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Apartamento 3: plyboard, plants and patina - click opera
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Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 10:23 am
Apartamento 3: plyboard, plants and patina

Shortly after blogging yesterday about shanty towns, I went out to my post box and found issue 3 of Apartamento magazine, the post-materialist interiors magazine I've talked about before in Click Opera. It's one of the few magazines I get really excited to see, and I think that's because it's the one mag that really gets the idea that designy-design (design that looks showroomy and aspirational) is over. This is an interiors magazine for the rest of us; the apartments illustrated in its pages are understated, poor, sometimes shabby and casual, but with subtle touches which reveal their occupants to be originals, aesthetes. Sure, to juxtapose an interiors magazine with shanty towns might sound obscene, but if there's any non-obscene way these different worlds might be seen to co-exist, the crossover point would be the attractively scaled-down visions of a magazine like Apartamento.



Interiors magazines traditionally represent untouchable people in unattainable environments, but this one feels -- to me, anyway -- uncannily close to home; I seem to know half the people in it. There's Ezra Koenig on the front cover -- a man who still writes me interesting letters, despite my nuanced article about his band Vampire Weekend. The first big feature is about Alex Singh, in whose "Tudor village in a warehouse" in Bushwick I actually lived for three months while appearing, in 2006, as the Unreliable Tour Guide at the Whitney.



The inside back area of the magazine features Audrey Fondecave showing the magazine around exactly the same Nakameguro house I mentioned yesterday as the "honourable exception" to the appallingly designy-design interiors featured in a french documentary about Tokyo life. Then there's a piece about Bless here in Berlin, and one about a plyboard-tastic nursery school designed by Jean Touitou, the founder of APC, who once showed me around his music studio in Paris.



So what recurs in this issue of Apartamento, other than the fact that I vaguely know a lot of the people featured? Well (and here we return to the aesthetic appeal of shanty towns), lots of casual construction in untreated chipboard and plyboard is happening. Some art students in Basel are using chipboard box shelves for their books about the Bauhaus. Touitou's Ateliers de la Petite Enfance uses raw screwed-together plywood throughout. Then there's a whole piece about the plants in a Stockholm apartment -- perfectly ordinary houseplants. The third buzzword, if we're glomming onto Apartamento's style, would be patina.



I suppose the main thing is that although you see nothing in Apartamento that looks like designy-design (that looks, in other words, like it's in an overpriced design furniture store in some yuppie docklands development), there are little touches of modest magic in amongst eccentric juxtapositions of quirky tat and humble junk. There's the Bless-Apartamento collaboration Windowgarden, a perspex box that fits your window frame and brings the outside space -- in a gesture worthy of Vito Acconci -- further into your interior, including any plants and animals that care to come. Or there are the undramatic custom shelf-covers and doors Audrey and Yoshi have made for their condemned Tokyo house "Ma Mere" -- like all Tokyo houses it's worth less than the land it stands on, so any improvements made to it are provisional, and will only last until it's pulled down.

I'll probably take a royal beating from some of the Anons for saying this, but the obscene gap between the haves (pricey designy-design, celebrity, resource-hogging, anal levels of perfection) and the have-nots (shabby cheap materials, self-build, impermanence, plants and children everywhere) just got -- thanks to this magazine, and the new attitude it represents -- a bit less obscene. For better or for worse, these two vastly separate worlds are coming into the same frame.

40CommentReply

krskrft
krskrft
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 09:01 am (UTC)

But this is just non-design being featured in a very design-y magazine, as though it were design.

Which is to say that a lot of what makes design "design" is the way we conceptualize it, not any objective quality of its content. We can look at a shack or a modest apartment as "design" just as easily as we can a stuffy, high-end minimalist space. What remains is the fact that we always end up importing these things into a pre-existing concept of "design." It's not design, and yet we're impressed by it as though it were.

Isn't this just a rehash of the old slacker routine? Look cool, but don't look like you're trying?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 09:12 am (UTC)

Rather than slacker I'd see this as

a) a distinction strategy -- these people are too cool, obviously, to be buying designy design from designy design stores. That's, in a sense, the naffest thing you could possibly do. Leave that to the middlebrows, the middle classes, etc.

b) (and this is related to a) another example of the thing I noticed in going tribal in Neubeca and The cosmopolitanism of the poor; that migrants and bobo artist-hipster types share a lifestyle and live in the same areas. They even share some basic materials; back in 2000 I wrote a piece called The Post-Bit Atom which noted how creative offices and Chinese vegetable stalls in NY Chinatown shared the same plyboard architecture.

