The Unité d’Habitation created by Le Corbusier was intended to revolutionize the urban housing model through the creation of a building that removes the distinction between architecture and urban planning, and contains both modular private and public spaces within it. In the idealized figure of the Modulor, man was to be the primary unit of measure of these spaces, around which living revolves.
In its practical aspects, however, this residential utopia soon transformed itself in the creation of true peripheral ghettos, located on the edge of the European metropolises. The endlessly multiplied modular units gave rise to buildings devoted to gigantism, in which man – far from being the unit of measure of his space – actually lives in a depersonalized manner; first a physical segregation, then mental. Cities formed as such have become places of conflict, where the inclusion/exclusion mechanism translates into the movement of those passing through; they cross the central areas without ever inhabiting them, and inhabit peripheral areas where identity is denied by the claustrophobic standardized agglomerates, and freedom seems to be a simple question of income.
Maurice Pefura, a trained architect who grew up between Cameroon and Paris, leads his artistic research towards the exploration and deconstruction of such urban contradictions. His works always feature different layers of meaning, starting from pure aesthetic enjoyment and ending with the profound understanding of our contemporaneity, of our way of living, and both local and global strain that sees the city as its fulcrum of expansion. The artist revises the structure of the elements through unexpected pairings, proposes works that change before the eyes of the viewer by following the point of view, and uses the same materials from which the city is made – such as iron and tar – for the creation of his works.
The exhibition Horizontales du Plan exclusively presents a site-specific installation that depicts the structural skeleton of the Unité d’Habitation, as if it were a modern altar raised to modern architecture, with the flow of spectators channeled around the work to mimic the motion of a religious procession. Hidden from viewers, the vision of the work from a raised point of view reveals its ultimate function: a modulor, an archetype of the human figure, a doll, a dummy, which lies on top of the structure. The altar immediately turns into a coffin, and the motion of bystanders ultimately becomes a funeral procession that cries out over the departure of a man who had to be a measure of his own world, who the world instead deprived of his own identity.
The wall-based works become vestments, woven tapestries of the urban fabric, blind windows on worlds deprived of human presence.
The artist conceals the drama of this complex installation to the viewer’s eye, leaving the shadows to predict that which is not seen, leaving the atmosphere of the space to recount something more, while letting the perception of the viewer penetrate the different layers of meaning.
Maurice Pefura was born in Paris to Cameroonian parents, he lives and works in Milan. He is an architect by training but has always centered his work on painting and installations. His research is focused on the relationship between the body and the space; that of the inner and the outer, the physical, that we are invited to share, with a particular focus on city suburbs. His work has been exhibited in several solo and group shows around the world, including: Afrique Capitales, La Villette, Paris, (2017); The White Hunter, FM Centro per l’arte contemporanea, Milan (2018); The City in the Blue Daylight Dakar Biennal 2016, Senegal; The Divine Comedy from the perspective of contemporary African artists, Smithsonian Museum, Washington D.C, USA (2015).