montage based on Graphic Standards and Ernst Neufert’s work originally created for Weaponized Architecture: The Impossibility of Innocence (dpr-barcelona, 2012).
TRANSGRESSING THE NORMALIZED IDEAL BODY ///
(originally written in French for Swiss magazine Tracés based on two older articles: “A Subversive Approach to the Ideal Normatized Body,” and “The Modernist Ideology of a Normative Body.“)
We all have in mind Leonardo da Vinci’s ink drawing dedicated to Roman architect Vitruvius whose motto “Solidity, Utility, Beauty” is still engraved in the Pritzker prize’s medal nowadays. The Vitruvian Man is thus this drawing introducing the anatomical proportions of a theoretically perfect man, placed in the center of the universe. Since this body is placed in the center of the universe, it seems reasonable to think that the universe was built around it and adapted to it. In the 20th-century, several architects also undertook to elaborate a body around which architecture could be conceived. We can think of Le Corbusier’s Modulor (1945) of course, as well as Ernst Neufert’s bodies (1936) that both still constitute absolute references for architects of multiple countries. We can also refer to Henri Dreyfuss’s characters, Joe and Josephine (1974), who live in a graphic standard world whose dimensions are invading the entire available space. What is the height of the table, the chair, the door? Those are only a few instances of architectural components that, not only seem to be given to us without letting us questioning them, but that also constitute a fundamental problem as far as the standardization of the body as well as their own.
Alexandros Tsamis, Surrogate House, MIT 2010.
In the second episode of this “Simondon week,” I was evoking the instance of the wood evoked by Gilbert Simondon to address the question of “implicit forms” within any “raw matter.” That is from where I would like to start this article. In this passage from L’individu et sa genèse physico-biologique (The Individual and its physical-biological genesis), Simondon describes the various technical means that allows a crafts(wo)man to cut a piece of wood in order to make a beam out of it. In a detailed description of these techniques, he contrasts those that involve an accurate knowledge of the matter itself, that is the understanding of what its implicit forms might be, from those that might facilitate the task, or even sometimes allow a form to be more conform to the idealized abstract idea of the form (“a beam must be parallelepiped”), yet ignore the essence of the matter. In this regard, Simondon repeatedly uses the term haecceity (eccéité) to describe the particularity, the individuality, of each material assemblage considered (my translation):
my tools for this Simondon week
After the “Deleuze week” in June 2011, the “Foucault week” in June 2012, and the “Spinoza week” in March 2013, I am now very happy to start the “Simondon week” that will attempt to present the work of French philosopher Gilbert Simondon (1924-1989) who remains relatively unknown — although this is changing fast — despite the power of his concepts and the range of its influence on other thinkers like Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. This first episode (originally written for Tracés) is dedicated to Simondon’s critique of the Aristotelian paradigm of hylomorphism since it constituted my entrance door to his work as I have been exposing it before in the following articles:
- Form & Matter: Gilbert Simondon’s Critique of the Hylomorphic Scheme Part 1
- Form & Matter: Gilbert Simondon’s Critique of the Hylomorphic Scheme Part 2
- Abject Matter: The Barricade and the Tunnel for LOG 25
The following text can therefore be used both as a synthesis to these articles and as a way to first approach Simondon’s ‘conceptology’ that this week will more thoroughly unfold (politics, matter, technique, milieu, dance etc.). Please note that all along the week I will try to always ‘bold‘ the terminology that Simondon develops in his books in order to allow further research to be made.
FOR AN ALLAGMATIC ARCHITECTURE : Introduction to the work of Gilbert Simondon ///
(originally written in French for Swiss magazine Tracés)
We can observe a recent interest for the work of Gilbert Simondon. I am happy to participate to it here as his texts are so much able to offer a rich philosophical and political interpretation of the milieu in which we live. Through this short text, I will attempt to show how his philosophy can “resonate” – I use the Simondonian terminology here – in the practice of architectural conception.
I am very happy today to present a new episode of the second series of Funambulist Papers dedicated to the question of the body. This series will be running until the summer and should be very exciting for the extreme quality of its guest writers. Today’s guest is Dan Mellamphy, Lecturer at Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism (Western University) and close friend of the Center for Transformative Media whose publication series includes the Funambulist pamphlets and papers. In this text, mysteriously entitled “AV (Anthropocosmogonic Vastupurushamanism),” Dan plays with the idea often developed here that the lines traced by architects (and any other transcendental actors of architecture) impose a violence on the bodies that they subjugate. He considers these lines (which bind bodies to create volumes in which these bodies have no choice but to fit) in a fantastic iconographic inventory including Hans Bellmer, Francis Bacon, the Vastu Shastra and the Pharaonic temple-builders. In these examples, the question is no longer what is in the thickness of these lines, but rather what is in the “inframince” (infrathin as invented by Marcel Duchamp) that separates bodies from their architecture: what lies in the quasi-non- space in which ᵂrests the violence of the encounter?
THE FUNAMBULIST PAPERS 43:
AV (Anthropocosmogonic Vastupurushamanism)
by Dan Mellamphy
Have you bottled her?
Samuel Beckett, Endgame.
New York: Grove Press 1958, 10+24.
Funambulism, Utopias, Backyards, Open Stacks, Architectures of In/security, Sonic Landscapes, Apian Semantics, Meta-Virtual Solipsism, Transcendent Delusions, Fibrous Assemblages, Circuses, Old Media, Pet Architecture, Persian Folds, DIY Biopolitics, and MORE (Eileen Joy describing The Funambulist Papers)
The Funambulist Papers Volume 1 that gathers thirty four essays of the first series of guest writer essays (plus an essay by Bryan Finoki) is now published, like for the Funambulist Pamphlets, by Punctum Books in association with the Center for Transformative Media at Parsons The New School for Design. I would like to insist on the variety of approaches and background of these authors whether we speak about their disciplines (architecture, law, cinema theory, art, history etc.) or their origins (23 nationalities) in order for this series to bring a fresh discourse in the middle of my articles that can be sometimes (often ?!) redundant. As for the Pamphlets, Punctum Books and I are keen to think of our work as part of an open access strategy and the book can be therefore downloaded for free as pdf. It is also available in its printed version on Punctum Book’s website for $15 (€13.00/£11.00). The book is also part of the “perks” of the crowdfunding campaign for Archipelago!
Thank you to Eileen Joy, Anna Kłosowska, Ed Keller, Peter Hudson, Petal Samuel, Liduam Pong, Mina Rafiee, and to Seher Shah for accepting that I use her painting “City Unknown” for the cover. Thank you very much to all the contributors as well for accepting to write pieces specifically for The Funambulist. This series will continue in the future and there should be a second volume at some point.
The book is organized in two parts, “The Power of the Line,” and “Architectural Narratives” as follows:
Posted in Architectural Theories, Books, Cinema, Essays, Fine Arts, History, Law, Literature, Philosophy, Politics, The Funambulist Papers
Cover of The Funambulist Papers Volume 1. (Artwork by Seher Shah)
I apologize for the sporadic frequency of my last articles, but as you will partially understand in the coming days (be ready!), there are several projects that are coming together at the same time, leaving me only little time to write on the blog.
I am happy to announce that The Funambulist Papers Volume 1, which gathers thirty four essays (+ a surprise one!) of the first series of the guest writers essays written for The Funambulist since June 2011, is about to be published by Punctum Books. In the meantime, I propose to release today the introduction that I wrote for it:
Former American Embassy of Karachi by Richard Neutra & Robert Alexander
It happens rather often that architecture offices have to hold on their documents and drawings for a while as the client (often public in this case) does not want them to be spread around at this specific moment. It is rarer that architectural drawings should acquire a status of classified documents by a given government or army. That is what happens nevertheless when the concerned building’s layout and organization has to remain secret to prevent antagonist agents to be familiar with the building.
