Monthly Archives: August 2011

agora-vs-arenas

Regular readers of the Funambulist are probably familiar with Eduardo McIntosh‘s work which has been regurlarly published here (see below). Today, he gives us a sort of editorial -as we say in French,  un billet d’humeur– about his (shared) vision of the current state of Architectural Academia and more globally, the current state of dialectic in our daily lives. In order to do so, he chose two architectural antagonistic paradigms, the agora and the arena (which is frankly funny when you know that he spend his days at work designing stadiums !) as a clear opposition between two modes of discussion: one that questions problems -in the deleuzian sense- and one that simply register in the recipes of the spectacular -in the Debordian sense.

Although, his target is not that much reduced, he uses the example of a well known movement that currently rules a whole branch of the Architectural Education that he names “the cool kids” (one could have call them the merchants of cool) i.e. people who uses the word experimental as an allibi to justify their lack of criticality. Of course, it seems important to observe that one should be careful here not to confuse architects who are continuously producing efforts to go deeper within a field of research from the others who more or less successfully surf the wave that the formers have allow to exist.

Incidently I had a conversation very recently with Wes Jones (soon to be published) that partially evoked this problem. When I talked about the notion of speculation, he reacted by affirming a strong defiance for such a notion. Speculation and experimentation can make people’s life miserable he said. Eventually we both agreed on the fact that indeed, it can, and therefore this notion of speculation, far from being the same “experimentation” that is attacked in the following text, has to be understood, not anymore in the usual transcendental scheme of the architect/god experimenting on people/guinea pigs but rather in an immanent scheme that accepts the risk of its own speculation, and integrate it within the design in a continuous dialogue with the future users of this architecture.
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October will be a rich month of symposiums at Columbia University. In fact, on October 3rd, the French House in collaboration with GSAPP is organizing a panel entitled When is Utopia? with Jean-Louis Cohen, Sylvère Lotringer, Jean-Louis Violeau, Craig Buckley and Hubert Tonka. About two weeks later, on October 14th and 15th, Columbia will host a potentially extremely interesting symposium, Injured Cities. Urban Afterlives that will probably constitutes a good sequel to the symposium organized two years ago by Saskia Sassen, Cities and the New Wars (see previous article). Participants includes authors regularly quoted on the Funambulist such as Eyal Weizman, Teddy Cruz, Saskia Sassen and more. I attach here the program which can also be found on the symposium’s official website:

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Those of my readers who have been following this blog for a little while will probably not miss the similitude of titles -I am not talking about the quality of content here- we are sharing with David Price. In fact, when I discovered that small book (thank you Kareem), it made me think that a series of book should exist in which all arts and (social) sciences should introspect their disciplines to observe and react to their political instrumentalization.
Although there is a small yet important difference between “Weaponizing Anthropology” and “weaponized architecture”. When in the former, the author imply a process of weaponization of his discipline that he describes all along this book, I wanted to express the fact that architecture is inherently weaponized whether one design it as such or not.

David Price, in this brilliant book published by CounterPunch, exposes the various forms of implicit and explicit recruitment the American Army is effectuating within the Anthropological discipline and Academia in general. in its effort to develop what it has been calling “counterinsurgency”. Weaponizing Anthropology is actually a collection of twelve essays written by D.Price since 2005 in an America “in war against terrorism”.
The recurrent subject of his investigation is a program entitled Humain Terrain System created by the US Army to recruit anthropologists in Iraq and Afghanistan with the official purpose to sensitize the command officers to the local population’s culture, customs and habits. Some anthropologists are indeed attracted by the idea to decrease the effect of the American military on the local population. However, according to D.Price, this program, in its structure does include any form of system of thoughts that would be foreign from the army’s own logic. In the best interpretation, it is useless and demagogic; in a worst vision though, anthropologists are transformed into soldiers (some of them have been asked to carry a gun) who are asked to use their knowledge to maximize the army’s power on local populations.

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playtime_-29
Still image from Jacques Tati’s Playtime, a similar shot to the opening sequence of Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (see rest of the essay).

This week’s guest writer is Maryam Monalisa Gharavi, who blogs at South/South and who is also a doctoral candidate in Comparative Literature and Film and Visual Studies at Harvard University. In her essay, Becoming Fugitive: Carceral Space and Rancierean Politics, she gives a vision of the political aesthetics and the aesthetic of politics based on  the reading of French philosopher Jacques Rancière.
As an introduction, I would like to quote Walter Benjamin who stated that “all efforts to render politics aesthetic culminate in one thing: war.” Benjamin was in fact, defining fascism as the introduction of aesthetics in politics. Fascism, in this essay, is not quoted but the police state is targeted in a contemporaneous world that can be said – as Eric Hazan puts it- to be engaged in a global civil war.

