Today, I release the second part of the conversation I have been recently having with Madeline Gins about the Reversible Destiny Foundation co founded with Arakawa. While the first part was more an epistolary assignment, this second part is a face to face conversation at the end of a day spent a the Bioscleave House (Lifespan Extending Villa) built three years ago in the Hamptons (Long Island). I, indeed, was lucky enough to experience the constant reconfiguration of the body in order to compose an harmonious relation with architecture. We can write dozens of pages about that, but nothing really expresses it as the feeling of experiencing it with your own body. What we usually wrongly dissociate as mind and body are here fully reconciled in both an awareness of each part of our body as much as the parts of architecture itself. This experience is truly what Arakawa and Madeline Gins conceptualized as the Architectural Body.
Once again I would like to thanks Madeline herself, Esther Cheung, Hiroko Nakatani and Maurizio Bianchi Mattioli.
Reversible Destiny: Architectures of Joy: A Conversation Between Two Puzzle Creatures [Part B] (read Part A)
3. Léopold Lambert: Let’s consider the place we are in: Bioscleave House–Lifespan Extending Villa. I don’t think that we should hold back from using the word playground when speaking of it. We should just attribute a particular meaning to this word, the same meaning I was getting at in my previous question (see the second question of part A).
Madeline Gins: The term life-invention playground comes to mind.
4. Léopold Lambert: Where playing is living, not a side activity but rather a way of living in itself. Where living equals playing.
Madeline Gins: Yes. We are playing very bravely here today within Bioscleave House– consistently being brave for hours at a time by continually not denying the convoluted and ominous mystery we live as. This house has been organized in such a way as to keep that vivid for us.
5. Léopold Lambert: You are saying, I gather, that this architecture actively triggers certain types of thought and behavior. Then I guess it is not by chance that we both thought it would be important to finish this interview in this place.
Madeline Gins: Yes. This house has incorporated into it a set of architectural procedures that prompt us to hold ourselves suitably open for what can come to occur as us. For what comes tumultuously, ‘semi-tumultuously’ and pointedly to occur as each of us. That which moves and thinks puzzle creatures, populating the many I’s each of us brings forth, playing out in respect to particular social and physical circumstances, suggests itself (itselves!) to be through and through playful, does it not?
6. Léopold Lambert: You are speaking to someone who has been lucky enough to experience this house, but how would you begin to describe Bioscleave House to someone who has never stepped inside it?
Madeline Gins: As if speaking of playing in a playground could ever be compared with actually playing in one. People should enter Bioscleave House and wholeheartedly give it a try. We have in it, I have recently begun to claim, a new scientific device, one for determining what forms forth as us. A structure of this nature ought to be available to everyone. All puzzle creatures should live within Procedural Architecture, within puzzle-solving works of architecture. Designed for out-in-the-open perusing of the automaticities that run and drive a puzzle creature, works of Procedural Architecture engage this self-enigma in an active discourse about modes of operation. Just like that, upon beginning to move about within such a work, the self-enigma, the thoroughly puzzled one, becomes able to observe and explore, and even to re-route and augment, those automatic processes and procedures that move her as a marionette and “ventriloquise” what she speaks.
I have gradually been introducing you in the course of this interview to the concept of Procedural Architecture, but now that you are within an example it, and as you begin feeling what distinguishes it from architecture as usual…. Help me convey to others how Procedural Architecture works by describing your before and after– how your experiencing of Bioscleave House brings this concept, if you permit me to pun away, home to you. We need to pool our evidence in this regard. Prior to Procedural Architectural methodology, no method existed for collecting in place (all in one place) for review the many initiatives or trajectories through which a person constitutes (read: co-constitutes) her world, and unhurried reflection on the how and what (composed of what?) of person-environment interactions was close to impossible. It has at last become possible to study what a person forms forth as in relation to her surroundings. For centuries, trajectories (of who knows what) and interactions — dispersals of human wherewithal– just happened and happened and happened, and that was life. Life simply went on happening to happen. But now going forward, now that it has become possible to make a cast of (to collect in place) what happens forth as us, we can even begin to compare one moment in the stream of events with another, and that should make it possible for Procedural Architectural methodology to used to determine which surroundings, in our (Arakawa + Gins) lexicon, architectural surrounds, will be most conducive to the greatest longevity.
7. Léopold Lambert: I was going to add that this house is a hymn to gravity. Everything here expresses a poetry of gravity in my opinion.
