Since the early 1990s, the Californian artist Andrea Zittel works on her “Living Modules”, minimal inhabitable structures which reduces all the features to support daily living in a very small space.
The early modules were conceived to be located within an interior space and took the shape of compact collapsible furnitures; afterwards Zittel worked on the production of stand-alone units for exterior contexts. The modules, with their metal structure and wooden paneling, seem to directly allude to the aestethics of the architectural Modern Movement, with evident references to the famous Eames house or even to Le Corbusier’s Cabanon, yet Modernism is taken into account only for its visual aspects, since Zittel kept affirming not to be concerned with the issue of functionality.
Whereas almost all “Living Modules” are built as single prototypes, they show a potential for mass-production. The idea that the artistic exploration of domesticity or the construction of an escapist dream may be easily turned into commodified goods is underlined by the very process explored by Zittel to conduct her research. Playing on the ambivalent border between the construction of an indipendent, out of the ordinary place, and the serial production of a consumerist object of desire, the artist began working as a brand, (The A-Z Administrative Services) and ironically advertising her creations through catchphrases like “the ultimate luxury is not a limitless palette, but a small, intimate universe in which to explore the parameters of one’s own personal options.”
Ambiguity is a leitmotiv in Zittel Living modules, and a concept related to multiple spheres; the ambiguity between the notion of a private, personalized area and the identification of a place for social encounters is underlined by the artist in her interviews: “there’s a huge tension within my work between being alone and being with others“. Another contradiction explored by Zittel is the one between the house as a leisure space, as it used to be for every inhabitant (but the woman), and the house as a working space, a condition which is progressively imposing upon the domestic sphere. Inside the modules, functions, space and time are overlapped, and the same happens in the artist’s own life, where living, working and making art coincide.
All Images © Andreas Zittel