# THE FUNAMBULIST PAPERS 53 /// Building Body – Two Treatments on Landing Site Theory by Alan Prohm

image 2
Image: Alan Prohm

The 53rd Funambulist Paper associates the editorial line of the forthcoming second volume centered around the body with an additional contribution to the series of texts about the work of Arakawa and Madeline Gins. The following essay, written by Alan Prohm, friend of the Reversible Destiny Foundation (now lead by Joke Post and Momoyo Homma) and instigator of the The BodyBuilding Project (3-Week residency at the Watermill Center, following 1-year course in procedural architecture and embodiment taught at the University of Art and Design Helsinki, now Aalto University). In this literary/analytic text, Alan examines Arakawa and Gins’ concepts of “landing sites” and the “architectural body”.


# THE FUNAMBULIST PAPERS 53 /// Building Body – Two Treatments on Landing Site Theory by Alan Prohm

image 1

Dedication: This text has its dedication built right in.

Landing Site Theory (a) [1] -dream of the architectural body

“The main stake of street actions is the reactivation of the body of the general intellect.” Franco Berardi.


It was around 6:20 am – I was asleep in a ply-board room the exact dimensions of one twin bed, with just an extra foot along one side so you could sit down with your feet on the floor and still get the door closed – sweaty in the thin sheets – cheapest hotel I could find in Chinatown – efficient mass baseline habitation – with a tv in every room – Madeline was ill and it was a place for a few days landing in town and waiting – when I could pay a visit, when I could shift over to the sixth-floor loft at Houston St. – & the phone rang.


& only many years later did it occur to him to question who that might have been there that day back then burning on the ghat in Varanasi where he sat breathing in inevitably the smoke by chance blown up from off the burning body at him, of an Indian man from the merchant class being cremated below him on the sand at the water’s edge on a bed of logs on the shore of the Ganges at dawn by two untouchable laborers paid a small amount in rupees to do so all day

then one day for no reason years later this strange name showing up on the streets and in my notebooks everywhere, who?, I, no, where’d that come from?

 I mean, no association or anything, I’m just saying…

 She might just come again.


Madeline’s dream of dying

woke up screaming nurse said, 5 times

she was shown the way

sapient imaging-along had saved her

because she needed to be around to save it

spoke to a neuron

felt fine wire sense nets out around her

began seeing colors in aura


It was Madeline. She wanted me to come uptown to where she was staying for when her healer would be there, at about 7, so in barely half an hour. He was an Indian healer and he was so much help in finding ways to fight within her, she wanted others to get some of the benefit. I had been waiting a few days for her to feel strong enough for a visit, and was certainly interested in what kind of help she was surrounding herself with, in the effort now way underway of keeping her as a body alive. But to my body it felt very early, and it just didn’t have it in it to jump at the opportunity. I apologized and said I couldn’t make it on such short notice, but thanks, and agreed on an uncertain ‘okay then maybe later today’, and went back to bed. Soon enough in the coming days I did get good chances to visit, and later even to meet the healer and hear his story. But after that early morning interruption, frankly a bit annoyed, I woke back up an hour or so later, sweatier as the day had warmed, and had had this dream. And thought it was extraordinary.

I was standing in a high brick cubic loft-like space – red brick and airy, in two walls adjoining fine steel-frame windows two storeys high. I was near the left front wall and looking up into the broad space no floors, or just one, above which all the air of three storeys piled, and high up in the empty volume of the room a foetus was floating, in a diffuse light, as in a fluid medium, with a membrane thinly veiling its insides, and an even thinner membrane veiling the radiant, clear, most-loosely/barely-textured, expanding/hugging volume of its outsides, this womb-sack, filling the bricked cubic-ness of the room like a balloon blown up as big as it gets, just these wedge-volumed gaps at the adjoinings of floor and walls and ceiling. In one such gapping along the lower left edge, I was standing against a wall, watching this foetus in the assumption it was my child, but not excluding the possibility it was everyone’s. The mother was away at the moment. I was going outside to get something at the car. While I was up the cement stairs and out on the sidewalk I was thinking how extraordinary it was, and I should probably take some pictures for the mother so she can see when she gets back. I came back inside and the foetus was still there, floating well up toward the top, serene, majestic, but looking down, into this three-cubic-storey red brick loftiness with windows, ambiented in its radiant mother-of-amberish pearl fluidity, to which it float/dangling could be seen to be most loosely, barely tethered by an as-if fine tense disappearing thread, and everything.


What will they do with Madeline’s body, he wonders. What will you do as yours, her voice in his mind replies. [2]


Build a body. Disentangle. Thrive/Love. Together.


