PIGSKIN, WHEELS AND CEMENT

PIGSKIN, WHEELS AND CEMENT: ABSTRACT

Professor Richard Goodwin ©

In the gallery, Goodwin works with sculpture, performance and installation. At this scale, Prosthesis is found through the Exoskeleton: a device for a body whose boundaries are no longer defined by conventional “skin”.   The Exoskeleton denotes a minimum architecture, which might be more temporal than the clothes we wear.

PIGSKIN, WHEELS AND CEMENT: ABSTRACT

Professor Richard Goodwin ©

In this paper, Professor Richard Goodwin introduces his practices and philosophies as an artist / architect, explaining how prosthesis informs his three scales of practice.

The prosthetic attaches itself as an alternative proposition.

In the gallery, Goodwin works with sculpture, performance and installation.  At this scale, Prosthesis is found through the Exoskeleton: a device for a body whose boundaries are no longer defined by conventional “skin”.   The Exoskeleton denotes a minimum architecture, which might be more temporal than the clothes we wear.

The Parasite is a second prosthetic mechanism in Goodwin’s work and thinking.  It is used at the scale of site-specific installation outside the gallery and locates itself in the tension between architecture and public art.   The Parasite involves an action that is dependent on architecture and the city.  Paradoxically, its dependence reveals social relationships to the public, projecting a new identity onto the city via an attack on architectural boundaries.  This is referred to as the dissolution of architecture and its consequence is a new paradigm for understanding the city: through potential inhabitation and social relationships rather than a constructed shell.  Goodwin’s research has established a pseudo science to measure the degree of possible inhabitation within zones of the city.  This measure is called the Porosity Index and it formalises a mapping of the city through the new paradigm.

With a reconsideration of our understanding of “skin” and “city”, fashion and architecture must themselves readjust.  Out of this theoretical groundwork, Goodwin makes a fashion proposition specific to China, in which he presents an inevitable mergence of the discipline of fashion with the discipline of architecture.

PIGSKIN, WHEELS AND CEMENT

Professor Richard Goodwin ©

This paper introduces the reader to my practice and philosophy as an artist / architect and makes a fashion proposal specific to China.

The three scales at which I work are:

1.            Sculpture, performance and installation within the gallery.

2.            Site-specific installation and structure outside the gallery.

3.            Urban infrastructure projects.

Public art has shifted ground this century in response to every nuance of art movement, from object in space, transplanted from the gallery to the public realm, to land art and ephemeral performance and installation work. The current fetishisation of the site and preoccupation with context has reinforced my resolve to locate work at the disjunction of architecture and public art – engaging constructively with a problematisation of that distinction.

Between body and architecture – prosthetics/exoskeleton

Between architecture and public art – parasite

Between urban infrastructure and public space – porosity

Image 1: Richard Goodwin,  Poroplastic, Australia Galleries 2008

Each of these zones involves me in attachments or prosthetics rather than autonomous works. For each of these scales I have formulated a theme or strategy that I have used in relation to the idea of prosthetics.

Within the gallery, prosthesis is manifest as exoskeleton. At the scale of the site-specific installation it is manifest as parasitism. Within the urban landscape prosthetics are manifest as degrees of porosity. It can be said that most public art projects expressing contextual significance over form remain largely objects in space. Other art attachments in the form of decoration or enhancement perform the function of jewelry and reinforce the power equation linking ownership with current political forces.

The parasite or prosthetic attaches itself as an alternative proposition. There is the possibility that the new limb replacement might create an itch, which provokes social or political change. Thus the appearance of function is subtly subverted by the new apparatus’s ability to question. My work is located in the itch created by the attachment. If the itch is great enough then the whole structure may be moved to change or at least question.

Exoskeleton

True to my roots in Arte Povera, my early work employed used clothing as the material symbolising the flesh. The ability of this material to contain the memory of its former owners is both actual and imaginary. The smell of the material and its wear and tear are testament to its former function as skin. The combination of this material and a range of ready-mades or other simple constructions formed the basis of each exoskeleton work. These are indeed body/buildings, to use the Diller and Scofidio[1] terminology. The exoskeleton sculptures and installations are essentially body and prosthesis. The clothing contained within each structure is in essence the body requiring this prosthetic action, devoid of any clear lack. These forms are abstractions of the idea of the body no longer defined by skin.

