Power of the Lines – Lines of Power ///
text originally written in French for the 2012 issue of the journal of ETH Zurich, Trans entitled Stance (thank you to Stéphanie Savio). My apologies for the egocentrism of this article.
The graphic novel Lost in the Line (2010) materializes an allegory of my architectural manifesto. The line constitutes the medium used by the architect as a tool and a representation code. Geometrically it does not have any thickness; it is therefore difficult to imagine that one could loss oneself in it! However, when the line is drawn by the architect, it is susceptible to acquire a thickness with heavy consequences when transcribed into reality. A line that becomes a wall does not simply acquire a height, it also includes in its oxymoronic thickness a violence against the territory that it split and against the bodies that it controls irresistibly. Architecture is therefore inherently violent and each attempt to defuse its power on the bodies is useless. Maybe should we, on the contrary, accept this violence and use it in favor of our manifestos.
Lost in the Line is therefore a narrative allegory of such a position. In it, the line is both this geometrical figure traced on a piece of paper and that separates the desert into two parts, but also a fractal component and quasi-molecular that is contained in the dark matter of the graphite dropped on the paper by the pencil. The bodies, in this story, are subjugated to the violence of the lines that split the space all around them; however, they attempt to appropriate the interstices provoked by these lines in order for them to move in all directions, build new forms of dwelling, and ultimately cross the original line that yet constituted an impenetrable border at the macroscopic level.
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…
For a reason that I ignore, it has been brought to my attention that the following article has disappeared from this blog in the transfer of the boiteaoutils’ archives…I am therefore re-publishing it here, apologizing to the people who already read it or who were looking for it on this blog…
One story by Jorge Luis Borges is interesting to read as it reveals his vision of his own work. This short story, entitled The Two Kings and the Two Labyrinths in fact compares two types of labyrinths; the first one, complex, full of tricks and devices and the second whose labyrinthine aspect comes from its extreme simplicity and “desertness”. It has been written that those the first labyrinth was assimilated to Borges’ vision of James Joyce’s litterature, which lost the reader thanks to the complexity of its form, whereas the second labyrinth was Borges’ interpretation of his own work which lost the reader thanks to the vertigo of its essence.
In the following essay, I would like to expose my interpretation of The Trial as written by Franz Kafka published after his death in 1925 and then adapted in a film by Orson Welles in 1962. The images in this article are extracted from this movie.
The Trial carries all the characteristics of a dream. The fact that Joseph K. is in bed in the first line of the novel –he is even sleeping in the film- is only a clue in that direction. Just like a dream, the whole narrative is centered on his person and nothing seems to exist where he is not here.
The dream is then shared between elements of K.’s fantasies and fears which can categorize this dream as a nightmare. On the one hand, all along the narrative, K. distributes orders and accomplish eloquent speeches that express a fantasy for power that Orson Welles’ character –played by Anthony Perkins- does not seem to inherently own when one observes his non-charismatic presence. This paradox goes even much further with his surprising success with women who all fall for him with such easiness that can only be expressed by fantasy. We will find again such fantasy in The Castle the main character who shares his name with K.
From then, paranoia can be implemented as each man becomes a threat either for him and his judicial case or for “his” women who all end up kidnapped by other men. Orson Welles even illustrates such a “kidnapping” by a scene in which a woman who just got seduced by K. is carried by a magistrate in a very expressive position which recalls Jean Boulogne’s Rape of the Sabine Women.
As I wrote a week ago, I was lucky enough to write for the last issue of Pratt’s grad students’ journal TARP
which was proposing to investigate new ways of considering Computational Architecture. Here is the article:
COMPUTATIONAL LABYRINTH or Towards a Borgesian Architecture
Through the years, a man peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, tools, stars, horses, and people. Shortly before its death, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the image of his own face.
