I am happy to announce that the twelve first volumes of The Funambulist Pamphlets, a series of small books collecting articles written for the blog, will be published by Punctum Books as part of the CTM Documents Initiative series all along this summer. Such an opportunity was made possible by Eileen Joy, director of Punctum Books and Ed Keller, associate dean at Parsons The New School of Design and director of the Center for Transformative Media; I am very grateful for the trust they put in me. This series of Pamphlets has twelve volumes for now but will be able to expand in the future, it will allows a collection of article by themes as well as a reading of them in a correct(ed) English (thanks to Anna Kłosowska and Eileen Joy). Following Punctum’s manifesto for an open-access to knowledge that I could not approve more, they will be downloadable for free as PDF and purchasable in printed version on demand. The volumes will be released one by one (normally one per week) according to the following order:
Today, I am starting a series of articles about 17th century Portuguese-Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza and thus dedicates to his work a ‘week’ like I did two years ago for Gilles Deleuze and last year for Michel Foucault.
The first article of this week will attempt to examine how Spinoza can supply a terminology, or rather, a conceptology to extend the sharp analysis of capitalism made by Karl Marx in the 19th century to a its neo-liberal version we have been experiencing for the last thirty years. In order to do so, I would use a particular chapter from the book Capitalisme, désir et servitude: Marx et Spinoza (Capitalism, desire and servitude, Marx and Spinoza) written by Frédéric Lordon and published by the always excellent publisher La Fabrique in 2010.
Through this book, F. Lordon depicts, among other things, the two important shifts of paradigms in capitalism that occurred since the publication of Das Kapital, in order for it to survive against the potentiality of a revolution prophetized by Marx when he was observing the continuous production of a discontented working class. The first shift of paradigm, often known as Fordism, occurred in the first part of the 20th century and consisted in a neat amplification of the production rhythm associated with the integration of the working class itself in the mass consumption of their own product. The second shift of paradigm, closer to us, examined how the working class (which also shifted for a big part of it, from the industry to the realms of services) could gain in productivity by integrating it to an ideology of “self-accomplishment” that could apparently relate to the Spinozist idea of joyful affect (for a very basic introduction to his concepts, you can read my text Architectures of Joy from 2010). For Spinoza, the servitude is anyway universal as all our acts are determined by the sum of circumstances that caused it (much more about that in a upcoming article), but we can nevertheless increase our power (potentia in latin, more on that soon too) by acquiring the knowledge of the causes of our behavior. As we know too well, strategies of inducing do not allow the subject to understand the context of his decisions better than an assembly line worker in the beginning of the 20th century and therefore force it to remain within the sad affects.
The books published by semiotext(e) (distributed by the MIT Press) are never disappointing. the Intervention series in particular, started a propos by the Coming Insurrection, succeeds to produce strong manifestos through the writings of Gerald Raunig (see previous article), Tiqqun, Paul Virilio, Jean Baudrillard etc. and more recently Franco “Bifo” Berardi in his book, The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance (thank you Greg). The latter is dedicated to a sharp description of the financialization of the world as well as the development of a revolutionary weapon against it: poetry.
Both of those antagonisms have the particularity of belonging in the domain of semiotics – which makes this book perfect for this publisher – and, although they do not seem to have much in common, they can take their part in what I call, the semio-war.
I want to understand the process of dissolution that is underway from the unusual point of view of the relationship between poetry and finance. What has poetry to do with finance, and finance with poetry? Nothing, of course. Investors, stockholders, and bankers are usually too busy, so they don’t waste their time with poetry. Poets are too poor to invest money in the stock market. […]My point here concerns the deterritorialization effect which has separated words from their semiotic referents and money from economic goods.
I apologize to those of my readers who would reasonably see this article as a form of self-promotion, this will be the first and only post about this book. Following the research I undertook in 2010 and the architectural project that emerged from it in 2011, My good friends Ethel and Cesar from DPR-Barcelona and I have worked together to come out with a book, Weaponized Architecture: The Impossibility of Innocence that would be available for all. This is now the case and you can find the book on any national franchise of amazon and (preferably!) in some bookstores in various countries. For a presentation of this work, you can see the small lecture I was lucky to be able to do at the school of architecture of Lund (Sweden) in September 2012. One particularity of the book that is also worth noting, was developed by dpr-barcelona is the introduction of a dose of augmented reality through smart phones and tablets that allow a second layer of multimedia information for each chapter.
More information after the break.
Le Cri du Peuple by Jacques Tardi (2001)
As I wrote earlier, the 1871 Paris Commune is the historical reference of this series of articles. Despite an institutional soft form of censorship, there has been many historical interpretation of this event that saw a new form of governance created. One of them, nevertheless, remains one of the sharpest analysis of La Commune despite (or thanks to) its quasi-immediacy. Indeed, in the end of May 1871, only several days after that the Communards got exterminated by the Thiers’ administration, Karl Marx addressed a documented narrative of the past few months in Paris to the Worker International Association.
Entitled The Civil War in France this document is a vindictive text against Thiers and the other responsible for the massacre that ended La Commune in order to save the Bourgeois order in France. It is also a precise testimony of the various actions and laws undertook by La Commune. Precision is important here as the revolution triggered by this event did not only consist in rethinking a territorialization of democracy but also in implementing a sum of very pragmatic and specific measures to empower the working class:
The great social measure of the Commune was its own working existence. Its special measures could but betoken the tendency of a government of the people by the people. Such were the abolition of the nightwork of journeymen bakers; the prohibition, under penalty, of the employers’ practice to reduce wages by levying upon their workpeople fines under manifold pretexts – a process in which the employer combines in his own person the parts of legislator, judge, and executor, and filches the money to boot. Another measure of this class was the surrender to associations of workmen, under reserve of compensation, of all closed workshops and factories, no matter whether the respective capitalists had absconded or preferred to strike work.
Playground Proposal by Isamu Noguchi (excerpt from The Book of Games)
First of all, I apologize for this absence, I am hoping to engage with interesting series of article soon but, in order to start the year in a good way, here is a short one about a book I have been very happy to prepare a small contribution for recently.
The Book of Games is the third issue of a series of books edited by Cristian Valenzuela Pinto. The first one was the Book of Towers and the second one, the Book of Mazes. Far from academic volumes, those books are compiling texts that are as short as insightful about the chosen theme. The very titles of these books start to give a clue about the author we can see in filigree of this series, both in its format and in its content: Jorge Luis Borges. Indeed, the Argentinean author’s way of writing about philosophical problems through narrative is found everywhere here, even in the ageless graphic design of those books.
The Power of Architecture – photomontage by the author (2012)
Recently, I was lucky enough to be asked to write an article for the seventh issue of the Chilean journal SPAM and I decided to use this opportunity to articulate the clumsy addition of ideas that I started to touch on during June’s “Foucault’s week.” I hope that the following text, Foucault and Architecture: The encounter that never was, is therefore a good synthesis of the argument I was trying to explore: Despite what architects might usually think, Michel Foucault never truly engaged the problem of the political power of architecture but rather kept investigating the notion of diagram. When confronted to this observation, we might find interesting to keep a Foucauldian method to address architecture.
Foucault and Architecture: The encounter that never was
by Léopold Lambert
curated by SPAM
A certain amount of architects often refers to Michel Foucault’s work as an inspiration to their design or their theoretical interpretation of our societies. The concepts invoked are almost always the same, and it is not rare to find in an architecture text, the notions of panopticon, heterotopia and/or utopian body. The thesis that I would like to defend in this text does not consist so much in the demonstration of architects’ misunderstanding of Foucault’s concepts, but rather that those spatial notions constituted only the frail premises of what could have been the Foucauldian interpretation of space. The research work that he produced through the fastidious descriptions of mechanisms of power involved within the institutions helps us to determine the precision that such an interpretation requires. To be a Foucauldian architect does not therefore consists in the repetition of his theses, but rather in their extension to which should be applied the same cogency. As a matter of fact, the first thing that a Foucauldian architect needs to understand consists in the paradoxical fact that Foucault underestimated the power contained by architecture as such.
The Center for Urban Pedagogy, aka CUP, is a non-profit organization that attempt to make the legislation visible in the clearest manner. The predicate of the law is that nobody shall ignores it, but in reality, little is done to veritably make the law known to all. The risk involved in a society that maintains actively or passively the ignorance of its law, is that a legal aristocracy develops itself. Knowing your rights allows a practice in the totality of their extents. It also participate to a thorough and voluntary defense in a potential bone of contention. The Center for Urban Pedagogy, through an articulated graphic design strategy, has produced various booklets and posters in this spirit. All of them can be bought, but also downloadable as PDF on their website. The Vendor Power, for example, informs New York street vendors of their rights and a useful behavior to follow in case of trouble with a zealous police officer. I Got Arrested is addressed to American kids who were arrested by the police (often for very minor offense) so that they could know their rights and apprehend the whole experience in a less traumatic way. Know Your Lines investigates the voting zones in the United States to develop an awareness of the various policies which modify the lines of those zones for electoral motivations. What is Affordable Housing? is a small book which establishes an inventory of government helped forms of housing in the United States, and in New York more specifically, as well as the criteria that are required to apply for such a housing. This document does not miss to notice that many of those programs have been lacking of public development and interest (especially Public Housing whose construction was stopped after the 1974 moratorium ordered by Richard Nixon). Many more of those manuals exist and can be found on the CUP’s website. A lot of other similar initiatives probably exist for other cities and other countries and can be considered as models for such a strategy of legal sensitization and empowerment.
All the following illustrations have been created by the Center for Urban Pedagogy:
François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters, La fièvre d’Urbicande, Casterman, 1985.
First of all, I would like to apologize for the lack of consistence in the rhythm of the recent publication of articles. Keeping a regular rhythm is difficult and I am hoping to be back to it in the few coming weeks.
Today’s article is about a classic Belgian graphic novel: La fièvre d’Urbicande (Urbicande’s fever. 1985) by François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters. Urbicande is the name of the city in which the story occurs. One day a small cube made out of a mysterious material grows and form a three dimensional grid that the city soon calls “The Network.” The latter soon reaches a size which implements many bridges between the two parts of the city that were segregated from each other. Taking advantage of the megastructure it embodies, urbicande’s citizens appropriate the network and build various architectures that diversifies the urban programs (promenades, agriculture, brothels etc.) and the way they register spatially. The megastructure exists as a relatively neutral object, which can be eventually invested by a variety of architectural languages.
As a small anecdote, François Schuiten told me few years ago that B.Peeters and him heard about the invention of the internet few months after the publication of the graphic novel, and they were stunned of such a striking similitude with the narrative they created.
Time Square on October 17th 2011 /// Photograph by Léopold Lambert
In March 2012, I wrote a text for my friend Lucas Issey Yoshinaga who was contributing to the Brazilian book Approach edited by Gustavo Utrabo, Juliano Monteiro, Pedro Duschenes & Hugo Loss. The other contributors ended up to be Graham Harman, Nannette Jackowski . Ricardo de Ostos & Bernardo Bento for a collection of five texts about our perception of the architectural discipline. I entitled mine Impetus, as a reflection on the current return of politics within the architectural discourse and education. This wondering/wandering was then based on the question on whether or not this new interest for politics was simply based on a opportunist trend or could potentially be crystallized and then engaged as a non-avoidable dimension of the architectural practice.
I recommend the reading of this very well made little bilingual (Portuguese & English) book that cultivates architecture’s sense of doubt about its role and action. The title, Approach, is a good indicator of its editors’ consideration for those texts which tries to avoid a peremptory tone to prefer a more dubious one. If you would like a copy you can write to mail(AT)alephzero.arq.br
by Léopold Lambert
Once again, I would like to apologize for a long absence of new posts on this blog, I am hoping to find back a daily rhythm very soon.
The third issue of the journal Makeshift is entitled Resistance and explores how “creative oppositions” are occurring in the various political struggles that are currently on going in the world. From Egypt to Haiti and from Mexico to Libya, this issue describes through short texts (sometimes too short) various resistive operations often registering themselves against the politico-economical and legal power in place. Often, when we need to address examples of political resistance, we uses one that can gain a large consensus, i.e. non violent ones or ancient ones. In this issue however, Makeshift also explored a garage of Misrata (Libya) in which agricultural mechanics changed their job during the civil war against Muammar Gaddafi’s administration, army and militias, and set up heavy weaponry on trucks for the rebels. Violence is usually something we having trouble to look at in the Western world while in other places, it becomes the inevitable mean to resist. In this regard, the sabotages operations organized by the ANC (African National Congress) in South Africa during the Apartheid is helpful to look at – for French speakers, see the current remarkable series of broadcasts on France Culture about Nelson Mandela. Non-violence is not necessarily motivated by an intrinsic aversion for violence but often considered as the appropriate weapon to fight a given establishment.
To go back to the entire issue of Makeshift, what is remarkable is that the latter focuses exclusively on the production and/or the creation involved in a process of resistance. Bracelets are made from bomb metal in Laos, antennas and routers are set-up on New York rooftops to put occupiers in communication, objects are being rethought, refabricated and used for different functions than their prior ones in Cuba etc. processes of resistance and processes of creation are presented as interchangeable. In both cases, it involves imagination, of course, but also work and effort of bodies dedicated to an individual or collective ethics.
First of all, I would like to apologize for spending so much time without writing but I am currently traveling and it has not be easy to find the time for it.
I already mentioned twice the release of LOG 25 Reclaim Resi[lience]stance edited by Cynthia Davidson and curated by François Roche. Through twenty one texts, this issue weaves a thread from the computational vanguard (Roland Snooks, Alisa Andrasek, Ezio Blasetti, Supermanoeuvre) to a politico-legal interpretation of the new mutations of a technological capitalism (Antonio Negri, Slavoj Žižek, Beatriz Preciado, Patricia Williams etc.). These two dimensions of architecture that one would be legitimate to dissoaite are however smoothly linked together by the editors as well as by François Roche’s introduction to the issue. The back of the issue is also useful to that matter as it lists the names of the authors and summarizes their discourse in one sentence, thus composing an inventory of resistives operations from the point of view of a team in which each has a precise function to construct a strange resistive cadavre exquis:
Alisa Andrasek weaves a resilient fabric
Ezio Blasetti parses the language of code
Sébastien Bourbonnais examines technical ensembles
Pia Ednie-Brown revitalizes architecture
Shabnam Hosseini & Hamish Rhodes write a script
François Jouve retraces unusual shapes
Lydia Kallipoliti mines curious lumps
Matthias Kohler speculates on aerial architecture
Sanford Kwinter queries crowdsourcing
Camille Lacadée hankers for Bangkok
Léopold Lambert digs into abject matter
Sylvia Lavin resuscitates death
Iain Maxwell & Dave Pigram consider digital craft
Fabrice Melquiot & Stéphanie Lavaux plot space
Antonio Negri talks with Francois Roche
Can Onaner analyzes the masochistic architect
Philippe Parreno resurrects Marilyn Monroe
Beatriz Preciado introduces the pharmacopornographic
François Roche resists…
Roland Snooks destabilize computational design
Patricia J. Williams assesses the ownership of bodies
Slavoj Žižek addresses Occupy Wall Street
As a third chapter of a series of articles about what I called the ideal normatized body, I would like to archive in the blog, the beginning of Judith Butler‘s introduction to her book Bodies That Matter. In this short text, she describes how bodies are being subjected to a normalization process which never fully reach the essence of the norm itself, in that case, “sex”. This oxymoron of an ideal norm is actually inherent to the status of the norm itself as it correspond to both a social construction describing a majority of behavioral and material characteristics, and an ideal in the sense that no body can actually incarnates absolutely the norm. J. Butler uses the notion of abjection to describe “those “unlivable” and “uninhabitable” zones of social life which are nevertheless densely populated by those who do not enjoy the status of the subject.” The abject constitutes precisely this excess considered as waste by a system that can find an economy with it, this “matter out of place” as British Anthropologist Mary Douglas wrote in Purity and Danger (for more about this question, one might want to read my “underdog” contribution, Abject Matter to the most recent LOG). Living the unlivable, inhabiting the uninhabitable constitute the refusal to processes of subjectivation as those “able” terms are precisely attributed by the normative system served by these same processes.
See the two first “chapters” of this series:
- The Modernist Ideology of a Normative Body
- A Subversive Approach to the Ideal Normatized Body
Teresa Margolles, Muro Baleado (Shot Wall), 2009
The 31st episode of the guests writers series is written by Greg Barton, currently curatorial fellow at the storefront for art and architecture. His name might be familiar to the funambulist’s sharpest readers as in last October, I published a short article about the exhibition Ecologias Correlativas that he co-curated with Emma Chammah. His text bases its discourse on the book The Femicide Machine written by Mexican journalist Sergio González Rodríguez and published at the always excellent semiotext(e) edited by Sylvère Lotringer, Chris Kraus, and Hedi El Kholti.
The Femicide Machine describes the situation in the city of Ciudad Juarez near the American Border and which seems to incarnate an illustrative example of a urban life shaped by the maquiladoras -there is 300 of them in Ciudad Juarez. In this model, women are the primary victims from the collision of geo-political trade agreements and their cryptic version, the narco-industry and its wars. Greg quotes the film Sleep Dealer to evoke the capture of bodies’ energetic production (see previous article) in maquiladoras which correspond to an even more generalized capture in the case of women whose bodies is continuously at work and at risk between labor, rape and murder. In this regard, he also quotes Octavio Paz who wrote that a woman was considered by our world as “an undifferentiated manifestation of life, a channel for the universal appetite.” Just like the raw material they export to Mexico in order to gain it back under the form of merchandise, the United States are both at the source and at the exit of this machine which exploits the Mexican labor energy for its fuel. Those border territories, as places of human, goods and money fluxes, then constitute the ideal scene for other fluxes to plug themselves in the circuit. That is how the subindustries developed and sustain itself through violence on women bodies.
Bridge supplemented by sand bags to protect its users against snipers in Sarajevo. Photograph by Abbas (Magnum)
The book Sarajevo Za Pocetnike (Sarajevo for beginners) written by Bosnian author Ozren Kebo has been translated into French (Bienvenue en Enfer: Sarajevo Mode d’Emploi) but not into English. I thought that it would be a good idea to translate some short excerpts here however bad my translating skills might be.
This book is a description of the daily life in Sarajevo during its siege (1992-1995) by the Serbian army. The form is often humorous while the content is always tragic, thus illustrating an important mean to resist the horror of the war: the derision of the situation. O. Kebo describes a city whose entire infrastructure has been revealed by war, yet this infrastructure is obsolete only acts as the memory of the functioning city:
unofficial English translation: In Sarajevo there is chaos. If you look up, you won’t see the sky but rather wires, millions of wires. Everybody did some cheap wiring. The entire city is a gigantic electrical network and yet, nobody has electricity. If you look down, no more asphalt, just pipes. All the streets are ripped open, and yet, nobody has gas. All transport jerry cans. Millions of jerry cans on millions of wood carts and yet, nobody owns more than twenty liters at home.
Following the last article about Fortress Paris, I would like to introduce the book Paris sous Tension (Paris under tension) written and edited by Eric Hazan, director of one of my very favorite publishers, La Fabrique. The book is written in French, and I will quote extensive excerpts in this article but I will also try to summarize in English their object. Its various chapters explore Paris from 1814 to its contemporary era -the book was published in 2011- through the narrative of a continuous conflict between the intelligentsia who are designing the city associated with its means to maintain the order on the one hand, and the proletariat who has to survive and empower itself despite this urban organization. In this regard, it can be compared to the more recent book Rebel Cities written by David Harvey and that I have been writing about in a previous article. For the purpose of this short review, I will organize the excerpts in eight small chapters that are not related to the book’s own organization:
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.
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.
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
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: