Monthly Archives: December 2012

collagelab

Few months ago, Joanne Pouzenc from CollageLab proposed that we would have an epistolary conversation in the frame of the CollageLab’s Points of view series which was opened by our good friend Daniel Fernandez Pascual. This conversation is still going on but while waiting for the publication of new articles here, I would like to propose what has been written so far as I suppose that it is a useful definition of the Funambulist’s editorial line:

CollageLab:
There is a beautiful image behind the Funambulist: the image of this passionate guy in love with challenge, control and fear, putting himself in danger to either just reach the other side or because of its addiction to tension and adrenaline.
But for you, who and what is The Funambulist? What is the process behind it? And how did it started? 

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gomboc_e_tartaruga

I am not really sure if I would be able to write any new article until the end of the year, so in the meantime, here is a very short aside post to discover a particular object : the Gömböc. Invented by Gábor Domokos and Péter Várkonyi in 2006, this shape is inspired by some species of turtle which developed a type of carapace that allow them to swing back to their normal position if they ever fall on their back. The particularity of the Gömböc is to have only two points of equilibrium (one stable and one unstable) which makes it unique in the realms of objects. In the little world of a certain architectural academia which boast about researching on “form finding”, I find interesting to see that this discipline is actually practiced within the world of mathematics with all the rigor that it implies. I am out of my element here, so I should be careful in my hypotheses but I am wondering if the invention of an object without any point of equilibrium would not be the same thing than to trigger a perpetual movement (on a flat area).  In that case, it would be also interesting to confront the geometrical ideal with the real object which can never escape from slight discrepancies…designers might be of help here…

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# POLITICS /// Idealism & ImaginationDecember 21, 2012

Philosophy - By: Léopold Lambert

img_606X341_2911-palestinians-abbas-speech-un-state-vote

Inspired by a recent conversation I had with my good friend Nora (see her text for the funambulist) about the recent UN vote in favor of the Palestinian Authority, I came to think about the notions of idealism and imagination. In substance, Nora was explaining that the idealist she is could not possibly be satisfied by such decision. As we all know, this vote crystallizes the post-1967 borders (which is a tremendous issue as far as East Jerusalem is concerned for example) eludes the problem introduced by the territorial separation between Gaza and the West Bank, abandons the right to return for refugees as well as judiciary prosecutions, and re-affirms a support to the Palestinian Authority which does not have any electoral legitimacy since it ended its term in 2009. What Nora pointed out however, is her disappointment to see extraordinary issues ‘solved’ with hyper-ordinary solutions, problems that have no real equivalent in history addressed through responses that had been already applied in the past. There was room for imagination, she claims, to invent a new form of democracy for a post-apartheid country whichever its future name might be.

Being a supporter of this thesis myself (although I am not quite able to articulate it that well), it reminded me of the recurrent answers we get when affirming an ideal. “This is unachievable”, they say or, “that will never happen.” The point they are missing is that being an idealist does not really mean that one believes that this ideal will be reached; rather it consists in the engagement in the continuous struggle that ‘walk’ towards this ideal, in the same way that one has to aim at the horizon in order to move forward.

Imagination is the thing that cynics lack of. It is important to differentiate here creative imagination from the imagination communicated through the advertising/Hollywood industry’s slogans which, undercover of messages like “nothing is impossible”, reiterate the same limited version of a certain vision of the possible. Slavoj Zizek often argues that capitalism succeeded in making us believe that it would be easier for us to live on Mars than to find an alternative to itself. Imagining living on Mars is not really hard indeed if we simply transpose our life on earth to a red background settings with the astronauts suits added. What is really hard to imagine and therefore deserve to be the object of much efforts, is to think of other societal models that would radically change from the one we have known and we still know.

Imagination has been captured by capitalism, not in the way that dictatorial regimes censored and prevented it but, by making us think that what we see every day is the product of imagination when, really, it all comes from the very same system of production of ideas. The end of the 20th century consecrated the fear of utopia as the latter seemed to be the motor of this same century’s atrocities, but again this is false inasmuch that imagination had been captured as well by the various dominant forces that were trying desperately to reach the horizon (we can think of the Nazi autodafe and the Sovietic censorship for example). We must, of course, refrain ourselves from any form of suppression just as much we must stay away from the ambient cynicism of an era that delusionally declared itself “post-ideological”. Imagination is the creative fuel for struggle, let’s not take it for granted.

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handcuffs-patent10
Apparatus and system for augmented detainee restraint. Patent assigned to Scottsdale Inventions LLC (2012)

The following article is a good opportunity for me to open a new category in the blog’s archive, one that I voluntarily keep very focused to differentiate itself from broader one (like ‘weaponized architecture‘ for example). This new category is entitled ‘cruel design‘ and gathers only pieces of industrial design or architecture whose primarily function is to subjectivize one’s body to an absolute submission. This characteristic is thought in differentiation to the many examples I have been writing about, which applies their controlling power on the bodies in a more subtle and disguised yet operative way.

A new example of this will to subdue a body in an absolute embrace of the violence of design upon the bodies, is given to us through the filing of a patent of a new kind of handcuffs by its inventor company, Scottsdale Inventions LLC as the website Patent Bolt reports. Those handcuffs, called Apparatus and system for augmented detainee restraint for the patent filing, enforce the restraint by electroshock and/or drug injection:

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lc

This post is the second part of an article about the first chapter of Gilbert Simondon‘s  L’individu et sa genèse physico-biologique (1964), entitled Form and Matter.