In May 2007, the Kansas-based architectural firm Berger Devine Yaeger Inc. leaked some documents introducing the design of their new project: the American Embassy compound in Baghdad, veritable fortified city in the center of the Iraqi capital. After having been contacted by the U.S. State Department, the firm managed later to withdraw these documents from the internet. The architectural drawings had become hyper-protected and secretive documents like military coordinates or intelligence agencies’ spied information. These drawings are only representative documents, but the information that they contain allow a holistic understanding of a building: its layout, its functioning scheme both a the human, goods and mechanical level, but also its structure, and thus is weaknesses. Knowing the material and the dimension of a given structure could indeed serve the purpose of an attack against this building in order to make it collapse. Such technique of intelligence gathering architectural information in order to profoundly understand a building is being used in the “design” of attacks by the U.S. and Israeli armies when they want to target one or several specific bodies in a building. These attacks, by its design, in the same way we speak of the design of a building, have for goal to minimize the amount of collateral deaths, since the strategists of these army are being allowed a limited of these civilian deaths as Eyal Weizman reveals in his lecture “Forensic Architecture” (see past article), and his essay “Thanato-tactics” (see past article). At war like at peace, “knowledge is power;” architectural drawings embody this knowledge and therefore this power.
Juggling on the Berlin Wall / Photograph by Yann Forget
It has now been three months that I have the chance to write a monthly carte blanche column in Swiss architectural journal Tracés entitled Le Funambule. This third article is a re-articulation of various ideas that I have been writing in the past on this blog. I apologize for the clear redundancy.
What Do We Find in the Thickness of a Line? ///
(originally published in French in Tracés)
The line constitutes the principal medium of the architect. Of course, the lines that (s)he traces represent more than a simple drawing; they are thought as descriptive of an architecture that other humans will have to build. Nevertheless, it might not be exaggerated to state that the only veritably material act of the architect consists in tracing lines. The latter are mathematical entities that, by definition, have no thickness. When the architectural elements that they describe are translated in reality however, they acquire a thickness even it if it very small. This thickness is precisely the means for architecture to unfold its power on the bodies. A simple line traced on a map to delimit the American territory from the Mexican one, and, in reality, a thirty-feet tall wall to prevent the access to a country for bodies that seem to be considered to brown for it. The few millimeters of steel that embody this line insure of its physical and, by extension, political impermeability.
The line, in its geometrical perfection, is inscribed in a legal diagram that also benefits from a theoretical perfection. Its materialization as an architecture is an apparatus of implementation of this legal diagram in reality. A very simple of this statement can be found in the fact that a large majority of the world’s wall are the violent expression of a law that guarantees private property. Of course, this translation in to reality of the legal diagram cannot be perfectly executed: the material apparatus is fallible, and that is how hundreds of clandestine Mexican immigrants still manage to penetrate on the United States’ territory for example.
Last week, an interesting architectural debate occurred on Ethel Baraona Pohl‘s facebook about an award-winning project that proposed a hypothetical architectural project to relocate the population of the largest slum in Asia, Dharavi in Mumbai. The online comments, including the one on facebook, are not known to be the most appropriate place for deep discussions; however, this time, an interesting debate occurred between a dozen of people (some of them like Ethel, Fosco Lucarelli, Cesar Reyes, Nick Axel are well-known from this blog’s readers), who could be said to all agree about the symptoms that can be detected in this project yet, who do not necessarily agree on what should be an architectural role in the defense of the victims of globalized capitalism. Since then, Ethel and Cesar wrote a synthesis on dpr-barcelona‘s blog, and I decided to add to it a few thoughts in addition than the entire transcript of the debate, in order to give it a form of archival (see at the end of this note).
