àftęr bėlòńgīñg – on a convoluted practice

“So what was your take on the theme of ‘belonging’, I mean, coming from Cyprus, having studied in Sheffield, worked in London and now studying here, you must have an interesting understanding of the theme?”

I smiled, staring blankly on the other side of the room as my brain was undergoing its last complex grammatical calculation attempt, an exercise to come up with a compelling answer, proportionate to the nature of all the discussions that had taken place the last 8 days prior to this encounter.

“I don’t know how to answer that question” I replied.

What the interviewer did not know, was that I had already forfeited the battlefield of mirage renderings, defeated by what I felt was a personal lack of intellectuality and unconventional thinking.

“The Academy is a forum organized by the Oslo Architecture Triennale and the Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO). It brings schools and students from around the world into a global dialogue and knowledge­sharing experiment, reflecting on the topics of After Belonging.” ¹

With our headquarters pinned at the old Stenersen Museum, the building that housed the Club 7 institution, I was assigned into one of ten units with other students from all over the world, and dropped into the neighbourhood of Grønland and Tøyen 20 minutes away on foot for one day.  These multi-cultural, grainy neighbourhoods were to be used as catalyst for the analysis and production that would take place at our headquarters within the structured and governing Vika neighbourhood.

 “Attila Horvath’s original idea was to create a place for alternative culture [] Maybe somewhat elitist.” 5

 

 

 

When the old Stenersen museum’s past was revealed to us, the building suddenly oozed of intrigue and curiosity. The parallels were uncanny. Club 7 was a multifunctional space, sometimes coined as a social club, where Oslo’s alternative scene from the 60s and 70s gathered. An important part of Club 7 was blues and Rhythm, which was a new addition to the music scene of the time. Club 7 attracted an audience that had different artistic interests, and had an influence on the younger demographic

Victoria Terrase. The government building next to our headquarters within the Vika Neighborhood, used by various political departments as well as as Nazi headquarters during the war2

 A street in Grønalnd. Grainy and multicultural3

Oslo Konserthus’ main stage, an icon of traditional culture and conventional performance7. Club 7 occupied the space adjacent to the main stage


Scene 7 performance at Club 7 ³

What are your thoughts on your Project/Academy?

“We don’t understand what this week is about”

“It’s difficult to say”

“Uncertain”

“It was very fun for us [] it was very intellectual and fascinating”

“In some ways its not very clear”

“I saw it in a kind of an exclusive academic situation” “The conversations in the parliament was one of the most intellectually charged in my life”

Interviews of students taken at the Academy

What was Club 7?

“Well I think you’re going to get a lot of different answers” – Velsa

“Yeah.. what the fuck should i say? Its damn difficult to say” – Christian Reim

“well, it was kind of….” – Thomas Berg Monsen

“What was I about to say? [] You will get different answers. Depending on who you ask, and when they were there” – Kjell Kjær

“What did I write about it again ?” “It was an institution”- Tor Egil Førland

Interview cuts from the documentary film  ‘Club 7’ 5

The brief was to translate our experience of the Grønland neighbourhood into a series of discussions surrounding the issue of ‘Belonging’ and produce through analysis, as a coherent whole, an exhibition of interventions. Throughout the week, we were grateful to be presented with insightful lectures from researchers, practitioners and agencies from all over the world, covering topics from gentrification in the area, to the global issue of oil extraction. Insights that fuelled even more discussion. There was a romantic attitude towards escapism within the institution, which usually carried activities that were unacceptable and/or illegal at the time. Whilst providing a pseudo-haven for homosexuality and recreational marijuana, Club 7 was in a way creating a bourgeois anarchistic protest, an attitude that was taken with opposition from the traditional community.
 THE ACADEMY PERFORMANCEThe Parliament at the Academy4 “The first years were the best. We sat at long wooden tables drank beer and discussed. And solved the problems of the world” 5
The Academy ran on a very logical structure:

  1. Observation
  2.  Analysis
  3. Presentation
  4. A parliament
  5. Production

Why was it then, that after 8 days of intense discussion, I was unable to answer the core question of which the Academy was running for?

I think the answer does not lay on the forum’s structure, nor on its execution. It is easy for us to dismount and criticise,

“The curators say that the “After” in After Belonging refers to a search, a pursuit, a quest for belonging. But they must also decide where they themselves want to belong: choose to engage with the real world, or retreat to the realms of arcane theorising? They have identified a fascinating field of investigation, and clearly had no shortage of ambition. Sadly, too many of the projects take compelling topics and murder them with a toxic cocktail of wilful complexity, pseudointellectual posturing and dumb conceptual art” 6 –  Extract from a critic on the ‘Oslo Triennial Exhibitions’ by Oliver Wainwright

but this act of dismounting instigates an existence of multiple bodies from which one can travel from – arguably, we as architects are disunited. If we are to blame someone for this misconnection, it is me, it is you and it is them as one whole:

-The viewers of the architectural debate as an event that is romanticised and idolized
-The initiators of postulation, condescension and pretence
-The actors of this disconnect

 

“I think Club 7 in many ways was a reaction to our well dress short-haired society” 5

 

Architects are seeking to belong by creating their own alternative language, but this elitism of theorisation and perceived intellectualism acts against the creation of a coherent community. Could this see the practice’s end? Club 7 members were seeking to belong by creating their own alternative language and thus forming a closed community. The institution was presented with strong opposition from the authorities and finally saw its end in 1985 through bankruptcy.

Reminiscent of a club 7 convention but with an academic backdrop, the ‘Academy’ presented itself as an environment for questioning and debating the architectural scene as a whole. Were we romanticising a convoluted intellectualism or following our own footsteps towards re-empowering the practice by redefining it’s boundaries? Like the new scene that Club 7’s environment assisted at flourishing, is this attitude to architecture a nourish for something new? Or our inferno?

 


1 Oslo arkitekturtriennale. (2016). Oslo arkitekturtriennale. [online] Available at: http://oslotriennale.no/en/academy [Accessed 2 Oct. 2016].
2 Kulturminnebilder.ra.no. (2016). Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage Management. [online] Available at: http://kulturminnebilder.ra.no/fotoweb/archives/5001-Alle%20kulturminnebilder/RA1_INDEKS/RA1/Topnummer/T001_02/T001_02_0084.tif [Accessed 3 Oct. 2016].
3 Castello, C. (2012). Halvparten Osloborgere er innvandrere i 2040. [online] Utrop. Available at: http://www.utrop.no/Nyheter/Innenriks/22345 [Accessed 3 Oct. 2016].

4 Instagram. (2016). Instagram photo by The Academy • Sep 14, 2016 at 10:31am UTC. [online] Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/BKVUOtMghhp/?taken-by=the_academy_2016 [Accessed 2 Oct. 2016].
5 Club 7. (2014). [film] Oslo: Indie Film.
6 Wainwright Oliver, ‘Oslo architecture triennale: Airbnb cosplay for the gig economy nomad’ (The Guardian) <https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/sep/12/oslo-architecture-triennale-review-after-belonging> [Accessed 25/09/2016]
7 Røstad, Paul A., ‘Konserthuset 1977’ (DigitalMuseum.no) <http://digitaltmuseum.no/011012599730?rows=72&query=Oslo%20Konserthus&pos=26> [Accessed 25/09/2016]