Émile Foucher, Urban Hacktivism, 2020
Wood, 63 x 22.5 x 33.5 inches (160 x 57.5 x 85 cm)
I built a public bench out of wood. I then moved the bench around the neighborhood where I live (Marconi-Alexandra). This neighborhood, which has been historically dominated by industrial uses, is currently undergoing an accelerated transformation with the arrival of technological firms focused on artificial intelligence.
The fabrication plans for the bench are based on drawings from the Italian architect and designer Enzo Mari, published in 1974, the first version of his manual “autoprogettazione?” The manual contains drawings of various pieces of furniture, allowing any citizen to take ownership of his fabrication plans to build their own furniture. Enzo Mari’s ideal was to introduce citizens to the culture of manufacturing, using an accessible instruction manual that allows furniture to be built with simple wood panels and nails. No expertise is required for the realization of the objects. With these drawings in hand, I built my first public bench for $20, and I then photographed it in various places of interest in the neighborhood where I live.
The position of the bench in spaces reveals the advanced state of transformation in which Marconi-Alexandra finds itself. The bench invites the viewer to come and sit in order to observe these processes of gentrification. The bench therefore becomes a tool for reflection and discussion around the urban phenomena that cause gentrification and the changing the social fabric of a neighborhood.
The project is also expanding in the form of a flyer that I distribute for free in the city and freely on the Internet (see PDF). The design of the flyer is directly inspired by the universal visual language of IKEA manuals. By hijacking the use of IKEA’s graphic vocabulary, I share some facts from my extensive research on gentrification, inclusive architecture, DIY manufacturing, etc.
Easily printable in any pharmacy, the open source document is distributed through the network of community street libraries found in most neighborhoods in Montreal, sharing the knowledge through a platform built by residents. The dissemination of the instructions allows citizens to take ownership of the city by building their own version of the furniture, encouraging them to reflect on their relationship to the changing city and reclaim it’s fallow spaces.
Émile Foucher is a Montreal-based artist, designer and educator. His creative approach is a hybrid of research-based and experimental processes.
The exploration of technologies and processes borrowed from varied fields such as digital fabrication and graphic design shape Emile’s evolving practice and introduce new discourse to the formal and abstract elements of his work.
Émile studied Interactive Design at the Danish School of Media and Journalism in Copenhagen and has been an active participant in the Fab Lab movement in Montreal. He is currently enrolled in a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Intermedia (video, performance and electronic arts) at Concordia University.