The word Podunk is defined in Wikipedia as a kadigan, which is a placeholder name and of itself represents any number of different places. In the USA, the word Podunk particularly represents a stereotypical back-blocks town in the middle of nowhere; a small, remote and unimportant place.

Having previously worked with the shipping container as an international transient architecture for the C.O.T.I.S. (Cult Of The Inserter Seat) project, KIT were invited to undertake a new project in Manchester. The ‘Digital Summer’ festival is a yearly event which commissions off-site projects for contemporary artists living in Manchester. In 1998, a major theme of KIT projects – transient architectures – was being realised through the structure and proposed ideology of the shipping container. It is an international unit of space which retains the same proportions all over the world due to shipping and loading restrictions.

In front of the gothic architecture of the Manchester City Council building in England, lies Albert Square. An open space traversed by many of Manchester’s inhabitants, it offers a good location for an off-site project with the promise that thousands or people will see the project every day. After debating with the City Council, the project is given the green light and another off-site project begins. Off-site projects have always been important for KIT to realise as they force the collaborative to rethink the relationships between artistic practice / production and the space that it is realised for, and perceived in by others. Viewing artworks outside of galleries is thus seen as an essential strategy to keep the process of undertaking projects at all, a reflexive one.

4 shipping containers are rented for a 2-week period and are delivered to the square. Each container is painted white, with navy blue borders and the word ‘Podunk’ painted onto the side of each one. Inside each container a different environment will be constructed which will allow passers-by to come into the portable spaces and explore the possibilities of transient city dwelling. The references to Archigram’s ‘Plug-In City’ cannot be ignored here and it’s of credit to them that they foretold so accurately the increased movements of city’s inhabitants in the capitalist age of what David Harvey calls ‘flexible accumulation’. Not only movement from city to city, but movement from country to country offers urban identities an ever changing structure.

Podunk offers small, remote spaces that are the same everywhere, in the shape of the shipping container. Ultimately functional, the four units offer responses to contemporary urban dwelling and movement. What follows is a short description of the interior of each mobile structure:-

Container 1: Utopian digital landscapes are printed onto canvas and wrapped around the interior of the space to offer a respite from concrete and glass.

Container 2: Furnished with speakers and nothing else. Audio landscapes are produced for this space which can be experienced only by entering the container.

Container 3: Fully upholstered in Denim, this space is proposed as a living space and Includes storage space, shelving and lighting for a convenient, comfy and simple ergonomic interior.

Conatiner 4: An office space completely covered in white flocked wallpaper houses a table, chairs and a computer information point where interested parties can make enquiries. Shelves full of Souvenirs are made available here, including T-shirts, keychains, pens, mousepads and postcards.

Podunk exhibits at the following site –

1998   Albert Square / Digital Summer Festival (Manchester, England)