Poster. Plenitude & Emptiness symposium, 4th-6th October, 2013. Photograph by Maria Mitsoula.
Borrowing the words of the Edinburgh poet Norman MacCaig’s Presents, we wonder whether design extends research to where the lines of enquiry and poesis (poetry) merge. Following on from a design symposium, Plenitude and Emptiness, held in Edinburgh in 2013, Drawing On: Presents is an opportunity both to ‘give presents’ and to ‘unwrap them carefully’.
By considering both the plenitude and emptiness of architectural production we are looking to elaborate design as a mode of enquiry. Design is plentiful in its modes and procedures, its practices and techniques; through an abundance of means of making, drawing, writing, imagining, imaging, positioning, and critiquing, design produces a plenty. At the same time, its methodologies encounter gaps or unknowns. Through design these gaps are negotiated, partially filled and even enlarged. Design produces both something and nothing.
In the midst of architectural design research we encounter both plenitude and emptiness. The symposium aims to discuss relations frequently encountered in design-led research, for example between method and content, theory and knowledge, and design and research. These relations might be framed around the following key terms: situation, narrative, politics and subjectivity, in order to consider how design-led research specifically and critically develops a situation, how design-led research engages with rhetoric and narrative, How it participates in (emergent) politics, or how design-led research and the object of architecture critically develop the discourse on subjectivity?
invitationWe invite proposals from scholars and PhD students that explore architectural design as a mode of enquiry. You are invited to discuss and re-present either completed pieces or research-in-progress using whatever medium you consider most suitable (e.g., text, still and moving image, modelling, drawing, performance, installation). You may also reflect on your participation in studio pedagogy. Abstracts for contributions should be approximately 400 words long; they may also include visual material that represents your intentions. More information on how to submit and the review process can be found on the Submissions page of the website, and all responses should be submitted via the Contact page: http://drawingon.org/contact
^ The symposium was organised by Konstantinos Avramidis, Chris French, Piotr Lesniak and Maria Mitsoula, the editors of Drawing On: Presentsand members of the PhD Architecture (by Design) community at the University of Edinburgh, under the guidance of Dr Dorian Wiszniewski, Programme Director of the PhD Architecture (by Design) programme. Further details and documentation of the event can be found at http://bydesignsymposium.blogspot.co.uk (accessed 12th July, 2015).
Launched 1st June, 2013.
René Magritte, Découverte (detail), 1927. Reproduced by permission of Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique.
I give you an emptiness,
I give you a plenitude,
Unwrap them carefully.
-one’s as fragile as the other-
and when you thank me
I’ll pretend not to notice
the doubt in your voice
when you say
they’re just what you wanted.
Put them on the table by your bed.
When you wake in the morning
they’ll have gone through the door of sleep
into your head.
Wherever you go
they’ll go with you and
wherever you are you’ll wonder,
smiling about the fullness
you can’t add to...
and the emptiness
that you can fill.
Norman MacCaig, 1974
As the central premise of the first PhD Architecture By Design Symposium at the University of Edinburgh, the Glasgow poet Norman MacCaig’s Presents conveyed that both presenter and presentation would be received with requisite hospitality, curiosity and pleasure. At the same time the content of the poem alluded to the expansive yet tightly wrapped situation developed by any design-research project. In short, as means for offering opportunity and requisite reassurance to potential presenters, the poem seemed to provide by analogy a description of the gift opened through the act of presentation that is at the heart of every research-by-design inquiry.
Design as presentation, as every designer knows, is a double act of presenting: presenting to oneself as a designer ones conceits or doubts and presenting to others what design is. Presentation is thus critical to any given inquiry. As Vilém Flusser’s description of (architectural) design suggests design is a prediction of the future, of a situation that is yet to be realised (if it is to be realised at all). Presenting design work entails making and presenting such a future, but this can only be done once a way has been found to regard it. It is through this double act of making – the making of possible futures and the making of a way (or ways) to present and to regard those futures – that research-by-design proceeds. This way, this twofold making, the Architecture-by-design way, is full of fearful obstacles and delightful destinations (as Flusser might suggest this making inherently encompasses all times: now, then and futurity) but as part of the architecture-by-design way this sublime making is the embodiment of critical design in action.
As Heidegger might say, if it is to be truly revelatory this process, this way to revelation and to a future world (to both the making of the way and the way described by that making) must necessarily be pathless. Yet, it is a way nonetheless, a way that is psychologically navigated and weathered by oscillating between temporary conceits delivered to oneself (by speaking to oneself as designer) and rebounding realisations that such affirmations always contain “doubt in your voice.” These unsettling oscillations are critical; while the way of a research-by-design enquiry might not always be compelling these oscillations ensure that it is ceaselessly propelling. Through these conceits and doubts, and despite the many “fragilities” experienced and encountered in navigating the abyss of Heidegger’s pathless way, designers continuously propel themselves along in the hope, expectation actually (and hence the disappointment when it does not come off), of attaining delight, enlightenment and excellence – of getting what is wanted by oneself and what may be given to and also wanted by others.
Nat Chard, opening keynote address to Plenitude & Emptiness symposium. Lecture Room 183, Old College, Edinburgh, Friday 4th October, 2013.
Experienced designers know this from the outset; they know that this propelling journey is an unfathomable and pathless way littered with presents (of unknown quantity and unguaranteed quality). They unwrap and rewrap as they progress, binding themselves into their findings and wrapping their findings around them. This is what designers are attuned to, and it is what makes their particular form of research so enthralling: the promise of the gift is the double excitement of giving and receiving, and a designer’s methods simultaneously open the presents of their own discoveries and offer them as presents for others. In such an investigation we should, as MacCaig warns, “unwrap” what we encounter “carefully.” In so doing more than we can regard, know or intend is usually exposed. What a designer designs, therefore, is a wrapping that needs opening; they open presents and present openings as presents.
This kind of gifting is, therefore, somewhere on the pathless way between closing and opening. It cannot make precise demands: it can neither overcome doubts over whether what is received is worth giving nor ensure that anything that is wanted in return is received. It is both full and empty, evidence perhaps of the recurrent “double handedness” of a gift. As Lewis Hyde noted, “a gift is a thing that we do not get by our own efforts,” and even though “we cannot acquire it through an act of will” the shared conceit of all research-by-design enquires is that through care, curiosity and “regard” for a situation the designer can create opportunities for gifts to become present and be presents. This is their gift and in their gift. This is what research-by-design reveals by drawing out its trajectories. The promise in this double action of gifting, between the artist making the work and the work making the artist, is not only that “the spirit of an artist’s gifts can wake our own,” but also that the spirit of a potential receiver of gifts wakes the artistry of presents.
But not all design is delightful, enlightening and excellent. We as designers, as much as what we navigate, have fragility, a fragility that comes with being situated within an abyss, out of our depth (somewhere between imagination and reality), in a perpetually precarious oscillation between the plenitude and emptiness of both the situation and the objects of our findings. Research-by-designers become attuned to research methods that navigate and explore this abyss, and “the abyssal possibility of another depth destined for archaeological destination” beyond. This is what research-by-designers reveal by drawing out and presenting their respective trajectories, and it is why the presentation of the trajectory (now, then, futurity) is as significant as the presentation of the present (the now, the gift, that which is here). The research-by-design way is going somewhere, but with no final destination, even if on a planned trajectory. “That is a traveller’s delusion.”
To put it another way, in his introduction to Derrida’s book on the French poet Francis Ponge, Richard Rand outlines something of the importance Derrida gives to the notion of mis en abyme (placement in abyss). Taking a cue from ancient heraldry (the shield within the shield within the shield and so on), text, poetry, Ponge’s prose, etc. we might say that the most perfect gift, again to quote Derrida, “the MOST BRILLIANT of the world’s objects – through this fact – is not – NO - is not an object; it is a hole, the metaphysical abyss; the formal and metaphysical condition of the whole world. The condition of all other objects. The very condition of a regard.” In presenting and in making present the medium of design creates holes in space: it is a medium through which we regard the object in the first instance and is an equal aspect of what is regarded. This is, without doubt, simultaneity of plenitude and emptiness.
What frequently becomes clear then is that the real gift, the real present in any inquiry, is the journey itself: a compound of the abyss and the ineffable sublime sensations induced by it. Journeys such as these are frequently a little “weird and dream-like.” They operate between the real and imagined, following a logicality of the unfathomable and pathless way: logical because, as the term journey invoked above suggests, experience goes along with or suspends the passing of time - varied series of now, then and yet to come; illogical because experience is also fragmented and deranged (not yet fully comprehendible and arranged) – for example, coming to terms with Braque’s multifaceted candle, or the accretions of which De Chirico’s tangential puffing steam-train are frequently a part, or the strange markings of Magritte’s Tiger-Women (Découverte, 1927) – without the clear structure of any conventional epistemology or wisdom yet nonetheless replete with resonances, rumblings and even ravings.
Penelope Haralambidou, keynote address to Plenitude & Emptiness symposium. Inspace Gallery, Crichton Street, Edinburgh, Saturday 5th October, 2013.
The symposium, Plenitude and Emptiness, offered a space, perhaps a hole in Derrida’s terms, into which presenters could cast and even find their work, an opportunity for logical journeys and illogical experiences. Drawing On, the follow on to this event and the hole into which future research-by-design trajectories can be cast, delineated and presented, offers an opportunity to these and further presenters to re-present their findings. Having reflected on the gifts they have encountered in their various researches-by-design, we encourage the presenters to retain the precariousness of their poise in the abyss, but nonetheless to represent their offerings, “smiling about the fullness [we] can’t add to . . . and the emptiness that [we] can fill.”
Published 24th September, 2015.
^ This paraphrasing of Flusser is potentially overly reductive. In The Shape Of Things: A Philosophy of Design Flusser has a specific design in mind: “to expose the cunning and deceptive aspects of the word design.” (p.21) In his essay on ‘Designing Cities’, he elaborates an important serial impetus in the term: to provide the first images of a future city and as a device for also bringing into view “alternative cities.” This leads him to the thesis that we should see designs (of cities) as deceptive, contradictory but also necessarily oscillatory: “On the one hand the sketch appears to be a completely unrealizable fantastic dream of someone who hovers outside the social fabric. On the other hand, it appears to be a projection of tendencies that can already be observed in this fabric.” (p.180) See Flusser, Vilém. 1999. The Shape of Things: A Philosophy of Design. London: Reaktion and Flusser, Vilém. 2002. Writings. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
^ Zimmerman, Michael E. 1990. Heidegger’s Confrontation with Modernity: Technology, Politics and Art. Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press, p. 233. In his analysis of Heidegger’s Question Concerning Technology Zimmerman poses this phrase to describe the way craftsmen or artists take in their encounter with techne (the revelatory processes that Heidegger theorises as the poetic aspect of technological enquiry, for which we can also read technique).
^ MacCaig, Norman. 1974. ‘Presents’ in MacCaig, Norman. 1993. Collected Poems. London: Chatto & Windus, p.316.
^ MacCaig, Norman. 1974. ‘Presents’.
^ “The word gift is itself slippery and ambiguous.” Atwood, Margaret. 2012. The Gift: How the Spirit Transforms The World. Edinburgh: Canongate, p.viii. See also, for example, Chapter 6, concerning the Arapesh of New Guinea as recounted by anthropologist Margaret Mead in 1931: “At the great festival they gave away canoes, whale oil, stone axe blades, women, blankets, and food . . . Your own mother, your own sister, your own pigs, your own yams that you have piled up, you may not eat. Other people’s mothers, other people’s sisters, other people’s pigs, other people’s yams that they have piled up, you may eat.” p.95.
^ Hyde, Lewis. 2012. The Gift: How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World. Edinburgh: Canongate Books, p.xxii.
^ Gombrowicz paraphrased, see Goddard, Michael. 2010. Gombrowicz, Polish Modernism and The Subversion of Form. Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, p. 32.
^ Hyde, Lewis. 2012. The Gift, p.xxii.
^ As this particular psychoanalytical metaphor from Derrida suggests, every journey, every exploration is multidimensional. Derrida, Jacques and Prenowitz, Eric. 1995. ‘Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression’ in Diacritics, Vol.25, No.2 (Summer), p.19.
^ Hyde, Lewis. 2008. Trickster Makes The World: How Disruptive Imagination Creates Culture. Edinburgh: Canongate Books, p.5.
^ Derrida, Jacques. 1984. Signéponge / Signsponge, trans Richard Rand. New York: Columbia University Press, p.140.
^ Hyde, Lewis. 2008. Trickster Makes The World, p.5.
^ Bergson’s “duration” or Augustine’s “inner stretching out of the present” – an unavoidable pun.
^ See also Wiszniewski, D., and Martin, G. D. 2003. ‘Materiality: Poetics in Material, Form, Efficacy and Ritual’ in InForm: The Journal of Architecture, Design and Material Culture, Vol.3: Celebration, Environment and Memory. Lincoln, USA: University of Nebraska, pp. 35-41.
^ MacCaig, Norman. 1974. ‘Presents’.
Preparations for a collage salon. Participatory presentation, Tonia Carless, Plenitude & Emptiness symposium. 6th October, 2013. Photograph by Aikaterini Antonopoulou.
On behalf of the Drawing On: Presents editorial team
Konstantinos Avramidis, Chris French, Piotr Lesniak, Maria Mitsoula and Dorian Wiszniewski
Drawing On was originally conceived as a record of a symposium, Plenitude & Emptiness, held in Edinburgh between 4th and 6th of October 2013. This symposium, as Dorian Wiszniewski notes in the prologue to this first issue of Drawing On, took the Glasgow poet Norman MacCaig’s Presents as both the operative principle guiding the structure and organisation of the event and as a guiding call for participants. Extending MacCaig’s gifts of “plenitude” and “emptiness” the symposium offered each presenter a forty-minute slot, either to ‘fill’ with material (a full-length paper, presentation or event) or to ‘leave empty’ (to present a short text, film, animation, or project and luxuriate in a longer period of discussion). In addition, rather than prescribing a tight thematic frame, the call for papers invited participants to “unwrap… carefully” those relations frequently encountered in design-led research – relations between method and content, theory and knowledge, or design and research, for example – using any and all modes necessary to communicate these relations. To our great delight, the speakers took up this call, and presentations ranged from extended oral presentations to interactive collage salons, recordings, performances, architectural models, installations and exhibitions.
Nine of the twelve papers presented at the event are included here – with additional contributions from two of the keynote speakers, Hélène Frichot and Marc Boumeester, and so in some respects the journal remains true to its original intent. However, in the process of collating, reviewing, amending, editing, proofreading and, finally, formatting the various papers from this event the journal has become something very different to the one originally envisaged. What became clear in the re-presentation of these original presentations is that the effective communication of design-research demands a re-thinking of the conventional journal format, not just as a document but as a critical procedure in the on-going production of design-research material. The range of means employed in the various research projects presented at the symposium has thus come to reshape this journal conceptually, formally and methodologically. What will hopefully become apparent through exploring this first issue, Drawing On: Presents, is that the journal has become more than a simple record of events. It represents an attempt on the part of those involved (the authors, editors and reviewers) to bring together questions of presentation, re(-)presentation and research in the form of an evolving publication.
top: Hélène Frichot, Sophia Banou, Marc Boumeester, Ersi Ioannidou, Sepideh Karami. bottom: Miguel Paredes Maldonado, Julieanna Preston, Thomas Rivard, Helen Runting & Fredrik Torisson, Randall Teal
Presenting to oneself and to others
Perhaps unlike other journals, Drawing On openly sets out to be an active (design) participant in the process of making and presenting research. In presenting material from a wide range of design-research projects (either complete or incomplete) and from scholars and practitioners at different stages of their careers, it seeks to question the means by which such work is presented and read, not only by readers new to the material but also by the authors responsible for that material. As such it attempts to establish a new format for presenting design research.
Accepting that design-led research involves – indeed relies upon – multiple modes and means of presentation to allow thinking to develop, Drawing On recognises that projects emerge, as Dorian Wiszniewski notes in the Prologue, through serial presentation to both oneself and to others. Presenting to oneself invites us to consider the reciprocity (if not the direct correlation) between the means employed and the object of our inquiry. One might draw in order to interrogate something (object), in order to present or reveal to oneself findings. In presenting these findings to others one subsequently exposes not only these findings but also the act of drawing (means), the drawer (author or subject) and the drawing itself (a new, secondary object) to the same critical scrutiny as that initial ‘something’ that formed the object of the drawing. In short, all our methods are open to question; in any design research enquiry there are recurrent slips between subject, object, and means. Consequently, as design-researchers we must become accustomed to following, what Peter Cook describes in his introduction to Nat Chard and Perry Kulper’s recent contribution to the Pamphlet Architecture series, “a zigzag path toward the unknown,” a trajectory that leads away from the security of neutrality and appeals to impartiality, and instead leads towards the unforeseen and unforeseeable.
Instrument 7. High-speed flash photograph of paint flying through the drawing pieces. Photograph by Nat Chard. © Nat Chard. Reproduced by permission of the author.
Nat Chard’s work exemplifies such a path. In a series of evolving studies Chard constructs catapults to throw paint at manipulated picture planes. In these studies the flight of the paint is frozen in the flash of a camera and charted, the interaction between the paint and a ‘drawing piece’ – an elaborate ‘figure’ suspended in front of the picture plane – is observed, the splatter of the paint is recorded, and the effects of the paint on the drawing (the creation of a new drawing) are documented. It might be possible, as Chard notes, to approach each of these scenes scientifically, as forensic sites, but this is not the intention behind these devices. While the catapults might appear to be means of finding answers, these ‘instruments’ precede and deny scientific application. Instead, as Chard notes, “working with the instruments… nurture[s] the very conditions that are discussed by the drawings,” namely uncertainty, doubt and curiosity. As such these instruments facilitate the discovery of something that cannot be pre-figured; they discover and present questions rather than answers. Chard notes:
There’s a thing I want to happen and there’s this other thing that I desire more… which is beyond what I want to happen.
Between the moment that the trigger of the catapult is released and the firing of the camera shutter to produce the image there exists a gap, a space of enticing possibility where this ‘other thing’ might occur. It is here that Chard encounters a ‘paradoxical shadow’ floating in space, hovering between drawing piece and picture plane; a shadow in the literal sense but also a metaphorical shadow untethered from its material twin, a shadow that registers the presence of something unseen or unknown, a haunting shadow that invites us to speculate as to the nature of the object that produces it.
For Chard, the methods employed in the inquiry therefore become simultaneously the object of study and means for informing thinking; they form “a working and research method to try to make the tools through which [to] think.” In this way they become means for momentarily clarifying the ever-shifting ‘object’ of an enquiry.
Instrument 5. High-speed flash photograph of paint flying through the drawing pieces. Photograph by Nat Chard. © Nat Chard. Reproduced by permission of the author.
Desirous pursuit: the not-yet-known and the un-knowable
It is not by chance that Chard describes the unknowable ‘other thing’, this ever-shifting object, as an object of ‘desire’. Desire, as Penelope Haralambidou recognises, is present in all architectural drawing. It is brought about by the “suspension of pleasure… arising from the serial nature of architectural drawing (from the movements between plan, section, elevation, etc.),” from the promise of the drawing that follows and of the revelation that that drawing might bring. This combination of an inherent seriality of architectural production and desire is a key component of design-research. As Haralambidou notes:
The pleasure [embodied by architectural drawing] derives from a combination of information… leading to a slow blossoming of the designed structure in the mind.
While here Haralambidou is describing the architectural object, her research makes clear that this ‘blossoming’ extends to thought itself; the combination of architectural drawings to form a ‘designed structure’ is, in her work, comparable to processes by which we come to understand. Through her proposition for The Fall (“a composite building, a house for a female protagonist, comprising the linear architecture of her pedestrian journey, [a] pictorial garden… and the sinuous trajectory of her fall”) for example, we begin to understand Marcel Duchamp’s use of geometry, the relative significance of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (or Lady on a Balcony) to Duchamp’s perception of vision, and also something of Haralambidou’s methodological processes. Crucially this understanding cannot be directly deployed or ‘used’, rather, it is an understanding that occasions further ‘knowings’ and an understanding of how we might come to know, of how we might inquire. It is an understanding borne of, as Haralambidou notes, the processes by which we examine, assemble, project into, contrive and conceive an object of thought external to those objects that enable thought (in this case the drawings themselves). This is the ‘other thing’ that that we desire; as Chard’s work evidences and Haralambidou’s practices embody, design research expects a knowledge that cannot yet be revealed, it develops a means by which we understand as much as an object that we understand.
Illustrated Scribism, plate 16. Drawing by Penelope Haralambidou, 1997. © Penelope Haralambidou. Reproduced by permission of the author.
Therefore, while in conventional architectural practice “drawing,” as Haralambidou rightly notes, “is in advance of the thing it describes,” in design research drawing also comes in advance of understanding; it precedes knowledge and allows for the opening up of further inquiries. This is the second (and perhaps more significant) quality of architectural drawing implied by Haralambidou’s invocation of drawing as desiring practice: no one form of drawing (no one scale or projection, for instance) can contain all information necessary to describe fully the object under investigation. Furthermore, no one drawing can ever completely encapsulate something known. Instead, design research must produce multiple drawings, multiple ‘speakings’ through which we both develop and question our understanding (and through which we, temporarily, satiate our desire to know).
Undressing, detail. Mixed media drawing by Penelope Haralambidou, 1997, photograph Andy Keate, 2009. © Penelope Haralambidou. Reproduced by permission of the author.
Pose and Precarious poise
This is one of the challenges inherent in design research: the presentation of an enquiry that is, by its very nature, multiple. As Chard readily acknowledges of his own work, while his ouput might be clear for him as author it represents something very different to us as readers or viewers. This point of difference is where this journal aims to locate itself – in the gap between author and reader created by the diverse nature of an enquiry. As the slippages evoked above suggest, the relationships between object, subject, means and author are complex but, as both Chard and Haralambidou’s work makes clear, these relationship form a significant part of our thinking processes. Unfortunately these relationships (between image and text for instance) are far more intricate than many conventional outputs are able to accommodate. Consequently, what Drawing On puts forward is a format that encourages, to use Deleuze’s term, a “practical assemblage” of constituent parts as a means by which to derive knowledge. It aims to expose connections and relationships between practices, to become a means by which work that has been produced is presented again – to both the authors themselves and to others – as part of a process of serial re-presentations. The intention here, therefore, is not to reduce the gap between author and reader, but to intensify and dwell in this gap by exposing and exploring the different means employed by individual (or collective) researchers.
To do so each submission to Drawing On is multiple; each ‘paper’ includes a formatted text with all the requisite illustrations, notes, references, etc. and in addition a number of further modes, open to the author. Here, the various outputs (modes) become objects again, and by opening up these objects in all their guises (as method, as means, and as output) the journal aims to allow the work presented to be continually re-formed. In this way we hope that the journal will make an active contribution to the various research projects documented within. With this in mind, in compiling the ‘papers’ presented here we, as editors, have endeavoured to retain the “precariousness” of the “poise” demonstrated by the various contributors, while nonetheless representing their offerings as completely as we are able. As a journal documenting both outputs and methodological approaches – approaches that we feel are exemplified but certainly not exclusive to design-based research – we do not make any claims to ‘completeness’ or to conclusions. Rather we aim to set up a reading across the multiple pieces presented here (both those authored outputs that collectively form a ‘paper’, and the collected ‘papers’ that form this issue).
As will become apparent in exploring this issue, in each authored ‘paper’ the nature of the assemblage (and the relationship between the components) is different. Helen Runting and Fredrik Torisson’s musings on BIG’s 8 House in Copenhagen for example derive from a scrutiny of the distributed image of the building via social media. Taking this ‘marketing material’, and the now infamous ‘Yes Boss!’ video, as a starting point, Runting and Torisson examine the formative, re-productive power of those images. Working with and from these images, they develop a nuanced critique not only of the 8 house, but of Bjarke Ingel’s larger project of ‘happiness’.
In contrast spatial artist Julieanna Preston’s pieces prioritise the performance of (the) work. Her contribution here presents two re-framings of a site-specific work performed in the Whau River Estuary, Auckland. The original work, entitled ‘Moving Stuff’, is absent, and what Preston presents here through one video entitled ‘Stratified Matter’ and another chronicling her presentation at the Plenitude & Emptiness symposium are attempts to keep the work ‘moving’ and to communicate appropriately the means and performance of her labour, to use a phrase central to Julieanna’s endeavours.
Ersi Ioannidou’s piece similarly documents the framing and re-framing of a research project. Here Ioannidou elaborates upon an earlier research project and, at the same time, opens up a new inquiry into referencing conventions. Through the re-presentation of nine notebooks Ioannidou develops the basis of a digital ‘machine’ that both documents and encourages association-making, an interactive animation that conveys something of the original project while inviting us, the readers, to create and re-create the project and further projects.
Similarly, Sophia Banou invites us, through both her text, the animation of images and more directly through the two installations documented within, to compose our own image of the city. In so doing Banou asks questions of representation, but also more critically of how we engage with and record space. Through a description of optical devices, and in particular the kaleidoscope, Banou explores how conventional architectural representation privileges the static, thereby potentially overlooking the desirable and delightful aspects of kinetic, fleeting and transitory experiences that make up everyday urban life. For Sepideh Karami it is in these fleeting, shifting moments that we find a radical project of architecture; the stationary Standing-Man of Taksim square becomes a lens through which we understand gaps, pauses, absences as heavily politicised space-making practices. Here, through a series of interjecting voices, Karami describes how by breaking regular patterns we might challenge prevailing systems of governance and open up new types of urban space.
Three papers included in Drawing On: Presents directly explore the connection between pedagogy, theory and practice. Marc Boumeester’s text describes a framework for studio production that explores the role, nature and affective capacity of various media. The accompanying videos, products of an architectural design studio guided by Boumeester’s experiences as a filmmaker, explore this affective capacity directly. Rather than concerning themselves with the design of an object these films focus on political activation and creative intervention; they are programmatically as much as aesthetically driven. In a similar manner, Thomas Rivard’s paper describes the interplay of a personal research project looking at narrative and myth with studio pedagogy. Through a description of a design studio on Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour, and a series of drawings emerging from this studio, Rivard explores the space of those ‘imperfect reflections’ arising from any site investigation. He takes these reflections as the basis for an approach to architectural and urban design praxis that encourages individual, subjective responses to the city, and as the basis for propositions that exist in the slippages between place, what we perceive, and what we experience. Randall Teal’s paper includes a reflection on his own workings, in this case a series of paintings developed not for a specific client or exhibition but as a means of revealing or, to use Teal’s words of ‘forgetting’ what was previously considered ‘known’. Between these pieces and a reading of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Teal describes a rethinking of thinking encouraged in his studio teachings, a rethinking that challenges accepted, instrumental approaches to architectural design.
Picking up on this challenge to instrumentality, Miguel Paredes Maldonado explores questions of utility in architectural practice through a critique of the classical notion of utilitas. Through the writings of Bernard Tschumi, Giorgio Agamben and Georges Bataille, and through challenges to classical utility described as the dysfunctional, the obsolete and the dissipative, Maldonado describes a rethinking of utility (and associated notions of ‘value’) as a spectrum of ‘usefulness’. In a second, parallel voice he describes two projects, MEIAC and Doodle Earth, both of which explore the notions of a spectrum of usefulness directly.
Arrangement of the Large Glass and Given in the Duchamp Galleries at Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, from Philadelphia Sketchbook. Drawing by Penelope Haralambidou, 2000. © Penelope Haralambidou. Reproduced by permission of the author.
Drawing on: Presents
The collection of papers assembled here in Drawing On: Presents becomes, as we editors hope (and, as is always the case with new endeavours, are at once inclined and almost obligated to hope), far more significant than a simple documentation of presentations. Beyond simply recounting and illustrating the presentations of a group of researchers, scholars and practitioners at a conference, this issue provides an opportunity for those authors to frame and re-frame their own production. Furthermore, it is our intention that the journal itself plays an active part in contributing to the continuing research inquiries of the various contributors. This, as noted above, is a critical component of this journal. At times the assembly of this first issue has quite literally involved ‘drawing on’ (adding to as much as editing out) the work put forward for inclusion. In the development of a suitable methodology we as editors have involved ourselves in the re-framing process (to the chagrin no doubt of many of the authors); we have taken a particular stance on the work and re-positioned the various pieces (both within an individual submission and as a collected assemblage). In this way, we hope not only to present the inquiry effectively to a readership new to that work but also to offer something to the authors of the work, a final ‘present’ arising out of the symposium and a voice in a continuing sequence of dialogues surrounding the work. In reading, exploring and navigating this journal, and in engaging with this work as a ‘productive assemblage’ we hope that you will become as engaged, immersed and eventually, to echo Dorian Wiszniewski’s prologue, “lost” as we have. We hope, however, that this immersion will lead to new means of navigation, new paths, new inquiries and new sets of research questions that may, in turn, be presented as further steps into the (hopefully) ever-widening abyss.
Published 24th September, 2015.
^ The symposium was organised by Konstantinos Avramidis, Chris French, Piotr Lesniak and Maria Mitsoula, the editors of this first issue of Drawing On and members of the PhD Architecture by Design community at the University of Edinburgh, under the guidance of Dr Dorian Wiszniewski, Programme Director of the PhD Architecture by Design programme. Further details and documentation of the event can be found at http://bydesignsymposium.blogspot.co.uk (accessed 12th July, 2015).
^ MacCaig, Norman. 1974. ‘Presents’ in MacCaig, Norman. 1993. Collected Poems. London: Chatto & Windus, p.316.
^ MacCaig, Norman. 1974. ‘Presents’.
^ Each of these papers (with the exception of Hélène Frichot’s invited contribution) has been through a process of peer-review and subsequent revision, and we are grateful to our panel of reviewers for their input and advice.
^ Wiszniewski, Dorian. 2015. ‘Drawing on Plenitude & Emptiness’ in Drawing On, Issue 01 (Drawing On: Presents). Available at http://drawingon.org/uploads/papers/IS01_PR.pdf (accessed 16th August 2015)
^ Cook, Peter. 2014. ‘Chard and Kulper: Scary Guys’ in Chard, Nat & Kulper, Perry. 2014. Fathoming the unfathomable: archival ghosts + paradoxical shadows. Pamphlet Architecture 34. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, p.4.
^ In the text that follows I will refer to the work of Nat Chard and Penelope Haralambidou. Both Nat (Drawing Uncertainty, Friday 4th October, 2013) and Penelope (A Gift from Vision to Touch: Marcel Duchamp and the Architecture of Desire, Saturday 5th October 2013) were keynote speakers at the Plenitude & Emptiness symposium; footage of their lectures is included as part of this introduction. Their fellow keynote speakers are represented here through edited papers: Hélène Frichot provides ‘Five lessons in a ficto-critical approach to design research’ as a précis to this issue, while Marc Boumeester’s paper ‘The bodiless shadow: towards a meta-medial framework’ is revised and included here as a peer-reviewed contribution.
^ “The paint that I am using is latex paint. Latex paint is a non-Newtonian fluid like blood, and there are very sophisticated algorithms for understanding narratives from the splatter of blood… Latex paint operates in the same way, so there is a way of reverse engineering these drawings.”.Chard, Nat. 2013. ‘Drawing Uncertainty’. Plenitude and Emptiness: Symposium on Architectural Research by Design. University of Edinburgh, 4th October 2013. Available at www.drawingon.org/issue01 (accessed 26th July 2015).
^ Their only application, to stick with the term in order to refute it, is the determination of yet more, and greater, uncertainty: “While their instrumental appearance might seduce someone to take the drawings they produce seriously, they are also practical devices. Searching for the nature of that practicality has provided a way to work out drawing the uncertain.” Chard, Nat & Kulper, Perry. 2014. Fathoming the unfathomable: archival ghosts + paradoxical shadows. Pamphlet Architecture 34. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, p.46.
^ Chard, Nat & Kulper, Perry. 2014. Fathoming the unfathomable: archival ghosts + paradoxical shadows, p.56.
^ As Peter Cook notes: “It is surely the purpose of real research to contrive as well as document. Most so-called architectural researchers have carefully chosen to ignore that…” Cook, Peter. 2014. ‘Chard and Kulper: Scary Guys’ in Chard, Nat & Kulper, Perry. 2014. Fathoming the unfathomable: archival ghosts + paradoxical shadows, p.4.
^ Chard, Nat. 2013. ‘Drawing Uncertainty’. Plenitude and Emptiness: Symposium on Architectural Research by Design. University of Edinburgh, 4th October 2013. Available at www.drawingon.org/issue01 (accessed 26th July 2015).
^ Chard describes the procedure as follows: “when I am working with these [instruments], when I’m throwing the paint for instance, I have my finger on a trigger… I haven’t got to the stage where I really know when the catapult is going to go off and I’ve aimed the catapult for what I want to happen on the throw of paint but I’m firing the camera, the flash manually because the chance of capturing or not capturing the throw of paint is part of the pleasure of doing this… The paint goes and I, as quickly as possible, fire the camera and then I can go to the camera and see, for instance, a range of things: one, did I capture the paint and, two, is what I captured interesting at all? And then, what did it hit in terms of the drawing instrument and what did it draw as a consequence?” Chard, Nat. 2013. ‘Drawing Uncertainty’. Plenitude and Emptiness: Symposium on Architectural Research by Design. University of Edinburgh, 4th October 2013. Available at www.drawingon.org/issue01 (accessed 26th July 2015).
^ Chard, Nat. 2013. ‘Drawing Uncertainty’. Plenitude and Emptiness: Symposium on Architectural Research by Design. University of Edinburgh, 4th October 2013. Available at www.drawingon.org/issue01 (accessed 26th July 2015).
^ Haralambidou, Penelope. 2013. Marcel Duchamp and the Architecture of Desire: The Blossoming of Perspective. London: Ashgate, p. 12.
^ Haralambidou, Penelope. 2013. Marcel Duchamp and the Architecture of Desire, p. 12.
^ Haralambidou, Penelope. 2013. Marcel Duchamp and the Architecture of Desire, p. 36.
^ Haralambidou, Penelope. 2013. Marcel Duchamp and the Architecture of Desire, p. 12.
^ Our colleagues Mark Dorrian and Adrian Hawker use the term “heteroglossia’ to describe this production: “Instead of arriving at a statement of fact, we end up with a kind of heteroglossia that circulates around the object. Where research, as normally thought, aims to arrive at a result that is 'beyond' interpretation, the output of design as research is necessarily delivered, in important ways, prior to interpretation.” Dorrian, Mark and Hawker, Adrian. 2003. ‘The tortoise, the scorpion and the horse – partial notes on architectural/research/teaching/practice’ in The Journal of Architecture, Vol.8 No.2, p.187.
^ Chard (‘Drawing Uncertainty’. Plenitude and Emptiness: Symposium on Architectural Research by Design) invokes Todarov’s reading of Rimbaud: “the sentences that make up the text are comprehensible in themselves, but the object that they evoke is never named, and thus we may hesitate as to its identification… the interpretative process is radically changed when symbolic invocations, however ingenious, find themselves deprived of a pedestal.” Todarov, Tzevtan. 1982 (1978). ‘Indeterminacy of Meaning?’ in Symbolism and Interpretation, trans Catherina Porter. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, pp.84-7.
^ As W.J.T. Mitchell (through Jefferson Hunter) notes, even existing image-led forms of presentation are limiting. For instance, the photographic essay “involves the straightforward discursive or narrative suturing of the verbal and the visual: texts explain, narrate, describe, label, speak for (or to) the photographs; photographs illustrate, exemplify, clarify, ground, and document the text.” This format is less applicable still to the presentation of design research. Mitchell, W.J.T. 1994. 'Beyond Comparison: Picture, Text, and Method’ in Mitchell, W.J.T. 1994. Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p.92.
^ “Knowledge is a practical assemblage, a ‘mechanism’ of statements and visibilities.” Deleuze, Gilles. 2006 (1986). Foucault, trans. Séan Hand. London: Continuum, p.44.
^ Wiszniewski, Dorian. 2015. ‘Drawing on Plenitude & Emptiness’ in Drawing On, Issue 01 (Drawing On: Presents). Available at http://drawingon.org/uploads/papers/IS01_PR.pdf (accessed 16th August 2015)
A Gift from Vision to Touch
Record Card: Lessons 01-03. Hélène Frichot.
