Interview with Parasite 2.0
Interview taken on 28/06/2015, curated by Luisa Selo and Riccardo Zocche.
Parasite 2.0 is a group of three student at the School of Civil Architecture at Politecnico di Milano.PARASITE 2.0 was born in 2010 . It investigates the status of urban life by developing research, interaction and intervention devices. They worked on several projects like “Parasite Trip” for the XIII Biennale of Architecture in Venice, “Radical Island Urban Movement_The post communist Archipelago of Timisoara” for Prezent! Anuala Timisoreana de Arhitectura 2014 and “Radical Islands: Bureau de la Memoria de Atochas-Montealto” for Fetsac 15: Festival de la Escuela de Arquitectura de A Coruña. Parasite appeared on Domus, Abitare, The Draftery and Arhitext. It has given lectures at the Politecnico di Milano, Accademia di Belle Arti in Naples and at the Escuela Tecnica Superior de Arquitectura a Coruña.
Let’s start from the name you chose. Even if someone doesn’t already know your works, it comes easy to think about some sort of intrusion of new elements into a context. Moreover, in nature a parasite doesn’t kill its host, it is usually much smaller, and will often live for an extended period. So, how would you define your interaction with your “hosts”? (For example, I think about your installation at Aldo Rossi’s San Cristoforo Station in Milan, an abandoned-unfinished building that wouldn’t appear to be a “nourishing” host).
The name derives from the fact we were feeling like strangers in the academic environment. The unstable conditions that surrounded us, the financial, cultural and political crises did not affected debates at university. At the second year we felt oppressed. We have been educated paying a maniacal attention to the context and to the architectural surrounding, caring not about social and cultural issues but pursuing a fetishist perversion for historic artefacts and monuments accordingly to Aldo Rossi’s school or to the consolidated urban morphology. Therefore, the decision for this name was the rejection of such a gentle attitude to which we answered with a shocking one. Let’s say an architectural violence somehow. This way, we weren’t too concerned about the formality of our parasites, we didn’t seek complex formal solutions or extreme ones but just to destabilise them.
Moreover, our hybrid practice between art and architecture is like a parasite that insinuates and feeds of both aspects. We were fascinated by this feeling of extraneousness right next to a perfectly ordered context. We got intrigued by those spontaneous manifestations of manipulation in architecture like ‘superfetation’ [simultaneous occurrence of more than one stage of developing offspring in the same animal], which is parasitic too.
First installations, for instance the one you cited, work on the concept of Spatial virus: a sort of cancer which progressively grows and propagates itself as in a biologic process, and invades the place leading to a complete alteration of space. Organisms that absorbed the vital energy from ‘sleeping’ or dead architectures like the Aldo Rossi station, the Marchiondi Institute of Vittoriano Viganò or the S. Andrea fortress on an abandoned island in Venice.
Furthermore the goal was to claim the right to manipulate and to intervene on architectures even without any rule, dogma or constraint, a kind of architectural anarchy. The interaction between these parasites and hosts was thus very violent and irrespective. Although, guests had the aim to revitalise them with new life and vitality.
If we look back to the past, we can see some similarities with movements like Archigram, Haus-Rucker-Co, Archizoom or Superstudio. Despite time distance, did you find any inspirations in them?
These examples you refer to and the architectural debate developed between ‘60s and ‘70s, have been fundamental to us. Probably our work couldn’t exist without such background. We can say that at beginning we wanted to consider ourselves as a continuity of those experiences which we believe are not too old or too anachronistic even for nowadays. In fact, some of them are more contemporary now rather than when they were formulated. They were an important point to anchor to.
Maybe the difference lies in the fact we never used the architectural drawing to address our ideas but we preferred installations, especially in the public space, in order to relate to the human body. Accordingly to this, the Ant Farm work, UFO, 9999, Gianni Pettena e Ugo La Pietra were more influential than Archigram, Haus-Rucker-Co, Archizoom or Superstudio, as a result of an hybridisation between architecture, visual arts, performances and in particular political activism.
On the other hand, what do you believe the thing that mostly differentiate and distinguish you is?
Primarily temporal distance, so a quite different world due to media, new materials and technologies which we can deliver our ideas trough. Also different themes and more urgent or recent topics like Anthropocene [a proposed geologic chronological term for an epoch that begins when human activities have had a significant global impact on the Earth’s ecosystems], Do It Yourself practices, hybrid spaces (partly virtual partly physical) and the search for new space of freedom, as in the project Radical Island.
It is fascinating to see how a group of three student managed to reach in few years so much recognition being publish by Domus and other important magazines, hosted at Biennale di Architettura in Venice or at university lectures. What is the project you are most proud of?
The small achieved results which we gained through our research, the hard work and study without having degrees, university consent and without waiting to be already part of the architectural debate or of the working world. We felt that we needed to start soon.
There isn’t a project of which we are more satisfied, because all the realised projects are part of a single and continuous line of research which we hope it won’t never stop.
Since 2010 we are working together, but it is during the recent years that our work gained more self-confidence and maturity. It went beyond the early naivety of adolescence and it built a theoretical substrate which is really important to us and which allows to deal with every new project and phase of our work with more responsibility and knowledge. The experiences represented by the ‘Primitive Future Office’ and by ‘progetto itinerante Radical Island’ are definitely some important theories within our research.
Which one the less? Why?
Some commercial work experiences where it was difficult to carry out our own research and where it is necessary to deal with different kind of interests which brought us towards a greater attention of aesthetics of the final result. However, also these experiences were interesting for our professional growth, since they helped us in developing new research guidelines which are more related to the way of realisation of the artefacts and to the way they relate in the space where they are included.
What is the role of an architect for you in this moment? Especially when in Italy neo laureates in architecture are struggling to find a job properly paid, do you believe that your is a path that more people should follow?
Our work doesn’t address the elaboration of projects or ideas practical for the future or for the present. Rarely it produces something which could be sold. Its aim is the one of creating conflict, debate and to animate the practice of the architect discussing its contemporary form. We are currently working on the project of destroying the image of the contemporary architect and to imagine new ways for our profession. Considering these reasons, our work is not politically correct. We believe that the worse thing that can happen nowadays is the breakdown of debate and research. We think that the overall situation of the European construction world, is not just a consequence of financial markets crisis, but it is especially a consequence of the transition phase which the architect is going through. He/She is not in line with the times. Despite the world of architecture, other artistic fields are developing new issues about the human habitat. In our opinion, the practice of the architect should be completely reformulated, addressing its ethic, civil and political role in its wholeness : this means in the fields of culture, science, of politics and art. We are living in a such constant acceleration of change, that it is necessary to be equipped for this condition. The idea of a Neophiliac architect, about which we started recently to work, wants exactly to address these issues. We don’t know if this is the way to go, everyone will find its own way, but we suggest to everyone who is studying architecture to roll up his/her sleeves, not to go to work without a salary for anyone and to begin instead a personal experience, spacing as much as possible in all the fields of human endeavour.
To find out more, visit: parasitelab.tumblr.com