How to make a body? Build it. How to fuel a forever fire, feed it. Procedurality failed and then it made forever do with it. It the all, cleaving. Bioscleave. –ing.

Sufficiency is with us, and also around. We take it in and fill with, and hold whereall.

Body, a having membrane and holding organs, is architectural, is in Bioscleaving the cleaving that most supports us being a we, or me being the I I says I am.

Not to come together like that was something other, but being dispersed t/here suddenly to disperse with this togethetry, this thickening-in along a common membrane-cum-metabolism for being an us, or me. What is the boundary that references this being, this wafted bouncing around at the onto-epistemological edges of things where I/we decide/s we/I ’re/am or going to be? A pole tent warp wrap to point and relent to the referencing, centering a circumference evasive and transformative to save our hide(s), or mine? Which line says I most finely, or holds as we so wide? How does a skin decide and ally its members, retie/-ain them in mutual muscle networks racked on bone and run by nerve hordes connecting in to tall grey hives, in the brain, or tribes. Bags to contain a sustaining. Who we? No, I. The center that f/holds the I not dying to cast it wide, keep trying.

For Madeline and Arakawa the answer to this questioning lies in the relentless biotopological diagramming that building body, more/more architectural/more not-dying body, requires.

Getting there is the evidence of your trying come true. Try. Madeline did. Change will have you as its most convincing symptom, so just go ahead jump the gun and get it started. The wave will catch up and crest with you once you have shared your awareness with the others. Grow body. Don’t die.

 I is listening, I is listening, I am quiet.

The heart is the core of a capillary network, feeding meat with the life for wanting more life. Who could ever have built a better fire? Or war. A cold shower in the holey bowl of mass full emptiness with no face. A great warm cave of caving in at the core. The heaviness we carry and that makes us tall, and not live more. Great and small alike susceptible to all this lapsing in the ability of this to go on indefinitely, as an us or an I. What a thrust, then what a fuss.[3] Please more.


“If you study hard and always strive to know the full range of the body’s capabilities, you will in all probability not have to die.”  (Making Dying Illegal, cover)


But there is a problem. Among others. The body is small. I mean small-minded. Underestimated and sold too short, reachless, separate, apart. When it/we could be overall. The body/self/sense cast wide can live more. A world built for bodymind to start casting broader, knowing and doing with greater traction on more scales of action per volume area, would be a world in which the organism(s) personing, happening more on purpose, could learn to be alive longer. As opposed to the world as we build it now, to narrow and stream-line our implicity in the happening as programmed, or just happened that way and let it be. There is living forever, and there is at least getting a little bit more out of life. That’s a start. So why don’t we try? Immortality is at all times.

image 3Arakawa and Gins, illustrations of landing site formation, 1997, from the essay, “Architectural Body”, in Reversible Destiny: We have decided not to die, pages 169-187. (C) Madeline Gins/ Courtesy of Reversible Destiny Foundation.

Why don’t we try? Well, it’s rough outside. And they. Who? Decide how to live or if an I dies. Just don’t stick your head out. Say the I’s. We gets us a little wider. But how wide? The land you never claim can never be taken from you. The skin is a minimum size we body at because we have a hard time retreating completer. But the senses we can pull way back inside. In fact they’ll be happy to extend the wiring right in to you, so you don’t really need your own at all, skin or ears or eyes. Widescreen TVs are already just a step away from a wireless chip in the back of my mind. Then we’ll still have bodies but you’ll barely need an outside.

“When the social body is wired by techno-linguistic automatisms, it acts as a swarm: a collective organism whose behavior is automatically directed by connective interfaces.” (Berardi 14)

The sensorium can transmit like a tight wire relay, or take in and build inflationary baby-bakery-like knowing/making for its own sake, and for all sapient-sentient kind. The difference between tight and wide in this sens(orium) is to be found in the imaging, and the landing it ultimately comes from. Hence world-constituting, as Madeline calls it, a procedure of sapient imaging along, cued by/to acts of landing. World: what happens, or you have happen as.

The variable that in the end prevents happening, defined as the swarm on-rush of events through presence, from collapsing totally into automaticity, destiny, is landing, the surface and voluming of it, and the voluming full of tentative and potential that flowers in its wake, imaging along. The degree and mode of awareness (reflexivity, imaging) on the landing as it happens, or you/we have it happen. And world becomes.