Yesterday I was having an epistolary exchange with my friend, Philippe Theophanidis about a few notions that are examined in his forthcoming text for the Funambulist Papers series. In his text, Philippe remarks that biopolitical systems are not only organizing and acting on the life of its subjects, it also involves what he calls “a work of death.” By this, he does not mean the same thing that what Michel Foucault designates as being the pre-modern paradigm (before the 18th century), in which a sovereign has the absolute power of life and death of his (her) subjects. Death in a biopolitical regime should be understood, not as an event, but rather as a continuous process. We can take Xavier Bichat‘s definition of life that I gave several times in my articles, “life is the set of functions that resists to death,” and conclude its implicit corollary: death is the continuous process that life needs to function against. In other words, death is an always active entropic operation on the totality of the bodies that composes the world.
Starting from this definition, we can understand that the speed of the process of death of our own body as an assemblage of multiple entities (see past article) can be influenced by external agents. It cannot be stop, and therefore there is no immortality possible as a definitive status; however, it can be decelerated as the work of Arakawa and Madeline Gins (see the fifteen articles already dedicated to their work) attempt to do through architecture. That is how I interpret how they call the action that they try to have each body accomplishing continuously: “not dying” i.e. resisting to death i.e. living. The state that we call “healthy” is not constituted by the absence of action of death, but rather by the active sync of our body’s biology with the one of its environment. As Georges Canguilhem says in the conclusion of The Normal and the Pathological (1966), “Man is healthy insofar as he is normative relative to the fluctuations of his milieu.”
The fourth volume of The Funambulist Pamphlets that gathers and edits past articles of the blog about Legal Theory, is now officially published by Punctum Books in collaboration with the Center for Transformative Media at Parsons The New School. You can either download the book as a PDF for free or order it online for the price of $7.00 or €6.00. Next volume to be published will be dedicated to Occupy Wall Street. Click here to see the other volumes of The Funambulist Pamphlets.
Thank you to Eileen Joy, Anna Kłosowska, Ed Keller, Lucy Finchett-Maddock, Costas Douzinas, Gilbert Leung, David Garcia, Santiago Cirugeda & Chaska Katz.
Official page of The Funambulist Pamphlets Volume 04: LEGAL THEORY on Punctum Books’ website.
Index of the Book
Introduction: The Law Turned Into Walls
01/ Architecture and the Law: An Epistolary Exchange With Dr. Lucy Finchett-Maddock
02/ Remus Has to Die
03/ Trapped in the Border’s Thickness
04/ Absurdity and Greatness of the Law: The Siege of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London
05/ The Space Beyond the Walls: Defensive “A-legal” Sanctuaries
06/ The Reasons for Disobeying a Law
07/ Political Geography of the Gaza Strip: A Territory of Experiments for the State of Israel
08/ Palestine: What Does the International Legislation Say
09/ In Praise of the Essence of the American Second Amendment: The Importance of Self-Contradiction in a System
10/ Power, Violence, Law by Costas Douzinas
11/ Fortress London: Missiles on Your Roof
12/ Short Digression About the Future of Drones (After Seeing One at JFK)
13/ Quadrillage: Urban Plague Quarantine & Retro-Medieval Boston
14/ Historical Map of Quarantine
15/ Collision, Sexuality and Resistance
16/ The Spatial Issues at Stake in Occupy Wall Street: Considering the Privately Owned Public Spaces
17/ Strategies for Subversive Urban Occupation by Recetas Urbanas
18/ Is Housing a Human Right? Considering the “Take Back the Land” Manifesto
19/ Center for Urban Pedagogy
Winning entry of the New State Danish Prison by C. F. Møller Architects (2010)
Thanks to my friends Mariabruna and Fosco (Microcities/Socks), I got to learn that the French department of justice, through its research mission — coincidentally entitled G.I.P. like Michel Foucault’s Groupe Information Prison — is currently calling for research proposal to rethink the relationships between architecture and the prison. The opportunity to work on this topic thus reactivated for me what appears to me as the most explicit dilemma for an architect: should I, as an architect, accept to be commissioned — or even to research — to design a prison that I will intend to trigger an improvement in the conditions of incarceration of prisoners, or should I simply refuse to conceive an architecture that is voluntarily cruel to the bodies that it hosts? I am writing that this is the “most explicit” dilemma, as this question can be asked in many other situations when exercising this profession. Not every architects will be asked to participate to the design of a prison in their carrier, but all of them will face this dilemma declined in a more or less subtle version of it. This is actually a more generalized dilemma than one only addressed to architects; every political strategy is based on this same question: can a set of reforms essentially change a society for better, or are reforms only a matter of cosmetics that participates to the dissimulation of the real essence of the relationships of power. Reform or revolution?
