I recently “ran into” (via Manifest Decay) the very short film Magnetic Void (see below) by James Miller which shows a reconstruction of the British United Shoe Machinery Company building in Leicester by running its actual destruction backwards. The result is very aesthetic and we could stop the description here and let the images talk for themselves (like they often do!).
However, watching this short film forcing myself to forget that this is just the result of a “trick” which consisted in going backwards rather than forwards, and rather accepting (somehow naively) what I was looking at for what it was. It got me to think of this film as a representation of an architecture that is constructed in a counter-hylomorphism. Hylomorphism (in ancient Greek, Matter + Form) is an Aristotle’s concept that was re-defined centuries later by Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari (see the quote below) in a materialist and political reading. To keep it simple, hylomorphism is the process for which a body/object has a form that is constraint by the means of its production. The example of the brick is helpful, especially here as the concerned building is built in bricks: a brick is a body of matter whose shape has been transcendentally determined by its mold.
A whole building is almost always submitted to this same process of hylomorphism, its form reveals the constraints it was submitted to during its production, both physically during its actual construction and conceptually during its phase of design.
This film, Magnetic Void, by its chronological inversion of the object and the system of production that determined its form, therefore manages to trigger the imagination of the viewer of a counter-hylomorphic process of architectural creation. Of course, I am writing about the process only here, as the final output here (the building itself) remains the same both backwards and forwards.
Here is the film itself, followed by the definition of hylomorphism in the Deleuze Glossary written by Mark Bonta and John Protevi:
Hylomorphism: the doctrine that the order displayed by material systems is due to the form projected in advance of production by an external productive agent, a form which organizes what would supposedly otherwise be chaotic or passive matter. Deleuze and Guattari follow Sinondon in constructing an artisanal theory of production as part of the critique of hylomorphism (as well as constructing a full-blown machinic theory of production). The homogenization of matter by tools in a work setting enables the appearance of a hylomorphic production, but Simondon shows that, even in the paradigm case of baking clay for bricks, the pressure and heat applied by the brick maker coax forth implicit forms or self-organizing potentials so that collodial microstructures of the clay interlock and are carried forth from molecular to molar scale (Simondon 1995: 39-40). Deleuze and Guattari also follow Simondon’s lead in analyzing the political significance of hylomorphism. For Simondon, hylomorphism is ‘a socialized representation of work’, the viepoint of a master commanding slave labor (1995: 49). For Deleuze and Guattari, hylomorphism has an important political dimension, as a hylomorphic representation of a body politic resonates with fascist desire, in which the leader comes from on high to rescue his people from chaos by his imposition of order.
Bonta Mark & Protevi John, Deleuze and Geophilosophy: A Guide and Glossary. Edinburg University Press, 2006