Monthly Archives: October 2011

First of all, I would like to apologize for not having being able to write on daily basis during these last days, I will try to make it work this week.

The Centre for Advanced Research in European Philosophy, King’s University College, along with the McIntosh Gallery at the University of Western Ontario are calling for papers for a conference from May 4th to 6th 2012. The latter is trying to approach the influence that Philosophers Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari had had and still have on arts and design.
I am sure that some of my readers would be interested to submit an abstract before December 15th in order to potentially be able to present a paper or a performance at this conference, Intensities and Lines of Flight: Deleuze, Guattari and the Arts.

See more about it by following this link.

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Still from the film about Slime molds by Dan Baker

Ecologias Correlativas is a small ongoing (until Saturday 29th October) exhibition at the 319 Scholes Gallery in New York. It is audaciously curated by Emma Chammah & Greg Barton who attribute the foundations of this exhibition to the short text written by Felix Guattari in 1989 under the name The Three Ecologies.  In this text, F.Guattari develops his concept of ecosophy, an ethico-aesthetics that prophetically refuses the ways capitalism is able to co-opt ecology and that establishes three scales of action for another ecology: social relations, human subjectivity and environmental.

The gallery/garage itself is a good example of such an attempt of escaping capitalist logics and so are the heterogeneous work exhibited. Three items (by Fluxxlab, Dr. Manos Tentzeris & Living Environment Lab) propose Do It Yourself strategies of energy harvesting, the L.E. Lab’s one being charismatic as it allows to collect and store energy as a parasite, on cars’ lights, gutters and escalators (see the video). The way those objects influence my imaginary is directly linked to the constraints that I can currently observe in Liberty Square, especially at the very beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement when we needed to find ways to bring electricity on site. Those parasite harvesters and other DIY apparatuses do not allow us to stand outside of the system, but rather to reduce our participation and dependency to it if not sometimes even hijacking it. This attitude is seconded by the interviews realized by Ecosistema Urbano who asked David Harvey (see previous articles 1 & 2) and Santiago Cirugeda (see previous articles 1 & 2) their similar position towards ecology.
I was also happy to see the presence of the Transborder Immigrant Tool created by EDT2.0/B.A.N.G. Lab to be active on Mexican clandestines’s phones when they cross the border. This tool is a small GPS that prevent a dreadful draft in the desert as well as indicating water spots.

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# PHOTOGRAPHY /// Michael Oliveri's NanolandscapesOctober 26, 2011

Arts - By: Léopold Lambert

Michael Oliveri is a pretty unique photographer. The subject of his photographs are in fact nanolandscapes that he creates via metal oxide fumes and powders. The microscopic vision that his camera allows provide a different interpretation of the world in which scales although they seem to evolve in parallel, actually interact with each other, all being part of a complete immanent machine allowing no externality.

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In this article, I should share a strong architectural experience I encountered last Saturday. The working group at Occupy Wall Street of which I am part, Education and Empowerment, and more specifically The Nomadic University, was invited to the New School as we would be provided with a classroom for us. The President of the New School, David E. Van Zandt, actively supported the movement and encouraged students and professors of the New School to participate in various events organized by Occupy Wall Street. That is also how our working group was granted a classroom for whenever we would need it.

Notwhithstanding this generosity, people in the group including myself experienced the violent power of architecture as we rarely did before. It would seem pretty obvious to anybody that having ideas as a group of people in public space does not happen in the same way as in a classroom; however, experiencing it is another thing: I have been writing a lot about the hurtful inherent characteristics of architecture’s physicality, but I very rarely felt it violently to that extent in a somehow domestic environment. We usually gather in the public space in an open atrium often crossed by pedestrians. Having a working group meeting in that space is fundamentally expressing the openness and the generosity of the Occupy Wall Street movement. On the contrary, meeting in a classroom on the 6th floor of an academic institution brought us back to a well-known situation where knowledge is explicitly owned by one or a few people and secretly distributed to a selected audience. Architecture changes the way we think and act. “Walls have ears”: we certainly feel this way when we are in a closed environment. We self-censor and become embarrassed to waggle our fingers as a sign of approval like we do on Liberty Square.