In the following text I propose to outline five preliminary lessons in a ficto-critical approach to creative research practices in architecture, or more precisely, between architecture and philosophy; a transversal relay I pursue through my own research. I will identify these creative and critical practices as operating amidst what can be called an ‘ecology of practices’, a formulation I appropriate from the philosopher of science Isabelle Stengers (who also stresses the power of fiction with respect to explorative practices in the sciences) although I will ask whether it might be helpful to refer instead to ecologies, placing the stress on the plural, in order to allow for more diverse transdisciplinary encounters. I propose ecologies of practices as surely every ecology jostles alongside another ecology; as one ecology brims over the threshold into another it either wreaks havoc and brings about the decline of a neighbouring less resilient ecology, or else enjoins a more powerful composition, an allegiance. At these thresholds an ethics is called for, and the possibility of experiencing-experimenting with an ethico-aesthetics. With respect to much of what I will discuss here I am indebted to the researchers I have had the opportunity to work with in the School of Architecture and Design, RMIT University and within ResArc, the research institute that conjoins the four schools of architecture in Sweden. In many instances I have guided these researchers through their PhD projects, as they, in turn, have guided me into an understanding of the very difficult domain of research by or through design. In particular I thank Michael Spooner, Julieanna Preston, and Margit Brünner for kindly allowing me permission to reproduce their images.
For those of us brought up in the learning environment of the architectural design studio there is something second-nature about thinking through or by the design act, and these prepositions, as Christopher Frayling, Peter Downton and Jane Rendell have all pointed out are, of course, crucial. I will refer to such labour below as a process of thinking-doing suggesting an intimate relay between design thinking and acting. There are also great risks, and troubling models that have emerged when it comes to the development of the PhD through project work, models that suggest ready-made templates can be applied to research by design, or that a PhD can be completed swiftly and pre-emptively, simply as in the course of what you are doing, in that it might be assumed that you have already ‘mastered’ your craft, and are now capable of reflecting on it by relating it to your ‘natural history’ by recourse to a non-critical, weak phenomenology that underestimates the political power of affect, and the ecology of practices you thereby alter. While these models are troubling, and while it is certainly vital that we address these models, here I want to circumvent this debate. Instead I prefer to venture the more affirmative and generous project of acknowledging diverse ecologies of practices.
Stenger’s ecology of practices can be summarised in the following way: it includes a respect for the differences between practices and that no practice should be defined as just like any other; seeing practice as a non-neutral tool for thinking through what is happening, a tool that can be passed from hand to hand thereby transforming both the situation and the one who handles the tool; framing what is happening in a minor key and in direct response to our local habitat or from the midst of those issues which confront us; and finally, never believing we have arrived at an answer once and for all, but maintaining nevertheless an affirmative and not a negative, nor even a deconstructive demeanour. Although Stengers’s work is addressed to the sciences, and discussed in the greatest detail across the seven parts of the two volumes of Cosmopolitics (2010 and 2011) in which she builds on seven problematic landscapes in the sciences, the question of practice and its relation to thinking is one that is shared with architecture. Practice, including research strategies, teaching-learning, and the development of research in the professional sphere, focuses on local and particular problems, which immanently define a practice’s relations amidst its environment-world or milieu, whether that be the laboratory, the drawing office (or CAD lab), or the building site.
To return to my five lessons, which I will situate and unfold amidst ecologies of practices, I want to address the question of method, quite simply how it is we do what we do, and in turn methodology, that is, how, once we have undertaken some research action, we might reflect and thereby describe the logic of our approach or method. This, I should point out, is not a question of meaning but one of use and application. I want to address the question of methodology, even of anti-methodology – as an approach – because I see that this is one of the key issues that architecture researchers face when they identify themselves neither as historians, nor squarely as theorists, but perhaps something more akin to creative practitioners keen to conjoin their doing with their thinking, exploring productive relays between theory and practice. Much as Paul Feyerabend argues in Against Method, it is not a methodology of proscriptive or “naive and simple-minded rules” that I deem useful, rather an open-ended anti-method, however paradoxical this might sound. Epistemology, animated and extended through the thinking-doing of architecture, can be approached not in a strict way, but in an opportunistic and situated way, an approach we are implicitly familiar with from the learning environment of the design studio; an approach that allows the bringing together while remaining sufficiently distinct of thinking and doing via disjunctive syntheses. As Feyerabend points out, the risks of an overweening method means a suppression of one’s sense of humour; an inflexibility with regard to the rules; an inability to draw on intuition; a dried up imagination; and the use of language that is no longer one’s own but composed of platitudes and standard academic tropes.
The five lessons will include: 1. A ficto-critical opening as a means of setting out an approach and what is to follow; 2. Lesson two will commence with Michael Spooner’s Clinic for the Exhausted, in order to discuss the importance of reinventing precursors, and even murdering precedents, because we always-already proceed from amidst an ecology of practices of some kind; 3. Lesson three will open by way of an introduction to Julieanna Preston’s performative project Room, Wool, Me, You (2012) suggesting an instance of an ecology of practices and ‘your situated knowledge’, or how the thinker-doer of design specifically locates her work and best follows the materials of an occasion. 4. Lesson four will open with the posthuman landscapes of joyful affect Margit Brünner composes. Here I will explore ethical experimentation as the reversibility of experiencing-experimenting. Then I will close with a fifth lesson, 5. Making worlds consistent on a plane of nature-thought.
Lesson 01: A ficto-critical opening
Between 2011 and 2012, as I was charting a line of flight from Melbourne, Australia to Stockholm, Sweden, I was involved in organising a collaborative essay that was published in the TU Delft architectural journal, Footprint, in an issue dedicated to Architecture Culture and the Question of Knowledge: Doctoral Research Today. There I attempted to curate, after the fact, the work of a collective of PhD researchers, some recently completed and some still in the midst of undertaking their research by or through design, all of whom were working within a research stream I had convened in the School of Architecture and Design, RMIT University, called Architecture+Philosophy. Via a form of curatorial conceit I gathered their diverse projects under the methodological and ethological rubric of ‘ficto-criticism’. The title of our collaborative work was An Antipodean Imaginary for Architecture+Philosophy: Ficto-Critical Approaches to Design Practice Research. Ficto-criticism, and an emphasis on the powers of fiction, enabled a means of bringing creative, experimental design work together with affirmative modes of creative criticality.
In this text I stressed that the collected Architecture+Philosophy researchers placed an emphasis on critical and creative invention and a structured indeterminacy that manifests in the wild association of images and ideas toward the procurement of innovative as well as politically engaged minoritarian architectures. I argued further that fiction is the powerful means by which we can speculatively propel ourselves into a future, and that criticism, or criticality, to emphasize the embeddedness of researchers in their milieu, offers the situated capacity to ethically cope with what confronts us. I wanted to claim that the critic or theorist is in the midst of the work, is contaminated by the work, contributes to the work, and even creates the work, for the critic is also the creative practitioner. As Brian Massumi argues “critique is not an opinion or a judgment but a dynamic “evaluation” that is lived out in situation,” which is to say, critique or criticality as a demeanour should not be about imposing preconceived attitudes, opinions or judgments, but needs to respond immanently to the problem at hand. That the practitioner is also, in turn, the critic of her own work allows criticism its creative turn and purposively puts it to work immanently in the creative act. In direct reference to ficto-critical approaches, the Australian theorist Anna Gibbs writes that “the researcher is implicated in what is investigated,” or else, sometimes quite abruptly, there even occurs the event of the “collapse of the ‘detached’ and all knowing subject into the text.”
My own interest in this approach comes from the idea that ficto-criticism takes a literary approach to philosophy, acknowledging philosophical precursors who have taken recourse to modes of fiction as a means of thinking and constructing new environment-worlds and new processes of subjectification, new ways of becoming amidst immanent milieux: Hélène Cixous and Luce Irigaray’s écriture feminine, Roland Barthes’s pleasures of the text and his lovers discourse, but also Michel Foucault who claims that all his work can be read as a fiction, and Deleuze and Guattari who have a knack of telling stories as they creatively construct their concepts and lay out their planes of conceptual consistency. Stephen Muecke, citing Jacques Derrida, suggests that ficto-criticism is the name that can be given to those critical forms that deform literature from within. Similarly, for architecture, I’d like to argue that we are in great need of critical-creative forms that can deform architecture from within, that can disrupt its comfortable habits, insidious opinions, and resilient clichés. Gibbs also argues that “the heterogeneity of fictocritical forms bears witness to the existence of fictocriticism as a necessarily performative mode, an always singular and entirely tactical response to a particular set of problems - a very precise and local intervention,” which also aligns the ficto-critical approach with Stenger’s ecology of practices as necessarily localised in terms of application.
If there were time, we could probably sketch out what Michael Spooner calls a ‘discontinuous genealogy’ that also includes the famous novels of the existentialists, Beauvoir, Sartre, Camus, and even earlier, the essays of Montaigne. And yet this list of precursors does not necessarily get us closer to the difficult domain of architecture, and the ‘practice turn’ or the global spread (following the Bologna accord) of this new model of research training. To bring us to the question of increasingly established yet still emerging design research practices in architecture, I will defer offering an outline of this discontinuous genealogy, which so far forgets to name such important feminist intercessors as Jane Rendell, Katja Grillner, Jennifer Bloomer, Diana Agrest, Doina Petrescu, and forgets also its many forefathers. I want to place an emphasis instead on an approach, and in any case, as I will argue, every architectural thinker-doer needs to reinvent their own genealogy of precursors. I will expand on the ficto-critical approach by following Stengers where she presents her cosmopolitical project; what she also calls her ‘ecology of practices’, where she too discusses the powers of fiction, which leads me to lesson two.
left: RMIT University Building 8 Becoming Boat. Clinic for the Exhausted. Michael Spooner, 2007-2011. right: The Landscape Room. Clinic for the Exhausted. Michael Spooner, 2010.
Lesson 02: Reinventing your precursors, and even murdering your precedents
Michael Spooner exhibits the symptoms of an obsessive character, he indefatigably riffles through the paper pages of the library, and surfs the many electronic archives now available on line. He arranges choice samples in his chambre de fleurs. The obsessive is an aesthetic figure that Mark Dorrian and Adrian Hawker take care to distinguish from the myth of the creative genius that still plagues architecture. Spooner the obsessive architect is transported by his projects, and is less authoring than authored by them. He himself makes much use of yet another aesthetic figure, and that is the Troubadour, who does not ‘own’ the stories he tells but instead carries them from one village or town to the next, transforming them with each telling. The specific, enduring obsession Spooner developed as an architecture undergraduate, and which he pursued throughout his PhD project, which I was so fortunate to supervise and which is now published in the new AADR (Art Architecture Design Research) series of Spurbuch Verlag, is with the distinctive civic character of RMIT University Building 8 completed by Edmond and Corrigan in 1993, where the RMIT University architecture program is housed on the top floor.
By way of a drunken vision communicated by epistolary means from one architect, Howard Raggatt, to another, Peter Corrigan, Building 8 is let loose from its moorings on Swanston Street Melbourne, and sets sail into an architectural imaginary as ocean liner. This collapse of imagery of building and boat then rewards Spooner with the license to institute his Clinic for the Exhausted, where the exhaustion in question is carried out by the furious, seething, superimposition of an overabundance of images drawn from diverse sources, creating the wonder of an anachronistic chaos that settles briefly in two clinics, The Swimming Pool Library and The Landscape Room, but crucially the clinic is also composed as a textual contribution.
As Spooner describes it, his approach is to take as many images as possible drawn from literature, film, architecture, art, and cram them into a lead pipe until they explode, manufacturing what he calls a ‘discontinuous genealogy’. As such he offers an implicit critique of the architectural designer’s habitual and often uncritical use of design precedents. It is a serendipitous fact that spoonerism is that literary technique, or rather slip of the tongue, that muddles the forward letters of two words, a technique that much resembles the various word plays of Raymond Roussel, once called the Marcel Proust of dreams. Two almost identical sentences were used to compose the beginning and end of Roussel’s novel Impressions d’Afrique (1910). The creative process of writing the novel was generated between a choreographed yet minor textual slip, resulting in a major shift in meaning between the two sentences ‘the white letters on the cushions of the old billiard table (les lettres du blanc sur les bandes du vieux billard) and ‘the white man’s letters on the hordes of the old plunderer’ (les lettres du blanc sur les bandes du vieux pillard). The minor displacement of one letter encountered in the first sentence, that is, billard [billiard] transforms it into the word pillard [plunderer] to be discovered in the latter sentence. As Foucault explains, “the infinitesimal but immense distance between these two phrases will give rise to some of Roussel’s favourite themes” from which a fictional landscape unfurls. Suffice to say, Roussel counts among Spooner’s most precious precursors, and he has dedicated one chapter, ‘Rousell’s Epigenetic Landscape’, to this forebear.
The lesson here: despite appearances, Spooner’s Clinic for the Exhausted is not mere postmodern pastiche, but out and out anachronistic, historical collapse, the concrete presence of the past in the present, exactly because the past still presently affects us. Spooner reinvents his precursors, and even does away with or symbolically murders his precedents (an Oedipal relation, perhaps). It so happens, from time to time, that a creative force emerges that enables the subsequent recognition of a formidable genealogy of precursors that would have otherwise remained disconnected, non-visible, even unrecognisable. This argument was forwarded by Jorge Luis Borges in his essay ‘Kafka and his Precursors’ (1970), whereby he suggests that it is exactly through the lens of Kafka’s work that a genealogy can be retrospectively configured, that is to say, a distinct literary, or let us say ‘architectural’ quality is perceived, that would not have otherwise emerged. Or else it is how, recognising the burden of influence, we nevertheless “restore an incommunicable novelty to our predecessors.” So it is with Spooner who demands that we ask: who are my conceptual friends and enemies, and how do I choreograph their past performances amidst the compositions I propose? What composition do I already form part of? Stengers has another way of framing this with respect to an ecology of practices: it is not that we can refer to a ‘we’, ‘we architects’, ‘we creative practitioners’ in advance of our practice, instead, it is through the practice that this we will emerge (for the meantime), as we discover our friends and foes.
Lesson 03: An Ecology of Practices and your situated knowledge
A woman with her thicket of white-grey hair, her head bent over in concentration and the paradox of a calm ex
pression worrying her face. An enclosed room, viewed only through a restricted portal, and then remotely mediated by way of a screen located just outside the room. A bale of greasy wool, a blanket, a candle, some water, some gingernut biscuits for sustenance. You and me. And over three long days the woman redistributes the wool: as interior carpet landscape, or else she packs it tight blocking the opening of a side door, or else she flings it toward the ceiling. A bale of greasy wool is as good as a coyote, she says to herself. I love the greasy wool and the wool loves me, and between the two a relation is formed that transforms each party. I love to you, she murmurs, an Irigarayan call: “I love to you means I maintain a relation of indirection to you. I do not subjugate you or consume you.” All the while, the blind eye of a camera captures her erratic, slow, un-choreographed movements. Julieanna Preston is a New Zealand academic and creative practitioner of architecture and interiors, who asks persistently, what can an interior surface do? She uses an exacting, exhaustive material approach to speculate on political events, real and imagined, using fictional writing and imagery, as well as sculpted objects or props, installation and performance. Her work has developed toward a series of site-specific installations where she deploys her performing body as one medium amidst many, using wool, also mud, she is ever immersed. She has frequently placed an emphasis upon the materials of her local institutional environments so as to allow them to speak. Her engagement with the vibrant material of her local problematic field is a question of creative resistance. I will explain.
In his book dedicated to Michel Foucault, master analyst of the dynamics of power relations in the spatio-temporal domain of institutions, Gilles Deleuze makes the seemingly paradoxical claim that resistance comes first. Resistance is not only a political gesture that responds to oppressive forces, but political in its generative power. Elizabeth Grosz contributes to this argument by making a distinction between ‘freedom from’ and freedom to’, where the former denotes resistance in response to some perceived, pre-existing oppressive power, patriarchal or otherwise, the latter pursues material ex
pression through a freedom to act and thereby (re)make oneself and the present otherwise.
Resistance, as Julieanna demonstrates, can also quite simply be related to material resilience, how a certain material is resistant to moisture, another to sound, and how resistance at times may also have something to do with yielding. Preston reclaims the priority of resistance as a creative act. While at first seeming to respond to a pre-given oppressive force, through her creative works (inclusive of writing-architecture) she turns resistance around so that it is no longer a question of freedom from, but a freedom to act amidst an environment-world using creative material means.
To discover what lesson we learn here, we need to slow down, and begin with the term ‘ecology’ as it is employed in Stenger’s ‘ecology of practices’. Ecology, as Gregory Bateson reminds us, determines that the basic unit of survival is between organism and environment: here is our utter material, relational immersion. As Jane Bennett explains: “ecology can be defined as the study or story (logos) of the place where we live (oikos), or better, the place that we live.” That living suggests all manner of practices. An ecology is a sticky web of connections, which Stengers, as Haraway, also takes on in terms of a web of practices. Ecology reminds us that there is no such thing as an isolated action or practice, there is no outside that which constitutes collective enunciation. Our concerns gather much like confederacies, as Bruno Latour puts it, and furthermore, as I have already indicated, ecologies are not necessarily harmonious, but also rife with controversies. Our milieu directly presents us with situations or ‘occasions’ in which we have the opportunity to act, and strengthen our compositions, or else retreat. How do we make the best of what happens to us?
Neither entirely ‘constructed’ nor entirely given, the erstwhile privileged point of view habitually ascribed to the self-same phenomenological subject is rather constructed by the world, or else emerges amidst an environment-world or milieu. An emphasis can be placed here on the priority of events and material relations, something happens, and slowly, in fits and starts the subject emerges as a process of subjectification amidst their seething material environs. The challenge becomes how we can develop an ecological sensibility that attends to the horizontal relations between humans and things. In When Species Meet Donna Haraway celebrates this immersion in the following way: “I love the fact that human genomes can be found in only about 10 percent of all the cells that occupy the mundane space I call my body; the other 90 percent are filled with the genomes of bacteria, fungi, protists, and such…” On writing her book Vibrant Matter, Bennett similarly proclaims: “the sentences in this book also emerged from the confederate agency of many striving macro and micro-actants: from “my memories,” intentions, contentions, intestinal bacteria, eyeglasses, and blood sugar, as well as from the plastic keyboard, the bird song from the open window, or the air of particles in the room, to name a few of the participants.” Here the point is, that what Haraway has famously called ‘situated knowledge’ is not subject-centred nor an opportunity to relate pre-packaged stories of one’s memories, one’s life, one’s travels, one’s dreams, one’s fantasies but instead our points of view, situated for the time being only, construct us and continue to do so as the oculus of the point of view contracts and expands as a result of so many micro and macro-encounters. It is “The great principle” as Deleuze poignantly points out that “Things do not have to wait for me to have their significations.”
Deleuze also elaborates this question (of position, situation, situated knowledge) succinctly in The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque. Yes, it is a question of point of view, but point of view composed as “not exactly a point but a place, a position, a site” but not assuming a dependence with respect to “a pregiven or defined subject; to the contrary, a subject will be what comes to the point of view, or rather what remains in the point of view.” Environment-world and subject come to be reciprocally produced around multiplicitous points of view, ever in motion.
In a similar vein, but stressing again how we might turn these observations into practice, Stengers asserts that tools (both conceptual and material) for thinking are not about a thinker or subject a priori, but rather about a situation, a relation of relevance between a situation and a tool. Our thinking-doing is not about recognition based on the already known, but a decision to make what was virtual actual, compelling us to actively think and not merely to passively recognise. As such ecologies of practices are less about describing what is in our own local ecology, than making something new possible, as well as a construction of what Stengers calls “new ‘practical identities’ for practices,” including the potential of what a practice may become. Feminist practices, and what Haraway calls ‘collective discourses’ as exemplified in Preston’s work, do not constitute a mere special interest group, but contribute to an “earthwide network of connections, including the ability partially to translate knowledges among very different – and power-differentiated- communities,” it is a question of deploying a feminist objectivity as partial vision, limited location, situated knowledge and embodied learning. The lesson we learn here is: a practice is never independent of its environment or milieu, and we do not know in advance what a practice can become, it is a matter of experiencing-experimenting.
Schwebebild - Cosmethic Space Refinements. Pencil drawing, 45x63cm. Margot Brünner, 2002.
Lesson 04: ethical experimentation, and the reversibility of experiencing-experimenting
When I first encountered Margit Brünner she was falling out of a hammock while attempting to sketch a cluster of vibratory lines through the communicating pistil of a long prosthetic drawing device. She lost balance briefly, and tumbled to the floor with laughter. This was at an Expanded Writing Practices symposium at the University of South Australia in September 2009. If you are as fortunate as Margit then your ethical experimentation will achieve encounters that produce joyful affects. Margit’s work is ostensibly located between the spatial arts and performance art, but she is an architect. Her explorations endeavour to discover the best means of producing joyful affects, with an emphasis on the milieu, or relationship between the environment-world and ever-transforming subject (or processes of subjectification): this is what she names atmosphere. Hers is a practice of immanence, ever located, situated, inspired by embodied learning.
Nearly ten years earlier, during her first visit to Australia, Margit undertook a series of ‘cosmethic space refinements’, which explored methods for surveying and describing the atmospheres of a selection of public spaces in Melbourne. The invented tools she tested for her survey included: catcher, surveyor, implement, and pollination. She explains her process:
My body is the surveying instrument. Its sensitive ability is extended with a technical object, which anchors the body within time and space. Each method is focused on a specific aspect and is realised on particular conditions. All methods share the elementary principle of ‘expanding reality’, projecting a thought into space. Every arrangement communicates with the atmosphere, ever sifting, catching, memorising, absorbing, assimilating, transcribing, and translating. It is an active delayer, enlarger, intensifier, distiller, separator, catcher, stimulant and transporter of the emerging, fleeting, and growing phenomena. The arrangement provides an opportunity for space to reveal its immanent moods and tempers.
Margit’s work engages both urban and wilderness (specifically a property at Oratunga South Australia) milieux, but she respects no ‘great divide’ between nature and culture. Her engagements with posthuman landscapes do not make distinctions between the natural and the cultural but stress instead an approach driven by the urgent question: how do I dialogue with my environment-world as affective atmosphere? She admits that joy resists being utilised for representative purposes. This can result in a failure of representational means, a limitation of our capacity to capture, through video, drawing, photography the profound encounter that has taken place.
With respect to ethical experimentation amidst an ecology of practices, it is crucial to point out a distinction between morality, or moral rules over-determining our relations in a world through pre-given codes (much like the over-determined application of methodology noted in the opening to this essay), and ethics as a practice worked out between transforming embodied processes of subjectification and a local situated environment-world (umwelt) or milieu. Ethical experimentation (and the French language: expérience) draws the terms experience and experiment together, and as Deleuze explains in his reading of Spinoza in Spinoza: Practical Philosophy (1988), ethical experimentation also suggests a way of following the materials of a situation, as a craftsperson follows the grain of the wood. Margit follows the materials of her encounters, thereby honing her ‘atmospheric skills’. As she explains in her thesis glossary atmospheric practice is a ‘method of becoming joy’. She follows the Spinozist formula of the passage of affect: where sad passions reduce a mode’s capacities of ex
pression, joyful affects empower a capacity to act in a world, and thereby to make an affirmative difference: “Ethology, whenever human practices are involved” as Stengers explains “is based on productive, on performative experimentation with regard to modes of existence, ways of affecting and being affected, requiring and being obligated…” In fact Margit dispels entirely with the distinction between art and everyday practices (we might name Nietzsche a precursor here) and suggests that practice is about daily navigation toward making the best of all encounters, it’s a tireless field-testing. Her cosmology is brought together with her ethics…toward a joyful cosmethics; and ethology (given that the emphasis is on behaviour rather than reasoning per se) is less argued for than performed.
And with such cosmethic experiments, which draw us now toward a cosmopolitical conclusion, I may well have ventured too far beyond the heavily policed boundaries of what pertains strictly to architectural project work. But in introducing these (posthuman) landscapes becoming with ex
pressions of joy unfurled in the midst of encounters and via striving processes of subjectification, I at least hope to rejuvenate architectural thinking-doing as a ‘critical projective’ project (a formulation constructed by Helen Runting and Fredrk Torrisson in the Approaches, Tendencies, Philosophies and Communications ResArc Sweden PhD courses). Who is the experimenter, what does she do? “The experimenter is a creator. She brings into existence a being that will serve as a reliable witness to what determines that being’s behaviour.” In closing lesson four I want to assert three things: 1. Processes of learning always assume some milieu; 2. It follows that our knowledge producing practices emerge as a result of worldly encounters; 3. And the concepts we deploy as so many tools to respond to such encounters continue to contribute to how we situate ourselves.
Lesson 05: making worlds consistent on a plane of nature-thought
Making worlds consistent on a plane of nature-thought, or else across what can also be called a ‘plane of immanence’, may require all the powers of fiction and ficto-criticality we can muster, and all manner of strange tools and concepts so that we can make the best of our material encounters and relations. The plane of nature-thought, yet another concept in the heterogeneous and perilously slippery lexicon or ‘heteroglossia’ of Deleuze and Guattari, suggests in the first place a collapse or else a reversal of the distinction between sensible and intelligible realms (as bestowed on us by Platonism), and in the second place reminds us that we always, necessarily, act from the midst of things, from the middle, the milieu, from our local environment-worlds, where we strive to address immediate problems. The plane is quite simply the milieu of our present-time stratum, but the plane also suggests a plan. That is to say, we can to a limited extent curate or choreograph our acts from amidst this milieu. Heteroglossia, a term that Haraway uses in her influential essay ‘Situated Knowledges’ suggests that part of this method pertains to the language we use, stressing explorative ex
pressions of difference issuing from our diverse conceptual tongues, including the neologisms we must necessarily invent to make an account of our emerging worlds. And slowly, by increments, and hopefully, we can undertake an ethical coping amidst our vicissitudes, and even develop some expertise in this ‘ethical coping’ as a form of ethical know-how, as Francesco Varela puts it.
The plane of nature-thought is also a conceptual prompt to remind us that ecology is not just a niche or special interest domain for nature-lovers, it pertains, as Guattari compellingly argues, to the complex inter-relations between mental, social and environmental registers, which we only think separately or apart at our own ethological and ecological peril. How do I deal with the vertiginous realisation that it is less my point of view on a world as controlling or authorial gaze, than the world that constructs my point of view as we enter into an embrace, or reciprocal capture? As Nigel Thrift argues in ‘Steps to an Ecology of Place,’ we cannot extract a representation of the world because we are slap bang in the middle of it co-constructing it with human and non human others for numerous ends (or, more accurately, beginnings).” And as Latour and also Haraway argue, we must get around our habit of thinking a ‘Great Divide’ between Nature and Culture (or Nature and Thought), but this is not to suggest that we don’t extend the repertoire of our practical experiments and diverse, explorative means of communicating them.
The ficto-critical approach offered in this context is intended to suggest an open and generous mode of situating ex
pression, of allowing voices to be heard, voices that can respond to the great urgency of discovering new ways, new methods for our discipline. Methodology is that question of how, how do we go about doing this thing we do, this thinking-doing? Beyond the habits and clichés and mere opinions, but while acknowledging a disciplinary context where requirements and obligations do exist: it’s not a free for all. And an approach is less to do with sufficient reason, and the best of all possible worlds, than with sufficient consistency for the time being, as an immediate, immanent act of composition, given available material flows and encounters. Haraway has another word for this: she calls it ‘worlding’, which suggests all manner of posthuman landscapes, and cross-species relations. What is it that architecture does if not attempt, even if fleetingly, to achieve a minimal durability, and a certain consistency amidst its precarious milieux?
When we situate design research amidst an ecology of practices we open the way toward enabling a respect – even amidst our many controversies and disagreements – for differences between practices, between the practices of architectural historians, theorists, practitioners, pedagogues, and for those – sufficiently daring or foolhardy – determined to cut transversal lines across these distinctions too. What is required, whatever our research undertaking, is certainly a critical vigilance, or rather a demeanour of criticality, with respect to our habits and concerns as we keep an eye on our disciplinary requirements and obligations, whether they have begun to overly constrain us, or whether they still enable wild, even if sometimes uncoordinated leaps of research thinking-doing.
Published 24th September, 2015.
^ Guattari, Félix. 1995. Chaosmosis: An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm, trans. Paul Bains and Julian Pefanis. Sydney: Power Publications.
^ Frayling, Christopher. 1993. ‘Research in Art and Design’ in Royal College of Art Research Papers, Vol. 1 No. 1, p.5; Downton, Peter. 2003. Design Research. Melbourne: RMIT University Press, p.103; and Rendell, Jane. 2010. Site-Writing: The Architecture of Art Criticism. London: I.B. Tauris, pp.1-20.
^ Stengers, Isabelle. 2010. Cosmopolitics I, trans. Robert Bononno, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press; Stengers, Isabelle. 2011. Cosmopolitics II, trans. Robert Bononno, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
^ See Harding, Sandra. 1987. ’Introduction: Is There a Feminist Methodology?, in Harding, Sandra, ed. Feminism and Methodology. Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press.
^ Feyerabend, Paul. 1993. Against Method. London: Verso, p.9.
^ Feyerabend, Paul. 1993. Against Method, pp.11-12.
^ Massumi, Brian. 2010. ‘On Critique’ in Inflexions 4: Transversal Fields of Experience (December), pp. 337-338. Available here (Accessed 13th February 2013).
^ Gibbs, Anna. 2005. ‘Fictocriticism, Affect, Mimesis: Engendering Differences’, in TEXT, Vol. 9. No.1 (April). Available here (Accessed 6th April 2013).
^ Muecke, Stephen. 2002. ‘The Fall: Ficto-Critical Writing, in Parallax, Vol.8 No.4, p.108.
^ Gibbs, Anna. 2005. ‘Fictocriticism, Affect, Mimesis: Engendering Differences’.
^ See Stengers, Isabelle. 2005. ‘The Cosmopolitical Proposal’ in Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel (eds.), Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp.; 2005. ‘Introductory Notes on an Ecology of Practices,’ in Cultural Studies Review, Vol. 11 No. 1 (March), pp.183-196; 2010. Cosmopolitics I; and Cosmopolitics II.
^ Dorrian, Mark and Hawker, Adrian. 2010. ‘The Tortoise, The Scorpion and the Horse: Partial Notes on Architectural Research/Teaching/Practice’ in The Journal of Architecture, Vol.8 No.2, p.188.
^ Spooner, Michael. 2013. A Clinic for the Exhausted: In Search of an Antipodean Vitality – Edmond and Corrigan and an Itinerant Architecture. Baunach Germany: AADR Spurbuchverlag, pp.47-48.
^ Spooner, Michael. 2013. A Clinic for the Exhausted, p.26.
^ Foucault, Michel. 1986. Death and the Labyrinth: The World of Raymond Roussel, trans. Charles Ruas. London: Continuum, pp.15-16.
^ Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix. 1994. What is Philosophy? New York: Columbia University Press, p.209.
^ Irigaray, Luce. 1996. I Love to You. London: Routledge, p.109.
^ Deleuze, Gilles. 1988. Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, trans. Robert Hurley, San Francisco: City Lights, p.89.
^ Grosz, Elizabeth. 2010. ‘Feminism, Materialism, and Freedom’, in Diana Coole and Samantha Frost (eds.), New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics. Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, p.140.
^ Bennett, Jane. 2010. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Books, p.365.
^ Haraway, Donna. 1988. ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspectives’, in Feminist Studies, p.588.
^ Haraway, Donna. 2007. When Species Meet. Minnesota: University of Minneapolis, p.3.
^ Bennett, Jane. 2010. Vibrant Matter, p.23.
^ Deleuze, Gilles. 1998. ‘Literature and Life’, in Essays Critical and Clinical, trans. Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco. New York: Verso, p.2.
^ Deleuze, Gilles. 2002. ‘Description of a Woman’, in Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, Vol. 7 No. 3 (December), p.17.
^ Deleuze, Gilles. 1993. The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, trans. Tom Conley. London: The Athlone Press, p.19.
^ Stengers, Isabelle. 2005. ‘Introductory Notes on an Ecology of Practices,’ in Cultural Studies Review, Vol. 11 No. 1 (March), p.186.
^ Haraway, Donna. 1988. ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspectives’, in Feminist Studies, pp.580, 582.
^ Stengers, Isabelle. 2005. ‘Introductory Notes on an Ecology of Practices,’ p.187.
^ Brünner, Margit. 2011. Becoming Joy: Experimental Construction of Atmospheres, PhD by Major Studio Project, School of Art, Architecture, Design, University of South Australia, p.19 and n.18. Available here (Accessed 15th September 2013).
^ Margit Brünner, email correspondence with the author, 24th September, 2013.
^ Brünner, Margit. 2011. Becoming Joy, p.153.
^ Stengers, Isabelle. 2010. Cosmopolitics I, trans. Robert Bononno, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, p.58.
^ Stengers, Isabelle. 2010. Cosmopolitics I, p.58.
^ Stengers, Isabelle. 2010. Cosmopolitics I, p.68.
^ Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix. 1994. What is Philosophy? pp.35-60.
^ Haraway, Donna. 1988. ‘Situated Knowledges’, p.588.
^ Varela, Francisco. 1999. Ethical Know-How: Action, Wisdom, and Cognition, Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
^ Guattari, Félix. 2000. The Three Ecologies, trans. Ian Pindar and Paul Sutton. London: Athlone Press, 2000; Bennett, Jane. 2010. Vibrant Matter, p.113.
^ Thrift, Nigel. 1999. ‘Steps to an Ecology of Place’ in Doreen Massey, John Allen, Philip Sarre (eds.), Human Geography Today, Cambridge: Polity Press, p.297.
^ Latour, Bruno. 1993. We Have Never Been Modern, Cambridge Massachusetts: Harvard University Press; Haraway, Donna. 2007. When Species Meet.
^ Haraway, Donna. 2007. When Species Meet, p.23.
Installation: The Kaleidoscopic City. Inspace Gallery, Edinburgh, 4-6th October 2013. Installation and photograph by Sophia Banou.
The field of optics expanded rapidly throughout the nineteenth century with the development of a series of devices that imitated or expanded the capabilities of the eye, including Sir Charles Wheatstone’s stereoscope (1838), and Joseph Plateau’s phenakistoscope (1829). At the same time, established technologies such as the camera obscura evolved, leading to both the fixing of the image through photography and the moving image of the cinematograph. The city of Edinburgh holds significant status in this history of visual culture, as home to the photographic studio of painter Octavius Hill and engineer Robert Adamson (1843-48), as birthplace of the panorama invented by Robert Barker in 1792, and as home to Robert Adam’s panoptical Brideswell Prison (constructed between 1791-96).
In the same period, the increase in the mobility of everyday life (brought about by the mechanization of production and locomotion that marked the advent of modernity) combined with these new kinds of visual experience (a respective mechanization of seeing), giving rise to a new visual culture. At the beginning of the twentieth century this shift in the modalities of observation also coincided with the development of theories on the interrelation between space and time, emerging through the work of physicists Henri Poincaré, Hermann Minkowski and Albert Einstein, and the writings of philosophers such as Henri Bergson. The idea of time as the fourth dimension expanded the three-dimensional model of space that had prevailed since the Renaissance, and the representation of objects and space in light of the rising awareness of motion came to preoccupy modernist artists. Taking Edinburgh as the site of investigation, I will discuss the implications of the legacy of modernity’s visual culture on the image of the city in architectural discourse, while reconsidering certain techniques of architectural representation.
Unlike in the pictorial arts, where radical changes in urban life were accompanied by explorations of perception, this new understanding of space as a kinetic condition did not find a direct counterpart in the graphic codes and techniques that define architectural representation. Here, the image of the city is still largely governed by conventions established as long ago as the 15th century. Bird’s-eye views that dominated urban representation until the 15th century were predominantly intended as ‘encomiastic’ symbolic and artistic impressions rather than factual representations. The emergence of the ichnographic plan introduced an alternative ‘scientific’ form of urban representation, in which topographical relationships were accurately depicted. Since these early ichnographic city plans – Leonardo da Vinci’s plan of Imola (c.1503), Nolli’s plan of Rome (1748), etc. – the quantitative relation between referent and representation has been conveyed through the rigid alternation of solid and void of the figure-ground plan. However, the image of the city that these representations produce – which to a large extent defines our understanding of urbanity – is a fundamentally selective invention that consistently omits, as suggested above, the kinetic.
The contradiction between such totalizing visualizations and the complex reality of city is drawn out in Bruno Latour and Emilie Hermant’s Paris: Invisible City. Here, Latour traces the ‘real’ image of the city between its infrastructural “oligopticons,” which are places that offer views of the city’s ‘internal’ functions (such as water services and traffic) through abstractions, and the variety of urban artefacts that allow the immediate experience and comprehension of the city. This ‘image’ emphasizes the intrinsic mobility of the city as well as the importance of the mediating ‘secondary’ architecture that, in effect, configures both the figure and the ground of urban space through its interaction with the animated – be it animal or machine.
But despite Latour’s attempts to revise the image of the city we might ask: is the discrepancy between reality and representation merely a result of graphic abstraction, or is there perhaps a need to redefine the very subject matter of representation? The question that arises here, in light of the changes in our understanding of space-time relations mentioned above, is, therefore, not only how can we expand the capacities of architectural representation, but furthermore, what do we consider physically present and thus worthy of re-presenting? It could be considered that traditionally architectural convention has established a material criterion for the visual. That which is tangible, quantifiable or, visually constant is regarded as legible and can thus be depicted through lines, the essential syntax of the drawing. In contrast, that which does not conform to the habits of our vision remains un-rendered, un-expressed in the conventions of our notations. One might say, therefore, that as visual constancy overtakes our perceptive mechanism, material duration becomes, in architectural representation, a key criterion of visibility.
