Aleppo, January 29, 2013. (Reuters/Zain Karam)
As an introduction to this article, I would like to say that I have been hesitant to write the latter as many of the thirty eight photographs posted by The Atlantic on February 20th 2013 (thank you Guilhem) carry enough visual power to bring to them the noxious pictorial fetishism that Western society (at peace mostly) have contributed to develop and exacerbated. Seeing a fighter of the Free Syrian Army piloting an automated machine gun with a playstation controller triggers in us (probably the male part in all of us) a disturbing confusion between game and reality, heroism and survival. That is why an image of this importance should never be shown without a reflective framework to avoid its epidemic (online) reproduction leading inexorably to the domain of the “cool”, this ill-defined realms of things that give us the contentment of an aesthetics without its intellectual “burden”.
Another thing that needs to be said as a preamble is that journalism tends to be more interested in the domain of the spectacular in opposition to the familiar and therefore, we need to see most of this images for what they are: exceptions, accidents, unique manifestations of something larger. In other words, most Syrians, right now, whether they are fully part of the rebellion or simply subjected to the continuous bombing and persecutions of Bashar al-Assad’s government’s army, probably do not have access to weapons having a certain degree of sophistication, if not weapons at all. Reading these photographs in another way would mislead us and draw inaccurate conclusions on the future of warfare and immanent resistance.
The following text is something I wrote few weeks ago, after two years of quasi-beatitude in front of the beautiful work developed by young French fashion designer Yiqing Yin. Many of my readers won’t miss the strong Deleuzian influence in that text both in the content and in the style. Probably for that reason, I first wrote the text in French (read it at the end of the article), then translated into English as follows:
The Dresses of Yiqing Yin
by Léopold Lambert
The proper characteristics of a work of art is to enter into a universal relationship with the world. What it means is that this work exists as itself, independently, or rather beyond the intentions of its author. As far as Yiqing Yin’s dresses are concerned, that would not be diminishing them than to say that they are beautiful, beautiful in the deep sense of the word. Nevertheless, the vertigo I feel when I see them deserves to be questioned about its existence. What is this turmoil? My answer to this question is located in the thousands of folds of Yiqing Yin’s dresses.
Each of these folds seems to correspond to a small perception of the wearer’s body. The body is dressed, yet it seems somehow stripped and offering an epidermic relationship to the world surrounding it. The latter, in its softness and its violence, would then imprint itself in the negative space of each of those sensitive folds, and thus acting on the body in its whole intensity. Through these folds, the body invented by Yiqing Yin is a body whose skin saw its surface – and through it, its sensitive perceptions – get multiplied by a thousand. The body is a fragile and delicate receptacle of the microscopic world. But the body is not only receiving; it also reacts to the world. Here again, the almost infinite multiplication of the epidermic surface allows the body to irradiate its emotions and its desires as expressed at a molecular level.
In the previous article, we were following Franco “Bifo” Berardi in his argument according to which the financialization/semotization of the world should be fought against through the invention of other semio-weapons known as poetry. In the following article, however, I would like to examine what could be another mean of resistance against the reigning abstraction of the capital, what is extremely likely to be the next industrial paradigm: 3D Printing.
I don’t want to write here about what the very mean of 3D printing allow us in terms of new architectural typology. Many people are writing about it and I don’t think to have anything to add to that. What I am interested in is a combination of two things. The first one is the counterpoint of Franco Berardi as I am envisioning a resistance to abstraction through its antipode, matter. 3D printing allows the multitude of emergent technologies promoting the digital realm to concretize its production in the material world. This point is fundamental as every physical modification of this world – let’s insist on the fact that there is only modifications and transformations here, no creation per say – engages us as the body we are. We don’t have a body, we are a body, and each ‘object’ (including architecture) constitute an opportunity to feel and affirm such a truth. This manifesto for a material production is linked to the very essence of 3D printing and therefore constitute an inherent tool of resistance.
Another aspect of this technology can lead us to think that it can potentially politically empower us; however this one is not inherent to it, and therefore requires to be included within a well thought strategy of appropriation in the shift of paradigm. I would like to insist on the right moment to act as the present situation still reserves the use of this technology to the army (as usual in the case of a new powerful technology) and a design (mostly Western) elite. We are therefore far to see the Syrian rebels resisting the massacre with 3D printed weapons – some of them are being highly inventive in this matter however – but we need to envision a future in which a large majority of the new objects produced on the planet would be 3D printed. We then have to wonder which would be those objects. Would they be the embodiment of the new (des)illusions of desires injected in us by the most recent mutation of capitalism, or do we want them to be the creative product of the multitude?
