paraSITE – Michael Rakowitz – Site – Place – Context – Monday 16th January 2012

paraSITE is a project by Michael Rakowitz looks at using art in a practical sense, so as a solution to the housing crisis in cities worldwide. This is an example of environmental art that uses community and social issues

Parasitism is described as a relationship in which a parasite temporarily or permanently exploits the energy of a host. They live on the outer surface of a host or inside its body in its main organs. Rakowitz’s paraSITE’s use the air produced from exterior air vents on existing architecture as a means for providing temporary accommodation for the homeless. The air inflates the mass and also as it is often hot provides the homeless person with extra warmth.

The project is really interesting in terms of whether it can be defined as art, obviously there is an element of design to the structure but there are obvious limitations to the work as it has a strict purpose in terms of materials, size and structure. I would say that although the work began as a art piece it has moved beyond that, not only does it highlight and criticise the issue of social housing it also offers a practical solution. The solution is what makes this work so special as although many art works highlight social issues and open up a discussion they do not offer a concise and practical solution. In this sense the work is really engaging with the community so is environmental art in its purest sense.

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