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Mirjam Thomann


Mirjam Thomann, “Untitled (Poster),” 2007

Mirjam Thomann, “Untitled (Poster),” 2007

Dear Feminist,

I want to build a house for you and I want it to be beautiful. Let me guess, you would like a waterfall in the backyard? I imagine it with several fountains, lots of trees, next to solid columns covered with straw mats, along with some totems and other elements of union and transition. I picture a huge, red staircase at the entrance to the house, a wide opening. I see ramps at the exits, bridges between rooms, and walkways to adjoining buildings, like easy-to-access passages. I am really interested in how things are connected, and this house will have it all. To reinvent space, to produce tears, is everything I ever wanted – Patti Smith said that, but I feel it too.

I like to think of myself as a house with multiple rooms. Which is your favorite room in yourself? It is when our identities are challenged that they become important. Thinking about a house for you is part of my story of orientation now. I connect to the contours of this space. I read it backwards, see it through the mirror, adjust it at the edges and turn it at the corners. There are knots revolving in the rooms of this house. They say buildings are acts, not static preconditions, and that in any spatial activity, ideologies and norms are repeated. There have been several artistic attempts to show that this also works the other way around, where subject positions are construed through the enactment of architecture. With this approach, our understanding of space turns. It undermines the long-standing binary that founds our notions of space in gendered terms, that poses movement “conceptualized as masculine” and “related to linear modes of time” against location “conceptualized as feminine and related to static or cyclic temporalities.” I believe this is a good thing about spatial practice. It is never just a metaphor, it is about the actual cooperation of objects, environments, and actions. You can read all this in a superb text by Meaghan Morris, titled “Great Moments in Social Climbing: King Kong and the Human Fly.”

I learned from Lina Bo Bardi that this is also how the past survives in the form of a “historical present” in buildings. Therefore, objects shouldn’t be presented as nostalgic relics. Past and present happen at the same time, right here, in this room. Bo Bardi thought of the past as a living thing we can only hold on to and understand through confrontation. Thus she based her understanding of time, space, and movement on processes of continuous transformation. The building really is a living organism, houses want to be learnt, possessed, captured, activated by rituals and repetitive gestures. Bo Bardi was really, really funny, people say. She imagined dancing as a preferred act, a practice of recreation and entertainment, between the earth and the unknowable, people and the natural worlds, play and everyday life.

I’m not interested in creating complicated space. When entering the house, you should get a clear understanding of it, where things are, how it works, where you’re supposed to go, where the light comes from. Anyway, how we deal with a house and with each other evolves constantly. And it is crucial to be honest, even when holding on to some unspoken feelings, some private questions, some sweet, secret knowledge that’s just for you and the building. I want to be very down to earth with this house, no Andromeda Heights above the clouds, next to the sky, and no building in the far-off future, where Paul B. Preciado likes to relocate. “I have no soul and no body,” he writes, “I have an apartment on Uranus, which certainly places me far from most Earthlings, but not so far that you can’t come to see me.”

Maybe we will go there one day, but what we want to build down here can be tasted and licked. Like adobes of salt or clay with different flavors. It is really easy to become obsessed imagining the house. Especially because I am aware that there is always the option for the building to simply disappear. All rooms are future ruins, right? But did you know that there are houses that literally crumble away? How is that even possible? Sometimes it is because the house had had a good life. Fed, blessed, and healed, as it should have been, it is leaving. Time for it to go back into the earth, to start anew. I’m not sure if I believe in change, but I am certainly attracted to the concept of it.

This reminds me of something I recently saw on Netflix, where people are selling sunsets, and an impressive real estate agent presented “a Neutra” to her client. “I’m so excited to show you the property,” she said, and he: “This is beautiful.” “Isn’t it?” – “This is nice!” “This is an architecturally significant property because it was built by Richard Neutra, who specialized in all these great lines that he did, the flat roofs, the wooden beams, the metal, the white.” –“This is adorable! I love this wood.” “Yeah. If you have to start over, I think this is a great place.” Inspired by Freud, Neutra was very good in providing, especially to women, the feeling that change is near. Trisha Low writes that many of Neutra’s clients were unhappy women who believed his “custom curative environments could fill a void – women who wanted to feel, in their own homes, that they were enveloped in the embrace of a lover, or that their surroundings would be conducive to conceiving a child.” Well, do you think there is anything in this we can learn from for our real lives today? Right now I see the flickerings of a fiery youth entering your house, and I like it.

This is it for now, this is what I wanted to share with you. I know, a lot of questions are left unanswered and the pleasure of making plans can’t go on forever. But you see, I am writing this with my door open, I am here so you can walk through, again and again.



Source material:

Etel Adnan

Lina Bo Bardi

Beatriz Colomina

Simone Fattal

Lucy R. Lippard

Trisha Low

Madame Clairevoyant’s horoscopes

Meaghan Morris

Olivia de Oliveira

Paul B. Preciado

Patti Smith

Selling Sunset