Through a discussion of the installation Kaleidoscopic City, the second of two installations contributing to an on-going project entitled The Kinematography of a City, this paper will propose an expansion of architecture’s normative techniques of urban representation by pushing existing codified modes to incorporate that which is conventionally excluded. This proceeds by exerting pressure upon the historical constitution of architecture’s codes, not by contravening these codes but by expanding their scope in a manner analogous to and informed by the expansion of our visual modalities under the influence of modernity and the associated expansion of our perception of space. While this emergent comprehension of space continues to expand, always in parallel to practices of spatial representation (such as digital modes of visualization), what is at stake here is the critical importance of architectural representation as a visual language in itself – at once figural and notational – as well as the act of visual translation that this form of abstraction entails.
Investigation 01: Weaving Lines/Looming Narratives
Artist and theorist Paul Carter highlights that which escapes our graphic representations of the world, and the inconsistency between the stagnant character of graphic representations and the mobility of experience. In his definition of ‘dark writing’ Carter notes:
When the dark writing that informs our environments is perceived, it can be discerned in everything. The pied beauty of clouds, foliage, and limestone walls comes into view not as a background to important events but offering an alternative focus of its own (...) Dark writing indicates the swarm of possibilities that had to be left out when this line was taken. It notates reflections, warping the grids of harborside facades into tremulous concentricities. The assembly of shadows, the organization of optical phenomena that resist the light, the look of things that suggest a face, the depth of bodies that cannot be unconcealed – all of these fall under dark writing’s jurisdiction.
Furthermore, Carter describes how the notion of the trace or the track might provide us with a means of rethinking cartographic and consequently architectural representation by unveiling this ‘dark writing’:
Our world is composed of the traces of movement, but our representations conceal this. Our thinking is a movement of the mind, but our forms of thought are static.
Taking this notion of trace – both materially and visually as a manifestation of the foregone yet intrinsic mobility of the world – as belonging to both the reality of a current field and an (absent) origin, my initial investigations into representation focused on a small site, a fragment of the city of Edinburgh. In these investigations I consciously avoided the ways in which urban space is traditionally observed by architects, while considering the implications of understanding the city as a dynamic kinetic ensemble. The result of this investigation was an installation entitled Weaving Lines/Looming Narratives, which served to test some of the principles that informed the consequent installation Kaleidoscopic City.
As this initial investigation sought to re-think the process of surveying a site, I began by reconsidering the act of observation, and by establishing the rules of my own observational practices. The result was that this initial installation, or rather this representation, would not dissect the space under investigation through the sight of an observer, as the conventions of the architectural plan dictate, nor would it be concerned with offering the aerial panoptic view of an urban planner. Rather, in a manner similar to an archaeological dig, it would be concerned with cutting through and graphically unfolding the various levels of action within the site, disregarding conventional limitations such as the segregation of things according to scales, both technological and temporal. Moreover, this representation would purposefully shift focus from the material primacy conventionally afforded to the static architecture of the city to the transitory events that, collectively, constitute the ‘urban’. In this way, this transversal section from air to ground sought to reveal the intricacy of the structure of urban space by offering an insight into the variety of movements, interactions and reconfigurations that can take place within a sample urban site as small as 15x15 metres. To this end this investigation involved the surveying of six characters, both animate and inanimate:  a fish,  a fish-monger,  a domestic tenant,  my camera,  the constellations crossing the sky, and  the water crossing the street and pavement. In so doing, the emergent mode of representation aimed to confer upon these characters a visible materiality by acknowledging their existence as agents of both the visual and the spatial.
This project provided an opportunity to investigate notation and techniques of representation. Juxtaposing planimetric tracings with sequential perspectival representations, it evolved as a collection of traces of both presence and movement that remained faithful to architectural representation’s principle of a projective measured linearity. To collect the traces I employed a variety of techniques, ranging from brush rubbing to notational observation, supported by long-exposure photography that acted as an extension of my own visual experience and perception. Presented at a scale that can be primarily anchored to 1:2, this mapping of the actions of the characters on surfaces of tracing paper and plywood demanded the inclusion of time as a fourth dimension within the ‘drawing’. This was expressed by a weave of thread that concretized and rendered visible the density of material shifts in space over time resulting from inhabitation, thus revealing an alternative image of the site.
General View. Weaving Lines/ Looming Narratives. Installation and photograph by Sophia Banou, 2012.
Vision and Order
In 1814 Scottish scientist Sir David Brewster was performing an experiment on the polarization of light. While placing a series of reflecting plates in a parallel array he noticed a phenomenon entailing the multiplication of an image around a centre. This accidental observation led Brewster to the development of the kaleidoscope, which he described in his treatise on the device as “an optical instrument for creating and exhibiting beautiful forms to look at.”
Proposed, as an object of “rational amusement,” the kaleidoscope was seen by Brewster as a mechanical means of artistic production:
It will create in an hour, what a thousand artists could not invent in the course of a year; and while it works with such unexampled rapidity, it works also with a corresponding beauty and precision.
According to Brewster, the success of the kaleidoscope as a device for artistic production was based on two things: the limitless possibility of images offered by the mobilisation of the instrument, and the precise symmetry of the images produced. The images produced by the kaleidoscope are, according to Brewster, only rendered ‘beautiful’ by the symmetry afforded them by the device itself, and by the order implied by this symmetry. The multiple reflections contained within the kaleidoscope (images of disparate, seemingly useless fragments of matter such as pieces of glass, cloth, etc.) thus produce order out of otherwise disorderly material. In short, the kaleidoscope becomes a form of beautifying optical filter for the seemingly disordered world beyond.
The understanding of a geometric order as a criterion of beauty is, of course, not confined to Brewster’s personal tastes. Architectural historiography is littered with rules and orders aimed at codifying the principles of a spatial order for both the city and its architecture based on geometry, codifications that have effectively defined the image of cities up until the advent of modernity. Indeed, architecture has consistently sought to introduce rational order to seemingly erratic nature, not entirely but most frequently through visual means. Consequently, in reading the city it is habitually to the ordered constant that is architecture that we turn as a means of understanding that city. As noted above the figure-ground plan exemplifies this paradigm, exalting the primacy of the figure against the seemingly neutral ground defined purely as figure’s negative. Similarly the Ordnance Survey, the official British surveying authority, suggests (through its relation to artillery and military surveying) the once literal but now visual conquest of the ground, and at the same time an imposed design order that can be traced to Claude Perrault’s description of “ordonnance” in the seventeenth century as “the systematic arrangement of the parts of architecture.”
Interestingly, even in Kevin Lynch’s writings on the Image of the City, which in 1960 sought to place a critical pressure on the effect of modernity on American cities, we still see order appearing as a criterion for the ‘desired’, legible, image:
Obviously a clear image enables one to move about easily and quickly: to find a friend’s house or a policeman or a button store. But an ordered environment can do more than this; it may serve as a broad frame of reference, an organizer of activity or belief or knowledge… A clear image of the surroundings is thus a useful basis for individual growth.
Lynch is referring here to an order that, although artificially invoked, is meant to inhere in the structure of the urban environment, rather than an order that is secondarily attributed by a kind of visual distortion. He is therefore underlining the importance of a clear structure with regards to the legibility of the ‘image’, which appears here to surpass the concept of a perceptive experience. Nevertheless, Lynch does not neglect to point out the importance of the moving elements of the city:
We are not simply observers of this spectacle, but are ourselves a part of it, on the stage with the other participants. Most often, our perception of the city is not sustained, but rather partial, fragmentary, mixed with other concerns. Nearly every sense is in operation, and the image is the composite of them all... While it may be stable in general outlines for some time, it is ever changing in detail.
What Lynch appears to suggest here is the importance of the multiplicity and fluidity of the image of the city, which derives from the subjectivity of the viewer in conjunction with a collective memory and – moreover – from the participation of humans in shifting the actual form of urban space by means of their actions. It is thus implied that it is not only design that is essential, but also the adaptation of our perception to achieve the necessary clarity for a ‘legible image’. It is interesting that Lynch concludes this chapter with philosopher Suzanne Langer’s definition of architecture as “the total environment made visible.” Langer’s definition points out not only the highly ocular-centric character of architecture but, more importantly, the role this ocular-centric architecture plays as a system through which the city is comprehended. So, to return to Brewster, if in the kaleidoscope order is implied by the presentation to the eye of the symmetrical reflection of a coincidental material array, as produced by the fixed structure of the lenses, in the city it is architecture that imposes an order upon the otherwise arbitrary visual experience through the structured, rigid form of a materially fixed environment that derives from that same history of vision and order as Brewster’s device.
As noted above, the instrumentality of the kaleidoscope lies both in the precision of the imposed visual order and in the multiplicity of images afforded by the mobility of the objects contained within and the lenses held by the device. In his essay ‘The Painter of Modern Life’, the kaleidoscope serves Baudelaire as a metaphor for the kinetic experience of the city:
[The flâneur] the lover of universal life enters into the crowd as though it were an immense reservoir of electrical energy. Or we might liken him to a mirror as vast as the crowd itself; or to a kaleidoscope gifted with consciousness, responding to each one of its movements and reproducing the multiplicity of life and the flickering grace of all the elements of life.
In Baudelaire movement thus becomes a tool for uncovering the multiplicity of life, as expressed by the flâneur/observer, while the conscious interaction of humans with their urban surroundings is compared to the multiplicity of images as produced by the kaleidoscope. Similarly, Henri Bergson, examining the transition from the physicality of matter to the mental image of perception in Matter and Memory, points out the consciousness – or rather unconsciousness – of human perception as the driving force of another kaleidoscope.
Bergson distinguishes the actuality of matter from the virtual image of perception, but does not propose a clear opposition between the physical and the mental. Rather, Bergson attempts to reassess the meaning of the image by locating it between the idealist representation and the realist thing, thus placing the conception of matter between appearance and existence:
[R]ealism and idealism both go too far... it is a mistake to reduce matter to the perception which we have of it, a mistake also to make of it a thing able to produce in us perceptions, but in itself of another nature than they [our perceptions].
Matter is then defined as an aggregate of such images. In Bergson’s work this concern for the material and the mental is transposed to the relation between body and mind. In detaching the material from the predominance of the physical, and placing it concurrently within the scope of the “cerebral,” which is both bodily and mental, Bergson is not, however, denouncing materialism; rather perception and material reality are bound together through the body as a centre of action, establishing a materiality of perception. Perception, as understood by Bergson, is thus a kind of action inseparable from images of matter. If, as Bergson suggests, the relation between the mental and the cerebral – the bodily – is relational and not constant, the difference between perception and matter becomes, in essence, a difference of degree. According to Bergson space therefore appears to oscillate between the physical and the mental as our concept of materiality expands, therefore including all the elusive, illegible or intangible intermediate states of matter through the image. All facets of space are therefore considered material as all facets of matter are considered images.
The body thus comes to be considered a kind of privileged image that deals with two kinds of movement: an internal movement that refers to the mental and an external movement that refers to its surroundings and its interaction with other images. It is the animate then that constitutes “living matter” as each of its movements changes the image of space around it “as though,” Bergson writes, “by a turn of a kaleidoscope.”
Here, the kaleidoscope does not propose a mechanical paradigm for the city’s structure nor for the forms of its representation, but rather is an analogy for a complex visual process of comprehension and knowledge. The virtue of this analogy is that through the kaleidoscopic mechanism it suggests an inter-dependence between presence and perception, between the disorderly randomness of a multiplicity and the imposition of an order that is singular and external – the product of a subjectivity. To return to the topic under consideration here, these inter-dependencies are intrinsic to the unfolding of what is effectively an act of translation, a movement itself from one space to another, in the form of a shift from the space of the city to the space of architectural representation.
left: Installation viewed from Potterrow (southeast). Kaleidoscopic City. right: Views and reflections. Kaleidoscopic City. Installation and photographs by Sophia Banou, 2013.
Investigation 02: The Kaleidoscopic City
In this second study of representation I return to the concept of the transversal section arising from the earlier investigation Weaving Lines/Looming Narratives. Shifting my attention from site to city, this investigation engages with a field one hundred times larger (1500×1500 metres), encapsulating the largest part of the Old Town of Edinburgh, yet still seeks to uncover the multiplicity of the city as expressed through a sum of movements.
Once again, I am visually cutting through the infinite layers of space from air to ground. The criteria for inclusion are the same as before, with regards to scale, matter, and duration, however the object of my investigation this time is not an arbitrary fragment of urban reality but a city with a collectively understood character and a series of well-established images. Predetermined images such as Robert Barker’s panorama from Calton Hill, James Hutton’s geological notes on the volcanic rock of Arthur’s Seat, or the reputation of Edinburgh as the Athens of the North flickering in the minds of tourists, are themselves pieces of the image of the city. As manifestations of imposed orders acting upon the city, they also constitute part of its cumulative identity.
These preceding images become part of the multi-vocal content and context of this second investigation. Six viewing devices that look at the city were identified –  Calton Hill Observation Tower,  Edinburgh Castle,  the Camera Obscura tower (previously ‘Short’s Observatory’ and later Patrick Geddes’ ‘Outlook Tower’),  the National Museum of Scotland,  Arthur’s Seat and  the Royal Observatory – as relating to various forms of representation of the city –  the geological map,  the panorama,  the sky map,  the postcard,  the bird’s eye view and  the aerial view. Each one is carried into the process of drawing through the surveying of a character (respectively,  my camera,  a seagull,  the aeroplanes that approach the city,  a tourist,  the volcanic terrain and  the constellations of stars above).
Each character thus, becomes much more than themselves. In experiencing the scale of the city, they become charged with the visual-material culture related to the historic modalities of experiencing and, more specifically, looking at the city that they subsequently index and within which they become enmeshed. Seemingly separated across five different levels (each represented upon a layer of clear cast acrylic), but in reality brought together through the transparency and reflectivity of this series of ‘lenses’, the linear traces of the characters remain almost immaterial, hovering in the air rather than being confined to the two dimensions of a surface of paper.
As the characters and devices are transposed to the space of the representation they begin to acquire a new nature. Working in pairs, six new optical devices –  The Telescope and  The Cabinet,  The Mirror and  The Observatory, and [2/5] The Terrain, connecting the Castle to Arthur’s Seat – offer a multiplicity of readings that are not antagonistic but complementary to one another and toward the reading of a whole.
The main aim of this piece is to abolish the distances between these various views of one common object, namely the city, by introducing the conventions established by each to the codes of architectural drawing. In this way I compose a new image on the basis that these distinct visual approaches are essential contributors to a representation capable of embracing the multiple facets of the urban. If the city can be considered as a weave of complex interactions between the various agencies that inhabit it, then its representation must be considered as such. From matter to perception and back to representation, whether through the human eye or a graphic system of representation the image of the city is not reduced but rather constantly reconstructed through sensory processes of comprehension.
In the kaleidoscope it is only through disorder that ‘order’ is produced, only through the re-presentation of the seemingly useless and chaotic that an acceptable, ‘beautiful’ image emerges. Similarly, in the kaleidoscopic city it is only through uncovering the secondary that a new “space for action” is revealed. Although a form of representation itself, the Kaleidoscopic City is not intended as an alternative to normative representations. It is rather a mapping out of the negotiations of seeing that compose the image of the city and, in effect, could define the possible scope of its representation in architectural practices. Distilled through the consequent processes of signification that mark the transition from the physical image(s) of the city to the image of its representation, the interpretations that are produced out of these ways of seeing are carried through to the space of the drawing.
To conclude, I do not in fact consider the product of this investigation an installation. It is a single drawing in the making presenting a small sample of the multiple ‘reflections’ - the multiple images - of the city. These images, nested here within one another, each present the city through a new ‘order’. Consequently, the Kaleidoscopic City itself awaits the re-ordering, animated gaze of a willing observer.
Published 24th September, 2015.
^ Wheatstone, Walter. 1838. ‘Contributions to the Physiology of Vision Part the First. On Some Remarkable, and Hitherto Unobserved, Phenomena of Binocular Vision’, in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Vol.128. pp.371-394. The concept of the stereoscope was later developed by Sir David Brewster who presented the lenticular stereoscope – the first portable 3D viewing device – at the Great Exhibition in 1851.
^ The collaboration between painter David Octavius Hill and engineer Robert Adamson produced what are widely considered to be some of the earliest examples of photography with artistic value, and are specifically referred to by Walter Benjamin. See Benjamin, Walter. 1979. ‘A Small History of Photography’, in One-Way Street, and Other Writings, trans. Edmund Jephcott and Kingsley Shorter. London: New Left. pp.243-257. The concept of the panorama, a representation of a 360 degrees view, was developed in Edinburgh by Irish painter Robert Barker, inspired by the panoramic view of the city as offered to the viewer from the top of Calton Hill. Barker, who received a patent for his idea in 1796, produced drawings from the top of Calton Hill as well as from the steeple of the St. Giles Cathedral, which were later presented in London, in the first purpose-built panorama building.
^ For an introduction to these emergent modalities of observation see: Crary, Jonathan. 1992 (1990). Techniques of the Observer: On vision and modernity in the nineteenth century. Cambridge, MA & London: MIT Press. Herman Minkowski’s work drew on Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity as proposed in his 1905 paper ‘On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies’, see: Einstein, Albert. 1923 (1905). The Principle of Relativity, trans. George Barker Jeffrey and Wilfrid Perrett. London: Methuen and Company Ltd. Available here (accessed 25th April 2013). See also Petkov, Vesselin (ed.). 2012. Space and Time: Minkowski’s Papers on Relativity, trans. Fritz Lewertoff and Vesselin Petkov. Montréal: Minkowski Institute Press. Available here (accessed 25th April 2013). For Bergson’s work on time and space see: Bergson, Henri. 1910 (1889). Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness, trans. Frank Lubecki Pogson. London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd.
^ See Moholy-Nagy, László. 1947. Vision in motion. Chicago: Paul Theobald and Company.
^ Ola Soderstrom traces the establishment of modern planimetry between Alberti’s Descriptio de Urbis Romano and DaVinci’s ichnographic plan. According to Soderstrom the instrumentality of the plan laid largely on the visual detachment of the image produced from the physical image of the city, due to the establishment of a code of conventions among ‘specialists’. At once figurative and notational, the city plan offered by means of an ideal viewpoint the visualization of what was until then invisible, in Soderstom’s words: “an expansion of the comprehension of the physical reality of the city’ opening thus a ‘space for new action, the urban space.” Soderstrom, Ola. 1996. ‘Paper Cities: Visual Thinking in Urban Planning’ in Ecumene: A journal of environment, culture, meaning, Vol.3 No.3 (July), p.258.
^ Schulz, Juergen. 1978. ‘Jacopo de Barbari’s View of Venice: Map Making, City Views, and Moralized Geography before the year 1500’ in The Art Bulletin, Vol.60 No.3 (September), p.458.
^ Pinto, John A. 1976. ‘Origins and Development of the Ichnographic City Plan’ in Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 35 No. 1 (March), p. 35.
^ Latour, Bruno and Hermant, Emilie. 2006. ‘Paris: Invisible City’. Available here (accessed 7th December 2011).
^ Allen, Stan. 2009 (2000). Practice: Architecture, Technique and Representation. London: Routledge.
^ On the effects of constancy on visual perception see Gibson, James M. (1965) ‘Constancy and invariance in perception’ in György Képes (ed.), The Nature and Art of Motion. London: Studio Vista. pp.60-70
^ Banou, Sophia. 2013. Kaleidoscopic City. Site-specific installation at Plenitude and Emptiness: Symposium on Architectural Research by Design, Inspace, Edinburgh, 4th - 6th October 2013.
^ Carter, Paul. 2009. Dark Writing: Geography, Performance, Design. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, p.1.
^ Carter, Paul. 2009. Dark Writing, p. 5.
^ “In ichnography, as in typography, the impression is the product of a relationship. The material in which the type is printed is as important as in drawing the track as the stamp, hoof, or foot pressing down... the ancient track is not simply the container of events... but an ex
pression in its own right.” Carter, Paul. 2009. Dark Writing, pp.165-166. It is pertinent to note here that ‘trace’ in Greek is ichnos (ίχνος); ichnography is, therefore, a writing or documentation of traces.
^ Banou, Sophia. 2013. Weaving Lines/Looming Narratives. Site-specific installation, Newcastle University School of Arts and Cultures, 28th January – 2nd February 2013.
^ “In a nutshell, the arguments of the authors proposing this radical erasure from our spatial vocabulary are the following: scale is not an ontological category but an epistemological one. There is no such thing as a nested hierarchy organizing the social world. […] Non-geographers such as Bruno Latour and Arturo Escobar have developed broadly similar arguments... Like the deconstruction of other mega-categories such as culture and identity, the deconstruction of scale is both helpful and unsatisfactory. It is helpful because it alerts us to the possible confusions between things in the world and things in our heads, and because it opens up new and more complex ways of seeing the social and spatial organization of the world.” Soderstrom, Ola. 2011. ‘How Images assemble the image of the world’ in New Geographies 4: Scales of the Earth. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, p.113.
^ Developing from Georges Perec’s attempt to ‘exhaust’ a place. Perec, Georges. 2010 (1974). An attempt at exhausting a place in Paris, trans. Marc Lowenthal. Cambridge, MA: Wakefield Press.
^ The majority of the traces were represented at 1:2, but the nature of certain traces made this impossible in some cases.
^ Hence the neologism deriving from Greek words kalos (κάλος) meaning beauty, eidos (είδος) form, and skopeo (σκοπέω-ώ) to see. Brewster, David. 1858. The Kaleidoscope: Its history, theory and construction. London: John Murray, p.1.
^ Brewster, David. 1858. The Kaleidoscope, pp.134-136.
^ Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola’s Canon of the Five Orders of Architecture (1562) for instance, describes how mathematical and geometrical rules of harmony were carried through to an architectural aesthetics. This architectural treatise, comprising of 32 engravings as well as some brief accompanying texts, summarizes the forms and figures of the five architectural canons that allowed for the wider dissemination of the orders as a set of exemplary rules for architectural production. Vignola’s work was influenced by the work of Vitruvius in compiling De Architectura (ca. 30BCE), the first architectural rule book that also distinctively suggested the symmetry and proportions of the human body as a paradigm for the achievement of venustas (beauty) in architectural design.
^ The United Kingdom Ordnance Survey maintains its name from its original role of mapping areas of Scotland during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 for military purposes.
^ In ‘The Figure from Above: On the obliqueness of the Plan in Urbanism and Architecture’, John Macarthur writes on Captain Gordon H. G. Holt’s techniques of aerial photography as a tool for “the architectural understanding of cities.“ Macarthur points out Holt’s description of “what needs to be understood” through his photography as “ordonnance,” tracing the etymology of the term to both Holt’s background as an RAF pilot and Claude Perrault’s definition of the term in the essay ‘Ordonnance Des Cinq Espèces des Colonnes Selon la Méthode Des Anciens’. Macarthur, John. 2013. ‘The Figure from Above: On the obliqueness of the Plan in Urbanism and Architecture’ in Mark Dorrian and Frederic Pousin (eds.), Seeing from Above: The Aerial View in Visual Culture. London & New York: I.B. Tauris. p.190.
^ Lynch, Kevin. 1960. The Image of the City. Cambridge, MA & London: MIT Press. p.4.
^ Lynch, Kevin. 1960. The Image of the City, p.2.
^ Lynch, Kevin. 1960. The Image of the City, pp.12-13.
^ Lynch, Kevin. 1960. The Image of the City, p.13.
^ Baudelaire, Charles. 1863. ‘The Painter of Modern Life’, trans. Jonathan Mayne In J. Mayne (ed.). 1995. The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays. London: Phaidon Press, p. 9.
^ Bergson, Henri. 1908 (1896). Matter and Memory, trans. Nancy Margaret Paul and W. Scott Palmer. London: George Allen and Unwin, p.12. Available at (accessed 11th September 2013).
^ Bergson, Henri. 1908 (1896). Matter and Memory, p.xi.
^ Bergson, Henri. 1908 (1896). Matter and Memory, p.xvii.
^ Bergson, Henri. 1908 (1896). Matter and Memory, p.xviii.
^ “When a ray of light passes from one medium into another, it usually traverses it with a change of direction. But the respective densities of the two media may be such that, for a given angle of incidence, refraction is no longer possible. Then we have total reflexion... Perception is just a phenomenon of the same kind... there is for images merely a difference of degree, and not of kind, between being and being consciously perceived.” Bergson, Henri. 1908 (1896). Matter and Memory, p.12.
^ Bergson, Henri. 1908 (1896). Matter and Memory, p.12.
^ “The course of history as represented in the concept of catastrophe has no more claim on the attention of the thinking mind than the kaleidoscope in the hand of a child which, with each turn, collapses everything ordered into new order. The justness of this image is well-founded. The concept of the rulers has always been the mirror by means of whose image an ‘order’ was established. This kaleidoscope must be smashed.” Walter Benjamin parallels the kaleidoscope to history as a process of knowledge that progresses through the decomposition and re-composition of an image. Benjamin’s understanding of a ‘mirrored order’ suggests the potential subjectivity of an interpretative manipulation of this re-composed image. Benjamin, Walter. 1985. ‘Central Park’ in New German Critique, No.34 (Winter), Telos Press, p.34.
^ Playfair, John. 1802. Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth. Edinburgh: William Creech.
^ Hague, Cliff and Jenkins, Paul. 2005. ‘The changing image and identity of the city in the 21st century: ‘Athens of the North’ or ‘North of Athens’’ in B. Edwards and P. Jenkins (eds.). Edinburgh: The Making of a Capital City. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, p. 218.
^ The traces were imprinted on the acrylics as engravings produced by a laser cutter.
^ These ‘new’ optical devices constitute representations of the respective six found in the city. Inheriting characteristics of the original into the installation these are intended to function as optical devices within the representation; that is as devices that visually facilitate the reading of the traces.
^ Soderstrom, Ola. 1996. ‘Paper Cities’, p.258.
Weaving Lines/Looming Narratives
Weaving Lines/Looming Narratives
Weaving Lines/Looming Narratives
Still from Reflections, a film produced as part of the Camera Eye research studio, TU Delft, 2004.
This essay seeks to unlock alternative perspectives on the practice of theory and/or the theory of practice through the construction of a meta-medial framework based on agency-scapes (a concept I will expand below). The scope of this piece of research is defined by the relation between medium, desire and affect, and the inquiry will be directed towards the exploration of the role of media in the interplay between what was formerly known as perception, and the independent force of desire, which renders the anthropocentric hegemony of will obsolete. The central question in this essay is: what is the affective capacity of a medium like architecture? How can architectural conditions – regarded on their merits as media – express an independent desire through agency, and following on from this, how can we – as designers – bond to this realm of non-anthropocentric agency to enrich our own design driven abstractions? Within this framework the specific role or use of media is the central topic under investigation, but even more importantly I aim to expose meta-media as a manifestation of agency. To this end I will first sketch a theoretical position, addressing the Affective Turn and New Materialism, before briefly describing a series of design studios in which the expressed objective was to explore the affective capacity of media, and the possibilities inherent in blurring the boundary between the tangible and the affective. Throughout I draw from the fields of media theory and design philosophy to introduce various conceptual parameters. In particular I will adapt a model used by social-cultural anthropologist Arjun Appadurai to create a specific mental framework. In so doing I highlight a premise running through this paper: that what I am looking for in and through this inquiry will not be directly visible; instead that which I seek always needs something upon which to cast a shadow, a shadow through which we might infer presence. To embody this abstract notion I draw here upon a lecture delivered by Nat Chard at the Plenitude & Emptiness symposium in Edinburgh where he showed a stereoscopic image in which a shift of camera-angle had caused an object to ‘disappear’ but its to shadow remain. This residual form perfectly exemplified the concept that I will go on to describe below: the shadow without a body.
The ‘Affective Turn’ and New Materialism: thinking ‘agency’
Originating in Deleuzian scholarship, this research departs from an area currently referred to as the Affective Turn. Affect theory is a way of understanding domains of experience that fall outside (or refuse to fall within) the prevailing paradigm of representation. These experiences are seen as coextensive with our mental and bodily experiences, but are irreducible to them and as such do not depend on any signifying instrument. Affects cause auto-responses of the body and thus circumvent consciousness; experience is never of something, but rather is something, and as such is irreducible to what we call lived experience. As radical empiricist Brian Massumi argues:
Thought lags behind itself. It can never catch up with its own beginnings. The half-second of thought-forming is forever lost in darkness. All awareness emerges from a nonconscious thought-o-genic lapse indistinguishable from movements of matter.
Affect is therefore embodied, and, Massumi argues, any theory of media or culture must both take affect into account and, at the same time, abandon the structuralist signifier in order to give way to an “asignifying philosophy of affect.”
This discourse on affect is now an intrinsic part of research into contemporary political, cultural and economic transformations, as well as into their ramifications in the social domain. Media theorist Michael Hardt summarises:
The challenge of the perspective of the affects resides primarily in the synthesis it requires. This is, in the first place, because affects refer equally to the body and the mind; and, in the second, because they involve both reason and the passions. Affects require us, as the term suggests, to enter the realm of causality, but they offer a complex view of causality because the affects belong simultaneously to both sides of the causal relationship. They illuminate, in other words, both our power to affect the world around us and our power to be affected by it, along with the relationship between these two powers.
The Affective Turn can be situated under the broader post-post-structuralist and radical empiricist Ontological Turn. Within this turn New Materialism, as it has come to be known, advocates the conceptualization of interchange and fluctuation between the realms of nature and culture (dismantling or ‘deterritorializing’ former distinctions between these realms). This conceptualization results in an argument that states that nature and culture are always already “naturecultures,” and that the mind is, therefore, always already material. In this construct the mind is an idea of the body and matter is unavoidably something of the mind – the mind has the body as its object.
New Materialism therefore opposes those preternatural and humanist traditions in cultural theory that are based on dualist structures, and offers an enticing alternative by opening up theory formations in which matter is a strong actor. This has important implications for thinking agency (the capacity to affect); it shifts the prerogative on agency from the anthropocentric to the shared domain (matter, medium, mind, body). The feminist philosopher Karen Barad elaborates:
Agency for me is not something that someone or something has to varying degrees, since I am trying to displace the very notion of independently existing individuals. This is not, however, to deny agency in its importance, but on the contrary, to rework the notion of agency in ways that are appropriate to relational ontologies. Agency is not held, it is not a property of persons or things; rather, agency is an enactment, a matter of possibilities for reconfiguring entanglements.
Under the lead of this New Materialist thought (New Materialism), and as a result of this shifting thinking on agency, matter is re-thought; matter is rapidly losing its characteristic passivity. In this thinking matter is slowly freed from its inability to express and to act upon desires. Simultaneously, therefore, desires might emerge unconsciously, independent of the spirit and resistant to the will of the mind. Matter, acting in very physical ways, thus takes on a remarkable autonomous agency, or what political theorist Jane Bennett refers to as: “the capacity of things – edibles, commodities, storms, metals – not only to impede or block the will and designs of humans but also to act as quasi agents or forces with trajectories, propensities, or tendencies of their own.” In this light we could ask ourselves in what way the (un-conscious) body expresses desires as the ex
pression its own desires, rather than desires of the mind. Desire here – non-representational, not obedient to the mind, non-essential and unhindered by conscious intervention – interacts and is induced by matter in a most immediate way; matter becomes affective.
Crucially matter, in this context, needs to be seen as social; it is not about the individual but about tendencies. The ‘collaboration’ between the human (and technological) and matter is predominantly seen through the lenses of anthropocentrism and the hylomorphist tenure, causing developments in thinking on the subject to take a narrow and singular path. To speak with political and social theorist Diana Coole:
It is this chiasm – between touching and touched, activity and passivity, phenomenal and objective being - that grants the body its capacity for “double sensation” and which opens it onto a world or, to express it more ontologically, this is Being, flesh, existence, opening itself to contingency, meaning, and self-transformation; a hollowing out whereby interiority, dimensionality, and productive differentiation occur.
Central to the argument I am developing here, and counter to hylomorphist thinking, is the premise that the virtual and the actual are both seen as being reality, and that there is nothing beyond this reality. The only way to describe any situation is to become that situation; any attempt to represent something will only lead to a new situation and thus tell us little about the original. Research needs to be aided by cases and concepts – both virtual and actualized – and not by representations. Research through design seems to be a vital instrument to support this conviction.
The ‘grey mouse’: description by proxy
With this conceptual territory sketched out, let us turn to the question of agency (the ability to affect), and crucially the question of agency as it relates to (the use of) media. I will, for the time being, refer to the object (I use the term with care here) of the notional research described here as ‘The Grey Mouse’; like the grey mouse its appearance can only be determined through its relation to its surroundings. The grey mouse is thus a placeholder for a variety of research topics. Taking Arjun Appadurai’s five categories (which he calls “deeply perspectival constructs, inflected very much by the historical, linguistic and political situatedness of different sorts of actors”) as a starting point we might locate this elusive research object in relation to the current discourse on New Materialism described in the preceding section of this essay. In order to do so I propose to convert Appadurai’s ‘scapes’ into four categories, distinguishing between ethoscape (affect), ideoscape (concept), mediascape (form of ex
pression) and technoscape (form of content). The grey mouse is located in the middle of our chart of revised ‘scapes’, between affect, concept, ex pression and content.
Crucially, this adjustment of Appadurai’s terms is not simply a refinement of the originary statements, nor is it a transgression of any sort. Rather it is an attempt to locate research that responds directly to Appadurai’s meta-construct itself, which allows – almost provokes – adaptation, indigenization and appropriation. In the construction of these four ‘scapologies’ Appadurai departs from the multitude of recognized, seemingly open-ended presuppositions that condition discourse. For instance, he identifies multicore rather than singular power structures (like authority, technology and ethnicity itself), thus permitting continuous shifting power balances, he isolates agency (as an instrument) allowing for a diversity of experience within and beyond its context, and he sees identity or citizenship as an (temporary) outcome of intersecting ‘scapes’ rather than as a presumed given. These differentiations do not arise from the simple subdivision of existing categories into ‘scapes’, but rather from the recognition that the disjuncture between these categories is the primal core of their existence. By temporarily placing elements in different ‘settings’ we can ‘zoom in on an element’ without losing the capacity to view the entire assemblage.
I am aware that categorization as a system unavoidably brings with it critical flaws. Firstly it entices the user to put every component of investigation into one of the defined categories, and is thus a form of anthropocentric reductionism (even without bringing to bear any of the affective arguments dealing with the abolition of the subject-object paradigm). Secondly, this act of categorization, the act of constructing an ‘exterior’, suggests that the ‘subject who is constructing the scheme’ cannot be placed in that scheme, or, in other words, that they possess objective exteriority. Creating a scheme is thus to remove oneself from the equation. Despite these flaws systems of categorization are, potentially, helpful, as long as we recognize that we only construct such systems in order to inspect the un-inspectable, as a starting point created because our topic of research falls outside existing classifications. In this way we might begin to look for the shadows cast and the contrasts produced by the elusive ‘object’ of our attention, our ‘Grey Mouse’, without ever being able to (or needing to) look it in the eye directly. Categories temporarily, therefore, become a means of seeing that which is currently unseen. In this context the temporality of a system is always under question; as we can only see the subject through its encounter with its environment, and as the environment changes by definition, the system can never be arrested in time. This a-temporal mechanism as a means of revealing I refer to as the bodiless shadow.
Mediascapes and Meta-media
To return firmly to media we might consider Appadurai’s term: ‘mediascapes’. The central aim of Appadurai’s theory is to dislodge the Renaissance humanism central to the emergence of diasporic, nomadic and migrant socio-cultural fields, especially in relation to the projected and the imaginary. On recognizing the limits of this mode of thought, Appadurai formulates an agile terminology able to change perspective and to both re-contextualize and be re-contextualized. Of particular interest in this regard is the modus of information that is the gateway between the virtual and the actual, whereby the virtual is understood as the non-actualized part of reality, and both the actual and the virtual are part of reality. Appadurai expresses this modus through the term ‘mediascapes’, suggesting that the non-individual imagination leads (or contributes) to the emergence of a non-anthropocentric yet social force:
The image, the imagined, the imaginary – these are all terms that direct us to something critical and new in global cultural processes: the imagination as a social practice… The imagination is now central to all forms of agency, is itself a social fact, and is the key component of the new global order.
Here the notion of imagination is lifted, in the same manner as matter, to the level of the meta-individual (rather than the level of the intra-subjective). As literary critic Katherine Hayles notes:
Against [the] dream or nightmare of the body as information, what alternatives exist? We can see beyond this dream, I have argued, by attending to the material interfaces and technologies that make disembodiment such a powerful illusion. By adopting a double vision that looks simultaneously at the power of simulation and at the materialities that produce it, we can better understand the implications of articulating posthuman constructions together with embodied actualities.
The re-definition of mediascape that I propose here attempts to overcome these dilemmas by starting (and ending) in difference. Mediascape, here, is understood as the definitive domicile of forms of ex
pression; it is through mediascape that information (which might appear also as a concept in the ideoscape or as content in the technoscape) resides, pulling all four scapes into the virtual and the actualized domain. Information here must not be seen in its most restricted sense; the absence of information is also information and information here can act dichotomously (when it appears here, it cannot be there, when it is there it had to have been here and so on). Keeping close the notion of the ethoscape (or, affect), this definition leads to an evaluation of information that ensures information is no longer reduced to its appearances in one of the ‘scapes’ alone. In fact we cannot even attempt to describe it through any single value, but rather information here is always seen as a multitude of ‘avatars’ shaped by its ex pression within a particular ‘scape’. In this way information becomes pure agency, not the agency of something, but agency full stop.
Information, therefore, lies in the concept of meta-media; it is meta-medial, not to be mistaken for cross-medial, trans-medial or multi-medial. In all of the latter categories the specificities of particular media are combined, connected and transposed to achieve a higher goal, to create to a stronger ex
pression of communication. The specific denotation of meta-media I draw on here refers to media theorist Lev Manovich’s (the developer of the concept) description of meta-media as a field of new interactions between form and content in the field of emerging media and the convergence of technology and medium. Within this definition I would like to discuss a particular part of the meta-media system, namely the state that occurs when a certain concept, belief or idea is intensely present, to the extent that it dominates all other potential notions. This state of the ‘real virtual’, as opposed to virtual reality, saturates the mental-medium (the concept is often referred to in terms of highly volatile media, like ‘it is in the air’ or ‘out there in the ether’). This saturation is so ‘heavy’ that it can only be expressed through a particular medium, or, to be more precise, the virtual comes to demand some form of ex pression. At this point of saturation the virtual, overflowing with concept, is left with no option other than to crystalize in some type of medium: medium as the extension of man (effect), medium as substrate (capacities), medium as concretized sensation (ex pression), medium as entity (form), medium as force (agency) or medium as relation (becoming). Here, the elusive ‘grey mouse’ reappears; the ex pression of a concept through materialization, but a materialization conditioned by its surroundings and imminently affective.
To return to the issue raised at the beginning of this paper, we might, in this light, now ask: what is the affective capacity of a medium like urban-architecture, and what is the relationship between architecture as a materialization of a saturated concept and that concept? Here I will reaffirm a statement made above: the virtual and the actual are both reality. I have argued elsewhere that the relationship between the physical, the architecture of the tangible, and the architecture of affect have often been seen from a flawed perspective. Brian Massumi notes:
My starting point is the basic Spinozan definition of affect, which is an “ability to affect or be affected.” Right off the bat, this cuts transversally across a persistent division, probably the most persistent division. Because the ability to affect and the ability to be affected are two facets of the same event… You start in the middle, as Deleuze always taught, with the dynamic unity of an event.
Any research undertaken in which the initial premise was shaped by a perceived, fundamental difference between the architecture of the tangible and the architecture of affect, has, therefore, been overlooking one potentially provocative condition. The appearance of both types of architecture in the same conceptual field generally demands that one be subservient to the other; they are not of the same fabric and thus they cannot be equally strong. The question for this research should be whether this definition (type of defining even) of media or ‘types’ does not belong to a by-gone intellectual era. The classical definitions of media-typologies are based on properties gained as a result of their intrinsic qualities, in other words what photography is, is defined by the fact that it produces photographs, what the Polity of Moving Image produces, is defined by the fact that it produces moving images. In the contemporary ecology of media there is, in contrast, a constant interaction between media; media negotiate, share values, mediate protocols. It would immediately be more provocative to simply state, therefore, that both architectures (i.e. an architecture as tangible media and an architecture as affective media) are equal. There are still some fields were both types of media hold distinct value, but in architecture this is not necessarily the case, and it is provocative to explore the idea that these two values are not mutually exclusive. In this context the architectural ‘product’, if you will, is therefore no longer a product at all, it is an event, a transaction caught somewhere between the tangible and the affective.
Living in media
Amidst the current techno-social avalanche, in which media transform into an amorphous, ubiquitous entity, it is perhaps not surprising to hear a cry for reconnection with the non-mediated, a desire for the lived incident. However, as noted above, the classical distinction between the lived and the mediated has become extremely opaque. If the act of relaying information has gained the same status as the production of information (tweet-retweet, post-repost), all incidents will be measured by one particular bandwidth, removing the fundamental gap between the lived and the mediated. Coupled with the collapse of models based on the separation of the tangible and the affective, or the agency of the individual, this transfer of essential values forces us to re-evaluate the position of the mediated in our society, and particularly the relationship between the lived experience and media.
As sociologist and philosopher Zygmunt Bauman notes in his description of what he terms liquid modernity:
Because today we don’t believe any more that the state of perfection may ever be reached – the change is here to stay. For the first time in our history, we are confronted with change as a permanent condition of human life. So we need to develop the ways of behavior [sic], the ways of contact which are fit for living in this state of constant change.
In response we could (for the time being) adopt media theorist Mark Deuze’s concept of a life lived not through, but in media. Here the alterity of all that is physical is subjugated to our individual perception and an assumed neutrality, and the closest we might come to a ‘moment of objectivity’ is through an accumulation of all mediated notions. Mark Deuze explains:
Media have come to be part of every aspect of people’s daily lives, facilitated by the worldwide proliferation of the internet and similar services that connect subscribers to a global, always-on digital information and communication network. The whole of the world and our lived experience in it can indeed be seen as framed by, mitigated through, and made immediate by pervasive and ubiquitous media. This world is what Roger Silverstone considers a ‘mediapolis’: a mediated public space where media underpin and overarch the experiences of everyday life.
Within this condition we could (re-)structure the interdependencies that traditionally appeared to have existed between the production and representation in and of moving imagery and urban conditions. We might also address the relationship between an individual and our means of engagement with a particular condition. Before the democratization of moving images it was possible to distinguish three qualities in which the Polity of Moving Image excelled: the fragmentation of time, the fragmentation of space and the fragmentation of memory. In this context we could define fragmentation as creating a whole by the collection of its fragments as opposed to defragmentation where we create the whole by assimilation. This differentiation appears subtle and perhaps insignificant, but this depends entirely on what we want to address. Just as the dérive was not about finding reality, Kino-Pravda was not about finding truth; both were a means of collecting. In both Kino-Pravda and the derive the (individual) player created a fundamental gap between player and game board, and thus abandoned all notions of objectivity.
A new approach, a dismantling of the artistic Tower of Babel to go with Vertov, seems necessary here to accommodate the collapse of distances between investigator and the investigated, whether it be the heroic cameraman or the meandering intellectual and the old city, and to address the re-atuned relationship between the virtual and the actual. As a tactical device, the dérive or drift was constructed to engage the discourse on social and cultural modernist conditions by re-entering a condition of “representational space” (as opposed to, using Lefebvre’s terms here, a condition of the “representation of space”). Aligning such techniques with methodologies developed and used by film-makers in the decennia after Guy Debord and the Situationists we might start to uncover a means to map socio-spatial-cultural-economic conditions in contemporary urban settings using moving imagery.
Take it to the street
To give an example of such an approach I will here describe some research undertaken between 2004-2009 with small groups of post-graduate students at the faculty of architecture, Delft University of Technology. This research took place in two stages. In the first stage a group of students were asked to analyse sections of film to the point that they started to disintegrate (the film clips, not the students), meaning that every single layer in sound, pure image, framing, montage, and so on, was processed and counted, translated into tables and graphics. In effect they had extracted the shadow and discarded the body. On the basis of this data they were asked to remake the clip using different subjects, in this case urban architectures, before remaking the clip again by transforming it into an architectural form. This form, finally, was cast into concrete and subsequently as a character in a short film dealing with the architectural form itself. What these projects revealed was that not only were the results, the designs themselves, accomplished pieces of work, but also the students had discovered that it was useful to be able to dive in and out of this bundle of data, as it helped them to keep control of the design process and its underlying and overarching philosophy. They were able to design a new body, without any direct reference to the original, yet with the same ontological intensity.
In the second stage a second group of students were taught to be able to intelligently produce moving images before being sent out to a site for which they had to conceive a design intervention. These sites were specifically chosen on the basis of their social vulnerability and were often situated in hostile places from around the world. On arrival they had two missions. The first was to systematically analyse the site using a camera and following a set of pre-determined instructions. The second mission was to make a short film about the affective quality and the affective efficiency of the area and its inhabitants. This was not to be a documentary, nor an analysis, but a highly subjective sketch of the conditions they encountered. Upon their return these students were asked to develop this short film alongside the design for the intervention. At the conclusion of the project they revealed the two outputs simultaneously during one presentation (sometimes there were more outputs on display, such as written reports about the survey, video-stills and photographs). By not distinguishing between the two pre-set media the design of the film and the design of the architecture became one, as well as the research, the affection, the social and political conditions etc. In other words, they had started to create one bundle of information out of which several concrete media-products emerged; the various pieces were one and the same, different in shape yet iso-affective (of the same affectiveness) alterities. We had created the ´Grey Mouse´ itself, taking form and simultaneously casting shadows and forming contrasts in mediascape, ideoscape and technoscape; at once an architecture of affect and an architecture of tangibility.
It is time to rethink design strategies and models for perception, conception and affection. The notion of model itself is already vulnerable, as there is no input, nor output, but only throughput. In its place the process of research, concept, design, product should be conceived as one, a meta-medial framework, as an auto-charging field of conceptual saturation in the realm of the virtual, ready to discharge and be concretized in the actual. Research by design by research. While these notions are not yet mental models, they will become so as they inform and are reflected in the organization of the design process, and as the development and extrapolation of and through design projects feed back into this theoretical context. This feedback loop, therefore, alters not only the mediascape it may have evoked, but also all other scapes. To follow the militant psychotherapist and philosopher Félix Guattari:
The decisive factor, it seems to me, is the general inflexibility of social and psychological praxes - their failure to adapt - as well as a widespread incapacity to perceive the erroneousness of partitioning off the real into a number of separate fields. It is quite simply wrong to regard action on the psyche, the socius, and the environment as separate… we need to apprehend the world through the interchangeable lenses of the three ecologies.
The practice of research is – just as the theory of design – not to be arrested and forced into any pre-given form or methodology. Rather research through design, given its ability to address both the affective and the tangible equally, is the quintessential strategy to transform methodological limit into essential heuristic ingenuity. Through design-led research one can no longer think in terms of the specificity of a medium when looking at the affective capacity of that medium. One instead ought to explore the manner in which, as demonstrated above, this affective capacity (agency) might be revealed. This capacity might not be stable, but it is certainly concrete. The highest achievable goal here is to craft an intertwined dynamic field that creates an impression in ethoscape, mediascape, ideoscape and/or technoscape, aggregating meta-medial thought directly into the actualized object (to, as above, use the word carefully). Like the object of our research here, the research-by-design process is capable of casting a solid, if bodiless, shadow.
Published 24th September, 2015.
^ Chard, Nat. 2013. ‘Drawing Uncertainty’. Lecture at Plenitude and Emptiness: Symposium on Architectural Research by Design. Edinburgh, 4-6th October 2013, Friday 4th October.
^ Massumi, Brian. 2002. Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, p 195.
^ Massumi, Brian. 2002. Parables for the Virtual, p 27.
^ From foreword to Tincineto Clough, Patricia. 2007. The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
^ Deterritorializing in the Deleuzian sense.
^ ‘Naturecultures’ is a term coined by Donna Haraway in: Haraway, Donna. 2003. The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People and Significant Otherness. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press.
^ The term ‘New Materialism’ was coined by Rosi Braidotti and Manuel DeLanda.
^ Dolphijn, Rick and Van der Tuin, Iris. 2012. New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies. Michigan University Library: Open Humanities Press.
^ Bennett, Jane. 2010. Vibrant Matter, Durham, NC & London: Duke University Press.
^ Coole, Diana. 2010. ‘The Inertia of Matter and the Generativity of Flesh’, in New Materialism; Ontology, Agency, and Politics. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, p.107.
^ Appadurai, Arjun. 1996. Modernity at Large. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press, p.33.
^ Žižek, Slavoj. 2009. The Parallax View, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
^ Appadurai continues: “No longer mere fantasy (opium for the masses whose real work is somewhere else), no longer simple escape (from a world defined principally by more concrete purposes and structures), no longer elite pastime (thus not relevant to the lives of ordinary people), and no longer mere contemplation (irrelevant for new forms of desire and subjectivity), the imagination has become an organized field of social practices, a form of work (in the sense of both labor [sic] and culturally organized practice), and a form of negotiation between sites of agency (individuals) and globally defined fields of possibility. This unleashing of the imagination links the play of pastiche (in some settings) to the terror and coercion of states and their competitors.” Appadurai, Arjun. 1996. Modernity at Large, p.33.
^ Hayles, Katherine N. 1999. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, p.47.
^ Just as affect, percept, and concept are, to use Spinoza’s term, proto-actions of affection, perception, conception etc.
^ Manovich, Lev. 2001. The Language of New Media, Cambridge, MA: MIT press. This is a reversal of Marshall McLuhan’s conception of meta-media as the totalizing effect of media. McLuhan, Marshal. 1964. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, London: Routledge.
^ Boumeester, Marc. 2011. ‘Reconsidering Cinematic Mapping: Halfway Between Collected Subjectivity and Projective Mapping’ in Francois Penz & Andong Lu (eds.), Urban Cinematics: Understanding Urban Phenomena through the Moving Image. Chicago: Intellect Press.
^ Expanding on these two ‘facets’ Massumi notes: “One face is turned towards what you might be tempted to isolate as an object, the other towards what you might isolate as a subject. Here, they are two sides of the same coin. There is an affectation, and it is happening in-between. You start with the in-betweenness [sic]. No need to detour through well-rehearsed questions of philosophical foundations in order to cobble together a unity.” Massumi interviewed by Joel McKim in “Micropolitics: Exploring Ethico-Aesthetics” in Inflexions: A Journal for Research-Creation, No 3, October 2009.
^ The polity of Moving Image is the entire system that produces moving images, including all economic, industrial, societal and creative components.
^ Bauman, Zygmunt. 2000. Liquid Modernity, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
^ Deuze, Mark. 2007. Media Works, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. pp.12-13. See: Silverstone, Roger. 2006. Media and Morality: On the Rise of the Mediapolis. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
^ Dérive: the exploration of urban landscapes fuelled by aesthetic instinct. Kino Pravda (film truth): a concept promoted by Dziga to capture fragments of actuality with the film camera, which – after editing - would reveal deeper layers of truth that could not be seen without the intervention of the camera and the system of montage.
^ In Vertov’s view, ‘art’s tower of Babel’ was the dominance of narrative over cinematic technique - in film theory also known as the Institutional Mode of Representation - which he saw as a direct threat to the construction of true cinema.
^ Lefebvre, Henri. 1991. The Production of Space, Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing.
^ Parts of this research have been described in Hauptman, Deborah and Akkerhuis, Bart (eds.). 2006. The Body in Architecture. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers; and Penz, François and Lu, Andong (eds.). 2011. Urban Cinematics: Understanding urban phenomena through the moving image. Bristol: Intellect.
^ Guattari, Félix. 1989. The Three Ecologies in New formations, No.8 (Summer)
Bodyless Shadow (a)
Bodyless Shadow (b)
Bodyless Shadow (c)
Bodyless Shadow (d)
Bodyless Shadow (e)
Bodyless Shadow (f)
Bodyless Shadow (g)
Bodyless Shadow (h)
Nine Notebooks: Cross-Referencing Machine. Ersi Ioannidou, produced for Drawing On: Plenitude & Emptiness, 2014.
By its very nature design research accumulates a complex system of references, either in the form of texts, objects or representations of objects. These three reference elements constitute the support for any research project, but these various reference-forms are not tautological; texts do not simply restate objects, and representations of objects are fundamentally distinct from objects themselves. Rather this accumulation of ‘data’ (in its original Latin sense meaning ‘that which is given’) creates a complex constellation of existing texts, existing objects, existing representations of objects, newly produced texts, new objects and new representations of objects. Usually such an accumulation of references, this constellation, remains un-seen. The final presentation of a project uses only a small selection of references, often as a means of post-rationalising the design process and supporting a linear narrative imposed on the development of the design project. This ‘masking’ of references is frequently exacerbated by the requirement within academic publishing to document and disseminate research and its findings in a particular manner, a manner in which the complex combinatorial system common to design research is subordinated to the linearity of established systems of documenting research which favour textual descriptions. But this enforced linearity reveals little of the design process and the role of references in that process. This paper argues that rather than subordinating references critical to design research to the limits established by text-led formats, design researchers ought to embrace the challenge of describing the function of references in the documentation of a project. This challenge might lead to a more appropriate format for presenting design research, one that not only acknowledges that the process of design is a complex and continuous interchange and exchange between the existing and the new, but also questions the pre-eminence of text in explaining and describing this relationship. In turn this new approach to presenting research might lead to an alternative means of presenting all research, one that more readily acknowledges the process by which research projects emerge and develop.
In this context the starting point for this paper is a series of sketchbooks filled during the development of a design research project entitled House of Multiple Dimensions. These sketchbooks hold a serendipitous collection of potentially useful references: design precedents, text citations, photographs, notes and ideas. Cumulatively they act as an informal record of the project’s theoretical and design background. They locate the project in relation to ideas, objects and experiences and when critically examined reveal certain recurring, constant preoccupations that, sometimes unwittingly, directed the project.
Text, objects and representations
The first issue to address in this context is format. Standard presentations of academic work deny design research the opportunity to include one of its key constituent elements: newly produced objects. This is problematic, and the result is that something is always conspicuously absent in the presentation of design work. While we are able to understand the intentions of the designer without the objects being described being present, the visual power of the work is diminished and a key part of the emergent argument is denied to us. However, while problematic this apparent weakness in presentation might also present an opportunity for design researchers. Charged with ensuring that any representation of an object either conveys the power of that original object or, perhaps more provocatively, is produced in such a way as to be more powerful than the original objects themselves, the designer is put in a position in which their own production is under constant re-evaluation. Documenting an object through a series of well-considered representations therefore gives the designer the opportunity to not only curate the viewer’s engagement with and understanding of the design research project, but also to see their own project in a different light. Constructing these representations and discussing their particular effects might, therefore, be considered a necessary element of a critical design project. For this reason in what follows I will argue that the absence of objects is not the main problem in text-led formats, rather it is the imposed linearity of the conventional format, and the manner in which this linear form conditions our reading of non-linear processes.
Linear documentations of pieces of design research favour textual descriptions that provide the reader with those elements necessary to understand a given project. However, in this format the main documentary form is the text, everything else refers to or illustrates this text: existing or cited text is referenced fastidiously in footnotes; existing representations of objects are captioned and their provenance documented in the list of figures; representations of newly produced objects are demoted to illustrations, often accompanied by explanatory texts of their own. This typical format respects and conforms to a set of established conventions and traditions of research, it seeks to present design research processes in a rational way and, in so doing, omits and conceals the complex relationships between the various elements underlying a given project. I would stress here that in the wider context of research and academic publication this is not an extraordinary occurrence, limited only to design research; other fields of research frequently force their research processes and outcomes into linear narratives and in so doing similarly screen the more chaotic, free-moving reality of research. Design research, however, is an emerging field, unencumbered by congealed conventions and traditions. It thus has the opportunity to tackle a series of issues concerning both methodology and documentation as they emerge with a freedom other research modes might not. These issues might include, as Henk Borgdorff notes:
What kinds of documentation would do justice to research that is guided by an intuitive creative process and by tacit understandings? What value does a rational reconstruction have if it is far removed from the actual, often erratic course taken by the research? … And what is the relationship between the artistic and the discursive, between what is presented and displayed and what is described?
These questions express, as Linda Candy and Ernest Edmonds note, “the need to consider frameworks that identify the flow of actions and ideas between different aspects of the research process.” They also acknowledge that “different projects will traverse different trajectories,” and the challenge, here, is to create formats of documentation that reflect the complexity of design processes and question the pre-eminence of linear textual description, not purely for the purposes of presenting design research, but for opening up new ways of thinking about the presentation of all types of research.
Referencing as creative practice
Two interesting examples of recent design research that deal with issues of referencing and documentation are Jan Kattein’s The Architecture Chronicle: Diary of an Architectural Practice, completed in 2008, and Yeoryia Manolopoulou’s Drawing on Chance: Indeterminacy, Perception and Design, completed in 2003, both of which have recently been published. Kattein’s PhD document follows a linear format, but one in which the design process becomes the preeminent element of the research documentation. Text, references to existing texts and representations of existing objects and projects are placed in the margins as secondary elements, while the visual references and the results of the design process occupy the central position on the page. This format questions both the convention of text as pre-eminent means of description, analysis and critique and invites a new means of ‘reading’ research. At the same time this format illustrates the critical role of references as a collection of ideas, thoughts, and visual and textual cues that “assemble themselves” around the work produced, and consequently those representations of newly produced objects can speak and be read in the context from which they emerged.
In her PhD document Yeoryia Manolopoulou takes a different approach. In this document Manolopoulou constructs a complex cross-referencing system. In her abstract she writes:
Volume I contains collected research material. It is a volume of references – mainly visual – some of which have been investigated further by design or text. These ‘notes’ are organised in seven assemblages according to theme. Volume II is a text that follows the thematic organisation of the ‘notes’; the same themes are investigated and discussed by different means.
The parallel reading of the two volumes reveals “the links between the notes, the text and the design work.” A system of referencing numbers and notes in brackets criss-cross the two volumes, not only connecting the material within the volumes but also pointing to material that, while not present in the volumes themselves, informs the PhD research. Here the format speaks of the thesis at hand, the notion of ‘chance’ investigated and discussed in the thesis; the reader is encouraged to construct his/her own readings based on incidental associations.
These two examples challenge linear formats that favour textual descriptions and point to the need to consider flexible formats and frameworks that, while addressing the needs of conventions of research, allow for a documentation that through its format illuminates the particular individual trajectory of each design research project. They also, however, illustrate referencing understood as creative practice – that is, they create imaginative links between objects.
I would note here that this rethinking of referencing is neither new nor extraordinary – especially in art practices – however it raises two key issues that referencing frequently overlooks. Firstly we might consider the issue of originality. Originality is a relatively recent concept in western thought. It gained significance in the 18th century when a work of art ceased to be understood as the outcome of a continuing process of interchange, exchange and appropriation of past and present sources, and instead came to be recognised only through discovery. Of course, this does not mean that the practice of creative appropriation stopped, only that from this point on the acknowledgement of appropriation was sub-ordinated to the presentation of novelty. The second issue, of greater interest here, is the assumed knowledge of the reader and the manipulation of this knowledge. In visual arts there is a long tradition of playing on the pre-existing knowledge of viewers to create meaning. This is as true of allegorical paintings with biblical or mythological themes as of Marcel Duschamp’s L.H.O.O.Q. (1941-1942), which appropriates Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (1503-1506) for its own aims. Indeed, throughout the 20th and 21st centuries referencing has been used as a creative practice in literature and visual art to subvert existing taxonomies, to create meaning through juxtaposition, and to interweave visual and textual narratives.
As an example we might consider how these objectives are evident in works such as the curatorial projects of Sophie Calle and Fred Wilson, who employ visual and textual juxtapositions to subvert existing museum categorisations and invest museum objects with new complex meanings. In La Visite Guidée (1994), for example, Calle places new objects – most famously a red bucket – in museum vitrines next to ancient artefacts – in this case chamber pots. This juxtaposition of objects is accompanied by a narrative text explaining the personal significance and use of the particular contemporary objects. As Tony Godfrey states:
As the visitor looked at these banal objects she realised that all objects in the museum once had similar associations, a personal, social history, a patina of use. The museum became, however briefly, a museum of lives lived, not just things.’
The red bucket thus works as a footnote that refers the viewer back to the present and one’s personal experiences. This unexpected object in the vitrine breaks the convention of arranging objects according to historical periods or geographical provenance, and of valuing rare ancient objects over new readily available ones.
Similarly, in Mining the Museum (1992), Wilson places shackles in a vitrine of exquisite decorative silverware labelled ‘Metal Work 1793-1880’. This work links the objects exhibited to other objects of the same era and thus draws the viewer’s attention to the stories of people not represented in the museum (in the case of silverware vitrine, slaves). Interestingly, as its title suggests, for this work Wilson only used objects stored in the museum; his assigned role was to research the collection and to propose imaginative links between artefacts.
Recent texts have also employed acts of creative referencing. One extreme example is House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (2000). Danielewski uses footnotes as a means to structure his book’s multi-layered narrative. He subverts the conventions of referencing to design the book’s text and to involve the reader in a complex tangle of story telling. Here, Danielewski takes advantage of his readers’ knowledge of referencing conventions and uses it to liberate them from a linear reading and to involve them in creating the narrative. Interestingly, Danielewski not only subverts the textual conventions for creating a narrative and the academic conventions of footnotes but also the visual conventions of how to organise text on a page. The text is framed, becomes a frame, occupies the margins, occupies the page diagonally, disperses itself across the page and sometimes disappears. This visual manipulation of the text reflects the twist and turns of the narrative developing within. Thus, an imaginative link is created between what is read and what is viewed.
The House of Multiple Dimensions
These various works emphasise the combinatorial nature of creative practices and thought processes. They exploit the viewer’s knowledge of conventions to establish visual, textual and verbal links and thus enable the viewer to create new meanings and narratives. The documentation of design research could similarly exploit existing referencing conventions and traditions in scholarship and art to expose the creative combinatorial systems behind design projects. Returning to the sketchbooks mentioned at the start, and the collection of research material contained within, in the piece accompanying this paper I investigate the possibility of creating a visual representation of the connections between collected references and the design development of House of Multiple Dimensions. As the final chapter in a long inquiry this project sought to bring together the various strands of a larger research project, and consequently from its very beginning The House of Multiple Dimensions referred to a considerable collection of visual and textual references that were, in the process of designing and writing, informally recorded within the sketchbooks.
In the original documentation of the project scanned pages of these sketchbooks were presented in a continuous strip, as a visual introduction to a final written chapter. This strip was organised chronologically, from Sketchbook 1: December 2002-March 2003 to Sketchbook 9: May 2004. Within this strip selected pages were enlarged to draw attention to specific images and texts that played an important role in the research project in general and in the development of the design project in particular. This process of selection revealed certain recurring themes; namely, mechanical transformation, narrative interiors and minimum space – as well as the potential combination of these themes. This visual re-presentation sought to incorporate aspects of the research that had not been obviously influential in the final project as presented, but on reflection it revealed little about the design process and the role of references in that process. To address this shortcoming the accompanying piece to this paper embraces the challenge of describing the function of references in the documentation of a design research project and considers such a description as a form of design research in itself. The premise behind this visual re-presentation is that it should create an investigative multi-layered space in which the viewer could explore the material in the sketchbooks and the links between this work and the project, a project that is, in this presentation, largely absent.
This arrangement is inspired by the paradigm of the Kunstschrank, a large cabinet constructed to house a particular collection, common between 1540 and 1740. The objects contained within were arranged in a chain of four links that seamlessly united natural formations, ancient sculptures, works of art and technical equipment. However, the ordering principles of the cabinet were not made immediately apparent. The Kunstschrank ordered its encyclopaedic collection in a three-dimensional structure; the contents were stored in numerous layers of cupboards, drawers, boxes, and hidden compartments. Rather than establishing taxonomic groups the very purpose of the collection was thus to form bridges between artefacts, and the arrangement of pieces within drew connecting threads between objects on the basis of playful associations and juxtapositions; each object had its own significance but at the same time contributed and belonged to the meaning of a greater narrative embodied in the cabinet. Only by examining the cabinet’s complex internal subdivisions and the placement of the collected items within was the logic of the collection revealed.
In this way the Kunstschrank might be considered to represent a cumulative, potentially manipulative, approach to collecting, organising and presenting research material with the purpose of disseminating knowledge. Its fluid organisation system encourages cross-referencing and allows the emergence of new taxonomies by the arrangement and re-arrangement of objects. To an exercise of creative referencing in design research, this early modern way of structuring material might be considered a particularly useful source: first, it emphasises visual readings and understandings over textual ones; second, it presents a spatial system of cross-referencing; and third, it acknowledges those indirect connections which linear sequences try to conceal.
Through this re-presentation, and using the Kunstschrank as a presentation paradigm, we might find an alternative approach to (cross-)referencing that addresses Barbara Maria Stafford’s writings on the need to generate a ‘visual praxis’ for the digital age. In Good Looking (1996) and Visual Analogy (1999), Stafford argues that although modern western culture is saturated by images, visual material still occupies a subordinate position to written material in the production and dissemination of knowledge. Stafford suggests a re-reading of early modern methodologies, such as the encyclopaedic visual arrangement of the Wunderkammer, in order to escape what she sees as the ‘totemisation’ of language in contemporary thought and the linear sequences imposed by this totemisation. The Kunstschrank, in contrast, cannot be subjected to linear sequencing.
Continuing this line of thought, in designing the digital Kunstschrank presented here we might turn to Susan Delangrange’s “Wunderkammer, Cornell and The Visual Canon of Arrangement” (2009) and its accompanying piece “When Revision is Redesign: Key Questions for Digital Scholarship” (2009). In the first of these digital essays Delagrange both discusses and employs the Wunderkammer, the cabinet of curiosities, as a paradigm for design to argue “that the (visual) canon of arrangement, as represented in the Wunderkammer … is a heuristic for invention and discovery;” Delangrange believes that “a digital Wunderkammer would function as a thought engine in which the manipulation and arrangement of its contents by both collector/designer and visitor/viewer animates the process of inquiry and insight.” Designing her digital essay as a Wunderkammer Delangrange seeks to enact this argument. In her second piece, “When Revision is Redesign: Key Questions for Digital Scholarship,” Delangrange notes that a key issue when designing her digital Wunderkammer was how to maintain ambiguity when what was asked for by her reviewers was clarity and user-friendliness. Delangrange wished to remain ‘deliberately enigmatic’ in order to “enable the viewer to confront the experience of aporia, of being on the edge of understanding, as well as the Aha! experience of discovery that ground a heuristic of visual arrangement as invention.” Thus the Kunstschrank and the Wunderkammer represent not only a visual arrangement that encourages cross-referencing but also a process of discovery and understanding that successfully mirrors the complex process of research.
The first screen of the digital Kunstschrank presented in the accompanying piece, being ‘deliberately enigmatic’, depicts the front covers of nine (almost) identical sketchbooks. There are no instructions given to the viewer as to how to interact with these images. Moving the mouse over the screen reveals that two of the sketchbooks are active links. Once clicked these covers open to disclose their contents of textual and visual notes. Flicking through the pages of each sketchbook allows the viewer to explore accumulated research material. Occasionally a page contains an active link that relates the material on that page to drawings and models or other pieces of research material. Here, although the references within each sketchbook are arranged in a linear, chronological sequence, they are revealed to influence the design projects at intermittent points. These sketchbooks thus represent an arrangement of possibilities open to chance findings and personal interpretations; in their format they engage the viewer in a process of associative discovery. In this way exploration of these sources gradually reveals how references have been incorporated and finally assimilated into the project – or indeed by their ensuing absence where they have not. This presentation of a project through its references highlights the constellation of research material and references within which any project develops. In this presentation this constellation becomes a means of constructively juxtaposing ‘found things’ and ‘newly made things’, setting in motion mechanisms of discovery.
This digital Kunstschrank thus represents how design development might progress as a process open to accidents, lucky discoveries, irrational decisions, or non-linear links. It highlights the potential for on-going discovery through the accumulation and manipulation of references, a method of making connections intentionally directed toward something that has not yet found ex
pression. It represents design research as a journey into the unknown that becomes embedded in or embodied by the designed object.
Research is an act of imagination contained within a framework of tradition and conventions. Referencing – that is the acknowledgement of the work of others and its influence on the research outcome – is one of these universally accepted conventions. As noted above design research has the potential to create its own traditions and conventions within the broader field of academic research. This paper advocates new formats of referencing that question the pre-eminence of text and the necessity of linearity in the documentation of design research. It puts forward, through the Kunstschrank, the idea that referencing as a creative practice, that is understood as adding a designed layer to research documentation, could provide a means by which new forms of presentation emerge; presentation formats that more effectively communicate the workings of design development, and at the same time might provide a means of re-thinking both the conventions of referencing and the presentation of research beyond design-based practices.
Published 24th September, 2015.
^ Borgdorff, Henk. 2010. ‘The Production of Knowledge in Artistic Research’ in Biggs, Michael & Karlsson, Henrik (eds.). The Routledge Companion to Artistic Research. London: Routledge, p.57.
^ Candy, Linda and Edmonds, Ernest. 2010. ‘The Role of the Artefact and Frameworks for Practice-based Research’ in Biggs, Michael & Karlsson, Henrik (eds.). The Routledge Companion to Artistic Research. London: Routledge, p.136.
^ Candy, Linda and Edmonds, Ernest. 2010. ‘The Role of the Artefact and Frameworks for Practice-based Research’, p.136.
^ Kattein, Jan. 2009. The Architecture Chronicle: diary of an architectural practice. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Jan Kattein’s research will soon be published as: Kattein, Jan. 2014. The Architecture Chronicle: diary of an architectural practice. Farnham: Ashgate. Manolopoulou, Yeoryia. 2003. Drawing on Chance: Indeterminacy, Perception and Design. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Yeoryia Manolopoulou’s research has recently been published as: Manolopoulou, Yeoryia. 2013. Architectures of Chance. Farnham: Ashgate. The book does not follow the complex cross-referencing system of the PhD volumes.
^ Borgdorff, Henk. 2010. ‘The Production of Knowledge in Artistic Research’, p.58.
^ Manolopoulou, Yeoryia. 2003. Drawing on Chance, p.7-8.
^ Manolopoulou, Yeoryia. 2003. Drawing on Chance, p.8.
^ Smiers, Joost. 2010. ‘No copyright and no cultural conglomerates’ in Biggs, Michael & Karlsson, Henrik (eds.). The Routledge Companion to Artistic Research. London: Routledge, p.392.
^ Godfrey, Tony. 1998. Conceptual Art. London: Phaidon, p.404.
^ In forums dedicated to House of Leaves readers new to the book ask how to tackle its complex and extended footnotes; shall they go down the road of reading the footnotes as they come or ignore the footnotes in order to make sense of its ‘main’ narrative by reading the main text.
^ The House of Multiple Dimensions was the final project in my PhD thesis. Ioannidou, Ersi. 2006. The (Existenz-)Minimum Dwelling. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).
^ The Kunstschrank is a key reference in the larger research project; it successfully describes a transformable, narrative, minimum space.
^ Stafford, Barbara Maria. 1996. Good Looking. Cambridge, MA & London: The MIT Press, p.34.
^ Stafford, Barbara Maria. 1996. Good Looking, p.5.
^ Delangrange, Susan. H. 2009. ‘Wunderkammer, Cornell and The Visual Canon of Arrangement’ in Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology and Pedagogy, Vol.13 No.2. Available here (Accessed 5th December, 2013).
^ Delangrange, Susan. H. 2009. ‘When Revision is Redesign: Key Questions for Digital Scholarship’ in Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, Vol.14 No.1. Available here (Accessed 5th December, 2013).
^ Delangrange, Susan. H. 2009. ‘When Revision is Redesign: Key Questions for Digital Scholarship’.
^ Delangrange, Susan. H. 2009. ‘When Revision is Redesign: Key Questions for Digital Scholarship’.
^ Delangrange, Susan. H. 2009. ‘When Revision is Redesign: Key Questions for Digital Scholarship’.
^ The researcher/designer takes on the role of an expérimentateur; a director of experiments in the sense the word had before the mid-19th century when the meaning of the term ‘invention’ was connected to the ‘workings of imagination.’ As Jon Thompson notes, the expérimentateur is concerned of how ‘a whole trajectory of thought, aimed at an empty location of a certain kind, the journey into the unknown, the “adventure”, becomes embedded in or embodied by the thing’. In Thompson, Jon. (2000). ‘Panamarenko: Artist and Technologist’. In Panamarenko (ed.). Panamarenko. (Exhibition Catalogue). London: Hayward Gallery. pp.13-50. Here pp. 29-30.
The 'Standing Man' protestors following choreographer Erdem Gunduz during the Gezi Movement, Istanbul, 2013. Still from YouTube video.
