Monthly Archives: January 2011

For the third semester in a row, my good friend Martin Byrne designed a remarkable project (see his Space station and his local NYC slaughterhouse) at Pratt. This time, this project is the achievement of one year of research work on a thesis which was investigating the feral potential of architecture.

The project that applies the conclusions of this research starts from the observation of IBM recent advertising for “a smarter planet”, full of sensors and interactivity. One understands easily how IBM can be economically interested to propose such a vision of the world and also how the various institutions can see in this program a new way to control a bit more society. Martin’s building is thus a garage and a server tower in Mid-Town Manhattan (in front of the Apple store from all places !), that dialogues with each other. Both have been designed for IBM and the server tower remains a pristine universe but the over-magnetic charge of the sensors in the garage building made the latter go back to a feral state, in which unexpected forms of life starts to develop. Humans are then invited to negotiate with their own fear to enter this building that developed its own form of uncontrol.

But I am paraphrasing so, here is Martin’s text to introduce his project within his thesis book:

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An article written by Slavoj Zizek will be published next week in the London Review of Books. In it, the Slovenian philosopher explains why he thinks that the debate around Wikileaks is not turning around the right questions. In this short essay, he elaborates about truth, tact and the unquestioned issues of Representative Democracy. Once again, he helps us to think beyond the surface of things or more simply, to see this same surface as it really is. In the same spirit than Michel Foucault or Edouard Glissant, he is one of those philosophers who know how to think “fast” and be extremely pertinent on current events as they inscribe those same events in a coherently structured vision of society.

Good Manners in the Age of WikiLeaks. Slavoj Zizek

In one of the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks Putin and Medvedev are compared to Batman and Robin. It’s a useful analogy: isn’t Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’s organiser, a real-life counterpart to the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight? In the film, the district attorney, Harvey Dent, an obsessive vigilante who is corrupted and himself commits murders, is killed by Batman. Batman and his friend police commissioner Gordon realise that the city’s morale would suffer if Dent’s murders were made public, so plot to preserve his image by holding Batman responsible for the killings. The film’s take-home message is that lying is necessary to sustain public morale: only a lie can redeem us. No wonder the only figure of truth in the film is the Joker, its supreme villain. He makes it clear that his attacks on Gotham City will stop when Batman takes off his mask and reveals his true identity; to prevent this disclosure and protect Batman, Dent tells the press that he is Batman – another lie. In order to entrap the Joker, Gordon fakes his own death – yet another lie.

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The Thai multi-disciplinary design studio Supermachine Studio (founded by Pitupong Chaowakul in 2009) has designed and built the temporary installations for the Big Mountain Music Festival in Thailand. The architectural vocabulary used expresses its ephemerality in a similar way of what the French collective EXYZT is used to produce or, to stay in Asia, Kolkata’s Pandals during Durja Puja.

Thank you Camille

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# FINE ARTS /// You by Urs FischerJanuary 13, 2011

Arts - By: Léopold Lambert

You is a beautiful installation created by Swiss artist Urs Fischer for the Gavin Brown’s enterprise in 2007. The contrast between the white exhibition walls and the hole dig by the artist manages to maintain an interesting dialog between dirt and pristine.

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This last 29th of November, I posted a short article about Chinese Artist Ai Wei Wei being under House arrest for having publicly declared that he will destroy himself his art studio and celebrate this act. In fact, his studio, after having been encouraged to settle in Jiading (Shanghai) by the Chinese Authorities was sentenced to destruction for a discrepancy with the building permit. One would actually suspect those same authorities, not to appreciate Ai Wei Wei’s political opinions and therefore to punish him in the limits of the relative immunity the artist owns thanks to his international recognition. “They cannot let anything happen if they don’t understand it” he explains about this celebration of the self-destruction in a interview for the BBC visible here.

Thanks Martial. (via designboom)

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Within the frame of my post-professional thesis, Weaponized Architecture, Bryan Finoki was kind enough to answer my questions.

