Containers Adrift

Express transportation company advertisement, 2003

As primitive hut of industrial modernity, the container combines the two founding myths of functionalism: standardization and mobility. Behind the multicolor stacks of containers, the standard dimensions and mass production materialize old architectural dreams of repetition and efficiency, that together with the extreme abstraction of modular geometry redeem the dwelling from the traditional figuration that burdens the mobile homes of the pioneer Voisin or of the Australian house removers. Artistic object for Matta-Clark, and fashion statement for the design studio in Tokyo, the container also serves as a handy tool to build instant settlements such as Guantanamo’s Camp Delta. Shelter of urban marginality – and sometimes stage for the reconstruction of self-esteem that Aki Kaurismaki portrayed in A Man without a Past –, a container becomes a house only when it is protected from the weather with the parasol or umbrella of the pitched roof. But a roof over our heads does not rescue us from the prison servitude of the cage-barracks for laboratory-monkeys in Yunan, or from the human zoo imagined by the artist Zhan Huan: two dark faces of the submission of the organic to panoptical standardization...[+]

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