Functioning as both a storehouse of memories and the literal embodiment of transience (or migration) the traditional suitcase became, in the period between the two wars, an extension of the intangible history of the twentieth century embodying the turbulence of migration and escape as well as the limitless boundaries of avant-garde experimentation. The suitcase was the perfect vessel to accompany the political and cultural upheavals of the period and became the ideal site for creative experimentation, attempting to reconnect the practice of art (and architecture) with the experience of everyday life. This was most obvious in the radical practices of Marcel Duchamp and Walter Benjamin whose biographies inhabited the suitcase as both a prosthetic accompaniment and creative diary. This paper explores the intangible heritage of the suitcase and hotel room as it is distilled through the work of Diller and Scofidio in the 1990s. Diller + Scofidio’s work directly engages the projects of both Benjamin and Duchamp, reigniting the intangible histories of the avant-garde and their submerged archaeology within the suitcase and hotel room. These intertwined practices all used the suitcase as a repository of objects that document intangible histories and embody both their experience and creativity. With the acceleration and expansion of the tourism industry, the idiosyncratic histories of the suitcase are often overlooked. Discovered through history, this paper will look at the contents of the suitcases of these critical figures, establishing their historical significance and the influence and legacy that has been subsequently attached to them.
2nd International Conference on Intangible Heritage. Sharing Cultures 2011: 2nd International Conference on Intangible Heritage. Proceedings (Tomar, Portugal 3-6 July, 2011) p. 341-351