I would like my readers to believe me when I say that I veritably do not know the answer that I would like to give this question. On the one hand, refusing compromise can be a comfortable way to think as it allows no flexibility, and therefore no effort to adapt principles to a concrete situation; on the other hand, the reason that we elaborate principles when liberated from the specificity of a situation is a good way for them not to be corrupted by processes of self-persuasion that are often motivated on self-centered considerations. What is for sure, is that it is important to seriously consider this dilemma each time we find ourselves confronted to one of its declinations. In the case of an architecture commission — a prison, for example — each categorical refusal must be done after having reconsidered this question, and each acceptance must be done in the full understanding of what is the actual decision power of the architect, and in which political context (s)he is embedded to, when conceiving this project.
Extracted from the Comic-strip Gaston Lagaffe by André Franquin
After having shared my experience of what a hypochondriac body might really be (see past article), I am now looking at another recurrent aspect of my own body: clumsiness! I am probably not the only one to regularly trip, make a (filled) glass fall on the table or bang my head into a low element; it seems therefore interesting to wonder what a clumsy body is really about.
Clumsiness is essentially occurring through a discrepancy of the understanding of the surrounding space by a given body, and the ‘actual’ layout of things. In other words, my body is aware that there is a glass on the table but its mapping of the position of the glass is sufficiently erroneous that I end up punching the glass that now pour its liquid on the totality of the table! It is well-known that the sense of vision, when not complemented by the other senses, can be deceitful as optical illusions reveal. A body that is not relating too much on its vision might be able to move confidently in the dark for example. We assumed to much that we know our sensory system and which organ is supposed to sense what. As presented by Hiroko Nakatani in her guest writer essay “Dissolving Minds and Bodies,” a device to apply on the tongue has been invented by neuroscientist Paul Bach-y-Rita, which allows blind people to have a spatial reading of their surrounding. The way animals like bats read their environment through waves of ultrasounds whose echo can allow a mapping of the limits of the space, is also extremely interesting in the variety of means through which a space and its elements can be understood by a body.
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.
Henri Bergson in his office / Jean-Paul Sartre at the Café Flore
First of all, I would like to apologize for persistently using Western philosophy and more specifically French one (Deleuze, Guattari, Foucault, Simondon, Bergson, Sartre, Glissant); it happens to be the one that I am the most familiar with thanks to facilitated means of learning about it (mostly radiophonic!). I simply hope that this does not narrow down my discourse to something too skimpy. What I would like to attempt in the following text is to combine two philosophies that have not much in common: the one of Henri Bergson and the one of Jean-Paul Sartre.
As I tried to demonstrate in a previous text, entitled “Politics and Philosophy of the Sliding Point Based on Henri Bergson’s Matter and Memory,” the philosophy of Bergson can help us to think of each of our actions in life as the result of the inertia of a continuous movement — or maybe an original source of movement but that might be too theological. I was using the example of our body in a suddenly breaking train: no one will deny the fact that when we are projected forward, as the body continues its fast movement while the train is slowing down, we are not accomplishing the free act of movement; on the contrary, we are subjected to inertia. If we extend this example to the totality of our actions and being, as well as the ones of the rest of the bodies of the world, we find ourselves embedded within the inertia of the world. Just like in Spinoza’s philosophy, we are not free, but we can learn to know more and more the causes that determine our actions; in other words, the vectors of movement of the inertia we are subjected to.
