Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Arcadian Visions of Ton Matton

One of my New School dissertation committee members, Ken Wark, brought this Vimeo piece to my attention and I found it relevant to share. Ton Matton is a Dutch architect and environmental designer who currently resides in the village of Wendorf in northeast Germany near the Baltic Sea. Matton's residence/studio is an abandoned schoolhouse, which he rehabilitated and named "Werkstatt Wendorf" (Workshop Wendorf). For the last decade, it's where he's conducted experiments in what he terms "autarkic" (self-sufficient) design.

One of his projects is Bosbus (2004), a mobile nature preserve Matton constructed from an old municipal bus for the Rotterdam Architectural Biennale. Another is Bird Suburb (no date), an installation of dozens of identical birdhouses set at regular spatial intervals around his rural home that birds have refused to occupy, evidence in Matton's view of the inhospitable, indeed unnatural, quality of the cookie-cutter approach to suburban subdivision development.
Ton Matton, Bosbus, 2004, exterior view (above); interior view (below).
Matton's work resonates with some of what's being done in Detroit, which I have identified as the "Postindustrial Arcadia." A big difference, though, is that Matton left the city in an attempt to regain the state of nature whereas in Detroit the city essentially left us. Nature, which of course has been there all there, just made itself more visible in the process.

There's another difference that seems important to me. As noted above, Matton's work is experimental, proposing ideas to change ways of thinking, which is all well and good. But they seem to be bracketed in way that the cultural production in Detroit I'm talking about isn't. The Detroit projects (the Heidelberg Project, The Power House, Ride-It-Sculpture Park, DFlux, etc.) are embedded in their local environments, making them more concrete as it were. In fact, they are each in their way transformative. It's the difference between utopian thinking of the conventional variety and the "real utopia" I've written about

1 comment:

  1. this is a reminder that it took a lot of money to keep Gandhi in poverty.