Michael Vlasopoulos, Greek Architect at Harvard recently published on Abitare a very interesting (sci)-fictitious Manifesto for Tokyo’s Nakagin Capsule Tower designed by Kisho Kurokawa and built in 1972. His narrator speaks at the first person and develops an ambiguous praise of his life conditions since he moved in one of the tower’s capsule.
I copy the text here, but it could be read directly on Abitare associated with beautiful decontextualized photos of the cells (by M.Vlasopoulos himself maybe ?) and a ton of hyperlinks:
DAY ZERO I never forget the day I bought my capsule. The money could buy me a Toyota car but, instead of a breeze on the face, in a seat of a sports-car, I decided to claim a stagnant volume of air as my own. I left behind my movable furniture, along with my family’s history ingrained in them. Everything had to fit inside two suitcases; this is the maximum volume of stuff my capsule can handle. Unencumbered by the weight of old lifestyles, I engage in a new one. SLEEP The ascetic kernel of my new home gives me the perfect excuse to live my city as lavishly as I always wanted -with clear conscience. I can now flow freely in the generic space of consumption of the urban outside, having already reserved a point of return. As long as the city sustains my eccentricities, my desires, my food habits and my plastic impulses, my house constitutes a purgatory for my sleep. Sleep has become a secular version of confession, an act of neurological purification of memory in a mass consumption culture. Oblong, because it is designed for the horizontal of the lying body, the capsule is endowed with a white plastic rigidity. During the unconscious faze of sleep, the bed is the only tool we keep wrapped around or attached to our dormant bodies. It can always be seen as a cave, a suit or a cryogenic shelter for the sleeping body. It is the only stasis a nomad can afford. Inside the capsule I become whole again, another complete cyborg; it’s the same kind of disciplined comfort that I find in my suit and tie. Outside, I’m another nude animal.
I recently published the post-professional thesis project of my good friend Martin Byrne, Feral Garage. This beautiful Ballardian architectural project is actually associated with a short story written by Martin as a parallel medium to describe the narrative of a building which, by a dysfunction of its technological system develops a feral condition that the narrator of this story experiences.
As I wrote in this previous post, the project that applies the conclusions of his research starts from the observation of IBM recent advertising for “a smarter planet”, full of sensors and interactivity. One understands easily how IBM can be economically interested to propose such a vision of the world and also how the various institutions can see in this program a new way to control a bit more society. Martin’s building is thus a garage and a server tower in Mid-Town Manhattan (in front of the Apple store from all places !), that dialogues with each other. Both have been designed for IBM and the server tower remains a pristine universe but the over-magnetic charge of the sensors in the garage building made the latter go back to a feral state, in which unexpected forms of life starts to develop. Humans are then invited to negotiate with their own fear to enter this building that developed its own form of uncontrol.
(He does not have a publisher so if somebody want to talk to him about that, I’d be happy to transmit the message !)
UNTITLED NARRATIVE # 002
by Martin Byrne
April is the cruelest month.
Sitting rigidly at the far end of the thick clear plastic conference table – enameled and embossed with desaturated flickering figures, charts, and graphs – nervous little Eli Warring was sweating under the weight of the expectations recently laid upon him. Only six weeks a freshman at the firm, he had yet to witness such a large and encompassing responsibility delegated to someone as unsullied as himself, regardless of the sufficiency of the intellect within. Wiping the moisture from his palms onto his Bergdorf-patterned knees, he tried not to look at the flexing, intelligent walls streaming with data like rivulets of pixilated water – wary that they may register some sense of the fear he was attempting so desperately to hide. Continue reading
Never Let Me Go is a 2010 film directed by Mark Romanek and adapted from the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.
It appears to me that there are two types of good science fiction movies. Those which visually invents a world either speculative or metaphorical which strike us for its inventivity; and the others that do not allow any kind of special effects, and introduce a plot within our world which thus moves us for the proximity of this depicted society. Never Let Me Go is part of this last category, probably the hardest and mastered, in my opinion, by Fahrenheit 451, the Francois Truffaut’s adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s novel of the same name.
The film starts in the 1970′s in a country school boarding school separated from the world. Classes and the general atmosphere is similar to what we know of boarding schools at this time, except that we very quickly understand that all those children do not have parents and are destined to become organ donors until they complete (die) after a certain amount of donations. The story thus follows three of those children in their youth, experiencing love and friendship just like any other human being.
The others are actually very rarely present in this movie, and one could see in this fact, the lost of humanity in those who created, in order to serve them, un-humans who end up being the only representatives of humanity. This film illustrates the institutionalization of the production of exclusion in which Michel Foucault was eminently interested and that he investigated in several of his books like The Birth of the Clinic in 1963 and The History of Sexuality in 1976. In this case, the exclusion is even more vicious as it is re-included within the system in an absolute scheme of exploitation from one category to another. It is interesting to see that this same exploitation is integrated and accepted thanks to a shift of terminology. Those donors do not die, they complete and they are said to donate their organs as if they actually chose it. Of course, the fact that this society does not necessarily implies a new architecture seems to be less interesting for architects; however this shift of terminology interests us as citizen as this occur on a daily basis in our current society; also one should be careful about the way architecture is dealt with in this film. It is very subtle but the heterotopic Victorian Boarding School to the austere (yet really intriguing I have to say) post-modern concrete hospital via the typical English coastal houses reproduced several time along the street, without being inherently linked to this specific system, carry very appropriately the dehumanized space of this society .
I just heard an interesting interpretation of the meaning of existence for the Monolith that Stanley Kubrick introduced as the main actor of his Space Odyssey. Carole Desbarats who teaches at the FEMIS (main school of cinema in Paris), claims that the monolith comes from the divine order in the Torah, which forbids one to represent any living creature. This famous Black Monolith would therefore stands as a pure iconoclast a-representation challenging the cinematographic medium and introducing an hyper-powerful transcendental entity in his narrative.
This interpretation is included in something broader in Carole Desbarats’ thoughts which is the theory according to which Stanley Kubrick would have a profound defiance towards the word, the verb or the concept. She thus quotes the example of the famous “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” sentence that Jack Nickolson’s character write on hundred of pages in The Shining, or, in the same film, the word REDRUM that his son keeps saying or else, the fact that the character of the poet in Lolita writes his text only when he is on his toilets.
This conversation was on the radio so it did not take enough time to develop this theory, but that’s probably worth exploring…
I just re-watched La Jetée by French director Chris Marker and I am still fascinated by the uniqueness of this 29 minutes movie. Marker, along with Peter Watkins (see previous articles 1 & 2), can be said to have invented a new type of Cinema that uses a documentary style in order to create fiction, the film crew being present in those movies as a fictive character.
When he created La Jetée in 1962, he already directed seven movies of this kind, proposing a socialist reading to situations in France, Finland, China, Russia and Cuba (Brazil, US, Vietnam, Chili, Germany, Romania and most of all Japan will follow in the coming thirty years) . However, La Jetée, registers in a slightly different type, just as much unique, which tends more towards “proper” fiction but using only photographic stills to compose his movie. Marker calls this genre “Roman Photo” (Photographic Novel) but really, he is only emphasizing the mean cinema has been always using, the succession of stills which, when articulated all together by the spectator’s mind, creates a comprehensible narrative. When the “normal” cinema uses twenty four of those stills per second, Marker varies rhythms of his photographs that either compose a coherent sequence or on the contrary, follow one space (and one time) to another.
As far as the story is concerned, I don’t want to say too much as some of my readers would have not seen yet amongst who, some would have watched the very good 12 Monkeys by Terry Gilliam that was directly and expressively inspired by La Jetée. If I reveal what the ten first of the movie unfold, this story introduces a man who is sent from a post-apocalyptic Paris’ underground future back to the past thanks to the intense mental image memory he keeps from his childhood of a man dying in front of him on the jetty of Orly’s airport.
This notion of mental image is very important as the stills from the movie can be all interpreted as such. In a more personal way for the spectator, it is extremely interesting to observe how one remembers this film; not by scene like in any other movies, but rather by fragments, and images since their persistence impacts our memory with great insistence.
Living Pod by David Greene (Archigram) in 1966
It has been a long time that I wanted to write a post about the short story The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista in the book Vermilion Sands written by James Graham Ballard between 1956 and 1970 (and published in 1971).
In fact, this story introduces a very peculiar type of houses that Ballard entitled Psychotropic (ethymologically: that is stimulated by the mind). Those houses physically reacts to their inhabitant’s mood and stress and thus adapt their spatiality to them.
…it consisted of six huge aluminum-shelled spheres suspended like the elements of a mobile from an enormous concrete davit. The largest sphere contained the lounge, the others successively smaller and spiraling upward into the air, the bedrooms and kitchen…
Stamers, the agent, left us sitting in the car… and switched the place on (all the houses in Vermillion Sands, it goes without saying, were psychotropic). There was a dim whirring, and the spheres tipped and began to rotate, brushing against the undergrowth.
The 3rd Letter is a 15 minutes movie created by Polish director Grzegorz Jonkajtys in 2010. The plot is pretty classic in the science-fiction field but still very efficient in the representation of a capitalist system using biopolitical means to control its sustainability in time. Using an aesthetics sharing between Blade Runner (Ridley Scott) and eXistenZ (David Cronenberg), The 3rd Letter introduces the super power of a bureaucratic healthcare (the recent debate on the socially cruel American healthcare was maybe in Jonkajtys’ mind) which own the power of people’s life and death via a lucrative recharging of universal pacemakers’ batteries.
The video is visible after the break.
MERAUX, La. – A swarm of drones, known as the “Lost Army,” appear to have established themselves in the New Orleans area, the defence commissioner said. The autonomous force has been operating without human control for nearly a decade.
Three units were spotted by junkyard workers, about 10 miles from where the reconnaissance units were discovered in November, commissioner Baako Arceneaux said Wednesday.
Though the exact nature of the drones remains unconfirmed, goggle imagery provided by the workers matches the profile of constructor-type units.
This most recent sighting was close enough to last year’s location that the drones could have been part of the main swarm. But they might also have been blown ashore by hurricane Quinton or Stephanie, said Arceneaux in a news release.
“Although the full extent of the so-called Lost Army’s presence isn’t known, we have to assume that at least a portion is established in the area and people should be careful when travelling outside, hunting recreationally, or otherwise behaving in what could be perceived as an aggressive manner,” Arceneaux said.
Still following the adventures of Julius Corentin Acquefacques, prisoner of the dreams
(see previous article
), here is another graphic novel by the extremely talented Marc-Antoine Mathieu
. This one is entitled La Qu…
and has unfortunately not been translated in English (apparently only Dead Memory has been). This novel is once again extremely Kafkaian, but also borrows a small part of its narration to one of the best (and not so known) short story by James Graham Ballard called Billennium
, which depicts an overpopulated world in which each citizen has the right on 3.5 square meters. The first image above also illustrate the influence of Marc-Antoine Mathieu since Lars von Trier’s Dogville
has been released ten years after La Qu…
‘s publication in 1993.
An important precision here, I tried not to spoil the novel by including the best frames of it, so you can still be fascinated while reading it for the first time.
The program is attractive with three full days of literary stimulation !
Thanks Pedro for reminding me about it.
Following a reader’s suggestion, here would be my European (French and Belgian) graphic novel list developing an interesting and beautiful vision of the city. (You can obviously add Moebius who was already in yesterday list). For people not knowing Marc-Antoine Mathieu I definitely recommend to read his graphic novels which create an incredibly brilliant Kafkaian atmosphere.
Here is the list:- Marc Antoine Mathieu
: Memoire morte
- Enki Bilal
: Le Monstre: 32 Decembre
- Jean-Claude Mézières
: Mon cinquieme element
- Nesmo & Morvan
: Ronces: Racines electriques
(Les Humanoides associes 2005)
- Francois Schuiten & Benoit Peeters
: Les Cites obscures: La fievre d’Urbicande
(Casterman 1993) Continue reading
I just found this video (the one below) which tries to elaborate a “ranking” of the cities vision developed through graphic novels and comics. Obviously a lot of others could have been quoted here but the final list is already pretty good…
(starting from above)
- Moebius & Jodorowsky: L’Incal
- Various authors: Gotham City (Batman
- Eddie Campbell: London (From Hell
- Chris Ware: Chicago (Jimmy Corrigan: the smartest kid on Earth)
Pat Mills, John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra: Mega City One (Judge Dredd
)found on AMNP
and AJ Continue reading
is in my opinion the most interesting French graphic novels author. He succeeds in all of his work to re-create an absolute bureaucratic Kafkaian society with humor and intelligence. The graphic novel Dead Memory
(yes it has been translated in English !)depicts a city that is subjected to the anonymous creation of huge walls blocking off its streets and composing a totally new labyrinthine space outside and inside the buildings.
One could recall Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (or in a less trivial way, Tzahal’s siege of Nablus in 2002
), when seing the comission of wall breaker who create some new streets within people’s appartments.
I think it is appropriate here to re-insert the text I translated from Auguste Blanqui who describe a guerrilla plan for French XIXth century revolutions:
« L’attaque repoussée, il [l’officier] reprend et presse sans relâche la construction de la barricade en dépit des interruptions. Au besoin, des renforts arrivent.
Cette besogne terminée, on se met en communication avec les deux barricades latérales, en perçant les gros murs qui séparent les maisons situées sur le front de défense. La même opération s’exécute simultanément, dans les maisons des deux cotés de la rue barricadée jusqu’à son extrémité, puis en retour, a droite et a gauche, le long de la rue parallèle au front de défense, en arrière.
Les ouvertures sont pratiquées au premier et au dernier étage, afin d’avoir deux routes ; le travail se poursuit à la fois dans quatre directions.
Tous les ilots ou patés de maisons appartenant aux rues barricadées doivent être perces dans leur pourtour, de manière que les combattants puissent entrer et sortir par la rue parallèle de derrière, hors de la vue et de la portée de l’ennemi. »
« L’intérieur des ilots consiste généralement en cours et jardins. On pourrait ouvrir des communications à travers ces espaces, séparés d’ordinaire par de faibles murs. La chose sera même indispensable sur les ponts que leur importance ou leur situation spéciale exposent aux attaques les plus sérieuses.
Il sera donc utile d’organiser des compagnies d’ouvriers non-combattants, maçons, charpentiers, etc., pour exécuter les travaux conjointement avec l’infanterie.
Lorsque, sur le front de défense, une maison est plus particulièrement menacée, on démolit l’escalier du rez-de-chaussée, et l’on pratique des ouvertures dans les planchers des diverses chambres du premier étage afin de tirer sur les soldats qui envahiraient le rez-de-chaussée pour y attacher des pétards. L’eau bouillante jouerait aussi un rôle utile dans cette circonstance.
Si l’attaque embrasse une grande étendue de front, on coupe les escaliers et on perce les planchers dans toutes les maisons exposées. En règle générale, lorsque le temps et les autres travaux de défense plus urgents le permettent, il faut détruire l’escalier du rez-de-chaussée dans toutes les maisons de l’ilot sauf une, à l’endroit de la rue le moins exposé. »
Auguste Blanqui. Esquisse de la marche a suivre dans une prise d’armes a Paris. Maintenant il faut des armes. La fabrique 2006 Continue reading
I read this Fredric Jameson
‘s book six months ago, and I don’t know why I forgot to post a small article about it since I have been extremely interested by its content at that time…
First of all I love absolutely the name of this book. Archaelogies of the Future. The Desire called Utopia
. This second sentence is pretty much my own definition of Utopia that I am always comparing to the horizon, something to aim to without being ever able to reach it.
