Temporary Architectures For Ephemeral Construction Sites

Sylvette Babin
Numerous works and artistic practices are linked with the field of renovation not only through the use of particular materials and tools, but also by having recourse to devices that emphasize site, (re)construction, or the process of project implementation. For this issue, we asked our authors the following questions: Do works that draw on renovation revive the key issues and challenges of the in-situ intervention at specific sites charged with history or a non-artistic vocation? Do they somehow strive to challenge the conception of the artwork as a finished object? Do these practices problematize a relationship with the past, a return to a former state, or the restoration of an initial situation? Or, on the contrary, do they convey the desire to transform and renew? And finally, do artists approach renovation as a means to lay emphasis on recycling and salvaging, or is their focus turned towards the consumption of the new, calling to mind the excesses of overconsumption in the process?

In response to these questions, our 80th issue brings together analyses of works by artists who, by occupying and transforming buildings condemned to demolition, or by elaborating ephemeral structures — functional or not, broach the subjects of social space, gentrification, and urban renewal policies. At the cost of excessive modernization, the last often ignore the contexts and inhabitants affected by their measures. This issue also brings to light interventions motivated by the playful desire to invest existing architectures by reactivating the stakes of in-situ art through hospitable and practicable works in whichthe public is invited to relax, circulate, or even climb. While some structures created by artists-renovators are based on traditional construction models, others constitute utopian proposals in anarchic forms and are integrated, like appendages, prostheses, or grafts, into existing architectures. In all cases, the introduction of constructions in the public realm, as well as the transformation or diversion of various spaces and buildings by obviously questioning their use value, draws attention to tensions deriving not only from the domains of carpentry, art, and architecture, but also from our social fabric and political concerns. Several pertinent examples serve to illustrate these reflections.

Far from limiting this exploration to installations composed of beams and frames, and thus avoiding the cliché of an issue devoted to “virile1 1 - In this regard, apart from one or two exceptions, the artworks discussed here were produced by men. The articles, on the other hand, except for one, were written by women. ” matters, the notion of renovation has also been adopted in works bringing into play materials that are, to say the least, rarely used in this context (ceramics, fabric, paper). In some cases, renovation was more a subject that artists explored through paintings, prints, and photographic works — all of which bear witness to various architectural or urban construction sites — as well as sculptures evoking the tools used in the construction domain. Thus, some of the works analyzed in the essays and presented in the portfolio have in common their temporary and ephemeral status, whereas other permanent works retain traces of the building sites that led to their creation.

[Translated from the French by Louise Ashcroft]

This article also appears in the issue 80 - Renovation

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