Monthly Archives: February 2011

Dogtooth is a 2009 Greek film by director Yorgos Lanthimos that introduces a family whose children and mother never leaves the luxurious and remote villa they live in. In fact, the parents have elaborated a world limited to the house and the garden, the outside being defined as extremely dangerous, only accessible by car when one looses his(her) dogtooth. The children are continuously associated with dogs to the point that the father gives a class of self-defense that consists in learning how to bark.

The reference to the Marquis de Sade and his 120 Days of Sodom (1785) and its cinematographic adaptation, Salo (1975) by Pier Paolo Pasolini is clearly assumed in the relationship between the father and his children and the territoriality of this Sadian domination. On the contrary the mother seems to be more associated with the contractual Masochian relationship with her husband as she is aware of the perpetual lie she lives in and that she contributes too, but accept her prisoner condition without ever questioning it.

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# MANIFESTO /// FormlessfinderFebruary 28, 2011

Architecture & Design - By: Léopold Lambert

Formlessfinder

Form has always tended to operate as a mechanism of control in architecture. Whether through the ancient orders, Renaissance systems of proportion, or 19th century theories of tectonics, form has provided architecture’s symbolic value, its organization, and literally given shape to its materials and structures. This tendency is stronger than ever today, despite the illusion of freedom provided by digital technologies of design and manufacture and the new geometric possibilities they offer. No matter how sophisticated the modeling software or automated the assembly, a project’s form still exists as an underlying framework, static and rational, entirely circumscribing the processes of design and construction. Today – largely due to a near ubiquitous faith in digital technology and complex geometry – architecture lacks intelligent or innovative approaches to form.

The formless was articulated as a philosophical construct by Georges Bataille, a man with a famous antipathy for architecture. But Bataille’s hostility was due more to his myopic view of architecture than any fundamental incompatibility between his ideas and architectural practice. Bataille could only see architecture as form – it was always a metaphor or a symbol: a stand-in for the body, the state, or an institution. But in his Critical Dictionary, the same document that included his notoriously hostile “definition” of architecture, Bataille praised the formless qualities of space. And his notion of the formless was deeply physical, grounded in a discourse of base materiality. Ironically, then, there may be no better place for Bataille’s ideas to take root than architecture, provided it is no longer conflated with form.

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It is interesting to envision Art History in terms of inventions. Of course,  one could argue that a work of art is not simply about inventing new techniques but also to be able to use those techniques to the content of this work, however we could approach the problem in a Spinozist way which does not differentiate the soul and the body, and therefore here, between the means and the essence. Studying Art History by focusing on inventions is therefore interesting in what new emotions it allows to communicate.

After this general introduction, I am interested in observing more specifically the invention that Spike Lee invented for Cinema. The principle is pretty simple, filming an actor standing on the dolly on which the camera is set and effectuating a back traveling shot that makes the actor immobile but the setting around moving (see the short video in Clockers) . The main effect produced is the feeling that the actor is floating and moved by an external force.

With this process, Spike Lee manages to communicate different emotions that take over the character whose body has no choice but to obey to an irresistible force that push him (her) forward.
In Malcolm X, the character of Denzel Washington is pushed by  the fatal history when he goes to give the speech during which he will be assassinated. In Clockers, a young drug dealer is moved by its loss of control of a situation that drives the kid that helps him to shoot a man in front of him. In the 25th Hour, both Anna Paquin and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s characters are subjected to a state of drunkenness that bring her to seduce him and him to kiss her despite the fact that she is his 17 years old student. Eventually, in Inside Man, Denzel Washington again, as an hostage negotiator and calm for the whole first part of the movie, is moved by a virulent anger when one of the hostage he is responsible of has been shot by Bank robbers.