After exploring the text itself and its critique of the Aristotelian hylomorphic (form/matter) scheme to think about objects, I would like to introduce a second architectural interpretation of Simondon’s essay. Indeed, not only the hylomorphic paradigm fails to describe materially the energy that operates within the fabrication of an object, but it also categorize the humans involved in this operation in two distinct categories: those who think the object and those who make the object. The former virtually impose an abstract form on a material while the latter, who have a deepen knowledge about the material itself, are forced to manipulate it to achieve more or less skilfully the thought form. The following excerpt is the way Simondon describes it through his interest for the individualization:

(my clumsy translation): What is kept in an object, is the matter; what makes it being itself, is the state in which its matter describes all the events that this object was subjected to; the form that is only a fabrication intention, a composition will, can neither grow old nor become; it is always the same as an intention, for the conscience of the one who thinks and gives the fabrication order; it is the same abstractly, he wants them to be all the same, of the same dimension and following the same geometry.

(original version): Ce qui se conserve dans un objet, c’est la matière ; ce qui le fait être lui-même, c’est que l’état dans lequel est sa matière résume tous les événements que cet objet a subis ; la forme qui n’est qu’intention fabricatrice, volonté de disposition, ne peut vieillir ni devenir ; elle est toujours la même, d’une fabrication a une autre ; elle est tout au moins la même en tant qu’intention, pour la conscience de celui qui pense et donne l’ordre de fabrication ; elle est la même abstraitement, il les souhaite toutes identiques, de la même dimension et selon la même figure géométrique.

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796px-RomaniaDanubeDelta_MakingMaterialForCOnstructing0002jpg

French philosopher Gilbert Simondon (1924-1989) is very likely to join Spinoza, Nietzsche, Deleuze and Foucault in the list of philosophers that influence the writings on this blog. It has been a while now that I would like to expand my conclusion for the essay Abject Matter: The Barricade and the Tunnel that I already published here. This little piece of text was an interpretation of Simondon’s first chapter of L’individu et sa genèse physico-biologique (the Physico-Biological Genesis of the Individual ) to make an argument about the landscape of insurgencies and architecture in general. This chapter is called Form and Matter and I would like to archive the translation of the first half of it that Taylor Adkin made for his excellent Fractal Ontology (edited with Joseph Weissman). All excerpts in English included here comes from this translation. A second article, less descriptive and more interpretative will come in the next few days.

In this text that opens his book, Simondon undertake to critique the Aristotelian paradigmatic scheme: hylomorphism. This scheme describes each object and body as a combination of form and matter, and Simondon, through the very extensive and detailed description of the fabrication process of a brick, affirms that this scheme misses a very important aspect of this process: the energy involved to transform the “formless” clay into a parallelepiped brick:

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hokusai-wave-2

‘It must be the case that I have some perception of the movement of each wave on the shore if I am to be able to apperceive that which results from the movements of all the waves put together, namely the mighty roar which we hear by the sea.’
Leibniz, Gottfried, Correspondence with Arnauld, 1686.

The world exists only in its representatives as long as they are included in each monad. It is a lapping of waves, a rumor, a fog, or a mass of dancing particles of dust. It is a state of death or catalepsy, of sleep, drowsiness, or of numbness. It is as if the depths of every monad were made from an infinity of tiny folds (inlfections) endlessly furling and unfurling in every direction.
Deleuze, Gilles, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, London: Continuum, 1993.

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James Trainor - Cabinet Magazine 04

One of the last issues of the excellent Brooklyn-based magazine Cabinet was dedicated to the notion of game. The dossier itself, is very interesting, but I was particularly curious about the first text of the series, entitled Reimagining Recreation and written by James Trainor. This essay traces the  history of the various policies that created playgrounds in New York Cities since the 1950’s. Following the era that saw Robert Moses’ 26 years reign over the NYC Park Commission which considered playgrounds can be used as a way to “intercept children…and provide a place in which excess energy can be worked off without damage to the park surroundings” (quote from the text below), a joyful and playful era changed New York in the 1960’s. J. Trainor describes “a massive open-call game of ‘capture-the-flag’ on the Central Park Mall, a communal ‘paint-in’ gathering in Sheep Meadow, kite happenings, folk music happening, midnight meteor shower happenings” as well as the famous ‘adventure playgrounds’ that embodied in their own way, the spirit of the 1960’s.

“Better a broken bone than a broken spirit” (quote from text below). Playgrounds have not always been the sterilized as they are now. The first adventure playgrounds were created in the 1940’s in Denmark and developed abroad few years later. Their principle is to include dirt and danger to a sufficient extent that children would enjoy themselves, as well as acquire a certain form of autonomy when not being overprotected. It is fairly obvious that children become the next generation of adults, and therefore will ultimately reflect the conditions of life they currently experience. Sterile playgrounds as the ones we currently know, will produce sterile individuals who, not only will found themselves totally unfit to any wild environment but, more simply and importantly, will never include playfulness in its culture.

The importance of lawsuits and safety in the Western world (especially in the United States) took over the importance of playfulness and creativity. The playground is the visible battlefield of this struggle and as, architect and/or parent or simply the older children that we all are, we need to act for that matter.

Reimagining Recreation
by James Trainor
in Cabinet Issue 45 Games Spring 2012

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