Sunday, September 15, 2019


Michael Rakowitz
onestar press, 2003

Paperback | 5-1/2 x 8-3/4 inches | 162 pages | English | ISBN: 978-2915359046 | 35 €

Publisher Description:
When the parasite sets in, small white bubbles rise up. They are warm, transparent and may appear anywhere. Cases have been documented in Boston, Cambridge and New York and the number is increasing. The appearance is not on the skin but on the sidewalks.

New York artist Michael Rakowitz is the engineer of
paraSITE, a temporary living space for the homeless. We may see homeless citizens every day, but now we see them unexpectedly, living inside what looks like a space age tent. paraSITE uses the warm air that escapes buildings to inflate and to provide night-time shelter. The cities and their buildings become hosts for the homeless, providing a short term solution for an ongoing condition. Rakowitz presents paraSITE in a new edition by onestar press and the Dena Foundation for Contemporary Art.

Circumventions includes preliminary drawings, photos and an interview by Carolyn Christoph-Bakergiev, chief curator at Castello di Rivoli. The new book also reviews Rakowitz’s other projects including one in which he successfully relocated the aroma of a Chinese bakery up into a gallery. This November, Rakowitz will receive the 2003 Dena Art Award. A paraSITE is also planned for Paris.
dDAB Commentary:
One of the 44 projects in Scott Burnham's Reprogramming the City, reviewed a couple days ago, is Michael Rakowitz's paraSITE, an artwork started in 1998 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and extended to the artist's native New York City the following year (according his website, paraSITE is ongoing). Rakowitz assembled plastic bags into double-layer enclosures that, after being hooked up to HVAC vents at the base of buildings, would simultaneously inflate and heat the enclosure. It's a remarkably creative idea — maybe even unprecedented — that provided comfort for homeless individuals and took advantage of otherwise wasted output. But as Rakowitz asserts in an interview at the start of this book, "it is dangerous to call it acceptable design," because it "prolongs life on the streets." By being art rather than design, paraSITE "highlights unacceptable circumstances that have not received adequate attention from designers." Its inclusion in Burnham's book is a testament to the originality of Rakowitz's artwork, its prolonged confusion as design, and the continued inattention on the part of designers.

Circumventions, published on the occasion of the 2003 Dena Foundation Art Award, primarily, but not exclusively, documents and discusses paraSITE. It also includes sketches and photos of Climate Control, which was installed at PS1 in 2000-01, its looping ducts echoing paraSITE and finding further appeal with architects — and maybe even mechanical engineers. There's also Rise, from the same year, which saw Rakowitz play with more ducts, using one to draw the smells of a Chinatown bakery to the gallery upstairs. Rakowitz's art may seem like variations on one theme given these three works, but the book also includes Romanticized All Out of Proportion (2002-03), in which he installed small cameras in the famous Panorama of the City of New York at the Queens Museum of Art, with each view referencing a famous scene from a film shot in NYC. And Minaret saw the artist ascend "architecturally appropriate" rooftops in Manhattan and project the Islamic call to prayer with a megaphone and an alarm clock bought in Jordan. This last artwork seems disconnected from the rest, but having seen the artist speak earlier this year at the Met as part of its annual A Year of Architecture in a Day — he talked about the sculpture he installed in front of London's National Gallery of Art, The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist, a recreation of an ancient Iraqi sculpture made with date syrup cans — it appears that the themes of Minaret eventually took precedence over those of paraSITE.

Author Bio:
Michael Rakowitz is an artist living and working in Chicago. In 1998 he initiated paraSITE, an ongoing project in which the artist custom builds inflatable shelters for homeless people that attach to the exterior outtake vents of a building’s heating, ventilation, or air conditioning system.
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