I am not really sure if I would be able to write any new article until the end of the year, so in the meantime, here is a very short aside post to discover a particular object : the Gömböc. Invented by Gábor Domokos and Péter Várkonyi in 2006, this shape is inspired by some species of turtle which developed a type of carapace that allow them to swing back to their normal position if they ever fall on their back. The particularity of the Gömböc is to have only two points of equilibrium (one stable and one unstable) which makes it unique in the realms of objects. In the little world of a certain architectural academia which boast about researching on “form finding”, I find interesting to see that this discipline is actually practiced within the world of mathematics with all the rigor that it implies. I am out of my element here, so I should be careful in my hypotheses but I am wondering if the invention of an object without any point of equilibrium would not be the same thing than to trigger a perpetual movement (on a flat area). In that case, it would be also interesting to confront the geometrical ideal with the real object which can never escape from slight discrepancies…designers might be of help here…
Apparatus and system for augmented detainee restraint. Patent assigned to Scottsdale Inventions LLC (2012)
The following article is a good opportunity for me to open a new category in the blog’s archive, one that I voluntarily keep very focused to differentiate itself from broader one (like ‘weaponized architecture‘ for example). This new category is entitled ‘cruel design‘ and gathers only pieces of industrial design or architecture whose primarily function is to subjectivize one’s body to an absolute submission. This characteristic is thought in differentiation to the many examples I have been writing about, which applies their controlling power on the bodies in a more subtle and disguised yet operative way.
A new example of this will to subdue a body in an absolute embrace of the violence of design upon the bodies, is given to us through the filing of a patent of a new kind of handcuffs by its inventor company, Scottsdale Inventions LLC as the website Patent Bolt reports. Those handcuffs, called Apparatus and system for augmented detainee restraint for the patent filing, enforce the restraint by electroshock and/or drug injection:
The article Practicing Restraint written by Will Wiles for the last issue of Cabinet about punishment is a very interesting article introducing the cruel piece of design embodied by the straightjacket (camisole de force). I am used to write about architectures or instruments that are not necessarily assimilated to objects of restraints but which are ultimately achieving this effect on the body. The straightjacket, on the contrary, “wears” the violence it inflicts to the body in a demonstrative manner. The similitude to a traditional jacket reinforce this violent appearance; as if the game we played as children to cross our sleeves was transformed into a nightmare when we realized that the sleeves could not go back to normal.
Nevertheless,as W.Wiles points out in the very beginning of this article, this invention, along with the guillotine (another famous piece of French design!), constitutes the product of a technocratic will of reducing cruelty in comparison of previous objects in charge of the same functions. The guillotine’s operation used to be performed by an executioner with an axe with all the painful imprecision that it implies. The guillotine, invented during the terror, right after the French Revolution, constituted a more efficient mean of executing someone to the point that it remained the official instrument of French death penalty until its abolition in 1981. Similarly, the straightjacket’s function used to be insured by chains and was therefore considered as a form of progress when it was introduced as a new object of restraint at the Hopital Bicêtre in 1790 (two years only before the invention of the guillotine!). In his article, W.Wiles quotes Scottish physician William Cullen in 1784:
Electronic Counter-Measures (2011) by Liam Young
Many of us are afraid of the development of drone technology in the army which regularly allows the US and Israeli Army to assassinate people without having to deploy a single man on a foreign territory. It is now well known that during the last ten years, the limits between Western police services and armies have increasingly became blurry both in the methods and in the equipment, the former requiring often the help or teaching of the latter. In this regard, I highly recommend the excellent coverage of Occupy Wall Street by Democracy Now on November 17th 2011. Amy Goodman indeed invited both the always excellent Stephen Graham and the former Seattle Police Chief, Norm Stamper to discuss about what she called Paramilitary policing.
It is relatively clear that it is simply a matter of time before national security drones would be implemented in Western cities (see the short pseudo-documentary I wrote last summer). On July 14th 2006, a drone (probably a prototype) was seen in the sky of Paris’ suburbs (see previous post) as what was probably a first real scale test of surveillance.
