A meeting with Hans Ulrich Obrist. Talking about lockdown, homes, kitchens and smiles.

By Tiziana Casapietra

During the lockdown in Italy, the Ceramics Museum in Savona organized a remote ceramics laboratory pondering the changing perception of home, a place where we have all had to remain and isolate ourselves for weeks. Clay was brought to the participants’ homes and the Museum’s staff followed the development of their creations through remote meetings organized on Google Meet. The participants – children, adults and students who chose to spend this confinement period in their university residences – made dozens of ceramic works inspired by their homes.

Thinking about the different functions “the home” has acquired during the lockdown, the exhibition that Hans Ulrich Obrist made as a student in the kitchen of his home in 1991, came to mind, so I asked him to tell us about it. I am interested in analyzing the different meanings that our home may hold, especially in a moment such as this one. Home may now represent the center of our existence and the place where we have learned to simultaneously carry out different and overlapping tasks.

In this video, Obrist talks about “The Kitchen Show” and another project called “do it” where artists are invited to share with the public their written instructions related to the development of art practices. Anyone can follow these “open source” instructions and produce works inspired by the artists’ guidelines. Louise Bourgeois’ art instruction, for example, contemplates the act of smiling at strangers.

After reflecting on the functions of our different homes, we thought it would be appropriate to seize Bourgeois’ proposal and focus the upcoming ceramics workshops on the meaning of smiling at strangers. Alongside its protecting function, the home encloses and isolates us from others. It is simple to translate into ceramics the well-defined and closed shapes of home. A smile, on the other hand, opens ourselves up to others and shows them our faithfulness. Translating Bourgeois’ instruction of smiling at a stranger into ceramics is going to be a fascinating challenge.

Hans Ulrich Obrist is the artistic director of the Serpentine Galleries, London.
Tiziana Casapietra is the director of the Savona Ceramics Museum, Italy.

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