U5. OF DREAMS AND ISLANDS.
* Bench by the Pond, Ejector Seat, Evaluation Center
In a way, U5 is a perfect art collective. Their way of working continuously evolves directed at creation of seamless practice void of individual authorship. The collective’s identity is never multiple, but rather liminal, simultaneously that of a singular person and part of an integrated collective body. U5 uses transformation as means to run a constantly changing practice. The collective lets go of ego and ownership of individual credit. Practising in an organic manner, U5 uses chance and unpredictability as a tool. Its transformational identity, a certain fluidity of morphing individual and collective selves, is reflected in the open to change and chance character of the project.
Everything around U5 has an impact. Cultural position of the collective’s latest project, the Recreation Areas makes every area, somehow a product of multifocal influence. Driven by way of working and being, identity and entanglements of the material, archive and memory, U5 explores dreams and cultural codings we filled our realm of existence with.
For more than 10 years, U5 has been working with found materials, a result of their interest in everyday, colourful things, handicraft, kitsch, and mass-produced items.
In Recreation Areas, found objects and dreamt out desires act as an anchor of a specific piece (island), mapping archipelago of memory and cultural relations. Manifestation of these dreams and threads, encompass continuous feedback. Feedback from the collective itself, from the artwork, from PALM (the collective’s video livestream camera) and from the public. Each lasting, yet temporal dream equally individualised and standard.
* Installation views
THE DREAM OF RECREATION. ARCHIPELAGOS OF DESIRES.
It is so good to see you again. During our last interview, we discussed in depth your practice, collaborative dynamics and working methods. It was a really great conversation and by then I already knew I would like to talk to you again. This time I have in mind to focus on your recent project; the “Recreation Areas”.
The idea of ‘Infrathin Interviews’ was conceived with the notion of a continuously evolving archive in mind and I think that it is something you probably appreciate from the position of your practice.
I wanted to discuss the origins of an ongoing project tapping into the concept of a Recreation Area. Recreation Area is a dream, a memory, a desire, a product and possible tool of power. The underlying structure is availability and offer of dreams (and to dream). You buy dreams. And you buy INTO dreams. In the “Recreation Areas” you’re kind of playing with this idea and I wanted to ask how that came together?
The “Recreation areas” initially emerged from our ongoing practice of building models. This time we didn't choose to build the whole structure with the networks in between. Instead we chose to have just buildings, the location itself, like islands without further surroundings. It starts with a selection process of different islands, which in turn get connected to one another. And the person making the selection holds this ecosystem together. And also can move them around and connect or disconnect them.
Among the Recreation Areas there are the Centipede Lobby, a Beauty farm, a Sprouts Garden, the Ridgewood Condominium, Moby Click, etc. They are metaphors and if you put them in connection with each other, new levels of meaning emerge. The selection is influenced by your own mental state. What is currently in your consciousness, what do you exclude, what do you repress?
You place the Malibu Beach House next to the Fast Food Restaurant, but what happens when the atomic wasteland borders those sites ? Networking the sites initiates a relational thought process, which reaches out from a retreat into your dream house to complex real life problems like land reclamation or gentrification.
We also looked more into making models and the use of models in our society. We make mathematical models to understand or architectural models to build, but we thought maybe we need models to believe? And then maybe we could find out: ” What do I believe? What do I want?”
The key question is: “Where to place the desires to dream and desires of dreams? We really love to ask this and to see what people choose. Which models would you choose and how many or if you could choose between all of those, which ones do you desire and what games do you want to play”.
* Funky Fire Place
To me, the process of creation of islands comes from the need to create worlds. So the game is to pick the unit and to create your own little world, your own little universe. And in a sense, that's what I was thinking about when I mentioned archipelagos. Because it's almost like an act of mapping, mapping of the dream, but also mapping of dreams as a product. I think of patterns in culture, where you are being convinced what sort of dream you should have. How to buy into a dominant pattern and process of being influenced by it. And then, you re-create.