However, resistance against this quasi-irreversible movement towards a robotic management of national security seems to organize using the very same technology. In December 2010, some Iraqi insurgents managed to hack the video transmission of an American Drone (see previous post). On a more fictitious level, in 2009, Tim Maly was writing The Lost Drone Army which dramatizes the complete autonomy of a group of drones that escaped from the control of their former masters.
More recently, and on a not so fictitious level, Liam Young created now forms of drones, entitled Electronic Counter-Measures, within the context of his Tomorrow Thoughts Today (with Darryl Chen) and Unknown Fields Division (with Kate Davies) and in collaboration with Eleanor Saitta, Oliviu Lugojan-Ghenciu (see his GravityOne project and his guest writer essay on this blog), and Superflux. Their drones, inspired by the internet national blackout organized by Hosni Mubarak in January 2011 in order to prevent the Egyptian revolution to organize itself, provides a wireless internet signal to whoever is in their radius of action. The idea is to be able for a crowd to coordinate its action via the internet provided by these autonomous drones even though the dominant power would have shut the network down.
My friends of Socks-Studio recently posted a very interesting pseudo-documentary created by Dutch artist Floris Kaayk. This film (see below) about a fictitious disease that can be imagined in a near future in which the transplantation of metallic prosthetic to the human body will be developed and banalized. F.Kaayk thus describes a form of mutation of the organism that would start to grow metal as part of the body. This parasitic new anatomy would then invade little by little the organic tissues of the body while keeping the vital organs operative. The ambiguity of feeling experienced while watching his film is interesting: both fascinating and repulsing at the same time. The cinematographic mean of pseudo-documentary (see previous article) seems to be perfectly appropriate here, as it uses familiar means of information in order to challenge our imagination to accept it as real.
Still from the film about Slime molds by Dan Baker
Ecologias Correlativas is a small ongoing (until Saturday 29th October) exhibition at the 319 Scholes Gallery in New York. It is audaciously curated by Emma Chammah & Greg Barton who attribute the foundations of this exhibition to the short text written by Felix Guattari in 1989 under the name The Three Ecologies. In this text, F.Guattari develops his concept of ecosophy, an ethico-aesthetics that prophetically refuses the ways capitalism is able to co-opt ecology and that establishes three scales of action for another ecology: social relations, human subjectivity and environmental.
The gallery/garage itself is a good example of such an attempt of escaping capitalist logics and so are the heterogeneous work exhibited. Three items (by Fluxxlab, Dr. Manos Tentzeris & Living Environment Lab) propose Do It Yourself strategies of energy harvesting, the L.E. Lab’s one being charismatic as it allows to collect and store energy as a parasite, on cars’ lights, gutters and escalators (see the video). The way those objects influence my imaginary is directly linked to the constraints that I can currently observe in Liberty Square, especially at the very beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement when we needed to find ways to bring electricity on site. Those parasite harvesters and other DIY apparatuses do not allow us to stand outside of the system, but rather to reduce our participation and dependency to it if not sometimes even hijacking it. This attitude is seconded by the interviews realized by Ecosistema Urbano who asked David Harvey (see previous articles 1 & 2) and Santiago Cirugeda (see previous articles 1 & 2) their similar position towards ecology.
I was also happy to see the presence of the Transborder Immigrant Tool created by EDT2.0/B.A.N.G. Lab to be active on Mexican clandestines’s phones when they cross the border. This tool is a small GPS that prevent a dreadful draft in the desert as well as indicating water spots.
Pedro from La Periferia Domestica was kind enough to draw my attention to this very interesting piece of design invented by Afghan designer Massoud Hassani. Called the Mine Sweeper, this sphere is conceived to move autonomously thanks to the wind -in a similar way than Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests- and explode the anti-personal land mines disseminated on a given terrain. The sphere is also equipped with a GPS sensor (see last picture below) that provides an output of the paths that have been cleared from the mines.
This sphere is a good assumed example of what I have been calling “weaponized design” for the last two years. The narrative carried by the Mine Sweeper has a violence within it, it triggers the mines explosion and probably suffers a bit more at each encounters. As every autonomous objects, it does not take much to imagine them as living being. This one traces safe trajectories that redefine the practice of a landscape, sacrificing itself as a fearless scout within a dangerous territory.
