Socio-political cardboard cutouts may be coming to a European capital near you. These acts of humorous site-specific intervention are created by Paris-based artist Sura Haarp. Tackling contentious topics like the housing crisis and elitist structures, which at times govern the art world, Haarp created two collapsible installations—one an IKEA-inspired house and the other a rocking horse—which seek to change perceptions through guerrilla-like participatory performance.
“Those that are aware of the housing crises or the conservative elitism of the art world are generally the first to react and understand my performance,” Haarp tells The Creators Project. “But I love to be able to touch those that are unaware. Is that not what protesting is all about?”
In Paris and London, Haarp has placed his pop-up pieces in front of major institutions and landmarks, such as the Parisian contemporary art fair FIAC and London’s renowned Tate Modern gallery. He’s been told to stop by security but welcomed by passerby, particularly with the rocking horse, which takes aim at the value of "art," unfairly defined by the market, select galleries, and prestigious art prizes. Haarp calls the adult-sized rocking horse The Dada Award, in celebration of the disruptive art movement’s 100th anniversary.
“The Dada Award has seen the most interaction, from clueless onlookers and artists, to art lovers and art world individuals,” says Haarp. “Everyone has had a good laugh, for the most part, embracing their inner child and rocking the horse to become artists and recipients of The Dada Award.” Haarp’s flat pack house—also available to rent on Airbnb—has interested many as well, like those wanting to “take a stand and support the housing crises that is affecting so many of us,” he says.
“Most of us young artists struggle to find a place to live,” explains Haarp. “I know lots of artists who don’t have a wealthy family to help them, who live in squats, sometimes with no hot water or heat. Some find how to survive, but all in all, no one wants to risk renting to society’s outcasts, or at least that's how it feels. Even if you’re not on the streets, you’re in this survival loop. I am seeing this a lot and it seems to be the biggest hurdle young people face.”
Haarp's chosen settings point to rising property prices and the number of empty homes that fail to resolve Europe’s homelessness problem. “The 7th district of Paris has some of the least social housing,” explains Haarp. “It’s occupied by wealthy people who have little need and regard for it. So I wanted a spot that hit the romantic fantasy cliché postcard side of Paris while confronting those issues.”
Haarp is planning to take the project to other major European capitals in the coming year. Learn more about his work, here.