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The Sinking of An American Standard in Venice
June 11, 2009 1:19 PM   Subscribe

At the 53rd International La Biennale di Venice (wiki) Art Exhibition, titled "Making Worlds," one particular artist's work took an unexpected turn. Mike Bouchet's installation piece titled "Watershed" was intended to be a full-scale replica of an American suburban home that would float on pontoons. Except it didn't.
posted by filthy light thief (26 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
The sight of an American house slowly sinking underwater is a much more poignant and relevant artistic statement than a floating house could ever be.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:24 PM on June 11, 2009 [11 favorites]


He's probably pissed, but yeah, this is pretty much better than he could have hoped for (at least in terms of symbolism).
posted by aramaic at 1:25 PM on June 11, 2009


Man, in a thousand years or so some archeologist is going to have one very confusing field day.
posted by anastasiav at 1:26 PM on June 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


Amusing quotes found while reading up on this: "Bouchet’s endeavor goes beyond representation or a kind of DIY prudence, into what can best be described as a real-life parody."

Abitare (international design magazine) recalled earlier floating art pieces/buildings, including Aldo Rossi's "Teatro del Mondo" (1979) and Robert Venturi's "Lieb House" (1967).
posted by filthy light thief at 1:28 PM on June 11, 2009


The sight of an American house slowly sinking underwater is a much more poignant and relevant artistic statement than a floating house could ever be.

Uh...uh...uh...yeah...yeah! Yeah! I meant to do that! TA-DA!!
posted by billysumday at 1:36 PM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised Venice even noticed this.
posted by srboisvert at 1:38 PM on June 11, 2009


Well. I was all set to be uncomfortable because I hate watching people get embarrassed, no matter who they are or for what reason. But the sight of that wretched house raised so much antipathy in me I just wish it had shown it going all the way under. It looks exactly like the the houses being shoved by the hundreds or thousands cheek by jowl with one another in new 'communities', laid out in what were once smallish fields, in what was once the beautiful town I grew up in. They are there so people can sit in their tiny, overpriced, ugly, ill-made house (no yard to speak of), then make a 45-minute commute in to Chattanooga, work, then turn around and drive home and sit in their house again. They are disgusting and I can only image the people who would consent to live in them have got something terribly wrong with them and when their ugly piece of shit goes sliding off its ill-considered foundations in the first big storm I will laugh. And this is where the guy says he's 'from'? The place where I grew up now looks like that, but it is sure as hell not where I am from. What kind of idiotic point was he trying to make anyway? I'm glad his stupid house sank.

I apologize for my small tantrum. Carry on and ignore me. I don't know anything about art. I feel much better.
posted by frobozz at 1:40 PM on June 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


poetic.
posted by vanar sena at 1:42 PM on June 11, 2009


So he renamed the piece "Katrina" and suddenly it all made sense.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 1:55 PM on June 11, 2009


The best part was hearing the artist himself talk about it--sounds like he fully appreciated the irony, and was even laughing about it.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:56 PM on June 11, 2009


> Uh...uh...uh...yeah...yeah! Yeah! I meant to do that! TA-DA!!

I thought his actual response was even better, amounting to "It's, um... well, that's not what I had in mind. But it kinda' works anyway. I can live with that."
posted by ardgedee at 1:57 PM on June 11, 2009


I'm going to see the biennale in July and I am so sorry I missed this! It would have totally made my trip to see it sinking. Ah well. Still awesome.
posted by rmless at 2:18 PM on June 11, 2009


A disaster in logistics, but also a memorable performance in art.

I love the art world.
posted by gottabefunky at 2:31 PM on June 11, 2009


So he renamed the piece "Katrina" and suddenly it all made sense.

He could've renamed it "The American Economy", or "The American Housing Crisis", and it would've made sense.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:44 PM on June 11, 2009


He could've renamed it "The American Economy", or "The American Housing Crisis"

Or "Beating the audience over the head with extremely cheap and obvious symbolism."
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:21 PM on June 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I am an American who owns a 100 year old two family house that I bought for a song ten years ago and I walk to work. I hope this means all this the bashing of Americans and glee at the misfortune of people who borrowed more than their homes are now worth is not directed at me. But if you feel like wishing me ill fortune just because of where I was born anyway, feel free. I really don't care.
posted by longsleeves at 3:26 PM on June 11, 2009


"Beating the audience over the head with extremely cheap and obvious symbolism."

I think that one has been used already.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:41 PM on June 11, 2009


Sad thing is, he coulda' just dumped it on some field somewhere and it would probably have lasted a good ten or twenty years. Probably fit a pretty big family in there. But no. Now he's not only lost the opportunity to spend his money in a directly meaningful way (arguable, I know), but now he's also cost that poor city an assload of money to clean it up. That's a big fucking house in their public waterways. Crossbeams, shingles, siding, drywall, tons of wood frame... you probably have to cut it in pieces to haul it away. Such a waste.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:42 PM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wonder if he had flood insurance.
posted by wayofthedodo at 3:59 PM on June 11, 2009


longsleeves, I think you're exempt from scorn and derision in this case. But if you support disposable arts, we might be able to whip up some disgust for you.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:00 PM on June 11, 2009


Should have used canoes for the pontoons.
posted by furtive at 6:11 PM on June 11, 2009


Should have done what my roommate did and just built a boat out of garbage and float it into the Biennale.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 6:29 PM on June 11, 2009


MiltonRandKalman - I read about that today! It sounded pretty keen.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:03 PM on June 11, 2009


Yeah! I meant to do that!

I suspect this accounts for more great art than we can possibly imagine.

I dunno. I can imagine a lot.

but now he's also cost that poor city an assload of money to clean it up

First of all, it's not clear that it's much more than the façades. Second, I rather suspect the Biennale has insurance.
posted by dhartung at 10:22 PM on June 11, 2009


I like how it actually turned into a more memorable work of art then it was intended to be. The image seems quite apt.
posted by jcruelty at 11:06 PM on June 11, 2009


Italian engineer is all like "We live in Venice! Of course we know how to float this silly little American house! We do this all the time!" House is like, "Oh shit, I can't swim!" Artist is like, "wow." Engineer is like " ... ahem."

Though I think it would have been more impressive if it had succeeded. There is something so exceptionally contrived about American colloquial architecture that I can imagine to have it floating out there in the harbor could have been odd, beautiful and thought-provoking in ways the obvious, "That whole American Dream thing? It don't necessarily float" is not.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:47 AM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


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