Artdirection and Design. Special Tag: Collective
Christopher Kulendran Thomas, New Eelam, 2017, in collaboration with Annika Kuhlmann.
Installation views: moving is in every direction. Installations - Environments - Narrative Spaces Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin
"We want to enable greater freedom and flexibility through collective ownership than would be possible through individually owned private property, making housing function more like an information good. And for that to work, it need not feel like a political revolution; it just has to work better than what it’s an alternative to – which is real estate markets that concretise a fundamental antagonism between renting and owning."
> Christopher Kulendran Thomas in conversation with Aude Launa
In close collaboration with the artistic team (Christopher Kulendran Thomas (Founder/ Director) / Annika Kuhlmann (Creative Director)) The Laboratory of Manuel Bürger developed the visual identity for New Eelam and designed the communication. Photography by Joseph Kadow.
"So how might a more liquid form of citizenship be imagined in an age of technologically accelerated dislocation? For his exhibition at Kunstverein Harburger Bahnhof, Christopher Kulendran Thomas presents New Eelam, a startup founded by the artist to develop a global housing subscription based on collective ownership. Together with his founding partners, Thomas proposes a long-term strategy for how a new economic model could evolve, without friction, out of the present system—through the luxury of communalism rather than private property. With this post-capitalist venture, Thomas imagines the future of citizenship beyond national borders, asking how a state could be constituted in corporate form and how a brand might communicate as an artist."
> Eflux announcment for Christopher Kulendran Thomas, 60 million Americans can’t be wrong, Kunstverein Harburger Bahnhof, 2016/2017
Christopher Kulendran Thomas, New Eelam, 2016. Installation view: 11th Gwangju Biennale
Screenshot New Eelam website
Screenshot New Eelam advertising
Christopher Kulendran Thomas, New Eelam, 2018, in collaboration with Annika Kuhlmann.
Installation view: I Was Raised on the Internet, MCA Chicago
"We are interested in different kinds of standardization—what you have when you see a near-perfect market for short-stay holiday rentals; the common denominator is the minimum viable apartment, which becomes the kind of standard for what writers have called “airspace.” The iPhone is another reference point—it was a giant leap in what a communication device could be. But now every smartphone looks the same and maintains the same platform. What’s significant about the iPhone is the whole ecosystem that has been enabled by it. Even though the form factor is standardized, people are attached to their phones because of the infinite level of personalization that can come from that ecosystem. Our design challenge is to make the iPhone or Tesla of housing."
> Christopher Kulendran Thomas in conversation with Alice Bucknell/ Spike Island, Bristol
New Eelam and the dispersion of critique
"1. Christopher Kulendran Thomas’ ongoing work New Eelam – developed in collaboration with curator Annika Kuhlmann and initially introduced at the 9th Berlin Biennial and 11th Gwangju Biennale, with a new iteration coming soon to Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin – exceeds the traditional limits of the artwork. Not only formally – the work is envisaged as an open-endedly durational project in the form of a startup – but particularly in its socioeconomic spatiality and critical technique. Rooted in the complicated story of the geographical displacement and genocide of the Tamil people, New Eelam can best be described as a real estate tech company that envisions and proposes new liquid models of citizenship and distributed homeownership in an age of technologically accelerated dislocation. [...]
5. While much of the art that engages so-called “corporate aesthetics” is both critiqued and legitimized as operating through speculative ‘fictions’ and as employing satirical ‘artifice’ (as observed in much of the polemical criticism around the 9th Berlin Biennial), there is nothing fictional about New Eelam – in fact, it already exists as a company in its early phases of prototyping it’s beta edition. While it speculates upon future potentialities for forms of living and working through technology in a seemingly “surreal” or “hyperreal” way (to rely on relatively outdated modes of aesthetic judgment), its cultural, political and economic trajectories are very actual, that is to say concerned with the actuality of contemporary conditions of living and working in a globalized economy. Rather, perceiving the engagement of corporate aesthetics as ‘artifice’, it points more than anything to the synthetic texture of our everyday lives. This synthetic component to New Eelam is central to its success, as it echoes its (post-)critical trajectory of powering through ever-morphing capitalist institutionality in all its visuality, rather than circumventing it: “to outcompete the present economic system on its own terms,” as the narrator in New Eelam’s promotional video explains. As a meditation on the failed revolution of historical Marxist states (like Tamil Eelam), as well as on the commodified and nullified status of leftist critique at large, New Eelam envisages a form of autonomy beyond neoliberal capitalism by accelerating the existing system’s own unravelling. If the global market economy absorbs and distributes every aspect of human life, and transcends national borders and laws (as seen with multinationals such as Apple and Amazon, the latter of which is poignantly analyzed in New Eelam’s long-form promotional video), why not use it as a tool for critical and subversive agency? In Thomas’ work, the future of the political Left lies in a mutation of capitalism’s own accelerated state of being. This, of course, is no small proposition and contains its own set of ethical conundrums. [...]"
> Jeppe Ugelvig, Dis Magazine