Monthly Archives: March 2012

Photo from Construire Autrement. Actes Sud, 2006.

This is not the first time that I write an article about the remarkable creative process that Patrick Bouchain and his office Construire have been undertaking for many years now. I even fear not to write anything different from the last post about an interview he gave to Micropolitiques (see previous article). However, I think that it is useful to re-insist on the importance that the construction process he has developed and systematized through the numerous architectural projects he designed. This process is simple and easily applicable if there is a sincere will from the architects and the traditional actors of the construction to work out a democratic way to build.

His book, Construire Autrement (see this old article  in 2008 about it!) which can be translate by ‘Building Differently’, constitutes a manifesto as much by its contents as by its form. The latter, indeed, illustrates a literary style empty of complex terminology or initiated knowledge, and is divided into two parts: his writings and those of some his well-known friends, Michel Onfray (philosopher), Gilles Clement (landscape designer), Lucien Kroll (architect), Daniel Buren (artist), Antoine Nochy (philosopher), Romain Paris (urban designer) and Otar Iosseliani (film maker).

As far as the content is concerned, P. Bouchain explains through it his will to involve the ensemble of the actors concerned by the building he is designing in its creative and constructive process. In order to do so, he triggers the encounter of those actors by organizing debates on site between neighbors, local politicians and crafts(wo)men, he sets up a canteen during the construction so that local people can have meals with workers, he invites elementary schools to visit the site and educates kids (and grown-up) about the implications a building and its construction can have on the city etc. He also proposes a political strategy to implement, through each public building’s creative and constructive process, an innovative and democratic approach. Since 1936 (and systematically since 1981), French public buildings have to dedicate 1% of their construction budget to a work of art. As the latter, thanks to its status, can be created in a relative freedom, P. Bouchain envisions (and applies to his own buildings) policies that would add to this one, a “solidarity 1%” which promotes the social aspect of the construction (like for the canteen), as well as a “scientific 1%” which develops a useful research  for the building, an “education 1%” to trigger programs like the one mentioned above and an “elderly 1%” which insists on the importance of the transmission of knowledge between generations.

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The Funambulist’s readers would have probably noticed that I like series articles which brings a specific interest within the frame of a larger research. I am therefore particularly sensitive to the Mixtape series published by Domus and curated by Daniel Perlin. This collection of sound and music, mixed by talented djs and artists, proposes an audio interpretation of a given city. Some attempts to catch the global atmosphere of a city (like for Rio de Janeiro), others chooses to focus on one aspect of the city’s music scene (like for Beijing).
I have been listening to almost all of them and particularly recommend Rio’s, Johannesburg’s and Harlem’s. The latter introduces a precise and local aspect of the extremely specific sound coming from New York, this sound that refuses perfection and assume its dirtiness from the Velvet Underground to the Wu-Tan Clan, from Jon Spencer’s Blues Explosion to Mos Def, from Sonic Youth to the Nervous Cabaret…  This article allows me to open a new category on the blog: MUSIC.

Here is the list of the existing mixtapes:
– 01/ Mexico
– 02/ Harlem
– 03/ Buenos Aires
– 04/ Melbourne
– 05/ Milan
– 06/ London
– 07/ Johannesburg
– 08/ Moscow
– 09/ Las Vegas
– 10/ Tel Aviv
– 11/ Beijing
– 12/ Rio de Janeiro

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The Palestinian Archipelago: Salfit (drawn by the author)

I recently had the chance to write a short article for the Mexican magazine Arquine which was dedicating its last dossier to the topic of displacements. I therefore wrote a text about the metaphorical archipelago created by the fragmentation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in a multitude of islands which makes the Palestinian sovereignty applicable on only a small part of its territory. Some of the funambulist’s readers might find it redundant of what I have been writing in the past, in which case, I would recommend the only reading of the two last paragraphs that brings something slightly more new in my discourse. This new part includes the consideration for internal social issues encountered by the Palestinian people who sees within itself the formation of a new bourgeoisie which ratifies, through its way of life, the occupier’s language.