Despite what the title indicates, I have not been convinced by the National Riffles Association’s arguments against any forms of legislation to control the commerce of guns in the United States. These arguments are only to develop a simulacrum of debate of ideas, while a heavy — and apparently successful — lobbying is being made to influence the legislative power. In the American second amendment, what I am interested in lies in what I suppose as its implicit essence: the right for a people to have the legal means to overthrow its government if the latter betrays its legitimacy. Of course, in 1789 when the Bill of Rights was voted as a supplement of the 1787 U.S. Constitution, firearms seemed indeed the appropriate means to preserve such a right. Nowadays, however, the fire power of a national army — the American one in particular — is so important that revolutions cannot be longer thought a model in which a citizen armed militia has the fire power to fight a regular army. Weapons are therefore less important than the constitutional legitimacy of revolt against tyranny. If such a legitimacy was indeed the essence of the second amendment, it should be rewritten to correspond to its historical context.
The American second amendment is regrettably not so explicit as far as this right is concerned. A historical document from the same era, on the contrary, could not be more explicit: this is the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1793 that served as the Constitution of the First Republic. The last article of this text stipulates the following:
Article 35: When the government violates the rights of the people, insurrection is for the people and for each portion of the people the most sacred of rights and the most indispensable of duties.
The third volume of The Funambulist Pamphlets that gathers and edits past articles of the blog about Deleuze, is now officially published by Punctum Books in collaboration with the Center for Transformative Media at Parsons The New School. You can either download the book as a PDF for free or order it online for the price of $7.00 or €6.00. Next volume to be published will be dedicated to Legal Theory. Click here to see the other volumes of The Funambulist Pamphlets
Official page of The Funambulist Pamphlets Volume 03: DELEUZE on Punctum Books’ website.
Index of the Book
Introduction: Becoming Deleuzian
01/ Minor Architects and Funambulists: A Shared Architectural Manifesto
03/ What Is It to Be “From the Left”
04/ The Ritournelle (refrain) as a Territorial Song Invoking the Power of the Cosmos
05/ The Body as a Desiring Machine
06/ Minor Literature
07/ What Remains from Francis Bacon
08/ Transpierce the Mountains: Indian Medieval Art History by Élie Faure
09/ Processes of Smoothing and Striation of Space in Urban Warfare
10/ A Thousand Machines by Gerald Raunig
11/ Foucault and the Society of Control
12/ Control and Becoming: A Conversation Between Negri and Deleuze
13/ “I Leave it to You to Find Your Own Instrument of Combat”: Deleuze Quotes Proust
14/ “A Sunflower Seed Lost in a Wall is Capable of Shattering that Wall”
15/ Deleuze’s Wave: About Spinoza
16/ Power (Potentia) vs. Power (Potestas): The Story of a Joyful Typhoon
17/ The World of Affects or Why Adam Got Poisoned by the Apple
18/ The Spinozist “Scream”: What Can a Body Do?
19/ “Comment disposer mes tribus? Le délire est géographico-politique”
20/ The Hypochondriac Body
21/ A Short Political Reading of Leibniz’s Small Sensations
22/ The Infinite Worlds Folded in the Dresses of Yiqing Yin
23/ The Two Architectures of the Infinite Possible Worlds: Leibniz’s Pyramid & Borges’s Garden of Forking Paths
24/ Lecture by Gilles Deleuze About the Act of Creation (May 1987)
Portugal magazine Arqa recently published its last issue about the notion of “New Collectives”. Part of this issue is composed of a series of interviews asking the same three questions to various architecture thinkers and practitioners, my friends Ethel Baraona Pohl and Iker Gil but also Markus Miessen, Pedro Brandao, Constantin Petcou, Doina Petrescu and El Campo de Cebada. I was also honored to be asked to answer these questions and through them, to try to articulate ideas that I have been writing about here. In that matter, some parts of the following text might seem redundant to some of my readers and I apologize for that.
NEW COLLECTIVES ///
Interview with Arqa Magazine (published in a translated Portuguese version)
ARQUA: Regarding your editorial activity and research in the blog The Funambulist, in what way are you specifically interested in the emergence of a new sense of the collective?
