montage based on Graphic Standards and Ernst Neufert’s work originally created for Weaponized Architecture: The Impossibility of Innocence (dpr-barcelona, 2012).
TRANSGRESSING THE NORMALIZED IDEAL BODY ///
(originally written in French for Swiss magazine Tracés based on two older articles: “A Subversive Approach to the Ideal Normatized Body,” and “The Modernist Ideology of a Normative Body.“)
We all have in mind Leonardo da Vinci’s ink drawing dedicated to Roman architect Vitruvius whose motto “Solidity, Utility, Beauty” is still engraved in the Pritzker prize’s medal nowadays. The Vitruvian Man is thus this drawing introducing the anatomical proportions of a theoretically perfect man, placed in the center of the universe. Since this body is placed in the center of the universe, it seems reasonable to think that the universe was built around it and adapted to it. In the 20th-century, several architects also undertook to elaborate a body around which architecture could be conceived. We can think of Le Corbusier’s Modulor (1945) of course, as well as Ernst Neufert’s bodies (1936) that both still constitute absolute references for architects of multiple countries. We can also refer to Henri Dreyfuss’s characters, Joe and Josephine (1974), who live in a graphic standard world whose dimensions are invading the entire available space. What is the height of the table, the chair, the door? Those are only a few instances of architectural components that, not only seem to be given to us without letting us questioning them, but that also constitute a fundamental problem as far as the standardization of the body as well as their own.
The forty-sixth Funambulist Paper, written by Nandita Biswas Mellamphy, closes this series of nine texts that invoke the philosophy of Gilbert Simondon (three of which were written by guest writers). Entitled “Ghost in the Shell- Game: On the Mètic Mode of Existence, Inception and Innocence,” the following text proposes a reading of two films, Mamoru Oshii’s 2004 Inosensu (Ghost in the Shell 2) and Christopher Nolan’s 2010 Inception, through an anthropomorphized-but-never-humanized approach to machinic consciousness in the first case, and a machinic approach to human consciousness in the second one. Nandita therefore illustrates the blurriness of the limits that are usually set in between these two entities, when in fact neither the human nor the machine can be seen as essences. She goes as far as connecting the concepts mètis (which means crafty manipulation) and métissage (which describes the craft of intermingling and/or fabricating) to talk about the mode of existence of the technical object in relation to the mode of existence of the human being. The mètic, morever, is also the resident alien in ancient Greece, a similar situation for the technical object per Simondon which it convenes us to understand in order to construct new relational modes with/in it.
The Funambulist Papers 46:
Ghost in the Shell-Game:
On the Mètic Mode of Existence, Inception and Innocence
by Nandita Biswas Mellamphy
I begin, then, properly, in and with the proper voice (that of Pierre Ménard). To begin, then, anew: The purpose of this study is to create an awareness of the significance of technical objects. Culture has become a system of defense against technics; now, this defense appears as a defense of man based on the assumption that technical objects contain no human reality. We should like to show that culture fails to take into account that there is a human reality in technical reality and that, if it is to fully play its role, culture must come to incorporate technical entities into its body of knowledge and its sense of values. Recognition of the modes of existence of technical objects should be the result of philosophical thought, which in this respect has to achieve what is analogous to the role it played in the abolition of slavery and in the affirmation of the value of the human person. The opposition established between culture and technology, between man and machine, is false and is not well-founded; what underlies it is mere ignorance or resentment. Behind the mask of a facile humanism it hides a reality that is rich in human efforts and natural forces, a reality that constitutes the world of technical objects, mediators between nature and man.
DISCLAIMER: Before you read any further, please know that if you have not watch Alfonso Cuarón‘s new film, Gravity, and that you intend to watch it, you probably should not read any further. Despite the illustrative quality to my point that some images were providing, I also preferred not to include an evocative one here, so not to spoil the effects that this film will trigger in you. I will assume that whoever read what follows is either someone who already saw the film or someone who do not mind to read an interpretation of this film before actually watching it.
The question of weight and gravity in films has been an interest to me for quite a while, and this following text will take its part in the sequel of five articles written in the past:
- The Weight of the Body Falling (sept 2011)
- Spinozist Collision (sept 2011)
- Gravity Dances (dec 2011)
- The Weight of the Body Dancing by Pina Bausch as filmed by Wim Wenders (jan 2012)
- Applied Spinozism: The Body in Kurosawa’s Cinema (mar 2013)
In these articles, I was insisting on the importance given to material encounters in films and photographs revealing the true weight of things, and thus the weight of the material assemblages that bodies (living and non-living) constitute. I was often making this reading through Spinoza’s philosophy that insists on the relation that these encounters compose.
