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Within the framework of the Notes for a Time Apart programme, elii [oficina de arquitectura] and Orkan Telhan present the installation Still Remains, which, distanced from Anthropocentrism, sets forth research around the microbiome: the community of micro-organisms that inhabit a certain environment, both inside and outside the human body, and are governed by their own logics and temporal scales.
The microbiome in our guts, armpits, genitals and mouths could be considered our most private landscapes, the place where our interspecies identities reside, made up of bacteria, fungi and viruses living parallel lives, resisting and working around the clock in our daily life. They sustain the hormones and chemical substances segregated by our anxious selves, withstand the stimulants, amphetamines and cognitive enhancers we consume to fight the stress caused by unresolved tasks. They endeavour to adapt to our bodies, which are increasingly conceived to work, more and more and more efficiently, all of the time.
This installation seeks to approach this invisible community through a variety of leftover food. The first step was to invite a group of professionals to share a meal in the Museo during their break time at work. As they enjoyed a specific menu, they chatted and asked each other questions about managing time and work: “What do you normally do when you take a break?”; “How do you manage stress”; “How much coffee do you drink?”; “What do you do when you need to concentrate?”; “What is your favourite energy drink?”. Before finishing this conversation, they were asked to leave their leftover food behind. What was left was the remains of shared food between people from different contexts, professions, social classes and worldviews.
These leftovers were transferred to a network of fridges to keep them in a type of capsule frozen in time. On these refrigerated surfaces, the microbes of the eaters go on to become part of these shared and slowed food landscapes, eroding and mutating. They change to a state of suspended animation which affects their cycles of conservation. They become prolonged “conversations” between micro-organisms, food supplements and people, unfurling a plural temporality that belongs to no one. As Still Remains. At least, while the cold lasts.
elii [oficina de arquitectura] is an architecture office founded in 2006 in Madrid by Uriel Fogué, Eva Gil and Carlos Palacios. Its professional practice encompasses teaching, research and publishing, and its projects have been part of the Spanish Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2016 (awarded the Golden Lion) and 2023, and the exhibition Home Stories 100 Years, 20 Visionary Interiors (2020) in the Vitra Design Museum and at the Fifth Istanbul Design Biennial (2020–2021). They have also written different publications, for instance What is Home Without a Mother (HIAP – Matadero Madrid, 2015) and Super Petites Maisons (EPFL, 2022) and are the co-editors of UHF, included in the Archive of Madrid Creators.
Orkan Telhan is an artist, designer, teacher and researcher who holds a PhD in Design and Computing from MIT’s (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Architecture Department. He investigates critical questions of cultural, environmental and social responsibility, and his work has been displayed at different editions of the Istanbul Biennial (2013, 2022), the Istanbul Design Biennial (2012, 2016, 2021), Ars Electronica, ISEA, LABoral, Matadero Madrid, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, among others.