Thursday, 23 August 2012

The House Project

If I was the Architect of a ‘Dream House’
The House Project uses representations — drawing, painting, photography, assemblage, writing, 3D construction, objects and the moving image — to engage with an extraordinary house, which has been growing and collapsing over a period of eighteen years, on the ashes of a previous house.
The current house should not just be regarded as a failed house, nor as an eccentric, picturesque urban ruin; but as a singular, complex, tragic and (in some ways) exemplary work of the imagination; not intentionally but indirectly and by default.

Accidental masterpiece?

Not contrived as art works often are, and not as tasteful as ‘Art Brut’ can be made to be, when placed in galleries, the house expresses its tragic existential situation through both its structure and in its materiality.

More  ‘house of dreams’ than material house.

100% S.U.S.T.A.I.N.A.B.L.E, as a symbolic structure; for it is made using 100% recycled discarded material.

the house seen from the street (August 2011)

In The Poetics of Space Bachelard reminds us that there exists for each one of us an oneiric house, a house of dream-memory, that is lost in the shadow of the real past… the crypt of the house where we were born in’. For most of us this imaginary house only exist in our minds, when we allow it to manifest itself at all…
Khun A., the owner, architect and builder of this house, is aware that, as it stands, his house is not suitable for living in (not ready, yet). But he has not given up. ‘Everything is under control’, he remarked, when he politely declined our offer of help.  
Through our encounters with Khun A., and from engaging with his house, over a year, we noticed that, behind this fragile structure and complex geometry — and  irrespective of its failings as a dwelling — the house could be inspirational in an exemplary and humbling way: as the expression of a man’s life and resilience, of his memories and his aspirations, in symbolic form.
The fact that the process of building the house has lasted over a period of eighteen years (and is still on-going) suggests an extra-ordinary resilience on the part of Khun A., a feat that we do not feel we  would be capable of. Modern Sisyphus — victim and hero?
 The 3D structure in the middle of the gallery does not attempt to represent the house but alludes to the challenge of creating permanence out of pure will and fantasy.

In Pattern Language Christopher Alexander suggests that, in architecture,  
‘The most effective structure will be… a continuous structure, in which all members are rigidly connected in such a way that each member carries at least some part of the stresses caused by any pattern of loading’

This principle is violated by the house, at every step; for there, discontinuity and fragmentation are the norm:

Successive attempts at consolidation, in turn, require consolidation in an endless chain of corrections…

which overloads the structure, weakening it further

Like the articulations of an arthritic body the nodes intended to support the structure, cannot fulfill their function, precipitating the house's collapse under its own weight, victim of a technology of wishful thinking…
We tried and solve this issue in the structure in the gallery using bolts: a more economic  and stronger way of connecting the pieces of timber and holding them in place.

Ironically, structural strength is fully realized in the common Thai ’fashee’ — the woven basket used to cover food on the table, to protect it from flies; reminiscent of the woven structures found in some African willow and mud houses and in the design of modern tents.

The fragility of the house (and its incumbent collapse) is hinted at in a photomontage, which superimpose house + fashee to make one of 25 intended Visual Propositions About Architecture:

in various artist postcards and in photographic records of our looking (presented as a slide show on screen), echoed in four plastic and one woven ‘fashees’, transformed as architectural models, for the occasion.

The exhibition takes the form of a polylogue: a dialogue of many voices, set up and around an emblematic wooden structure, onto which video footage of Khun A. is projected,


and around which a variety of visual 'propositions' crystallize our individual concerns and approaches: postcards, drawings, etchings, photographs, paintings, assemblages, documentation and texts.

Polylogue: exploring the relation image . text across propositions…

Reading a response to the house, from a single photograph, 
by Paul Glendinning, Professor of Mathematics, Manchester 

On the floor, a collection of drawers are scattered: with notes of our journey, proofs, fragments.…

An anonymous 'Art Brut' artist from the street is represented with four beautiful assemblages of found ordinary objects, which he makes, then discards; once they have fulfilled their existential purpose… [as 'transitional objects'?].

For us, however, when they have been discarded, they acquire a new life: both as objects that exceed our understanding, and as works of art in their own right; as they enter the polylogue:

The exhibition invites visitors to enter the polylogue and leave their mark, in whatever way they see fit.

Visitors to the exhibition can take home a selection of artist postcards available on a first come first served basis…


Initially, I was hoping that we could help Kuhn A rebuild his house; according to his own design; offering our hands without imposing our ideas. I thought that it would be good for the architect in our team and architecture students to work according to totally different principles and requirements.
Talking with Kuhn A, however, we had to realize that we were not dealing with a 'machine to live in' — a physical house — but at a 'house of dream' when he thanked us for our offer, adding ' don't worry; everything is under control…'.
At that point the project was formally closed. 