First of all, I would like to say that the editorial activity and research that you are kind enough to indicate here is done in association of the more practical activity that I develop through my design work. Informing the latter by the former and vice versa is something truly fundamental to me.
On the Notion of Failure ///
(originally published on Failed Architecture. Thank you to Mark Minkjan for asking me to write this article)
First scene: A bureaucrat is sitting in a closed room surveying the machine that continuously supplies miles of administrative registries in a sort of choreography that seems to have neither start nor end. In the background, the television reiterates its continuous flow of verbal matter. Everything is functioning as it is supposed to be, the system and its cogs are operative. Yet, in this first scene, i.e. when the film really starts, the bureaucrat in charge, bothered by a fly, resolutely kills the latter that then fall into the machine. From there, the corpse of the fly is transformed into a typo on a paper that, we will soon learn it, is a warrant of arrest. The person whose name was accidentally registered by the machine will see his apartment raided through its own walls by some sort of military police, his neighbor will undertake to prove his innocence, she will meet the main character who will ultimately rebel against the administrative system from which he was part of.
Many of you will have recognized Terry Gilliam’s film Brazil that will help me illustrate my argument in this text. This argument is that failure is an essential (it might actually be the only one) generator of narrative. But, first of all, what is failing in narrative? What is this object that is described to us as the subject of an entropy that will make it completely different from the beginning of the story to the end of it? This object is nothing else than the physical, social, emotional or cultural context in which the narrative is embedded into. Whether we are talking about the totalitarian bureaucracy of Brazil, the mental state of Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining or the lives of the inhabitants of One Hundred Years of Solitude, the narrative is always triggered by a form of disaggregation of the conditions in which it is set.
It has been a while now that I am accumulating articles that address the philosophical or/and political dimension of the human (and sometimes non-human) body. I decided therefore to add one “category” in the archives of The Funambulist. Following the philosophical scream of Michel Foucault “Mon Corps, Topie Impitoyable” (see past article), this category will use its original French version Topie Impitoyable as the English translation both lacks of the full meaning (My Body, Pitiless/Inexorable Place) and also because the particular sound of this phrase adds to its philosophical power. This section already counts 92 articles so it convenes to recurrent conceptual affirmations that this body (!) of texts develops:
- The body is a material assemblage surrounded by other material assemblages (cf Spinoza)
- The body keeps encountering the other bodies that surrounds it.
- From these encounters, it can result either a beneficial or detrimental affect for both bodies (what Spinoza calls joy and sadness)
- Because the body’s materiality is coherent, the body can only be at one place at a time but it always needs to be at one place.
- Because the body is material, only one body can be at a given place at a time
- From the propositions above, we can deduct that the location of the body is necessarily political
- From the fourth and last proposition, we can say that there is a necessary yet radical choice to be made at each instant about the location of the body.
- The body has no inside
- The body is not one, it is multiple (more on that in an article very soon)
- The body is continuously producing material assemblages
- Part of this production is a body’s desire (cf Deleuze & Guattari)
- A body’s desire can be captured. This is what we call capitalism
- A body itself can be captured. This is what we call totalitarianism
- A body can be not white, not male, not heterosexual, not healthy, not adult, not procreatory, not urban and still remains a body that can legitimately claim for equal legal rights.
- The last proposition is a good thing as no body is simultaneously truly white, male, heterosexual, healthy, adult, procreatory and urban.
- Despite the last proposition, most pieces of design are made for bodies that are truly white, male, heterosexual, healthy, adult, procreatory and urban.
- A piece of design can be specifically made to torture a body
- A piece of design that is not specifically made to torture a body can also violently hurt a body
- A piece of design can be made to trigger beneficial affects to a given (preferably universal body (hint: I am not talking about a comfortable coach; quite the opposite actually)
- A body by its very movement and behavior can profoundly subvert the material environment that was originally set-up to
- Ultimately we don’t really know what a body can do (cf Spinoza again)