There is an inherent dialogue in the pairing of Jean-Pascal Flavien and Mika Tajima at Los Angeles gallery Kayne Griffin Corcoran, one that explores how our physical environments probe our emotional and social states, and vice versa. It is easy to think of architecture as fixed and permanent, but their works prove that the spaces we inhabit can be flexible and can afford their human participants a surprising amount of agency.
Flavien’s Statement House, as erected in the gallery’s courtyard, is a beautiful blush pink, its interior illuminated by a round skylight. But physical attributes do not describe this house, rather, its inherent mutability does. By inviting two screenwriters, David L Brundige and Max Kopelowicz, to man a Twitter feed that serves as an ongoing 'script' for the house, Flavien explores the possibilities of language, humour and spontaneity in conjuring architecture and daily domestic life. A quick look at Flavien’s Instagram feed reveals his own ongoing observations of the house’s contingencies, including the shifting pool of sunlight at different times of day, to various guests that inhabit the house, to plans for the house that sometimes do, and sometimes do not, actually happen.
Installation view. Photography: Robert Wedemeyer. Courtesy of the artist and Kayne Griffin Corcoran
Tajima’s works are more specifically concerned with social spaces, particularly as shaped by labour and technology. Hanging on the wall inside the gallery is a work from the 'Epimelesthai Sautou (Take Care)' series, a cast acrylic form comprising a hot tub with four seats, spray-painted in bright red, yellow and purple. Directly in front of it is a sculpture that could be its inverse: a bench designed after Herman Miller’s 2013 Public Office Landscape furniture system, however, its seats are facing away from each other in an apparent conflict of workplace harmony.
The fixed configurations of the two sculptures provoke thinking on what it means to design for optimisation – for example, do we seek efficiency only to sacrifice flexibility? This question, as it pertains to cities, and to our increasingly vast digital spaces, is explored in Tajima’s Meridian, a light installation connected to a program that analyses the Twitter feeds of the citizens of New Songdo City, Korea, a master-planned city emphasising sustainability and hi-tech living. Tweets are analysed for positive and negative feelings, with the colour and intensity of the lights fluctuating in real time according to the aggregate sentiment. The artist notes: 'The installation underlines the entanglement of our embodied senses with a global network system that seeks to maximise "quality of life" through computational means. The pursuit of quality of life is at the expense of different possible ways of life.'
'Meridian', by Mika Tajima, 2016. Photography: Robert Wedemeyer. Courtesy of the artist and Kayne Griffin
Perhaps, then, the most possibility arises from thinking abstractly. On the wall amid the Meridian installation is Tajima’s Furniture Series, which is not of furniture at all but rather abstract compositions of spray enamel on flat acrylic panels, as if they were transcendent analogues to a desk or a chair. Her Negative Entropy textiles are more specific: the colorful, abstract weavings are visually based on industrial sounds, and represent individual laborers in different workplaces. Nearby, alternate floor plans for Flavien’s house, in different colours and with slight variations, hang cheerily on the wall, arguing that all you might need to do, if met with a challenging space, is to change the plan.