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Geoff Manaugh just released an interesting post on BLDG BLOG about two images produced by the Italian Magazine San Rocco. Those provocative pictures have been created in reaction to a law proposal by the Italian Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni in 2010. This Law was imposing a filtering of Stadium’s population by the swiping of Electronic ID Card.
This kind of law, justified by security purposes as always (against hooligans here) are increasing the filtering and control of urban populations and San Rocco’s images illustrate this dangerous evolution by envisioning checkpoints that filter the allowed population in the center of cities (here Piazza San Marco in Venice and Piazza del Popolo in Rome).

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I wrote an article about the same topic in 2008, but it seems worth re-evoking the very interesting practice of Recetas Urbanas (Urban Prescriptions in Spanish). Created by Santiago Cirugeda this office is situated in Seville and insert a part of its project in the ambiguous folds of the city’s construction code. In fact, I always refer to Cirugeda’s work as something in between the important works of Teddy Cruz who negotiate with the Institution to achieve legal projects and of Max Rameau who requisitions Miami’s speculative land to compose homeless’ villages. This practice requires an exhaustive knowledge of the legal frame of the environment it registers in.

Explaining the approach of a project like ANDAMIOS (photo 2) is highly illustrative of this attitude. Seville’s urban code allows oneself to set up a scaffolding on one’s facade in order to repaint it (maybe because of a graffito on it for example). As long as this operation is backed by a licensed architect who can sign the health and safety form, one could then install an additional balcony to his apartment during this same duration:

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# CINEMA /// La Jetée by Chris MarkerFebruary 23, 2011

Cinema - By: Léopold Lambert

I just re-watched La Jetée by French director Chris Marker and I am still fascinated by the uniqueness of this 29 minutes movie. Marker,  along with Peter Watkins (see previous articles 1 & 2), can be said to have invented a new type of Cinema that uses a documentary style in order to create fiction, the film crew being present in those movies as a fictive character.

When he created La Jetée in 1962, he already directed seven movies of this kind, proposing a socialist reading to situations in France, Finland, China, Russia and Cuba (Brazil, US, Vietnam, Chili, Germany, Romania and most of all Japan will follow in the coming thirty years) . However, La Jetée, registers in a slightly different type, just as much unique, which tends more towards “proper” fiction but using only photographic stills to compose his movie. Marker calls this genre “Roman Photo” (Photographic Novel) but really, he is only emphasizing the mean cinema has been always using, the succession of stills which, when articulated all together by the spectator’s mind, creates a comprehensible narrative. When the “normal” cinema uses twenty four of those stills per second, Marker varies rhythms of his photographs that either compose a coherent sequence or on the contrary, follow one space (and one time) to another.

As far as the story is concerned, I don’t want to say too much as some of my readers would have not seen yet amongst who, some would have watched the very good 12 Monkeys by Terry Gilliam that was directly and expressively inspired by La Jetée. If I reveal what the ten first of the movie unfold, this story introduces a man who is sent from a post-apocalyptic Paris’ underground future back to the past thanks to the intense mental image memory he keeps from his childhood of a man dying in front of him on the jetty of Orly’s airport.
This notion of mental image is very important as the stills from the movie can be all interpreted as such. In a more personal way for the spectator, it is extremely interesting to observe how one remembers this film; not by scene like in any other movies, but rather by fragments, and images since their persistence impacts our memory with great insistence.

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Sometimes interviewer reaches the level of the interviewed (one could think of the hours of interview of Alfred Hitchcock by Francois Truffaut for example). The following conversation is constituted by questions Antonio Negri has for his friend Gilles Deleuze about the notions of control and becoming.
This topic is obviously always appropriate but the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and, let’s hope for it, Libya and Iran, make Deleuze’s words even more striking. When many miserable Westerners wonder if those revolutions are to be considered a good thing as “nobody knows where they are going”, one can follow Deleuze and affirms that what is really important is the revolutionary becoming of people. Applied to these recent situations, what needs to be celebrate before all are the seventeen days spent by the people of Egypt on the Tahrir Square, forming a temporary communist society celebrated by Alain Badiou (see previous article).
As Deleuze concludes this beautiful conversation, “our ability to resist control, or our submission to it, has to be assessed at the level of our every move”

The original version in French can be read on Le Silence Qui Parle.

