The immanent domain (see third letter) – Dharavi in Mumbai / Photograph by Léopold Lambert (2009)
FIRST LETTER (New York on July 12th 2012) ///
I read your essay Archiving Burroughs: Interzone, Law, Self-Medication with attention and appreciated, as usual, the way you manage to link narrative, law and space all together. I do think however that we should keep this text for a little bit later in our conversation as its specificity might make us miss the bases of the discussion that we would like to have about law and architecture. In this regard, I would like to ingenuously start by stating some obvious facts which are always good to remember for such a discussion.
Law, understood as a human artifact, constitutes an ensemble of regulations which have been explicitly stated in order to categorize behaviors in two categories: legal and illegal. In order to do so, it expects from every individual subjected to its application a full knowledge of its content in order to moralize and held accountable attitudes that are either respectful or transgressive towards it.
Law is undeniably related to space as it requires a given territory with precise borders to be able to implement itself. Nothing easier to understand this fact than to observe in which space one is allowed to smoke and in which one is not. It also includes within this territory smaller zones of exclusion, from the corner of the class room to the penitentiary, in which another form of the law -supposedly a more restrictive one- is applied for individuals who, through an active refusal of specific parts of it, are to be separated from the rest of society. Those individuals, when captured by law enforcer instances, are brought within those zones of exclusion and are being held in them for a given period of time provisioned by law itself.
A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to have access to the short film “…Would Have Been My Last Complaint” created by Camille Lacadée (see her guest writer essay as an inventory for this project) and François Roche for their [eIf/bʌt/c] (Institute for Contingent Scenarios) with the collaboration of Ezio Blasetti, Stephan Heinrich and a small team of people from all over the world (see the credits at the end)
The film is now visible online (see also at the end of this article) which will allow many viewers to consider a work in which neither architecture nor cinema is “enslaved” to the other, but rather they collaborate at their best. The architecture itself has been thought and built by the film’s team, but could not really unfold its essence without the narrative and expressive means developed by the film.
Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra
In their Treatise on Nomadology, Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari introduce their concept of Holey Space (see previous article) by the following injunction:
Metallurgical India. Transpierce the mountains instead of scaling them, excavate the land instead of striating it, bore holes in space instead of keeping it smooth, turn the earth into Swiss cheese.
Deleuze Gilles & Guattari Felix, Treatise of Nomadology – The War Machine in A Thousand Plateaus. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.
This evocation of India comes directly from an excerpt of French historian Élie Faure‘s Medieval Art History which dedicates a chapter to seven civilizations (India, China, Japan, Tropics, Byzantine, Islam and Christianity) during Middle Age. The excerpt that Deleuze and Guattari are referring to is therefore extracted from the first chapter about India in which Élie Faure describe splendidly the birth of Indian caves carved within the granite:
Since I left India where I used to live for a while, I wrote only one article about the multitude of interesting architectures that can be seen in this country. The book Steps to Water: The Ancient Stepwells of India written by Morna Livingston and published by the Princeton Architectural Press is a good excuse to come back to it.
Stepwells are indeed one of the most fascinating typologies of Gujarati and Rajasthani architecture. I visited some of them around Ahmadabad when I traveled there and was lucky enough to experience the slow architectural procession to the water that those wells offer to their visitors. Morna Livingston’s book introduces an important variety of them via her texts, photos and drawings (see below) which helps efficiently our imagination to reconstitute the religious ceremonial that used to occur in those sacred wells.
In 2006, the movie director Tarsem Singh extracted the spatial power of some of those wells (see the photo from a previous article) for his very aesthetizing film, The Fall that was repeatedly using classic Indian architecture to compose a fictitious environment for his plot. Morna Livingston’s photos, on the contrary, do not hesitate to show the wells in their current state which, sometimes, implies an important affect of time that thus accentuate the beautiful minerality of this architecture of stones.
The border between Amritsar (India) and Lahore (Pakistan) is special by the “spectacle” it hosts every evening for the lowering of the flags. In fact, soldiers from the two sides daily starts at the same time a kind of ceremonial of intimidation dramatizing in an almost grotesque way, the conflict between the two countries. Stands have been built for the audience of both nation who compete as well to know who cheers the best his country.
This ceremony emphasizes considerably the symbolic and representative aspect of the border and constitutes a daily battle that nobody win, thus perpetuating the war to the infinite.
At the end of september will be celebrated as every year, Durga Puja
all over India. This festival celebrating the goddess Durga is particularly important in West Bengal and more specifically in Kolkata (Calcutta). During six days, some temporary structures called Pandals are being built with mostly bamboos and fabric to host all the celebrations. It means that for one week, the city is getting transformed and might be out of control for a short while of urban creation freedom.
Chandigarh is a huge machine to live where every scales have been included in the control of life of its inhabitants. This control may be philanthropic but its denial of impromptus events to happen makes it being more a machine to die (slowly). Actually this control have probably even escape from Corbu’s hand since his great esplanade between Panjab and Haryanna’s Assembly and Chandigarh’s High Court is abandoned and cut in two parts by barbells and military check points.
However, within the city and closeby the Capitole complex, there is a little resisting territory to this control called the Rock Garden. Initiated by an hyperactive mad guy (my favorite artists !) called Nek Chand in 1957, this maze garden is built with a lot of recycled products casted into concrete which eventually creates Alice’s wonderland or Oz Wizards’s kingdom where thousand of trash statues are living.
found this morning in The Hindustan Times.
When architecture is directly transformed into a capitalistic product, its uniqueness disappear in favor of generic structures we can find everywhere in the world…
What do you see from a Bombay local train ? A generic vision of a specific city…
Those municipal buildings are located in the core of Mumbai and host families in transit between two housings. They are entirely made of prefabricated elements such as gypson panels and steel structure and introduces an interesting urban insertion.
Ballardian landscape in a government car cemetery near Mumbai Central…
Apparently Indians are not as cautious as Europeans about past architecture. Here is a lift transplant on an old building in a very straight out way which not so surprisingly pleases me a lot !
Panoramic view of Breach Candy towards Malabar Hill = south upper class Mumbai district
Dabawalla represents a urban dimension which does not really exist in western cities. Imagine that every day, your lunch is delivered to your office at the right time by fedex or ups ! That is basically what is happening in Mumbai thanks to Dabawalla. First, you obviously have to subscribe to a list to belong to this network. Then, every day, in the suburbs somebody of your family cook a wonderful lunch for you, puts it in a daba (hermetic cans) and brings it to the closest walla (carrier) who then take the train arriving at 11.30am to the Churchgate station in the centre of Mumbai. After that, walla(s) gather all the daba(s) to be as organised as they possibly can (and believe me they are !) to finally hit the road and deliver the lunch to you with a very systematic precision. Such a phenomena (we are talking about thousand of daba(s)) has urban consequences and provide a chain of food which, I believe does not exist anywhere else at this scale.