Monthly Archives: May 2012


all images are screenshots from Romain Gravas’ fim: Jay Z & Kanye West “No church in the wild” (2012)

The new videoclip of Jay Z and Kanye West, No Church in the Wild, directed by Romain Gavras is problematic to many extents. During 5 very aesthetic minutes of film, a slowmotion of a scene involving a violent fight between an angry mob (composed strictly of men) and a less angry -yet much more methodical in its violence- group of suppressive geared policemen. The scene is recognizably occurring in Prague and Paris, thus offering us a modern version of the various European revolutions and insurrections of the 19th century. The ‘aesthetization’ of violence is optimal in order to directly to address our testosterone which then helps us to identify to this hyper-male insurrectional standard which correspond in nothing to the various 2011 Arab revolutions or civic movements in various countries in the world. The society of spectacle is not interested in long pacific democratic construction and, through its various media (including the most serious and so called ‘liberal’ of them like the perfidious New York Times), prefers to capitalize on the violent side of the revolt imaginary in order to both discredit and co-opt a movement that was originally anti-capitalist. In this regard, it is not innocent that the rioters, in this video, do not seem to seek anything else than a simple fight with the police force (almost like a sport). It is Capitalism’s great strength to be able to include within itself its own antagonism, and furthermore to be able to capitalize on the latter. Jay Z and Kanye West are the perfect example of such phenomena as they represent the nec plus ultra of the anti-pro system components of a hip-hop music that was originally invented as a pure form of resistance against this very same system.

However, this short film is still interesting to look at, as it might touch a line of risk that capitalism is taking against itself. Capitalist’s cinema has been aesthetizing violence for quite a long time now; nevertheless when doing so, it is always careful to subject this violence against a tangible and specific form of otherness, whether the latter is embodied by aliens, enemy armies, gangsters, cops (but always corrupted and individualized in one way or another) or any other instance characterized by its binary mode of existence -it is either alive or dead, victorious or defeated. What a film like No Church in the Wild participates to, is the construction of an imaginary in which an intangible yet ubiquitous system is being fought against. Of course, the society of spectacle is still strongly present and the policemen are contributing to the anthropomorphism of an antagonism; nevertheless, it is clear that something outside of this visible fight is engaged and is therefore developed in our imaginary.

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Rikers Island in New York City

Prison Map is a project developed by Josh Begley, a graduate student studying Interactive Telecommunications at New York University. Thanks a small script and geo-coordinates, he obtained a google earth snapshot of each of the 4,916 incarceration facilities in the United States. Let’s recall here that a bit less than 2.5 millions people are living in prison in this country. Such a project illustrates therefore a sort of hidden urbanism in which 0.8% of the American population live for a given time. Of course, these photographs are interesting to observe the architecture of incarceration, but more importantly in my opinion, is the relationship they develop with their direct environment as they illustrate a geography of exclusion.

Many of these facilities use the obvious strategy of remoteness to engage this will of exclusion. In this regard, from the cartographic point of view, they often ironically appear similar to European palaces with well-ordered classical plans. Others are situated on islands (like Rikers in New York) or piers in order to use water as a buffer zone between the included society and the excluded one. Finally, others are situated in the center of some cities like the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago (see previous post) or the Brooklyn Detention Complex using the verticality of their architecture to implement the exclusionary status.

The page Prison Map is only displaying 700 facilities for convenience reasons but the 4,216 others can be seen by following this link. Josh Begley also have another page entitled Prison Count which establishes a photographic inventory of California State Adult Prisons. In addition, you can also consult an old article about the book Forms of Constraint
The following pictures are extracted from the Prison Map project:

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Last year, the Zagreb Society of Architects’ program Think Space organized interesting competitions curated successively by Shohei Shigematsu, Teddy Cruz, Francois Roche and Hrvoje Njirić. This year’s series will be just much interesting, if not potential more, as Adrian Lahoud, this year’s curator, has planned competitions which question architecture’s historicity through their principle. Entitled Past Forward, they consist in the revival of competitions that have been forging a certain form of paradigm for contemporary architecture but which can obviously not be thought through the same way few decades later.The oldest is the Peak Leisure Club in Hong Kong, won in 1983 by Zaha Hadid Architects but eventually never built. The second one, eleven years later, the Yokohama Port Terminal’s winning entry and final building has been designed by Foreign Office Architects. Finally, the most recent one (1999) is the Blur Building designed by Diller & Scofidio + Renfro for the Swiss Association Expo 2001 in Yverdon-les-Bains.