Landing site theory, thinking the landing and imaging, is at the core of a more general “art-science” Madeline and Arakawa practiced and called Biotopology, characterized as not a field of knowledge but a “meadow of knowing”[4], about/in/as sited awareness, life in sapient-sentience plus the diagramming. Biotopology establishes itself as a way of thinking for doing that can address the eventning that is/decides life, and inform the urgent and speculative practice of a procedural architecture, designed to extend it.

image 4

Arakawa and Madeline Gins, “Perceptual Landing Sites (II)” detail, 1981-84, in Constructing the Perceiver, page 269. (C) Madeline Gins/Courtesy of Reversible Destiny Foundation.

Landing site theory at the core of these efforts amounts, then, both to an epistemology, a theory of first-person knowledge building, and to a consciousness practice, a discipline for firming and loosening our hold on landing, happening. Both as epistemology and as consciousness practice, landing site theory is essential for building body. And most probably for not dying. The study of the body, the organism that persons, landing, is the study of how the body can land further, inner, wider, longer, also. To include the walls and floor, and to assume no ceiling.

Where its promise seems greatest, landing site theory offers keys to the secret of holding the tentativeness of events and everything open. Not to stop time, but at least to not die, now, or at any time. As oneself always the core of one’s events, how not to be had by the collapse that happening just passes off as just happening? Not sacrificing active landing to the automatic. Not excluding a single possibility. Holding as many horizons open as far around as necessary, or expedient. Fine insight on/into the acts of fixing and settling that the deciding of events in the end comes down to. Up at the tip of the formation of facts, landing fielding landing into events, we can study the collapse of wide to tight in slowed time with our own eyes and find the points/joints where fate may be made to take the different turn, and as-if Destiny reverse. Help it happen that way. It’s all yours.

Reversible Destiny as a project(ile) looks to the extension of consciousness (or sapient-sentience) outward and in every direction, into a more, into a further that is inherent/implicit/potential in the embodied happening of landing and imaging and building. The body has it within it. Everywhere that isn’t disinhabited and lost to the automatic, is living. Bios is the cleaving. The topology is a system or knack for keeping track. Procedural architecture is the vision of building for the body in bios cleaving, with a topology for staying and staying alive.

Through(out) the body, architectural, cast wide, informed by the theorying of its own landing sites, sapient-sentience’s complicity in the infinite visceral intricacy of all the things happening, at once, in line, is strengthened, dispersed and intensified. It is with us, and also within. Everything is more, there is less less. Here all reductions and automaticities run for the hills and hide. Maybe including dying.

Image 5aimage 5bImage 5c

Arakawa and Gins, visualisation of landing sites, 1997, from “Landing Sites in Relation to Phantom Limb Formation”, in Reversible Destiny: We have decided not to die, pages.156-63. (C) Madeline Gins/ Courtesy of Reversible Destiny Foundation.

Body claims its space as sapient sentience shaping personing out of places, and takes, a container containing, life lived out into every eventning as limbs or patches of skin, all of it her, or him, happening. Body is what we have of it, and what we take as us. Like each other. Grow.

So, body is among other things its channels of intake – the more hardwired the more I – what intervenes in the channeling costs and charges – fields collapse from fences and fences grow tight to wire – what does the wiring wins – win the wiring, ladies & gentlemen, that is the only way – and the only way is from within – Out – you are the wiring, ladies & gentlemen, win from within – cast wide. Field. And the fences go flying.

“The spreading of the connective modality in social life (the network) creates the conditions of an anthropological shift that we cannot yet fully understand. This shift involves a mutation of the conscious organism: in order to make the conscious organism compatible with the connective machine, its cognitive system has to be reformatted. Conscious and sensitive organisms are thus being subjected to a process of mutation that involves the faculties of attention, processing, decision, and expression.” (Berardi 122)

Landing site theory. Allow it to introduce you to the receptive texture (landing channeled but untrammeled) “this texture that is a distance”, “this as-if-woven breathing web of landing sites”, through which we/you enter ourselves as the events that seem to contain us, when in reality it is we that field them into place. Beware: the infrastructure that interfaces us is us, Ladies & Gentlemen, and currently they, who?, those who own, own a disturbingly large part of this, us. There is a problem here. Our bios. Their power. Unless ours.


What would it take to grow a body that could stop dying? Madeline tried.


image 6image 6c

Arakawa and Madeline Gins,  “Tactical-Perceptual and Kinaesthetic-Perceptual Landing Sites” from the chapter Architectural Body 1997, in We Have Decided Not to Die, page 185; study into the site of a person, from essay “Constructing the Site/Terrain Studies” 1994, in Architecture: Sites of Reversible Destiny, page 69; and “Ubiwuitous Site X Chart 4, at Takamatsu, Kagawa-ken”, 1987, in Constructing the Perceiver, page 219. (C) Madeline Gins/ Courtesy of Reversible Destiny Foundation.

