In a detached apartment, modern man ‘dwells poetically.’ By that we understand that his ‘inhabiting’ is in some way his creative work. …Now let us consider for a moment the space of work. Such a space is not itself a thing or material ‘object.’ It is a floating ‘medium,’ a simple abstraction, where the most individualized and singular aspects of our work reach broader and more general levels of public knowledge; and it is here – the socialization of individual space and the simultaneous individualization of social space – that “living research” has lessons to learn from studying it.
Our situation – in both practice and thinking – poses a question at once analogous and contrary to discursive structures that privilege public research and alternative models of production.
The question, ‘What does it mean to inhabit?‘ remains open.
1. As we were saying, the contrast between ‘the pavillon habitat’ and housing estates is striking. Let us spell out some aspects of this contrast. In a detached house, modern man ‘dwells poetically’. By that we understand that his ‘inhabiting’ is in some way his creative work. The space in which he is able to organize it relate to his own taste and [malleable] patterns. It lends itself to rearrangement. …Space in a detached house allows the group and its individual members to appropriate to some extent the conditions of their own existence. They can alter, add or subtract and superimpose their own ideas (organization) on what is provided.
2. We can distinguish:
A.) Appropriation of space in the pavillon — that is, the socialization of individual space and the simultaneous individualization of social space — tends to be elemental (though subject to a cultural system). Here, the most individualized and singular aspects of pavillon existence reaches broader and more general levels; and it is here that architecture and planning have lessons to learn from studying it. The question, ‘What does it mean to inhabit?‘ remains open.
3. We refer to the present conditions of dwelling as our starting-point – thinking of ‘dwelling’ as a form of ‘building’. (p.122)
4. The Library Project was initiated by Front Desk Apparatus to focus on editorial creation, independent publications and the position of writing and design in contemporary practice. The Library Project aims to build upon Front Desk Apparatus’s founding premise by using the office context as a framework that acknowledges, uncovers and excavates the library’s potential to generate concrete possibilities in the form of “living” research and knowledge production. Here, the vocabulary of the work environment offers itself as a public site for reframing a practice of display, distribution, critical inquiry and the archive form to spatially facilitate and symbolize the contingent relationships – in the private sphere – that have the potential to reach broader and more general levels of public knowledge, collaborative work, negotiation and hospitality.
* (‘Preface‘ in Henri Raymond, Marie-Genevieve Raymond, Nicole Haumont and M. Coornaert, L’Habitat pavillonnaire (Paris: Editions du CRU [Centre de recherche d’urbanisme], 1966), pp. 3-13, 14-23; reprinted as ‘Introduction a l’etude de l’habitat pavillonnaire’ in Du Rural a l’urbain, 3e edn (Paris: Anthropos, 2001), pp. 159-70, 171-80)
** All notes except “note 4” taken directly from Henri Lefebvre’s ‘Preface‘.
Bouvard and Pecuchet’s Invented Desk For Copying
The Library Project at Front Desk Apparatus is pleased to announce ‘What does it mean to inhabit?‘ an ongoing study that addresses and responds to Henri Lefebvre’s short essay Preface to the Study of the Habitat of the ‘Pavillon‘*. The project coincides with a group exhibition presented by Balice Hertling & Lewis that will inhabit the Front Desk Apparatus project space throughout March. The study invites artists and critics to appropriate the resources of the project environment as a subject for public research and proceeds with an awareness of the contradictory terms (building, making, arrangement, dwelling, etc.) that inform its conduct and vocabulary.
Project 1 will feature the work of Gareth Long and adopts his projects Bouvard and Pecuchet’s Invented Desk For Copying and “Who Invented the Desk?” as a starting point for a public talk and workshop.
“Who Invented the Desk?” is an ongoing text and book project that investigates the current location of work. It uses the desk as a cipher to the recent movements from studio to study – artisan to administrator – to touch on post-studio practice, globalization, leisure and the location of production. New and edited versions of the text will follow the workshop, with additional authors, edited and changed texts, showing the ‘work-in-progress’ nature of the book.
If there is a shift in the current artistic sensibility — away from what is strictly produced to the how and potential of production (how things might be produced), then the site of production is always in question. And as such, an artist, like a knowledge worker or another producer of culture has that unique ability to turn any flat surface into a desk.
– The desk is both never invented and perpetually invented
– There is no singular moment of invention for the desk.