We could call this the logic of the "excluded middle", because what's being left out -- chintz, "good taste", coffeetable designy design -- is white middle class taste, the design equivalent of that literary horror, the "well-made play". In other words, this is all about exclusion of petit-bourgeois values.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 09:09 am (UTC)
The Solar Eye

you almost made it all the way through without denigrating the anus. keep trying! Can we look forward to a future "Nick's Cave" feature in issue #4?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 09:14 am (UTC)
Re: The Solar Eye

They did ask me to write something for this issue, but I was employed at the NYT at the time and had just written about them, and it looked like conflict of interests, so I said no. But I'd love to, er, have them in my cave. As I said in The Moment, the nice thing about their aesthetic is that you don't have to tidy the day the photographer comes. In fact, if anything, you have to mess stuff up.


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constructionism
constructionism
constructionism
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 09:47 am (UTC)

The design and architecture magazines annoy me because to read them, you cannot discern that there is a vast middle ground between multi-million dollar showplaces and makeshift recession "design". I read Dwell Magazine because it is more about technological innovation than material values.

Also, we have a channel here in the US called HGTV which I enjoy because it shows normal people fixing up or purchasing perfectly beautiful homes on a budget. They also have shows on innovative or unusual residential architecture, but you also get to see what people do with the banal spaces most of us have to live in.

Edited at 2009-04-30 09:49 am (UTC)


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pay_option07
pay_option07
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 01:03 pm (UTC)
better or for worse, these two vastly separate

Isn't it a sort of wabi sabi thing! Nothing will last, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect with a semblance of dignity. To accept these realities is contentment with happiness, clarity, and grace.
The only thing missing are the shanty type cottages in the southern US that have immaculate swept dirt floors.
Let face it our designs are all destined for landfill or the recycling. It has closed the gap between Kitsch and trash.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 01:55 pm (UTC)
$100 House.

In relation to these past few posts:

http://www.powerhouseproject.com/index.php?/updates/press/


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 02:09 pm (UTC)
Re: $100 House.

Yes, when I was in Oslo Aeron Bergman was talking about acquiring one of these Detroit houses as a project space for the kunstakademie.


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tristan_crane
tristan_crane
tcrane
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 02:07 pm (UTC)
I love it..

This is such an excellent example of the kind of situation which happens a lot here in San Francisco, we all pay so much for our apartments that often you wind up dumpster-diving or street-picking for furniture. Everyone paints their stuff, refurbishes it, and living rooms wind up as a glommed together spattering of stuff you found on the street, furniture abandoned by former roommates, that kind of thing. Not every interior is beautiful, but they are often interesting and unique, and in a decaying victorian apartment, there's this interesting new space and glamour which emerges.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 02:17 pm (UTC)
Re: I love it..

Possibly a longshot, but does anyone know where I could find a copy of Apartamento in the central London area, thanks.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 03:54 pm (UTC)

Momus, don't you ever find it something of a tyranny, your constantly trying to identify what is "over", and what is not? Do your interests and tastes always coincide with what's currently "hip"? Does the fact that certain design magazines are now "over" utterly de-legitimise them in your eyes? How can this over/hip binary reflect any sort of original thinking?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 04:31 pm (UTC)

I don't have to "try to identify what's over" when it comes to something like overpriced showroom design. C'mon, since September 2008 we've lived in a full-blown recession / financial crisis, worldwide. Obviously certain values have changed, and certain values are replacing them.

You don't have to be a pirate to know which way the wind blows.


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count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 07:20 pm (UTC)


When an X person, male or female, meets a member of an identifiable class, the costume, no matter what it is, conveys the message “I am freer and less terrified than you are.”


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count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 10:09 pm (UTC)


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 07:30 pm (UTC)

Momus, I read with interest the comments you made about so-called "literary" UK songwriter peers. Some glaring omissions which would be nice to hear your views on:

Mark E. Smith
Terry Hall
Jarvis Cocker
David Gedge
Julian Cope
Lawrence

I was wondering what you make of the works by these less "indie" male songwriter artists:

Ali Campbell
Roland Orzabal
Nik Kershaw
Nick Heyward
Colin Vearncombe




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(Anonymous)
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 08:52 pm (UTC)
Pitch and Putt

Hi Click Opera's



this post veers so off topic that it naturally lands in the sand off the fairway.. A dear friend sent me the link today and it chuckled me...the Joyce eye patch was a bonus extra..i adore golf , and Becket and such....of course the comic sans font was a crime but there are worse things at sea...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2nuQ9YQVtc

maf


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(Anonymous)
Fri, May. 1st, 2009 03:29 am (UTC)

I've always felt that the cover photograph for TG's "DOA The Third & Final Report" looked nice in that particular sort of way you described things within this blogicle...er blarticle, or entry. You can clearly see it blatantly sharing the same non-flare glitter & shine, right? Well, whether you do or not I still like both.
-John Flesh


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odense
odense
hello
Sun, May. 3rd, 2009 05:29 am (UTC)

hi, what is the name of the slow life magazine from argentina you once wrote about? i believe it was one word. thanks!


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