‘Animal’ character from The Muppetshow. Director Jim Henson.
The Guest Essays series is back every Monday and today is the turn of Carla Leitão, co-founder with Ed Keller of aum Studio, professor at Pratt Institute, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and writer of a monthly architectural chronic for the Huffington Post. The introductory picture as much as the title of her essay, Pet Architecture: Human’s Best Friend might surprise more than one reader; however her discourse along with several science-fiction narratives is speculative of the future of the living and by extension of design.
Let’s start with the notion of pet that Carla chose as subject of her essay. In fact, as archaic as it is, we tend to miss what this notion really implies, a transgenerational biological modification of animals triggered by humans in order to use the living output for their purposes. For example, I often wonder how we managed to “transform” a wolf into an Upper East Side yorksher!
Carla, following, to some extents, the path of Catherine Ingraham‘s research that she quotes in her text, therefore undertakes to associate the notions of living and design in a materialist interpretation of the world. As Edouard Glissant puts it, “Rien n’est vrai, tout est vivant” (Nothing is true, all is living/alive), indeed everything can be seen as part of the living, continuously engaged in relations, composing and decomposing bodies. The following essay concludes with one page of the graphic novel Animal’z by Enki Bilal that, in few words, magnificently expresses this materialist vision of the living and I can’t help to translate it here:
Seawater’s salt burns everything on its way.
It penetrates and paralyzes all tissues and organs from everywhere, including the brain.
In fact, Carla finishes her text by offering a glimpse at what could be the philosophical concept of the leash. The leash is indeed the paradigmatic symbol of the pet, sign of the human power in a contract rarely signed by both parties as she points out. The leash is what prevents humans to fully takes its place in the realms of the living, and one can speculate on a future in which this contract between humans and animals/living/architecture could belong more to the domain of Leopold Van Sacher Masoch and his creative agreements rather than the powerful domination introduced in the work of le Marquis de Sade.
Another vision would consist in affirming that the human species is doomed and that, as Clifford Simak imagines, in a far future, dogs will recounts and invent myths of a ancient time, a strange animal was dominating the living…
Pet Architecture: Human’s Best Friend
by Carla Leitão
Characters like Animal from the Muppet show [a creation by Jim Henson] are often illustrations through which we can talk about the quality of the wild, the feral and the natural, by contrast to that which is artificial or built, man-made. This article, however, would like to focus on the chain.