It’s June 2013. I’m fiddling with my phone, scrolling up and down the pages. The Occupy Gezi movement is still underway in Turkey, despite the park being evacuated by police and the imposition of a curfew banning the gathering of more than eight people. That an urban planning project – the takeover and demolition of the Gezi public park – has triggered such a movement demonstrates the on-going social resistance to the commercialisation of urban spaces, a resistance that is part of the constant struggle over the right to the city, or, in David Harvey’s terms, “a right to change ourselves by changing the city” as “the exercise of a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanization.” However, while it is this resistance that is made manifest by the emergence of the Occupy Gezi movement, what I find fascinating is the offspring of the curfew: the new waves of passive protests that suggest that the movement has entered a new phase. The marker of this new phase is the appearance of the Standing Man.
On The Guardian blog on 20th June Kaya Genc (under the alluring title The standing man of Taksim Square: a latterday Bartleby) writes:
(…) a young man wearing a white shirt and grey trousers appeared in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. He walked towards Ataturk Cultural Centre, adjacent to the Gezi Park, which had turned into a battleground. But the young man didn’t go inside the park. Instead he stopped in front of the Cultural Centre, placed his backpack on the ground, put his hands in his pockets and stared at the building for eight hours.
A clear message: instead of going to the park, which had turned into a battleground, this young man had come to the ‘wrong’ place but found it the ‘right’ site for expressing disobedience or resistance. His body, fragile and vulnerable, standing alone in the middle of the square in front of the massive Ataturk Cultural Centre, unsettled what had until then been called the “Occupy Gezi movement”. As civilian security officers search him it is clear that standing still has become a crime in Turkey, and simultaneously that a disarmed body standing in a public space can be threatening. While it seems unimaginable that silence or inactivity could be used as a weapon in an increasingly mobile, integrated, high-speed society, the standing man causes us to pause.
* * *
I clear my throat, lean on the podium and say:
- “Pause is a technique for troubling routines, a tactical device for change capable of disturbing established flows. What comes out of this disturbance is, of course, contingent and unexpected, but it is critical to have an image of it. Metaphorically, it enhances the ‘stammering’ moment, in Deleuze’s terms, the moment of dysfunction. Pause interrupts, but it also connects through new and undefined connections; this is the ‘infrastructural behaviour’ of the pause.”
- An interruption from the left corner of the lecture hall: “What do you consider ‘routines’?”
- “Routines are established sequences of actions that allow the normal flow of everyday life to continue; they guarantee the familiar. By routines I mean the processes through which the wheel of capitalist production operates; through which commoditised everyday life moves; through which dominant systems, whether economic or ideological, are optimized; through which the dominant power is stabilised. Where urban public spaces are concerned, routines become the sum of all the flows and circulations of life that protect the order of those public spaces. In this context a pause is a device, an act, however tiny, that unsettles this balance or order, bringing about a moment of dysfunction where an individual is liberated for an unspecified duration. While the dominant power is busy ‘fixing’ this pause, alternatives can emerge.”
At the push of a button an image of an Israeli checkpoint emerges on screen. I continue:
- “There are always moments of compulsory pause in our everyday life: checkpoints, people waiting at traffic lights, traffic jams and queues. Needless to say, the liberating potential of pause cannot be found in these moments. On the contrary, these are pauses of control that belong to our daily routines. Similarly, there are pauses for consumption that favour the spectacular gaze. I differentiate these routine pauses from pauses of opposition and resistance, or pauses of transgression.”
* * *
Turning from my phone I try to come to terms with the standing man’s action, his pause. In elucidating his theory of the ‘moment’ Henri Lefebvre likens the moment to the ‘festival’ as an ‘intense’ and ‘tragic’ part of everyday life. For Lefebvre these festivals, seemingly paradoxically, are both outwith and part of everyday life; they are two parts of the whole with the former contrasting violently with the latter. Observing life in public spaces one sees that pauses are similarly ever-present moments, however the affectivity of the pause cannot be described through festivity, but through a sort of intensity that troubles normality. Once extended, intensified and accumulated, once located where and when they are not supposed to be, pauses become a tool of opposition and resistance; they become a symbolic form of resistance challenging routine that, in the case of the standing man, absorb and focus the energy and politics of a movement in a single standing body. In this particular instance, as with Lefebvre’s festive moments, the pause of the Standing Man is indeed tragic:
[T]he moment has its specific negativity. It is destined to fail, it runs headlong towards failure.
I read a few pages further and come to the conclusion that the pause of the Standing Man is likewise destined to fail, either as a result of the suppressive force of a dominant power or the biological limitations of the body. In either case it is the resistance to an inevitable failure that fascinates me, the tension between moving and standing. In this tension we might come to understand the efficacy of the pause, even as it is destined to fail. As Lefebvre notes: “If we are to understand and make a judgement, we must start not from the failure itself, but from the endeavour which leads to it.” The pause, as an act of inevitable failure, must be understood as both moment and endeavour, and it is the moment of the failure of the pause, the liberation of an intense energy at the tragic moment when the pause ends, that is key. While the affectivity of the standing man as protest (the endeavour) is clear, the aftereffect of the pause is less readily grasped, but it is at this point that those dominant flows that existed prior to the pause are inexorably changed.
* * *
- “Then surely duration is significant? The longer the duration, the better the chance that an alternative be developed?” he asks from the dark end of the hall.
- “It definitely is,” I reply. “I believe one of the fundamental characteristics of pause as a device for change is duration. Pause disturbs power, but in such a way that it does not provoke an immediate reaction. It is an interruption rather than a disruption, and in this interruption there exist chances for an alternative to emerge. In fact, one of the contributions that architectural practice could make in working with pause would be to work with this duration – and to expand it.”
* * *
It was a summer night. I was lying down on the rooftop with my younger sister and older brother. We experienced the night in intervals. Twenty seconds of night then came twenty seconds of neon light from the roof opposite. For twenty seconds you could see the moon and stars: all this seen in great haste, every detail dwelt on entailed losing something of the whole, because the twenty seconds quickly ended and the neon light took over, obliterating everything with pink light cast on white sheets. As on other nights, during those twenty seconds of darkness we played a game connecting stars into familiar shapes. Frustrated, we sought to extend the night curtailed by the eruption of pink neon. A stone thrown… eighteen, nineteen, twenty, breath held, twenty-one, twenty-two, the sky rose, infinitely starry above us. A real night, free from intervals even if only for one night, created by the absence of neon light.
* * *
I sit back gazing at the video on screen through my architect’s glasses; more people have joined the Standing Man. I notice the distance between the bodies. This distance, I surmise, is what protects them; there is no definition in the curfew law of the distance between bodies that delimits a ‘gathering’ or ‘crowd’. These protestors have not broken the curfew as they are individuals, standing apart and alone. I recall the deplorable image of the crowd in Don DeLillo’s Mao II, conjured by his description of the faces of individuals being pressed into fences:
They show the fence from a distance, bodies piling up behind it, smothered, sometimes only fingers moving, and it is like a fresco in an old dark church, a crowded twisted vision of a rush to death as only a master of the age could paint it.
I begin to see how the spaces between those surrounding the Standing Man create an expanded tissue of bodies that spreads over a territory. I feel an urge to zoom out and see the landscape created: the bodies as fixed points, the spaces as active connections, intensity present in the gaps, an infrastructure of bodies appended to the city. This landscape of connected but dispersed bodies threatens those in power.
Standing man, Occupy Gezi Movement, Istanbul, 2013. Still from YouTube video
* * *
Grandfather drew the newspaper close to his eyes.
“What are you looking for?” I asked
“Trying to find myself dear. I was there every single day. I was one of the standing bodies there. And it matters that ‘I’ was there.” He replied.
* * *
An image of an unfinished building in Liberty Street in Tehran is projected onto the wall of the lecture hall, taken in 1979 during the revolution. At the time people, myself included, had climbed this building, watching as beneath a flowing tissue of crowded bodies replaced the street itself with moving, shouting individuals. I begin: “In this instance the building has become a static point that has absorbed the crowd and, at the same time, produced a new sort of street; a vertically folded street that provides a space for standing and sitting as an alternative form of demonstration. Verticality intensifies the energy present, accumulating it and turning the event into a ‘tragic’ moment. Similar to Standing Man in fact, the building is the materialisation of Lefebvre’s ‘moment’. In both cases what is paramount is the adjacency of vessels of movement and stillness. This adjacency makes the pause more affective.”
Unfinished building, Liberty Street, Tehran during the 1979 Revolution. Still from A Dialogue with Revolution, 2013 [Film] Directed by Robert Safarian.
- “Are sit-down strikes a sort of pause?” another student asked from the first row.
- “Definitely” I answered. “They are a pause in the capitalist production instigated by factory owners; by refusing to work while being present productivity decreases and profits are reduced. So pause as a collective action is hugely detrimental to the proprietor.”
“I suspect what lies behind your question is that you are, in fact, wondering what the difference between these two forms of pause is? Or, what in particular the standing bodies produce that the strike does not? I would argue that the two both come from a politics of refusal and disobedience. They are similar in many ways: they are a way of claiming your rights by not participating, by not being part of a system, and they both act through the momentary appropriation of space, be it public space or the space of factory (production). Crucially both the strike and the standing man question routines. However the particular political situation within which the standing man ‘stands out’ (stands outside the norms of a public space) is key, this act concerns the politics of public space ‘as a medium allowing for the contestation of power’.”
“For eight hours the standing man occupied Taksim Square, the main transportation hub in Istanbul and a historically and strategically important urban site. Today this square is a typical modern public space – a de-politicised neoliberal space of commerce, consumption and control; a “representation of space” in Lefebvre’s terms. However, this is also a ‘representational space’. Or, in Hana Arendt’s terms, a ‘space of appearance’ where people, through their actions, become visible. As Simon Springer notes, this interplay of visibility and action is critical:
While visibility is central to public space, theatricality is also required because whenever people gather, the space of appearance is not just ‘there’, but is actively (re)produced through recurring performances.
Public space provides visibility to political action and encourages participation. The standing bodies physically occupied public space and introduced a new infrastructure of bodies into the existing material urban infrastructure.”
* * *
I resume the video of the Standing Man, thinking architecturally: what is it that creates the links between the bodies? AbdouMaliq Simon describes infrastructure as the politics of together-ness. He states:
“The question, ’what is [it] that we can do together?’ – whoever and wherever that ‘we’ may exist – is largely a question of what is in-between us; what enables us to reach toward or withdraw from each other. What is the materiality of this in-between – the composition and intensity of its durability, viscosity, visibility, and so forth? What is it that enables us to be held in place, to be witnessed, touched, avoided, scrutinised or secured? Infrastructure is about this in-between.”
The infrastructural pose of the bodies is what keeps the crowd from being disbanded. The bodies connect and flow through infrastructures, but also perform as an infrastructure themselves. They make connections, fill in the in-between spaces, activate interstices, and transform the behaviour of the existing material infrastructure. Just as a material infrastructure they fix and distinguish points and spaces, but as they are in constant motion this fixity is more fluid. This infrastructural character is essential to the effective potential of pause to create change. Fragmented pauses can only perform as safety valves, creating critical moments instead of nurturing emergent politics, whereas an infrastructure of pauses, a connection of bodies across extended territories rather than a single standing man, takes on immediate political affectivity.
* * *
Another question - “You just talked about infrastructural architecture. As architects, how do we deal with the idea of pause? How do we design spaces of pause? Or how can the idea be applied in architecture? Is architecture as infrastructure a clue to the problem?”
- “Firstly I would like to stress the importance of body politics to the idea of pause as a device. Describing the role of the body in disturbing the purity of architectural order, Bernard Tschumi notes that:
[T]here is the violence that all individuals inflict on spaces by their very presence, by their intrusion into the controlled order of architecture. Entering a building may be a delicate act, but it violates the balance of a precisely ordered geometry.
So where pause as a device is concerned, perhaps it is primarily in the sense of a post-production of space by means of occupation. This is visible in the examples of the Standing Man and likewise in the building in Tehran in 1979. Therefore, to enhance the affectivity of a pause as a device for change and liberation we must consider the possible post-production occupation of space. It is therefore crucial to think further about what architecture can do to enhance the potential for pause.
Secondly, a pause is an event. Architecture should facilitate this event, creating spaces that can absorb and intensify those forces and elements that break with existing or routine flows. Here the architect’s ability to identify chances, to read the existing gaps in any system, and develop those gaps to the point where alternatives could emerge becomes key.
Maurizio Lazzarato describes the event as follows:
The event gives us an open, unfinished, and incomplete world, and in so doing calls upon subjectivity because we can inscribe our actions and exercise our responsibility in this incompleteness, in this non-finitude.
The unfinished and incomplete; this describes the very aesthetics of infrastructural architecture; the infrastructure of pauses.”
I continue: “By way of an example we might consider how existing spaces already work as spaces of pause. Mohsen Mirdamadi, an architect and researcher working with urban issues within large cities in Iran, notes that in the high-speed spaces that we move through daily there is a need to stop. His term ‘Rahvand’, meaning ‘spaces attached to a route’, mimics an infrastructure of pauses. He likens cities to the Silk Road, arguing that spaces like caravanserais or water reservoirs are not only spaces for resting, eating, trading, etc., rather they are, more importantly, social spaces where spontaneous encounters produce new conditions along the road. Rahvands are spaces of speculation and reflection after moving and traveling; a pause that is not an end to the moving, but a point of departure enriched by encounter. Similarly, a city consists of spaces of moving and pausing. What enriches the political and social life of the city is not the roads but the “pause spaces” that make up the sequences of social life. At political and social turning points where large numbers of people gather, they do so in pause spaces, either found or invented by their own action. This means that many of these spaces are not designed as pause spaces but are capable of being inhabited and activated through different sorts of occupation.
* * *
Perhaps Bernard Tschumi’s term “expanded sequences” best describes pause spaces. For Tschumi an “expanded sequence” makes:
a solid of a gap between spaces. The gap thus becomes a space of its own, a corridor, threshold, or doorstep – a proper symbol inserted between each event.
Thinking of pause spaces in this way means that as well as those ‘un-designed’ spaces of event, we might consider architecture’s role as identifying chances or in-between sequences, expanding them and creating new alternative inter-sequences. The revelation of a previously undefined space along a familiar and defined space of flow could stimulate a pause in that flow. Revealing it, however, cannot always be done by architecture alone in its established form. This is perhaps where architecture should pause, refrain from meddling with space; pause to reflect upon a fetish for completing the world.
* * *
I am still perching on the building in Tehran, looking through the gap between my feet. The building is empty, so is the street. Did he see me on top of the building? I had red sneakers that matched my red lips... but we lost each other forever. I am holding Franz Kafka’s The Castle in my hand. I read:
“I can’t think of any greater happiness than to be with you all the time, without interruption, endlessly, even though I feel that here in this world there’s no undisturbed place for our love, neither in the village nor anywhere else.”
I sway back;
I sway forth,
“and I dream of a grave, deep and narrow, where we could clasp each other in our arms as with iron bars, and I would hide my face in you and you would hide your face in me, and nobody would ever see us any more.”
I can stand up, go down the stairs and walk the streets without you, surrendering to the city that swallowed you. Or I can sway forth and drop into the emptiness of a vast grave. There, I might find you. But I still sit where I am sitting; in the semicolon, between the impossibility of embracing you in the place where life remains, and the possibility of embracing you where life is absent. How far can I push back these two parts of the whole? How long can I stay on the edge of the building, watching it disappear into a city of thousands of similar buildings? I gaze at the semicolon; the words on the page are blurring; the street below lies empty; the book is falling apart; my pause lingers…
The semicolon as the space of pause, of imagination. From the project The Impossible Book, Sepideh Karami, 2013.
Published 24th September, 2015.
^ Harvey, David. 2008. ‘The Right to the city’ in New Left Review, Vol.53, p. 23.
^ Genc, Kaya. 2013. ‘The standing man of Taksim Square: a latterday Bartleby’ in The Guardian, Thursday 20th June, 2013. Available here (accessed 25.06.2013). In Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener, Bartleby refuses to work and simply restates the phrase ‘I would prefer not to’. As Genc notes in his blog post, it would not have been surprising if the security officers searching the Standing Man’s backpack uncovered a copy of Bartleby, the Scrivener.
^ The Ataturk Cultural Centre represents the history of secularisation of Turkey by Ataturk.
^ Deleuze, Gilles. 1995. ‘Three Questions on Six Times Two” in Negotiations, 1972-1990. Trans. Martin Joughin. New York: Columbia University Press, p.35.
^ Elden, Stuart. 2004. Understanding Henri Lefebvre. New York: Continuum, p.118.
^ Lefebvre, Henri. 2002. Critique of everyday life, Vol. II, trans. J. Moore. London: Verso Books, p. 347.
^ Elden, Stuart. 2004. Understanding Henri Lefebvre, p.118.
^ Lefebvre, Henri. 2002. Critique of everyday life, Vol. II, p.347.
^ Lefebvre, Henri. 2002. Critique of everyday life, Vol. II, p.351.
^ This paragraph is a rewriting of a part of the short story ‘Mon and Gnac’ in Italo Calvino’s Marcovaldo collection. Calvino, Italo. 2001. Marcovaldo. trans. W. Weaver. London: Vintage Books, p.71.
^ DeLillo, Don. 1992. Mao I’. London: Vintage, p.34.
^ Springer, Simon. 2011. ‘Public Space as Emancipation: Meditations on Anarchism: Radical Democracy, Neoliberalism and Violence’ in Antipode, Vol.43 No.2, p. 542.
^ In Lefebvre’s terms, public space that is controlled by government or other institutions, or whose use is regulated, is referred to as “representation of space”, whereas public space as it is actually used by social groups is called “representational space”. See also: Springer, Simon. 2011, ‘Public Space as Emancipation’, pp.537-8.
^ Springer, Simon. 2011. ‘Public Space as Emancipation’, p. 537.
^ Springer, Simon. 2011. ‘Public Space as Emancipation’, p. 537.
^ Springer, Simon. 2011. ‘Public Space as Emancipation’, p. 538.
^ Simone, AbdouMaliq. ‘Infrastructure: Introductory Commentary by AbdouMaliq Simone’. Curated collections, Cultural Anthropology Online, November 26, 2012. Available here (accessed 22.09.2013)
^ Tschumi, Bernard. 2001. Architecture and Disjunction. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, p 123.
^ Lazzarato, Maurizio. 2011. ‘The dynamics of the political event: process of subjectivation and micropolitics’, European institute for progressive cultural policies. Available here (accessed 06.05.2014).
^ Mirdamadi, Mohsen. Interview with Sepideh Karami. Personal interview. Tehran, August 25, 2012.
^ In Architecture and Disjunction Bernard Tschumi explains ‘expanded sequences’ in contrast to ‘contracted sequences’, which he defines as follows: “we might see the beginning of a use in space followed immediately by the beginning of another in a further space. Contracted sequences have occasionally reduced architecture’s three dimensions into one.” Tschumi, Bernard. 2001. Architecture and Disjunction, p.166.
^ Tschumi, Bernard. 2001. Architecture and Disjunction, p.166.
^ Kafka, Franz. 2008. The Complete Novels of Kafka. London: Vintage, p.547.
The Impossible Book
The Impossible Book
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The Limits of the Useful: Revising the Operational Framework of Usefulness in Architectural Production
The Limits of the Useful: Revising the Operational Framework of Usefulness in Architectural ProductionMiguel Paredes Maldonado
Plan drawing. MEIAC Enhanced Environment. Miguel Paredes Maldonado.
This paper constitutes an attempt to simultaneously determine the nature of usefulness and challenge utility as a dominant criterion for the evaluation of architectural production. While its approach can initially be considered theoretical – that is, based on the examination of a series of critical positions – the ultimate goal of this piece is to articulate how this conceptual challenge to utility can be mobilized as a methodological approach to architectural design. This corresponding approach will be enunciated by a second narrative voice running throughout this paper, describing two projects – developed as a contribution to my design research practice - that constitute both an embodiment and an extension of the critical apparatus developing here.
MEIAC enhanced environment is located in Badajoz in the south of Spain. Part of the Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo (MEIAC), it is a project for a device that uses the physical activity of climbing as a means for the public to interact with a number of digital art pieces loaned by the museum. In this scenario, digital art contents are displayed, perceived and explained as an integrated part of a broader physical and spatial environment.
Formally MEIAC enhanced environment is a hybrid assembly of material content and digital information, which articulates a dispersed, immersive atmospheric environment. It is organised around two complementary components: a hard node operating as a physical, tectonic base, and a soft node acting as an intermediate membrane that dynamically negotiates the limits between the hard node, the intermediate experiential environment and the outer atmosphere. Digital media content is released in the hard node, only to be captured again by the soft node, whose task is to delay its inevitable dissipation and make the digital piece incarnate as a physical body, subsequently articulating it as a component of a curated atmospheric environment.
A second project, Doodle Earth, began with research on non-mechanical atmospheric conditions, to explore the production of environmental effects by the simplest means possible. It is deliberately abstract and unreferenced; it can be situated in different geographical locations, subtly modifying, amplifying or distorting the visual qualities of its surroundings.
Doodle Earth blends with its surroundings as a juxtaposed, textured visual layer, offering a dynamic range of perceptive experiences that suggest a certain blurring of its formal limits according to the position and the disposition of the viewing public. It is an unashamedly phenomenological device that subverts the established relationship between form (object) and background (context). It operates at the perceptive level by means of apparently contradictory operations such as signalling, specular imaging, vanishing, camouflage, and reversibility.
Usefulness and the subjective accrual of value
The basic, recurring conditions that any work of architecture must fulfil in order receive positive reviews frequently gravitate around the notion of usefulness. However, if questioned, it is unlikely that a given architect or critic will be able to precisely determine what they understand as ‘useful’, or what the implications of the useful are for the formal or organizational qualities of a piece of architecture. Despite this uncertainty there appears to be universal consensus on the appreciation of the use-value of any given product or project, above any other consideration. The things that surround us have to do the job, to serve a purpose; extracting the maximum degree of performance becomes paramount. However, when examined in depth this propensity to utility simply indicates a socially constructed norm based on a simple binary opposition, a norm that in turn conceals the social mechanisms that govern the relationship of any given object with both the fulfilment of a given function and the accrual of value. In what follows I will endeavour to discuss this ‘norm’, what I term the ‘limits of the useful’, and the implications of social conventions of utility to architecture, to architectural production and design. I will also look at the implications of such social conventions for the associated ‘limit of the useless’, which the ‘norm’ described above sanctions as something of little value, something devoid of its own reason for being.
As this paper locates itself within the context of architectural production and utility a consideration of what is perhaps the most enduring formulation of the useful in such a disciplinary context is unavoidable, namely the Vitruvian trinity of firmitas, utilitas, and venustas. Consulting Vitruvius’ De Architectura we notice that usefulness in a building is achieved through the convergence of two different conditions: disposition and decorum. The first condition is dependent upon the correct placement, dimensioning and orientation of the parts of the building. As such, this condition implies the existence of an organization that is “composed,” that is, arranged as a series of parts within a hierarchical framework. The second condition, the implementation of decorum (from the Latin meaning: right or proper), suggests an underlying concern for the ‘appropriateness’ of the configuration of the building, in the sense that the use of each part can be perceived unambiguously and easily brought into correspondence with the whole. In other words, Vitruvius’ utilitas denotes a hierarchical, univocal assembly of space and function.
Bernard Tschumi offers an interesting interpretation of the term utilitas. Tschumi translates utilitas as “appropriate spatial accommodation” in order to stress that the fundamental relationship being examined in Virtuvius’ description was that of the organization of space and the function to be fulfilled. As Tschumi points out in Architecture and limits, such a binary relationship is problematic as neither the configuration of a given space nor the function to be fulfilled may necessarily be fixed, therefore any potential evaluation of appropriateness precludes consideration of the passing of time. For Tschumi, in contrast, the ever-changing interaction of space and body – an interaction giving rise to what he called ‘events’ as opposed to ‘program’ – constitutes an opportunity to build a framework of evaluation that supersedes this fixed relationship between space and function.
Both MEIAC enhanced environment and Doodle Earth employ mechanisms to articulate a deliberately ambiguous relationship between their respective functions and spatial arrangements. Neither build on the static spatial and functional frameworks of Vitruvius’ utilitas; both proposals are closer to the oscillatory character of Tchumi’s event spaces. In MEIAC enhanced environment this ambiguity is achieved by dissolving the boundaries of functional areas while simultaneously emphasizing the formal outline of the base on which they are laid out. The spatial distribution of activities such as climbing, bouldering, resting or playing is replaced by a complex arrangement of physical properties related to texture, light, ventilation and humidity. Projectors, speakers and water sprinklers become both the regulators and the distributors of activity.
In contrast Doodle Earth directly taps into Brian Eno´s definition of ‘ambient’: a layer of information that is situated within an existing background and can be perceived at different levels of attention. In this sense, and since the functional intent of this project revolves around perception, ambiguity is achieved by displacing various layers of optical signals from the foreground to the background (and vice versa) of the space as immediately perceived.
Whereas Tschumi’s reflections on oscillatory occupation offer an interesting starting point for identifying challenges to the space-function equation, and therefore for challenging conventional notions of usefulness, a question left unaddressed by Tschumi concerns the evaluation of such oscillations. In this sense, Marxist theory has produced a compelling narrative of value and its relationship with different modalities of use. From the Marxist point of view there is a binary distinction between use-value (the expenditure of all production efforts towards something that is used to its fullest extent, or its fullest consumption) and exchange value (the measure up to which something withholds the fulfilment of its function, becoming a means of exchange or a commodity). As Giorgio Agamben clearly notes, Marx considers that the enjoyment of use-value is opposed to the accumulation of exchange value as something natural is opposed to something aberrant. From the perspective of architecture this opposition would suggest that use-value – a ‘positive’ value in Marxist rhetoric - would be exclusively accrued through situations in which the alignment of space and function is both complete and permanently activated. This view again brings up the passage of time as a key concern, but its shortcomings become obvious as soon as the relationship of space and function stops being considered as fixed.
Soft and hard nodes: initial membrane studies. MEIAC Enhanced Environment. Model and Photograph by Miguel Paredes Maldonado.
Value beyond classic utility: the obsolete, the dysfunctional and the dissipative
To summarise: of use and value Tschumi and Agamben seem to be asking (in architectural terms): does (programmatic) persistence, consistency, endurance, etc. grant validity or usefulness (to architecture)? Or, in other words: can alternative forms of value emerge from models that challenge persistence or continuity (of space and function)? Answering this question fully is beyond the scope and the length of this paper. However, it is possible to outline at least three different approaches that challenge socially sanctioned notions of usefulness by exploiting the possibilities of specific organizational frameworks and substantially altering conventional relationships of space, function and time. It must be noted that the approaches below do not attempt to constitute an exhaustive list, but rather suggest a series of possible starting points for the exploration of value and use in architecture.
The first approach I would like to put forward is a mechanism for re-thinking utility through obsolescence and re-processing. The obsolete is concerned with those objects that can no longer fulfil the function they were initially designed to perform, and, if we limit this to the disciplinary framework of architecture, in the terms outlined above it essentially signals a misalignment of space and function. Most importantly here, what a mechanism for re-thinking utility through obsolescence might emphasize is the fact that the ‘obsolete’ space itself does not undergo any changes, rather it is the function to be fulfilled that is, for one reason or another, fundamentally transformed. Following this argument through there exists the opportunity to realign any given obsolete space, assuming new functions can be assigned to it.
Peter Eisenman set out (perhaps unintentionally) a compelling position on the obsolete in his 1976 editorial for ‘Oppositions’. Here, Eisenman suggested that the relationship of an object to its function – which was expressed in architecture as an oscillation of function (or program) and form (or type as a manifestation of an ideal theme) – was, in fact, a fundamental construction of the humanist project. In this paper Eisenman argues that both terms, function and form, were traditionally invested with a certain value corresponding to the relationship of man and objects, and that until the advent of modernist sensibility the balance of the two terms was maintained . With the emergence of post-humanism society’s attitude toward the objects of the physical world changed, objects were no longer seen as having humanity as their originating agent. Reading Eisenman’s line of argumentation as a way of describing the mechanism of obsolescence we might say that in this post-humanist framework objects become independent – that is to say, detached from the human individual agent that historically constructed and articulated the balance between their form and their function. In this sense, obsolete space can be identified as autonomous precisely because it has been liberated from the pressure of functional constraints. In other words, obsolete space circumvents the Marxist duality of use-value and commodity-value by refusing to become either one or the other. It may abandon any formal engagement with function or – if entering into the realm of the reprocessed – shift between various, often contradictory functional relationships.
It is interesting to note how MEIAC enhanced environment can be regarded as a device that exploits a very interesting paradox concerning the distribution of digital content. Whereas a defining trait of digital material is the potential for wide-reaching, immediate dissemination beyond physical boundaries, the act of ‘slowing down’ this material by storing it in a museum collection can only be regarded as a perplexing move, effectively turning digital matter into a commodity. MEIAC enhanced environment attempts to counterbalance this commodification by re-mobilizing the digital material, reprocessing it by means of energetic dissipation. In this way digital content comes to be understood as a form of energy to be given away, a key component of a loosely orchestrated sensorial experience. The soft, titillating membrane that surrounds the upper areas of the base thus constitutes a blurry filter that captures the process of digital dissemination in both a visual and a haptic manner.
A second approach to re-thinking usefulness is represented by the dysfunctional, which, as the obsolete, emerges from a temporal misalignment of space and function. However, and unlike the case of the obsolete, in the dysfunctional it is space that is transformed in a way that renders it unable to fulfil the function it was designed for, while the function itself remains unaltered. If we reconsider Tschumi’s previous oscillatory framework in this light we can argue that in becoming dysfunctional the architectural object progressively moves towards a condition of deliberate refusal – or hesitation – to fulfil its function as expected.
Here, Giorgio Agamben’s ideas can be brought back into focus, particularly those dealing with what he denominates “a bad conscience with respect to objects.” Agamben approaches the question of post-humanism in a fundamentally different manner to Eisenman. He describes a reality in which objects – having been detached from human possession through mass production – refuse to perform their duties, literally rebelling against their users with a kind of deliberate perfidy. Here what is relevant to rethinking usefulness through the dysfunctional, as Agamben points out, is that once these refusals are pushed to their limits it is possible to escape the dichotomy of use-value and commodity as defined by Marxist rhetoric, effectively entering into a third state that would restore the object to its own truth, disengaged from any relationship of use with human beings. To again apply this line of reasoning to architectural production, this possibility suggests the radical abolition of any kind of subjectivity from space itself, particularly subjectivity as it relates to function. For Agamben this abolition is triggered by the exaggeration of the irrelevant, an extreme elevation of the object beyond any kind of practical purpose. This is, Agamben suggests, the mechanism through which ‘dandies’ operate. Whereas in architectural terms this ‘exaggeration of the irrelevant’ could be regarded as a simple fixation with the ornamental, a more insightful reading of this mechanism would be to think of ‘irrelevance’ as a permanent resistance to considering any kind of practical purpose as an objective element in evaluating architectural space. In this light, as in the case of the obsolete, the most important consequence of the dysfunctional is the emergence of a promisingly promiscuous, oscillatory relationship with use, in which the commitment to a single function is impossible, but flirtation with multiple human subjectivities is encouraged.
As an incarnation of the dysfunctional, Doodle Earth is a radical refusal to construct any univocal mechanism for coupling form and function. In a similar manner to Agamben’s dandies, this is achieved through an extreme exaggeration of the contradictory forces that articulate the project. Doodle Earth presents us with an interior space that captures its surroundings and transforms their properties into an abstract, rhythmic perceptive layer. This interior is coupled with an exterior that blends into its surroundings and simultaneously emphasizes them by subtly signalling their properties. The cross-shaped outline of the proposal defines a certain spatial alignment, and also marks a spot where the intensity of the perceptive layer as a juxtaposition to the surrounding environment reaches its climax. As a result of these operations, the experiences of the interior and the exterior become blurred and indistinct while, simultaneously, oscillating between the strict definitions and markings of a clear geometric framework, and the dissolution of that framework. Thus, dissolution and geometry are intertwined to constitute a dysfunctional mechanism of radical, perpetual contradiction.
The third and final approach that I will introduce here reconsiders the value of the useful in architecture through dissipation, which taps directly into Georges Bataille’s theory of ‘General Economy’. Bataille argued that for any effort to be considered valid in contemporary society it must be reducible to the satisfaction of the needs of a closed economy of production and conservation (a cycle in which any productive surplus is immediately fed into new productive activities). For Bataille this means that any operations not oriented towards growth – such as pleasure, luxury or any permanent expenditure – effectively become subsidiary, and therefore the artistic, the monumental or the spectacular are reduced to the status of ancillary practices.
However, it is precisely this mechanism of expenditure or non-productive consumption – the theoretically useless side of human activity – that Bataille considered a counterbalancing factor to the potentially catastrophic effects deriving from unlimited accumulation and growth. In this sense, Bataille identified the construction (and also the destruction) of architectural objects such as cathedrals – luxurious, enormous and devoid of accumulative purposes – as efforts fundamentally oriented to the development of a sense of meaning through an orchestrated consumption of resources; these projects constitute escape valves to counterbalance contemporary systems of accumulation.
Following Bataille’s arguments, glorious operations – operations that accrue social value by means of wasteful spending or dissipation – can be understood as a complementary system of actions to those operations oriented towards optimized production. As Denis Hollier points out, and as in the previous two approaches to rethinking the useful, Bataille’s view challenges the binary approach of Marxist rhetoric by considering the passing of time as a tool to articulate the alternating rhythms of production and expenditure rather than as a tactic to defer consumption with the sole purpose of accumulating exchange value. As an integral part of his efforts to explore the revolutionary potential of architecture, Bernard Tschumi mobilized Bataille’s notion of expenditure in the form of a number of architectural interventions. The most relevant intervention in this context was ´Fireworks´, which was simultaneously a wasteful, spectacular ‘event’ – as it could be denominated using Tschumi’s own taxonomy – and a manifesto in which Tschumi boldly stated that architecture must be built and burned just for pleasure.
Both MEIAC enhanced environment and Doodle Earth attempt to mobilize the notion of expenditure within an architectural framework. MEIAC enhanced environment is articulated around two forms of expenditure: one of human energy – the state of physical exhaustion induced by climbing to the top of the base is the preferred, hallucinatory form of perceptive disposition – and one of digital content – which is continuously and deliberately expelled from the system. These mechanisms generate an oscillating perceptual layer that puts the digital in relationship with the body by slowing down its release or, in other words, by increasing its viscosity. By disseminating content at an intermediate speed – neither immediate consumption nor commodification – this proposal attempts to resist entering into a binary discourse of production and conservation.
In Doodle Earth the experience of the exterior is dissolved into the interior in an almost pointillist fashion. Form and shape are transformed into a dynamic range, a chromatic gradient that stretches along the ‘arms’ of the volume. The ultra-reflective nature of its architecture ensures light – as a form of optical energy – is simultaneously captured and released in a filtered capacity. Light is, therefore, spent as soon as it enters the system. Movement across the interior offers an experience of continuous perceptive variation as the gradation of light, shadow, colour and tone changes according to the position of the spectator. In turn, the immediate surroundings receive back a filtered, distorted, fragmented version of their own optical properties.
It must be noted here that considering expenditure as a counterbalance to utilitarian or productive mechanisms has proven to be problematic. Bataille himself expressed the difficulties of his position in his introduction to The Accursed Share, but perhaps a more clear account of the contradictions inherent in his theory can be found in Geoffrey Bennington’s writings. As Bennington summarizes, expenditure as a challenge to the useful is paradoxical insofar as its counterbalancing effect is, in fact, highly functional. I would acknowledge here that this critique can easily be extended to the discussions of the obsolete and the dysfunctional as mechanisms for challenging utility as described above since, as mechanisms of reaction to a specific understanding of the useful, they automatically become useful. However, it can be argued that this is only an apparent contradiction, one which is derived from considering usefulness as a closed category strictly circumscribed to the configurations of space, function and time represented by Vitruvius’ utilitas. According to such a view, the obsolete, the dysfunctional and the dissipative can only be articulated as mechanisms against the useful, and therefore as representations of uselessness. If, on the contrary, we move away from this strictly binary representation of the useful and the useless, it becomes possible to understand usefulness as a range of variation in the relationships of space, function and time, and Vitruvius’ utilitas as nothing more than a particular position within this range. Consequently, the obsolete, the dysfunctional and the dissipative would not need to be defined as ‘opposed to’ the useful, but rather as ‘departing from’ the position represented by Vitruvius’ utilitas. Hence, a suitable response to the implications of Bennington’s critique would be that this piece does not discuss the opposition of utility and uselessness, but rather attempts to unveil the full range of positions that exist between the limits of usefulness.
Study of mirroring and colour dispersal. Doodle Earth. Model and photograph by Miguel Paredes Maldonado.
Beyond the binary model: Phase Space as a multidimensional range of oscillation
As an alternative to the useful-useless binary model described above this paper taps into the methodological approach presented by philosopher Manuel de Landa in his multiple, neo-materialist readings of the work of Gilles Deleuze. Following Deleuze, De Landa argues that in defining the conditions of a problem rather than attempting to solve it we are effectively modelling the space of its possible solutions. De Landa´s ‘modelling’ approach assumes that both the conditions of the problem and its solution define multidimensional intervals or phase spaces, rather than a series of linear operations. These intervals are defined by those states in which constraints enforced by the problem are fulfilled, and, therefore, they constitute spaces of variation containing all the solutions of a given problem. If we consider the question of usefulness in this manner we can begin to understand usefulness as a space of dynamic oscillation between differing tendencies rather than as a quality that is either present or not present. For the sake of clarity such a space can be illustrated as a two-dimensional plane whose coordinates are defined by organizational and representational tendencies. In this model, the coordinate axes representing both the tendency towards a composed, hierarchical organization of parts and the tendency towards specificity and the univocal orientation of function can be pictured as deformed to converge into an asymptotic line that represents the conditions of Vitruvius’ utilitas. This state, understood as one of the boundaries of the phase space we are attempting to model, would therefore constitute one of the limits of the useful after which this paper is titled.
Organizational and representational trajectories moving in the opposite direction along these coordinate axes would define the other limits of this phase space. We could understand these trajectories as lines of flight or lines of departure in Deleuze and Guattari’s terms, which break away from the static character of Vitruvius’ utilitas. The most immediate consequence of this conceptual model is the emergence of a space between the limits of the different tendencies of the useful. It can easily be argued that most architectural works could be positioned somewhere within this space, leaning towards one limit or another according to their organizational and representational qualities. We could also add that, rather than the specific position of a specific object, the relevant scale of operation in this scenario would be determined by the general tendencies or trajectories conveyed by a given approach to design as defined by its associated outcomes.
Within this model the obsolete, the dysfunctional and the dissipative can be identified as three examples extracted from an infinite array of lines of departure from the asymptotic limit defined by static, hierarchical and univocal usefulness. Design tactics in which the qualities associated with these departure mechanisms are pushed to an extreme can therefore be regarded as approaching the other limits of the useful. As our design practice approaches these limits, functional organization – understood as a univocal, static pairing of space and function – becomes less and less relevant in articulating the design argument.
The expanded field of usefulness
This paper introduces a conceptual framework in which the useful is not an absolute category, but rather a multidimensional range of positions concerning the relationships established by space, function and time. In so doing its ambition is to open up a productive discussion on how certain works of architecture – such as the proposals presented alongside this text – can be evaluated outside a conventional framework of usefulness that relies on a direct, univocal relationship between spatial arrangement and functional performance. By articulating an expanded conceptual field that challenges the binary categorization of the useful and the useless we may recover for the discipline of architecture the operational agility of a number of mechanisms that are socially tainted by a prevailing distaste for frivolity. Far from being frivolous, these mechanisms – the obsolete, the dysfunctional, the dissipative, and many other still uncharted lines of departure from a conventional approach to the useful – constitute a very serious opportunity to construct a necessary counterbalance to contemporary positions in architectural discourse that seem to concern themselves exclusively with issues of performance, optimization, conservation and streamlining.
top left: The useful depicted as phase space. top right: Lines of departure from Vitruvius’ notion of utilitas. bottom left: Vitruvius’ notion of utilitas as an asymptotic line in phase space. bottom right: The obsolete/reprocessed, the dysfunctional and the dissipative as possible lines of departure from a static notion of usefulness
Published 24th September, 2015.
^ Further references to Vitruvius’ work in this paper are taken from Frank Granger’s translation of De Architectura, which is edited from Harleian manuscript 2767, dating from around the first quarter of the ninth century, the oldest extant copy of this treatise. It is therefore considered to be a relatively close approximation to Vitruvius’s original intent.
^ “…when the sites are arranged without mistake and impediment to their use, and a fit and convenient disposition for the aspect of each kind.” Virtuvius, Pollio M. 1931. On Architecture: Edited from the Harleian Manuscript 2767. Trans. Frank Granger. London: W. Heinemann, Book I, Chapter III, p. 35.
^ “…the fit assemblage of details, and, arising from this assemblage, the elegant effect of the work and its dimensions, along with a certain quality or character.” Vitruvius, Pollio M. 1931. On Architecture, Book I, Chapter II, p.25.
^ Tschumi, Bernard. 1994. “Architecture and Limits,” in Tschumi, Bernard. 1994. Architecture and disjunction. Boston: MIT Press, pp.102–118.
^ Tschumi, Bernard. 1994. “Architecture and Limits,” pp.102-118.
^ Eno, Brian. Ambient Music. 1978. Liner notes of “Music for Airports / Ambient 1”, PVC 7908 (AMB 001).
^ See: Agamben, Giorgio. 1993. “Beau Brummell; or, The Appropriation of Unreality,” in Agamben, Giorgio. 1993. Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 47–55.
^ Eisenman, Peter. 1976. “‘Post-Functionalism’, Oppositions, Vol.6 (Fall 1976),” in K. Michael Hays (ed). 1998. Architecture Theory since 1968. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp.236-239.
^ Agamben, Giorgio. 1993. “Beau Brummell; or, The Appropriation of Unreality,” pp. 47–48.
^ Agamben, Giorgio. 1993. “Beau Brummell; or, The Appropriation of Unreality,” pp. 48. In Agamben’s own words, the ‘dandy’ is “the man who is never ill at ease,” making “of elegance and the superfluous his raison d’etre.” In so doing, Agamben continues, the ‘dandy’ “teaches the possibility of a new relation to things, which goes beyond both the enjoyment of their use-value and the accumulation of their exchange value.”
^ Bataille, Georges. 1984. “The Notion of Expenditure,” in Allan Stoeckl (ed.). Visions of excess: selected writings 1927-1939. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 116–129.
^ Hollier, Denis. 1992. “The Use-Value of the Impossible,” trans. Liesl Ollman. October, Vol.60, pp.3–24.
^ Martin, Louis. 1990. “Transpositions: On the Intellectual Origins of Tschumi’s Architectural Theory,” in Assemblage, No.11 (April), pp.23–35.
^ “Yes, just as all the erotic forces contained in your movement have been consumed for nothing, architecture must be conceived, erected, and burned in vain. The greatest architecture of all is the fireworker’s: it perfectly shows the gratuitous consumption of pleasure..” Tschumi, Bernard and Goldberg, RoseLee. 1975. A Space, a Thousand Words. London: Dieci Libri, no page number.
^ “In other terms, my work tended first of all to increase the sum of human resources, but its results taught me that accumulation was merely a delay, a retreat before the inevitable outcome, in which accumulated wealth has value only instantaneously. Writing the book in which I said that energy can in the end only be wasted, I myself was using my energy, my time, my labor: my research responded in a fundamental way to the desire to increase the sum of goods acquired for humanity. Shall I say that in these conditions I could sometimes do no other than respond to the truth of my book and could not continue writing it?” Bataille, Georges. 1991. The Accursed Share: An Essay on General Economy. New York: Zone Books, pp. 10.
^ Bennington, Geoffrey. 1995. “Introduction to Economics I: Because the World Is Round,” in Carolyn Bailey Gill (ed.). 1995. Bataille: Writing the Sacred. London: Routledge, pp. 46–57.
^ De Landa, Manuel. 2010. Deleuze, History and Science. New York: Atropos Press, p.151.
^ De Landa, Manuel. 2010. Deleuze, History and Science, pp.142-144.
^ Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix, 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp.9-10.
MEIAC Enhanced Environment
View depicting hard and soft nodes in operationLarge
Animation 01: Ambient studies of an atmospheric enclosureLarge
MEIAC Enhanced Environment
Layout of textured assemblageLarge
Interior perspective depicting mechanism of optical captureLarge
MEIAC Enhanced Environment
Material qualities of the decontextualised soft membraneLarge
Animation 02: Ambient studies of an reflective distortionsLarge
MEIAC Enhanced Environment
Model: scale studiesLarge
Study of mirroring and colour dispersionLarge
MEIAC Enhanced Environment
Site plan detailing the extension of the proposal towards the MEIAC museum gardensLarge
Concept image depicting effects of reflection, distortion and camouflagingLarge
Hanging Sticks: “moving stuff” represented at Artifacts of Place, a group exhibition at Snowhite Gallery, Unitec, Auckland, 2012. Artefacts and photograph by Julieanna Preston.
“Moving stuff” was a performance in which mud and shipping pallets shifted repeatedly across a historic, geographic, cultural and political zone demarcated by the Whau River Estuary and Rosebank Road’s industrial sector, Auckland, New Zealand. It explored the complexities of notions of ecology and economy hinged to dynamic processes of material exchange and distribution. “Moving stuff” was also an extension of themes recurring throughout my creative work: labour as a time intensive, often excessively repetitive and seemingly monotonous act, and the female body, my body, an organ that is mine to use as only I can choose, as it is employed as a performative feminist tool. “Moving stuff” tested, therefore, both labour as an untaxed investment tied to capitalism, and labour as part of a feminist, embodied materialist critique. “Moving stuff” saw me toil for eight hours a day for two days, walk more than twenty kilometres, converse with more than 600 people, shift more than 160 litres of mud and 150 pallets and finally return the site to the state in which I found it. The only limit to this labour was my personal exhaustion.
“Moving Stuff” gave rise to a series of interconnected creative works oscillating around this original performance. Three of these works are presented in this journal: a video entitled Stratified Matter: Moving things again (2013), a recording of a presentation given in October 2013 at the Plenitude & Emptiness symposium, and finally, and finally a photo essay chronicling moments from the original performance. None of these subsequent works are adequate representations of the original, nor can they ever be, rather they are works in their own right. Each of these subsequent work are, therefore, an exploration of modes of representing the original work and more importantly an exercise focused on keeping the work moving, or as social scientist Bruno Latour advocates, keeping it in circulation. Here I ask the watcher/reader to interpret the scenes presented, or better to interpolate from the scenes presented, to keep “Moving Stuff” circulating.
Published 24th September, 2015.
Photograph by Hubertus Mick (MICA)Large
The Mangrove Horizon
Photograph by Hubertus Mick (MICA)Large
Photograph by Hubertus Mick (MICA)Large
Photograph by Hubertus Mick (MICA)Large
Photograph by Hubertus Mick (MICA)Large
The Middle Ground
Photograph by Hubertus Mick (MICA)Large
08Thomas A. Rivard
Cockatoo Island: Table of Contents. Mixed media on salvaged door. Thomas Rivard, 2013.
Andre Breton posited that creative works, and our subsequent engagement with those works, create an elusive conceptual territory between what things are and what they seem to be. The project Points of Departure aims to explore that territory: how it might be discovered and inhabited and, then, how it might give rise to methods, which use the fictive, the qualitative and the illusory as seminal ingredients, to both read and write the city. These acts of reading and writing are intended to operate less as methodologies dedicated to built form than as discrete and discursive operations generating the means by which the city and its constituent narratives can be realised in parallel to its material reality.
The first part of this paper describes some of the key theoretical considerations behind the project through the work of several artists and authors who conflate narrative and physicality. The project site, Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour, is then introduced, along with narrative and programmatic overlays informing the project. The second part of the paper presents a brief overview of the various processes and stages of the project undertaken, and the outcomes developed. The accompanying document outlines these creative stages in greater detail, and describes the subsequent itinerancies of the work, the projects’ own migrant ‘wanderings’.
PART 1: Observations
The conceptual territory within which Points of Departure developed draws on various accounts of and forms of engagement with the city, ranging from fictions and theoretical reflections to drawings of and installations within the city. First among these is the work of Edgar Allen Poe. Poe’s work, with its impenetrable crowds and unfathomable spaces, illustrates an attempt to personally navigate, through fiction, the experiential space of the city. The city fascinated and inspired Poe, and he framed it as a place of sheer experiential density coupled with narrative inscrutability. However, unlike Poe’s unwitting perambulators we too easily assign to (or demand from) the city a spatial, material clarity that constrains both our personal interpretations and sense of individual ownership of the city. In contrast, Walter Benjamin, attracted by the idea of urban obscurity (and its presumed attendant dangers) believed that in the case of Poe’s work structure was more important than plot. Benjamin prized the indeterminate pursuit through the city described in Poe’s stories, and the discovery of unknown and incongruous elements in the midst of Poe’s crowds. In the project described below, these ‘incongruous elements’ are explored as an operative strategy for making insinuated narrative implicit in creating the space into which the reader (or city dweller) travels.
This strategy is embodied by Peter Greenaway’s project The Stairs/Geneva: The Location, in which 100 white wooden staircases were deployed around the city over 100 days, each holding a viewport framing a “living picture postcard” accompanied by a short commentary. Inspired by the desire to activate the audience and the city concurrently, Greenaway’s intent was to induce a sense of narrative de-familiarisation coupled with a heightened consciousness of one’s orientation in space.
Greenaway’s project challenged the authority of the frame in cinema; The Stairs privileged the participant who, while conscious of performing the act of viewing, ‘performed’ the project itself, and, by extension, transformed the city into a collection of singular points of imagination and themselves, as viewer, into an active participant in the work. The deployment of the work in Geneva was therefore less a singular ‘writing’ of the city than the deployment of a series of entry points offering access to an open-ended and changeable narrative, one constructed according to each participant’s looking. While the ‘audience’ was transformed into multivalent active participants the instruments of looking, the apertures held by the staircases, created an alternative version of the city, one continually oscillating between the fictions established by the viewers and the facts re-presented by the commentaries. In this way, in both interpreting the city and writing new personal narratives upon it, The Stairs became both a map and an instrument of erasure through superimposition, creating gaps to be filled by the audience’s personal imaginings. The emergence of both the multiple access points provided by the staircases and this indeterminate imagined territory thus created a different kind of territorial map, one both accommodating and inviting a fundamental “unknowability.”
The Stairs/Geneva: The Location. Peter Greenaway, 1994. © Christophe Gevrey, 2004. Reproduced by permission of the photographer.
As in Greenaway’s project, the aim here is to represent the familiar in a manner that reveals the possibilities of the unfamiliar contained within. In this sense the work presented here recalls that of the Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico. Vico believed that Cartesian cartography could only provide a mechanical description of the world; to move beyond this required the use of the language or fabric of a mythological past as a discursive framework for development. In 1762 the Venetian engraver Giovanni Battista Piranesi, a contemporary of Vico, published his Ichnographia Campi Martii antiquae urbis, a series of etchings showing a map of the Forum of ancient Rome. Though containing recognisable monuments, Piranesi’s map bears no literal resemblance to Rome, either ancient or 18th century; containing such imaginary marvels as the gates to the Underworld, Piranesi’s map depicts the real city as contiguous with one located in imagination and prehistory. Here, as in Vico’s thinking, the primitive and mythic are revealed to underlie the physical fabric of the city.
Piranesi’s work thus assumes a critical dimension, actively resisting scientific objectivity in favour of a city still informed by speculations, allegations and narrative, instead of simply ‘facts’. In Piranesi’s rendering the Campo Marzio contains within it the real and the unreal, the past as well as an unrealised future. As a critical fragmentation of time and space, the map posits a disjointed geography of excisions and allegory, and conflates recognisable locations with mythic sites in a representation, crucially, open to personal interpretation. In this way, as suggested above, Piranesi’s map anticipates both Poe and Greenaway through its construction of a city greater than its constituent elements and infused with collective mythmaking based on an underlying mytho-poetic palimpsest, “an intricate network of sites of interpretation.” Rather than a literal depiction of territory, Piranesi’s narrative mapping alters the geography, scale and content of the city to both discover and re-present spaces of indeterminacy, and to invite the reader to fill in the various gaps.
In this sense Points of Departure establishes a mytho-poetic landscape. Daedalus’ labyrinth, that place of infinite wandering, is here taken to be the origin of the city, its indeterminacy promising openness, or infinite possibilities for individual interpretation.
Project Site: Cockatoo Island
The physical territory, part of the mytho-poetic landscape, is Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour, the largest of several islands in the Harbour that were originally heavily wooded sandstone outcrops. From 1839, following British colonisation in 1788, Cockatoo Island operated as a prison within a prison, a place of sequestration (as no prisoners could swim) for recidivist convicts originally transported from Great Britain. Prisoners were employed to build their own barracks, as well as grain storage silos cut by hand from the Island’s sandstone. From 1857 onwards, the island was one of Australia’s biggest shipyards; it comprises the nation’s most extensive built record of shipbuilding, naval engineering and industrial practices from the mid-19th century. In 1869 the convicts were relocated and the prison complex became an industrial school and reformatory for girls, as well as a vocational training site for orphaned and wayward boys, who were housed on a ship moored alongside the island. After 1908 the island became exclusively a naval dockyard until its eventual decommissioning in 1991.
Paradoxically the very nature of Cockatoo Island led to its demise; its geographic isolation proved inefficient for modern shipbuilding. After 1991 the island lay vacant for fourteen years, access prohibited, its physical infrastructure decaying. John Jeremy’s multi-volume history of the island dockyard evocatively describes this trajectory from a crowded place of intense, colossal and highly complex fabrication to an abandoned, quiescent ruin. The material history of Cockatoo Island can, then, be presented in three stages:
Prison, a place of confinement, carved out of stone by its own inmates, from which flight was deemed impossible. In this state, no one left the Island.
Dockyard, a constantly expanding workshop transforming materials into machines. Significant aspects of the operations included the drawing of the ships (often at full scale), sectioning (the cutting of the parts) and the joinery (assembling the parts). Ongoing modifications to the island continued to accommodate these operations: cutting, excavating, extending and erasing the physical fabric, both built and geologic. The ultimate products of these operations were vessels for the Royal Navy that left the Island, permanently.
Vacant Site, an urban ruin with both physical and psychical qualities emerging as the island became increasingly detached from the city, both operationally and conceptually. In this state, no one went to the Island.
In this final state Cockatoo Island is a terrain vague, a site of interpretation receptive to the construction of an imaginary that is, also paradoxically, specific to that place. As defined by Ignasi de Sola-Morales, terrain vague, with their lack of use and spatial potentiality, exist as zones of latency within the city: voids as absences, but also as promise, as spaces of encounter. These spaces are inherently uncertain or indeterminate: they are discontinuous spaces in which non-use is seen simply as cultural obsolescence. Here memory, coupled with expectation, is the dominant characteristic, and as Sola-Morales points out “the Romantic imagination which still survives in our contemporary sensibility feeds on memories and expectations,” finding in them opportunities to establish new personal narratives, of “the other, the alternative, the Utopian, the future.”
In 2005, Cockatoo Island’s gradual rehabilitation as a public event space and site of cultural curiosities began. The island has since become an experiential museum of sorts, home to the Sydney Biennale, myriad other arts and music festivals and many other programs and events of cultural production and creative imagination. This constantly shifting calendar of disconnected events, coupled with the inevitable (if photogenic) mismatch between contemporary culture and the industrial architecture of the island, results in an artifice, a disjunction between site and experience, a product of a compositional operation which the surrealist artist Max Ernst characterised as “the union of two apparently incompatible realities.” In this sense Cockatoo Island comes to embody something of Peter Greenaway’s thinking on the museum. Greenaway characterises the museum as inherently a site of surrealist operations in which the curatorial project creates new juxtapositions between objects wildly separated in time and space. In this project this surrealist curatorial act, already unwittingly begun with the cultural programme on Cockatoo Island, becomes a specific strategy for re-imagining the island.
A second strategy for the project, building on the description of alternative representational techniques described above, is a strategic meandering through space to excavate its latent potentials, or a ‘drift’ originating from the Situationists’ most renowned urban strategy, the dérive. As Tom McDonough notes in his reconsideration of the Situationist movement, for the Situationists the city was less a conjoined physical structure than a series of discontinuous points of potential “reciprocity and community.” This rethinking of the city is made manifest in the series of maps produced by the Situationist International in the late 1950’s, in which isolated islands invite personal wanderings. However, McDonough suggests that underpinning these individual responses to a physical territory invoked by the maps was a profound interest in the city as a source of history, not chronologically ordered but as a repository to be excavated. The “secrets held within the urban landscape” were to be unlocked by wandering through the city, by the act of dérive.
Some further developments of the idea of the drift are explored in Paul Carter’s study of migrancy and myth. In Carter’s work the drift has an essential role in understanding place, especially in disturbing the order of colonial place-making and place marking. For Carter places are seen as discursive constructs and the drift, characterised as a track or trace, is neither a delineation of space nor an erasure of what has come before. His two descriptions of trace are valuable here in highlighting the objectives of the project. Carter’s first ‘trace’ is the material record of a place, the marks on a landscape infused with a history of their making, a writing without text. On Cockatoo Island, the extensive (and often violent) material excisions and fabrications are traces of the island’s brutal history and keys to its easily romanticised past. The various manipulations, containments, sequestrations and exclusions of water, and the penetrations and excisions of stone, the two primordial constituent elements of the island, remain evident across Cockatoo, and these traces are, to restate McDonough, the island’s “secrets locked within its landscape.”
Carter’s second description of trace invokes a line of purpose, a process that incorporates movement into place-making, in opposition to the line as delineation. This line of purpose derives from the notion of migrancy as a form of settlement that does not erase earlier forms of settlement, but rather retains something of their memory as a history of movement. Cockatoo Island is implicated in a material history of migrations, either to the island in the form of convicts and (later) industrial materials, or from the island in the form of stone and, eventually, highly complex warships. However, more significant in this history of migration is the island’s disconnection from the continuous history of Sydney. The abandonment and continued estrangement of the island from the city, and the rehabilitation of the island as a site of discontinuous, ceaseless curation ensures that all visitors are now migrants to Cockatoo Island.
View of Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour. © Steven Young, 2004. Reproduced by permission of the photographer.
The myth of Daedalus forms a framework for the mytho-poetic status of Cockatoo Island. Daedalus was, first and foremost, a migrant. Banished from ancient Athens for killing his nephew, he subsequently found refuge in the employ of King Minos of Crete. His personal history mirrors that of Cockatoo Island, but like all reflections, reversed. Daedalus gained renown in Athens for sculpting statues so lifelike and animated that they needed to be chained in place lest they, according to Socrates, “play truant and run away.” As Indra McEwen notes in Socrates’ Ancestor, this chaining down suggests a shift from privileging motion to valuing fixity (a conflict at the root of Carter’s second description of the ‘trace’, and migrancy as opposed to settlement). We might consider, then, in reaching back to the pre-Socratic figure, to the unchained statue, an elevation of personal experience over established knowledge. Daedalus, that master artificer, values the experience of making over the rules of making or the thing made.
In the second stage of his history, as apocryphally the first architect, Daedalus was in service to Minos, commander of the most powerful navy in the known world. In this role Daedalus designed fortifications, piers and seawalls, reifying the boundaries and thresholds of Knossos. He was also instrumental in the design and fabrication of the ships of the King’s navy, being credited with inventing the prow, and as McEwen notes the term daidalon (referring generally to a built work but also to the cutting up and joining together of parts) applied to armour, but especially to the fabrication of ships. Most notoriously, Daedalus was responsible for the hollow cow into which the Queen secreted herself for her union with the White Bull, the offspring of which, the Minotaur, would never leave the island.
The final stage of Daedalus’ history was that of prisoner. Minos imprisoned Daedalus, with his son Icarus, in a prison of his own making for his various transgressions (creating the false cow, but also assisting Ariadne by providing her with the ball of thread by which Theseus navigated his way out of the labyrinth). For Daedalus, the labyrinth ceased to be the archetypal place of wandering, a place of infinite chance and opportunity, and became a place to leave, from which to become migratory by transcending the physical boundaries of place.
PART 2: Operations
Paralleling both the material history of Cockatoo Island and the personal history of Daedalus, the creative explorations undertaken in Points of Departure followed three distinct phases, the processes and results of which were recursively folded back into subsequent explorations.
1. Situation and Insinuation – Migratory explorations on Cockatoo Island and narrative interpretation of the discoveries.
2. Transformation and Projection – Narrative remodification of sites on the island and the invention of spatial instruments and animate vessels supporting these plans.
3. Exodus and Installation – Departure from the island, and deployment of an alternate Cockatoo Island in the city.
Concurrent with these three material explorations was the production of an operative drawing, combining reconstructions of the island with the multiple new realities being developed. As John Berger offers in his essay “Drawn to that Moment,” the drawing, once freed from the burden of static representation, allows for the recognition of both time and space, and the “simultaneity of a multitude of moments.” The drawing (Table of Contents) was inspired by the Mould Loft on the island, a building where cutting templates for the ribs (and later steel plates) of ships were set out using a network of hand-drawn lines scored into and annotated on the timber floor, leaving an overlapping tracery of years of calculations and fabrications.
In his book Dark Writing, Paul Carter insists that in order to recognise (and preserve) the constantly evolving nature of place, we must draw differently, incorporating relationships, histories and movement. Cartographic practices that reduce Cockatoo to a single dimensionless line bounding space eliminate the possibilities inherent in an abstract or shifting threshold where the relationship between water and land is constantly changing. The drawing above began by incising the changing perimeter of Cockatoo Island from its original state before major alterations began in 1790 to the present day into a timber door recovered from the island. This operative drawing of the island’s thresholds involved a mapping of the ways in which land meets water; this act, offering a spatiality to the edges, allowed the coast “line” to take on a dimension, and by extension become both territorial and relational. Through this drawing the mutability of the island is made clear, and a necessary pre-condition for understanding the island established, where the island is no longer seen as a static figure, but rather as a shifting territory engendering constantly evolving potentialities.
This initial series of markings established the operative boundary spaces of the project – the divergent thresholds of Cockatoo. Rather than a cartographic tool to simplify complex and incompatible conditions, the door-as-drawing board evolved into an instrument to both accommodate incongruous discoveries and a discursive surface on which to plot the trajectories and outcomes of emergent investigations.
1. Situation and Insinuation
In phase 1 of the project, exploratory wanderings of Cockatoo Island were undertaken by a group of students engaged in the design studio run concurrently with the development of this creative work. Incongruous conditions and elements were discovered and these conditions were re-presented in narrative terms to augment purely visual observations. From these discoveries and re-presentations, narratives were constructed using both the real and imagined histories of the occupations of Cockatoo over time. These narratives became myths in which the incongruous elements, their new characterisations, or the experiential qualities revealed by these elements featured in the subsequent inhabitations of the island.
Using these meanderings, discoveries and narratives as new means of interpreting the island, characters from the Daedalus myth were situated within particular locations on the Island. In this way these sites, both cuttings and constructions achieved by manual labour, conflate the immediately present and the altogether elsewhere, and offer new tectonic and affective qualities complementing (or implicating) those archetypes associated with them. The correspondence of these mythological archetypes with sites on the island constructed new situations, both specific to physical conditions of place but also redolent with poetic potential. This synthesis of concerns incorporates the corporeally exact and illusory narrative, as in Giambattista Vico’s description of place-making as a poetic endeavour. As Carter notes, Vico’s combination of the literal and the symbolic, ingegno, depicts disconnected, divergent aspects of spatial constructs.
In the final stage of this first phase of the project these site-archetype conflations on Cockatoo Island became the subjects for a series of experimental depictions, or “portraits.” Using a series of materials (chalk, oil, inks) applied on 100 year old slates recovered from the island, these depictions layered a number of secondary physical considerations over both the portrait of the archetype and the physical sectioning of a particular location.
While occupied with the figuration of both site and character this process of portraiture, conflating archetype and location, also aimed to escape material and mythological characterisation and to generate a series of briefing instructions. These instructions associated with each conflated pair (i) a sense, (ii) an operation (deriving from either the archetype or procedures enacted upon the site), (iii) a tectonic or spatial condition interpolated from those actions, and (iv) a piece of music linked to each brief. Finally, a migratory program was attached to this information for each site/archetype/project. These “programs” were not functional briefs per se, but rather concepts for episodic or operative spatial instruments (to be developed independently by the five students) along with a suggestion as to how the spaces might eventually perform.
2. Transformation and Projection
From the briefs above full-scale instruments were created within those new narratives being developed for Cockatoo Island, as well as accompanying texts outlining the relationship of these instruments to the island and describing their role in facilitating departures from it. These imminent departures developed as strategies for “leaving” the island, that is, for transferring both the project’s concerns and its speculative outputs from this idealised place to a wider urban context. Critical to this operation was a graphic strategy reversing conventional cartographic techniques, namely that of the marine coastal survey conducted using rhumb lines and triangulation.
Prior to the invention of chronometers (which allowed sailors to accurately establish their position at sea), seafarers relied on rhumb lines, bearing lines that allowed a constant course without changing direction. Early oceanic navigational charts feature interlocking networks of these rhumb lines drawn across the surface of the ocean, providing (in theory, though often much less accurately in practice) direct connections to the coastlines of distant islands. These trans-oceanic lines were the products of centuries of surveying from sea via triangulation, however, as Carter notes, exact positioning could not be assured and many of these maps contained gaps where no definitive coastline could be established. These gaps, as unknown sites, became potential sites of discovery, promising, as they did, the possibility of harbours, rivers or other inlets that might offer a way into the new country. In this project, similar gaps, the areas where the line does not exist as a definitive bounding line, but rather as a littoral zone, became the points of departure: they became architectonic thresholds of movement.
Each of the selected sites on the island was mapped against a particular threshold relating to the briefs deriving from the portraits. However, instead of navigating via rhumb lines from a point at sea oriented to cardinal axes, here the bearing lines originated from specific locations on the island, and oriented themselves to the associated threshold conditions around the perimeter of the island. Treating these thresholds as fluid interfaces between land and water, having both a spatial and an operational dimension, the applied lines of movement did not terminate at an invented coastal line, but rather continued off into the harbour, projecting paths of migratory desire from the Island.
3. Exodus and Installation
Having determined these points of departure the various thresholds were taken as the basis of a series of migratory instruments. The programs for these instruments again derived from the portraits, and from the operations of the one-to-one instruments (and associated narratives) produced for the installation. This combination of the abstract and evocative with the highly specific and operational continued the process begun with the portraits, however in this instance in reverse; instead of excavating from concrete realities they sought to construct a set of projections from inferred conditions. These projections became instruments focusing operations away from the island, but still deriving their operational motives from the tectonic and spatial situations on the island.
The migratory ‘vehicles’ were developed and presented through a series of sectional maquettes, each established through a cross sectional cut through those thresholds derived above. These thresholds, as the launching points for the migratory vehicles, were the basis of the amphibious tectonics for the vehicles and the basis of the relationship between the changing surface (and level) of the Harbour, the conditions of ground from which the vehicle departed and the negotiation between these two conditions.
The various vehicles, instruments and drawings developed over the course of the project were installed in a former prison cell in Sydney. These artefacts were not static exhibits, but rather demanded an active engagement from the viewers requiring physical manipulation in order for their contents to be revealed. An interactive soundscape was installed around the perimeter of the cell, consisting of recordings taken around the perimeter of Cockatoo Island, the sounds of water and land meeting, and synchronised to the geometry of the space. As participants moved towards the edges of the room, the volume increased, recreating within the confined space of the cell the aquatic threshold of the island.
Published 24th September, 2015.
^ As Breton notes: ‘Everything tends to make us believe that there exists a certain point of the mind at which life and death, the real and the imagined, past and future, the communicable and the incommunicable, high and low, cease to be perceived as contradictions.’ Breton, André. 1972. Manifestoes of Surrealism. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, pp.123-124
^ Vidler, Anthony. 1992. The Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, p.4
^ Smith, P. D. 2012. City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age. New York: Bloomsbury, p.165
^ Gilloch, Graeme. 1996. Myth and Metropolis: Walter Benjamin and the City. Cambridge UK: Polity Press, p.141. Criminality as a means of erasing oneself from the constituents of the city also became an operative practice: the Situationists considered the derivé a subversive activity in large part because they did not shop.
^ Greenaway, Peter. 1995. The Stairs: Geneva the Location. London: Merrell Holberton, p.18
^ Elliot, Bridget & Purdy, Anthony. 1997. Peter Greenaway: Architecture and Allegory. Chichester: Academy Editions, p.92
^ Willoquet-Maricondi, Paula & Alemany-Galway, Mary. 2008. Peter Greenaway’s Postmodern/Poststructuralist Cinema. New York: Scarecrow Press, p.48
^ Pérez-Gómez, Alberto. 2008. Built Upon Love: Architectural Longing after Ethics and Aesthetics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp.89-90
^ Bloomer, Jennifer. 1993. Architecture and the Text: The (S)crypts of Joyce and Piranesi. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, pp.67-70
^ The context for Piranesi’s work – which seemingly proposes destruction, restoration and reconstruction concurrently – is, as Aureli notes, the 15th century tradition of instauratio urbis (literally “the instalment of the city”) and attempts to restore the form of ancient Rome. The Enlightenment loomed over these romantic re-readings of Rome, challenging antiquarian scholarship with scientific (predominantly archaeological) knowledge. This archaeological knowledge was recruited to supplant the myths of ancient knowledge with empirical methods free from ideology; cartography sought to replace the allegorical narrative of maps with the exactitude of objective data. This is exemplified by Giovanni Batista Nolli’s Nuova pianti di Roma. Nolli used the most current measuring instruments and techniques to create (fourteen years before Piranesi’s plan) the first cadastral map of Rome, purporting it to be a comprehensive map of the “real” Rome. So treasured was Nolli’s plan for its putative accuracy that it was used by the city of Rome’s planning department until 1973.
^ Aureli, Pier Vittorio. 2011. The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp.108-115
^ Bloomer, Jennifer. 1993. Architecture and the Text, p.70
^ Yourcenar, Marguerite. 1980. The Dark Brain of Piranesi, and other essays. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, p.90
^ Bloomer, Jennifer. 1993. Architecture and the Text, p.72
^ Vidler, Anthony. 1992. The Architectural Uncanny, p.37
^ Jormakka, Kari. 2005. ‘The Most Architectural Thing’, in Surrealism and Architecture. Thomas Mical (ed). New York: Routledge, p.293
^ In the same manner, Gilles Deleuze held that this labyrinth, in its manipulations of both time and space, could be an instrument to eliminate the literal: instead of cartographers, we need to be “cryptographers,” to decipher the connections between fissures in physical matter and our personal insinuations into those gaps. Deleuze, Gilles. 1993. The Fold: Liebniz and the Baroque. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, p.3
^ With one exception: the only known escapees from the Island, Frederick Ward and Frederick Britten, successfully swam to the mainland in 1863. Ward later achieved renown as the notorious bushranger Captain Thunderbolt.
^ Manual quarrying by these convicts provided stone for major projects around Sydney, and between 1847 and 1857 this conscripted labour force was used to construct the Fitzroy Dock, the southern hemisphere’s first dry dock.
^ Jeremy, John. 2005. Cockatoo Island: Sydney’s Historic Dockyard. Sydney: UNSW Press, pp.2-6
^ Jeremy, John. 2013. The Island Shipyard: Shipbuilding at Cockatoo Island 1870 to 1987. Sydney: Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, p.305
^ Sola-Morales, Ignasi De. 2002. ‘Terrain Vague’, in Territories. Barcelona: Editorial Gustavo Gill, pp.108-9
^ Ernst, Max. 1948. Beyond Painting, and Other Writings by the Artist and His Friends. New York: Wittenborn, Schultz, p.13.
^ Pascoe, David. 1997. Peter Greenaway: Museums and Moving Images. London: Reaktion Books, pp.208-9. Greenaway’s own curatorial works seek to subvert the temporal linearity and material authority of traditional institutions by fragmenting historical narrative and celebrating the quotidian. This subversion of the museum is also a recurring theme in the work of the surrealist artist Joseph Cornell, who collected, collated and curated disparate found objects into miniature collections contained in boxes. In these works Cornell ignored any sense of chronology, liberally combining “subjects from different contexts, countries, and epochs, comfortably placing living and long-dead figures side by side.” Hauptman, Jodi. 1999. Joseph Cornell: Stargazing in the Cinema. New Haven, CA: Yale University Press, p.12.
^ McDonough’s re-thinking of the Situationist International focuses principally on their legacy of spatial thinking rather than their critique of the visual spectacle. McDonough, Tom. 2009. The Situationists and the City. London: Verso, pp.9-12
^ Carter, Paul. 2004. ‘Mythforms: Techniques of Migrant Placemaking’, in Drifting: Architecture and Migrancy, Stephen Cairns (ed.). London: Routledge, pp.88-90
^ Carter, Paul. 2004. ‘Mythforms’, p.91
^ McEwen, Indra Kagis. 1997. Socrates Ancestor: An Essay on Architectural Beginnings. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp.5-6
^ Nyenhuis, Jacob E. 2003. Myth and the Creative Process: Michael Ayrton and the Myth of Daedalus, the Maze Maker. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, pp.25-7
^ McEwen, Indra Kagis. 1997. Socrates Ancestor, p.48
^ Berger, John. 2001. ‘Drawn to That Moment’, in Selected Essays. Geoff Dyer (ed). London: Bloomsbury, p.423
^ Hyde, Olivia. 2007. ‘The Mould Loft’, in Cuttings. Joanne Jakovich (ed). Sydney: Sydney University Press, pp.111-117
^ Carter, Paul. 2009. Dark Writing: Geography, Performance, Design. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, p.7
^ The threshold conditions mapped:
Seawall (linear separations) Ramp (transitional zones) Rubble (fractured surfaces) Suspended (layered planes) Floating (shifting zones)
These particular elements, and all subsequent developments of the project, are contained in a supplementary document to this paper, presented as a navigable electronic territory. This document outlines the evolution of the creative process, as well as the relationships between its constituent parts.
