The British architect and author Joseph Grima (Space Caviar), curator of the cultural programme of INTERIEUR 2014, will confront visitors of the Biennale with an investigation into the essence and meaning of our home, titled 'The home does not exist'. Spread over the Biennale locations in the exhibition halls of Kortrijk Xpo and in the city of Kortrijk, visitors can find the following SQM (Square Metre) labeled projects:
When Le Corbusier published his plans for the Maison Dom-ino in 1914, he effectively declared the home a universal right, one that would be achieved by the mobilisation of society and industry towards a single systematic ideal of construction. No longer burdened by the tedious particularities of vernacular architecture, industrialised societies were free to build cheaply and rapidly throughout the better part of the 20th century, laying the framework for the middle classes to grow to unprecedented levels out of the ruins of World War II. As much as the dream of a home for every family could be justified after the terror of starvation and death across Europe, it held another kind of potential for both corporations and governments, both of whom had a vested interest in dampening revolutionary aftershocks and domesticating a population that had witnessed the horrors of war.
Not only houses, in fact, but also furniture, appliances, utilities, and behaviours were eventually assimilated into the all-encompassing model of the machine for living. It was in this context that Biennale Interieur was founded in Kortrijk in 1968, as a platform that would accomplish the final step in the modernisation of the European home. Beneath the headline of an aesthetic avant-garde, however, the new context that Interieur was attempting to both foster and furnish was also economically radical. By showcasing a new species of domestic objects whose curious appearances were a by-product of their serialised manufacture in new materials, the designers of 1968 were constructing a direct challenge to any lingering conservative predilections. The living room, it seemed, would be the birthplace of a new social revolution—and it would be affordable.
In the intervening years, however, the relationship between aesthetics, finance, and social ethics has changed considerably. Given a perpetual economic crisis, a globalised market and an increasingly mobile and transactional population, the values that once guided the design process—a reasonable cost numbering among them—are now held in check by the end goal of total financial and material liquidity. In demanding that both our furniture and living conditions fit our contemporary nomadism, and by participating in massive financial wagering on the real estate market, we have exerted a dematerialising effect on the infrastructural underpinnings of our daily lives as we require more freedom from their size, weight, and sheer presence. (This is not to say that the visions of collapsible, inflatable, or modular furniture of the 1960s and 1970s have been realised; in fact, as the logistics of shipping have been optimised to the millimetre, the virtuality of our objects is a function of how easily they can be replaced).
Nevertheless, even dematerialised forms of living have a spatial presence. It is not so much that the home has disappeared, rather that beyond the gypsum, wood veneer and particle board, its most essential identity is as a cloud of data, communicating through electronic impulses in a vast network of incoming and outgoing streams of media, information, and activities. Where we once decorated our homes to support an exaggerated vision of ourselves for our dinner party guests, we now compose our identities through a variety of digital media, transmitted onto millions of screens around the world. Most significantly, the privacy we once associated with the domestic environment has now been put into direct conflict with the formation of our public identities, with our ability to participate in new economies, and not least our existence before national governments as founts of unlimited information.
As curators of the cultural programme of Biennale Interieur 2014, we would like to propose a simple premise: the home, as we know it, no longer exists. The concepts of domesticity that we continue to harbour must be interrogated and reframed using a new set of possibilities—that property might no longer be owned but rented, that currencies and governmental services might be decentralised, that the growing gap between our physical selves and our digital identities may generate unexpected social outcomes. Perhaps we must begin to look at the current crisis in the fields of architecture and design not as a product of the recession, but as an embryonic stage in the development of a new form of habitation, one unlike any “home” we have known before.