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The House of Dust By Alison Knowles: the poetry of algorithms at the CNEAI

Contemporary Art | The House of Dust is the CNEAI’s inaugural exhibition at its new location in Pantin. It reactivates the reflections developed by Alison Knowles during the late 1960’s, which focused on the prospect of an architecture embracing both pœtry and algorithms.

Exposition CNEAI - House of Dust, Vue Générale © Photo - Nicolas Giraud
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Exposition CNEAI - House of Dust, Vue Générale
© Photo - Nicolas Giraud

The House of Dust, a pioneering systemic reflection

Challenging her time’s rational thinking and functionalist references, the artist played with pœtry through random combinations of words. She created computerized pœms that were transcribed by a telex and generated by a software that randomly juxtaposed terms referring to the concept of habitat. Each quatrain illustrated the characteristics of an imaginary house, several variables shaped unlimited possibilities of combinations : geographic location, materials, light and fictitious residents. Through this method Knowles obtained more than 80.000 combinations.
In 1969, the artist translated one of the quatrains into a physical form : a house built in New York where several artists met in order to get involved in her creative process. The itinerant ecosystem created by Alison Knowles moved to Los Angeles in 1970, it adapted to its new environment and rapidly became a place of exchange and innovation that was in constant transformation though the actions of those who incorporated the project.

The reactivation of an ecosystem

The House of Dust exhibition has maintained Knowles’s participative dimension. Indeed, the CNEAI has invited the artists to create artworks that resonate with her work. Among them, artist-architect Yona Friedman presented Le nouveau pavillonnaire, a work that combines independent metal structures in order to rethink and/or contaminate the environment. Contrasting with a homogeneous approach, the 94 year-old artist develops a complex thought through small housing blocks that highlight the interrelation of autonomous spheres and question the concept of borders.
Through his work Fu-An, Kengo Kuma reflects on the frontier between interior and exterior. The artist offers an experience at the heart of a temporary habitat : two tatami mats draped with organdy. His work conveys an impression of intimacy although it is displayed in a space that is open to the public. The architecture’s materiality and its points of reference are suddenly dissolved; the visitors explore new ways of perceiving their environment, of looking at themselves and interacting with the space that surrounds them.
Following the experimental protocol suggested by Knowles, the artists frequently offer the public the opportunity of interacting with their works. In Métaplasme : Conapt, Lou Maria Le Brusq presents a medium that integrates the dimension of randomness. The artist’s mutating installation, which was inspired by one of the pœm’s quatrains, is composed of construction materials and it is modified by collective contributions throughout the exhibition, becoming increasingly complex.

Systemic gesture and pœtic algorithms

Being subject to permanent interaction, the artworks become mutant microcosms. Resulting from a systemic gesture and a pœtic algorithm, they predict the exploration of new architectural potentialities. In 1969, Alison Knowles’s pœtry anticipated the development of NICTs in the years 2000; while in 1985 at the Centre Pompidou Les Immatériaux announced the impact dematerialized algorithmic chains would have in our daily lives. Less than twenty years later, this pioneering curatorial project led by Jean François Lyotard and Thierry Chaput delved further into Alison Knowles’s thinking; it turned spaces into interconnected archipelagos, microcosms organized in networks that addressed converging topics.

Today, the CNEAI presents a reactivation of this systemic thinking, at its new location in Pantin (which was rehabilitated by the communication agency BETC). In this way, the Centre confirms its will to establish itself as an artistic and systemic ecosystem where dematerialized creation is welcomed.

Valentin Heinrich
Publié le 07/10/2017
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Exposition CNEAI - House of Dust, Vue Générale © Photo - Nicolas Giraud Exposition CNEAI - House of Dust © Photo - Nicolas Giraud

Exposition CNEAI - House of Dust, Vue Générale
© Photo - Nicolas Giraud

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