Landing Site Theory (b) – a supramodal science of active happening

Landing site theory, core concern of the art/science biotopology, takes the stage of phenomenology and just stands up and starts talking, all in its own accord, at first as a team of two[5], using new language with little stop to reference or correlate, new words and ways with words emerging convergent with meeting all the new challenges of this happening actively, that actively. How we happen. How to happen. What and how to happen as. This, ladies & gentlemen, is the challenges. And facing such challenges the conscious body wins.

image 7aimage 7bArakawa, detail from “Basic Enclosure” and “A Routine Enclosure”, visualisations of landing sites, 1983-85, from the essay “Perceptual Landing Sites”, in Constructing the Perceiver, page 268. (C) Madeline Gins/ Courtesy of Reversible Destiny Foundation.

With Arakawa and Gins, landing site theory suddenly comes along in seed form offering to articulate the whole soft interfacing between person as organism and as environment. It provides, rule-of-thumb-like, a science of how the happening that’s happening appears to happen and how it can be brought to happen actively. It is supramodal in that its base articulations are primordial to the separation of senses, in a dimension of world-construction within consciousness that all senses draw from and feed into. Landing locates the initial thinking/eventning, the first of its first philosophy, infra- to the physio-chemico-electric differentiation of sense modalities, in the impact/impulse of anything happening at all in a sensorium, to an awareness. Even the notion of imaging, it must be noted, is supraordinate to the individual modes of imaging as differentiated within the sensory net – and here the word image’s general immediate association with visual image, in fact just one of its many sub-varieties, must be overcome – imaging, too, as a term and a force, is beyond the distinction between senses and points us beyond that, or better infra, near-side, en-deça of that, to simply the aftering of an impact/impulse of anything happening. What gets built up from there is another story.

Perceptual landing site: visual, tactile, kinaesthetic, auditory, gustatory, olfactory.

Imaging landing site: visual, tactile, kinaesthetic, auditory, gustatory, olfactory.

Dimensionalizing landing site: perceptual – imaging, imaging-imaging

(cf. Architectural Body, Chapter 2)

The fact of an impact/impulse/tacting/landing/act of happening after-ing at all is of course of great importance in the history of consciousness. It is in fact its birth crisis, some would say.[6]The capture and seconding of an intake, this, more than just the channeling of physio-chemical-electric impulses along the specialized nerve and organ pathways, is the functionality that really makes mind, including body, a quantum leap within the un-foldment of bioscleave through organisming. Imaging is the retain function that allows for forwarding of any kind and all. So, life, imaging along.

image 8

Arakawa, detail from  “Critical Holder Chart 2”, 1985-91, in Constructing the Perceiver, page 221. (C) Madeline Gins/ Courtesy of Reversible Destiny Foundation.

As a phenomenology or the supercession of phenomenology, landing site theory is rigorous about anchoring its construction in the now of current landing, assuring maintenance of the phenomenological reduction, epoche, a permanent disclaimer at the basis of any approximative-rigorous thinking practice, holding the world as posited real off in brackets from the alone knowable, the world-in-constitution-as/within-sapient-imaging-along. In phenomenological terms the point is keeping the needle on noeisis. In landing site theory terms, it is sapient imaging along that never gives up on landing.

The strange flavor of this theory, as some may sense it, is I believe a by-product of it targeting traction on a complexity of within, as Madeline and Arakawa call it, rather than mastery of one from without.

Phenomenology: ego – noeisis – noema

Biotopology: organism that persons – sapient imaging along – bioscleave/-ing

What landing site theory lets go of to go forward is the disinterested and hands-off stance in this mode of thought, and what must be acknowledged as a lethargy common to philosophy quite generally. Phenomenology as a style of theory seems to have no particular need of going further toward the realization, becoming lived world, of the better knowing it promotes. Biotopology, as the art-philosophical-scientific project outer-lying landing site theory and underlying Reversible Destiny, arises from and carries within it the need to go further, to actively happening. More. As architectural bodies. Wider. As organisms-that-person-not-dying.

image 9

Arakawa and Gins, “Study for Reversible Destiny House 1”, 1994, in Architecture: Sites of Reversible Destiny, page 101. (C) Madeline Gins/ Courtesy of Reversible Destiny Foundation.