Bryan is the editor of Subtopia, one of the most important and crucial research platform about militarized spaces and their biopolitical implications.

Bryan Finoki’s work is an excavation of the politics of space that underwrite the nature of the contemporary city.  In response to a pervasive culture of fear, secrecy and constitutional sabotage, he confronts what he calls the “sub-architectural” dimensions of militarism and incarceration to further expose corruption’s refuge and the contesting forces that together shape the built environment.  Using architecture and geography as a prism through which to interrogate the design and political production of space, his writing is a definition of military urbanism that expands our understanding of the everyday violence of the global city’s creeping securitization.  If Empire is a hidden landscape then Bryan’s documentation not only helps to reveal it, but also shows an immense counter-landscape that is emerging in its fissures and shadow.

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As I wrote in a recent article, I might write several articles in a near future about the brilliant book The Power of Inclusive Exclusion (see previous article) about the structure of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.
The following text is an excerpt of the chapter wrote by Eyal Weizman, entitled Thanato-tactics that attempt to  deconstruct the logic of the targeted assassinations of Palestinian leaders by the Israeli Army. Not only those assassinations can be interpreted as an intrusion into Palestinian politics by uprooting politicians and leaders that Israel disapprove, but Weizman illustrates how this policy is being accepted and encouraged as a “lesser evil”. The following excerpt is thus an exploration of what this notion of lesser evil is hiding, and via Hannah Arendt, attempts to generalizes the effects of this same notion.

This question is definitely an important one for architects. Indeed, and without using the same moralistic terminology of “evil”, architects are often confronted to this dilemma when offered to achieve a project hosting a program that directly confronts their ethics: It could be this obnoxious competition organized by the New York Times for “a [US/Mexico] fence with more beauty“; but it could also be a prison or even an office building or a showroom. One would maybe blame me for associating those architect’s considerations when Weizman and Arendt are evoking society under nazism; however, the logic of the “lesser evil” is fundamentally based on the minimization of one’s role in the mechanisms of oppression, and that being said, one should not underestimate the role that architects’ play in the economico-biopolitical society we live in.

Here is Eyal Weizman’s text:

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Architect’s Brother is a very beautiful series of photographs by artists Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison. The architect, here, seems to be God and his brother seems to have been in charge of setting up the World at its creation.

You can see the rest of the series on their website by clicking this link.

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# PHILOSOPHY /// The Other Spinoza on French RadioJanuary 8, 2011

Philosophy - By: Léopold Lambert

The Radio Program Les Nouveaux Chemins de la Connaissance that I regularly mention on this blog just released five hours of broadcast about every texts published by Spinoza but the Ethics (as the Ethics usually covers up the others with its genius). Of course all those other texts, whether they have been written before or after the Ethics are eventually all premonitory or retrospectively referring to it:

Links towards the broadcasts
– 01/03/11: Theological-Political Treatise
– 01/04/11: Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect
– 01/05/11: Letters
– 01/06/11: Political Treatise
– 01/07/11: Short Treatise

For those of you who are not familiar with Spinoza’s terminology and ideas I can refer you to the short essay, Architectures of Joy, that I recently wrote about Parent/Virilio and Arakawa/Gins’ architecture as being a Spinozist one.

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Goreme in Capadocia (Turkey) / photo by Louise Frenico

Mehrdad Iravanian, the Iranian architect once suggested, ‘In order to study architecture, one must first investigate necrocracy.’ But we should go further: one must practice the art of exhumation too.
Reza Negarestani

As I already wrote in another article about this book, Cyclonopedia written by Iranian Philosopher Reza Negarestani is a fictitious reinterpretation of Deleuze and Guattari’s Thousand Plateaus based on the following proposition: “The Middle East is alive.

Among other things, Negarestani develop in a much more elaborated way, the notion -introduced by A Thousand Plateaus- of holey space (see previous article) as an alternative of the two Manichean striated and smooth space. Here are some excerpts from Cyclonopedia:

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