Talking Doors (2009) was researching the door’s poetic power of organising and provoking various psychological, conceptual, and social events in public space. Part of this project — five doors to well-known public buildings in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius were transformed into interactive installations. Equipped with electronic devices, the doors became a portal to Lithuania’s Democracy Index, a musical instrument, a kinetic sculpture and even the source of an earthquake.
Doors are such a ubiquitous and common element of our interactions with our environment that we seldom pay attention to them. However, we hardly can ignore them – every day, each of us probably opens and closes a myriad of doors and crosses equally many doorsteps.
If we were to try and remember all the doors we had ever opened, we would need to recollect all of our life. Suppose we ignore the immense quantity of our memories, and undertake such a grandiose project after all. We would soon find out that our lives had been saturated with an abundance of door events that brough this object to the surface of our conscious attention. And these were the events that made doors “talk”.
The more events we recall –“domestic“ tooth extraction by the means of attaching a string to a door handle, the first porn movies viewed through a keyhole, drunken “negotiations” with an uncooperative door lock — the more the door’s poetic power of provoking events that add variety to our lives comes to the foreground.
Stimulated by this insight and driven by curiosity, the project Talking Doors set out to study the door’s aesthetic potential to trigger and organise various psychological, conceptual, and social events. The project received support from the public institution “Vilnius – European Capital of Culture 2009” and the Public Spaces Humanisation Programme. As a response to this fact, the scope of the project’s creative research had been limited to public space. In the course of conceiving the project, selected unique door-related and door-mediated events were conceptually exaggerated, deformed and deconstructed in interactive installations located in various public spaces of central Vilnius – namely, in the doors of several important public buildings. The project became an analytical “door slaughterhouse” and a critical playground.
In the first part of the project, a workshop and a seminar, open to the public, were organised, in which the door as a unique phenomenon was analysed by exploring door technologies and the history of door design, looking at the door from a phenomenological perspective and revealing its symbolism, collecting texts focused on the topic of the door, sharing personal stories etc. In a separate program, the participants reviewed films that featured the door in an important role, whether that of a protagonist, prop, McGuffin object, or just as a framework for an event taking place in the doorway. In the second part, a tour, or, rather, a “pedestrian discussion” focused on Vilnius city’s doors was organised; at the tour’s destination spots, the strollers engaged in swinging the doors and listening to their creaking sound. The objective was to create an intellectual platform that could evolve into a series of art installations in public spaces. In this manner, a dozen ideas had been conceived, but only five of them stood the trial of imagination tests, voting, or experiments with life-size prototypes.
During the period between September 25th and October 6th, 2009, five doors, augmented with custom-made electronic equipment and transformed into art installa- tions, began to “talk” in Vilnius. These doors turned into different objects: Lithuania’s democracy index, musical instrument, kinetic sculpture, visitor counter, and even a source of a “domestic earthquake”.
The project’s aim was not only to suggest alternative ways of humanising or aestheticising public space and engage the audience – whether accidental passers-by or committed art lovers – in this process, but also address the current issues of design: materialisation of politics (or, rather politicisation of the material environment), hegemony of aesthetics (e. g. ocularcentrism – the cultural obsession with visual creative content), poetics of function, crossover fields between design and other disciplines, etc. In the end, Talking Doors turned out to be not just a materialisation of symbolic concepts, but also a peculiar experiment that sparked a series of unanticipated curious incidents, which expanded the project in a unique way (for more details, check out Aistė Kisarauskaitė’s conversation with the project’s author). Given that fact, the doors acted as probes that conveyed information about the object of research through events triggered by them.
Concept and design: Julijonas Urbonas
Electronics: Julijonas Urbonas, Dmitry Snegin, Šarūnas Šutavičius
Programming: Julijonas Urbonas, Sebastian Lexer, Andrius Mikonis
Graphic design: Povilas Utovka, Alistair Webb
Photography: Aistė Valiūtė and Daumantas Plechavičius (aka dualhead)
Editing/proofreading: Jurij Dobriakov
Managing of Door Events Inc.: Egidijus and Remigijus Praspaliauskas
Technical assistance: Paulius Vitkauskas