Tu Casa es mi casa: a roundtable discussion (September 22, 2017)

Hernan Diaz Alonso and moderator Mimi Zeiger preface the panel with the announcement that the opening for the “Tu Casa es mi casa” exhibition at the Neutra VDL House the following evening will be a benefit for relief services in Mexico City, after the Central Mexico earthquake that happed three days earlier. Zeiger stresses that this project came out of admiration for the current design scene in Mexico City, and its freedom, and fearless playing with technology and craft.

Andrea Dietz outlines “Tu Casa es mi casa”, in which four curators (Mimi Zeiger, Sarah Lorenzen, Mario Ballesteros, and herself) organized a collaborative installation between architects and writers in Mexico City and Los Angeles, which will be exhibited first in L.A. at the VDL House, and subsequently in Mexico City at the Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura. The process started when three writers were invited to spend time in the VDL House, and produce a “letter” in response. The curators selected a Mexico City architecture firm to design a response to each letter:
• Matthew Kennedy of Frida Escobedo studio responded to text by David Ulin
• Ana Paula Ruiz Galindo and Mecky Reuss of Pedro&Juana responded to text by Katya Tylevich
• Lucas Cantú (and Carlos Matos) of Tezontle responded to text by Aris Janigian

Sarah Lorenzen describes the context of the L.A. installation at the VDL House. While it was Richard Neutra’s home from 1932 to 1970, and donated in 1990 to Cal Poly Pomona, Lorenzen resists the term “house museum,” preferring to think of exhibits like “Tu casa” as opportunities to activate the space, and generate new meanings and interpretations, reinforcing or resisting aspects of the building.

Mimi Zeiger begins a general discussion of the project. Ana Paula Ruiz Galindo describes Katya Tylevich’s letter as a series of passive-aggressive notes to utopian domestic architect, whose humor gave them an opportunity to make the house disappear and frame the objects, leave notes around the house as evidence of habitation, and insert things that start communicating to each other.

David Ulin describes his letter as a product of dislocation, writing out of his own loneliness and discomfort. Mathew Kennedy describes being struck by the letter’s descriptions of surfaces, especially reflective ones.

Aris Janigian admits that the project initially struck him as idle academicism, but turned out fascinating. He summarizes his letter as a description of the destruction of Los Angeles, precipitated by mass arrests of its undocumented citizens. Lucas Cantu describes how Janigian’s letter reached them at a moment when they were working in a derelict modernist house, and led them to appropriate utopian-modernist Mexican “plastic intervention” murals and give them a second life.

The panelists respond to comments from the audience about walls, hauntings, and the different moods of Los Angeles and Mexico City.

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