?

Log in

Apartamento 3: plyboard, plants and patina - click opera
February 2010
 
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
 
 
 
 
 
 
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 same frame.

40CommentReplyShare

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?


ReplyThread
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.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 09:40 am (UTC)

If "these two vastly separate worlds are now coming into the same frame" it's also a result of what Fareed Zakaria has called "the rise of the rest": the leveling transfer of wealth and power from the West to developing economies like India and China.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 09:45 am (UTC)

Aren't hipsters predominantly white and middle class? Why shouldn't we consider their taste as simply another variant of "white middle class taste"? And, what's more, one that is in a tight relationship with petit-bourgeois values, taking its cues, both negatively and positively, from them.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 09:54 am (UTC)

I would say hipsters are not predominantly white these days. Two mentioned today -- Alex and Yoshi -- are Asian. Ezra is Jewish. Hipsters do have middle-class origins, but I think of them -- as I wrote recently in Playground -- as the closest thing we have to knights errant: aristocrats crossed with homeless nomads.


ReplyThread Parent
krskrft
krskrft
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 10:09 am (UTC)

Eh, I'd like to agree with that last bit in my personal fantasies, because I think it's a neat idea, but at the end of the day, I don't think I'm willing to let them off the chain as these sort of free-floating entities who are exempt from socio-economic analysis.

Hipster/artist types typically are from the, roughly speaking, middle classes, and they are, typically, Anglo. I can see how the last bit would begin to shift, however, as capital spreads and more robust middles classes emerge in non-Western, non-white places.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 10:12 am (UTC)

I'll give you that the hipster world is more mixed than the "straight" middle-class world but, nonetheless, walk into any hipster bar almost anywhere in the Western world and I think you'll find it predominantly white and middle class. It's silly to claim otherwise. Do you really find yourself to be in the minority in the bars and gallery openings you frequent in Berlin?


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 10:30 am (UTC)

My experience in hipster enclaves probably skews too far in the other direction: almost all the people who populate my social world are racially not-white, though they're certainly hipsters of one sort or another. But I admit that may not be demographically typical.


ReplyThread Parent
krskrft
krskrft
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 10:03 am (UTC)

But running away from the accessible into the arms of the exclusive is actually very haute bourgeois of them, is it not?

Anyway, those scans you posted don't seem particularly "poor" to me, but rather just kind of normal, unstaged, and spontaneous. I guess if we were to compare these apartments to the mansions and penthouses that normally grace the insides of design-y magazines, then they would seem very poor. But all I really see are homes whose owners haven't taken special care to tidy up or erase their presences from. That's not poor, really.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 10:14 am (UTC)

Well, you're right, and this is where we have to distinguish poverty from povera and subsistence from wabi sabi. And of course we hit the post-materialist paradox that some people are embracing through choice what others must accept as necessity.

I don't think that makes the rapprochement any less useful, though. I think we could all do with living closer to the "optimal happiness level" of circa $20,000 pa (pace Layard and other happiness researchers).


ReplyThread Parent
krskrft
krskrft
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 11:09 am (UTC)

Okay, but what I'm saying is that post-materialists aren't really, nor should they be, embracing poverty or simple subsistence in the first place. I guess the problem I see is that, in this case, we're saying "Look, we can live the way poor people live," but at the end of the day, not only should we be trying to live that way, but we're not even trying to do it (however fervently we may believe that we are). Such post-materialists have the wrong mascot, in other words (whether using the impoverished as mascots is offensive or not is another discussion altogether).

Also, I agree that we could all benefit from living at an "optimal happiness level," but at the same time, we have to square living this way with the fact that the rich are still skimming value off our backs in order to keep us there. On one hand, it's tempting to say "leave that world to the rich, it's not for us and it's not what will make us happy," but at the same time, those are the same rich who can and will commit all sorts of injustices specifically because we back down on the issue. I think it's a fantasy to believe that we can leave that world to the fatcats, and that this allows us to effectively exist on the outside of capitalism and gross materialism.


ReplyThread Parent
krskrft
krskrft
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 11:10 am (UTC)

Sorry, "not only should we NOT be trying to live that way..."


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 11:13 am (UTC)

I don't say "live outside of capitalism", it's just a question of balancing costs with benefits. One of the strongest points that emerged yesterday is that shanty towns are not "living outside of capitalism".

