Krzysztof Wodiczko

From CT4CT: Creative Tools for Critical Times

Krzysztof Wodiczko

Krzysztof Wodiczko (1943) has created more than seventy large-scale slide and video projections of politically-charged images on architectural façades and monuments worldwide.

According to Wodiczko's MIT Profile:

Wodiczko is internationally renowned for his large-scale slide and video projections on architectural facades and monuments. Since the late eighties, he has developed a series of nomadic instruments for both homeless and immigrant operators that function as implements for survival, communication, empowerment, and healing.



Homeless Vehicle Project

Homeless Vehicle Project, 1988-89

Krzysztof Wodiczko’s Homeless Vehicle Project (1988-89) is among the most well known series of artworks produced around homelessness. Created two years after his Homeless Projection (1986) series in which he projected magnified images of the homeless onto public buildings, Homeless Vehicle was produced in consultation with homeless men and women around New York City.

Resembling something between a food vendor cart and a road warrior vehicle, Wodiczko’s Homeless Vehicle is simultaneously a utilitarian object and an artfully rendered political statement. It provides shelter, safety, and a means of income for users—the vehicle is designed for collecting and storing cans, bottles, and other materials—and this in turn provides a “legitimized status for its users in the community of the city."

Described variously as “illegal real estate,” “an architecture provoked by poverty,” a “high-precision, military-industrial instrument,” and a “missile,” Neil Smith (1993) explains that Krzysztof’s Homeless Vehicle “expresses the social absurdity and obscenity of widespread homelessness in the capitalist heartland” (p. 89).

The vehicle’s nose-cone, which resembles the head of a ballistic missile, inventively folds down to serve as a wash-basin—a design element not lost on Smith, who claims the nose-cone’s usefulness “contrasts abruptly with the pathological waste of a $300bn defense budget, as if to point out that there is more social use in a single wash-basin than in the entire national armoury of high-tech junk” (p. 89).

While Wodiczko’s Homeless Vehicle retains an impressive degree of functionality—though the vehicle primarily meets the needs of single homeless men and is less responsive to homeless women’s security or the needs of homeless families—it is not intended as a “solution” to homelessness. Instead, the true power of the Homeless Vehicle lies in its ability to strategically reclaim the political geography of the city by re-appropriating the urban environment for it’s marginalized invisible inhabitants, thus revealing homelessness as a serious and under-acknowledged tear in the social fabric.

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