For over a month in late 2019, a giant ad featured on one of the main avenues in the center of Timișoara (Romania). On the side of a block of flats, a billboard depicts an egg carton with the broken remains of a lone eggshell. The accompanying text reads: “Homes for surviving common problems are not as common as problems themselves”.
What at first glance might be a slightly puzzling advertisement on this busy boulevard, quickly gets clear when the viewer turns the gaze a bit further down the street. There, construction cranes tower over tomorrow’s Timișoara, promising “harmony, modernity and lifestyle” in a new vibrant future for this city. Timișoara apparently deserves a make-over, and its new modern lifestyle requires you to buy into real-estate. “A fitting home, suitable for every buyer”, reads the tagline in a prospectus.
By hijacking the space of commercial ads, the billboard confronts this contemporary status of housing: rather than a place to live, homes have become investment vehicles, apparently required to realise ourselves, to unfold our true identity.
Contrary to what the tagline tells us, this dream is far from suitable for every buyer. More and more, housing has become a challenge to the residents of cities: vast investments, to be repaid from the increasingly uncertain income of citizens turned labour migrants. Meanwhile, the exclusivity of the investment only holds if it stays out-of-reach – so is the logic of any speculative market, real-estate inclusive. Instead of treating housing as a question of lifestyle and ‘career’, the billboard points to the vulnerability of the domestic sphere, with a broken egg in a tight egg carton.
While it is produced as part of the Art Encounters Biennial, its placement next to these new urban developments in Timișoara is indeed no coincidence. Maria Lind, co-curators of the biennial, remarks: “This avenue is also the address of one of the biggest housing developments in the city, ISHO, and the Art Encounters Foundation, founded by Ovidiu Sandor who is at the same time the CEO of ISHO, and an influential art collector on the Romanian scene.”
Finally, the title ADVANCED COMMUNITIES. You’re Almost Home points to a possible way out: STEALTH’s involvement in setting up a novel wave of co-operative owned, resident-driven housing developments that defy speculation – and instead, may provide for a secure home.
- [team ] Ana Džokić and Marc Neelen (STEALTH.unlimited) with Katarina Popović
- [background: ] ADVANCED COMMUNITIES. You’re Almost Home is realised as part of the 3rd edition of the Art Encounters Biennial in Timișoara, jointly curated by Maria Lind and Anca Rujoiu.
- [timeline: ] September 20 – October 27, 2019, on Take Ionescu bulevard