Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Office Orchitect

Singaporean Michael Lee’s work Office Orchitect investigates the relationship between space and desire. For this work, Lee invented the fictional architect KS Wong (1911-1982?), a child prodigy who started designing at the tender age of eleven. At the third Singapore Biennale open house, Lee presented models of several of Wong’s designs, one more outlandish than the other. Lee says: “When objects and spaces lose their utilitarian functions, their aesthetic ones come to the foreground.” Aesthetics is the fine art of expressing as such. Aesthetics is according to philosopher John Dewey not a special realm of experience; he states that art is “a quality of doing and of what is done.” Art is thus a form of activity, i.e. the interaction with our world. Alienation – from nature, from others, from one’s self, from our creations (including the built form) – makes the aesthetic experience close to impossible. Today, the utilitarian (including the monetary) perspective is the dominant way to perceive the forms in our world. Marx, according to Zizek, said of alienation: “they do know it, but they are doing it.” Today, so claims Zizek, we should define alienation as: “they know very well what they are doing, but still they are doing it.” In short, our alienation has taken a cynical turn.

Lee tries to imagine a different Singapore. However, Lee calls Wong ‘anally rigorous’, how can a person who is excessively orderly and fussy be a catalyst to imagine an alternative for the excessively ordered Singapore?

In this week’s issue of the English edition of Indonesian weekly Tempo Magazine my review of the Singapore Biennale will be published.

The photo above is by SB2011. For more photos of Michael Lee’s work see here.

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