PARIS.- How does space determine the way we feel? Predicated on a sense of a threatening and hostile environment, one of the basic definitions of architecture is the provision of shelter and comfort for the human body. The common idea of dwelling as surrogate skin stems from Gottfried Semper, who described the animal pen, made of woven skins and leaves, as the origin of architectural private space. Today, this understanding of architecture as an enveloping spatiality, the modern desire to provide a place of refuge, no longer holds. Social, technological, demographic and environmental change has increasingly led to the management of the environment, the standardisation of lifestyles, the displacement of people due to conflict, persecution and gentrification, the surveillance of private sites of living, and ultimately the negligence of the body and the senses.
Designing spaces of belonging or fostering safe and hospitable environments remains one of the biggest issues in contemporary architecture. So-called non-places, spaces of transience and anonymity often constructed with cheap building materials and not significant enough to be regarded as places, are increasingly the architectural typology of the home. While the notion of architecture as a haven or sanctuary space has become a privileged conception, architects, designers and artists have long been interested in the bodily and psychological experience of dwellers. Richard Neutras Lovell Health House (1929), Frederick Kieslers unrealised Endless House (194760) and Arakawa + Gins unrealised Reversible Destiny Healing Fun House (2011) modelled on the Sanctuary of Asklepios are all examples of architecture designed to be experienced by the senses in ways that are affective and political. Could these often failed, dismissed or forgotten endeavours serve as models for contemporary architectural aspirations? And if we are to reconsider architecture as the meeting point between different cultural references, practices, rituals, desires and needs, how do we imagine a sanctuary space for todays world?
The New Sanctuary proposes newly commissioned works by artists Julie Béna, Ben Thorp Brown and Daisuke Kosugi, who from the perspective of their individual practices, consider the capacity of the designed environment to host, care and engage with the body and the senses. A new animation by Julie Béna narrates an architectural tale about standardisation and transparency in which objects travel and morph, resisting commodification. In The Arcadia Centre, a film installation developed in dialogue with researchers working in psychology, neuroscience and education, Ben Thorp Brown proposes a sanctuary that creates a kind of restorative experience, and responds to the politics of our moment. Finally, an experimental narrative film by Daisuke Kosugi follows a retired Japanese building engineer who has been diagnosed with a brain disorder. Through an architectural journey the film reveals the characters internal conflict between the desire for perfect efficiency and the acceptance of his declining body. The three exhibitions in this series bring no simple stories of architecture but underline the complexity of ever-changing ideas about how we (are) live(d).
Laura Herman (born 1988, Brussels) graduated from the Centre for Curatorial Studies at Bard College (CCS Bard, 2016) in New York, and holds a masters degree in Comparative Modern Literature (Ghent University, 2010). Since 2016, Laura has served as a curator at La Loge, a space in Brussels dedicated to contemporary art, architecture and theory. She is an editor at De Witte Raaf, a bimonthly art journal distributed in Belgium and the Netherlands. Her reviews and essays have appeared in Mousse, Frieze, Spike Art Quarterly, Metropolis M and elsewhere, and she has curated exhibitions and events including Wild Horses & Trojan Dreams at Marres, Maastricht; Definition Series: Infrastructure, Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York; Third Nature, Hessel Museum, New York, and Natural Capital (Modal Alam), BOZAR, Brussels. She is currently developing an exhibition exploring family as the legal basis of citizenship, property and the state, which will open at Extra City Kunsthal in 2019.
Julie Béna works on environments inspired by the worlds of literature, film, theatre and popular culture. Proceeding through incongruities, shifts and displacements, Béna diverts everyday images and objects. They gradually become the subjects of a variety of strange, poetic fictions. Through installation, photography, video and performance, the artist explores moments of transition, such as the passage separating night from sundown.
Julie Béna (born 1982, France) lives and works in Paris and Prague. She is a graduate of the Villa Arson in Nice and the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. She was recently nominated for the AWARE prize for women artists. She has exhibited at the Passerelle Art Centre, Brest; the Galerie Joseph Tang, Paris; FUSED Space, San Francisco; Mathew, New York; and BOZAR, Brussels. Recent institutional performances have taken place at the Fondation Ricard, Paris; M Leuven; the ICA London; and the Palais de Tokyo, Paris. In 2018, Béna has been invited to participate in the forthcoming Biennale de Rennes. Also this year she is giving performances at Independent Brussels; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; and MRAC Serignan. She is represented by the Galerie Joseph Tang, Paris.
Ben Thorp Browns (born 1983, New York) work addresses embodied experience, perception and memory. Responding to ongoing economic, environmental and technological change, he seeks to develop possibilities for human agency within complex systems through embedded research, process and collaboration with a range of participants.
Browns recent work has been presented in exhibitions at the St. Louis Art Museum; Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 19052016, The Whitney Museum; Greater New York, MoMA PS1; 24/7 the human condition, Vienna Biennale; and Chance Motives, SculptureCenter, New York. He has participated in residencies through the Lower Manhattan Cultural Councils Workspace programme and at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, TX. He received a BA from Williams College and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and attended the Whitney Independent Study Program. He currently teaches in the BFA and MFA programmes at Parsons The New School. He has received awards supporting his work from Creative Capital and the Graham Foundation.