Control and Becoming
Gilles Deleuze in conversation with Antonio Negri

Negri: The problem of politics seems to have always been present in your intellectual life. Your involvement in various movements (prisoners, homosexuals, Italian autonomists, Palestinians), on the one hand, and the constant problematizing of institutions, on the other, follow on from one another and interact with one another in your work, from the book on Hume through to the one on Foucault. What are the roots of this sustained concern with the question of politics, and how has it remained so persistent within your developing work? Why is the rela­tion between movement and institution always problematic?

Deleuze: What I’ve been interested in are collective creations rather than rep­resentations. There’s a whole order of movement in “institutions” that’s independent of both laws and contracts. What I found in Hume was a very creative conception of institutions and law. I was initially more interested in law than politics. Even with Masoch and Sade what I liked was the thoroughly twisted conception of contracts in Masoch, and of institutions in Sade, as these come out in relation to sexuality. (more…)

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The following project is a design for an opera in Warsaw by the London based architect Jie Shen.Here, the model is not so much a representative tool than a diminished scale building in which materials match with their potential real application. That is how, the proposed opera introduces a rough vocabulary which recalls the one used in naval construction.

found via designboom

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This beautiful model is part of the project Oogst 1 designed by the Dutch office Tjep which introduces a self sufficient house for one person that provides its resident with food, energy, heat and oxygen. Its authors even add “In principle, one could live in Oogst 1 Solo without ever having to leave the house.” Beyond the ingenuousness of the design and its beautiful representation (one would not help noticing the introduction of the Dutch house’s paradigm), one might want to look at Oogst having in mind the issues brought by the notion of self-sufficiency housing. This problem is currently very popular and is the topic of several competitions (like the ones organized by the IAAC that was first won by our friend Gaetan Kohler) but few people seems to envision the issues linked to this notion.

In the less problematic case, we can approach self-sufficiency as a mean for one or several persons to deliberately separate themselves from society and, this way, refusing to contribute to a collective achievement. In a much more problematic case, one could observe the incredible social discrepancies between rich and poor within society and the constant  territorial fragmentation  that result from them. Self-sufficient gated communities appear as the future  housing paradigm for an economical elite that constitute exclusive zones in the middle of the societal world. Those zones even manage more and more to communicate with each other without entering into the common areas like in Sao Paulo or in Lagos where rich people connect one zone to another by helicopters.

I am aware that the notion of self-sufficiency is primary related to the question of “green energies” but ecology seems to be the current best alibi for capitalism to sustain itself and to increase those social discrepancies to their extreme. Three years ago, I attempted to envision the near future of such territoriality, but rather to the other point of view, the one of the pauperization of the majority of the world which might end up living in vertical favelas which would probably be self-sufficient in their way too. The world will then be clearly separated into two camps which would territorialize even more the generalized civil war that Eric Hazan distinguish so brilliantly in our current society. One might say that this world already exists.

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Living Pod by David Greene (Archigram) in 1966

It has been a long time that I wanted to write a post about the short story The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista in the book Vermilion Sands written by James Graham Ballard between 1956 and 1970 (and published in 1971).
In fact, this story introduces a very peculiar type of houses that Ballard entitled Psychotropic (ethymologically: that is stimulated by the mind). Those houses physically reacts to their inhabitant’s mood and stress and thus adapt their spatiality to them.

…it consisted of six huge aluminum-shelled spheres suspended like the elements of a mobile from an enormous concrete davit. The largest sphere contained the lounge, the others successively smaller and spiraling upward into the air, the bedrooms and kitchen…
Stamers, the agent, left us sitting in the car… and switched the place on (all the houses in Vermillion Sands, it goes without saying, were psychotropic). There was a dim whirring, and the spheres tipped and began to rotate, brushing against the undergrowth.

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