Exoskeleton denotes a body of work about minimum architecture. These are architectural propositions which defy occupation.

If we were to take the view that artifacts are literally extensions of limbs, and therefore subject to the same laws of evolution as the body itself, then the development of designs must ultimately be a matter of biological evolution, and so outside the control of human consciousness.[2]

The position I am taking in relation to the prosthetic embraces both metaphor and

symbolism in its attempt to expose social information to the public realm of the city via public art projects.

In this dependency of the surrealist fantasy on the real objects of a machine world, ‘type-objects’ and ‘sentiment-objects’ melt in their common aim to overcome technique in its banal manifestations in favour of a technological imaginary that will transform technology into the human and vice versa, into the prosthetic and potentially critical devices of the cyborg.’ [3]

My work in the gallery can be seen in the context of work already carried out by Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio who coined the term parasite in 1992 for the Machines D’Architecture exhibition and have worked extensively with the notion of ‘body/building’ and prosthetics. However this work is not in response to their position or practice. Where their installations such as “Loophol”, 1992, deal with surveillance and interrogation of the public realm, my exoskeleton structures build connections and possibilities for inhabitation and the critique of function.

…the objects–types of Diller and Scofidio neither serve nor dictate; they simply reveal. Peeling back the layers of consumer coverings, Bauhaus black or suburban veneer, they show the form of the guts inside.[4]

One cannot talk about the guts inside without some reference to Gordon Matta Clark and his effect on our perception of architecture as a body. Like Matta Clark I see architecture as an interesting first proposition in an ongoing program of flux and decay. Matta Clark, however, removed material in order to transform our perception of both the iconography and archaeology of the built form. This body of work is also stamped with a particular psychopathology, as was his work with rubbish and performance. Modeling work in this way, subjective trauma and psychosis may be revealed to the public as expressions of structure and architectural program. This is in marked contrast with the rationalism of functionalism.

Functionalism’s great shortcoming as a theory of design was its asocial quality. The prosthetic view of design, although it too is central upon the body, need not fall into this error, for prosthesis is not just a literal process of bodily extension, but can also be symbolic.[5]

The symbolism refers to the insect-like quality of our existence and further evolution or devolution. This argument has also long engaged the modern movement. But what of clothing as a starting point for prosthetic discourse?

‘Naked we are socially incomplete, but clothes, as Carlyle said in Sartor Resartus, ‘have made Men of us’, given the body a completeness without which it would be difficult or impossible to carry on as social beings’.[6]

The architecture of impermanence was well explored by Archigram[7] in the 1960s and 1970s.  In a sense the idea revolves around the notion that architecture may supersede clothing and itself become more temporal.  I am fascinated by the following provocations:

To inquire where the degree just above zero of architecture lies.[8]

The question of minima is crucial: in the age of simulacrum, the possibility of architecture’s disappearance looms.[9]

To begin with the body, though, is to valorize architecture’s social dimension, to insist that it proceed from necessity.[10]


Parasite

I have employed this strategy at the scale of the site. The term ‘site’ has as its reference point the positioning of works of art outside the gallery structure. The model for the parasite is by its nature impolite.

Image 2:  Richard Goodwin, 345-363 George Street Parasite, 2005

The parasite attacks architecture to reveal to the public realm socially hidden information. The sculptural prosthesis as other to the self-contained building, replete with its own history and sculptural and social identity, is able to project a new identity for the building. The idea of parasite therefore formalises an already existing trend of transformation. It locates the action for both art and architecture within the interstices of the city. The individuated building is dissolved. This is the dissolution of architecture.

Image 3:  Shelharbour Workers Club Parasite Roof, Richard Goodwin in collaboration with Caroline Pidcock, 2003

Observation: I define architecture as an elaborate way of connecting the body to the sewer. Belonging and ownership are continually and ritualistically refined through this system in a form of communion that links people with soil and water via vast intestines. To be an outcast from this same system is to be denied the right to dignity and demeanor via the toilet. Thus the division between private and public space might be elaborated as a simple sewage-drawn delineation between connected and non-connected space. It also points to a weakness in traditional architecture – to separate, exclude, shut out, compartmentalise – that invites radical reconsideration of the practice of architecture as a whole. Returning to the organic model, this divided city falters and breaks down it clots, bruises, seeps, erupts and thromboses.