This essay explores the notion of utopia through More and Marx, but more essentially through science fiction novels. The chapter about Stanislaw Lem
‘s literature is particularly interesting in its illustration of an attempt to describe the un-imaginable.The book has also been translated in French
“Architecture is a fiction… Some of the most powerful pieces of architecture does not exist in buildings. We inhabit them through stories whether they are myths, fiction or poetry… Fictionnal architecture moves us beyond buildings in time and space, as well as in the possibilities non built building can offer. It shows use a wider range of possibilities and evokes spaces impossible (for now) to inhabit.“
Aaron Betsky, The Alpha and the Omega
Pedro Gadanho has sent me a sample of a new bookazine’s first issue that he edited. It is called Beyond. Short stories on the post-contemporary No.1 Scenarios and Speculations and thanks to its very interesting authors it explores how fictitious cities are influencing real cities and the other way around. It is also a stylish exercise which tries to design architecture by writing.
Authors are Bruce Sterling, Lara Schrijver, Kobas Laksa, Shumon Basar, Wes Jones, Superstudio, Aaron Betsky, Pedro Gadanho
Shortstories are written by Gilles Delalex (Studio Muoto), Michelle Provoost (Crimson), Knut Birkholz, Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss, Boris Jensen, Silvia Banchini and Luis Falcon, Antonio Scarpati
Je viens de relire la nouvelle Les mille rêves de Stellavista dans le recueil Vermillon Sands écrit par l’écrivain génial James Graham Ballard (–> lire la trilogie du béton: Crash/L’île de béton/IGH). Cette nouvelle met en scène une maison remplie de nano capteurs qui réagit en fonction de l’humeur de ses habitants et conserve même en mémoire le caractère de ses précédents propriétaires. Cela ne fait pas partie des références de I’ve heard about de R&Sie (François Roche), mais l’idée est similaire nottamment dans la faille qu’un tel protocole peut développer. L’architecture devient un organisme vivant qui possède la caractéristique d’être lunatique voire schizophrènique…
Dans cette nouvelle, l’écrivain Serge Brussolo met en scène un protocole de durcissement des gaz rares par une fréquence de son. A l’aide d’une solution modifiant la fréquence de la voix, les personnages peuvent alors créer un volume de porcelaine instantanée et évanescente. La combinaison de sons et nottamments d’injures (si si !), permet de former une véritable architecture qui, en mourant quelques instants plus tard libère le son qui l’avait créée.
On peut ainsi imaginer une architecture qui nécessiterait, pour exister, une déclamation ou une musique qui différerait selon, l’intonation, le volume ou le rythme…
has been filmed in the very early 80′s and was therefore registered in the tradition of giant models and settings in order to achieve a science-fiction scenery.
I particularly invite you to watch this short documentary
about the construction of the first scene of the movie offering a view on a dark Los Angeles which main light comes from the various oil rigs’ fires. One get to learn in this documentary that those fire spills were originally shot for Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point (see previous post
The following images are excerpted from a book entitled Film Architecture edited by Dietrich Neumann about which I should soon write another article…
Borrowing Ethel Baraona’s quote of today: “There is nothing built on stone. Everything is built on sand, but it is our duty to edify as if the sand should be stone” -Jorge Luis Borges
Being currently in the Middle East, it will be hard for me to get my mind out of it. Here are two pictorial invasions of the desert in European cities, Barcelona and Paris. The first was a campaign of information during Barcelona’s drought in 2008 and the second one is the not so new Cedric Klapish
‘s Peut être
(1999) that dramatized a near futuristic Paris which has been filled by the sand. Life being on the roof, a whole subterranean way of living is happening inside the former buildings; unfortunately it seems that it was not Klapisch’s main interest…
The Element of Crime
is a 1984 movie by Lars Von Trier
that dramatizes a post-apocalyptic (sepia) world where people lives in the ruins of the ancient one. The scenario focuses on a tense detective trying to find back the tracks of a serial killer. The result is an ambiguous mix of film noir and science fiction with a slight dose of influence by William Burroughs.