Architecture for Dogs / Canine Utopia

The Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens was in the process of dismantling its (Do It) Outside exhibition, a show that is–or, now, was–nothing but displays of artists’ instructions to turn any space, any event, into the (re)creation of a work of art. A favorite: Rivane Neuenschwander’s “Gastronomic Translations,” which asks two chefs to prepare meals individually, independent from each other, using ingredients listed on a shopping list found in Frankfurt in 2002 (seriously: here’s the list). Iron Chef chez nous, without tears I hope? Why not? We also had Bruce Nauman’s “Body Pressure,” a copy of which we have at home.

Another favorite. A poster promoting Architecture for Dogs, no less delightful than you would expect.

architecture for dogs

Look at that little fellow! So pleased!

And, more analytically, Architecture for Dogs tries to reimagine architecture for humans as something that could be architecture, too, for the nonhuman companions dwelling with us. If we’re going to make space for them in our home, we might do offer them something more than a pet door, a flabby pillow, and a couch too precious for them even to look at. We might at least consider being anacommodated somehow by taking in this other life, so differently shaped and sensing than our own.

Philippe Rahm, Maison dédomestique, 2011 / Unhomely House

An example: Philippe Rahm‘s Maison dédomestique (Unhomely House), which I saw at the Bêtes off show at the Conciergerie in Paris last Spring. Rahm has designed a house suitable for the ideal sleeping temperature for dogs and humans. We like to have our dogs in our bedrooms with us, but they like things a bit colder than we do. Unless we’re selfish, jealous over our human privilege, why not make a space for them too?

And then, from the same show, we have even Utopias for dogs, modeled on other ideal cities. Here’s one:

Laure Tixier, Schöne Ile d'Utopie (Cités utopiques recyclées pour le bonheur des chiens / Utopian Cities Recycled for the wellbeing of dogs), 1996-97

These are by Laure Tixier (click through to her website for more), or here if you’d like to see my whole flickr set on the show.

If we’re committed posthumanists, how far should we go in giving up our human privileges? Shouldn’t this abandonment begin at home? If you’ve seen Chris Smith’s Home Moviesyou know it can be done, and you know, too, that our excessive life span might let us come back to ourselves after we outlive our charges.

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