post looks at a specific project by Haus-Rucker-Co called Grüne Lunge (Green Lung), seen in the above image.

Green Lung pumped artificially conditioned indoor air from within the galleries of Hamburg’s Kunsthalle to members of the public passing, by way of transparent helmets mounted outside; the museum’s internal atmosphere was thus treated as a kind of readymade object, “playing with questions of inside vs. outside, of public vs. private, of enclosure vs. space.”

Haus_Rucker_Co_2[Image: Haus-Rucker-Co, Oase Nr. 7 (Oasis No. 7), installation at Documenta 5, Kassel (1972); via Walker Art Center].

Put into the context of Haus-Rucker-Co’s general use of inflatables, as well as today’s emerging fresh-air market—with multiple links explaining this in the actual post—I suggest that what was once an almost absurdist art world provocation has, today, in the form of bottled air, become an unexpectedly viable business model.

In any case, check out the post and the larger Hippie Modernism exhibition if you get the chance.

Acqua Veritas

The city of Venice has begun to rebrand its tap water, calling it Acqua Veritas, in an attempt to woo both residents and tourists away from the environmental hazards (and waste collection nightmare) of bottled water.
After all, Italians are “the leading consumers of bottled water in the world,” the New York Times reports, “drinking more than 40 gallons per person annually.” Further, “Venice’s tap water comes from deep underground in the same region as one of Italy’s most popular bottled waters, San Benedetto” – so turning Venetians on to the miracles of the tap (and setting an example for cities elsewhere) is clearly overdue.
However, as we saw earlier on BLDGBLOG, in a guest post by Nicola Twilley, bottled water now sits on the cusp of becoming as pretentious as the wine industry, complete with a developing vocabulary for taste preferences and even an emerging geography of aquatic terroir. In other words, it will be hard to break the Duchampian habit of seeking water in a bottle. Why Duchampian?
Because bottled water is the ultimate readymade object; I’d even suggest that Marcel Duchamp very nearly discovered the bottled water industry when he first captured 50 cc of Paris Air, in an artwork of the same title, back in 1919.

[Image: Marcel Duchamp, 50 cc of Paris Air (1919), courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art].

It’s hard not to wonder what might have happened had Marcel Duchamp been alive just slightly later, and able to exhibit his artwork alongside – or even simply to hang out with – Andy Warhol; combine the readymade object with Warholian mass reproduction, substitute pure glacial water for Paris air, and perhaps today we’d all be drinking L’Eau de Duchamp.
In any case, if cities around the world engaged in marketing campaigns similar to this one in Venice, however tongue-in-cheek it may be, might people finally regain interest in their own municipal water supplies?
Croton Silver: The Taste of Manhattan™.

(Vaguely related: The next bottled water industry? Chinese Air Bars).