Oil is a fascinating geological product that contains in itself thousands of years old fossils and sediments and which drives explicitly or implicitly the majority of the world geopolitical behaviors. In his book Cyclonopedia (see the numerous previous articles about it), Reza Negarestani claims that the Middle East is a sentient entity whose shit is oil. Building-up on Deleuze and Guattari’s Thousand Plateaus and their War Machines, he indicates that such a machine requires fuel and grease that cannot be possible without oil. The filmJarheadrecounts the encounter of the American army with this geological sentient entity during the first Gulf War. The film almost never introduce any Middle Eastern human being but the sand, dust and oil praised by Negarestani are the true vernacular elements that surround the heavy army.
In Najaf and Ninevah, contacts speak of a notorious female oil smuggler named Jay who has assembled a militant religious cult named Naphtanese in the mountains of Kurdistan in Iran. They believe that the Unlife of War feeds on oil or (as they put it) the ‘black corpse of the Sun’. Negarestani Reza, Cyclonopedia. Melbourne: Re-Press, 2010. P130
I re-watched Gaspard Noé’s Enter the Void yesterday and thought that I should try to write about it as this film has been intriguing and fascinating many people including myself. The subjective point of view of the camera is forcing the viewer to become the main character and thus creating a continuous single shot from the beginning of the movie to the end. However, this unique cinematographic aesthetics should not make us forget the essence of the movie which is a wander in a certain interpretation of death.
Few minutes before dying, the main character, Oscar, hear indeed from his friend the way Buddists conceive death as a soul wandering as well as a look at this previous life, preceding reincarnation itself. The film constitutes Oscar’s death following such a process without any possibility for the viewer to perceive if this “soul wandering” is real or dreamed by him at the very moment of his death. As Marchel Duchamp put it, “it is always other people who die” (thanks Hiroko) i.e. time might exponentially decreases its speed when one is dying without ever reaching the limit for which life would have ceased completely. Of course, for external viewers, one actually dies and time continues but the perception of an infinite time does not presuppose the cessation of time in another scale of its perception – the one we experience “normally” when we are fully alive.
A while ago, I claimed that Kafka/Welles’ Trial was following the exact same wandering than the one introduced in Enter the Void. In fact, Franz Kafka’s friend Max Brod was the person who reassembled the disseminated and incomplete chapters of The Trial before its publication. He rationally thought that K.’s death was the final episode of the narrative when I claim that it was in fact the first one. In this interpretation, the endless wandering of K. in the administrative labyrinth that we know was actually his infinite “dream” experienced while dying during his exponential decrease of speed of his time curve. This wander of thoughts leaves us with one questions that Enter the Void asks: Does death really exists ?
My friends of Socks-Studio recently posted a very interesting pseudo-documentary created by Dutch artist Floris Kaayk. This film (see below) about a fictitious disease that can be imagined in a near future in which the transplantation of metallic prosthetic to the human body will be developed and banalized. F.Kaayk thus describes a form of mutation of the organism that would start to grow metal as part of the body. This parasitic new anatomy would then invade little by little the organic tissues of the body while keeping the vital organs operative. The ambiguity of feeling experienced while watching his film is interesting: both fascinating and repulsing at the same time. The cinematographic mean of pseudo-documentary (see previous article) seems to be perfectly appropriate here, as it uses familiar means of information in order to challenge our imagination to accept it as real.
Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough again to be part of a very interesting jury at Columbia University for the final review of the studio tutored by Francois Roche assisted by Ezio Blasetti and Miranda Romer. Like the last three year (2008, 2009, 2010), one project/scenario particularly triggered my imagination and critical sense.
This year’s story, Sadic(t)ropisms or The Intransigent Pursuit of the Sublime is being recounted by Farzin Lotfi-Jam & Juan Francisco Saldarriaga. As their evocative text above implicitly mentions, Farzin and Juan found inspiration in the beautiful novella by James Graham Ballard, The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista (see previous article) in order to investigate the potentiality for architecture to carry some sadistic characteristics towards the body who occupies it. The built environment that hosts their narrative is, in fact, composed by a sort of vertical forest made out of shape-memory alloy which can be easily distorted but re-acquire its original form when in contact with an intense heat. People involved in this scenario are nomads, who after colonizing the matter during the night have to flee during the day as the Sun’s heat threatens to make their bodies prisoners of their direct environment thus continuously attempting to “remember” its origins. The body would then experience a last ecstasy while being strangled, allowing its subject to reach for a while, the sublime indicated in the name of the story.
