Michael Rakowitz is an artist based in New York who works in the urban realm, his most famous project being paraSITE, a series of inflatable homeless shelters that plug into the vent outlets of buildings, creating a warm and dry space for their inhabitants. Custom designed for each individual their oddness in the streetscape gives visibility to the homeless, past whom ordinary people walk by without a second glance. In an interview, Rakowitz relates that the initial shelter was made from black plastic in the hope of providing privacy and darkness to sleep in, but upon asking the opinion of his clients, he realised that what was most important to them was to be able to see out in case of attack and a desire to be seen and acknowledged.
In another project Return, he sets up an import and export company between Iraq and the US, the first to do so since the Iraqi invasion. The on-going project manifests itself in a number of guises including a small shop in Brooklyn, New York which was set-up as the office of the business and would also sell the dates upon their eventual arrived. The trials and tribulations of the small, perishable goods became a metaphor for all those fleeing the increasing sectarian violence in Iraq, including the first consignment which never made it past the Syrian border. The plight of the dates was followed by many visitors to the shop who came first to buy the dates and then to merely inquire on their progress.
Combining the expertise of a designer with the sharp insight of an artist, Rakowitz's projects do manifest themselves in the space of the city, but they create spatial agency through agitating the everyday reality, altering social relations, and thus makes visible issues and contradictions that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Cash, Stephanie, George Donny, and Michael Rakowitz, "Protecting Culture: Baghdad." Art in America (May 2009): 29-31.
Rakowitz, Michael, "Conversations …." http://www.nyfa.org/level3.asp?id=432&fid=4&sid=8 (accessed September 7, 2009,).
Fahim, Kareem, "Dates with an Artist: An Iraq Installation." The New York Times, October 10, 2006.
Thompson, N., The Interventionists: Users' Manual for the Creative Disruption of Everyday Life. (MIT Press, 2004).
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