The common link to those three competitions is that these projects founded the three practices of the offices who won them and that they constituted more built manifestos than the materialization of a deep theoretical research. The importance of those three buildings in recent architecture history lies in the fact that those three programs, although technically in the city, were not necessarily involving a strong relationship with the latter which would have brought many political, social and societal challenges that were not constituting the main engagement of the winning architects. This observation could then be a starting point to re-think these competitions nowadays in order to incorporate within them, their potential engagement towards the polis. Let’s not forget that many important competitions have been won based on a re-interpretation of their program. The fact that the programs of these competitions are ancient -and therefore maybe obsolete- pushes towards this attitude even more.

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Map extracted from the document about the Link by Aix Group (2010)

In 2010 the French NGO Aix Group released a 60 page document which introduces the challenges and propositions that could be made for the construction of a road link between Gaza and the West Bank. This hypothesis is of course based on the credible scenario of what is now called ‘the two states solution’ which would geographically separates the two territories under Palestinian sovereignty, Gaza on one side, the West Bank and East Jerusalem on the other side. In this scenario, this link would indeed be an extremely crucial element for the future of the Palestinian unity since the exercise of a unique sovereignty over two territories always constitute a very delicate practice. At a different scale the 24 year long example of Pakistan (1947-1971) separated between Western and Eastern territories – the latter became Bangladesh in 1971- illustrate such difficulties.

The studies attempts to propose an exhaustive list of options for the link’s materialization (road, train, monorail, surface, tunnel, bridge…see below) as well as a variety of its potential routes (five of them including three studied more specifically…see below as well). In order to function, the link would be under Palestinian authority surrounded by the Israeli territory (as defined by the UN based on the 1967 borders), thus constituting a peculiar geo-political precedent: a sovereignty applied to a line on the map. However, what is proper to a line or rather, a corridor, is the maximization of its surface in contact with the exterior. In this historical conflictual context and if considering the options given by this NGO, the potentialities for Israel to control or block the link – for whichever reason invoked – are plethora and this interesting legal case deserve probably a deeper level of imagination and ‘cleverness’ to actually make it effective and trustworthy for the Palestinians.

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Photograph of the book Project Japan by Rem Koolhaas and Hans Ulrich Obrist. (editors Kayoko Ota with James Westcott) Koln: Taschen, 2011.

In a move that he clearly enjoy, Rem Koolhaas along with Hans Ulrich Obrist re-introduce the Metabolists in an era that consecrates SANAA and their followers as the new Japanese paradigm for global architecture. It is indeed difficult to find two visions of architecture that different and the fact that they were produced in the same country makes this opposition even more visible. The 700-page book Project Japan can therefore be considered, not as a retroactive manifesto (that was the self-definition of Koolhaas’ Delirious New York), but rather as a rehabilitative archive. It is a document that illustrates the coherency of a historical movement created as both individual and collective work in a way that cannot be observed in any way nowadays. Through interviews with almost all the actors of this movement -Kurokawa and Kitutake died since then-, R.Koolhaas and H.U.Obrist explore as much the origins of this ambition (they find them in Kenzo Tange’s experience of the war in China and its large territories) as the globalization of the movement which saw the Metabolists proposed many projects in the Middle East. The photographs of Charlie Koolhaas of several buildings built in the 60’s in their current state also bring an interesting comparison with the original documents and the endurance (or not) of those building to time.

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The following text was curated by Mexican magazine Arquine and is therefore available in a Spanish version on its website.

The exhibition Archizines is currently visible at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York City and touring in ten cities of Europe and North America. This display of eighty architectural journals (including the funambulist’s  friends from Studio Magazine and Beyond!) is a good opportunity for us to question this medium of communication of ideas. Fifty years from now, Archigram and its ten zines publications participated to a revolution of architecture from the modernist patronizing austerity to a bold and imaginative movement for a city liberated from its bourgeoisie. Nowadays, the democratic aspect of these journals lies more in their facilitated production than in their radical contents. This mean of publication has indeed evolved with the relatively recent creation of many self-publishing services and the potential communication about the printed issues via the internet. The price reflects such means of production and contrast with more established architectural magazines with a larger run. Nevertheless, the goal of a more democratic access to knowledge has still to be pursued.

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Félix Guattari as photographed by Olivier Garros

Regularly,  I evoke my will to make this blog, non only a (not-so) daily (anymore) platform of expression for my reflective peregrinations, but also an archive of documents which constitute as many tools for my readers in their work. In this spirit today, I would like to publish the totality of the the short essay To Have Done with the Massacre of the Body written by Félix Guattari yet published anonymously for the journal Recherches no. 12, 1973 for who he was the director of publications. Entitled “Three Billion Perverts: Great Encyclopedia of Homosexuals.” , this issue of the journal was destroyed by the French government presided by Georges Pompidou. It is accessible to us thanks to Sylvère Lotringer and his collection of Guattari’s writings published in Chaosophy (semiotext(e), 2007). The transcript version published here is coming from the great database 1,000 Little Hammers which undertake to formalize a useful library of politically subversive documents.

This text (that I was already quoting in my essay about Antonin Artaud) constitutes a powerful inspiration for the series of articles I wrote about the dangerous notion of ideal normative body. Through it, Félix Guattari expresses a violent diatribe about capitalism’s mechanisms of capture of the body. The profound disorder – let’s recall that Guattari was a psychotherapist – felt within this system is produced by the dichotomy between the extremely subjective nature of desire and the narrow and oppressive characteristics of the norms issued from ideology (and religion) but also from the essence of a system which actively profits from a uniformization of desire. F.Guattari therefore argues for a resistance through what he calls micropolitics, a continuous ethical and creative production of desire at a small scale in an attempt for an immanent subversion within the system.

To Have Done with the Massacre of the Body
by Félix Guattari

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Cover of Leper Creativity by Perry Hall: Sound Drawing 07-04 (2007)

Invention is the transposition of one phase state to another, of one resonance on top of another, and it expresses therefore the deep recomposability, indeed deep recomputability, of worldly substance. Catherine Malabou speaks of the world’s plasticity as a condition of its futurity. When or where? Less than deep recomputability causes a genuinely new condition to emerge ‘later in time’ simultaneous to some postponed event, it does so ‘here’ in the recombinancy of an infinite synchronic field of the longest possible ‘now’. This is the absolute contingency of mathematics collapsing into the moratal contingency of stuff. That is, does everything that has ever existed now, in the molecular transformation of geo-programmatic recycling, and also, does everything that will ever exist already do so in another larval, disorganized distribution?

Bratton Benjamin. Root the Earth in  Leper Creativity. Brooklyn: Punctum Books, 2012. P46

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Breathing Room by Kayt Brumder (2009) / Excerpt from Imperfect Health

Before starting this article, I would like to say that I am well aware that what might distinguish this blog from others is the fact that architecture is only rarely questioned directly but rather via indirect means and disciplines. Lately I have been writing much more articles which, on the contrary, deal with architecture more explicitly. My readings and research work by phases and the recurrence of certain topics is not revealing a deep change in my editorial line but should rather be interpreted as chapters of it.

From October 2011 to April 2012, the Canadian Centre for Architecture displayed the exhibition Imperfect Health: The Medicalization of Architecture. In parallel of it has been edited a book with the same name by Giovanna Borasi and Mirko Zardini (Lars Muller Publishers). This volume – and therefore the exhibition – explores the heritage of modernism which promoted the antic ‘mens sana in corpore sano’ (a sane mind within a sane body) and was undertaking to design architecture around it. Through the various essays of the book, two approaches seems to emerge:

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Last Friday, the journal of Pratt Graduate School of Architecture’s students released its third issue in this format. This year’s volume gathers  a certain amount of well known thinkers and designers (Catherine Ingraham, Ed Keller, David Gissen, Sandford Kwinter, Alisa Andrasek, Patrik Schumacher, Antoine Picon and more) and is slyly entitled Not Nature. Slyly indeed as, through the negative form of its title, it proposes precisely  to debate around the very notion of nature. In this regard, we can distinguish two discourses opposing each other in the very important discrepancy of axioms defining nature.

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