* Evil House
Absolutely. We also think of bringing this further with a kind of 365 days book, a calendar. The idea is to have one Recreation Area for each day, so the sites will be connected with temporality. They also belong to certain categories we established, like the elements: earth, water, fire, air or categories like routine, pleasure, labour, obsession. Through this ordering system unique combinations arise for each day, which can be further interpreted. Through the combination patterns can be recognised, thoughts can be sorted and coded solutions to not considered problems can be found.
* Glacier, Japanese Restaurant, Garden
PARKS AND RE-CREATION
When I Google searched your project, what came up was mostly football practice pages, or overall team sport’s websites. What do you think about that? I mean, I kind of like it. It is an almost accidental extension of a project. I personally think of island resorts and island cruises when prompted by the notion of a recreation area.
I'm not sure because if I Google it, I have a fishing spot, playgrounds, rivers, people barbecuing. On the other hand, maybe it's the result of an AI suggestion based on your search history, etc.
Maybe it's also because I Googled: U5 + recreation areas. And of course, what comes up first is your project.
Actually, it was pretty funny. On the top came up your project’s page and below, about 10 different links on where you can find recreation areas. And it seemed to be always the same page, which was coming up with these ideas about soccer practice, football team and different meeting spots. It made me think about the title, which taps into the idea of what sort of dream one should have, what sort of sense of belonging. Because the island itself is a form of belonging or somewhere where you want or don't want to belong. Like those game sports and recreation areas. It made me think about how is different my idea with islands and cruises, Google’s AI, your own, someone else's and so on.
After I read this question, I thought of your suggestion, and I kind of liked it. I think the way you find recreation and the way people define it, very individual. You also gave us an idea that we need a football spot. We would love to have a football recreation area and we would definitely change the rules of the game. We discussed it because we are not football fans at all. So we said, “Okay, I will be a football fan if there's a change or a new rule added”. For example, the first half of the match would be played by a female team and the second by men, and only the common end result counts.
When I initially looked at your project, I immediately thought about islands, that sort of very commercial sale of notion of a holiday, of the idea of the paradise that is supposed to be recreation. Place where we are expected to re-create.
But when I found that football page on Google search, it reminded me of the fact that a few decades ago recreation was something that happened within the city space in specially devoted places, that was within the team and people were doing things together. It made me think how incredibly individualised and single cell-based the contemporary culture has become.
* Drive in Cinema
Recreation nowadays is ingrained in your life cycle. You recreate yourself during your time off so you can go back to work and be productive during the week, and get yourself in form and to go back into the capitalist life fully functional. To take it further, we consume while on holiday; maybe go to a yoga camp, or spa, and you pay. It too, is a business.
P: It's less social and community-based and more of a product. And in a sense you yourself are a product too.
* Moby Click, Sprouts Garden, Grotto
TOPOGRAPHIES OF MEMORY.
You have been working with found materials throughout your practice. We spoke about it earlier extensively, but in the case of this series, they are very much at the heart of the creative process. Object is an impulse or a spark to a specific piece, specific dream, or the beginning of a story. It is also a memory, each material has a history of its own. So the memories layer; cultural memories, U5’s, memories of the material itself, of the working process, of the work’s life-being exhibited, documented, received, etc. The memory is the inspiration, an actual source of each work’s topic and form. So it's like an archive and archipelago, it is a process of mapping. What do you think the map will eventually show?
We discussed it, not completely, but it came up. Mapping is an infrastructure, it's an act of putting things in place. The project is ongoing and ephemeral; the material is also ephemeral, something we continuously throw away. But sometimes we have this urge to keep just one sheet of paper or a shell that we found during the vacations, because we loaded it with memory. In other societies people learn from dreams and get inspired by their own ideas or problems, not by pushing them to the site so that they don't deal with them. We say they dream, because dreams can be a form of communication within societies, a form to deal with memory amongst us.
So the best way of understanding this is that a map that comes with models to believe, should be ephemeral and ongoing and include dreams, desires and memories. We need new Recreation Areas and maybe older ones will be exchanged because nobody believes in this or that recreation area anymore. Some areas are the hinterland for a while, but soon they come back into play.Maps are a bit partisan, because of their baggage in Western culture and that's why we define the project through notions of ephemera and the ongoing character, choice and transformation.