Here is the list of texts in Arquine 59‘s dossier (both in English and Spanish in the printed version):

· La hospitalidad comienza en casa (Deborah Gans)
– El archipiélago palestino: una cartografía metafórica de los territorios ocupados (Léopold Lambert)
– El recuerdo es una construcción que se desplaza (Ana Valdés y Alicia Migdal)
– Albergue para migrantes: un espacio humanitario de (Thomas Weiss)

THE PALESTINIAN ARCHIPELAGO: A Metaphorical Cartography of the Occupied Territories.
By Léopold Lambert

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Excerpt from Le Processus by Marc-Antoine Mathieu (Delcourt 1993)

Following the three last articles in which I was preparing my reference texts in addition of those that I have been already writing in the past, this following article is an attempt to reconstitute the small presentation I was kindly invited to give by Carla Leitão for her seminar about libraries and archives at Pratt Institute. This talk was trying to elaborate a small theory of the book as a subversive artifact based on six literary authors that have in common a dramatization of their own medium, the book, within their books. The predicate of this essay lies in the fact that books are indeed subversive -and therefore suppressed by authoritarian power- as they reveal the existence of other worlds.

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(1) Excerpt from Le Processus by Marc-Antoine Mathieu (Delcourt 1993)

This article is the last one in order to list and archive my references for the talk I gave this morning about the book as an object (see the recent posts about Borges and Bradbury). Once again, the universe(s) invented and drawn by Marc-Antoine Mathieu in his graphic novels fascinate me enough to write another article about them. This time, two stories, La 2,333e dimension (The 2.333th dimension) and Le Processus (The Process) that I will introduce more in detail in this next article. Until then, the following images are few of the beautiful/amazing/amusing/interesting/evocative frames that can be found in those two books. Once again, I feel sorry that only one of them has been translated in English and in German. I translated the ones presented here.

See the other links about Marc-Antoine Mathieu’s graphic novels:
–  Mémoire morte (Dead Memory) (Delcourt 2000)
La Qu… (Delcourt 1991)
L’Origine (Delcourt 1990)

Note that L’Origine, La Qu…, Le Processus, La 2,333e Dimension as well as Le Debut de la Fin are all part of the series Julius Corentin Acquefacques, prisonnier des rêves (Julius Corentin Acquefacques, prisoner of dreams)

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Still from the film Fahrenheit 451 by Francois Truffaut

I resume my short literary series of references texts whose object within the narrative (and therefore within the book) is precisely the book as an object.  I will eventually articulate them together in a forthcoming article. After Jorge Luis Borges’ Book of Sand (see previous post), today is the turn of Fahrenheit 451 written by Ray Bradbury in 1953 and then adapted for cinema by Francois Truffaut in 1966. I already dedicated an article about the latter within the context of the series of the heterotopias in cinema. It addressed the end of the narrative when Montag discovers the forest of the human books, each man and woman embodying one book of their choice.

The following text is oppositely the beginning of the story in which Montag is a fireman, i.e. a man who burns books. The latter have been indeed forbidden for their ability to describe another world, and therefore, their invitation to embrace subversive (dis)orders. When Bradbury writes his book in 1953, the Nazi ‘autodafés ‘ (book burning ceremonials) still belong to a close history. In our own very recent history (this last year), the Koran has been burnt twice in a disturbing media coverage (no media, no drama). In Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche’s new historical film, Les Chants de Mandrin (Smugglers’ Songs) set in 18th century France, the police forces burn the contraband manifesto that smugglers attempt to spread around and that was printed clandestinely – as an anecdote, philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy plays the role of the pirate printer !

Books are very poetic objects. By being embodied by paper, they carry their own fragility and constitute their own combustible when a power decides to annihilate them. Books are the medium through which ideas acquires a virtual eternity and for this reason deserve to be passionately salvaged.  But this eternity is indeed only virtual as a small sparkle can inflame them and destroy them forever.

Fahrenheit 451 (excerpts)
By Ray Bradbury

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nothing-to-hide-00
Elave: Nothing to hide commercial 2007 © Images & sounds

After Ethel Baraona Pohl and Cesar Reyes in August 2011, today’s guest writers are also talented bloggers, Mariabruna Fabrizi & Fosco Lucarelli, Italian architects practicing in Paris. Their blog, Socks Studio, is fed almost everyday with plethora of inspiring documents among which, some of them (here and here) were the object of my articles.

Their essay, Nothing to hide. The blurring of the physical and temporal line between life, work and education is a very interesting investigation about the spaces of control invented by capitalism. The latter found a new form in a system of production that can now complement its well known assembly line – currently outsourced – with a branch which principally consists in ‘inventing’ new desires for consumers whose bodies have been captured. The prison in which they (we) are kept has no wall, no darkness, no folds to hide in. Productivity, in this new work form paradigm, is achieved through the embrace of the subject for his condition and his voluntary slavery to a work hierarchy that did not change through history. Through encouragements to practices of ‘self-achievement’ and ‘relaxation’ hides a will to decrease any form of criticality from the subject. Such scheme is already highly problematic within the professional world but even more in the Academia. American universities, for example, are legitimately known as high skills providers, however, through the continuous encouragements to engage with extra-curricular activities (sports, clubs, fraternities, etc.), they also form citizens who strongly lacks of critical sense as Richard Arum’s research shows. As usual such system of control has a space and as architects, we are responsible to embrace  or refuse its codes. Mariabruna and Fosco’s text is a good introduction to know what the latter are.

