Open Flat Bangkok
designed by Stefan Rusu at The Making of New Silk Roads Performative symposium
Open Flat was conceived as an open space and was installed in the frame of The Making of New Silk Roads Performative symposium as a temporary platform, a “zone of hospitality” that hosted artist’s interventions during the symposium and was acceded by the participants and also for the potential visitors during the entire event.
The point of departure for the project design was the interest for the private space limited by socialist society standards. Initially it was conceived as a multifunctional piece and the point here is that architecture comes with a specific kind of well-defined functionality and aesthetics, and from this perspective I was concerned with overcoming the idea of fixed functionality.
Conceived as one-room replica of a socialist apartment it has embodied two video works by Alexander Ugay as an idea to recreate by visual art means a post-communist condition of a socialist habitat, which still represents a strong visual element of contemporary urban and social landscape of the East European and Central Asian countries originated in the former soviet construct. In this sense the video “Break” by Alexander Ugay presented in the Open Flat Installation tells a story of a street cleaner that reflects on his consciousness and the possibility of uprising while taking a break on the streets of Almaty. The film is compiled out of recorded outdoor sound adjusted trough an animation and is a comment on the Albert Camus text related to the condition of the worker in contemporary society. The other video work titled “Waltz” use an instructional methodology presented as animated drawings from the times of socialist propaganda helps the viewer to underline the still existed mechanism of manipulation technology that preserved the nostalgic mentality of a human being circumscribed by totalitarian propaganda machine. Such circumstances and situations are equally common for the East-European part of former soviet space as well for the Asian neighborhood countries and political construct called Central Asia that emerged after the Bolshevik rebellion in Russia in 1917 and which was imposed by Red Army forces in the former region of Turkestan (name of the region during Russian Empire).
This choice to replicate an apartment is also informed by the fact that I was concerned with spaces and contexts that define this region and community, which has emerged as a result of socialist modernization. Most of former countries of the former political construct USSR adopted Soviet social standards, including the ideal creation of a new man, the cultivation of family values as a building a homogeneous socialist society. This socialist family obviously needed a living space and in fact it was strictly limited one. Thus, a typified habitat was created, in which man and his family could develop, and which was tacitly assimilated by society. As the population was constantly increasing and resources were limited, we gradually arrived at the flat and uniform city planning that currently dominates the urban scenery.
The other aspect that significantly influenced and motivated the project design installed in the Gallery of the University from Bangkok is the growing interest of the gastarbeiters from the Eastern countries that temporarily works (legally, but most of them illegally) at EU markets (Spain, Italy, Portugal, etc.) is their constant interest for investing in acquiring its own flat apartment in the capital city of the country. This process is very common for the population of other East European countries and determines the tendency to have a higher social status and possess its private space in the city no meter how small it is.
During the symposium Open Flat was extensively explored not only by the visitors but as well by the other artists who decided to use it as a stage for their performances.
In this sense Gary Pastrana, Philippines invited two actors to perform an action, which suppose to cut in pieces the objects (two chairs) and transport them in pieces from one room of the Open Flat to another trough a hole located in the separation wall. The objects suppose to be reconstructed after being transported to other space. The whole working process, from the cutting to the rebuilding of the objects was observed by the public.
The other artist Iani Arahmaiani, Indonesia climbed the apartment in order to present an ongoing community art project that begun in 2007, called “Flag Project” and one of the project section took place in the frame of symposium. The flags where especially designed during the event and each of the flag represented the particular sign chosen by the symposium participants. Arahmaiani presented them from the Open Flat using the balcony as a stage.
In the same manner the artists SamahHijawi, Jordan choose to perform a powerful speech from the balcony that was perceived as it was especially designed for it. The frontal part of the balcony was used as a screen for the translation into the English of a Arabic speech performed by the artist.
The interventions performed by the above mentioned artist during the symposium significantly upgraded the functionality and activated the Open Flat and so that from situation of potentiality created the meaning and content behind the initial structure and concept. At the same time the project can also be perceived as a model of city-planning architecture, extracted from a typified socialist residential building block and placed in public space, where it will function as an open space/platform.
Open Flat was part of a four-day symposium titled The Making Of the New Silk Roads from Thursday, August 27, through Sunday, August 30, 2009. Hosted and organized by ArtHub, the symposium aims to reassess the complex interconnections within Asia’s cultural and artistic spectrum at the beginning of the 21st century. It took place at the Bangkok University Gallery (BUG), in collaboration with the Prince Claus Fund, Bangkok University, National Research Center of the Kingdom of Thailand, with additional support from Mondriaan Foundation and ANA (Singapore). The summit featured Arthub’s “collaborative intelligence” participants from across Asia including China, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, Turkey, Moldova, Georgia, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, and beyond, along with additional participants from the prestigious Prince Claus Fund Network Partnership Program.