Landing site theory, which you must build, promises to put this, this short-hand, rule-of-thumb-intuitive, fresh-(re-)start phenomenology in your hand, supramodally speaking of course; so, to undo this reductive metaphor and start over we could say: landing site theory puts this less reductive, more more-adducing and acuter mode of knowing in your hand, chest, foot, shoulder, forearm, small of the back, thigh, cheek, liver, tongue, abdomen, base of the skull, left hip, metatarsal tissue, cartilege of the right inner ear, eyeball muscles, soft grey matter, heart, hair, etc., all there, free of charge, ready for you to use. For what? Worlding. That’s your job. Where else is it going to come from?

“Sapient/purposive imaging takes impressions everywhere of the various parts of the whole it encounters and, in so doing, delivers up world.” (Alive Forever, MS)

Landing site theory equips us as worlders, thinkers with a simple set of terms for articulating the worlding we do that way anyway, and for becoming conscious agents within it.

“…an organism that persons organizes, transforms and redirects bioscleave, countless bioscleavings, step-by-step, by degrees, to constitute world, her world of each moment as imaged.” (Alive Forever, MS)

To catch landing and land on purpose, knowingly, aim. Sapience in the sensing. Sentience as the active intelligence of perceiving. Perceiving to world. A theory of perception will allow you to explain how impressions are taken in. A theory of landing sites empowers the knower/thinker/body to create the world more consciously by embodying it into place. Procedurally. Because the difference between a world happening as it happens and a world happening as you have it happen, better, forever, is procedurality.

image 10Arakawa and Gins, Reversible Destiny Healing Fun House, Palm Springs, California, section, computer rending 2010. (C) Madeline Gins/ Courtesy of Reversible Destiny Foundation.

And the difference between a world built to happen, and one built to support you from every angle and at every step in having it happen, happening it more, is procedural architecture.

“Architecture will come into its own when it becomes thoroughly associated and aligned with the body, that active other tentative constructing towards a holding in place, the ever-on-the-move body.” (Architectural Body  49)

“…an architectural surround that is procedural, a tactically posed surround, fills an organism that persons with questions by enabling it to move within and between its own modes of sensing.” (Architectural Body 52)

“The body must either escape or “reenter” habitual patterns of action – habitual actions that have customized life into only a few standard patterns. Upon the body’s mastering new patterns of action, bioscleave emerges reconfigured.” (Architectural Body 62)

image 11

Alan Prohm, specultive drawings for a landing site visualiser, 2010, from the essay “Constructing Poeisis: Storyboards for an Immersive Diagramming”, Inflexions 6, the Arakawa and Gins Issue. http://www.senselab.ca/inflexions/n6_prohm.html

Procedurality as an enterprise and a tool involves architecture taking this challenge to build for bodies’ ability/agility to catch landing and imaging landing and handle the happening they advance actively. It is using this handy/leggy/torsoey/etc. jargon to think then build the happening of the world in event/acts of landing and imaging in all their variegated modality. And to make more life. The premise/promise of this art-science – behind procedural architecture biotopology, and behind biotopology landing site theory – is that procedurality in the activity of happening, architecturally supported, activates the body to greater life and longer. In landing and imaging actively, in constituting world on purpose. Building world by being a body architecturally. Fill it out, and be.  More.

Thank you. Let’s build.

image 12


Works Cited:

Arakawa, Constructing the Perceiver: Arakawa – Experimental Works, Tokyo: The National Museum of Modern Art, 1991.

Arakawa and Gins, “Study for Reversible Destiny House 1”, in Architecture: Sites of Reversible Destiny, London: Academy Editions,1994.

Arakawa and Gins. Reversible Destiny: We have decided not to die, New York: Guggenheim Museum Press, 1997.

Madeline Gins and Arakawa, The Architectural Body, Tuscaloosa : University of Alabama Press, 2002.

Madeline Gins and Arakawa, Making Dying Illegal, New York: Roof Books, 2006.

Madeline Gins, unpublished manuscript, Alive Forever; Not If But When, 2013.

Zoltan Torey, The Crucible of Consciousness: an Integrated Theory of Mind and Brain, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009.

Franco “Bifo” Berardi, The Uprising: on Poetry and Finance. Cambridge: MIT Press, Semiotext(e) / Intervention Series (Book 14), 2012.

Alan Prohm, “Constructing Poeisis: Storyboards for an Immersive Diagramming”, in Inflexions Issue 6 The Arakawa and Gins Issue, 2013, http://www.senselab.ca/inflexions/n6_prohm.html


1. The concept landing sites derives from the work of Arakawa and Gins, cf. Architectural Body, 2002, Chapter 2, “Landing Sites”.

2. Madeline Gins died on January 8 2014, among countless other things still to come.

3. That’s life.

4. Making Dying Illegal, 56.

5.Arakawa and Gins

6. cf. Zoltan Torey, The Crucible of Consciousness.