This lecture series tackles collaborative practices manifesting and shaping, in turn, art and architecture since the second half of the 20th century. Art and architectural historians, architects, and artists will discuss art collectives and architectural cooperatives' roles in relation to social movements, citizen initiatives, and public administration. This allows us to think through decision-making protocols, the organization of labor, and frameworks for environmental justice. As working-environments themselves, groups and collectives often try to establish eco-logic ethics through their projects: How do consciously chosen forms and formats of a collaboration unfold their spatial impact and political potential? Are collaborative ventures per se ephemeral or even doomed to failure in the long run due to polyphony and friction between individuals? What are the methods to adequately address and represent such practices in historical research? From Postwar avant-garde to (post-)minimal in the field of the arts, from bureaucratic to feminist/activist in architectural practice––by tracing historical and contemporary forms of collaboration and collective critique, this lecture series expands our understanding of authorship, work, and oeuvre. Hence, the contributions deconstruct the cult of genius in a human-made environment situated in different geopolitical contexts of transcultural (post-)modernisms since the Cold War.
In cooperation with TU Munich at the eve of the exhibition "Group Dynamics – Collektives of the Modernist Period" October 19, 2021 – April 24, 2022.
Gabrielle Schaad, (TUM, Munich)
Introduction: Collective Practices and Cooperative Initiatives as Environmental Critique c. 1980
In their 2007 publication "Collectivism after Modernism," editors Blake Stimson and Gregory Sholette observe in local public opinion risings since the so-called "Arab Spring" a "new collectivism" motivated from different corners of the political spectrum sweeping through the age of global financialized capitalism, while at the same time the New Economy is giving birth to internet-based collectivisms like eBay and Amazon. In this introductory lecture to the 2021 summer term public lecture series COLLECTIVES WORK, we go back to the late 1970s and early 1980s to ask what motivated initiatives in art and architecture such as Heresies (USA) and Matrix (UK) at the time to organize as collectives or in cooperatives beyond the avant-garde aspirations of postwar modernism, when they still adhered to practical workshops on the one hand and/or publication activities in the printed realm. Particularly in relation to feminist critiques of the human-made, built environment, acting in groups proved fruitful, but not without tensions and the risk of creating new exclusions. Historical and locally situated initiatives show us – beyond Europe – (socio-)spatial tensions on the eve of the fall of the Iron Curtain.
Mary Miss (Artist, New York)
City as Living Laboratory: A Path to a Resilient and Equitable Public Realm
The current moment of cultural and environmental reckoning calls for a reinvention of urban space. With City as Living Laboratory (CALL) Mary Miss envisions a process where artists, scientists, planners, and community groups work together on developing a resilient and equitable public realm. As a young feminist in the 1970s, Miss worked on a number of collective initiatives from the AD HOC Women’s Committee to a role as a founding member of the feminist journal, Heresies. She advanced artistic projects beyond the walls of art museums, eventually expanding to the scale of the city. From these experiences, she created CALL, a nonprofit working nationwide with projects in Indiana, Wisconsin, and New York to address environmental challenges through direct experiences and collaboration.
Andrea J. Merrett (Columbia University, New York)
Feminist practices of the U.S. Women's Movement in Architecture: the Open Design Office (1972–1978) and the Women's School of Planning and Architecture (1974–1981)
As part of the U.S. women's movement in architecture of the 1970s, feminist architects experimented with different forms of professional and pedagogical practices. Two of these efforts resulted in the Open Design Office, a non-hierarchical design practice, and the Women's School of Planning and Architecture, a summer program which ran four sessions between 1975 and 1979. Both these groups drew on principles and practices of the women’s liberation movement and challenged the star system in architecture.
Janice Mitchell (Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London)
Collectivity as Strategy and Praxis in the Work of Claire Fontaine and Jonas Staal
For artists Claire Fontaine and Jonas Staal, collectivity plays a central role in the artistic practice as well as in the realization of their work. As a feminist conceptual artist, Claire Fontaine has developed an artistic practice that is a constant critical engagement with the past and the present, theory and praxis, while eschewing the traditional artist identity by having “her assistants” execute and present her work. Dutch artist Jonas Staal, in turn, creates spaces within which we can come together to negotiate a different way of existing in the world based on Judith Butler’s theory of assemblism. Through the discursive nature of both of their artistic practices and their engagement with larger discourses relating to the critique of capitalism and neoliberalism, both artists create spaces, physical and non-physical, that become sites of resistance to these systems on a personal and a communal level, where we can negotiate and imagine different ways of being and being together.
