From the Guggenheim Museum to the Seagram Constructing, Manhattan experienced a longstanding status as an island of avant-garde architecture when Alison Knowles initially designed the Residence of Dust in Chelsea. Erected in 1967 and standing for considerably less than a yr, her framework is nearly unidentified currently, yet it was far more radical than nearly anything ever conceived by Frank Lloyd Wright or Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Technically the property was not intended by Knowles. Relatively it was produced by a computer system, working with the Fortran programming language to explain hypothetical architecture by randomly picking out attributes from a listing that Knowles equipped to her collaborator, the laptop or computer songs pioneer James Tenney. The software generated hundreds of permutations, output in the sort of a poem. Knowles picked the pursuing quatrain: “A Home of Plastic / In a Metropolis / Employing Purely natural Mild / Inhabited by Folks from all Walks of Existence.”
A founder of Fluxus, and one particular of the handful of Fluxus artists even now alive currently, Knowles has only not long ago started to acquire consideration for her function at a amount that collaborators these as George Brecht have loved for many years. This thirty day period the recognition reaches a climax with an expansive retrospective at the Berkeley Artwork Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). There are quite a few revelations, like silkscreen paintings executed prior to Andy Warhol started out applying the system. But her most major get the job done remains the Household of Dust.
Knowles’s ‘60s architecture was ground breaking for the engineering she utilised, yet what was most groundbreaking was the way in which she handled the developed surroundings performatively. Right before she created her household, she engaged in the Fluxus exercise of building celebration scores, very simple directions for instantiating a operate of artwork. The guidance were being ordinarily uncomplicated more than enough for any one to follow, a tactic by which the inventive act was demystified. For instance, Knowles composed a score reading merely “make a salad”. The rating has been carried out innumerable situations considering that 1962, when she initial staged the function at the Institute of Modern Art in London.
In a way, the House of Dust was an event score that Knowles composed for a laptop performing random functions. From one more point of view, it was a set of function scores composed by the computer and carried out by Knowles via the act of design. But Knowles did not see the residence she created as static. On the opposite, the house was an occasion rating in its own right, to be executed by the men and women inhabiting it.
The total realization of the function experienced to wait until eventually Knowles moved from New York to Southern California the place she took a educating posture at the California Institute of the Arts. There she resolved to carry out one more of the architectural permutations, creating her dwelling “On Open Ground / Lit by Organic Mild / Inhabited by Pals and Enemies”. The dwelling grew to become a space where she held classes and meditation periods, and wherever artists and composers responded to the construction with situations of their have composition. A lot more broadly, the Residence of Dust served as an open score inviting variations on the art of living.
The strategy that architecture scores the actions of inhabitants had antecedents in Frank Lloyd Wright’s modernist houses, the style and design of which was guided in element by the way he envisioned upcoming things to do of his clients. And the German Bauhaus advocated behavioral exploration on a a lot more official stage, particularly in the structures created by Hannes Meyer, who directed the Bauhaus right before Mies van der Rohe.
But Knowles presented one thing far more dynamic. From the standpoint of skilled architectural practice, the closest equivalent was a methodology made by Lawrence and Anna Halprin in San Francisco in the exact same period that Knowles was instructing in Valencia. Anna was a choreographer whose work included composition of Fluxus function scores. Lawrence was the architect of modern developments these as Sea Ranch. Collectively in the late ‘60s, they made an tactic for communities to rating their very own urban infrastructure by accomplishing a series of loosely-orchestrated actions in open spaces. The consequence was meant to manual planners and builders.
The Halprins’ collaborative get the job done eventually held a lot more sway over artists than architects, especially via the publication of a guide titled The RSVP Cycles. The affect on dance, for occasion, has been profound.
Probably simply because it was hardly ever formalized as a methodology, or translated into a meta-rating for intermedial follow, Knowles’s impressive tactic to art and life has had considerably less discernable impact. As her Home of Dust is excavated to be inhabited by a new era, and her methods of performing are elucidated by artwork historians, her all-encompassing manner of interactivity cries out to be used in surprising new means.
It’s simple sufficient to get begun. Just make a salad.