Madeline Gins: A hymn to the scales of action that serve up gravitational pull? Yes, if you like. A pulling up off of that pulling down. A pulling out and in and out and in. Arakawa found it amusing to say that we make our own gravity. I see this house more as being a hymn to our species’ reconfigurability. For me, all incredible art, poetry, architecture from this moment going forward will lead an organism to reconfigure herself for the sake of viability (her own and that of others). The insanity of separatism, of individual art initiatives all going their separate ways, will end in favor of all makers striving together to figure out how to go about keeping human beings terrifically viable.
Have a look at the list of architectural procedures essential to a work of procedural architecture. We (Arakawa + Gins) derived this initial set of architectural procedures from the sixteen subdivisions of our art-science research project, The Mechanism of Meaning. The other day, distinguished artist-scientist and procedural architect-in-training, L. Brandon Krall, encouraging me to bring this list out into the world as a poster, put it this way:. “Everyone should have the opportunity to know about Procedural Architecture. The Architectural Procedures Poster—what would you name this poster, I wonder – could be dropped from airplanes into every city on the planet.”
[We look at a board on which all the architectural procedures that have driven the design of this house are written. See: www.reversibledestiny.org]
8. Léopold Lambert: What I like about the way you use the word reconfigurability is the fact that you don’t use it the same way a doctor would. We are not really talking about a state of disease that needs to be reconfigured into a normal state of health. In my understanding of the term, we are talking about a continual state of reconfiguring that never quite reaches a state of inertia–the body does not come to a state of rest.
Madeline Gins: Hold on a minute, the state of ignorance human beings subsist in has got to be reconfigured as soon as possible. I count stubborn ignorance, much of it stemming from what might be called the Being-Too-Damned-Sure-of-Oneself Syndrome, to be the leading cause of death. All the pretending to know that goes on contributes to this major illness. That said, the requisite reconfiguring certainly ought to go on continually. I guess I am saying that, from my standpoint, and many critical thinkers agree with me about this, physicians suffer from the same deadly disease as their patients.
9. Léopold Lambert: Most architecture actually encourages this ignorance by serving up too much comfort. It leaves the body in a state of lethargy rather than making it work.
Madeline Gins: Eminent evolutionary biologist, Stanley Shostak, recognizes Procedural Architecture to be our species’ first seriousattempt at devising the most suitable of all niches for itself. Thus far architects have ignored, or given scant thought to, the fact that each species has its niche and unfortunately have not sought to design that niche that could greatly prolong human life, the best of all niches that would maximally provide members of our species with a heroic means for survival. To repeat: Think of a work of Procedural Architecture (aka Reversible Destiny Architecture) as a new scientific device (a new art-scientific device?!) that you can use for reconfiguring yourself so that can come to grasp what goes on as you and learn how to stay alive ongoingly.
Artist-architect-philosopher-poet Madeline Gins, president and co-founder of Reversible Destiny Foundation, is the co-author of Architectural Body, Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2002 and Making Dying Illegal New York: Roof Books, 2006. Her seminal work in collaboration with Arakawa, The Mechanism of Meaning, was exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum in 1997 and published in the accompanying monograph titled Reversible Destiny: We Have Decided Not to Die, New York: Abrams, Inc., 1997. Reversible Destiny Foundation’s built architectural projects include Ubiquitous Site • Nagi’s Ryoanji • Architectural Body, Museum of Contemporary Art, Nagi, Japan, 1992-1994, the park Elliptical Field, Site of Reversible Destiny —Yoro, Japan, 1993-95, Reversible Destiny Lofts –Mitaka (In Memory of Helen Keller), Tokyo, Japan, 2006 and Bioscleave House– Lifespan Extending Villa, East Hampton, New York, 2008. The Reversible Destiny Healing Fun House in Palm Springs, CA, was featured in the RIBA Journal UK’s July/August 2011 Issue, Designing for Older People. Harvard Business Review named Reversible Destiny as one of the 20 Breakthrough Business Ideas of 2009.
Three conferences have been held on the work of Arakawa and Gins:
Arakawa and Gins: Architecture and Philosophy, University of Paris X-Nanterre, 2005; Reversible Destiny – Declaration of the Right Not to Die: Second International Arakawa + Gins Architecture + Philosophy Conference/Congress, University of Pennsylvania, Slought Foundation, 2008; AG3: The Third International Arakawa and Gins: Architecture and Philosophy Conference, Griffith University, Australia, 2010.
The work of Reversible Destiny Foundation can be found at: www.reversibledestiny.org
Procedural Architects-in-training at Reversible Destiny Foundation: