Monthly Archives: February 2012

One should not restrain Gaza’s economy to the simple clandestinity, and by extension, one should certainly not assume that every inhabitant of Gaza is involved in the resistance against the Israeli blockade they have to suffer from.  That is to say that the photos in this article do not depict the common life that people of Gaza experiences every day. However, such economy does exists and allows the importation of goods from Egypt which eases the lack of supplies in the Gaza strip. The means of transportation between Egypt and Gaza are insured by the several tunnels set up below the border and the no-construction zone set-up by the Israeli army in which the IDF bulldozers regularly comes to dig the earth.  On the contrary of the tunnels of Cu Chi (Vietnam) that I briefly evoked in a recent article, those tunnels are strictly dedicated to the flux of goods between one territory and another in order to resist at an economical level. It is well known that the fruit international exportation from Gaza suffers from the disloyal competition against Israeli products. The Palestinian production needs to transit via Israel to reach other countries and it often spent several days at Ben Gurion airport -Gaza’s airport having been destroyed in 2002- before being transported out of the region, thus partially loosing quality. The internal economy is therefore very important in the Palestinian region which suffers from a 45% unemployment rate precisely because of the blockade.

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“audiocassette“ cover for i-phone 4

I am always happy to have non-architects participating to this guest writers series (see the essays by Lucy Finchett-Maddock, Maryam Monalisa Gharavi and Raja Shehadeh) and that is the case again this week thanks to Linnéa Hussein and her essay Old Media’s Ressurection. She recently finished her Master in Film Studies at Columbia University and will  soon start a PhD in the same discipline. She was also a teacher assistant at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Westchester (New York).

Her essay investigates  the medium that the tape (audio and VHS) constitutes and its return in contemporary cinema. However, instead of only questioning the medium in its form, she explores two films, Omar Gatlato and La Bocca del Lupo in which the tape is both the main object of the narrative and the provider of the plot.

The Funambulist Papers 21 /// Old Media’s Ressurection

by Linnéa Hussein

In October 2011 The New York Times published an article on the revival of the VHS tape in the horror film genre. What makes these so-called neo-VHS tapes different from their outdated VHS companions is the fact that their role transformed from being technical to being esthetic. Whole magazines such as for example Lunchmeat or Fangoria are devoted to the subject of the VHS now. For these horror fans, the neo-VHS is not preferred for functional reasons, but because the grainy picture quality – i.e. the signs of usage that made the DVD and BluRay replace the VHS in the first place – became an indispensible trope of the bad horror film genre.

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Australian Artist Stelarc recently gave a lecture at the Architectural Association in London entitled Circulating Flesh: The Cadaver, the Comatose and the Chimera. For about an hour an half, he allows us to explore thirty years of his work entirely dedicated to the human body, its abilities, its limits and its potential voluntary transformation via technology. From his work in the 80’s in which he was hanging his body with hoists directly in his skin, to the more recent surgical operation that transplanted him a third ear on his arm, his work is as fascinating as disturbing to consider. In fact, this difficulty to approach these experiments directly applied to his body tells us much about our profound ignorance and taboo that we associated our own body with.  It is also somehow shocking that we experience a stronger uneasiness when we see his work dedicated to his body transformation rather than this experiment he lead in the 90’s in which somebody was taking over his body’s behavior via a remote control sending nervous electrical signals. This latter work is indeed proposing the vision of potential terrifying futures…

Stelarc’s work is therefore as much interesting for its content than for the imaginary it opens on the way the body can be a terrain of experiments illustrating its characteristics. It thus participates to proposing a beginning of answer to the Spinozist problem (see previous article): What can a body do ?

Watch the lecture by following this link. (Thanks Frank)

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Factory Fifteen (see previous post) just released their new film that they shot during Liam Young and Kate Davies’ Unknown Fields 2011 in Chernobyl (Ukraine) and Baikonur (Kazakhstan). Gamma is a sort of short pseudo documentary depicting a future in which numerous zones of the earth needs to be deradiated after a decade of nuclear war.  As always in a capitalist world, this kind of public health operations are achived by private actors, here a company called Gamma which developed a type of roots that would absorb radioactivity. The film introduces the testimony of a survivor who describes how, very quickly, this root became autonomous and out of control, invading little by little his city.

The witness’ testimony talks about war machines to describe the vessels sent by Gamma, thus assimilating their action on the city as a sort of military invasion. In 1985, Ronald Reagan was claiming that the nine most terrifying words of the English language were ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help‘, we might want to paraphrase his claim against him saying that the most terrifying words are ‘I’m from a company and I’m here to help‘. The Fukushima experience clearly showed how private interests mixed with political corruption were leading to this kind of catastrophes.

GAMMA from Factory Fifteen on Vimeo.

You can watch the making-of video by following this link.

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Perry Hall: Tidal Empire (Coral Painting), 2011. Oil, acrylic and custom paints filmed live using a RED Epic digital cinema camera.

Carla Leitão dedicated her monthly contribution to the Huffington Post to a short conversation with American artist Perry Hall who brought to painting as well as other mediums, a whole new materialist approach that confuse mean and content in a fascinating expression of paint for its physical property and behavior. By doing so, he makes visible the invisible forces that animate the physical world and the cosmos in a literal application of Paul Klee’s definition of art. Perry and I are in contact to perhaps do something on this blog soon and this interview is a perfect mean to enter his work before this happens.

I copy here the article for the blog’s archive but it can (and probably should as it also includes a digital gallery of Perry Hall’s work) be read on the Huffington Post’s website itself.

Perry Hall: Sonified, Synesthesia and Livepaintings
By Carla Leitão

Contemporary discourse in architecture and design reflects upon the increasing ability to engage the lively part of matter and train this sensibility as not only a broader search for tools as much as an agenda of exploration — that expands realms of thought on the concepts of information exchange, nature and construction, environment and interaction or collaboration. My own interest in it has been temporarily focused on the flickering merging of the concepts of matter and media through the lens of seeing information as currency in the natural world.

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New German Embassy in Belgrade, Serbia by FAR Frohn&Rojas (2009)

For the second time, I find the architectural behavior of FAR (Frohn & Rojas) highly debatable. The first time was when they started to sell in series their plans of the Wall House they designed in 2004 to be reproduced anywhere in the world. This second time focuses on the proposal they made in 2009 for the new German Embassy in Belgrade in the context of a competition.

Their project registers itself in the embrace of a paranoia as they write it in their short introduction:

The 21st century is an era of perceived terrorist and ecological threat which sends architecture to the frontline and the city into defensive mode. The embassy building lies at the core of this threat and embodies an apparently inevitable contradiction between being both welcoming and at the same under constant security alert.

However, this paranoia does not want to appear as such and needs in their opinion to be camouflaged in what they call friendly/disguised defense. Their facade is therefore composed of an aluminum foam screen that would prevent the building from being too much affected by a potential explosion coming from the outside. FAR is thus arguing for the delivery of a new architectural aesthetic which hides its militarized function in a contrast that would not miss to enrage Slavoj Zizek and his fight against decaf coffee, beer without alcohol etc.

This project is therefore attempting to be the opposite of the fortress that constitutes the American Embassy in Baghdad which never lied on its militarization -let’s not forget that an Embassy has nothing to do with armed conflicts in the first place. However, the discrepancy between FAR’s very problematic discourse and their actual architectural proposition makes this project interesting as one might notice that they did not completely managed to erase its defensiveness aspect (see the last image below). The facade is in fact presenting an aggressive appearance that cannot be tarnished by the camouflaged paranoia of its textual description.
The consideration for a potential partial destruction of the building is a rare thing and as a direct product of paranoia applied to architecture, one might be able to question for better of for worse this discipline.

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2_Tenerife_Blurry Shoreline_Googlemaps 2012
Exceptions to Environmentalism: Industrial Harbour Avilés

Our friend from Deconcrete, Daniel Fernández Pascual wrote this week’s guest writer essay in which he questions the idea of sovereignty on territories that remain legally blurry. Indeed, the paradigm of the two-dimensional map cannot be enough anymore to describe lands (sky, underground, space, other planets etc.) whose sovereignty had never necessitated to be discussed in another way than theoretically in the past. Our era opens a new paradigm in which the legal action of a State on a territory will be defined through the complexity of space and its multiple layers.
Nowadays, the American military drones fly over Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, Somalia without being seen. The United States are not officially at war with those states and such activity could be considered as an invasion. Once again the example of Palestine is interesting. There are a lot of us who describes the territorial struggle via maps and based on two dimensional interpretation of space. I usually use the figure of 63% to explain the part of absolute territorial control that Israel exercise in the West Bank. In reality Israel controls 100% of the Palestinian sky, 100% of the aquifer of this same territory and many part of the underground in which roads have been built to link the Israeli territory to the various settlements. In addition of that, the water of the Jordan river, the Dead Sea as well as the immediate part of the sea that should belongs to Gaza (thus controlling the fishing economy).

