Home is only in a foreign place
A conversation between Eran Tamir Tawil, curator of the Architects House Gallery and the artist Gil Mualem Doron
The retrospective exhibition is framed around the topic “home”, why? Does it have any biographical connections?
My earliest memory is of home posing a danger, from which one needs to escape, waking up due to the air raid alarm and running to the shelter during the 1973 war. From a group of neighbors who I, three years old, didn’t really know –strangers- actually with them it was safe. This perhaps explains my fetish with bare concrete … but I already hear Eva Iluz rolling her eyes, so we’ll stop here.
How does this connect to your years long academic research into dead space – no man’s land, marginalized space, “non space” and the comprehensive body of photographic work accompanying the research?
It may well be that precisely my lack of comfort with “home” caused me to research the public space and the marginalized spaces, the no man’s lands not recognized as such…my research shows that these also serve as home to someone, when the home inside them is, by choice or brute force, for the better or the worse, usually more fluid and open. In some way the tent camp, where I spent all of last summer, added much to the art I made and recreated that same ‘non-home” that serves as an alternative to the well defined home.
The tent as a symbol for home?
When we talk about home not as a physical structure but as a homing practice, as housing, then yes. Deleuze and Guattari already pointed out that only nomads by their sticking to the soil and by the repetitiveness of their travel, they are actually establishers of “the home”. I believe similar practices of street communities, which have been an additional topic of my research, deeply influenced the art I create. In fact the very large majority of the art work I’ve been doing over the last four years took place in public places as well as with communities within a radius of less than 1 Km from my home, while returning again and again to certain places and subjects.
The architecture and art you create may be classified as social political. Why did you specifically choose this way?
I find it difficult to imagine art or architecture that are not “political”, based on the fact that also consciously not dealing with these aspects, is political in itself, especially here and now. I define my art as social involvement. It is socially involved also because of the content I select but, more important, because of my chosen methods of working and creating involve some form of cooperation on a certain level.
A large part of the works you created, balances on the edge between art, criticism and architectural design. If so, how does the understanding of one practice flow into the other and does this assist in the communication with the non-professional public?
I think that what helps in communicating with the non-professional public, is listening to that public and learning from t
hem and although Michel de Certeau, Walter Benjamin, Richard Sennett and today, Teddy Cruz and others, recognize this, in architectural schools this understanding is somehow missed or there may be no tools nor methods for it.
Does your occupation with the surroundings derive from your wish to work on the edge between the social and art? Or is the front of the constructed surroundings less important in the struggle for a just society?
In spite of the virtual world and the economic forces and others, the street and the square are still a fertile source for social attraction as well as for control and dominance over the weakened strata, so it certainly is an important stage. The question, which Foucault e.g. answered in a negative manner, is it possible to reach this by architectural or other means of art. I believe it to be possible and the goal is worth the attempt.
Education as well as education in relation to the constructed surroundings is of course another front.
Except for one school, no school in the country relates to this issue…from your knowledge of the English educational system, is it any different over there?
Very. Over there, because of a lobby of architects and designers, urban architecture is studied from kindergarten and on. I’m happy the program on urban architecture I wrote was authorized for junior high schools by the Ministry of Education, but it isn’t easy to convince the current educational establishment of the importance of the matter.
Where did the idea for the “studio for community architecture” originate?
The source of the studio lies in the work “Community Architecture” during the end of the 70-ies and the early 80-ies in England as well as in the work of Teddy Cruz’ “Rural Studio” and groups moving between architecture and art, such as “City Mine(d)’, AAA and Stalker, with some of whom I had the pleasure to work. Other sources can be found in educational ventures such as Critical Education, engaged education, pedagogical art as well as social art and contemporary curatorial practice.
In addition to the experience of working on actual projects, what is special in the studio?
The cooperative activity with the community. We are not talking about cooperation but about actual cooperative work. Over a few years we have developed methods based, amongst others, on research as well as my art and research work in cooperation with students. I don’t think the studio has reached its full fruition, in spite of the support of the local authorities, exhibitions we created and the exposure as well as the wonderful work with the various communities – the academic establishment still finds it difficult to digest a studio of this kind.
What will be the next thing?
I received an unequivocal order from Ami Steinitz, the curator of this exhibition, to whom I am extremely thankful, to go to the beach. It’s hard to refuse.