^ Carter, Paul. 2009. Dark Writing, p.75
^ Incongruity Re-presentation A. Pairs of sinks Parallax photography of sinks B. Material junctions Casts of gaps between materials C. Voids under cranes Volumetric studies of absences D. Flora growing in cracks Collection of botanical specimens from the Island E. Microclimatic shifts Mouisture and wind mappings around the island
^ Two examples of the implied fictions derived from the site investigations:
A pair of shipworkers in the 1930’s, whose relationship developed via furtive meetings at the paired sinks; their (scandalous) desire for union seemingly remaining unfulfilled. Told via a series of (constructed) artefacts: time clock cards showing congruent work shifts over time, archival photographs, and a truncated letter from Sweden in 1980 purporting to tell the story of the author’s uncle (one of the shipworkers), but left unfinished…
Danae, a young girl desperate to escape the brutal 1870’s reform school, but unable to swim. Relentlessly wandering the Island at night, she slowly discovers the elemental nature of water by sequestering herself in depressions in the sandstone, where the ground water percolates out and over her. Possibly, she escapes the Island by swimming (or drowning), as recounted in the fragments of a diary written by one of her fellow detainees.
^ Selected Cockatoo Island sites and their applied archetypes:
A constricted spatial gap between a 15-meter high hand-hewn sandstone cliff and the largest building on the Island, the Turbine Hall, heroic product of a wartime machine sensibility, becomes the geo-spatial incarnation of the Minotaur, the classical hybrid. The Gap, a literal separation between a violently reconstructed nature and an implacable machine architecture, hovers between two seemingly irreconcilable vectors in the making of Cockatoo, now conflated with a character whose nature is entirely the product of the fact that he is both, and neither, man nor beast. A remote corner of the Turbine Hall is also the location of an isolated pair of sinks, notional site (in the proffered fiction) of the liaisons between the 1930’s shipworkers.
Ariadne, eldest princess in the Royal household (and keeper of the rituals of rebirth and healing enacted on her dance floor and provider to Theseus of the ball of string by which he navigated his way out of the labyrinth) becomes complicit with the Dogleg Tunnel, another man-made excision of the sandstone of the Island, two straight borings (and their associated side chambers) into the rock which meet deep inside and under the constantly seeping stone of the Island.
Phaedra – Water Towers: the second sister, associated with duplicity, or the concealment of intentions, and the three grouped water towers which, contrary to gravity and liquidity, sequester bodies of water above the ground.
Pasiphae – Dry Dock: the Queen, societal incarnation of the fertility goddess, and mother to the Minotaur, and the Fitzroy Dock, a volume carved into water, in which ships were both birthed and berthed, vessels held within invented spaces.
Theseus – Grain Silos: the hero, adventurer, wayward son, philanderer, killer, purveyor of brute force and violence, with a patrimony both mortal (Aegeus) and divine (Poseidon); and the bottle-shaped silos carved into the rock of the Island by particularly brutal forced labour.
^ Carter, Paul. 2009. Dark Writing, pp.22-3
^ Portraits – the operations involved in the “drawing out:”
A ground line, marking the original profile, or skin, of the Island.
A marking or measuring (a Colonial act of “ruling” the earth via Cartesian coordination) of the ground in pursuit of an idealised outcome.
The subsequent enactment of that marking via enforced bodily actions on the Island –the manipulation of stone with hand tools; the outcomes are a deviance from the purity of geometric desire.
The superimposition over these geometries of desire and acts of excavation of the fundamental body part of the archetype central to their roles and actions. Thus, the shoulders of Theseus, the Minotaur’s skull, Pasiphae’s womb, Ariadne’s leg and the duplicitous absence (while present) of Phaedra.
A series of gestural marks in oil and chalk specifying that initial violence inherent in the manual marking, excavation and displacement of stone, followed by the infiltration of water into the resultant voids, understood (in the pre-natatorial Colonial era) as a malign presence.
Architectonic armatures laid on the drawing surface mediating between the idealised (rationalist and geometric) intent for sites and the tangible, man-made results. These structural frames also support shards of glass elevated off the surface of the tiles, which cover the resultant gaps between geometry and reality, creating an illusory picture plane.
Behind the armatures, developed in a language of antiquated mechanical drawing, the suggested presence of a series of machines, each related to the sensations being discovered through the drawing process. These iconographic instruments also bear a trace of the operations inherent in their associated archetypes; they are, correspondingly, (A) a gantry crane, (B) a pneumatic pump, (C) a butterfly valve, (D) a diving bell and (E) a Gatling gun.
Each portrait contains a series of insignias based on the broad arrow symbol (pheon) applied to convicts’ uniforms in the penal colony are. These insignias become complicit with particular rituals extracted from the portraits: (A) 7 male and 7 female sacrificial virgins, (B) wine chalices, (C) water level markers, (D) sperm cells and (E) a victory tattoo.
^ Briefing instructions and performative programs:
Minotaur: a beast, a scandal, a shame, a monstrosity. A cowboy.
Situation: The Gap between the Turbine Hall and the sandstone cliff, flanked by the exposed rock of the Island (the surface pulled away) and the concealed interiority of the machine hall (the surface applied). This was once filled with fog.
Sense: Sight Operation: Hybridisation; the impossibility of reconciling idea and reality. Condition: Leverage Accompany: Stephen Sherril, The Minotaur, Takes a Cigarette Break Migratory Program: Swith Room (the Afterimage)
Ariadne: goddess of nature & culture; abandoned and future bride. Woman.
Situation: The Dog Leg Tunnel, connecting the Eastern Apron with the Southern Precinct, where everyone on the Island took refuge when Japanese midget submarines shelled Sydney Harbour in 1942.
Sense: Touch Operation: Borders cut between sand and water Condition: Containment Accompany: Leonard Cohen, Avalanche Migratory Program: Map Room (Traces)
Pasiphae: queen, romantic, miscegenationist. Mother.
Situation: The Fitzroy Dock, linking two strands of Cockatoo’s history - prison and dockyard. The Dock was built by convicts working in diving-bells at their own pace. The most advanced facility in the colony; vessels were hauled in by man-power.
Sense: Smell Operation: A vessel suspended within a hole in the water Condition: Fertility Accompany: Tim Buckley, Song to the Siren Migratory Program: Dark Room (the Family tree)
Phaedra: second sister, goddess in waiting, future Mata Hari. Woman.
Situation: The Water Towers on top of the Island made redundant by both the delivery of water as well as its retention and recycling. One short and squat one tall and statuesque, one a metal box, these containers command the Island.
Sense: Hearing Operation: Invisible concrete voids in the sky Condition: Subterfuge and sequestration Accompany: Lee Hazelwood, One Velvet Morning Migratory Program: Walk on Water (Echoes)
Theseus: hero, lover, adventurer. Also: killer, deserter, philanderer. Man.
Situation: 13 (or 15, or 18) Grain Silos, cut into the rock in an attempt to corner the fledgling Colony’s grain supply in response to shortages brought about by a drought. They were never used for their original purpose. In 1852, 3 prisoners drowned in one.
Sense: Sight Operation: Immersion in an alternate atmosphere Condition: Resistance Accompany: Joe Jackson, Real Men Migratory Program: Water Theatre (the Ship of Theseus)
^ Full scale instruments developed for the sites and narratives:
1. (Mi) - der Zwishenraum (the gap).
A point of change, of new identity and of new beginnings.
The space is the machine; the machine contains and conceals desire.
Trapped within, extracted from a place invisible to the naked eye, and presented in a place in a constant state of change.
The device is an internally illuminated box, containing a machine whose purpose cannot be fathomed. Through a small aperture on one side of the box, one of the profiles of the men implicated in the dockyard romance is revealed. The viewport on the other side of the box shows the silhouette of the second man, cast by the machine. The two images cannot be seen simultaneously.
2. (Ar) - The Serangeum Chambers.
The Dog Leg Tunnel has been harnessed for its condition of retaining water, an attribute that Danae had grown attached to. It is now known as the Serangeum Chambers, made up of 5 rooms following the traditional Roman bathing rituals. These spaces have been carved into the sandstone and then re-framed in timber.
The multi-scalar model of the migrants’ bathing rooms depicts the hand basins of the Apodyterium on a 1:1 scale, the foot bathing bench of the Tepidarium on a 1:10 scale and the two co-joined pools of the Caldarium on a 1:50 scale.
3. (Pa) - Dissimulo (maternum)
Evolution and mutation: ‘camouflage’ was genetically developed in order to further investigate diversity as a familial framework. The subconscious layering of history as temporal sediment is complicit with a flow of scent: spore-laden moving air. A temporary accommodation, a memento mori, the vessel exhibits a predisposition to containment, yet slowly reveals it’s inner self through decomposition.
Accommodating both growth and decay, the instrument is a temporary seed bank, holding within it a rotating selection of smaller vessels with the collected specimens from the Island, as well as becoming a growing vessel for those seeds that happen to germinate while in the case.
4. (Ph) - Reliquary (excavated)
The crane, instrument of shifting perspectives, stands in as a final transit point before dispersal.
The choice to adapt the new? Or a forced removal?
The place to occlude one’s identity, an abandonment, leaving behind relics of from a past life.
A collection chest, personal repository of remnants echoing days long past, archaeological in its density and in its fragmentary nature, while also intimating portents for the future. It is impossible to see the contents clearly or completely, only in sidelong glimpses off mirrors.
5. (Th) - The Weather Machine
Where the weather machine as a force changes the state of space, or manipulates spatial conditions, so too does that of Cockatoo Island. A point of divergence is discovered when the force of weather acting upon physical matter transforms its original spatial conditions, therefore redefining it. Space becomes a world that is neither defined nor limited by that which encompasses it, because of its transience.
^ Barber, Peter. 2014. ‘A Catalan Merchant and his Markets’, in Mapping our World: Terra Incognita to Australia. Robert Nichols (ed). Canberra: National Library of Australia, p.54
^ Carter, Paul. 2009. Dark Writing, p.57
^ Triangulation - rediscovered threshold conditions:
(Mi) Minotaur + the Gap (conditioned by leverage): Concrete ramps
(Ar) Ariadne + the Dogleg Tunnel (containment): Floating infrastructures
(Pa) Pasiphae + the Fitzroy Dock (fertility): Stone rubble
(Ph) Phaedra + the Water Towers (subterfuge): Suspended surfaces
(Th) Theseus + the Grain Silos (resistance): Sea walls
^ Vehicles – migratory instruments leaving the island:
(Mi) Ramps, Switch Room (the Afterimage), der Zwishenraum.
An amphibious cinema, images projected from the top of Slipway 1, onto a screen floating on a barge; the audience inhabits the sloping surface in between projected light and received image. In the afterglow, the cinema floats away.
(Ar) Floating docks, Map Room (Traces), Serangeum Chambers.
A migratory swimming pool, originating at the site of the pool on the Island where reformatory girls and orphaned boys mixed; deliriously it detaches, inscribing new territories, water in water, then returns to land. [This instrument is a deliberate echoing of Rem Koolhaas’ Floating Pool of the Russian Constructivists from his book Delirious New York (1978). The pool as posited by Koolhass is a heterotopic “enclave of purity in contaminated surroundings,” a migratory city block with its contained program.
(Pa) Rubble, Dark Room (Family Tree), Dissimulo (maternum).
A tank, a vessel and a mobile market, where soil meets water. Food grown and prepared on the Island is dispatched, waste collected and composted, and a single tree, dispersing its seeds at night, moves across the water.
(Ph) Suspensions, Walk on Water (Echoes), Reliquary.
A submarine territory, present but unseen, a colloidal infrastructure within the water and under the surface. A stage without a theatre, impossible ground, where, miracle-free, the cast walks on water. It is not there.
(Th) Sea walls, Water Theatre (Theseus’ Ship), Weather Machine.
A cauldron, an aqueous chamber, a space in which to negotiate difference, and weather personal reflections and community dialogue. A meeting room, a classroom, an operating theatre, a courtroom – a pure interior.
^ List of elements in the installation:
The Table of Contents, reconfigured as a lectern, or altarpiece, but slightly too high to view comfortably, necessitating a step up to it.
The 5 Portraits of site and archetype, also presented on another piece of furniture, displaying the series as iconic artefacts demanding translation.
09Helen Runting & Fredrik Torisson
Render-Photograph-Render: Interference and afterimage at the 8 House. Helen Runting & Fredrik Torisson.
Writing of postmodernism, Fredric Jameson locates the (postmodern) desire for architecture in its image. Alloy-like, the architecture of the early twenty-first century amalgamates image and material structure and in so doing sprawls simultaneously across the spaces of media and the city. From concept diagram to post-occupancy photograph, the building is now both preceded and augmented by a distributed array of high-resolution images. A brand from the moment of inception, the “distributed form” of the contemporary architectural project in fact seems carefully designed to facilitate its on-going dissemination. It is this relation – that of architecture to its image – which this essay critically addresses, exploring what it is that such projects actually project, and how we might – as architects and critics – critically engage with that content.
The 8 House sits alone in a field, bracketed on two sides by man-made bodies of water: a very narrow and very straight canal that traces the line of the 225-metre long eastern façade of the building, and a shallow and rather square lake which abuts the 100-metre long southern site boundary. To the west, groups of row houses have been scattered, as if by an infant giant, across the (artificially-induced) undulating terrain. To the north, open-air sports facilities clad the undeveloped plots between the 8 House and the Bella Centre. Beyond the canal, a row of nondescript residential, commercial, and car parking structures attempt the impossible task of mooring (in plan) the enormous structure of the 8 House – which otherwise floats, zeppelin-like, in its field – to the adjacent spine of the city’s driverless metro system. The station of Vestamager, some 300 metres east of the site, is the last stop on the M1 line, linking the site to central Copenhagen. Vestamager marks the southernmost tip of Ørestad, a “maturing neighbourhood” (read: construction site) that has been grafted onto the Danish capital’s famous finger plan of 1947.
Viewed for the first time in that field, on the first of our four visits to the building in 2013, the high-contrast black-and-white patterned stone walkways, the metallic cladding, the transparent glass balustrades and the curtains wall of the lower commercial floors all appear strangely unreal. They resist the patina of use, reflecting back the winter sun and producing a dull (but still high resolution) shimmer that comes close to the kind of “interference” that usually reveals the conceit of a rendered visualisation. Standing at the highest point of the southern loop and looking out across the fields of Amager, the view – sharply framed by the impossibly straight, angular twin roofs – is breath-taking.
Since its public debut the 8 House has always, to some degree, shimmered.
If we are to trace its lineage correctly the 8 House first inhabited a tabletop, not a field. In 2009 a short video of the building appeared on social media. The video was popular with architects, planners and other subscribers to the then-hegemonic cult of Danish sustainable urban design; we were all somewhat impressed at the time by the sight of a rather young-looking Bjarke Ingels performatively conjuring the 8 House into being in front of our eyes. The video shows the Danish architect standing in front of a model-making table, in a messy office. Like a magician, Bjarke pulls a fluorescent layer cake of programme from the surface of the table, and with the flick of a hand conjures into being the recognisable “bow-tie” form of the 8 House. In the background, a sultry pop duet purr: “Yes boss.” A breathy female singer intones: “I’m on the mic. I’ll try to give you what you like. I can be soft, I can be hard, let me do the b-part. Please, please.” The digital model, resembling an oversized Liquorice Allsort, is replaced by a physical model. A red figure dashes around the newly formed “building,” negotiating a public realm so packed with colourful model pedestrians that the level of “intense metropolitan desirability” represented would have made Koolhaas blush. All the while, ‘Yes Boss’ plays in the background.
Following the release of this teaser, early visualisations of the project began to appear, firstly on the architects’ website and subsequently on various blogs. The most iconic images, however – the ones that marked the entry of the project into the mainstream architectural online press, and onto the fields of Amager as a built, material “fact” – were the architectural photographs produced by Danish photographer Jens Markus Lindhe to accompany the official press release announcing the completion of construction. Lindhe’s photographs were published alongside excerpts from the press release text in a rash of articles on sites like ArchDaily, Dezeen, and Architizer, as well as the project’s own Wikipedia entry and numerous articles on development industry sites like the World Property Channel. Often cropped in order to emphasise the V-shaped angles of the south-western corner of the monolith, Lindhe’s photographs of the 8 House tend to play up the contrast between the grassy green setting and the crisp, angular, metallic form of the building. Pre-occupancy but post-construction, the 8 House shines invitingly.
Both the BIG video and Lindhe’s photographs have clearly been doctored in post-production. Just as the 3D volumes extruded by Bjarke in composing his colourful “layercake of programme” do not constitute a physical model on a tabletop but a digital augmentation through film, so too the clarity of the building’s reflection in the canal, the rainbow-coloured skies and the impossibly deep green of the fields are augmentations which play up the metallic shimmer and sharp angles of the completed building. When read together, Bjarke’s video and Lindhe’s photographs describe “the project” of the 8 House – not only the design process followed but the “spirit” upon which the 8 House seeks to attract actors and capital. In this sense, we deploy the term “project” both in terms of the architectural project (and its corollary in projective architecture), but also in the sense used by Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello in relation to their study of management practices in the “new economy.” Boltanski and Chiapello describe “the project” in this broader sense as:
precisely a mass of active connections apt to create forms – that is to say, bring objects and subjects into existence – by stabilizing certain connections and making them irreversible. It is thus a temporary pocket of accumulation which, creating value, provides a base for the requirement of extending the network by further connections.
The project of the 8 House, as described in BIG’s video, Lindhe’s images and the press release text celebrating the 8 House’s arrival in a forever-amended post-construction existence, relies strongly on a sense of Utopian promise, the potential of a future that awaits us. As a project, the 8 House is both rational (“each function has found its optimal niche,” explains Bjarke) and sensual (without blushing Ingels describes his design strategy as resulting in “an orgy of spatialities”). This “brand new city erected in a bare field” awaits the arrival of its brand new inhabitants, to whom – the project promises – it will restore a lost past (returning to them the “plazas, courtyards, stepped stress and mountain paths” of the historical city), whilst at the same time promising them The Future. This is an architecture that will make them, that will make all of us, happy.
Walking the 8 House. Photograph by the authors, April 2013.
And arrive those brand new people eventually did. On the four occasions that we visited the building in 2013, its stepped streets and mountain paths were, if not to the extent portrayed in the 2009 video, populated with various publics. To borrow Bob Somol’s term we might even describe these “new collectives” that “emerge from the design” as “fans.” Ignoring the newly erected “private property” signs various figures scaled the building, SLR cameras slung around their necks, tracing its contours with their feet and caressing its surfaces through their viewfinders. In 1991 Fredric Jameson posed that the postmodern appetite for architecture “must instead be an appetite for something else” – namely, photography. Our experience of the building and a basic visual content analysis of photographs taken by visitors to the 8 House subsequently posted online appears to reinforce Jameson’s suspicion: the 8 House certainly incites an itchy shutter-finger in its visitors, transforming them first into admirers and eventually, perhaps, fans.
Of the 178 photographs of our analysis set – all the images published on the website flickr under a creative commons license and tagged “8 house” in English or “8-tallet” in Danish on 25 September 2013 - 12% show a view from the interior of the courtyard looking out of the V-shaped south-western corner of the building. This view – which captures a panoramic glimpse of the horizon line and surrounding fields framed by the strong diagonals of the building’s sunken corner – is more than twice as likely to be photographed as any other angle. The second most common view frames the same sunken corner, however from outside the block looking in; this accounts for 5% of the photographs. Notably, one of the photographs of the view from the interior, uploaded by the user “adamgreenfield” carries the caption: “Bjarke, you magnificent bastard, Works better than it has any right to.” This view, taken from the position (marked with an “x” in plan) where the two loops of the bow-tie-shaped volume intersect - is clearly the money shot.
Like Lindhe’s photographs a number of images within the flickr set appear to have been altered in post-production with the application of filters to emphasise the glossy, metallic qualities of the architecture – its shimmer, its newness, its contrast to the flat green field in which it has landed. In other words as well as re-presenting the building these “afterimages,” independently produced/published, post-construction/post-occupancy photographs made by “fans,” faithfully reproduce and re-enact the very project of the 8 House.
Whether seen through a camera viewfinder, on a computer screen, or even through the sensory apparatus of the retina, the 8 House is always experienced as if a digital render. As renders attempt to approach photographs, photographs here attempt to approach renders; even the materiality of the building as experienced in the flesh seems to refer back to the images that marked its own pre-construction marketing campaign. In this sense the 8 House proves remarkably consistent; it always “shimmers.” While this shimmer of interference, we would argue, evidences the hold that the project of the 8 House has over how the building is experienced (the hold that the project has over the afterimage) this reproduced shimmer can also be interpreted as symbolising the hold that “the ideal” has over “the real.”
In his Architecture series, Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto sought to identify the qualities of what he refers to as a “superlative” architecture. By setting the focal length of his camera to “twice-infinity” the iconic buildings that Sugimoto photographs become blurred, soft-edged, but still recognisable. Sugimoto claims that only architecture that survives this “erosion-test” and remains recognisable in this format may be considered “superlative.” The short video accompanying this essay shows an experiment that takes Sugimoto’s erosion test and sets it in reverse. By coding the 178 photographs according to viewpoint, superimposing and aligning all similarly coded images (moving and scaling but not warping them), tracing their contours, and finally reducing their opacity, a blurred (but perhaps not blurred enough) figure emerges: the 8 House is still clearly distinguishable in the “distributed” lens of a flickr array. In this simple operation the clarity of the superimposed images of the building, which results from the homogeneity of the photos produced by multiple independent photographers, highlights the control exerted over the fan-photographer by the project (both building and media campaign) to reproduce the same, consistent series of ideal images. Rather than seeking to discern and foreground the ideal building from the background mess of the blurred “real” (as in Sugimoto’s work), these images reveal the persistent sharpness of the ideal image, reproduced with ease by its fans, and traced by us for emphasis. Here, we pose, the hold of the ideal over the real becomes clearly apparent.
The palpable distantiation advanced by BIG’s 8 House – the sense that one is always confronted with a render rather than a physical, material piece of architecture – can perhaps be read as the product of a carefully managed oscillation between the real and the ideal, whereby the real and the ideal continually change places. Like the contamination of a water table, the ideal (a thought figure that aligns with Ernst Bloch’s concept of the realm of the Not-Yet and the utopian impulse, but which here can also be used to stand for the project of the 8 House) inevitably leaks into the real, pre-determining it and revising it after the fact. In this oscillation (we could say imposition), the 8 House’s distributed form encapsulates “architecture’s image problem” – a problem that Reinhold Martin locates in the reciprocity of the relationship between the ideal and the real – in the realisation that, under late capitalism, “images were real and not mere ideological decoration applied to utilitarian sheds.”
In this capacity, the 8 House can also be seen to act as an “image-machine,” a concept used by Martin to describe the way in which “media such as architecture, as well as the signs and images circulated through them, become in effect technologies of organisation, image-machines in which structure and ornament, form and function, base and superstructure, time and space continually change places in a hall of mirrors.” If we agree with Martin’s definition (which we do) and place this capacity at the heart of the 8 House’s architectural project, the core question, a question we will endeavour to respond to below, therefore becomes: beyond itself, what does the architectural image-machine of the 8 House produce?
‘I try to give you what you like.’
When the ideal collapses into the real, the two become, to all intents and purposes, indistinguishable; when the ideal and the real are indistinguishable we should, by all definitions, be happy.
In her 2010 book The Promise of Happiness, cultural theorist Sara Ahmed describes a world where happiness, as a function of “positive thinking,” has become both a means and an end. As Ahmed puts it: “Happiness becomes… a way of maximising your potential of getting what you want as well as being what you want to get.” It is here that the distinction between the ideal and the real starts to blur significantly, and a realignment of the criteria for happiness becomes not only feasible but also desirable. According to Ahmed, the promotion of happiness is now so prevalent that it is appropriate to speak of a “happiness turn” in science as well as politics. A significant feature of this turn lies in the way that happiness has been established as the ultimate performance indicator for governance, even if it is quantified through rather unscientific means (who really believes that the Danish people are the Earth’s happiest?). It is this realignment of objectives rather than the transformation of reality that produces what Ahmed, following Engels, identifies as “false consciousness.” Happiness breeds happiness, and thus if happiness is synonymous with success, it becomes both normative and a duty for all – normative in the sense that the majority model of happiness is imposed by society (the majority defines what makes an individual happy), and a duty as being unhappy becomes immoral.
By being ‘happy’, we make a perceived ideal visible in everyday life.
Written in 2002, Bob Somol and Sarah Whiting’s polemic essay The Doppler Effect and Other Moods of Modernism sets out an agenda that is based on affective resonances, an architecture that emerges from the interplay between diverse “inputs.” “Rather,” they pose, “than isolating a singular autonomy, the Doppler focuses upon the effects and exchanges of architecture’s inherent multiplicities: material, program, writing, atmosphere, form, technologies, economics, etc.” Instead of hotly telling us about its own processes of production, the “cool” architecture proposed by the duo resonates synthetically, producing affects and effects that ripple outwards, across multiple registers. Under the aegis of this “cool” architecture, all inputs effectively become part of the oscillation producing this resonance, and by extension these inputs are implicated in the building’s own resulting performative effects and affects. This proposal for a “cool” architecture, emanating from the first decade of the current century, is in fact akin to what we have termed “distributed form,” an architecture that disseminates its project through the reproduction of its own image. In a sense, though, just as all architecture has a “project,” all architecture produces affects and effects (outputs) in relation to the socio-material world it occupies. All architecture produces ripples; all architecture, to some extent, “shimmers” as the afterimage of a project. The critical question therefore lies in the content, in the implications of the project itself: of the value of happiness as a project.
Of the ‘layercake’ diagram which first débuted in BIG’s 2009 video for the 8 House, an image that, we argue, undergirds all of the metallic surfaces of the building, Bjarke Ingels notes: “each function has found its optimal niche in relation to needs and wishes – as an architectonic symbiosis.” The offices, which “are not too crazy about sunlight,” have had their demand for north-facing windows met; the courtyard has been allowed to “bathe in the afternoon sun.” Just as each of the functions accommodated by the expansive building, we argue that the desires of the subjects of the 8 House (its visitors and occupants, its fans) are first produced, and then subsequently sated by this architecture, an architecture that they choose to inhabit. In order to become happy with and through the architecture of the 8 House – to quote the sultry pop song in the background of BIG’s video, in order for the building to “give us what we want” – we must therefore accept the definition of “happy” delimited by an ideal (an ideal defined by the project). We must want what the project wants us to like. Only after a (Yes Boss!) moment of acquiescence can we live in this best possible of all worlds. In this, we all – residents, visitors and critics (all fans now) – become what Koolhaas long ago referred to as the “voluntary prisoners of architecture.”
A projective critique
But what happens if we resist “liking what we get,” thus short-circuiting the possibility of “getting what we like”? What, in other words, is the status of critique when critique itself can be counted as a form of “afterimage,” thus equal to post-occupancy fan photography, spun by a highly calibrated image-machine into yet another fine thread of “cred”? It is important that we address the status of this essay in relation to that which it attempts to describe and criticize.
It is easy to speculate upon the acquiescence and fidelity demanded by the projects of distributed forms like the 8 House from a distance; these qualities can be readily identified and are even possible to describe through visual analysis, representation and theorisation – they can be given a name (architecture’s “’Yes Boss’ capacity,” for instance). Objective distance, however, is an illusion and this pretence must, we pose, like Donna Harraway’s “God trick,” be forgotten. In the present attempt to describe and define, to catalogue and critique, the persuasive sprawl of a seemingly new ‘turn’ in architecture’s relation to its image, we were equally seduced by the architecture of affect curated by the 8 House. We acquiesced. We were persuaded. We have tried to write these affective turns, the oscillation between adoring and detesting that building in that field, into this essay. Beyond that documentation though, buildings like the 8 House clearly demand new modes of criticism, new ways of constructing and posing critique. By mining our unstable trajectory through this study, a series of possible ways forward can be identified, which we feel may have the potential to side-step, in part, the absorptive capacities of distributed form, thereby working as an alternative to the after-image. We term this mode of practice “projective critique.”
Projective Critique, Move 1: Locate the project within the real.
This first move in such a practice lies latent in architectural theorist Reinhold Martin’s proposal for “derealising the real,” set out in Utopia’s Ghost: Architecture and Postmodernism, Again. Ernst Bloch squarely locates the ideal as hidden within the real; the ideal continually seeps from our unconscious, or the Not-Yet-Conscious, into the material world. Accordingly, the real invariably, to some extent, refers to the ideal. As such, in addressing practices oriented toward producing “real-images-approaching-the-ideal” – the subject of the visual content analysis above – we are reminded that the ideal that these images attempt to approach is itself a real image that can be located in the real. In other words, the ideal (here, the architectural project) also resides in the real – in artefacts and media fragments, in images and words, that still resonate and that may in themselves offer up an object for criticism. As such, following Martin, we might propose a way forward that stages a confrontation with the “images of the 8 House as an image,” a confrontation with the project located within the realm of the real.
Projective Critique, Move 2: Inhabit the project, feel its edges.
The suggestion that we do indeed live in “the best of all worlds” is an alluring prospect, materialised in the real through a seductive dream: you’re already here, you have a perfect view, there’s no need to travel any further. Shaking off the palpable, flickering shimmer, the hold that the ideal has over the real (“it looks like a render!” we exclaim, one after the next), the architecture of the 8 House suggests to the resident, the visitor and the critic alike that resistance to its ideal (resistance to it as the ideal) is perhaps not impossible so much as deeply undesirable. This is because, much like Venturi’s Main Street, the 8 House is, really, “almost alright.” Arguments against happiness would, as Sarah Ahmed points out, on the surface be perceived as absurd – who could possibly oppose happiness? However, in order to be able to critique distributed form we must be able to make the double move of both inhabiting the project and the material reality of the architecture, and subsequently (with sympathy, and hopefully some generosity) questioning our own and collective responses. In the case of the 8 House this might require that happiness be felt and inhabited, but also critically questioned, even if this risks seeming absurd. Projective critique is not, in this sense, a “disinterested” practice; it actively encourages the establishment of vested interests.
Projective Critique, Move 3: Blur.
As Tahl Kaminer points out in his historical excavation of the real in architecture, much like its corollary “everyday life,” the “real” represents a condition and matrix of practices inseparable from historical processes and thus from the logics of late capitalist production itself. The real is, we argue, thus also endowed with the latent possibility of resistance to those logics. It follows that within the “real,” which the ideal of the 8 House so skilfully infiltrates, lies the possibility of deviant afterimages, images that challenge the ideal of that project. To return to Sugimoto’s architectural photography the search for such afterimages might be thought of as a search for a focal length of negative double-infinity. At what point, we might ask ourselves, can we find the blurred mess of the real lurking within the high-resolution ideal? The point of the blur, here, is to transform the fans’ perspective in order to be able to differentiate between each fan’s photograph (their unique qualities; their “mess”) and between the project and its built material form.
In the case of the 8 House one moment of “blur,” of the real, might be located in the background – in that impossibly empty field. The project of the 8 House is in fact heavily reliant on that emptiness: one way to blur the 8 House would be to insist on the foregrounding capacities of the field. As Keller Easterling notes:
In love with the tabula rasa, architects are the perfect moderns, the perfect believers in the purification and obsolescence of successively immanent ideas. Whether the deletion of ruthless moderns or the ‘healing’ and ‘stitching’ of their descendants who profess to be more gentle, the tabula rasa is a seizure or conquest usually accompanying utopia.
The empty field purportedly situates the project outside time, outside change, outside the world, reaffirming the illusion of an architectural essentialism. As a point of entry for a projective critique, the field surrounding the 8 House represents a territory that might be considered in terms of its own image-generating capacities, the alternate projects that it accommodates – both the hidden projects of future expansion and the surface stories of pastoral use.
A final recalibration: the project of hope
Beyond not “getting” what we “like,” though, what if other criteria – like getting what we “need” – were instead to be fed into the finely tuned machinery of tomorrow’s architectural image-machines? Taking the seductive, sprawling form of BIG’s 8 House in Copenhagen as archetypal of a mode of contemporary architectural production which we have termed “distributed form,” this essay has attempted to get to grips with the “project” of the 8 House. Here, we conclude by outlining an alternate project – a critical methodology of hope, rather than happiness – which we suggest might be fed into the gleaming mechanics of a future distributed form.
We have, in our analysis of the 8 House, posed that when the ideal and the real are identical, we should by all definitions be happy. Conversely, however, it may also be argued that when there is a gap between the real and the ideal, a gap that is not perceived as insurmountable, there is hope. Of course, such a juxtaposition of happiness and hope is artificial – one could indeed argue that the two are intertwined – however the two can be set in a specific oppositional relationship. If “hope” denotes a belief in the prospect of transformation then hope is incompatible with a condition of sated desire (the “Yes Boss” happiness of the 8 House). Hope has recently, in part through Shepard Fairey’s election poster for President Barack Obama’s 2008 election campaign, come to be associated with positive transformation. As in Obama’s campaign strategy it no longer matters that the specific aspiration (hope for what?) is never specified; purposive hoping rather than purposeful aspiration perhaps represents a significant characteristic of our present “real” state: hope without end. Happiness, in contrast, is not only non-transformative but actively opposes transformation, as change might well result in the loss of that happiness. In short, then, we might say that when there is no gap between the ideal and the real, fear of change becomes a principal drive; happiness reigns and the ideal is reduced to the status quo.
In point of contrast we might compare the affective happiness imposed by the project of the 8 House to the collective happiness of the architecture of post-war Europe as described by Cor Wagenaar in his introduction to Happy: Cities and Public Happiness in Post-War Europe. Wagenaar’s interrogation of the rebuilding of cities reveals an architecture of affect aimed at restoring faith in the collective future of war-torn Europe, using a similar affective register to build up the image of a better tomorrow. The fundamental difference here is this: if the collective project of that era was the promise of a better tomorrow, that is, hope and a belief in the prospect of a positive future, the happiness produced by the 8 House is one where we are already there, where the hope is that tomorrow is a spitting image of today. It is, in other words, a counter-transformative hope.
By way of a conclusion, and in a critical tone, we might thus level one final question at the 8 House, its project and its architect: What would this image-machine look like, if it were recalibrated toward the notion of hope, rather than happiness?
Bjarke, you magnificent bastard, could you do that? Could anybody?
Published 24th September, 2015.
^ Jameson, Fredric. 1991. Postmodernism, or, The cultural logic of late capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press, p.97.
^ The website ArchDaily uses the term “maturing neighbourhood” to describe the area of Ørestad. ArchDaily. 2010. ‘8 House / BIG’. Available here (accessed 28th August 2013).
^ BIG. 2009. ‘8H - The 8-House’ [video]. Available here (accessed 6th April 2014).
^ The website dezeen refers to the ”bowtie-shaped 61,000 square-meter mixed-use building”. Dezeen. 2010. ‘8 House by BIG’. Available here (accessed 28th August 2013).
^ “Yes Boss” was produced by Hess Is More, featuring on the Captain Europe album, released by the label Music For Dreams in 2010.
^ See, for instance: Kibisi. 2009. ‘Feb 2009 / 8 House’. Available here (accessed 6th April 2014).
^ See: Dezeen. 2010. ‘8 House by BIG’; ArchDaily. 2010 ‘8 House / BIG’; Designboom. 2010. ‘BIG architects: 8 house under construction’. Available here (accessed 6th April 2014); and Wikipedia. 2013. ‘8 House’.
Available here (accessed 28th August 2013).
^ Boltanski, Luc & Chiapello, Eve. 2005 (1999). The New Spirit of Capitalism. London: Verso, p.104.
^ Somol, Robert. 2007. ‘Indifferent urbanism: graphic standards and urban norms’. Workshop paper presented at Holcim Forum. Available here (accessed 3rd April 2009).
^ Jameson, Fredric. 1991. Postmodernism, or, The cultural logic of late capitalism, p.98.
^ See Greenfield, Adam. 2011. ’Bjarke you magnificent bastard VI’ [photo]. Available here (accessed 9th December 2013).
^ http://www.sugimotohiroshi.com/architecture.html (accessed 10th October 2014).
^ Bloch, Ernst. 1995. The Principle of Hope. Vol. 1. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, p.10.
