Very short post today, just to announce that Liam Young will be the kick-off guest for the new version of Studio-X now directed by Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley. His talk will occur on Thursday between 6pm and 8pm. Read more about it on their respective blogs and learn how to RSVP.
Liam Young related articles on The Funambulist:
- Make Me A Mountain! by Liam Young
- Data Fossils by Tobias Jewson (tutored by Liam Young at the AA)
- GravityONE by Oliviu Lugojan-Ghenciu (tutored by Liam Young at the AA)
- Thrilling Wonder Stories 2 at the AA
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.
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:
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.
picture: 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.
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.
drawing by Dijan Malla
Knowing my interest for the notion of lines (as an example, see the recent article about Enric Miralles’ drawings), Hugh McEwen was kind enough to send me a small press release of the exhibition he is currently curating with Adam Draper and Greg Skinner in London, simply entitled Lines. This exhibition gathers a certain amount of architectural hand drawings that offers a reflection on this specific mean of representation, each author developing a short personal interpretation of his (her) use of hand drawings.
The catalogue of the exhibition can be found by following this link and the following text is the press release’s introduction:
An exhibition of original hand drawings
18.08.11 – 27.08.11
1st Floor Gallery, 3 Baltic Street East, London, EC1Y 0UJ
12:00 – 7:00 every day, including weekends
Organised by: Adam Draper, Hugh McEwen, Greg Skinner
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
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.
Entropy, Law, and Funambulism
by Dr 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.
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
‘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:
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.
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]
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.
I got the chance last week, to curate a small cine-club session organized by Danielle Willems (see her essay for the Funambulist) who was kind enough to ask me so. I chose two movies that I was not necessarily associating but whose connection will have to be made in an upcoming article about what Deleuze calls the Power of the False (La puissance du Faux). Those two films were Punishment Park (1971) by Peter Watkins (see the previous articles about it) and A Walk Through H. (1978) by Peter Greenaway about which I already wrote but I would like to reiterate in order to open a new category in the archives that I will elaborate about in the coming weeks. This category concerns Maps, their subjectivity and their power. I already archived in it previous articles that are related to this topic and more will come.
I still need to research more information in order to write something about the subjectivity of maps as a mean of representation of space, but of course that is the main topic of A Walk Through H. whose narrator is so obsessed with maps that he ends up seeing them on every piece of paper that gets in his way and the film is registered in a slow process of abstractization of those maps that create new spaces rather than representing them.
The following text is what Peter Greenaway says about this film, immediately followed by thirteen of the ninety two maps painted by P.Greenaway himself that constitutes the movie. I don’t know if there has ever been an exhibition about them but I would be amazed to see one being organized :
Like most people, I suspect, I am interested in maps, cartography, plans and diagrams. The map is an extraordinary palimpsest to tell you where you have been, where you are at this present moment, and where you could be, and even in subjective tenses, where you might have been, where you could have been. It’s a total consideration in the sense of temporality as well as spatiality. I have this fascination that I often utilize for making many paintings which had maps and cartography as their basis.
The following text is an excerpt from the essay written by Saskia Sassen and entitled When the City Itself Becomes a Technology of War. The notion of technology here, is not so much to be understood as an artifact that was designed for this function of war (like what I am myself very interested in) but rather as a built environment that, more than just being the theater of war, takes fully part to the hostilities.
S. Sassen mostly uses the examples of Mumbai during the attacks in 2008 and Gaza and its regular sieges by the Israeli Army. I would like to add to those examples the one of Bangkok during the riots (I should say civil war) last year, that saw a whole district of the city hosting the Red Shirts, opponents to the government under the siege of the Thai Army…
When the City Itself Becomes a Technology of War by Saskia Sassen (Read the full text here)
Bits of a New Reality
The intensity and the thickness of these conflicts whether the momentary explosion in Mumbai or the drawn-out conflict in Gaza make it difficult to gain a more abstract understanding, one somewhat removed from its own horror. The urbanizing of war and its consequences is part of a larger disassembling of traditional all-encompassing formats of our early modernity, notably the nation-state and the interstate system. The consequences of this disassembling are partial but evident in a growing number of very diverse domains, from economic to religious. These issues are well beyond the questions discussed in this short piece.8 But they could also explain why cities are losing older capacities to transform potential conflicts into the civic.
Crash by David Cronenberg (from J.G. Ballard’s novel)
Critical Legal Thinking recently communicated about a Call for Papers organized by the Melbourne Doctoral Forum on Legal Theory that will have a two days workshop in December. I thought that it would be interesting to have designers participating, thus bringing, in addition of a bit of naivety (!), a different vision on this issue.
The call for papers give some ideas of topic to tackle such as interesting notions like “accidental citizens” for refugees or “accidents of humanity” with the question of transhumanism.
