Alicia Framis is a multidisciplinary artist whose work spans architecture, the design of objects, fashion and performance. Her unconventional projects openly address problematic issues related to the ways in which political, moral and emotional agendas are conventionally organised in the contemporary world. She often uses fictional settings as a means of tackling and offering responses to real social dilemmas. In her work she seeks to re-examine social structures by exploring issues such as violence, gender, the role of the media, and racism. In pursuing this approach, the artist strives towards a ‘necessary art’, explicitly stressing the value of utility in a highly unconventional way that gives her projects a public and social dimension. The scale of her works, however, is extremely flexible. For example, in Dreamkeeper (1997) she published newspaper ad offering to watch over lonely people while they slept, and in One Night Tent (2002) she designed a portable shelter for sporadic sexual encounters. In other cases, thanks to her intense collaboration with other creators and professionals, she has been able to adapt architectural structures to accommodate unconventional uses (Remix Buildings, 1999–2000), design a collection of dresses to protect vulnerable women (Anti-Dog, 2002–2003), or turn a sushi bar into a blood bank (Bloodsushibank, 2000). All her projects seek to make art play a practical role—to leverage its power as a catalyst for new ways of conceiving life—and she has focused particularly on exploring aspects of life that are usually invisible or stigmatised. In Welcome to Guantanamo Museum (2008), Framis draws her inspiration from prisons that have been transformed into museums and centres for archives and documentation. For this project she imagined a museum at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, the US naval base in Cuba. The hypothetical museum is located in buildings constructed by the Bush administration after the events of 11 September 2001, which have since been used for the imprisonment, punishment, torture and interrogation of unlawfully detained suspects. The artist harnesses her imagination to completely repurpose the facilities. Her work questions the original use of the space, reflecting the historical context in which its new function has been planned. Scale models, photographs, drawings, prototypes for the museum furniture, manipulated objects, and voice recordings raise questions about our society’s need to ‘museumise’ everything. In parallel to Welcome to Guantanamo Museum, Framis developed specific aspects of the proposed museum in Guantanamo Museum: The List (a reading of the names of all the prisoners detained at the base), Guantanamo Museum: Sketches (a detailed reinterpretation of the prison spaces), and Guantanamo Museum: Workshop (a kind of cabinet of curiosities). In 2009 she created yet another version of the project, Guantanamo, Recycle, in which she changed the materials and the exhibition format. Framis’s most recent projects maintain the prospective character that has defined all her work, perhaps taking it even further. In Lost Astronaut (2009) a spaceman appears out of place as he wanders the streets of New York, as if the future has not yet found a place. A few years later, in MoonLife Concept Store (2012), the prospect of life in space is seized on as a real chance to imagine changes and new opportunities.
Andrea Aguado Alemany