Jorge Luis Borges
It has been several years now since computation has grown within a group of international architecture schools in the Western world. However, something that I regret too often, computational architecture stands as a self-contained discipline. Increasing the limits of the field of possibilities is definitely a laudable idea; however this achievement seems relatively meaningless if it is not achieved with serious consideration for the human dimension in architecture. Based on this statement, I will elaborate with a short study of how computation allows one to design what I would call a ‘Borgesian’ architecture. Jorge Luis Borges’ work indeed involves very evocative spatial dimensions and I will try to focus here on what may be his two most famous short stories: The Lottery in Babylon and The Library of Babel.
just released an article about a very ironic project
which proposes to build a “terrorist motel
” instead of the controversial Muslim Cultural Center in Down Town New York. Mocking the idea of associating Muslims with terrorists and acknowledging the fact that the West always needs enemies in order to sustain itself, Stealth Architects
proposes to provide terrorists directly on the U.S. ground thus authorizing an organize a local hunt rather than expensive abroad wars in Afghanistan.
This project is also a small ode to the act of excavating by creating construction documents that indicate the process of digging in order to achieve this negative labyrinth.More to read and to see on Archinect’s page about the project
This project has been posted by Lebbeus Woods on his blog a year and half ago and it certainly catch my interest for walls, borders and labyrinth. As a matter of fact, this project gathers those three typologies in one as a poetical response to the Bosnian war of 1992-93.
Lebbeus Woods imagines this monumental wall all around Bosnia which does not forbid its entry but rather make it more difficult by the experience of this labyrinth. He narrates how this giant edifice would ultimately becomes a whole city (probably started by people who never found the exit).
His text can be read on his blog but another explanatory paragraph deserve attention when Woods answers to a criticism of a comment posted on it: Continue reading
“The labyrinth as a dynamic conception of space, as opposed to static perspective. But also, an above all, the labyrinth as a structure for mental organization and creative method, wanderings and errors, passes and impasses, luminous breakaways and tragic seclusion, in the generalized mobility of the times (more apparent than real), the grand dialectic of open and closed, of solitude and communion“.
Jean-Clarence Lambert. Situationists. Art, politics, urbanism. Actar 1996
I am surprised how much the same images are being dwelled on when one writes about Constant’s New Babylon. However, it exists a lot of drawings and models (next post) that are rarely shown and I thought it would be interesting to bring them on.
This issue is actually symptomatic of the fact that most amazing projects are being seen in a very narrow vision forgetting their very essence.
New Babylon is a labyrinthine city that host the nomadic behavior of what Constant calls “the homo ludens” (latin name for the playful human). It is the architectural materialization of Gilles Ivain’s Formulary for a new Urbanism, Henri Lefebvre’s theory of moments and situations’ construction and the Situationist’ Unitary Urbanism Bureau that was promoting the “derive continue” (continuous drift) as an experience of the city.
From April 27th to October 31st, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Arts will host a giant work in progress on its roof. The installation called Big Bambú is designed by twin brothers artist Mike and Doug Starn and is composed by 3200 bamboo poles constituting a huge three dimensions scaffolding maze. One very interesting aspect of it is that the installation will be build up little by little during the exhibition time reconfiguring continuously the space that will be open for one part to the public to climb it up.
To know a little more about it, you can read the New York Time’s article about it.
In 1992, Japanese artist Tadashi Kawamata
(see previous posts here
) was commissioned to create an installation around the abandoned Small Pox Hospital on Roosevelt Island (NYC). Faithful to his craft language – he was using it for more than ten years already – Kawamata and his team produced a wooden labyrinthine structure whose rough aspect was strongly contrasting with Manhattan skyscrapers.
What is interesting here is not as much the final product than the three months that this group of people led by Kawamata needed to achieve the construction lightly embracing the heavy stones of the severe hospital.
Le Carceri d’Invenzione is a serie of etchings drawn by Giovanni Battista Piranesi between 1745 and 1750. It creates a fictitious environment of prisons, an eligible Kafkian of Borgessian space lighten by a very intriguing light coming in those subterranean labyrinths.
I just found out a version of Jorge Luis Borges’ Library of Babel
(see previous post for integral text
) illustrated by Erik Desmazieres
. This very talented French printmaker created eleven etchings in relation with Borges incredible short story. However and despite the fact that the author is extremely precise in the way he describes the space of the library, Desmazieres chose to interpret the tale his own way, refusing a stubborn literal adaptation of the drawings to the words. The result is a very rich universe full of books and visitors who probably wandered several days in the library before finding the word combination they were looking for (or the one that hold their attention)…