The Funambulist Papers 23 /// Nothing to hide: The blurring of the physical and temporal line between life, work and education

By Mariabruna Fabrizi & Fosco Lucarelli

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Walled States, Waning Sovereignty is a recent very interesting book (2010) written by Professor Wendy Brown and published at the excellent Zone Books. As the book’s title implies, the author starts her thesis by the assessment that the various walls that materializes some of the borders of the world (Mexico-USA, Morocco-Spain, Bangladesh-India, Pakistan-India, Iraq-Saudi Arabia and to a certain extent, the Palestinian occupied territories and Israel) are the result of decreasing territorial sovereignty in the age of globalization. As we will see further in my review, she attributes to the notion of sovereignty, theological characteristics in the transcendental power that it applies on its subjects:

Sovereignty is a theological political formulation and formation that aims, inter alia, to subordinate and contain the economic and to detach political life from the demands or imperatives of the economic. That this aspiration is ultimately unrealizable does not prevent it from becoming a potent material fiction with significant effects during its reign. (P58)

In her interpretation, sovereignty is thus a form of deity and walls would therefore constitutes temples dedicated to the celebration of the memory of the former omnipotence of this theological power:

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I recently gathered few texts from my literature classics (Kafka, Borges, Bradbury, Orwell, Philip K. Dick etc.) for an upcoming short intervention in Carla Leitão’s seminar at Pratt. I will probably transcript it here once I will have presented it, but until then, I can already share some of those excerpts or short stories. The first one of this series consists in the short story Libro de Arena (The Book of Sand) written by Jorge Luis Borges in 1975. Without saying too much about it, this short story consolidates Borges’ fascination for books and the infinite in a sort of re-reading of The Library of Babel in which the infinite library would be contained within a single book.

The Book of Sand
by Jorge Luis Borges

    Thy rope of sands . . .
—George Herbert

      The line is made up of an infinite number of points; the plane of an infinite number of lines; the volume of an infinite number of planes; the hypervolume of an infinite number of volumes. . . . No, unquestionably this is not—more geometrico—the best way of beginning my story. To claim that is it true is nowadays the convention of every made-up story. Mine, however, is true.

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Extracted from The Insurgent Barricade (University of California Press, 2010.)

Few weeks ago, I eventually finished the (long) paper I was referring to in an article about barricades in January (see also a more recent one about the book The Insurgent Barricade). This paper will be published this summer, but until then I can continue to disseminate some references that helped me to write it.

For the last few years, I have been writing many articles (see this one for example) that involved the revolutionary tactics elaborated by Auguste Blanqui during the 19th century in France. His Esquisse de la marche à suivre dans une prise d’armes à Paris is a clandestine manual written in 1866, which explains very precisely how to organize barricades and fortify a whole block of housing building to transform it into a favorable battlefield during an insurrection (see previous article including an excerpt that I translated). What I did not evoke enough, is his ‘anta-ego’ (sorry for the neologism), Marshall Thomas Bugeaud who wrote a similar manual eighteen years earlier, evoking similar tactics, yet this time, in favor of the army in charge of the insurrections’ suppression. Bugeaud made himself famous in the late 1830’s for defeating the last resistant force against Algeria’s colonization: Abd El Kader and his fantastic army: the smala. For 123 years, Algeria will then suffer from the French colonization and Algiers will have to accept the existence of a square named after Thomas Bugeaud (as well as a statue of him). His manual, entitled La Guerre des Rues et des Maisons (War of Streets and Houses) describes the various strategies that a military platoon needed to apply in order to suppress the rebellion. Instead of a grouped frontal attack against a barricade as it was usually practiced by the army (which was not used to fight in an urban context), he advocated for the fragmentation of the army’s body into several little groups attacking from every side, digging their way from the neighboring buildings, wall by wall, to eventually surround and destroy the barricade. Despite its ingenuousness (let’s not forget that the 19th century’s war strategies were still entirely based on a very hierarchical scheme), those tactics were poorly received as it implied too much autonomy for those small groups of soldiers who were maybe fighting against their own family and necessitated to be always supervised by the instances of command.

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