What’s so seductive about the aesthetic of the slum? Buildings in decay? Imbricated scrap multiplied into a shantiopolis? Ad hoc structures? Forms of life dictated by basic subsistence needs?
These conditions have proven to be great fodder for recent visual culture — Camilo José Vergara’s American Ruins, Michael Wolf’s Bastard Chairs, Rem Koolhaas‘ infatuation with the “culture of congestion” of Lagos, Cyril Duval’s design for Bernhard Willhelm’s Tokyo boutique based on the dwellings of the city’s homeless, or Mike Meire’s Global Street Food project are just a few examples. Some of these projects simply document phenomena, presenting them without apparent judgement, while others actively promote an aesthetic of poverty — which has sparked some debate.
A romanticization of the ruined and the impoverished can be traced back through the arts to at least the, well, the Romanic period (the paintings of Hubert Robert or the celebration of the bohemian, for example). Perhaps the global economic situation has made it a choice time to examine social, physical and aesthetic typologies of urban decay, slums and the poor.
Hubert Robert, Vue Imaginaire de la Grande Galerie en Ruines (1796)
Michael Wolf, Bastard Chair #5
Mike Meiré, Global Street Food (2009)
Peter Bialobrzeski, Slum 29
Peter Bialobrzeski, Slum 32