Dana Buntrock, (University of California, Berkeley)
Architecture Needs More Amateurs
Long years of architectural education and apprenticeship; Thick books of life safety regulations; An understandable concern for economics in the face of eye-popping budgets: We have lost, though, the pleasure architecture once offered. The profession also needs to create a central place for boundary-pushing amateurs, oddballs and agitators. Dana Buntrock will introduce a few fabulous ones from Japan and California.
Katia Frey & Eliana Perotti (ZHAW, Winterthur)
Conflicts and Success of Creative Cooperation: The Swiss Exhibition on Women’s Work SAFFA 1958
SAFFA 1958 is the acronym for the second exhibition on Swiss Women’s Work (Schweizerische Ausstellung für Frauenarbeit), held from July 17 to September 15, 1958 in Zurich, displaying the subject of women’s lives and activities and presenting a showcase of contemporary women’s design and architecture in Switzerland. On the one hand, it was a collective endeavor concerning the work of Swiss women’s associations as initiators and organizers; on the other hand, it involved the creative troupe, the women architects, and designers in the building process. Although the collaboration was not easy and generated all sorts of conflicts – between political positions, between the generations, between married and unmarried women, between the organizers and the planning women – the whole undertaking resulted in incredible popularity and financial success. These dynamics reveal crucial cooperation issues, namely concerning collective work among women that we can explore at SAFFA 1958 as a case study exhibition. The lecture draws on the results of an ongoing SNSF-funded research project based at Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), Winterthur.
Khensani de Klerk & Solange Mbanefo, (Matri-Archi(tecture), Switzerland/South Africa)
Collectivizing Knowledge: A Digital Atlas of Collaborative Geographies
We often think of collectives as groups of people collaborating for a cause, culminating into an initiative. However, the collective also exists as a digital site that collects and remains creatively active. The physically bound concept of geography as we know it has had a significant transformation since the dawn of the 4th Industrial Revolution, often called the follow-up of the Digital Age (Castells, 1996). We are shifting from a physical landscape that used to be barred from accessing certain information to a digital ecosystem, where anyone, could now live in the 'Nation of Google' or in the 'megacity of Facebook'. This new approach to a next-generation of geospatial infrastructure echoes Matri-Archi’s Digital Atlas project as the site in which we as Matri-Archi exist, traversing in-between the ‘Global North’ and ‘Global South’ in hopes of blurring the boundary, giving due credibility to references overlooked in traditional architectural education. The Matri-Archi archive is constantly in flux, and does not conform to fixed categories. Echoing author of Glitch Feminism, Legacy Russell, “the increased presence of intersectional bodies that transcend the bureaucratic violence of a single-box tick remains a key component of why the Internet still matters” (Russell, p.123; 2000). Drawing from the references in our archive, we will critique the static nature of the architectural archive as it exists in contemporary academia today, revealing overlooked histories and imaginaries that have existed and that are being produced in attempts to reflect our intersectional built environment. During our lecture, we hope to stimulate thoughts about the evolution of how we understand the collective as a dynamic vessel for participative archiving in an inclusive and creatively stimulating way.
Castells, Manuel. 1999. The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. Oxford: Blackwell.
Russell, Legacy. 2000. Glitch Feminism : A Manifesto. London : Verso.
Meeting-ID: 638 5892 3888
Jos Boys (University College London UCL, London)
Opening up the Archive – Capturing the Processes of Matrix Feminist Design Co-operative
In the 1980s, the London-based feminist architects’ practice Matrix was one of the first worldwide to bring issues of gender center-stage to the design of the built environment. It was radical, not only by being a women-led platform, but also by integrating new interdisciplinary and intersectional ways of working across theory and practice. This included research about gender and space; creating feminist design guidance and support; enabling more women from under-represented groups into construction and architecture; designing building projects for and with women, and co-exploring new building types ignored by a male-dominated profession, such as women’s centers and nurseries. By revisiting that work through the current development of an online archive as well as an associated exhibition, Jos Boys will discuss how we can capture such collective processes through their diverse artefacts and voices.
http://www.matrixfeministarchitecturearchive.co.uk/ (prototype in progress)
Stephanie Herold (Otto-Friedrich-Universität, Bamberg)
The Shared Work of the Collective – Ideas of Socialist Community and Productive Efficiency in Architectural Collectives of the GDR
In the narrow sense, the architectural collectives of the GDR were nothing more than the structural organization of a state building system. Beyond that, however, they also reflect the aspirations for a formation of a socialist society. This presentation reflects on how these two characteristics relate to each other and looks at historical and political backgrounds as well as structures, role and self-images in the architectural collectives of the GDR. It also addresses the question of possible structural peculiarities of this system, their impact on the produced work and on our present-day dealings with these collective architectures. The lecture draws on the results of a research project based at the University of Bamberg and the Leibniz Institute for Socio-Spatial Research (IRS).