this issue contains
>> An Interview with Andrea Zittel
>> Miwa Yanagi: The Beauty of the Prison
>> Franz Ackermann's Mental Maps
>> New Forms of Governance
>> Working on the Myth

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Social Study: An Interview with Andrea Zittel

How one woman learned to live with others by moving out: In the 1990s, Andrea Zittel created her Living Units, which could be installed as capsules into private apartments. The artists wanted to use them to study how people organize their living spaces. In the meantime, her Units are now part of museum collections; and at the request of the Danish government, Andrea Zittel has created an artificial island off the coast of Denmark. For some time now, she's lived in Joshua Tree, in the California desert, removed from daily life in a large city. Cheryl Kaplan spoke with the artist about her work, the limitations of privacy, and medieval cities as an alternative to contemporary principles of organization.


Andrea Zittel: A-Z West, Photo: Andrea Zittel


Her parents have been living on a 31-foot sailboat in the South Pacific for the last ten years. Don't worry, the Toyota van is parked nearby, and when they do venture elsewhere, for instance to visit their daughter in California, a Dodge camper is within shouting distance. Since the early 90s, when Andrea Zittel created the Office for A-Z Administrative Services, an ersatz holding company that now contains two branches, A-Z East and A-Z West, she has been operating like a modern day city-state, dividing her life between New York and Joshua Tree, California.

A-Z, the manufacturing prefix to her works, includes A-Z Living Units, A-Z Escape Vehicles, A-Z Cellular Compartments, and A-Z Deserted Islands. Zittel's move to California at first appears decidedly anti-urban. But if you think that desert equals privacy, then you haven't heard about the amount of people that suddenly show up at A-Z West. Even the town, in its medieval configuration, was both a container and a magnet. Mobility, after all, underscores Zittel's practice, letting her and others gently destabilize the everyday. I talked with Andrea Zittel from her home at A-Z West.


Andrea Zittel: A-Z Homestead Units #2, 2001,
Deutsche Bank Collection, © Andrea Zittel

Cheryl Kaplan: In 1992 you said: "Some artists make objects; my work is the organization of a life." What is the connection between your choice of a corporate language and the organization of a city? How does the structure of A-Z East, A-Z West, and Administrative Services take urban planning systems to a private level?

Andrea Zittel: I never thought about the structure of cities much until recently, and that's because of living in Joshua Tree. We're part of a huge county, San Bernardino. They're re-writing a lot of the legislation, so they're letting us write our mission statement. I've been going to town meetings, learning how things work. We're talking about whether to become incorporated.

CK: Town planning systems seem to parallel the thinking behind your work.

AZ: I was interested in how an individual can become a whole corporation and how powerful corporations act like governments. The head of the corporation is a kind of ultimate monarch.

CK: Designers develop corporations to promote individual products that are branded and gain market share. What you're doing seems closer to the evolution of a town, focusing on access to people instead of products. The creation of your products becomes the vehicle to a relationship with the owner.

AZ: It was also a form of personal empowerment, having a company name.



Andrea Zittel: A-Z Six Month Seasonal Uniforms, 1992-95 installation view Deichtorhallen Hamburg, (1999-2000) ,
Courtesy: Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York and Deichtorhallen Hamburg, © Andrea Zittel

CK: And later a company uniform. I think of public workers having uniforms. Is the uniform about frugality and economy of design, or a way of minimizing public difference?

AZ: The clothing was a reaction against excess and designer clothing. I come from a different class than the one I operated within in New York. I couldn't afford name brands. To fight back, it didn't matter which system you followed, as long as you had a system.

CK: Economy is an aesthetic decision as well as a social one.

AZ: I've successfully managed to make my garments as glamorous as a name brand - that's a small personal victory. The frugality relates to what you said, that some people should be forced to turn in their excess clothing. My mother was a discount shopper. She had an 18-foot closet crammed with clothes with price tags on. That felt more oppressive than having one steady garment. There was something liberating about one garment.

CK: Do you still have a steady garment?

AZ: I got carried away with the felt garments. Now, I have four dresses each season and I wear jeans when I work. I miss the ease of the uniform.


Andrea Zittel: A-Z Uniforms: Summer`99 (Berlin), 1999, Courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery New York, © Andrea Zittel Andrea Zittel: A-Z Uniforms: Fall 2001, Courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery New York, © Andrea Zittel


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