Daniel proposes at the end of his essay to rethink the space of the boundary, maybe the very notion of sovereignty has to be transformed as the Rabbi Martin Goodman proposes for the Israeli/Palestinian territory in his proposal of a double sovereignty for a same territory. A similar proposition was made approximately at the same time (last summer) by Keith Kahn-Harris who was basing his vision on China Miéville’s novel The City and the City in which two cities occupy the same place without interfering with each other…
My introduction is too long, I leave it to Daniel and his remarkable essay:

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Mangold Tom and Penycate John, The Tunnels of Cu Chi. New York: Random House, 1985

The Tunnels of Cu Chi is a book written by Tom Mangold & John Penycate in 1985 focusing on a specific aspect of the Vietnam war which lead the U.S. Army to loose it. The technological and human asymmetry was nevertheless striking but such subterranean complexes allowed the Viet Cong to organize a strong resistance against the invading army. The ability for the earth to change its solidity characteristics was fundamental in the elaboration of a physical mean of defense:

The soil of Cu Chi is a mixture of sand and earth. During the rainy season it is soft like sugar, during the dry season as hard as rock. […] Such soil could stand the weight of a tank.

The U.S. Army volunteers who were exploring the discovered tunnels were named Rats. This name is not innocent as, for their psychological and physical survival they had to develop what Gilles Deleuze  and Felix Guattari called Becoming Animal. When reading from a witness of these operations, one might even talk of a becoming matter as the bodies needed to embrace their own material composition in relationship to the material environment:

I was just an animal – we were all animals, we were dogs, we were snakes, we were dirt.

More to come about these tunnels (involving Sartre, Negarestani and Kobo Abe) once my essay about the landscapes of resistance will be published…

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Abu Dis, Judith s., December 2003

The Israeli women of MachsomWatch who struggle against the colonial apparatuses of movement control in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, have monitored in photos and videos the physicality of their government/army’s politics and thus assembled an important data base. Their Israeli citizenship allows them indeed to observe more closely the actions of the military as well as the implementation of various obstacles that have been conceived in the unique goal to administrate and disturb the Palestinian daily lives. Their presence is also used as a regulator to monitor and report the disrespectful if not violent behaviors of soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The apparatuses monitored below are all common in their design that filters, controls or simply prevents Palestinians’ movement by imposing a physical violence on their bodies. The wall, in all its forms is paradigmatic of such violence but so are the various turnstiles that must be experienced several times at every pedestrian checkpoints. Those could be easily confused with torture machines and the Israeli soldiers in charge of those same checkpoints often us them as a sort of prison threshold. In fact, they would regularly lock their turning characteristics in such a way that a person remains prisoner for few seconds or few minutes from their metal bars before being able to pass the checkpoint.

I am aware of my own redundancy; however it remains difficult to ignore the force of architecture in those photos (see below) when designed and used in a military and colonial administrative purpose, thus providing what we could in a tragic oxymoron: the ordinary violence.

The following links refers to two different galleries of photos of those apparatuses on the MachsomWatch website:
FlickR gallery
Powerpoint presentation

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Seher Shah
Object Relic

This week’s guest writer is Alexis Bhagat., co-author with Lize Mogel of An Atlas of Radical Cartography (Journal of Aesthetics and Protest Press) whose  upcoming Spanish publisher is nobody else than our friends of dpr-barcelona. Alexis’ essay is written in the form of questions to the artist Seher Shah who already kindly agreed to write her responses in another guest writer essay that should be released soon.
In the following text, through the  second question addressed to Seher, What does it mean to draw like an architect when architects no longer draw? Alexis explores the recent history of a shift of paradigm in the architectural practice, and more generally in the various forms of signifier and symbols. He indeed describes the evolution from the systems of representations that used to use the material mark of a tool (pen, pencil, ink etc.) on a piece of paper and the birth of a new system of representation, whether what is represented involves architecture, cartography, or simply literature, that digitized (and therefore complexified the intermediary translation between the intent and the output) this process. In an interesting move, Alexis explored the history of the company Autodesk which developed the software that allowed such a paradigm to shift in the realms of architecture. As he suggest the presence of a new paradigm is problematic as the movement that embraces it forgets to question it at the same time, resulting in a lack of criticality that can be lethal to a discipline if it lasts.
This paradigm problematic is indeed relevant to Seher Shah’s work as it interrogates and reinterpret paradigms as much in its form than in its contents. We look forward to her responses which probably won’t constitute  real answers, but rather means to go further in this exploration.

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