^ Martin, Reinhold. 2010. Utopia’s ghost: architecture and postmodernism, again. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, p.90.
^ Martin, Reinhold. 2010. Utopia’s ghost: architecture and postmodernism, again, p.38.
^ Ahmed, Sara. 2010. The promise of happiness. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, p.21.
^ Helliwell, John, Layard, Richard, and Sachs, Jeffrey (eds.). 2011. The World Happiness Report. New York: Columbia University. Available here (accessed 9th December 2013).
^ Somol, Robert and Whiting, Sarah. 2002. ‘Notes around the Doppler effect and other moods of modernism’, in Perspecta 33 ‘Mining Autonomy’. Connecticut: Yale University Press, p.75.
^ BIG. 2009. ‘8H - The 8-House’ [video]. Available here (accessed 6th April 2014).
^ Haraway, Donna. 1991. ‘A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,’ in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge.
^ Bloch, Ernst. 1995. The Principle of Hope, p.119.
^ Martin, Reinhold, 2010. Utopia’s ghost: architecture and postmodernism, again, p.38.
^ Venturi, Robert. 1977. Complexity and contradiction in architecture. London: The Architectural Press, p.104.
^ Ahmed, Sara. 2010. The promise of happiness, p.8.
^ Kaminer, Tahl. 2011. Architecture, Crisis and Resuscitation: the reproduction of post-Fordism in late-twentieth-century architecture. Oxford, UK: Routledge, p.118.
^ Easterling, Keller. 2005. Enduring Innocence: global architecture and its political masquerades. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, p.162.
^ Wagenaar, Cor (ed.). 2004. Happy: Cities and Public Happiness in Post-War Europe. Rotterdam: NAi Publishers.
Helen Runting & Fredrik Torisson
Series 10. Randall Teal.
“It is because everybody naturally thinks that everybody is supposed to know implicitly what it means to think.” Gilles Deleuze (1995). 
In Difference and Repetition Gilles Deleuze suggests that in attempting to avoid all objective propositions Descartes creates a problem of another sort: a presumption “that everyone knows, independently of concepts, what is meant by self, thinking and being.” This legacy still permeates our dealings and – in particular – distracts inquiries into, and training of, thinking itself. With a focus on making, the design studio is an environment uniquely suited for such inquiry and is thus—ideally—a perfect supplement to the conscious rationality of the thinking-I. However, simply supplementing intellectual habits with manual practices is not enough to fundamentally change thinking. Instead, one must seek opportunities to design the instrument of thought itself. One such opportunity is called pedagogy.
Pedagogy, in this light, is an explicit attempt to understand particular ways of thinking and to develop means to alter or amplify certain habits of thought. As the design of parameters, which circumscribe areas for thinking, pedagogy applies to the design of one’s own thinking as much as it does the teaching of others. In fact, the two are often caught up with one another. For example, Peter Zumthor’s “formless house” project, which asked students to design and communicate a house without typical architectural drawings, suggests a close link to his own inquiries into the atmospheric effects of design. At the same time, just as pedagogy can be used to direct one toward particular ways of thinking, it can also be used to direct one away from others. Here, design pedagogy can be seen to be an instrument for initiating thinking-projects.
However, the promotion of successful thinking-projects first demands reflection upon one’s methods and an interrogation of one’s own practices, because such inquiry allows for a better understanding of the kinds of knowledge different types of practice afford, and thus the kinds of work they can be asked to do. In design, this reflection can show the ways in which certain processes and modalities of design – ones that are quite different than, say, the sciences – can yield diverse and unique research in their own right.
In this article, I focus primarily on my research into thinking through what might be called “processes of forgetting.” Although I carry these concerns into teaching, in what follows I will dwell less on attempts to teach students and more on reasons why one might address thinking in this way, and what the process of such thinking might look like. This work is carried out, in part, as theoretical research and, in part, as design research involving my own processes of painting, which supplement my theoretical pursuits. With painting playing this distinct role in my research, the paintings that are included with this article should not be taken as means of illustration or a representation of theory in my work, but as a kind of material process of thinking, a process that performs in ways that theoretical modes and methods do not and cannot. As such, the paintings are less important for what they are than how they become. It is in this way that they contribute to the inquiry into thinking itself.
“We all still need an education in thinking.” Martin Heidegger (1964).
The “given” notion of thinking has a deeper legacy than just that of something we all “naturally” do. This legacy begins with the recollective thinking of Plato, introduced through his concept of anamnesis. Anamnesis suggests that knowledge is something within us that must be recovered, and thus prefigures the contemporary fallacy that treats remembering as thinking. Although many current conceptions of thought differ from this Platonic concept, the legacy of anamnesis is nevertheless important. As Deleuze notes: “the postulate of recognition was… a first step towards a much more general postulate of representation.” In short, the thinking emerging from this tradition frequently leads to the conclusion that thinking is merely the ability to recognize, recollect, and make explicit connections between objects and ideas.
This is a conclusion commonly reinforced by primary educational systems, which almost exclusively test students on rote learning. In these systems the notion of thinking as simply the path to “correct” answers not only improperly limits thinking, but also introduces another fallacy into the process of thinking: that being a good thinker means not making errors (thus neutralizing the edifying effects of failure). In these educational structures error has direct negative repercussions. For example, a low score on the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) examinations in the United States generally precludes the possibility of attending certain colleges, almost regardless of the bigger picture of the individual.
Such a limited view of thinking persists because of prevailing ‘bad habits’ practiced within the ‘anamnetic’ legacy. Even so-called “design thinking,” which has been touted as a kind of thinking panacea (particularly in other disciplines such as business, management and health), is deeply influenced by its representational forebears in that it still presumes a universal: thinking as common sense. Correspondingly, scenarios that leverage design thinking often simply ornament the thinking of the tradition with platitudes, such as “everyone is creative,” “affirmation promotes innovation,” and “collaborative production catalyses creativity.” Here, design-thinking as supposedly different is really just another change of degree.
That said, it is true that the very act of designing engenders new modalities of thought, because it requires the development of new sensibilities and skills; for example, the reality that there is no single correct answer in design, automatically calls into question notions of ‘error’ and terms such as ‘resolved’. However, even the demands of design cannot fully overcome the pervasive representational habit of thinking established by the anamnetic legacy. Architecture is particularly burdened with these limitations; from precedents to structural calculations architecture is a field that is laden with facts, and as such is prone to merely adapting familiar models of thinking to its needs rather than pursuing any real rethinking of thinking itself. For example, space planning, site response, structural design, and sustainability are just a few areas that are easily addressed through instrumental positivism and simple rationalizations, and thus often stand in for more holistic approaches to design. Therefore, despite the fact that there have been radical formal and procedural challenges to the process of making architecture, thinking is frequently neglected; and like the cultural milieu to which it belongs architecture too remains burdened with thinking as a kind of given, threatened by the intrusions of the same representational “correlationism” or “subjectivism” of the philosophical tradition.
This is an especially pressing issue for design instructors, whose students are frequently educated to avoid ambiguity and error and to solve problems with simple atomistic correctives. Here, recollective thought’s proclivity for linear connections between things is intransigent; and if the problem of linear correlationism was not enough, these direct links are ones inevitably formed by the thoughts most familiar to the thinker. Or as Henri Bergson said, intellect “instinctively selects in a given situation whatever is like something already known; it seeks this out, in order that it might apply its principle that ‘like produces like.’” When this occurs, recollective thinking diminishes the specific needs and opportunities of a given situation and blocks the expansion of practices and knowledge. Expanding the possibilities of what can be thought first demands a robust notion of method.
Series 03. Randall Teal.
Method is often unquestioningly equated with scientific method and its use of quantifiable outcomes to ensure repeatability and verifiability. Although this view still tends to colour prevailing understandings of method, the door to broader conceptions of method was opened by a number of mid-20th Century thinkers such as, Husserl, Heidegger and Wittgenstein. Karl Popper in particular made very direct attacks against method, arguing that falsifiability is much more important than verifiability to the reliability of scientific knowledge. Even more radically, Paul Feyerabend claimed that one must not adhere to any method – not even falsifiability – asserting instead that the best way to achieve the thoroughness required to engage a problem properly is to be ruthless and opportunistic in the ideologies from which one draws. I share sympathies with all of these figures, however, the argument that I will advance here is born from Hans Georg Gadamer and will progress by way of Deleuze.
Like the figures mentioned above Gadamer opposes the systemicity of method, as he sees the techniques used by method to eliminate error – objectivity, quantification, isolation of facts, explicit definitions, categorization, abolition of variables, linear causality – leading to procedures that exclude both complexity and that which is immeasurable in our experience of the world. In particular, Gadamer sees method obliterating the contributions that custom and tradition make to knowledge, and leading to a forgetting that events, which are temporal and situational, must be grasped with a dynamism equivalent to those events. Rather than developing a system (method) for understanding, Gadamer urges building capacities (practice) for attuned response. Such capacities are meant to place the creative and the analytic on equal footing. This move is important, because often creative (speculative) thought is considered an exception, useful only when it is placed under the supervision of representational/analytic thought. This notion is reinforced by weak definitions of what it means to be “creative,” in which creativity is aligned with irrationality. A truer picture of creativity begins to emerge when analytic thinking is seen to be part of creative thinking and vice versa; this occurs when is creativity is understood to be thinking. As Deleuze notes:
The conditions of a true critique and a true creation are the same: the destruction of an image of thought which presupposes itself and the genesis of the act of thinking in thought itself … to think is to create –there is no other creation – but to create is first of all to engender ‘thinking’ in thought.
Put another way, I need my structural engineer to be creative, because this creativity is exactly the thing that helps him (the engineer I work with is male) imagine the problem properly, in its wholeness and vicissitudes, and allows him to respond in ways that might be unexpected yet allow everything to ultimately make sense. It is this creative basis of thinking that puts the analytic in the right place for its analysis – in the thick of the situation—thus infusing problems with the kind of creative energy that Deleuze advocates.
While Deleuze is frequently cited in architectural texts, these have tended towards using Deleuze’s philosophy to reconceive space and the architectural object. Certainly in some cases, the work of Peter Eisenman or Greg Lynn for example, the application of Deleuzean concepts has been useful and revelatory to understanding new possibilities for thinking, making, and experiencing architecture. Lynn’s ideas about pliancy and smoothness provide alternative means (to simple unity or collage) for addressing conditions of contradiction and multiplicity, while Eisenman’s pursuit of heterogeneous space opens up new sources of potency in the architectural encounter. Such breakthroughs are interesting but limited, in part because, as Adrian Parr notes, “only architectural values are used.” Furthermore, such appropriations have tended to cover up other potentialities within Deleuzean thought. As Jennifer Bloomer has noted, architecture has used Deleuze’s “complex and slippery theoretical apparatuses that work to undermine faith in the substantiality of epistemological structures” to merely authorize the architectural avant-garde. In other words, there is still much that can be done in reading the specific import of Deleuze and understanding, say, his political and ethical concerns, to open up new relationships to the built environment. For example, Parr urges:
Design thinking and practice need to become less abstract and more affective: more open to being messed up by the struggles and tensions of poverty, homelessness, dispossession, pollution, disease, illiteracy, thirst, starvation, ecosystem collapse, climate change and species extinction.
Although I agree with this sentiment, I am personally more interested in another question Parr poses: “How might the practice of design thinking be part of the process of training architects to become more socially, environmentally and economically agile?” Which is to say, I am interested in the direct pursuit of agility in thinking. More specifically (as, Deleuze claims, “consciousness is essentially reactive”), I am interested in how training such agility can help to restore the unconscious (active) force of thinking, and ultimately, place it in the service of architecture as a holistic proposition. To achieve this there must necessarily be a shift of focus from the architectural object to the way thinking and the built environment (which includes, but is not limited to architectural objects) implicate one another. Put differently, while Lynn and Eisenman have done much to unravel Cartesian space, I see more work to be done unravelling the Cartesian subject, the “thinking-I.” Or as Simone Brott has stated, allowing the built environment agency depends upon a “renunciation of certain formal procedures that condition architecture for the subject.” Such an unravelling of the thinking-I can bring together the particularities of disciplinary thought with the inclusiveness of interdisciplinary understanding via creative affirmation, and lead to, as Deleuze suggests, “discovering, inventing, new possibilities of life.”
In order to encourage this kind of thinking it is first critical for me, pedagogically speaking, to define an area of research through which I can reflect upon the dispositions and procedures that foster different modes of thinking in my own work. From such experience and reflection it becomes possible to design pedagogy that guides (or obstructs) students both towards new ways of thinking and away from less effective habits of thought. Here, I turn to my practice of painting, which is aimed at forgetting recollective/representational thought almost exclusively, and thus forms an important facet of the thinking that informs all my pedagogy. I will refer to this facet as intensive thinking.
Series 08. Randall Teal.
“It is always by means of an intensity that thought comes to us… In effect, the intensive or difference in intensity is at once both the object of the encounter and the object to which the encounter raises sensibility.” Gilles Deleuze (1995).
The term “intensive thinking” plays on Deleuze’s notion of “intensive difference” to describe a way of working that seeks influence and inspiration, not directly or explicitly, but rather affectively and intuitively. Intensive difference refers to the two orders of properties in thermodynamics: the intensive and extensive. Extensive properties are things like area, volume, and distance, dependent on the amount of matter present; intensive properties in contrast include things such as colour, odour, lustre, and temperature. For example, if you have a 600ml glass of water at 20°C, splitting its volume in half by putting 300ml into another glass does not divide the temperature to 10°C in each, rather both remain at 20°C. Here, the extensive division of volume does not affect the intensive property of temperature. In addition, intensive properties are unique in their morphogenetic capacities; that is, changes to intensive properties can gradually change the nature of a system. For example, pressure: air flowing from a high-pressure system to a low-pressure system generates wind, or heating water to 100°C initiates a phase change – it becomes steam.
Although the intensive and extensive necessarily go together, singling out the “intensive” as a provocation to thinking is interesting as it places emphasis on an element that often eludes typical modes of thought. Deleuze states:
This element is intensity, understood as pure difference in itself, as that which is at once both imperceptible for empirical sensibility which grasps intensity only already covered or mediated by the quality to which it gives rise, and at the same time that which can be perceived only from the point of view of a transcendental sensibility which apprehends it immediately in the encounter.
Importantly, in this passage Deleuze is not only describing intensity, but also indicting a type of reactive thinking that only grasps the degraded after-effects of intensities; thus, he poses a challenge to thinking itself – he is asking for a thinking that engages the intensive as such.
Returning to the lure of the functional requirements of architecture outlined above, the extensive properties of architecture are, simply, easier to think, manage and plan, and thus tend to get more attention. However, a more robust notion of architecture and design demands both the extensive and intensive be thought, which means rising to Deleuze’s challenge of thinking pure intensities as well.
Thinking intensities begins with a reinvestment in the synthetic state of the creative and analytic, which is facilitated through affective understanding and communication. One example of this state is found in the “active super-conscious faculty” Deleuze calls “forgetting.” Forgetting takes memory out of the realm of reactive consciousness and repositions it in the unconscious. In this way, memory becomes tacit, and in becoming tacit activates what one knows as their “tradition.” Gadamer calls this knowledge “prejudice,” which indicates that the normative state of being is never one of blankness, purity, or simply being ‘open-minded’; there is always something already there. In this context prejudice is both positive—one always has much to draw upon (this is of course what constitutes expertise)—and potentially negative in that the accumulated past can be used to suppress the unfamiliar and allow one to operate on mere habit.
It is with such “prejudice” in mind that Deleuze states: “it is a mistake to think that the painter works on a white surface.” Put another way, since there is never “nothing” there, part of the task of forgetting is to help one sort out which “somethings” are productive and which are limiting. Here, ‘cleaning’ and ‘defining’ become sub-tasks of the greater project of forgetting:
The painter does not have to cover a blank surface but rather would have to empty it out, clear it, clean it. He does not paint in order to reproduce on the canvas an object functioning as a model; he paints on images that are already there, in order to produce a canvas whose functioning will reverse the relations between model and copy. In short, what we have to define are all these “givens” [données] that are on the canvas before the painter’s work begins.
In other words, to “define” the “givens” does not mean to index; rather it means to “exhaust.” Thus, Deleuze is advocating a kind of thinking that cultivates intimacy by exhausting what directly comes to mind (the “givens”), exorcising these through productive repression and performative transformation; instead of selecting, one acts continuously until the transformations become less and less drastic, thereby removing that which does not matter. In the act of painting, the first goal of cleaning and defining is thus always to move beyond the host of immediate and conscious visions and ideas that inevitably prefigure the work. This requires a simultaneous ability to suspend judgment, or as Isabelle Stengers says, “to relieve ourselves of the sad, monotonous little critical or reflexive voice whispering that we should not accept being mystified.” The suspension of this voice initiates contact with the unfamiliar.
In fact, one might say that the process of forgetting means becoming unfamiliar. To this end, the process acts as a dynamic filter (as opposed to the cataloguing and selecting of a conscious mind); as a mode of working, forgetting liquidates the various strata of prejudice so that self/knowledge can more fluidly interact, react, and play. The point of all of this is to allow relevance to surface and irrelevance to disappear thus making a new familiar out of the unfamiliar. Importantly, this unfamiliar familiar must arise through (and be) the work itself. That is, it is incumbent on the “creator” to continually open to the unfamiliar, the unknown, the problematic, the unsettling in the work, because this is how the familiar finds vitality. In short, endeavouring to de-familiarize creates new familiarities.
Importantly, this is a process that is not temporally constrained. For example, when painting it is not uncommon for a work to complete itself almost spontaneously. These are interesting moments because they remind that cleaning, as creative forgetting, is not analogous to house cleaning; to use Deleuzean terms: one is not cleaning an actual mess, one is instead cleaning a virtual mess. And because the mess is virtual there are no spatial, material or temporal limits to the process. And, this lack of limit can also swing to the other temporal extreme.
Illustrating this other extreme, Deleuze and Guattari describe the process of ‘forgetting’ played out over the course of J.M.W Turner’s entire career: Turner’s early work appears to struggle to free itself from the weight of its influences and references, whereas his later work “turns in on itself… is pierced by a hole, a lake, a flame, a tornado, an explosion,” and thus shows the effects of a lifetime of such cleaning and defining. Deleuze and Guattari go on to say of this late stage in Turner’s work:
The themes of the preceding paintings are to be found again here, their meaning changed. The canvas is truly broken, sundered by what penetrates it. All that remains is a background of gold and fog, intense, intensive, traversed in depth by what has just sundered its breadth.
Here it is clear that the goal of forgetting is not to clean to the point of blankness, but to clean to the point of lucidity; one can never fully eliminate prejudice (nor would one want to). Thus, the point of forgetting is to fold influences into influences, or, as Deleuze says elsewhere, to “determine, among these givens, which are obstacles, which are helps, or even the effects of a preparatory work.” In this way, “new familiarities” indicate one has been affected by the unfamiliar and has managed to assimilate it. A pithy summation of such a career of cleaning, defining, forgetting and assimilating is encapsulated by Whistler’s famous retort to a question about the seemingly incomplete Nocturne in Blue and Gold: when asked (incredulously) if he charged two hundred guineas for two days labour Whistler responded: “No, I ask it for the knowledge I have gained in the work of a lifetime.”
The Dissolved Self
These examples of forgetting suggest that one can only begin with approximations and loose associations, and that it is not until one starts working that it becomes clear which prejudices are affecting the outcomes, and therefore which of these should remain; it is only at this point that new formations can occur. For me, this process begins to work when I stop seeing the painting as an object; in this state, conscious judgment ceases and the act of painting leads movements, guides stokes, and selects colours. Since the effects of cleaning and defining are not explicit or measurable, I tend to think of this process, somewhat paradoxically, as trying to work until I reach a point where there is no longer something wrong with the work – I know it is done (good?) because it is no longer bad. Although this description implies conscious judgment – there are always moments for judgment – “done” is often best realized when, as Jean Arp said, “enough of my life has flowed into its body.”
When this process is working it produces a radical sense of openness. Deleuze calls this state of openness the “dissolved self.” The dissolved self, says Deleuze, “gives rise to an intensity which already comprehends difference in itself, the unequal in itself, and which penetrates all others, across and within multiple bodies.” That is, the dissolved self is the state where familiar and unfamiliar meet. In this state, one need not invent proxies, make literal associations, or resort to explanation, rather one can attend purely to the language of creative thinking; and in escaping the tyranny of the self a space of excess opens up. Here, thinking is no longer something inner nor outer, but a becoming-inseparable of the two, where “there is always another breath in my breath, another thought in my thought, another possession in what I possess, a thousand things and a thousand beings implicated in my complications.”
However, this ‘becoming-inseparable’ is not harmonious or resolved. Herein lies the paradox in the “completeness”of thought – it is a completeness that is always incomplete, on the verge of coming apart; and this is what makes it vital. Such an incomplete “completeness” is comparable to Jacques Rancière and Radmila Djordjevic’s reading of Deleuze and Guattari’s work of art that “stands on its own.” They state: “the Apollonian maxim ‘stand up on its own’ is, rather, Dionysian hysteria.” In other words, the work stands not because its autonomy transcends situation, but because it exerts a force upon situation and situation returns a force upon the work. Thought too must be “Dionysian” in order to escape the stable figure of the “thinking-I.”
Thus, to dissolve the self is not merely to make it peacefully go away; it is to allow something else to live inside oneself, which is necessarily unsettling. Deleuze elaborates this notion:
That I may be other, that something else thinks in us in an aggression which is the aggression of thought, in a multiplication which is the multiplication of the body, or in a violence which is the violence of language.
In short, the emergence of revelation is violent, because such emergence tests one’s capacity to be affected. When working, this capacity forces a re-evaluation and revision of everything that previously seemed stable. Living such contingency does violence to one’s sense of world, necessity, and self. The process of painting holds violence as it escapes intent, thus destabilizing any notion I might have of my creative power—to paint what I intend is a kind of failure. Instead, truly creative painting must reveal itself through a kind of rupture. It is this not-being-able-to-know that is also violent – unintended and un-anticipatable arrival can never be fulfilment, only reconciliation. However, ultimately this violence “is the joyful message,” because it signals insight, progress and growth, and reflects visits to places that could never be consciously conceived or understood. Some might see such a way of working as being irrational and thus unsuited to the rigours of architectural design, however, whatever it is labelled it is important to remember, as Deleuze and Guattari state: “madness need not be all breakdown. It may also be breakthrough.”
Series 15. Randall Teal.
Transferring such understanding to architecture depends upon forgetting. In fact, without forgetting as an integral part of design, architectural thinking is made equivalent to collecting, measuring, and reconfiguring facts. A good example of this can be seen in a typical site-based studio project. In such an exercise, students will tend to list all the pertinent information gathered on a site visit and then associate this information with design moves. Such an approach is not incorrect, but one might say it is merely correct. That is, attending to these facts as facts, solely through consciousness, only affords associations and correlations with that which is familiar – recollections. Thus, design is reduced to a kind of matching game, a process of “selecting” responses from a repository of anticipatable reactions. In this way, the designer becomes mired in a kind of positivistic arithmetic – “this” equals “that.” In contrast, by utilizing performative processes of forgetting, a designer can create conditions for “pure difference in itself.” That is to say, by settling into a perpetual state of reaction or volatility – visiting and revisiting until one is thoroughly absorbed into the milieu – one becomes not merely aware of the facts themselves, but enacts the relations between the facts and feels the force of the facts. It is here that the unfamiliar surfaces and situational opportunities arise.
To give an example, a student was trying to integrate a glazed roof into a project in a site susceptible to heavy snow-fall. The space that was to be glazed was an interstitial zone defined by two building forms of irregular shape and containing a separate language of large roof insertions. It was immediately obvious that this situation was not one easily resolved by simply attending to the facts, because in each possible (familiar) arrangement the facts became contradictory. The way out of such a conundrum was to make the “irreducibility of contingency” operational. Contingency can become operational via exhaustive questioning. However, this depends on questioning becoming “no longer merely a preliminary step that is surmounted on the way to the answer and thus to knowing; rather, questioning itself becomes the highest form of knowing.” Here, Heidegger is suggesting that questioning itself is knowledge, because effective questions open up specific regions of thinking. In this way, questioning means dwelling – with all its implications of residing – within a region (problem). The point here is the same one Simone Brott makes of architecture itself, “when an architecture is truly inhabited, it is as if it begins to inhabit us,” which points to the fact that effective questioning depends upon both asking questions and being questioned. The latter, being questioned, activates one’s capacity to be affected. It is this power of questioning to cultivate openness that caused Heidegger to refer to questioning as “the piety of thought.” Used in this way, questioning becomes the vehicle for creating interaction between consciousness and forgetting: consciousness poses a question, and in so doing creates a region in which one can practice forgetting. And, this occurs not by asking “what is it?” but “which one?” Or as Delueze says, “which one?” (qui) means this: what are the forces which take hold of a given thing, what is the will that possesses it?” In architecture, asking “which one?” means asking a question of architectural viability and integrity by inquiring into the specific fit of an architectural idea. This begins by defining the possible via a rehearsal of attendant forces.
Returning to the question of the glazed roof: by asking not “what is it?” but “which one?” the student was able to circumscribe areas of inquiry. She did this by posing a number of possible directions for resolution, each with different priorities and problems. Thus “which one” led to the creation of clusters of architectural potential, which included: 1. Intermediate roof placed below the proposed building forms; 2. Intermediate roof eliminated by connecting the “existing” roofs of the two other building forms with day lighting achieved via skylights; 3. Intermediate roof addressed by passing one of the “existing” roofs over the other “existing” roof; and 4. Intermediate roof addressed by raising it above other building forms. Number four prompted a series of sub-questions: if the intermediate roof pops up above the other building forms does one make the pop-up a.) mimic the language of the other roof insertions, b.) call into question the other roof insertions, c.) act as an extension of one or both of the interior walls it bears upon, or d.) become an autonomous object. Finally, these specific questions raised a general question: does resolution for this new element require a fundamental rethinking (the aggression of thought) of the current building plans?
In this example, asking “which one” pushed the student deeper into the particularities of the condition, creating relevant options that could be explored via processes of forgetting. Put another way, using questions to define relevance created conditions for enacting interventions – literally becoming the force of the snow falling on the roof, the light coming into the space, the drainage paths of the rainwater, the wandering visitor, and so on. And, like the process discussed in my painting, this becoming an attendant force is made real through the material performances of thinking as drawing. In other words, one draws-through design relations and forces; or as Deleuze says, “it is not a question of our undergoing influences, but of being ‘insufflations’ and fluctuations or merging with them.” This statement is an apt summation: intensive thinking is “insufflation.” That is to say it is both a breathing in (as in taking medication) and a blowing upon (as in an exorcism). This idea is deceptively simple and profoundly instructive, because it shows the thinker’s role (like a simple breath) to be such a small – yet indispensible – part of the greater organism that is the work.
Intensive thinking shifts subjectivity away from the “I” towards, as Brott notes: “a general power to command arrangements, to envelop a series of aesthetic, social and other effects… [and] the phenomenon of having been selected, of an unconscious desire toward this set of effects.” Returning to painting, it is, for me, exactly this sense of “having been selected,” that is critical and points to both the smallness and lack of ownership of the “breath.” That is, neither the painting nor I are communicating specific instructions to one another – we are merely sharing the same breath. I think this is what Heidegger had in mind when he claimed, “thinking is much simpler than philosophy, yet more difficult to accomplish.” The state of the dissolved self is perhaps the most uncomplicated state one can be in, yet, unlike its material instantiations with their designs articulated in discernable lines of logic and figures of recognition, the thinking that makes such designs possible cannot be claimed as such, lest it disappear.
Successful navigation of the “rationalization” (to use Weber’s term) of the design academy requires designers to relinquish what Jeffrey Kipnis termed their “envy of science.” That is, a tendency to look to science to activate and substantiate design and design research. Instead, designers can do more to demonstrate how design creates its own artefacts, processes, areas of visibility and bodies of understanding that would be inaccessible through other disciplines and their incumbent methodologies. Here, intensive thinking is one concept that can help lighten the lingering historical burdens of the post-enlightenment legacy. It can help enrich students’ manners of working, and possibly help loosen the hold of rationality on “research.” However, this shift depends on designers to modify Deleuze and Guattari’s comment, “we paint, sculpt, compose, and write with sensations. We paint, sculpt, compose, and write sensations,” by saying: We design with sensations. We design sensations. However, this requires a rethinking of the way that we think.
Published 24th September, 2015.
^ Deleuze, Gilles. 1995. Difference and Repitition, trans. Paul Patton. New York: Columbia University Press, p.131.
^ Deleuze, Gilles. 1995. Difference and Repitition, p.129.
^ Merin, Gili. 2013. ‘Peter Zumthor: Seven Personal Observations on Presence in Architecture’, in ArchDaily [online]. Available here (accessed 14th June 2014).
^ Heidegger, Martin. 2010. ‘The Task of Thinking’, in David Ferrell Krell (ed.) Basic Writings: Martin Heidegger. New York: Routledge, p.392.
^ See the dialogues ‘Meno’ and ‘Phaedo’. There is also an allusion to anamnesis in ‘Phaedrus’.
^ Deleuze, Gilles. 1995. Difference and Repitition, p.138.
^ A recent study showed that high school performance habits were a stronger predictor of college success than SAT scores. Westervelt, Eric. 2014. ‘College Applicants Sweat the Sats. Perhaps They Shouldn’t,’ NPR [online]. Available here (accessed 14th June 2014)
^ In a studio where I presented students with a brief comprised of two seemingly incompatible literary passages as the program - many students still went immediately to CAD and began to space-plan. In such moments, the embeddedness of instrumental thinking becomes painfully obvious. The goal in this particular project (see n.11) was to orient students to dispositions that allow them to attend to complexity, affect, and ambiguity – key features of architecture – with an equal complexity and ambiguity. In other words, it would be absurd to imagine that drawing a plan of the bullring in the The Sun Also Rises, as anything but the tiniest fragment of the literary moment it is part of. Architectural experience holds a similar richness, although much of that richness is temporal and contingent. It is my hope that students begin to imagine a bit of this as they work. Here, it is the conventions that many take as “doing architecture” that stand in the way of a multitude of other perspectives.
^ Bergson, Henri. 1946. ‘Introduction to Metaphysics’, in The Creative Mind. New York: The Philosophical Library, p.34.
^ As an instructor, this is a difficult tendency to counteract. Unfortunately, there are cases where design pedagogy not only does not draw students out of this habit, but instead inscribes such habits even more deeply into their psyches’. For instance, Helena Webster connects the learned passivity instilled through a transmission model of education – the instructor as the “hegemonic overlord” – to the practices of the design jury or ‘crit’. She notes that despite jurors’ claims to be there in support of student learning, too often these jurors treated less-able students with disdain rather than providing the support or instruction, which they so desperately needed. Such juror behaviour led, unsurprisingly, to a perception among students surveyed that the jury was not interested in transformative learning experiences, but rather served a more simple critical function. Importantly, and most troubling, this behaviour did teach students something: it incited a practice of submissively accepting criticism (to “be seen to” agree), and thus suppressed any earnest reflection and/or real discussionWebster, Helena. 2007. ‘The Analytics of Power’, in Journal of Architectural Education, Vol.60 No. 3 (2007), pp.21-27. And unfortunately, Webster’s conclusions do not appear to be drastically different from Kathryn H. Anthony’s 1987 study: Anthony, Kathryn H. 1987. ‘Private Reactions to Public Criticism; Students, Faculty, and Practicing Architects State Their Views on Design Juries in Architectural Education’, in Journal of Architectural Education, Vol.40 No.3, pp.2-11.
^ Popper, Karl. 2000. ‘Science as Falsification’, ed. Theodore Schick. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company.
^ Feyerabend, Paul. 1975. Against Method. London: Verso, pp.9-10.
^ Gadamer, Hans-Georg. 1975. Truth and Method, trans. Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall, Second ed. New York: Continuum, pp.157, 273.
^ Deleuze, Gilles. 1995. Difference and Repitition, pp.139, 147.
^ Lynn, Greg. 2006. ‘Architectural Curvilinearity: The Folded, the Pliant and the Supple’ in Constructing a New Agenda: Architectural Theory 1993-2009, ed. Krista A. Sykes and K. Michael Hays. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. Kindle Edition.
^ Eisenman, Peter. ‘Eisenman/Wigley X: The Problematic of Homogeneous Space,’ Conversation at Columbia University, Thursday 8th August, 2013. Available here (accessed 14th June 2014).
^ Parr, Adrian. 2013. ‘Politics+Deleuze+Guattari+Architecture’, in Deleuze and Architecture, ed. He?le?ne Frichot and Stephen Loo. Edinburgh Edinburgh University Press, p.203.
^ Bloomer, Jennifer. 1995. ‘The Matter of the Cutting Edge’, in Assemblage, No. 27, no. Tulane Papers: The Politics of Contemporary Architectural Discourse, p.108; See also Eisenman, Peter. ‘Eisenman/Wigley X: The Problematic of Homogeneous Space’.
^ Parr, Adrian. 2013. ‘Politics+Deleuze+Guattari+Architecture’, p.208.
^ Parr, Adrian. 2013. ‘Politics+Deleuze+Guattari+Architecture’, p.209.
^ Deleuze, Gilles. 2006. Nietzsche and Philosophy, p.41.
^ Brott, Simone. 2013. ‘Toward a Theory of the Architectural Subject,’ p.155.
^ Deleuze, Gilles. 2006. Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson. New York: Columbia University Press, p.101.
^ Delezue, Gilles. 1995. Difference and Repitition, pp.144-45.
^ Delezue, Gilles. 1995. Difference and Repitition, p.144.
^ Deleuze, Gilles. 2006. Nietzsche and Philosophy, p.113.
^ See Gadamer, Hans-George. 1975. Truth and Method.
^ Gadamer, Hans-George. 1975. Truth and Method.
^ Deleuze, Gilles. 2003. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, trans. Daniel W. Smith. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, p.71.
^ Deleuze, Gilles. 2003. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, p.71.
^ See Deleuze, Gilles and Uhlmann, Anthony. 1995. ‘The Exhausted’, in SubStance, Vol. 24 No. 3, Issue 78, pp.3-28.
^ Stengers, Isabelle. 2012. ‘Reclaiming Animism’, in e-flux, No. 36 [online]. Available here (accessed 4th June 2014)
^ Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix. 1983. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Robery Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen Lane. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, p.132.
^ Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix. 1983. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Robery Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen Lane. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, p.132.
^ Deleuze, Gilles. 2003. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, p.71.
^ Merrill, Linda. 1992. A Pot of Paint: Aesthetics on Trial in Whistler V Ruskin. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, p.148.
^ Arp, Jean. 1932. ‘Caption from Sculpture: To Be Lost in the Forest’, Tate Gallery [online]. Visible here (accessed 14th June 2014).
^ Deleuze, Gilles. 1990. The Logic of Sense, ed. Constantin V. Boundas, trans. Mark Lester. New York: Columbia University Press, p.298.
^ Deleuze, Gilles. 1990. The Logic of Sense, p.298.
^ Rancière Jacques and Djordjevic Radmila. 2004. ‘Is There a Deleuzian Aesthetics?’, in Qui Parle Spring/Summer, No. 2, p.5.
^ Deleuze, Gilles. 1990. The Logic of Sense, 298.
^ Deleuze, Gilles. 1990. The Logic of Sense, 298.
^ Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix. 1983. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, p.131.
^ Deleuze, Gilles. 1995. Difference and Repitition, p.144.
^ Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix. 1994. What Is Philosophy? trans. Janis Tomlinson and Graham Burchell. New York: Columbia University Press, p.96.
^ Heidegger, Martin. 1990. ‘The Self-Assertion of the German University’ in Martin Heidegger and National Socialism, ed. Gunther Neske and Emil Kettering. New York: Paragon House, p.3.
^ Brott, Simone. 2013. ‘Toward a Theory of the Architectural Subject’ in Deleuze and Architecture, ed. He?le?ne Frichot and Stephen Loo. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, p.157.
^ Coyne, Richard and Snodgrass, Adrian. 2006. Interpretation in Architecture: Design as Way of Thinking. New York: Routledge, p.47.
^ Heidegger, Martin. 1977. ‘The Question Concerning Technology’, in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. New York: Harper & Row, p.341.
^ Deleuze, Gilles.2006. Nietzsche and Philosophy, p.77.
^ Here “drawing” is meant to evoke architectural media more generally.
^ Deleuze, Gilles. 1990. The Logic of Sense, p.298.
^ Brott, Simone. 2013. “Toward a Theory of the Architectural Subject,” p.157.
^ Heidegger, Martin. 1975. “Heidegger: The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking.” From a documentary entitled “On the Way to Thinking.” Available here (accessed 14th June 2014).
^ Jeffrey Kipnis, October 22, 2010. UIC SoA, Available here; published 11th October, 2013 (accessed 10th July, 2014).
^ Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix. 1994. What Is Philosophy? p.166.