Aesthetics of the Improvised
This attempt to examine a peculiar way of problem solving, which has no dedicated theoretical background, demands for its development within a familiar context. We will use "improvised" as a way of naming structures that have in common either one or a combination of worn-out, unrefined, repurposed looks and at the same time demonstrate examples of practical, intuitive, empirical, temporary, and resourceful solutions.
This aesthetics are honest in their nature. The reference available for it is most often found on the media as information or by witnessing it oneself. They convey stories of fragility and latent adversity. The aspects that characterize these constructions challenge technical methods in an almost artistic manner.
Within similar practices, it is relatable to Arte Povera's aim where materials create dialogs with the precariousness of time and are linked to univocal gestures of primitive intentions. Distinct on the way the movement attempts to separate art from life, the improvised aesthetics are not a representation of, but rather they are expressed life, conceived unintentionally. Thomas Hirschorn’s installations can also be connected to these representations. However, they are different, for instance, from the spontaneous housing solutions in Tegucigalpa with colorful plastics and tin roofing sheets which represent the limitations faced a great number of people. These examples are also found in other developing contexts around the world.
Concerning their visual qualities, certainly far from vintage, rustic styles, and sustainable reuse in interior design or architecture, these are real. Ultimately, it is not about efficiency in resources, but not having any at all. It is not a stylistic option but an only choice.
There is a conflict that lies in presenting it as an art object. Perhaps, a more appropriate use is merely the presentation of itself into sympathizing better with this reality and questioning the use of it as a trend. In doing so, is a step forward to blur lines between, art, architecture and life.
A significant example of this is Rural Studio, part of the Auburn University in Alabama. Founded by Samuel Mockabee, this academic program's goal is to find concrete solutions for a town of poor people. Their creative solutions often transform repurposed materials into real forms of architecture. Yet, a further approach would be to see examples in urban contexts rather than only rural.
The essence of this improvised aesthetics could be traced to the rudimentary, some may say primitive, practices often seen in developing contexts. We can relate the gathering of available discarded material to the use of the local natural resources that characterizes vernacular forms of architecture. One example of this are retaining walls built out local quarry stones all with different shapes and fitted together as well as steps built on a sloped terrain out of old tires.
An essay by Frederick Steiner titled 'Toward an Ecological Aesthetic' refers to Robert Smithson's concept of entropy and how making this visible and framing it, is a step forward into embracing it and heading to the reversal process, negentropy. He explains this aesthetic involves sensual connections to natural and cultural process in what he calls socio-ecological practices, those which are aware of the wounds of the world. In a similar way, Pope Francis draws connections between the planet’s ecological depletion and the sectors of society most in need, highlighting their common fragility and their state of abandonment.
The aesthetics of the improvised suggests a renewal of thought that changes the way we perceive certain finishes or products. Rather than compromising certain pleasures, embracing this aesthetics beyond trends might bring permanent solutions. It pretends to find reconciliations between new and existing into creating hybrids which hold a better collective.