The House for Mona Lisa
This is a proposal for a house that is generated from an idea about a painting.
The House for Mona Lisa is an installation that sits in a courtyard of the Louvre and consists of twenty-two cantilevered translucent panels in a splayed arrangement. Each panel is screen-printed with a faint black and white photographic image of a woman. Each image comes from a group of yearbook photos selected according to Monalisaness. The screens are set two meters apart and are cant-ilevered on a sloping podium in the courtyard whose gradient matches the angle of view. The first screen fits a hole in the wall of the Louvre that is directly opposite the painting itself. Turning 180 degrees around from the ideal viewpoint of the painting will place you in the ideal viewpoint for The House for Mona Lisa. The picture and the house are arranged to equate with one another from this point. However, when you circumscribe the courtyard that contains the house and walk on the podium you begin to get within the installation in a manner that is impossible with the painting. The spatial and formal quality is intended as a counterpoint to the flat image and helps question your initial interpretation. I suppose I am hoping that the simple fact that architecture is spatial provides a tool to reveal content. It acts as a built statement of an unlikely but particular interpretation of the painting. It is important to assert that this proposal is not a critique of perspective (there are plenty of others already in circulation).The House for Mona Lisa does not try to recreate the pictorial and spatial depth of the painting but instead forms a question about the original model.
This question is based on the speculation that the painting was not only an image of an ordinary young woman-it was an image of all ordinary young women. There was never one sitter/subject, but many. Her face was an expression of the collective aspirations of the emerging Florentine republic (described as "pre-Marxist"). The project does not attempt to speculate on the female portrait as a symbol of beauty in itself, but asks whether it is possible to adopt it as a means to convey another form of beauty-the beauty of new social and political organization! What interests me is that a possible covert meaning could remain more intact as a possibility than as a clear statement of intent.
If this reading of the painting is correct then it creates an atmosphere that departs from that sanctioned by the high renaissance. It is exciting to think that it is some kind of "all in one" documentary painting or that the picture of an everyday women will tell you more about contemporary society than constructed representations of counts, dogs, horses, churches, etc. The fact that a women is used as manifestation of the ordinary maybe due to the female portrait being the most durable format available at the time, i.e. it was aesthetically the most efficient means to convey the idea. The subsequent fame of the painting seems partly dependent on this and the fact that Leonardo da Vinci never sold the painting but kept it as some kind of touchstone throughout his life and travels.
This is an installation that places a concept as the foremost generator of a plan and spatial arrangement. It a blurs the current distinction between the 2D image and architecture with the dual aim of using space and form to reveal an interpretation and to create a similar, but contemporary, version of that interpretation.
Take twenty female graudates...