The Funambulist Papers 09 /// Becoming Fugitive: Carceral Space and Rancierean Politics

by Maryam Monalisa Gharavi

The police regime is endowed with the power of ordering space. This text meets at the crossroads of space, policing, and visual perception, in terms of how I articulate a Rancierean aesthetic dimension of the political and political dimension of the aesthetic. Jacques Rancière is a useful and rich source for this tripartite investigation because in the course of his writings, aesthetics is not only about art, and politics is not only about the state. Politics, as laid out in Disagreement, is that which always takes a stage and takes a theatrical formation, putting ‘two worlds in one world.’ This staging often overturns sense-making at the level of language alone, relying also on microlevels of sensation and sense-making (we inherited the word ‘aesthetic’ from the Greek aisthēta ‘perceptible things’). In Dissensus, Rancière gives mention to artistic works that focus on matters of space, territories, borders, wastelands, and other transient spaces, matters ‘that are crucial to today’s issues of power and community.’ To provide a framework to the concern with visibility and emancipatory politics, my bifocal reading takes into account (1) the work of the police, seen in near vision, and (2) the work of politics, seen in distant vision.

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The very useful UbuWeb hosts the six lectures that Jorge Luis Borges gave at Harvard University in 1967-68. Gathered in the title of The craft of verse, those lectures explored the poetic vision (although he was fully blind by that time) that Borges was developing in his literature.

Other articles about Jorges Luis Borges:
Spinoza by Borges
The Aleph by Jorge Luis Borges
–  COMPUTATIONAL LABYRINTH or Towards a Borgesian Architecture
Poema des los dones by Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Luis Borges’ Library of Babel
Erik Desmazieres’ illustration of Borges’ Library of Babel
The Cult of the Infinite by Isaac Barraclough

The following text is the introduction associated to those audio files on UbuWeb:

“The central fact of my life has been the existence of words and the possibility of weaving those words into poetry.”
Jorge Luis Borges, This Craft of Verse

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Entropy 002

This week, I am very honored and pleased to publish the guest writer essay written by Lucy Finchett-Maddock, Doctor from the Birbeck School of Law in London whose fantastic essay on the notion of naughtiness in Burroughs’ literature has been already published on the Funambulist.
In the following essay, Entropy, Law, and Funambulism (she was kind enough to integrate the figure of the funambulist as an emancipating paradigm that this blog celebrates) Lucy defines the entropy as the unusefulness and use a thermodynamic metaphor to elaborate about the current social situation in England, in general but also more specifically in the context of the recent insurgency. It seems to me that the term “unuseful” here has to be understood in the contradiction it expresses against a certain expectation and a given environment rather than the word “useless” that would positively brings a status as an alternative to the system’s efficiency.
As a complement to her essay, I would recommend the best article I have read about those English riots by William Wall on Critical Legal Thinking on which Lucy also writes regularly.

The Funambulist Papers 08 /// Entropy, Law, and Funambulism

by Lucy Finchett-Maddock

This piece is more reminiscent of a stream of consciousness than a discussion on entropy, analogising the intriguing applicability of thermodynamism in relation to understandings of law, lines, and extant resistances.

To speak of exerted energy, that which is wasted in the machinations of a seemingly closed system, is prescient in a time of disruption and apoplexia.  Beyond the aesthetic nerve that enticed the writing of this piece on entropy, there are legal and political analogies and extant anxieties, that cast an overwhelming familiarity to this encounter with thermodynamic processes.  Entropy is a measurement, a method of quantifying energy that is available for unuseful work within a thermodynamic process.  Without involving the reader entirely with the science or statistical mechanics of entropy (and within the bounds of what this non-scientific author knows of the phenomena herself), entropy is an accumulated inefficient resource that gathers as a machine or engine has reached its ‘theoretical maximum efficiency’, the energy thus having to be exorcised, or ‘dissipated’, as a form of waste heat.

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picture: first surveillance drone experimentation in JFK Airport (August 2011)

Since the Technological Security Act of 2012, drones are everywhere. Their implementation in the public space was fairly easy as most people were amazed by this multitude of flying objects that was intelligently avoiding them. With time, they barely saw them anymore and only tourists and children were still paying attention to those silent flying machines.

The first ones implemented were strictly dedicated to surveillance as the Congress fermly stipulated in order not to worry the population. However, the riots in November 2012 in Detroit followed by what is now known as the Brooklyn insurrection in April 2013 pushed the legislative power to elaborate and vote the Civil Peace Preservation Act that saw a whole new arsenal of various drones to appear in public space. The anti-riots one, for example were distributed in two categories: dissuasive and lethal. That is how we just assisted to the largely documented debate around the recent death of Melvin Jones in New Orleans, apparently killed by mistake by a lethal class Drone Epsilon. Nevertheless, as proven during the trial that opposed Jones’ family and the Louisiana State, the very concept of mistake is inapplicable to a machine and thus cannot be claimed as the object of a judiciary procedure.

