Mid-century modern architecture is just very strange. It tries to bring the outside in, with lots of natural light and curves and minimalism. But there is nothing “in nature” that’s that clean and bright. Its obsessiveness seems more like a great example of extreme human behavior than one of austerity. Like a self-flagellating monk.
I really love what Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe did to a mid-century modern house in LA last month. For “Bright White Underground,” they created a narrative about a fake researcher in psychotropic drugs who lived in the house in the 1960s and used it to test new drugs on unsuspecting guests. The house is made to look as though it was abandoned around that time — a lot of boxes, dirt and grime, and crazy things on the walls. The windows are blocked off, making the house seem closed in, and there are little mirror-tunnels that let viewers look into other rooms. Their project undermines the house’s mid-century modernism in every way, while pointing out the oppressive feeling the design can create. It’s intense, but Freeman and Lowe seemed to play down the shock-factor/spectacle. They totally invested in the realism of their artificial history. They told Art21 in an interview that they hoped to encourage introspection and the creation of unusual connections.