Climate House 2020; Hacking Domestic Machines

Work by Lydia Kallipoliti + Youngbin Shin

Exhibition work 2021, collaboration work with Lydia Kallipoliti for "The Climate Imaginary" in NGV Melbourne, curated by Leire Asensio and David Mah.

Most revolutions start from the streets. The one, however, called for by the prolonged confinement delegated by the COVID-19 pandemic may start from the inner guts of the city: the house, as a newly formed world order. To battle the highly structured detritus of climate change, not as a series of discrete catastrophic events but as an encompassing existential framework, the social and political revolution, today, should start from the house: the locale of our current containment and interiorization that projects fantasies on how to inhabit the world.

Climate House 2020 examines smart ventilation systems, growrooms, microbial home kitchens, vertical green walls, hyper-oxygenated and synced sleeping chambers, Roombas, spirulina taps and wastewater treatment systems, in order to critique, ‘hack,’ and dismantle domestic machines as tools of surveillance and environmental control. The scope is not to provide living machines as preventative measures to combat climate change, but rather, to create tools of resistance to reinvent the house -in parts- as a world of metabolism and digestion; a world, unsubscribed to the persistent analytic monitoring of biorhythms and personal data.

To do this, we began by analyzing the drawings of British illustrator William Heath Robinson and his concepts of mechanization and absurdity as visually narrated in his contraptive environmental domestic machines. Robinson’s Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition in 1934 and his satire of concepts of efficiency, automation, air purification and liberation from labor, have become symbols of suburban modernity inside the home since World War II.

 Paradoxically, the absurdity that Robinson encapsulated almost a century ago reflects the massive delirium of pandemic domestic enclosure during 2020. In revising the drawings of Heath Robinson, we constructed visual and verbal narratives of interiorization, environmental control and assembled a chronicle of the microclimates that construct our contemporary landscape.

“Cleaning” addresses the obsession of confinement with details in the home and the propensity to remove dirt at all costs from all surfaces of the house yet dispensing with physical labor. With Roombas and other automated cleaning service robots, the compulsive need to remove dirt services an industry of global surveillance, by collecting personal data across homes all over the world. “Breathing” speaks to pervasive discussions on ventilation and air quality throughout the pandemic, as well as the fear of invisible pathogens, air pollutants and contaminants that we hope to keep at bay with several phytoremediation and purifications devices. “Sleeping” visualizes the scientific management of sleep, evidenced in devices that are commonly used to analyze patterns of health and provide useful feedback. At the same time, this continuous monitoring allows all aspects of life to be quantified, commoditized, and monetized. “Eating and bathing” renders the home as a recirculatory living machine where streams of wastewater can be rerouted to nourish edible hydroponic gardens. It demonstrates the fragility and limitations of food supply chains and the ways in which we may envision alternative microenvironments where food can be produced via recirculating resources.

Climate House 2020 is a critique of the idealization of comfort, the fear of disease, the obsession for biocontrol and the hysteria of containment. For the reality of the inside also generates its own hysteria. Inside, small-scale microbial communities teach us that in all likelihood, our containment will come back to bite us.

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Youngbin Shin

Architecture