Liberty Square and the other spaces of social movements around the world are places of production of knowledge; not an academic one that can be peremptorily declared correct or incorrect. It is, rather, the formation of a collective knowledge that allies a theoretical background with a continuous experience of the real. The space in which such an alchemy occurs is never innocent. The issue might be that those who understand that the best, are precisely the ones who produce the spaces of control (classrooms, hospitals, factories, offices, prisons).

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Hebron market
Hebron’s Old Market street /// Photo credits

Since last summer, Raja Shehadeh is a regular guest and friend of the Funambulist. After the conversation that he was kind enough to have with me in his house in Ramallah and the review I did of his last book 2037, he is back on this platform as one of the weekly guest writers.
Raja is a Palestinian lawyer that has spent a very important part of his life fighting against unlawful expropriation of Palestinian land by the State of Israel within the West Bank and East Jerusalem. He wrote several books including Occupier’s Law, Palestinian walks and A Rift in Time that mix two literary genres, the autobiography and the documentary essay in a very interesting way. His now famous walks in Ramallah’s hills are a form of non-violent civil disobedience that claims the right of movement on his nation’s land. For this essay, he chose to write about the place that made me the worst comfortable of my whole life (see the short previous article I wrote right after visiting it): Hebron and its superimposition of Palestinian and Israeli colonial urban layers that triggers a daily friction that often reaches an unbearable level of violence. Just like in some districts in East Jerusalem, this friction is three dimensional: as the ground floor and the streets can be inhabited by the Palestinians but the upper levels of the same buildings as well as the elevated connective circulation paths are forcefully occupied by Israeli settlers. Although this violence brings us very easily to a state of emotion that drives us to extreme sadness and anger, Raja maintains his interpretation of the reality in the spectrum of the Law.

The Funambulist Papers 13 /// A Visit to The Old City of Hebron

by Raja Shehadeh

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 Pedro from La Periferia Domestica was kind enough to draw my attention to this very interesting piece of design invented by Afghan designer Massoud Hassani. Called the Mine Sweeper, this sphere is conceived to move autonomously thanks to the wind -in a similar way than Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests– and explode the  anti-personal land mines disseminated on a given terrain. The sphere is also equipped with a GPS sensor (see last picture below) that provides an output of the paths that have been cleared from the mines.

This sphere is a good assumed example of what I have been calling “weaponized design” for the last two years. The narrative carried by the Mine Sweeper has a violence within it, it triggers the mines explosion and probably suffers a bit more at each encounters. As every autonomous objects, it does not take much to imagine them as living being. This one traces safe trajectories that redefine the practice of a landscape, sacrificing itself as a fearless scout within a dangerous territory.

On the contrary of a lot of pieces of design proposing an interesting narrative (and as a designer I plead guilty just as much), this one is actually taking the means of its ambitions and is being tested with the Dutch army right now. There are still 270 millions of anti-personal land mines disseminated in the world and they keep injuring or killing people regularly (mostly in Angola, Cambodia and Afghanistan).

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Occupy Wall Street Working Group about Education in a nearby other Privately Owned Public Space (60 Wall Street) / October 18th

As it was pointed out in various articles, the mother-ship of Occupy Wall Street in New York addresses a very interesting spatial issue which, despite its specificity to NYC, opens the doors to a broader urban problem about public space. In fact, Liberty Square’s legal status is known to be a Privately Owned Public Space resulting from a 1961 deal between the City of New York and private corporations who wanted to transgress the urban code by building higher towers: In exchange of a significant area of public space on their parcel, corporations and private owners would be authorized to build their towers higher. However, this little zone of public space was not meant to be given to the city so those private actors remained the owners and controllers of this area. They therefore maintained the right to authorize or forbid activities from taking place or people from passing though those spaces.

Under an appearance of openness, privately owned public spaces are in fact extremely selective of their public. Employees working in the towers are of course welcome; those open spaces are part of a post-modern biopolitical capitalism that appears as taking good care of its subjects. People who spend money on those sites in order to buy coffee, hot dogs, or newspapers are also targeted for this type of public spaces. Others are regarded as unwelcome even suspect, and can be asked to leave in case of a “subversive” activity such as playing with a ball, taking pictures, or picnicking.

Both corporations and governments are satisfied with those public spaces. Corporations are able to build taller skyscrapers, provide open space for their employees, and develop commercial activities while governments see their public space being maintained by private actors and any potential space of gathering being controlled and supervised…until now.
The Occupiers of Wall Street therefore reclaimed a territory which should have been simply declared as public rather than let in an ambiguity that favors their owners.

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Natures 3B by Quayola

This week’s writer for the guest writers essays series is Oliviu Lugojan-Ghenciu who just graduated from the Architectural Association and wanted to share with us his take on Architecture and Motion. Oliviu starts his essay, Motion Architecture: Breakfast in a Scramjet’s Combustion Chamber with an analysis of how animation are too often considered by architects as a mere additional tool of representation when it could actually be considered as a catalyst to the design. He experimented himself this process by mixing narrative and trajectories for his beautiful thesis project  gravityONE (tutored by Liam Young and Kate Davis) that I published few months ago.

Further of these first observations, Oliviu concludes his text by addressing the fact that the notion of home nowadays is somehow a pleonasm and he proposes a new interpretation of it:

Home became a motion pattern, driven by the rhythm of our existence. The sailor gets seasick when he steps ashore just as we get seasick when on a boat. Travel too far and suffer from jetlag. We are conditioned by the rhythm of our life.

The Funambulist Papers 12 /// Motion Architecture: Breakfast in a Scramjet’s Combustion Chamber

by Oliviu Lugojan-Ghenciu

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Liberty Square on October 14th 2011

Since its beginning, the movement Occupy Wall Street has been called by many names but one comes back often enough to be analyzed here: protest. Of course, one can legitimately argue that terminology is nothing compared to action and that while some people are looking for words, other are directly acting. This is definitely accurate, nevertheless, this movement has been characterized so far by a great sense of self-awareness in order to maintain a strict non-hierarchical organization and it is therefore probably worth it to wonder which terminology to use to fathom what this movement is about.

Protest, not only seems pretty weak as a reaction, but is clearly missing a point. Protest is often legible on the various signs that are spread all around Liberty Square and expresses a real anger towards a system which cannot be called democracy per say. This is therefore what would emerge from a very shallow reading of the movement, the same that is reported by the Press which, subjected to the pressure of time and money, does not spend enough time on site to understand. What is happening there is not fundamentally anchored in the negativity of a criticism for what surrounds us but rather in the positivity of a construction of a collective alternative.
The General Assembly, held every day, is a good and visible example of such construction but its slowness due to the amount of people present and the mean of communication used (see previous article about the Human-Mic) makes it more a tool of communication for everyone as much as a instance of approval for every proposition submitted to it. At a different scale, the numerous working groups that are born from the movement and gather regularly to participate actively to this construction are tremendously important.

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I recently “ran into” (via Manifest Decay) the very short film Magnetic Void (see below) by James Miller which shows a reconstruction of the British United Shoe Machinery Company building in Leicester by running its actual destruction backwards. The result is very aesthetic and we could stop the description here and let the images talk for themselves (like they often do!).

However, watching this short film forcing myself to forget that this is just the result of a “trick” which consisted in going backwards rather than forwards, and rather accepting (somehow naively) what I was looking at for what it was. It got me to think of this film as a representation of an architecture that is constructed in a counter-hylomorphism. Hylomorphism (in ancient Greek, Matter + Form) is an Aristotle’s concept that was re-defined centuries later by Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari (see the quote below) in a materialist and political reading. To keep it simple, hylomorphism is the process for which a body/object has a form that is constraint by the means of its production. The example of the brick is helpful, especially here as the concerned building is built in bricks: a brick is a body of matter whose shape has been transcendentally determined by its mold.
A whole building is almost always submitted to this same process of hylomorphism, its form reveals the constraints it was submitted to during its production, both physically during its actual construction and conceptually during its phase of design.

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