One Flat Thing Reproduced by Choreographer William Forsythe (2008) /// Photograph by Michel Cavalca
A few months ago, I presented the work of dancer/philosopher Erin Manning and her book, Relationscape (MIT Press, 2009) through a Bergsonian interpretation of movement. Her most recent book, Always More Than One: Individuation’s Dance (Duke University Press, 2013) indicates twice in its very title its credit to Gilbert Simondon‘s philosophy. This volume continues to construct a philosophy of the dancing body, continuously “taking form” in relation of its environment. Dance is not necessarily on stage and does not necessarily requires music (at least, not music that knows that it is music) in the case of individuation’s dance. “There are techniques for hoeing, for standing at a bus stop, for reading a philosophical text, for taking a seat in a restaurant, for being in line at a grocery store,” says Manning (p33) using the Simondonian terminology.
Interpreting this last passage in terms of normativity would be completely misunderstanding Manning’s dicourse. The techniques she describes do not involve a normalized body on which these techniques would be layered: they are proper to each body’s specificity. In fact, what Simondon brings to the concept of body according to her consists in the refusal of thinking a predetermined form for the body, which brings us back to the first episode of this week in critique of the hylomorphic scheme:
March for the third month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street on November 17, 2011 /// Photograph by Léopold Lambert
The two last episodes of this “Simondon week” has been familiarizing us with the main concept of Gilbert Simondon‘s work: individuation. In a few words, we can redefine it as the operation in which some pre-individual embraces its becoming and supply a “solution to a problem” to form an individual. An individual is always incomplete and find itself (whatever it might be) always involved in new processes of individuation until its death/obsolescence. Simondon nevertheless does not stop at this concept of individuation developed in L’individu et sa genèse physico-biologique, he later invents the concept of transindividual in his book, L’individuation psychique et collective (Psychical and Collective Individuation, Aubier 1989). Transindividuation constitutes the operation in which a certain amount of individuals (born from successive operations of individuation) construct a relation between themselves that ultimately form a consistent aggregate that Simondon calls transindividual. It is important to understand this concept, not only in social terms as this text will attempt to do, but also in a less anthropocentric manner as I tried to do in a past article entitled “The Body Is not One, It Is Legion.” The idea behind this biblical reference was to insist on the composite characteristics of a body (human/animal or not) that is itself the continuous result of successive operations of transindividuation.
The fifth episode of the “Simondon week” is rather special as it is also the forty-fourth Funambulist Papers that friend Sarah Choukah was kind enough to write for us. Sarah shares her time between being a brilliant scholar and a bio-hacker (as well as a mycologist cook!) that she investigates in the following text in relation to the work of Gilbert Simondon. Her essay is thus an attempt to invent an applied simondonianism to the relatively recent political practice of bio-hacking, a Do It Yourself resistance against the laboratorian/pharmaceutical industries that are deeply entangled within capitalist logic. The fourth episode ended on this notion of associated milieus developed by Simondon; this is where Sarah starts her text.
The Funambulist Papers 44:
Of Associated Milieus
by Sarah Choukah
Recently as I was strolling through my neighborhood in Montreal, I came across a toy I saw kids play into in the eighties: the Cozy Coupe car with a bright yellow body and a red foot-powered chassis, a popular toy around that time. I remembered how the car’s cockpit allowed interfacing with familiar surroundings while giving a first sense of leg-powered, seated motility outside the house.
berries after an ice storm: materialization of the supercooling phenomena
Let us continue to think of the concept of life for Gilbert Simondon after Spinoza. In my knowledge, Spinoza never gives a clear definition of life in his Ethics. What we can draw from his philosophy to define life would be related to an intensity of movement of the substance concentrated within a body. Spinoza never seem to think in term of history of the world, and it would be an anachronism to attribute to him a first sketch of the evolution as thought by Charles Darwin two centuries after him; however, his ethics allows to think Darwin’s interpretation of the world since Spinoza thinks of the infinite substance that is the world as continuously in movement and transforming the bodies formed in it. Both of these narratives respect the antic principle according to which “natura non facit saltus” (nature does not make jump); in other words, life emerges gradually and not in thresholds. Simondon who is a thinker of the 20th-century, uses the scientific knowledge of his time in biophysics, electronics and thermodynamic to think of a new definition of life.