60 Elephants. Episodes of a Theory
The architect Yona Friedman became known in the late 1950s with his utopian designs for a spatial city built above the existing city. The mega-structure, reduced to technical supply functions, was to incorporate flexible residential units individually designed by the residents. Friedman was aware from the very beginning that a concept of progress shaped by technology must include the familiar and the proven if a utopia is to be realizable. ›Modern‹ is not about replacing the old with the new, but about facilitating their simultaneity. Friedman saw in the small, seemingly incidental solutions and inventions of everyday practice the dynamic potential for both mobile architecture and a coexistence determined by changeability and participation. From this understanding, which is oriented towards social needs and their meaningful fulfillment, he developed self-help and construction programs for countries of the global south on behalf of UNESCO, based on the imaginative recycling of the waste and surplus products of the industrialized world.
In 60 Elephants. Episodes of a Theory by Michael Klein and Sasha Pirker, Friedman's theory of improvisation not only provides a starting point in terms of content, but also determines the cinematic form: Image, sound, and editing follow associative principles. In Friedman's working method, the art of communication takes on a special significance, which he makes clear in comparison with the animal world that gives the film its title. Photographs of his Parisian apartment, rich in found objects, models, and drawings, are supplemented by Klein and Pirker with images of subway journeys along the facades of the Seine metropolis as well as places in London or Bucharest that arose in reference to Friedman. In Vienna, they accompany a group of skaters who are building a temporary skate park on a wasteland and document the collectively managed, solidary farming in the densely built-up Donaufeld district.
In February 2020, Yona Friedman died at the age of 96. 60 Elephants. Episodes of a Theory is a sensitive cinematic homage to Friedman's prudent, unagitated and always current thinking about the future of the city, which is manifested not least in his statements on the situation of refugees. (Florian Wüst)
Our collaborative artistic practice can only be described as in the making. It nourishes itself from both our backgrounds, which range from urbanism to linguistics, from cultural studies to film and architecture, it is open and permeated with contradictions: Even if form is central to us, our practice is without an imposed formal program; even if we document the world around us, it is about creating fiction; even if we let others speak, we get to speak ourselves.
Images: Michael Klein & Sasha Pirker, 2018 © Michael Klein & Sasha Pirker/ Courtesy sixpackfilm