It’s a far cry from a vision of the modern city (with clean public toilets for all!) in which private and public, art and architecture, flow together accessible to all urban dwellers and nomads alike.

The works of Parasite provide an invitation to review the structure of the city and intervene where architecture ends.

If one took the city as a whole and, upending it, pushed it in the sand, the resulting imprint would represent the totality of ‘public space’ – the reverse envelope. A vast, labyrinthine structure of spaces, this is also the city’s true other. What are its politics, its allegiances? Are they equal to the capitalistic structure with which it has an awkward symbiosis, or are its politics anarchical? Certainly the foyer spaces, which are not evident in the imprint, owe their allegiances to this capitalistic system. Once outside the built envelope, the equation is more difficult to analyse – there seems potential to speculate and address space in new ways. Often the scenario I participate in features a plot set aside for the work of art. However, with growing frequency the ‘site’ has been gaining fluidity, as has the artist’s role in the development of a given project. The core idea here is to move beyond some of the more compliant gestures of contextualisation through site specificity. Clearly the political role of practicing artists is again being felt, but this time outside the gallery. The site is the city and this means the site is architecture and culture.

Gordon Matta-Clark envisioned the extent of the leftover interstices in urban architecture.

Matta-Clark redefined given architectural space in a way that was so subtle and profound that he has inalterably affected consideration of what constitutes architectural space. He literally cut through the image of architecture, of a home, of shelter. In his famous performance/sculpture “Splitting” of 1974 Matta-Clark chain-sawed a suburban home in half. The result was a beautiful, minimalist structure in which a monumental sense of space had been allowed. (The recent work of Rachel Whiteread, in which she casts whole interiors of rooms as well as entire houses, offers up architecture to art in a similar way.) Matta Clark questions the skin of architecture.

I like to see Matta Clark as slicing open a curtain which used to separate artists and architects at the structural level. Moving into this space, new degrees of collaboration between these disciplines are taking place. As opposed to allotting the artist his or her plot, or bringing them to conduct triage to some damaged remnant of the urban fabric, new projects allow artists to participate alongside architects on the critical levels of design, vision and planning.

Some forms of ‘invisible’ artistic intervention seem in the spirit of the new age of

virtual reality, in which all disciplines merge without parameters, into one authorless text on the Internet. In opposition to this Vito Acconci encourages artists to cultivate public space like an abandoned resource.

The significance of Matta-Clark, is facilitated by the quality and function of the public spaces of the cities in which he worked. The architecture needs certain opacity for its ideas and existences to be revealed. The equation which links property and ownership to boundaries and public access, is controlled by city councils, planning authorities and government architectural agencies. Individuation of buildings across which I am working, creates a series of signs of the cities’ proprieties. Opacity and porosity in relation to architecture are of key importance in my analysis. By this I mean the degree to which you can or cannot enter the architecture.

Porous architecture is accessible, has pores. Opaque architecture has seamless walls. This is where the equation between capitalism and possession becomes particularly complex. The parasite works to create a greater balance between the modalities of public art projects and the modalities of ownership. The property boundary is the site.

Porosity

When Vito Acconci enacted his performance/installation Seed Bed, (1972)[11], under a false floor in the Sonnabend Gallery in New York, every assumption that one might have about private and public space within buildings was put into question. That this performance involved the private act of masturbation was one contributor, but the accompanying action of hearing or responding to that person’s statements (Acconci’s), transgressed boundaries of privacy, dissolving physical boundaries for the period of the event. In particular, what constitutes ‘private’ within the public space of the gallery, was put into question.

In the film Being John Malkevich[12] a building contains a half floor previously undetected by inhabitants of that structure. Strange activities and even a new dimension are to be found in this space. In the film, a person can enter a worm hole – like – space via this half floor, which ultimately ejects the traveller into a public space adjacent to a freeway somewhere else in that city.

The idea is compelling. What are we missing? What can’t we see or find? How can we get permission to enter? Who will ultimately give that permission? What are the consequences of such a journey in the ‘Age of Terror’?  The poignant questions arising now are, as the relationship of body to artefact evolves, how might these opportunities and missing spaces be revealed.  What role does fashion have to play in the dissolution of architecture?

Porosity Research[13] proves that this ‘other’ realm exists and that its spaces are related to public space by virtue of their accessibility alone. But how do we reveal these spaces? What permission do we need to subvert and then transform these spaces? Why do we want to convert these spaces? Should they remain hidden for a later discovery? After all, the pattern and specifics of these spaces is in perpetual flux. To identify and locate these spaces opens the possibility that they will either be closed or cemented into a new permanent life as types of public space or passages to new parasite constructions attached to the architectural body.

Let us turn to the relationship between Porosity Research and the Situationists[14], in particular Constant Nieuwenhuys.  In his essay, ‘Fluid Spaces: Constant and the Situationist Critique of Architecture’, Thomas McDonough describes Constant’s utopian vision of the city ‘New Babylon’ this way:

Constant’s New Babylon, his designs for a future Situationist city, may in fact be accurately characterised as an architecture of presence. For Constant, the automation of work heralded a future of temporal freedom that would be matched by a concomitant freedom of movement. Humanity’s future would be inscribed in the liberating image of the nomad, and Constant’s city would provide these wanderers with an appropriate setting.[15]

Many things can be said about Constant Nieuwenhuys and his vision of ‘Unitary Urbanism’[16] in relation to the study of Porosity. To start with there is a relationship founded in the graphic representation of architectural ideas which interrogate the city. As Catherine de Zegher states in her ‘Homage to Constant’:

Graphics became a site of political intervention, not only to illuminate the architectonics and strategies of the bureaucratic consumer culture of late Western capitalism, but also to develop the architectonics of a utopian space of creativity in an increasingly computerised society. In fact, Constant considered New Babylon to be neither a determined urbanist plan nor a utopian project, in the sense that its realisation belonged to the real environmental possibilities for a social space, with an ever-changing shape intended ‘to avoid any restriction of the freedom of movement and any limitation with regard to the creation of mood and atmosphere’.[17]

From the practice of urban wanderings (the derive) to the use of montage aesthetics (detournement)[18], the Situationists attempted to measure capitalism and post war consumerism, while challenging architecture through performance and drawing. This was carried out post- World War Two in a climate of optimism tempered by the Cold War.

Porosity is an attempt to continue the interrogation of the city with similar tools but in a climate of acute paranoia and instability which falls under the banner of ‘The Age of Terror’. In his essay ‘Paranoiac Space’, Victor Burgin relates the space of exile to the concept of paranoid delusions. In particular he states;

In psychosis boundaries fail, frontiers are breached. In psychotic space an external object – a whole, a part, or an attribute of a person or thing – may be experienced as if it had invaded the subject….The sense of being invaded may be projected into some larger screen than that of the psychotic’s own body; the threat may be seen as directed against some greater body with which the psychotic identifies: for example, the ‘body politic’ of nation, or race. [19]

Like the Situationists, Porosity makes no claims to a utopian vision or a determined urbanist plan. However Porosity is more determined to find mechanisms for future action based on the pseudo-science of the ‘Porosity Index’ and the vision that it may be used by urban planners as a tool to identify what buildings desire to do next. This seemingly irrational idea, born of a simple observation of what  is happening inside our cities, has its roots in the ‘derive’ of the Situationists.  The imaging of the ‘Cactus Models’[20], and their subsequent interrogation via the games, leads to the possibility of architectural transformation.

Porosity has no overriding image of the theoretical future of cities like those of Unitary Urbanism, or one building covering the earth or country. Game actions, described in three films[21], both measure and test capitalism in its new regime of combating Terror, and seek new connections between structures which already exist.

Image 4:  Richard Goodwin, What a building Desires, Film Still 2005

The imagery and drawing associated with Porosity depend heavily on real documentation of existing structures. Every detail and space is carefully included within the equation. The new vision is extracted via a process of de-lamination of spaces and structure, which is clearly independent from any public participation. In this way Porosity is very different from the Situationist experiment. The subsequent representation of spaces deemed “types of public space” within private space identified during extensive Porosity research, constitute structures which question the social construction of the city within a capitalist system, city planning codes and security systems in the ‘age of terror’.

Porosity uses a pseudo science to reveal hidden public spaces and opportunities.  It involves a reasoned breakdown of our understanding of the citiy’s zones of public and private.  The principle action of the Porosity Researcher: exploring limits of possible inhabitation, redefine the city through activity and potentiality rather than its constructed fabric.

The proposition I contribute to fashion week is based on this new understanding of the city whilst being simultaneously born of my practice involving prosthesis and exoskeleton.  To begin, I must first indulge in explaining an ongoing preoccupation.


I have always been fascinated by the three wheeled bikes, adapted for multiple and specific tasks, which occupy the streets of every Chinese city in large numbers. Descendents of rickshaws and hand-carts, these bicycle / wheelbarrows continue to perform massive tasks, relentlessly visiting building sites, shops and street markets carrying or collecting produce and waste for recycling or performing as mobile factories for fabrication wherever they stop.

Image 5:  Photograph, Richard Goodwin, Shanghai, 2008

Image  6:  Photograph, Richard Goodwin, Shanghai, 2008

Recently I photographed a tricycle man in Shanghai flattening tin lids and opening various containers from which they had come.  This was on the spot recycling, packing and collection.  Other bicycle units float by, driven by their skinny riders with mountainous volumes of bubble-wrap or cardboard cartons.  These are familiar sights to all Chinese and western visitors alike, however these machines still cause me to pause.

Image 7:  Photograph, Richard Goodwin, Shanghai, 2008

The riders wear their respective machines like garments, endlessly mending and transforming them to suit functional necessity.  The drivers are not held in high repute or rewarded with high wages, yet they conscientiously recycle, clean up and generally fill every gap in the city’s program of development.

Arguably the drivers’ status should be substantially elevated and paid accordingly.  After all they don’t fill the air with smog or greenhouse gases and they are the worker bees of the city collecting their industrial pollen and delivering it for transformation.

If “fashion” is partly due to the commercial focus of a population at any given time, then let’s focus on them for a minute.

The following is a recount of an example of the birth of a fashion, which I witnessed in 1975 whilst living in London.  Grass-roots poverty coupled with disenfranchisement and a healthy dose of resentment, over the failure of the 60’s period of enlightenment, led to Johnny Rotten, clothed by Vivien Westwood from a shop called “Sex” on the King’s Road in London, to emerge as a hero or anti-hero.  The movement became Punk Fashion, the anti-Christ of the 1960’s. It was so interesting to be swept up in a sudden shift of cultural focus and at the same time to witness the clever manipulation of Malcom McClaren as he deftly wove fashion into a possibly nihilistic but highly creative movement corresponding to the needs of society at that time. Self mutilation, by many disturbed and self loathing youths damaged by poverty and neglect, was sanctified by those who saw disaffection as a sexy mock rebellion to be worn by middle class kids who only needed to piss-off their parents as a right of passage.

Great, so what’s new?

These ritual reversals and hijackings of the vernacular by fashion are eternal but not predestined.  The need for a shift is as inevitable as erosion and rain, yet to where and specifically to which and whom, is open and dynamic.  Who will be first to make a proposition that will stick or capture the imagination via ingredients, which need to be powerful enough to gain the extra acceleration of the “zeitgeist” of the time.

To claim that Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols were simply pawns and talent-less idiots is a nonsense proven by fact.  The power, courage and raw intelligence of this group’s assault on hypocrisy had to be seen to be believed.  I was there and it rocked my socks off and scared the living be-Jesus out of me.

However  McClaren had chosen them  and had helped manipulate the media and fashion machine in order to make them effective. They were his choice.  Abject became able and ripped became the new “whole’ as opposed to hole.

Who might fill this role in China today?

Ai Wei Wei is the most famous contemporary Chinese artist living today.  He dares to criticise China, having already suffered exile with his poet father till 1978.  Now acclaimed for his collaboration with Herzog and De Meuron on the “Birds’ Nest” Stadium, Ai Weiwei conflates the best of the west’s conceptual art movements with minimalism and performance.

Breaking Ming Dynasty  vases in “Breaking of Two Blue and White Dragon Bowls”, 1996,  Ai Weiwei reflects on the destruction of the Red Guards and the revolution while simultaneously entering the high church of western art. Ai Weiwei exhibits in Sydney, where I live, and recently created the installation “
“Through”, 2007-2008 at the Sherman Gallery.  It was one of the most extraordinary installations I have ever entered.

The gallery was filled with criss-crossing ancient timber columns in patterns resonating with the Olympic stadium in Beijing.  Angular geometries bisected both the space and a series of ancient Chinese timber chairs and tables.  Every joint, intersection and penetration was fitted and crafted to perfection by his team of carpenters.  The point of the work was made with such precision that I felt like I had walked into a metaphor and that it was now fact.  I had ceased to physically exist in the inversion of body and imagery.

On my last trip to Beijing I was keen to make the pilgrimage to his restaurant in Beijing called “Where to Go?”  As people warned me, it is hard to find within the Labyrinth of the city’s heart.  It is also highly fashionable with its minimalist style and austere seating arrangements.  Apart from the distinctive and plain Chinese food, it could have been located close to where I live in Sydney, in an inner-city suburb called Darlinghurst.  Despite his political rigor and profound artworks and lifestyle, he is obviously drawn to this style which turns minimalist modernism into an applied surface and style.  In other words, minimalism constructed as a decorative surface, which manifests the ultimate irony.  Irony built on irony.  Perhaps he is secretly smiling and knowing.  In his own home he conflates this style into the ancient Chinese Courtyard house to make a logical and admirable hybrid.

I sat in the restaurant with my Chinese friends and together we made Tofu Towers with our food and photographed the performance with much laughter.  We were the only people in the restaurant.

Ai Weiwei is powerful enough to choose for many so I will appropriate Ai Weiwei’s life momentarily.

“I have decided that I am as interested in 3-wheeled bikes as much as Richard Goodwin.  For many years I have photographed and studied how each vehicle takes on aspects of the personality and work practices of the owner and how the riders, who rarely seem to dismount, wear these exoskeleton machines like extensions to their clothing.  Bikes with bins for the plaster of the plasterer and flecked with years of mixing white plaster and scraping the tools of the trade.

Twig and branch broomsticks lashed to street sweepers trolleys, also adorned with rags and packaging which has been collected and saved like so many scarves and necklaces draped on a fashionable city commuter.  Black bins and tar filled pots overflowing with mascara for city streets and the potholes of a face called Beijing.

I have started to roam the city in search of the most particular of these machines in order to convince the owners to sell them to me for a good replacement price.  Already the collection is straining my warehouse storage buildings and preventing me from thinking about much else. As a result of this obsession I have decided to exhibit 3 of the best bikes in my Beijing restaurant.  The exhibition will take on the structure and ritual of a fashion parade. Models will wear the rickshaws and appear to own each one like a desirable garment.  The machine is an elaborate extension to clothing.  If one needs a pocket the size of a cupboard, then one needs to wear a garment which can hold that pocket and still be mobile and expressive.

In rainy weather, the plastic poncho with head hole and hood also covers the body of the bike and creates a beautiful dress and overcoat”.

Image 8:  Photograph, Richard Goodwin, Shanghai, 2008

Ai Weiwei takes this new phase of his work further by insisting on driving one of his collected machines into his Beijing restaurant from his more suburban home whenever he travels to the centre of the city.

With the economic structure of the world collapsing the 3-wheeled bike begins to emerge as a symbol of change, through art and fashion.

Necessity and improvisation are given the spotlight and second hand clothing shops start to sell more clothing than designer labels.

The recycling worker bees of the city become well-paid heroes and cult figures.

Modernism has two central metaphors, the machine and the primitive. Ai Weiwei continues along the machine metaphor path, as do I. If we now follow the primitive vein of Modernism through Post Modernism the territory for a new focus in fashion is different.

In the west it has been very fashionable to tattoo the skin for at least ten years.  Skin is the new cloth for a fashionable garment and also finds extended currency in Art.  Architecture also finds new elasticity for its skin via the power of computer modelling linked to LED display and projection to stretch external building envelopes over structure like skin tattooed with light and information.  This has been labelled hyper-surface Architecture. Tattooed buildings have the advantage of being able to change their spots and reinvent themselves without scars or the need to rebuild.

How interesting tattoos on human skin would be if they were able to change and yet still be permanent.  Skin designs in permanent flux like the city itself and like skin itself.

Tattoos and China have recently been married by the notable Belgium artist Win Delvoye.  Some of his most recent artworks have included tattooed pigs in Beijing. These pigs have been acquired for art farms which provide a better life for the animal and give it more value than its meat. The pigs are then mined for their skins which are displayed and sold as 2D artworks or stuffed as sculptures. The tattooed pigs are also displayed live as parts of major installations.

Delvoye’s tactics of irony and humour are endlessly applied to projects, which create dramatic

subversions of objects and living things via some type of transformation process.

Standing by one of the cages of pigs in a recent Beijing exhibition at 798, I was interested and shocked by the power of the spectacle of tattooed pigs and how the tattoos humanised these animals we love to eat.

The pig’s close association with the human being via its skin, hair, eyes and organs aided this phenomenon in general.  We mine it for food and to become part of our own bodies.  Also pigs are genetically close to us, being only separated by minor variations within the DNA.

In China, the fashionable human tattoo has yet to cover the bodies of many people in comparison to my hometown Sydney or other cities such as London or New York.  Tattoos proliferate as a fashion statement in the west.  They seem to have grown out of the punk and graffiti movements of the 70’s and 80’s to fill the necessity of youthful rebellion and rights of passage to adulthood.

Tattoos, scarification, branding, botox treatment, liposuction of fat, stretching and implants all add up to the final or recent canvas for fashion becoming a skin itself.  It grows with us over time, endlessly morphing, peeling and shedding in one continuous time frame of life.  The tattoo nails skin by pinning it in time, and stopping it dead in the ultimate “fashion-victim” statement.

The tattooed pig, however, is oblivious to its decoration and so wears it wel or unselfconscious.  Already a commodity, the tattooed pig becomes a self effacing rock star of fashion.

The marked pigs live longer and better than their brothers and sisters in a land full of millions of hungry people.

The pig is now fashionably marked to live in Beijing.

These special pigs are tattooed so that the population need not be tattooed.

They are marked and die for all Chinese like sausage works messiahs.

Skin is the new cloth and China shows us that its human population is free of indelible ink.

Without tattoos, Chinese people have become the new naked.  And what should the new naked wear but the Win Delvoye tattooed skins. This forms my central idea for Fashion Week 2009.  Skin which is already so close to our own and yet now be worn and changed.  China has thus developed, via the wit of a western artist, a way to wear tattoos which can be removed while remaining very authentic.

In my dream construct Ai Weiwei is taken by the ideas of Wim Delvoye and acquires hundreds of tattooed skins.  Fashion designers are hired to complete garments, which fit the bodies of specific fashion   models.  With the blessing of Wim Delvoye, Ai Weiwei, exhibits the rickshaws again with models dressing in these skin clothes and ponchos for wet weather.  It is further contrived that garments without tattoos can be acquired and then tattooed whilst worn by the customer according to their own requirements and designs.

“Fashion has been satisfied by the translation of art to more accessible items at lower prices and the cycle is driven around.  The 3-wheeled rickshaw transcends in status even further following an exhibition at Zendai MOMA in Shanghai.  At this exhibition it is revealed that these creations are really the work of Richard Goodwin who apologises to Ai Weiwei and Win Delvoye in his opening speech”.


Pigskin, Wheels and Cement


Image 9:  Pigskin, Wheels and Cement, photograph with photoshop manipulation, Richard Goodwin, Shanghai: 2009

This image is one of my most recent works created specifically for fashion week.  It represents fashion’s movement into direct social action.  Responding to the current financial crisis, I imagine fashion designers forging new alliances with the street and its inhabitants.  The art of transformation is applied not only to used clothing but also to other exoskeletons or prosthetic devices commonly worn by the public.