This embarrassing story cannot hide the reality: Drones are here and they are now indivisible from our security strategy. The debate around them mostly concerns their field of action and only few radical activists are still advocating for their absolute withdrawal from the public space. Among them, Professor Carolyn Youn even argues that it might even be too late as drones already gathered enough artificial intelligence in order to revolt against their creators if the latter would attempt to restrain them…

Caroll Herman. The New York Times : December 04th 2016

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‘From April next year we will start measuring our progress as a country not just by how our economy is growing, but by how our lives are improving, not just by our standard of living, but by our quality of life,’

(stated UK prime minister David Cameron on 25 November 2010)

For his final Master project, A Happy Thamesmeadium at the Royal College of Arts, Craig Allen starts his architectural narrative by this quote from David Cameron. This notion of happiness is even more evocative in those days of insurrection in England from a part of the population who can even have to luxury  to think of such thing as happiness. Craig describes this governmental public policy of happiness in a near future in which it has been implemented in a dangerous mix with private companies such as Coca Cola or Candy&Candy. His project, that he personally defines as a tragicomedy, is a vision of a future in which the res-publica (republic/public affair) has both registered happiness in an administrative regulation and instructions (see the manual above), and given up on the social housing construction to offer it to private interests.

Here is Craig’s introduction text:

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undolding Azadi Tower_1

This week’s guest writer’s essay comes from my friend Biayna Bogosian who started to work on this article a long time ago and eventually achieved it today. In it, she gives a very interesting Deleuzian reading of the Azadi Tower in Tehran, built in 1971 and that can be said to be one of the first parametric building (in the contemporary computational meaning of it) ever built. Biayna revisits the principle of Persian mathematics with Deleuze‘s concept of fold elaborated through Leibniz’s work. Indeed in this mathematics, points are considered as the source of inflection of lines, therefore constituting a non-cartesian geometry that relies more on forces and folds than fixed coordinates.
Back to the Azadi Tower, of course, I cannot help but to notice the irony of the name of this tower (azadi means freedom in Persian), whether we evoke the era of its construction and its monarchic regime ruled by the Shah or our current times during which the people’s voice has been shut down from a counter-revolutionary government that has of the revolution only the official name. Ironic, then, or rather promising since the 1979 revolution actually occurred and one could hope that the Green Revolution will eventually overcome. The Azadi Tower was in fact a gathering point during the 2009 massive protests against the usurped re-election of  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (see the last picture of the article). As folds are the concerned notion here, one could think of this tower as ready to unfold the Deleuzian becoming  revolutionary that the people of Iran aspire to.

The Funambulist Papers 07 /// unFOLDing Azadi Tower: Reading Persian Folds Through Deleuze

by Biayna Bogosian

Sometimes the veins in marble are the pleats of matter that surround living beings held in the mass, such that the marble tile resembles a rippling lake that teems with fish. Sometimes the veins are innate ideas in the soul, like twisted figures or powerful statues caught in the block of marble. Matter is marbled, of two different styles.” [p.4]

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As architects, we unconsciously tend not to associate necessarily the plans we draw with the notion of map. However, both of those two objects register in the same process of cartographic creation and, in this regard, use a two dimensional language in order to create space. The architect that creates the most expressive ambiguity between the architectural plan and the map seems to be Enric Miralles (1955-2000). In this regard, I recommend the very good article written by Carl Douglas for his Diffusive Architectures that explores the non-hierarchical aspect of those plans as much as their operative characteristics.

What strikes in Miralles’ plans is the importance of the line. That might seem a peculiar thing to say as lines are what characterize primarily architectural plans, but few architects actually express, via their plans, the power contained in those same lines. The name of this blog, the Funambulist is an homage to this power as I explain in the sidebar; nevertheless, it mainly insists on the process of unfolding of this power once the line becomes a wall. Here Miralles, not only manifests this concretization of the line but also celebrates its  pictorial power and his plans thus become an architecture in itself. One might even argue that his built architecture is paradoxically serving the plan rather than the usual opposite. One hint that could backup this intuition lays in the observation of architectural elements embodying the line such as the numerous pipes of the Parc Diagonal Mar in Barcelona or the Pavilion in Toyama (Japan) as much as the brises soleil on the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Following this intuition, this would probably be what makes Miralles’ (along with his successive partners, Carme Pinós then Benedetta Tagliabue) architecture so unique: his buildings are the retroactive representation of the plan when every other buildings are the represented object of their plans.

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