Gérard Mermoz (lead artist and project curator)

The House Project developed out of staff research seminars led by visiting professor Gérard Mermoz, at King Mongkut’s University, July-August 2011 & 2012.

The House Project is: Gérard Mermoz (lead artist and project curator), Associate Professor Nigel Power, who set up the scheme; participating artists: Michael Croft, Checksant Gangakate, Simon Labalestier, (Communication Design); Voraprada Vorantanachai and Akararat Songwattanayothin (students, Communication Design), David Mrugala (Architecture). Our grateful thanks to King Mongkut’s University, who generously funded the project, to Ernest H. Lee and Brian Curtin, director and curator of H Gallery Bangkok and H Project Space respectively, who kindly gave hospitality to the House Project.

G.M. 23.08.2012

+66 850215508

PR: Dr. Brian Curtin +66(0) 8 50215508

Some of the issues raised by The House Project will be explored by the A Man on A Bridge project currently documented at

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Meeting the owner

Our concerns far exceed a simple interest in drawing the house, but involve exploring it as a significant object, in the contemporary urban landscape of Bangkok. Our intention is to discover and point out its exemplary value and share our findings with the public: in the form of an exhibition (at Gallery H, Bangkok, in August-Septembre 2012), through discussions, publications [Art4D, forthcoming], etc.), we are careful not to hurry the process; from fear of disturbing the peace and privacy of Khun A.
A first group worked on site, and produced drawings, photographs, film footage and other visual evidence that may turn into propositions and take representation beyond the superficially descriptive into more analytical-critical and poetic dimensions.
We call these works visual propositions and interventions in so far as we are not content to represent the house, but aim to make it more intelligible by addressing it not just at the level of its visual appearance, but as a complex, multi-layered entity, standing in a world riddled with contradictions.
Aware that the House may remain out of reach, we are less concerned to explain it than to engage with it on a personal level.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


In August 2011, a group of artists, designers and an architect met at King Mongkut's University to explore how drawing, photography, creative writing, collage, film, and found objects — the visual arts, design and architecture — may be used to reflect about a house and, in the process, open up new avenues for doing research, and for producing  humanistic forms of knowledge, in a spirit of cooperative enquiry.

The owner of the house (Khun. A.) seemed appreciative of our interest in his house, and invited us to draw and photograph it, as we pleased, and to come again, and bring food, to share convivially.
From the start of the project, our concerns exceeded a simple interest in drawing or taking pictures of the house.

Looking beyond what could have been construed as its excentric and picturesque value, we saw the house as a significant object, and sensed what seemed a hidden exemplariness: manifest in its structure and in the resilience of its maker — but not easily pin-pointed. That would be the or a task of the project. On the way we found other things of equal importance.

The realization that this 'miserable' shack (or 'non house') may have an 'exemplary' value — in one of the fastest developing metropolises; where progress is measured by technological achievements and by levels of consumerism — was a turning point. It established the house as the focal point for a project that redefines art and design as research, along the lines of Action Research.

In its first phase, the project engaged with the house by making different forms of representation: drawings, photographs, films, poems, diaries, conversations, readings, formal and informal discussions, etc. to tease out the exemplariness of the house and its owner.
Our intention was to decipher this exemplariness, in non-reductive ways, and to see what insights may come out from our engagement with the house. 

The next step involves presenting these insights in the form of an exhibition at H Gallery, in Bangkok (August 23-September 30 2012), with associated publications, discussions, workshops, etc.

At all stages of the process we have been careful not to disrupt the peace and privacy of its owner.

Methodologically, it soon became evident that the project needed to address the limits of media representations which, in the visual arts, can be superficially descriptive or complacent, and convey more about the authors than about the realities represented.

For a year, drawings, photographs, computer generated models, films, readings, creative writing and conversations have mediated our engagement with the house, and our respective attempts to relate to and make sense of it.

In the process we have found ourselves repositioning aesthetics within ethics.

The outcome, to be presented at Project H, Gallery H, will consist of a series of 'open' visual propositions about the house; in an attempt to free it from the stereotypes and ourselves from the confort which prevent its exemplariness to become self-evident.

Our aim is to make this exemplariness more intelligible: and help us to perceive the house not just as an excentric object, but as a complex, multi-layered network of relations, that strikingly stands out in the concrete jungle that surrounds it; and endures, perhaps as something else — of the order of the  symbolic —in a world of social, economic, political and ideological contradictions.

Putting the house and Khun. A. in a position to give us a master class, is ultimately what the project aspired to do, for me, as lead artist: implicitly rather than explicitly.

Three 'divination drawings', used as a way of looking at the house from alternative perspectives, free from intentionality:

Reading Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander complemented this more intuitive process; making it less arbitrary and unlocking some new possibilities for free, open interpretation.