Also, it sounds a bit like you're saying, of the rich, "if you can't beat them, join them". And that begs the questions, can you join them, and does it solve the problem if you can?


ReplyThread Parent
krskrft
krskrft
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 11:23 am (UTC)

Naw, I'm not saying "If you can't beat them, join them." I'm saying we've already joined, and we can't unjoin simply by living out some fantasy where we exist outside of that world. And while you say that you don't mean "living outside," I still get this sense that you think it's possible to live on some higher moral or ethical ground, to be of a higher order, or to separate ourselves such that we come very close to what could be called "living outside" of capitalism.

This higher ground, it would seem, is "happiness." And while I think the idea itself is interesting and valid, and I devote myself to it as an ideal, I can't help but feel that it also aids injustice by essentially saying "stay out of that, let them have that place for themselves, we'll be happier over here" ... when, in fact, "over here" only provides us the illusion that it's not a problem we're part of.

If we didn't exist, if we were outside or far enough out on the margins, there wouldn't be any rich people, because they would all be too busy breaking their backs working for subsistence. There is a reason they're rich, and it's because we're inside the system and they're making huge profits off of us.

There couldn't be any sillier assertion than that the impoverished stand on the absolute margins of the world of capital, because without the impoverished capital can't exist in the first place. There is no single group that is "joined" to capital more inextricably.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 02:19 pm (UTC)
Well Made

I misunderstood "well made play" to mean well made/craft for a moment, then had an idea. I wonder if it is only the middle class who care about craft( as a sweeping generalization). The poor are too poor to fetishize craft and the rich can just buy more if the first one breaks or goes out of fashion. That isn't to say all three groups don't own well crafted things, just how they look at/think about them. -David
Instantcontemporary.org


ReplyThread Parent


imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 03:21 pm (UTC)

What about aristocrats, your Lordship?


ReplyThread Parent


(Anonymous)
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 03:39 pm (UTC)

"Those design magazines are over, but this one is still hip! It has all my friends in it!" You want to draw ideological distinctions, but really it's your old narcissism of small differences all over again. It's always middle-class people who are hardest on so-called "middle class values", eh Momus? Strange how your slogan is "you can't get outside of society", and yet your white-male-British-middle-class-privately-educated society is precisely what you want to get outside of. But I guess your slogans are directed at the "exotic other" and not yourself. Rock on you maverick rebel Momus!


ReplyThread Parent
pay_option07
pay_option07
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 05:00 pm (UTC)
bourgeois

The "B" word in itself has many cultures based meanings. What if the word was conventional, conformist, unadventurous, staid, or predictable.
Just the thought of them gives me the chills.

http://autos.aol.com/cars-Bentley-Continental+GTC-2009/photos

http://www.chrysler.ca/en/sebring_convertible/index.html?gclid=CMrok6WImZoCFSQeDQodamTC-Q

Is money in itself is a class or post modern deparure from it.


ReplyThread Parent
bonsai_human
Bonsai Human
Fri, May. 1st, 2009 01:16 am (UTC)

If given the choice between a Whimsy designed interior and a Momus designed one, I know what I'd choose.

I don't get this kind of aesthetic, Momus. It's something which seems to celebrate a lack of any kind of skill or craftsmanship. What is to be admired in being talentless but arrogant about your own lack of talent? It's like the thick kids who laugh at the geeks.


ReplyThread Parent

(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?


ReplyThread
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.


ReplyThread Parent
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)


ReplyThread
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.


ReplyThread

(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/


ReplyThread
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.


ReplyThread Parent
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.


ReplyThread

(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.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 02:24 pm (UTC)
Re: I love it..

LONDON:
The Photographers Gallery, Williams, Good News, Compton News, Capital News, Chelsea Food fayre, Fulham news, Selfridges, Waterstone/Harrods, Rococo, Lauries, M2 Covent garden, Holland Park News, Oxford news, R D Franks, Shreeji, Magma-Covent Garden, Magma-Clerkenwell, Artwords Bookshop.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Thu, Apr. 30th, 2009 07:25 pm (UTC)
Re: I love it..

Great stuff, thanks!


ReplyThread Parent

(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?


ReplyThread
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.


ReplyThread Parent
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.”


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


ReplyThread Parent

(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




ReplyThread

(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


ReplyThread

(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


ReplyThread
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!


ReplyThread