I included a still from Ballard/Cronenberg‘s Crash here, not just as a matter of illustration but rather as an open question for a potential paper that I will try to write. The latter would questions the potential liberation triggered by the accident similar to a collective revolutionary orgasm.
Here is an excerpt from the novel:
“Trying to exhaust himself, Vaughan devised a terrifying almanac of imaginary automobile disasters and insane wounds, the lungs of elderly men punctured by door handles, the chests of young women impale by steering columns, the cheeks of handsome youths pierced by the chromium latches of quarter-lights. For him these wounds were the key to a new sexuality born from a perverse technology.”
James Graham Ballard. Crash (1973) Picador 2001
The following text is the Call for Paper itself:
Tokyo in 1945
I hope that my readers won’t be too surprised by the proliferation of essays that has occurred on the blog for a short time. I am indeed tired of the cult of the image that is being maintained online both by blog behemoths and by the multitude of tumblr around that contribute so well to the decontextualization of those same images. In this regard you might want to read the article written by Geoff Manaugh about blogs (in which he was kind enough to link The Funambulist). Images are quick consumable goods and that is why they are so popular in a system that produce always more in less time for immediate consumption. I am aware that few people only have the time and the motivation to read the (sometimes long) texts are being either written specifically (see the guest writers essays series) or reproduced here; I am however decided to persist to address this blog to those people.
That being stated, let’s get back to this article. The following essay, entitled Debris has been written by David Gissen for the AA Files 58 two years ago. It also constitutes a chapter of his book, Subnature (Princeton Architectural Press) that I have been (too shortly) writing about a while ago. In this text, D.Gissen elaborates about the notion of debris being historically and contemporaneously an architectural element that is normally understood as a fragment of architecture’s destruction but that also can be considered as a vector of creation for new architectures. In fact, the chaotic reconfiguration of a previously ordered architecture is also a symbolic reconstruction that stands both literally and metaphorically for less control and therefore more opportunities.
David Gissen: Debris. AA Files 58 (2009)
Consider the term debris. It originated in France in the eighteenth century and signified a type of broken, scattered substance once part of a standing building or structure. Its etymology differed from the earlier words moellon or décombres – ‘rubble’ –which referred to the type of stones left over from ruins, extracted from quarries or used in paving roads. Within early modern French architectural writing, authors used the term debris to describe the dispersed and often atomized remains of structures leveled by cataclysmic events – typically by war or natural disasters. Rubble, in contrast, suggested something potentially salvageable and local (in terms of its proximity to the building of which it was once a part). The emergence of debris, as a word, coincides with two important architectural developments: in the eighteenth century we see the increased use of gunpowder in European warfare (alongside research into its effects on architectural targets), and also a corresponding growth in the archaeological documentation of the surrounding fragments from destroyed ancient structures.
‘Who’s Behind Bars?’ by Des Esseintes chosen by Lieven De Cauter
Regular readers of the Funambulist are very likely familiar with dpr-barcelona editors, Ethel Baraona Pohl and César Reyes‘ writings as we have been developing a dialogue between our different soft/hard platforms. The three of us agree to choose as an axiom that architecture can not be separated in any case from its inherent political characteristics and the following essay, Post-political Attitudes on Immigration, Utopias and the Space Between Us is a good illustration of it as it tackles the role of architecture in the problem of human migrations. In fact, in a globalized world in which the transportation of goods has been amazingly facilated to develop a worldwide market economy, humans remain the element that is being the most filtered if not prevented from national policies. From there, it is ironically symbolic that many clandestine migrants attempt to move from one territory to another in containers transporting goods (see Didier Faustino’s related project Body in Transit ). Ethel and César thus put intelligently in perspective the active participation of architecture to this political debate by refusing to consider the latter in another way than a coherent global vision of society that we can call utopia.
To be perfectly honest, I am not necessarily comfortable with all the examples they give in this regard (i.e. the NEMO project that I find extremely cynical) but those guest writers essays are exactly made in this spirit, allowing another point of view to intervene in a very unidirectional editorial line.
Post-political Attitudes on Immigration, Utopias and the Space Between Us
by Ethel Baraona Pohl & César Reyes
“Politics is not made up of power relationships; it is made up of relationships between worlds.” -Jacques Rancière
Geopolitical space has always been a conflicted and fragile topic. Borders and frontiers are changing so fast, that sometimes seems that our sociopolitical status can change from “citizen” to “immigrant” from one moment to another, or simply live under the “immigrant” status all your life. We’re getting used to words like refugees, enclaves, war, borders, limits –and the list has no end. This critical condition is not a minor problem. On the International Migration Report 2006 we can read that in 2005, there were nearly 191 million international migrants worldwide, about 3 percent of the world population, which represented a rise of 26 million since 1990. And this is one of the biggest political problems we’re facing in the current times.