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Global Architecture Platform

Special Art Edition Monograph 01 DESERT

Makaranta

 Photograph on plexiglas, 60 x 80 cm, limited edition of 26 + 3AP
Price 2’200 CHF
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Since Agadez is the furthest city from the Niamey, the capital of Niger, and Niger is among the poorest countries in the world, there is no need to describe what the local school looked like when I was there in 2002. I decided to build a new school. The school needed a lot of sitting places since there are so many children and I decided to build a pyramidal form that allows all students to sit on top of it. The students don’t only go to school but they go on the school. At the beginning they were 150 students and they covered one quarter of the pyramid. Today the school has about 500 children aged 4-20 years (but nobody knows their birthdays or -years).
The school is on a hill, and has a nice view and is windy and cool. The schoolhouse is completely covered with children. It’s a kinetic sculpture made of children who sing, and cry and shout and pray.  It is a very touching site to watch this daily activity unfold in front of you. The inside of the house can be used to sleep or as cover from the rain or heat.  The school is called Makaranta. 

Many people consider me a missionary who goes to Africa to help. I am not. Not being a trained architect, it gives me an enormous satisfaction, to have the opportunity to construct a school building. I could not even dream of building a school in Europe or the US with all their regulations. But in Agadez I can. I have this phenomenal opportunity to build something that in most places in the world would be refused to me. As Nietzsche said, “friendship is not giving but taking”. So I take and so do the children in Agadez.

Not Vital

In 1999 Not Vital decided, on a whim, to go to the desert-city of Agadez in Niger, West Africa. He had never been before but had a strong instinct that this place would be important to him, despite knowing very little about it. He wanted to go however, as he had read about the nomadic tribes in Niger – the Tuareg and the Peul. Vital felt he would have an affinity to them, given that he also was travelling and living in various places. He arrived late at night, and early in the morning there were people waiting outside his hotel wanting to sell him silver jewellery. He asked to buy land: by noon the land had been identified, the price negotiated, the plans had been drawn in the sand, and the workers had arrived. They built a house for him, which he called Mekafoni, meaning house of horns. Vital may be a self-confessed nomad, but his urge to build houses indicates a more complex attitude to locality and existence. A nomad is someone who has no home, a constant traveller. Vital instead has many houses, and is ‘home’ wherever he has a house. His arrival in Niger marked the beginning of his sculpture-buildings. In 2003 he went on to build a school (Makaranta), followed by House to Watch the Sunset (2005), House to Watch the Night Skies (2006), House Against Heat + Sandstorms (2006), and Mosque (2013). All of these have varying degrees of functionality and exist somewhere between architecture and sculpture. The ‘function’ of these works, as well as their appearance, especially House to Watch the Night Skies and House to Watch the Sunset recall the astrological gardens in India, re-iterating Vital’s interest in the cosmos. When asked about these gardens, Vital remarks that while they were certainly in his mind, he found that it felt natural in the desert to orientate himself around the stars: the night-sky was so present in one’s day-to-day awareness in the desert. In Niger the builders are very fast and planning permission is practically unheard of; this ‘no-rules’ attitude allows Vital to revisit the immediacy and instinctiveness of the habitats he made as a child in the forests. The beauty of the desert landscape is phenomenal and an inspiring backdrop for any artist or architect.

Alma Zevi

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Photographs’ credits

School Makaranta, 2003. Agadez, Niger. Mud and straw. 6.5m h. Photograph: Not Vital

House to Watch the Sunset, 2005. Aladab, Niger. Mud and straw. 13m h. Photograph: Not Vital

House Against Heat and Sandstorms, 2006. Aladab, Niger. Mud and straw. Photograph: Not Vital

House to Watch the Night Skies, 2006. Aladab, Niger. Mud and straw. 6.5m h. Photograph: Not Vital

Mekafoni, 2001. Agadez, Niger. Mud and straw. 13m h. Photograph: Florio Puenter

Posted
15.Sep.2016 839 views 0 shares
Author
Not Vital

Not Vital (Sent, Grisons, 1948) is a Suisse – American artist focussing on graphics, painting, sculpting and architecture. From 1968 to 1969 he was researching at the Centre Universitaire Experimental de Vincennes in Paris. He won several prizes such as Premi Cultural Paradies, the Price of the Foundation of Graphic Art in Switzerland and the Price of Recognition of Grisons. He lives and works in Beijing (China), Rio de Janeiro (Brasil) and Sent (Switzerland).

notvital.com/
Posted
15.Sep.2016 839 views 0 shares
Author
Alma Zevi

Alma Zevi holds a BA in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute in London (2010). She is a curator and writer specialised in contemporary art. From 2010 until 2016, Alma worked closely with Not Vital, preparing his Catalogue Raisonné and curating various of his international exhibitions. In 2013, she founded Lendi Projects in Celerina, Switzerland, an space where early-career artists are invited to participate in residencies and exhibitions. In 2016, Zevi opened her gallery ALMA ZEVI, in Venice. The gallery works with artists engaged in a variety of media.

almazevi.com/