New Eelam: Spike Island exhibition asks, is this the future of global living?

Spike Island is playing host to a radical new housing company who’s concepts merge art, technology and architecture in the pursuit of a better world. 

New Eelam’s founder Chrisopher Kulendran Thomas, is envisioning life without borders and a future where people are able to move freely without fear of prejudice.

His company wants to offer people the chance to live between an interconnected web of homes all across the globe. If successful this would all be possible at the drop of a hat, or rather the touch of an app.

The subscription-based service would allow members to find new homes with minimal effort, however, the company’s app is yet to hit the market.

Spike Island communications officer Jane Faram, told Bower News why the concept could well revolutionise the way we all live in the not too distant future.

“It’s very relevant to the moment and the issues we are all facing. Especially in terms of Brexit where people could become increasingly limited in terms of mobility and the chance to live in different countries.”

“It offers a new way of looking at the world, which is what all our exhibitions should be about.”

In a press release from New Eelam, Kulendran Thomas described the companies aims as follows.

“The thought experiment behind New Eelam is to ask what a self-governed state could be if it was a distributed network rather than a territorially bounded nation.”

New Eelam Exhibition, Spike Island

The future of global living?

Kulendran Thomas, in collaboration with award-winning curator Annika Kulhmann, has transformed Spike Island’s main room into a sustainable utopia.

The skylit, ex-factory space streams light over a modern interpretation of the home, filled with large artworks and comfortable furniture.

An augmented iPad app gives a 360° degree tour of a would be New Eelam apartment. While miniature tv screens along the walls help to explain New Eelam’s vision. 

Visitors are encouraged to sit side by side on a large communal sofa as a series of videos explaining what housing could become in a post-capitalist world. The videos also outline the past, present and future of the company. 

New Eeelam homes will also contain hydroponic plants that would produce enough food to feed multiple inhabitants.

These modular growing spaces stand throughout the gallery space and have been provided by Bristol-based company, Greens Hydroponics.  

Despite the slick presentation, the exhibition offers few details surrounding how the concept would work practically, nor does it suggest when the first New Eelam homes would become available.

Is it possible?

We asked Holly Briggs, director of Bristol/London based architects Assemble and Paul Cannon director of Bristol’s 310 studio if they could determine exactly what Kulendran Thomas and Khulmann were trying to achieve with the exhibition.

“I think there is a call for more flexibility with housing and this is what this developer is trying to do,” said Holly. “It is a really interesting type of architectural typology, but it seems the details have been kept intentionally vague”.

Paul seemed to be in agreement, “It is great that they are presenting an idea, but it is an idea to be torn to shreds. I think what is really missing from the exhibition, is the human element.” He then added, “Any kind of Utopian vision is fabulously seductive… It is quite easy to convince people of an idea when you are speaking in generalisations”.

New Eelam’s model may then be better seen as a source of inspiration for future generations, as opposed to a definitive answer to the problems housing currently face.

Jane addressed some of the public’s concerns, “Some people have found it quite problematic and this goes back to asking who this is really for. It is not going to suit everyone. Eventually, elements of it may become a reality and that’s how art works really. I think this is why it can exist as an artwork and as a business”.

A survey conducted by Bristol City Council in 2015, found that 16% of Bristolians were thought to be living in some of the most deprived areas in England. The survey also found that roughly 1 in 4 children in Bristol were living in poverty.

While New Eelam may not be able to solve these problems, it does offer a fresh alternative to housing in the 21st century.

Tech-giant Airbnb helped to revolutionise the way people go on holiday and New Eelam may just be able to achieve something similar for renters.

The exhibition will close its doors on March 24, but could one-day open doors across the world should the concept become a success. 

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