Watershed Down

[Image: Mike Bouchet's Watershed being towed through Venice towards the Arsenale basin, against a backdrop of Italian palazzi].

Note: This is a guest post by Nicola Twilley.

The 2009 Venice Biennale opened this week with an unexpected and quite beautiful piece of performance art. Artist Mike Bouchet had built a one-to-one scale replica of a typical American surburban home that he planned to install on floating pontoons in the Venice Arsenale basin. He called the project Watershed.

David Birnbaum, the Biennale's curator, told camera crews filming the installation that he thought the project "sounded a bit megalomaniac," but the sight of the oversized house, clad in beige vinyl, flimsily bobbing up and down against a backdrop of palazzi and piazzi as it was towed through Venice's canals, was breathtaking. It was an architectural icon of the American Dream revealed in all its formulaic absurdity.

Amazingly, then, one of the pontoons capsized, and the entire house sank to the bottom of the canal—an unintentional yet utterly perfect coda to the house's own built-in commentary. Now, a fake generic American suburban home will add its ruins to the underwater archaeology of Venice.

[Image: Mike Bouchet's Watershed goes down].

A two-minute video of the house's journey, and eventual fate, can be seen in full on YouTube.

(Originally spotted on Flavorwire).

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Blogger dbackman said...

The sinking of the house had to be intentional. Now who is going to clean it up? Or will the artist lead scuba tours?

June 09, 2009 2:23 AM  
Anonymous Elisa said...

wow, this is a shocking picture!

June 09, 2009 5:24 AM  
Blogger CdrJameson said...

Sadly not as dramatic as it appears - it looks like the canal wasn't deep enough to cover the house, so it'll no doubt get removed fairly quickly.

The canals of Venice are not nearly as deep as Casino Royale might have you believe.

June 09, 2009 8:15 AM  
Blogger Marisyl said...

The Arsenale is Venice's shipyard, off the basin of the Grand Canal. It is not the usual shallow canal. In the early 16th century, the canny Venetians developed methods of mass production enabling them to turn out a ship a day. The house must be floating.

June 09, 2009 11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is by far the funniest thing I've seen on BLDGBLOG. But where's Keyboard Cat when you need him?

June 09, 2009 11:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another terribly wasteful use of money by an artist for "arts" sake - as he laughs at the end of the video. Must be nice to have so much money one can laugh as it sinks.

In retrospect, he could have built to house for an ever increasing number of homeless families. But most wealthy artists have not a clue as to reality anyway.

June 09, 2009 12:49 PM  
Blogger schwarzestiefel said...

Intellectually this is so shallow. Why is this better than a photo or video montage or a sketch or painting of the same thing? Why bother making a simulcra of a house to impress the metaphorical upon people that can't understand a metaphor in representation? Why bother making something for people that can't think symbolically?

June 09, 2009 3:36 PM  
Anonymous amanda said...

«he could have built to house for an ever increasing number of homeless families.»

...ignoring, of course, the complexity of the housing situation: taken a few months ago, the
destruction of model homes in Southern California

Where did I see this first? I hope it wasn't on this blog.

June 09, 2009 4:05 PM  
Blogger Urban Floop said...

Our sense of satire and urge to critique seems to have transformed from Aldo Rossi's floating theatre with its poetics (which was used for the Venice Biennale in 1979 as a recall of the floating theatres which were so characteristic of Venice in the 18th century) to American suburban houses...or maybe its just the recession.

June 09, 2009 7:02 PM  
Blogger Immortal Ping said...

this was no "accident", let's be serious. this is serious art :)

June 10, 2009 9:24 AM  
Blogger richard said...

So now it's in the tradition of Duchamp. And so much more interesting than it would have been had it merely floated: bravo.

If it was intentional, what part does Bouchet's "surprise" play in the performance? My first thought, watching the movie, was that he should have played it like Miles Davis and claimed the accident as his own. Perhaps this is the new version of that posture.

June 10, 2009 10:09 AM  
Anonymous mcmlxix said...

I call it Plastic Bourgie Death Trap...

...but is it art?

I paid hundreds of thousands of pounds for this...

...then it's fabulous.

June 11, 2009 11:05 PM  
Anonymous Beth Donovan said...

What a waste, but then, I assume it was simply an empty structure.

Isn't it curious that Europeans really don't like the idea of home ownership in the USA?

Why is that?

June 19, 2009 8:14 AM  
Anonymous phil said...

i can appreciate differentiation and originality. i like fresh and new ideas. sorry - this just does nothing for me.

July 01, 2009 5:53 AM  

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