On the contrary of a lot of pieces of design proposing an interesting narrative (and as a designer I plead guilty just as much), this one is actually taking the means of its ambitions and is being tested with the Dutch army right now. There are still 270 millions of anti-personal land mines disseminated in the world and they keep injuring or killing people regularly (mostly in Angola, Cambodia and Afghanistan).
Whether or not we like Björk‘s music (I personally do a lot !), we are obliged to recognize that she always knows who to work with in order to continuously push the limits of the musical field. The last example of this great sense of collaboration is the conception of new instruments for her album Biophilia, and more specifically the design and realization of what she called Gravity Harps.
In order to achieve those giant musical pendulums, she worked with Andy Cavatorta who designed a what we could call a robotic string bell mixing something as simple as gravity with high technology of sensors and mechanical operators. In an interview for The Creators Project, A.Cavatorta explains:
There are four pendulums, each with a cylindrical harp on the end. As each pendulum swings through its lowest point, a single string on its harp gets plucked. The harp is cylindrical and can rotate, so any one of its eleven strings can be played by facing it to the plucker. There is also an ‘empty’ string position for playing rests.
It took me a while to decide to publish this article as my appreciation for the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum, Savage Beauty is as great as my inability to write something consistent about it. In fact, the exhibition manages well to maintain this feeling as the fascinating work is counter balanced by some flat quotes from McQueen himself that do not help us to interpret his work in a coherent way – but maybe that is a mistake to want to do so. I will try to embrace this mistake though.
Let’s start with the exhibition title then: Beauty, yes beauty is there fore sure. and it’s hard to remain indifferent in front of this work Savage, on the other hand refers to something a bit more articulated as a form of romanticism that is claimed by A.McQueen all along the show. In fact, there is something fictitious, if not mythological in his work. An important majority of dresses seems to come from an ambiguous time between several periods of the past but developing a vision of the future that envisions the body and its clothing as two things that might hybrid each other to form a sort of nostalgic cyborg. Somehow, one might even compare that to the literature current that has been called as steampunk, a branch of science fiction that mixes the traditional vision of technology – the one of the 19th century Industrial Revolution – with its new paradigm of the end of the 20th century implying the invention of cybernetics. Of course here, it is not so much about the Industrial Revolution than other periods of the past but this feeling of mix of eras is clearly tangible; a sort of uchronia in which Humans are both in perfect control of their technology but also live in a more animal realm. In this regard, this notion of savageness here allow us to think of all those dresses as new skins that compose a camouflage, which is not to be understood as a defense mechanism here but rather as a celebration and narration of their environment, both in time (as I wrote above) and in space.
My co-worker in New York Forrest Jessee just got published in Le Monde for a project he realized in Columbia in 2009: The Sleep Suit. With this beautiful peace of industrial design, Forrest offers the means of practice of what Buckminster Fuller called the Dymaxion Sleep, a series of four 30min naps in one day, providing a sufficient rest to a human being.
The Sleep Suit is therefore a piece of cloth full of folds that provide a comfortable sleeping position to the person wearing it in any kind of context. In a more philosophical and poetical way, it also materialize the piece of folded fabric that Gilles Deleuze uses to explain the Leibnizian concept of monads in his book The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque.
If you live in Harlem, you may be familiar with this series of pieces of design on Lexington Avenue and 124th street in New York. Designed in smooth forms and placed over the exhaust grids of the subway station, those benches could have been a great idea to provide homeless people with a place to sleep on, the exhaust locally providing some heat which can be life saving in cold winters. Instead of that, the designer of those benches venally accepted what was probably a demand from the local authorities or the MTA subway company: a design solution to prevent homeless people to lay on them. Those pieces of design being composed by metallic slices, it was easy for the author to break their smoothness and create excrescences that thus create a sufficiently uncomfortable condition for nobody to be tempted to sleep on them.
Design whether it is “industrial” or “building”, acts on the bodies and can choose to comfort them, challenge them (to go beyond I propose the essay I wrote about Spinozist architectures) or to hurt them in a more or less assumed sadistic expression. Those benches are clearly being part of this third proposition and their author is just as much (if not more) responsible for their effect than the authority which commissioned it.
Venice’s Biennal’s Golden Lion (Best Installation) has been won by Greg Lynn for his recycled toy furniture which continues his research about modular construction elements.
I quite like the jury’s explanation:
The jury found Greg Lynn’s experimental recycled-toys furniture to best embody the Biennale theme of Out There: Architecture Beyond building. The jury took interest in those projects in which experimentation took on the character of research, and thus to redirect the naïve ambition to achieve a novel solution to a difficult problem in a single daring leap toward increasing the body of knowledge and technique that the entire field can continue to develop. Though remaining at the level of a provocation rather than a prototype, the recycled-toy furniture advances the digital-form problem to a new level that intrinsically engages traditional architectural concerns such as meaning, aesthetics, and advancing fabrication technology with the recycling, an issue of broad, immediate and pressing concern.
pictures found on dezeen
Next thursday (sept 17th), a new exhibition called Toward the Sentient City will be opening in NYC commissioned by The Architectural League of New York with the presentation of five new interactive projects including one by Usman Haque (see this former post here).
The five projects are:
Natural Fuse by Usman Haque, creative director, Nitipak ‘Dot’ Samsen, designer, Ai Hasegawa, designer, Cesar Harada, designer. Barbara Jasinowicz, producer
Too Smart City by JooYoun Paek, David Jimison | Engineers: Daniel Bauen, Aaron Gilbert, Bill Washabaugh
Amphibious Architecture by The Living Architecture Lab at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (Directors David Benjamin and Soo-in Yang) and xdesign Environmental Health Clinic at New York University (Director Natalie Jeremijenko)
Trash Track by SENSEable City Laboratory, MIT | Carlo Ratti: Director, Assaf Biderman: Associate Director, Rex Britter: Advisor, Stephen Miles: Advisor, Kristian Kloeckl Project Leader, Musstanser Tinauli, E Roon Kang, Alan Anderson, Avid Boustani, Natalia Duque Ciceri, Lorenzo Davolli, Samantha Earl, Lewis Girod, Sarabjit Kaur, Armin Linke, Eugenio Morello, Sarah Neilson, Giovanni de Niederhausern, Jill Passano, Renato Rinaldi, Francisca Rojas, Louis Sirota, Malima Wolf
Breakout! by Anthony Townsend (Institute for the Future), Georgia Borden, Amanda Kross, Jung Hoon Kim, Antonina Simeti (DEGW), Dana Spiegel (NYCwireless), Laura Forlano (Parsons The New School for Design), Tony Bacigalupo (New Work City), Sean Savage (PariSoMa), Elysse Preposi (Sarah Lawrence College)
This exhibition will last until November 7th at the Architectural League on 457 Madison Avenue in Manhattan.
Don’t miss the ‘Initial Selection’ on the website which presents other various interactive project dealing with the same topic.
Sailboat Tara is in Paris (on the Petit Palais’ bank) until january 11st. This boat has been doing a lot of expedition around the world (for example in 2005, French artist Pierre Huyghe and some friends of his went to Antartica doing some research) and now exhibit its last journey in Artica.
Tara was built in 1989 after having beeing designed by Luc Bouvet et Olivier Petit, architects for Jean-Louis Etienne, a client passionnate in Antartica. Principle was to create a solid boat able to slip – with rudders and fins obviouly removed – on icefield in order to stay on it just in the same way that norvegian navigator Fridtjof Nansen did with his boat, Fram in the XIXth century.
This last exhibition last one year and half between 2006 and 2008 and consisted in a drift on the north pole’s ice field while scientific research were achieved.
More informations, pictures and videos on Tara’s official website
Remember this crazy mechanical elephant which used to walk in some European cities during several festivals. La Machine
(French artists collective) did it again and sent a giant spider to Louise Bourgeois’ Mum (or Wild Wild West movie…) to Japan to celebrate Yokohama’s port 150th anniversary.
Another simple genius ! Verner Panton
Pavilion for the firm of myresjo
Here is an overview of the work of the young and talented fashion designer Gareth Pugh. On the following pictures you will see how his using tiling, inflated balloons, perpex or shiny vynil to create amazing wearable sculptures.
This video is a collaboration with Gareth Pugh and the famous photographer/director Nick Knight.