One could then imagine a sequel to this narrative, in which a part of the population -named the builders or architects- would have managed to settle down in this environment as they succeeded to master the shape of the matter. They would then suspend the process of remembrance of the alloy, freezing it into sedentary habitat until this event they call “Catastrophe” which sees architecture suddenly remembering its origins in a spasm lethal to the bodies living in it.
Moderated by Caroline Filice Smith
Title of the Event/Island: Violence, Segregation, and Solidarity
Location of the Event/Island: 97 Kenmare St New York
Date of the Event/Island: Wednesday the 21st of December; 3-5 pm
Although statements of solidarity and non-violence can be heard at most General Assemblies and Occupations across the country; the urban and architectural typologies found within the Occupy LA camp defaulted into normalized zones of exclusion and segregation [ie:the gated community]. This ideological break between statements of inclusion, and the physical reality of segregation, implemented by arguably the most ‘radical’ of the camps inhabitants, begs the following question: Why, when it came to urbanism, and architecture, did even the most ‘radical’ revolutionaries immediately default into the typologies most directly connected to/embedded in the system they are trying to overcome. I [Caroline Filice Smith] will do a short presentation on the typologies of urbanism and architecture found within the occupy LA camp, how this physicality stood in opposition to the movements larger ideology of being ‘horizontal, democratic, transparent, and participatory’, and how this disjunction continues to affect the community structure at Occupy LA. Then we will discuss and speculate on what other alternatives could have been, and what the physical possibilities of an open, participatory and democratic architecture/community are given a climate of increasing militarization from outside forces [ie: the architecture of anarchism within a police state]
Yesterday was the one year anniversary of what has been called the Arab Spring as well as the three months anniversary of Occupy Wall Streetwhich was celebrated by a certain amount of actions among which one appeared to me as particularly interesting in terms of the practice of the city. Following the arrest of fifty people for attempting to occupy a vacant lot in New York belonging to Trinity Church, we marched heading North with, as usual, many policemen on scooters along the sidewalk preventing us to occupy the street itself. When we arrived to the street that was supposed to be our destination, the latter was entirely blocked by a multitude of cops who had no intention whatsoever to let us in. This destination might have been a decoy to deceive them, as the crowd (about 400 people I believe) did not seem to care so much for the police and started to run on the sidewalk then turned to the next street, ran, turned, ran an one more block, turned again until finally the police, completely overwhelmed gave up to chase us. This allowed this crowd to walk for thirty blocks in the middle of the 7th avenue in a sort of very joyful parade, disrupting the banal order of the urban routine. I could not help but to think of this celebratory intrusion as the real embodiment of Michelangelo Antonioni’s street parade in the opening scene of Blow Up (1966).
Two months and half ago, at the beginning of the movement, I was calling for the invention of an “Algerian” labyrinth in the middle of Manhattan’s orthogonal grid in order for us to be able to respond to the police oppression. I was then far from thinking that this labyrinth could be created by the speed of our movement within this same grid, as well as the spontaneous and continuous reconfiguration of trajectory of a crowd that thus becomes unstoppable.
On the road is a novel written by Jack Kerouac, in 1951- published in 1957, on a 120-foot long roll of semi-translucent teletype paper. This scroll allowed Kerouac to continuously feed a typewriter and write without interruption for three consecutive weeks a single-spaced text that he later edited by pencil.
On the road attempts an American version of the French- or at least European- flânerie, the aimless experiential wondering in the urban phenomenon, here organically operated in the scale of the continent, where each state is a neighborhood to cross, a threshold and a destination simultaneously. Kerouac puts together- on that continuous scroll- a stroll across the United States, for a lack of a better word or a real equivalence in English of the word flânerie-, where one is allowed not to know or even not wanting to know where he is heading. America unrolls in the four parts of the book, plus one in Mexico, as a series of rooms with no transitions, no corridors, no hallways, becoming a distorted palace of Versailles where one changes direction only when there is no more depth to expand upon, no more rooms to visit in that direction.
On November 15th, the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg and Brookfield Properties, “owner” of the public space of liberty square triggered an operation that evicted the occupiers from the place in order to “re-open” the square to the public. One month later, the square is still barricaded and controlled by private security forces.
A while ago, I read the entire text that organizes legally the privately owned public spaces (see previous article) only to find that, if there was ambiguities in the law -that we could have used for our cause- they were certainly in favor of the owners. For example the public space at 180 Maiden Lane in downtown Manhattan is open only from Monday to Friday from 8.30AM to 5:30PM. Needless to say that this “public space” is organized in fact for the only people who works for the corporations of the block. Similarly, the space in which many OWS working groups gather at 60 Wall Street, was recently restricted by additional rules that restrains considerably its use for the public: for example the right to move the table and chairs around…
This synthesis is a guideline of particular topics and themes around the portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa and his heteronyms, as they were suggested and discussed by Carla Leitão during the event “Archipelagos 01”. This synthesis is not an essay nor an introduction to the work of this poet writer. This text does not contain all the important aspects of the delivery which can be seen in the video of the same event.
Fernando Pessoa had more than 70 heteronyms (including orthonyms). Four of them, and then Fernando Pessoa, the orthonym, are particularly popular and important to understand his work and cultural context. Some heteronyms are related to each other in some fashion and will engage in conversations with each other. Pessoa did astrological charts or created biographical data, including accurate birthdates for several heteronyms. Many heteronyms and orthonyms have an intrinsic, interior contradiction.
One of Pessoa’s main known poems, has more than 20 great translations and is called Autopsicography.
(the one below from Richard Zenith)
If you’ve ever seen a dog twitch and start in one direction, then leap a step in another only to finally bound away in a third direction, you’ve seen a glimpse into the Dostoevskian man’s mind. He is no wolf, because he is domesticated, yet neither is he a sheep, because he resists his domestication. Perhaps a dog is not even an apt metaphor, but man himself, as he is of the few creatures to be aware of the strangeness of his condition while also being acutely aware of his mortality and all that it entails.
In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s pivotal novel (essay, expose, pseudo-biography?) Notes from Underground, we are allowed a deeper insight into the feralized mind that he creates, and acts as a loose framework for a number of his later characters. One might contend that this model reflects the insights into the recently birthed modern man that Dostoevsky himself holds. And as a testament of being produced during a state of transition within Russia and society at large, the insights he provides are at once conflicted and cogent. It is unnerving and liberating, filled with depth and marred by shallowness, brilliant and mad:
Human Writes by William Forsythe (2005) /// Photograph by Julian Gabriel Richter
Today’s essay has been written by Hiroko Nakatani in a way that allies scientific rigorousness and the subjectivity of an architect who finds in these experiments, a way to re-introduce the notion of the body in architecture. Starting from the Spinozist assessment that body and mind cannot be separated, Hiroko then overtakes a short inventory of scientific experiments that confirms such an immanent reading of the living. As a conclusion, she quotes Shusaku Arakawa -who she knows well for having worked with him as well as Madeline Gins for two years of her life- saying that a human owns thousands of brains in and out of his (her) body. Such a manifesto is of course deeply related to the body’s environment and therefore the architecture that surrounds it. Understanding this approach is what Hiroko proposes in the following paper:
Dissolving Minds and Bodies by Hiroko Nakatani
The object of the idea constituting a human mind is the corresponding body, or a certain mode of extension that actually exists, and nothing else. -Baruch de Spinoza
The life and work of Antonin Artaud is so rich that there seems to be hundreds of different approaches on what can be said about them. Michel Foucault, for example, was greatly influenced by Artaud’s related experience in psychiatric hospitals as well as the problematic power exercised by doctors. Deleuze and Guattari, as we will see later, based their book Anti-Oedipus on his concept of body without organs. Several architects saw, in his very spatial description of his Theater of Cruelty, an architectural embodiment of surrealism. His translation of Through the Looking-Glass as an anti-grammatical attempt about Lewis Carroll and against him also constituted the topic of various academic papers.
Those approaches are not the one discussed in this paper which proposes instead, to give a materialist reading of Artaud’s work. Before going any further, I would like to define here what I mean by “materialism” since this word has been connoted in recent history. By “materialism” I understand a philosophy of immanence that envisions the world as a whole entity, liberated from any exteriority –God or whichever other transcendental figure- in which everything is continuously included in processes of interactions within the matter.
On November 22nd, we held the first event of Archipelagos, Four Architects / Four Writers which followed the only rule of this series, consisting in dedicating 50% of the time to an open conversation between everybody present. This post proposes to release the video of the four research reports as well as the audio track (sorry, we have been experiencing technical issues with the video) of the conversation that followed. I will then publish one by one the texts that were either read or used as a base of presentation.
This article is the second sequel of the one called “The Weight of the Body Falling” that was followed by another entitled Spinozist collision. When those two articles were insisting on the weight of bodies, in particular when they fall and hit a surface, this one is dedicated, on the contrary, to work that celebrate the lightness of those who manage to play with gravity to a certain extent of transgression. Three beautiful examples come to mind in this regard:
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon by Ang Lee (2000) is a film in which some warriors have learned secret fighting skills among which they are able to defy gravity by becoming lighter:
The Future Past symposium draws together five young architectural graduates and a group of interested attendees to discuss the possibility of using the past to re-imagine a future. It is a free event, open to all and with no affiliation to an academic or research institution.
Following the only rule of Archipelagos, the speakers will only each give a short, five-minute talk on their views about the topic, in order to dedicate at least two hours for a broader discussion between all attendees. The open forum of the debate, and the differences of opinion already within the participants will aim to seek out both the agreed terms for the hybridisation of the past, and those areas where there is friction.
Several of my upcoming next posts will be dedicated to the first event of Archipelagos which occured on November 22nd. However, before doing so, I would like to call for the creation of new “islands” in these archipelagos of dezinstitutionalized knowledge. If you are willing to organize events of this kind, you can click on the page (see in the menu above) dedicated to them and apply from wherever you are in the world. The only common thread that will link all these islands together can be found in the process of those events, which should be triggering a discussion between the present people rather than composing a traditional hierarchical scheme based on a knowledge holder and a more or less passive audience.
In order to so, Archipelagos’ events/islands should dedicate at least 50% of its time to an open conversation with the people who showed-up. Once you organized your event, you can fill the form on the Archipelagos’ page and I will communicate about it on this blog. I very much look forward to receive some propositions. Thank you.
Judith Butler spoke twice at Occupy Wall Street on October 23rd 2011 and, as an excellent theoretician of the bodies, brought this anatomical and biological dimension to the debate. Using the human mic has the advantage to force people who use it to reduce their speech to the essential, and in that case, gives us this beautiful ode to the physicality of the occupation: “It matters that as bodies we arrive together in public, that we are assembling in public; we are coming together as bodies in alliance in the street and in the square. As bodies we suffer, we require shelter and food, and as bodies we require one another and desire one another. So this is a politics of the public body, the requirements of the body, its movement and voice. “
I already wrote in my last article about the radical choice that we make when we occupy a space as a body and its fundamental importance in this movement. It as bodies that this system oppresses us the most expressively, we therefore have to resist as bodies or as Felix Guattari puts it in a superb text To Have Done with the Massacre of the Body:
We can no longer allow others to repress our fucking, control our shit, our saliva, our energies, all in conformity with the prescriptions of the law and its carefully-defined little transgressions. We want to see frigid, imprisoned, mortified bodies explode to bits, even if capitalism continues to demand that they be kept in check at the expense of our living bodies.
Guattari Felix. Chaosophy. LA: Semiotexts 2007
The following text is the one read by Judith Butler at Liberty Square: