Power of the Lines – Lines of Power ///
text originally written in French for the 2012 issue of the journal of ETH Zurich, Trans entitled Stance (thank you to Stéphanie Savio). My apologies for the egocentrism of this article.
The graphic novel Lost in the Line (2010) materializes an allegory of my architectural manifesto. The line constitutes the medium used by the architect as a tool and a representation code. Geometrically it does not have any thickness; it is therefore difficult to imagine that one could loss oneself in it! However, when the line is drawn by the architect, it is susceptible to acquire a thickness with heavy consequences when transcribed into reality. A line that becomes a wall does not simply acquire a height, it also includes in its oxymoronic thickness a violence against the territory that it split and against the bodies that it controls irresistibly. Architecture is therefore inherently violent and each attempt to defuse its power on the bodies is useless. Maybe should we, on the contrary, accept this violence and use it in favor of our manifestos.
Lost in the Line is therefore a narrative allegory of such a position. In it, the line is both this geometrical figure traced on a piece of paper and that separates the desert into two parts, but also a fractal component and quasi-molecular that is contained in the dark matter of the graphite dropped on the paper by the pencil. The bodies, in this story, are subjugated to the violence of the lines that split the space all around them; however, they attempt to appropriate the interstices provoked by these lines in order for them to move in all directions, build new forms of dwelling, and ultimately cross the original line that yet constituted an impenetrable border at the macroscopic level.
This story also questions the control that the architect exercises on his (her) drawing, and therefore on the bodies that are subjugated to it in its materialized version that we call architecture. The problem of the labyrinth is interesting here. The labyrinth, in its classical bidimensional form constitutes the absolute paradigm of transcendental architecture that exercise its control on its subjects who gets lost in it until exhaustion under the mocking gaze of the demiurge architect that observes the whole thing “from above.” However, Franz Kafka’s literature invented a new form for the labyrinth; one in which even its author does not escape from the complexity of its work. Let us recall here that beyond the bureaucratic labyrinths describes in The Trial and The Castle, Kafka did not seem to have determine neither the order of the former’s chapters, nor the latter’s end. Lost in the Line therefore dramatizes a level of complexity on which the author of the line has no control. The confusion between the graphic novel’s author and the line’s author is useful here as it reinforce the ‘lines’ of subjectivity that enjoy such a loss of control. The latter, when it is planned thoroughly, allows the bodies to appropriate and to ‘conquer’ this built matter.
The figure of the funambulist (tight rope walker) who walks on the lines as a refusal to be subjected to their splitting effect also has a role to play in this allegorical manifesto. Of course, this character is not liberated from the lines as (s)he is walking on them; nevertheless, (s)he subverts the power of their original intention. On November 9th 1989, Berliners did not express the obsolescence of their wall by crossing it in both directions, but rather, by climbing on it, and sit on its edge. They occupied this 6-inch wide world that was surrounding the Western part of the city. The Berlin wall had been defined as the paradigm of political architecture for its simultaneous simplicity and violence; yet, we would be wrong to think that there are political architectures and others, which would be innocent.
Our lines cannot be innocent. They carry in each of them the power to subjugate the bodies. The most we can do is to make this subjugation escape from a transcendental control in order for them to present a potential for appropriation and emancipation that are the bases of any political conscious action.