Space Detournement Working Group

Space Detournement Working Group and its activity has grown out of fine artist Antal Lakner’s Téreltérítés university course (held at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics) and its practical assignments. Its members – beyond the founder – are young architects, designers and theory people. SDWG mainly creates projects involving experts and local space-users in public spaces, aiming to detour urban and institutional spaces and re-define the ways of using them.

Personally I was involved in three major projects: Smogreductor (2009), Climbing the Ernst Museum (2010), and only in the planning process of Aroma Guide (2011).

Climbing the Ernst: High on Art (2010)
at Ernst Museum Budapest
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Ernst opened in 1912 as a luxurious private museum with a patriotic, historical, and a contemporary section, and with apartments, studios, and a cinema. Later it was, divided nationalized and turned into a white cube, and was a gallery of Műcsarnok / Kunsthalle at the time of the exhibition. By 2010, the museum had been facing a combination of problems for a long time. In contrast to the well preserved art nouveau foyer and staircase, the facade was dilapidated, still – classified as cultural heritage -, simply placing a banner outside required lengthy negotiations by the museum with authorities and residents. Ernst was difficult to even notice from the street without prior knowledge, and lacked a walk-in audience to the point that its small café was eventually walled off and turned into a staff kitchen.

SDWG decided to set a paradox in motion: luring passers-by to the museum by making access a challenge. Thus came the idea of Ernst Climbing – High on Art, a climbing wall on the border at institutional and public space, leading from the street to the windows of the 1st floor. It accentuated the efforts one has to make when facing art, but also compensated for the struggle: visitors could enter the museum in a state of flow, being high. It could also be seen as a reflection on experience-oriented museum trends, and on the heated debates about museum extensions and new entrances, as well as an ironic take on the fact that because of the valuable interior it is impossible to make the building accessible for the disabled. Entering the exhibition through the windows was free, and 75% of the visitors opted for climbing, many of them in the spirit of George Mallory’s “Because it’s there”, realizing the existence of Ernst Museum for the first time.

Sick Museum Syndrome and the solution: Aroma Guide (2011)
at Ludwig Museum Budapest
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If Sick Building Syndrome exists as it does, Sick Museum Syndrome might exist as well, when factors of SBS interact with a strictly regulated contemporary art environment under surveillance. In the first phase of researching Sick Museum Syndrome (SMS) in Ludwig Museum, Budapest, volunteers were asked to perform an ambulatory auto-diagnosis, placing a sticker on the respective point on the floor plans of the running exhibitions (1st floor: Site Inspection, an exhibition on museums and the possibilities of institutional critique; 2nd floor: Moholy-Nagy – The Art of Light), whenever they noticed any of the ten different symptoms of this hypothesized illness: audiovisual surfeit, delusion, embarrassment, excitement, enervation, estrangement, angst, indifference, disorientation, or, in spite of all, catharsis. By processing the data, SDWG established the symptom maps of the exhibition spaces and finished the first phase of the research.

During the second phase of the research, starting a week later, SDWG were looking for a treatment. The volunteers were asked to carry out the same auto-diagnosis, but now equipped with Aromaguide, a wearable auricle-to-nostril inhalation tool created by an aromatherapy expert, that contained a custom mixed relaxant aroma, with the Himalayan nard oil being its dominant component. By creating symptom maps from the data gathered in the two surveys, studying the characteristics of SMS and its treatment have finally become possible.