Here in LA, the Neutra VDL hosts our project, which takes on the question of what is a “host.” Is it about talk show-like spectacle, the host body for a parasite, or about the domestic life and playing hostess with the moistest? Los Angeles has long been the host city for individual dreams and architectural ideals.
The first Host event was just over a week ago. A “dark picnic” held in the grassy meadow across the street from the house at twilight and then in the dark.
The initial impetuous for the picnic was to make a small spectacle—easily documented for World Wide Storefront opening event. The practicality was the problem that the house was being used for a photo shoot, complete with a live wolf, so we couldn’t get into the interior. So, with big nods to Superstudio, we created a supersized reflective mylar blanket (even with a light gridded pattern), which became its own extension of the VDL house—another reflecting pool in a place where was once water from the Silver Lake reservoir.
Conceptually, however, being exiled was an opportunity to make the house itself a figure—all the lights in all the rooms were turned on for the event, making it a beacon seen from our metallic raft.
Let’s hold that image for a moment.
Over the past weekend, the conference Intervention: Contemporary Artists and the Modern House took place at the MAK Center, Neutra VDL House, and Hollyhock House in Los Angeles. A panel between Mexico City-based artist Santiago Borja, MAK program director and artist Anthony Carfello, and myself (Host curator Mimi Zeiger) discussed the role of iconic houses as tourism sites. Borja looked to Marc Auge’s interpretation of tourist places as both ruins and spectacle, while the prompt reminded me to look up an older essay by Zeynep Çelik on Le Corbusier’s Journey to the East, which unpacks the architect’s travels and subsequent works in uneasy relationship to Orientalism and Colonialism. I was struck by a description of Corbu’s first arrival in Istanbul from a boat in May 1911:
“Thus we did approach by sea, like in old times, to watch all these things unfold.”
Çelik suggests that Le Corbusier’s approach is actually a reenactment of 19th Century Orientialism—prints and paintings of the city seen in plates in books. It is a rehearsed image, as was our Supersurface picnic, that anticipates the actual experience.
So, in a small way, the positioning of our picnic on our ersatz boat in our ersatz sea, was not only about making strange the very domestic act of eating dinner with friends, but also gives us a position to watch the things unfold.
Unfolding, or perhaps billowing out like a sail, next is Host’s main exhibition, which opens Saturday with Wet Horizons, an installation by Medellin architect Luis Callejas / LCLA office in the VDL penthouse. Using curtain-like textile drawings, digital projections, and models the work hopes to articulate environmental connections between Callejas’ practice and the architecture of the house itself. In short, it superimposes distant, perhaps alternative landscapes, on top the pretty classic LA views of Silver Lake.