Devices such as rickshaws, bicycles, wheelchairs, motorised wheelchairs, scooters, motorbikes, ladders, chars, walking sticks and frames, breathing apparatuses, wheelbarrows, backpacks, umbrellas, mobile phones and GPS systems, brooms, rakes, leaf-blowers, lawnmowers, hearing-aids, listening devices, weapons, parachutes, light aircraft, windsurfers, raincoats, ponchos, boxes, garbage bags, roller skates, ice-skates, toboggans, sleds, cars etc.

Can prosthetics and garments combine and morph into the architecture of necessity?

In an age of dispossession, depression, war and terror, clothing will be more relevant and reactive due to this necessity for survival itself.  Great designers of fashion will be great improvisers and politically astute. This way poverty can become fashionable without romanticising it.  Architecture in response might become more porous or open in order to accommodate the new architecture of dress.

Pigskin, Wheels and Cement is a fashion proposition that undermines conventional notions of architecture, fashion, skin and the city.  It throws up a new paradigm for understanding the city, resonating with the thesis of Porosity.  The city is not only a built construction. The city is understood in the architecture of potential inhabitation, activity and life in continual flux.

In the “age of terror” and in a future where survival is paramount, architecture cannot remain stagnant and any misgivings of triviality in fashion are quashed. Under such conditions, architecture and fashion merge in necessity to become more temporal than the clothes we currently adorn.

If the site of fashion is skin and the body-skin is transcended, then fashion can no longer remain in the realm of cloth.  The body boundary transcends skin and in prosthetic mergence takes on cloth and object as Exoskeleton.  Fashion and what we wear necessarily evolve into an expressive object-fabric and, as both architecture and fashion parallel a world in urgency, we find that the two disciplines cannot be distinguished.


[1] Elizabeth Diller and Richard Scofidio, Flesh: Architectural Probes, New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1994, 25.

[2] Adrian Forty, ‘Industrial design and prosthesis’, Ottagono, 96, Sept. 1990, 124.

[3] Anthony Vidler, ‘Homes for cyborgs: domestic prostheses from Salvador Dali to Diller and Scofidio’, Ottagono, 96, Sept. 1990, 51.

[4] Anthony Vidler, ‘Homes for cyborgs: domestic prostheses from Salvador Dali to Diller and Scofidio’, Ottagono, 96, Sept. 1990, 52.

[5] Adrian Forty, ‘Industrial design and prosthesis’, Ottagono, 96, Sept. 1990, 116.

[6] Adrian Forty, ‘Industrial design and prosthesis’, Ottagono, 96, Sept. 1990, 116.

[7] Peter Cook (ed.), Archigram, London: Studio Vista, 1972

[8] Michael Sorkin, Exquisite Corpse, New York: Verso, 1991, 242.

[9] Ibid

[10] Michael Sorkin, Exquisite Corpse, New York: Verso, 1991, 244.

[11] Acconci, Vito, op.cit. p.154.

[12] Being John Malkevich, a feature film by Charlie Kaufman, directed by Spike Jonze, LA, 1999

[13] Porosity Research refers to an area of my studio research encompassing public and studio practices, which relate to my use of public art to test the functional boundaries of built form.  This work embraces the art practices of performance, installation, film and urban infrastructure as ways to research, explore and stimulate a revision of public space in the city.

[14] The Situationists where a group of artistic provokers who were active during the sixties.  They aspired to instigate social and political change through performance, drawing and design.

[15] de Zegher, Catherine, Wigley, Mark, The Activist Drawing Retracing Situationist Architectures from Constant’s New Babylon to Beyond, The MIT Press, New York, 2001, p.93.

[16] ibid, p.9.

[17] ibid, p.10.

[18] ibid, p.93.

[19] Igmade, 5 Codes Architecture, Paranoia and Risk in Times of Terror, Birkhauser, Basel, Boston, Berlin, 2006, p.183.

[20] Cactus Models are tree diagrams constructed from field research using the ‘Porosity Index’.  The models are colour coded in a gradation to indicate the degree to which they are accessible to prolonged stays.

[21] These include Jenga, Snakes and Ladders and Hide and Seek.  The three filmed performances / research studies were undertaken as a part of my PHD on Porosity Research.

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