* Centipede Lobby
What you’re saying reminds me of Peter Weir’s movie” The Last Wave”. It’s story of a lawyer in Sydney representing pro bono tribal Aboriginal Australian in a murder trial.
As the story progresses it changes into this oneiric tale. Lawyer begins to have strange dreams, and references to native Australian culture become more pronounced, telling the story of impending catastrophe, disaster coming to destroy the land. The Last Wave. At one point, two main protagonists are having a conversation. And the client says, “You have forgotten what dreams are” exposing the core failure of Western culture. It is also a reference to the concept of dreaming, where there is an entire spirit realm that exists subsequently with the real world, an interwoven, yet universe separate.
* House of Inventor, Weeping Willow, Weather Station
I also wanted to talk about titles, billboards and videos. They are in equal measures playful and critical. There is something about the idea of creating cheap plastic objects with hot glue, cultural (and actual) recycling of material, visual and commercial cliches of dreams and manufactured experiences. Do you think it is almost like a recreational Babel? The dreams provided and standardised versus recycled and poeticised?
We see titles as an entry point for imagination. They give the audience a hint that could let them recognise things more easily. If you look at something you start to read it and then you discover by yourself, “oh, there's a bed or this could be tables and drinks on top so it could be a bar or a restaurant”.
We like that recreation area sculptures are mobile and small, but the screen accompanying the work is like a vastly oversized iPhone. When we install works in museums, we put the huge screen and the recreation areas next to it and the arrangement comes with a kind of a catchy soundtrack attracting attention. It's a mixture between screens in shopping malls or in public spheres and the home TV. It definitely plays with the attraction that advertising carries. The video shows the titles of the recreation areas and some of them have been chosen to let the audience dive deeper into it. There are small stories about their function, or dysfunction, the category and element the recreation area belongs to and the abilities that it can release.
To me, they are really a mixture of commercial wasteful cheapness and selling strategies. They’re so tiny, needless, made out of glue and waste. Like tacky plastic toys, something not really needed, easy to throw out, a disposable dream, something that very easily loses its own meaning. And is being immediately replaced by someone else's proposal for dreaming. The title is an anchor, but actually you can fill it up with anything you want, but in a sense you already are filled with something.
Yeah, absolutely. Dreams are individual. We cannot translate or bring them to other people directly. We need other mindsets and ways of communication. And we must not forget dreams can be part of everyday resistance.
* Red Monkey Temple
I think that's why I like this project so much because it reminds me of so many different things that exist in culture. In politically charged John Carpenter’s “They live” aliens secretly run the Earth and you cannot see them for what they are, unless you wear special sunglasses. The main protagonist discovers this, puts the glasses on and looks at the billboards around the city, streets, and shopping malls. And instead of the advertisement for products, it actually says ‘OBEY' or things like that.
What you did, made me think as well about that kind of play with obedience and control built into the commerciality of things.
Advertisements want to sell you something you don't need and it's often something you don't want. Often, things that can be bought are a substitute for values that cannot be bought. Recreation areas could make you suspicious.
It points to the cheapness of dreams constructed in our culture. I think, in a sense, that this is what you're talking about. The tension between how we are supposed to see things and how we see them ourselves. Just that tiny moment. Minuscule difference.
Sometimes you go to this place and it’s a disappointment due to the tourism industry, but we end up thinking, what would I have done if I had not been there? We do not have to see all this or that, maybe imagination gives us more pleasure than actually going there?
Also in the digital age, there is the question whether there is still such a thing as being there - or not being there. Aren’t we always in different places at the same time?
* Preserve Area, Playground, Strawberry Farm
WAYS OF PRACTICE
I decided to pose this question to all people in the project. I wanted to ask how do you see practice as such? I know we discussed this previously, but it is a different day, things happened in - between and we are in different points of our respective practices. So I thought it could be interesting to approach the subject from a different angle, so to speak.
I have been thinking about the notion of practice as such. When practice is discussed with artists, the assumption is that the focus of investigation is the creative working method. But there are many other practises and many ways of practising things. They frequently mix and cross-over. One can even say that the experience of being a member of society is a form of practice, that our daily routines are a way of practising life and completing its rituals.
How do you see your practice in context, or more to the point, in relation to daily practice of living (as a part of a collective, community, a social body)?
We spoke about your attitude to the collective as a creative body and working process, but I wanted to discuss you as a collective in relationship(s) with another, larger body, a larger collective-society.
Something that comes to mind, is what Mierle Laderman wrote in her manifesto where she spoke about Balinese saying that we do everything within our daily moments. We do not need an app. We can do everything right in our daily life. I find this so beautiful. We lost a connection with our daily rhythms, and in a way, it would be awkward to go back fully to them. Now we live in this split life, we have an iPhone and metaverse, but we don't want to end only with them. On the other hand this is our daily routine, that is what we use, how we function right now.
I think it's almost like a change of rhythm. To me, the notion of practice is something that consists of rhythms, of the sense of, if not exactly repetition, but specific structure within it, but now everything has become so temporary and so chaotic and so disposable that it's very difficult to create that grid underlying structure of things.
* Blue Spa
Over last month we went back to what we can describe as our old way of practising. We went back into, I would say, more making things by hand, because it is a process which allows talking about everything that has been going on. And this way of practising comes with time and embedded tempo. We do a lot of ceramics, which is a lot about the doing and the waiting. It's not so much focused on the object, but on the process of sitting together. The handcraft gives you a rhythm.
You have to wait until one stage is ready and then have to go back again. You wonder and feel happy or disappointed and you repeat the process and you do it again. And it's the same as with creating the recreational areas. It's super playful.
I personally have to say that recently I had to spend quite a lot of time on monitoring and developing my own rhythms, because I realised how many rhythms were actually imposed externally on me. Once this stopped, during the lockdown it was easier to stop and reset altogether.
There's one more thing I wanted to say at the end of this encounter. You've mentioned that it was almost like coming back to the beginning of how you had started to work together.
And I think it's just the fact that this project, like the recreation areas themselves, is so playful. I believe that ‘playful’ means you need other people to be playful with. Playful is more than one person. In a sense, it delves into this idea that you solve this individual dream that you're supposed to just fulfil yourself. But actually what the whole project is, it's play, it's fun, which means, it's other people. During the production process, but also in its making, in mapping, in connecting.
It was so nice to see you again and thank you so much.
* Cemetery, Richmond Condominum, Reef
U5 is an arts collective that is opposed to traditional notions of individual authorship. U5 actively pursues historical and contemporary approaches to research in art, especially approaches that transcend disciplines, or produce new forms of art and knowledge. The collective U5 first formed at Zürich University of the Arts in 2007 before graduating as a group in 2011. The working method depends on unanimous founding principles: • All members have equal rights, but consensus is not necessary. • All works are created in cooperation. • Presence and absence influence the work equally. Work originates from a fascination for materials of all kinds, especially everyday materials and utensils made of plastic. The accumulation of digital and analogue materials is an important component of the artistic approach, both a ballast and a trove at the same time.
Since the collective‘s foundation, all work processes have been documented and archived in real time with the help of a self-developed live camera (PALM). The handling of this absurd amount of material and data forms the basis of production. Since 2011 the collective’s studio in an industrial building on the edge of Zurich gained additional significance as an event space, as a permanently transforming, semi-public place. During four years the «Automatenbar» took place every Tuesday: a live format for music, performance, screenings and discussions.
* Seastar Throne
The studio is a production site for objects, costumes, films, installations and performances that oscillate between natural, artificial, fictitious and virtual. They are combined with sound, dance, food and drinks, scent, fog and light and then assembled into immersive installations in the exhibition space. Such exhibitions are not a final product, but iterations for further productions. They are possibility-spaces in which something can happen that is not-thought-through precisely, but which can provoke reactions and actions.
* Loo of the Year
*SM Studio, Beauty Farm, Bus Stop