Image extracted from Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)
The Abu Ghraib photographs are at the end of this article.
Warning: they are highly disturbing and potentially traumatizing.
While driving on the roads of the North American West Coast to continue my Archipelago journey, I had the opportunity to re-listen to the five hours of podcast that Les Nouveaux Chemins de la Connaissance (French radio program) had dedicated to the Marquis de Sade in 2011. Despite the high quality of this program and the great interest I had to follow it, I have to confess that the reading that was being made through it of Sade’s literature appears to me as missing a tremendously important approach to his work for which I would like to argue here. In order to do so, I would like to provocatively expurgate our reading of Sade from sexuality. Of course, by that I do not mean that we should withdraw the descriptions of sexual acts that populate his writings; there would not be much left. What I mean is that, for the sake of this text, we should not follow the example of many commentators who described the taste that Sade had for the scandal and transgression against authority and in particular a religious one — taste for which he spent 25 years of his life in prison — in other words, not to look at sexuality within its rules and norms, but rather, to consider sexuality as a set of relationships between the bodies.
Because of the extreme radicality of the sexual acts that Sade describes in his attempt to shock his readers, we tend to consider at the same level every sexual relations. They are however not the same in Philosophy in the Bedroom (1795) where they constitute an apprenticeship accepted by the student Eugénie or in Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue (1787) where the main character is consistently abused, exploited and raped all along the plot. Desexualizing Sade therefore consists in keeping our epidermic reactions to the examples where a body exercises an absolute power over another like it is often the case in Sade’s narratives. The paramount of such exercise is described inexhaustibly in The 120 Days of Sodom (1785) that was adapted by Pier Paolo Pasolini in Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975).
Image: Alan Prohm
The 53rd Funambulist Paper associates the editorial line of the forthcoming second volume centered around the body with an additional contribution to the series of texts about the work of Arakawa and Madeline Gins. The following essay, written by Alan Prohm, friend of the Reversible Destiny Foundation (now lead by Joke Post and Momoyo Homma) and instigator of the The BodyBuilding Project (3-Week residency at the Watermill Center, following 1-year course in procedural architecture and embodiment taught at the University of Art and Design Helsinki, now Aalto University). In this literary/analytic text, Alan examines Arakawa and Gins’ concepts of “landing sites” and the “architectural body”.
301 Rhode Island street in San Francisco /// Photograph by Léopold Lambert (April 2014):
The following article is a sequel and a synthesis of two past articles. While the first one, written in February 2013 was comparing the architectural design of the Western embassies to medieval castles (less in their aesthetics than in their spatial organization), the second published a few weeks ago was examining the colonial characteristics of gentrification especially in New York. I am continuing my American/Canadian West Coast trip for Archipelago and now finds myself in San Francisco where gentrification is particularly fast and violent. I recorded an Archipelago podcast with Alysabeth Alexander about this topic and in particular the role played by the privatization of transportation by the tech industry in the city of San Francisco where more and more of its employees are encouraged to live while working in Palo Alto. This podcast will be released on Monday, but before doing so, I wanted to present a particularly blatant example of the way architecture does not simply creates real estate value on a given land, but also organizes space in a defensive and antagonistic manner. One of gentrification’s characteristics consists in the fantasy of danger that gentrifying bodies have for their gentrified counterparts — hence the need for them to accelerate the process — and therefore requires from architecture to provide a semiotics of security.
Every time we refer to recently deceased lawyer Jacques Vergès, it seems like some discursive precautions need to be taken. This is likely to be because commentators stop at the name of his clients (Klaus Barbie, Slobodan Milošević, Carlos, etc.) without listening to Vergès’s plea that significantly complexities these defenses. What he calls himself “rupture defense” or “rupture strategy” is not really a defense; quite on the contrary, it is an offensive against the very principles that set the prosecution. The trial of Djamila Bouhired in 1957 is particularly illustrative of this strategy.
Bouhired was a member of the Algerian FLN (National Liberation Front); during her trial, she was convicted to have put a bomb in a cafe in Algiers that triggered the death of 11 French colons. She was not the first one to be judged for similar crimes referred by the colonizers as “terrorism.” Most of the lawyers who were pleading for accused Algerians were French leftists who were trying to attenuate the circumstances of their client’s crime to the colonial court; a sort of negotiation that proved not to be efficient. Vergès, when he undertook Bouhired’s defense however, used this “rupture strategy”: Such a strategy consists in accepting rigorously the description of facts that the colonial prosecution deploys, embracing the absence of attenuating circumstances to the crime, and furthermore, to affirm that the accused does not regret her or his crime and would be eager to commit more if given the opportunity.
On January 29, 2014, friends Mariabruna Fabrizi and Fosco Lucarelli posted an interesting article on Socks (check out their new interface!) based on photographs taken by Mike Ma of a map illustrating the chronology of the bloody week (May 21-28 1871) that eradicated the socialist Paris Commune. Seeing this map made me want to, not only retrace it in a “cleaner” version but add to it other valuable information so to obtain a comprehensive “chrono-cartography” of the 1871 Paris Commune. You can download a high-resolution of this map (28 Mb) here under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike 4.0 International license (i.e. use it in any way you want providing that you’re not making money out of it and that you’re referring to the original map’s credits). This article is built on five chapters that distinguishes each component of the map.
Chapter 1 /// Before the Commune: Avenues and Boulevards
A picture of a family infront of their Levittown house (Cape Cod design), Tony Linck for LIFE Magazine, 1947 /// Found by Olivia Ahn
In the frame of a recent conversation recorded for Archipelago with designer Olivia Ahn about the research she has been conducted these last two years, I had the opportunity to re-articulate a few references that could compose a counter-history of American suburbia, as well as to learn additional ones thanks to her work. The latter focuses on the post-war invention of the suburban house as an architectural typology that simultaneously invents (or reinvents) an heteronormative gender performativity.
As I had the opportunity to write in Weaponized Architecture (dpr-barcelona, 2012), the rationale behind the creation of American suburbia is multiple and more strategical than usually admitted. Beyond the official historical version that insists on the ability for each member of the American middle class to become the owner of its own house, lies a political agenda that unfolds itself through the weaponization of the totality of scales of design. I will expose these interpretations through a form of zooming within these scales that start by the entire American territory and end with one of the smallest designed object, the drug, in order to propose a holistic examination of the strategies that lies behind suburbia.
Dress by Yiqing Yin (photograph by Laurence Laborie)
Topological Life: The Politics of Exchange between Membrane/Bodies
Topology is a term I heard many times when I was studying architecture, too often without questioning its implications for the world around us, and more immediately for our own bodies. The work of French philosopher Gilbert Simondon (1924-1989), which seems now to be returning to the spotlight of academia, can help to interpret this notion through a social-political lens.
The first occurrence of Simondon’s use of the term topology in my reading was found in the 1964 book The Individual and its Physical-Biological Genesis (L’individu et sa genèse physico-biologique) in a context that needs to be explained first. In the first part of his book, Simondon attempts to show the limits of the Aristotelian scheme of hylomorphy as a way of describing the world. Hylomorphy thinks of all objects as a combination of matter and form, which is problematic to Simondon both at the physical-chemical level and at the social level. He describes at length the molding of a brick as a paradigmatic example of how the matter already contains the notion of form within itself – what he calls the “colloidal characteristics of the matter” – and how the form needs to materialize first in the object of the mold in order to realize itself. The principle of energy is also forgotten in the hylomorphic scheme. Simondon takes this omission as his starting point and goes on to argue for a new paradigm through which to think of objects and bodies: the allagmatic (change) scheme. As I mentioned above, the hylomorphic scheme is also problematic at a social level as it creates two categories that can be read as social classes: those who think of the form (“the masters”), and those who act upon the matter (“the slaves”). There is therefore something highly societal in Simondon’s manifesto for the allagmatic scheme. The form should not be considered abstractly, but rather with a deep understanding of the matter’s intrinsic characteristics in mind.
My recent encounter with the document presented above reminded me of the article “Violence on the Body: A Manual for the French Police Escorting ‘Illegal’ Immigrants” that I wrote three years ago, and that I recently revisited for the seventh volume of the Funambulist Pamphlets about Cruel Designs (see illustrations below). The manual that constituted the object of this past article had been investigated and released by French news website Mediapart to expose the methods recommended to police officers in charge of escorting bodies expelled from the French territory by plane. Entitled “Instruction relative à l’éloignement par voie aérienne des étrangers en situation irrégulière” (Instructions for the aerial distancing of foreigners in irregular situation), using a recognizable bureaucratic jargon, this manual explains the physical and technological means that a body has to restrain absolutely the movement of another. The first graphic continues this jargon by evoking the aim of the constraint as “phonic regulation.” When one knows how the expelled bodies are often forced into a plane to be sent to the country of their citizenship, “phonic regulation” equals preventing the body from screaming that have created precedents of protests from other passengers of the plane or sometimes even the refusal for the captain to take off. Such situations are often remediated by the use of entire charter flights to expel large groups of bodies all together.
As I noted in this past article, the Manual’s graphics show us a strange choreography, a sort of embrace between the two bodies that does not immediately reveal the violence imposed from one to another. This dissimulation of violence, accentuated by the inability for the victim to scream, is designed for similar aim than the one cited above. Each escorting of an expelled body has to hide the violence of the expulsion to the bodies around. This is how violence operate in representative democracies: there a tacit understanding between the suppressive forces and the bodies in “regular situations” (the citizens) that violence needs to operate outside of the regime of visibility to allow these citizens to be consistent with their interpretation of society. Violence has therefore to be precisely designed and enacted in a skilled performativity.
Mass Arrival – Toronto, August 12, 2013 – Courtesy of Tings Chak
Today’s Funambulist Paper is written by my friend Tings Chak whose work I admire for its brilliant articulation of academic research with political activism in the struggle against the systematic oppression that migrants have to face in Western countries. As an architect, she focuses part of this struggle against the existence of detention centers in Canada for bodies whose only crime consists in having located themselves on a territory considered apparently as sacred. Her text “Racialized Geographies and the Fear of Ships” stigmatizes the importance of the influence of race in considering the bodies of the migrants. She does so through the paradigms offered by a few historical migration ships to Canada (from the 15th century to today) and the opposite manner these ships are considered (heroic or invasive) depending on the bodies they host.