Saturday, March 30, 2013

4. Bernard Tschumi - Architecture and Disjunction

In re-reading Architecture and Disjunction, a collection of essays by Bernard Tschumi written between 1975-1991, published in 1996, and inaugurated as seminal text for architecture students around who-knows-when, what initially struck me was its vey explicitness of the political motivation behind Tschumi's writing and investigation. Coming out of France '68, Tschumi opens his discourse by trying to locate the political operativity of architecture, characteristic of the late avant-garde that he acts as one of the closing figures to. His thought starts by rejecting the neoliberal notion that architecture is merely a representative instrument, and from this point seeks to find the tools with which architecture can subvert this ideology and act as a "catalyst for change." His goal in this is to find a way that architecture can be used for the creation of society itself, as opposed to represent transcendental hegemonic ideals of it. He locates this agency starting from a conclusion that "architectural space per se (space before its use) [is] politically neutral" and thenceforth outlines two primary strategies: The first he calles "exemplary actions" and uses "guerrilla building" as an example: architecture that rejects the value of form in order to signify the significance of use in a "rhetorical act"that "reveals that the capitalist organization of space destroys all collective space" and acts "not merely [as] the realization of an object built for itself, but also the revelation through building of realities and contradictions of society" (p11). He curiously calls this strategy "not specifically architectural but rely[ing] heavily on an understanding of urban structures. It also suggested the polarization of conflicts so as to destroy the most reactionary norms and values of our society" (p10). A contemporary example of this would clearly be the encampments of the 201X revolutions. The second strategy, which he calls "counterdesign" is "more architectural insofar as it used the architect's means of expression (plans, perspectives, collages, etc.) in order to denounce the evil effects of planning practices imposed by conservative city boards and governments." Employing Critchley's figure of the architect as an aesthetic sublimator, the architect would use the architectural mediums to voice a pure critique and emphasize the impossibility of understanding space in its experience. Examples of this range from Archizoom's No-Stop City to Tschumi's own graphic narratives in the Manhattan Transcripts, as well as many of the winners to the most recent iteration of the Think-Space programme (1, 2, 3). Tschumi immediately follows the explanation of counterdesign with a critique of its potential for "recuperation", or cooptation by the capitalist hegemony it is trying to combat. I would like to disagree with the sufficiency of this critique, claiming that the problem is not that the hegemony can coopt the activity, but the activity doesn't ever take place: by "leading to [the] active rejection of such planning processes" (p11) it is deferred. Rejected by who? How? Where? When?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

3. Simon Critchley - Infinitely Demanding

Written in 2007, Infinitely Demanding sets itself out towards establishing a subjective framework for ethical and political action. By discursively tracing ethical approaches from ancient, Kantian, post-Kantian, religious, psychoanalytic, and contemporary political philosophies, Critchley is able to craft a compelling argument for the radical polemic that subject-hood is essentially founded by our ethical position itself. In order to avoid any confusion in the following discussion about ethics and politics, let me 'cut to the chase' of the book, which at this point I hope proves rather inutile but will merely serve to quell the exclamations 'but what about politics!': "Politics is an ethical practice"(p92).

Friday, March 22, 2013

0. Once more, with (less) feeling

It is slightly objectionable to be starting a blog at this point in history, 2013, where the attention span of the internet has been progressively whittled down to its near-absolute minimum. But my intentions are clear, with the full acceptance of being "late". Throughout the course of my independent research activities, I have employed a varied of mediums and means to advance my own thought. Let me rephrase that, not to advance my thought per se, but to allow my thought to continue advancing. I have therefore treated these communicative platforms as a form of release. But by using trial-and-error in seeking 'which works best for me', I feel I might have overlooked the inherent value of the search itself.

I do not intend to invent things on this blog. I do not wish to provide the infosphere with anything particularly 'new'. I wish to use this space as one for reflection, for meditation (in the Heideggerian sense). In the past I have used blogs in an overtly introverted way, using myself and my experiences as the reflective object. As this leads to the all-too-contemporary ecstasy of solipsism coupled with the vertigo of nihilism, I have decided to employ a different strategy this time, which I hope will facilitate a more sustainable and serious commitment and foundation.

As the author, I will be the one reflecting, but the process of reflection must be mediated by an external object. The blog is to be stigmatic. I am starting with books, which at the moment of writing this introduction acts as the primary source of my contingent research. Over time, the reflective process may start to engage other mediatic objects, such as film, performance, philosophy, exhibitions, drawings, buildings, architecture, etc.

Architecture was placed unintentionally last in that list, but is perhaps indicative of the impetus behind this blog. Let it be known, architecture is the objet of this blog, and my activity. But by architecture I do not simply mean a building, nor do I mean a drawing, nor do I mean the discipline, nor do I mean the culture, nor do I mean anything that can be put into words (and certainly not images). This blog seeks to reveal the depth of Giancarlo de Carlo's statement that "architecture has become too important to be left to architects". I therefore set off to grind the architect's stone.

If we call ourselves architects, that means grappling with what that means.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

2. Jeremy Till - Architecture Depends

In an attempt to maintain the initial spirit I had intended for this blog, I will try to conduct the following in a rather impersonal, 'objective' manner. To preface this, it would be unfair to myself to not state that this book touched me very deeply, expressing what I have struggled to write for so long in such eloquence and lucidity. As a result of this 'conflict of interest', the quality of the 'review' and precision of the arguments may decrease significantly.

Written in 2009, Architecture Depends sets out to formulate a contemporary ethics for architecture grounded on the fundamental understanding and acceptance of contingency as both a basic fact of life and architecture itself. Stringing together the philosophies of Lefevbre, Bauman, and Latour, among others, Till situates his argument within the discourse of Modernity and the way "architecture" has shaped itself according to its ideologies. He is very precise when speaking of "architecture", from its practice, its profession, its practicioners and its objects, in order to elucidate a metaphysical narrative of a networked history that results in a framework for interpreting what architecture is (and can be, and debatably should be) today. His project is to not necessarily reintroduce politics to architecture, but reveal that it had never disappeared, just merely sublimated and ignored.

Monday, March 18, 2013

1. Simon Brott - Architecture for a Free Subjectivity

Published in 2011, Brott traces the history of Deleuze & Guattari's discourse, which was apparently facilitated into the larger discourse of ideas by the architectural discipline. The intention of the book is to reintroduce the explicit theory of subjectivity, which itself can be rather easily argued to be the objet of D&G's work, into architectural theory. Therefore, the starting point for this book is to figure out why, if D&G have been ubiquitous in mainstream architectural theory for over two decades, was subjectivity itself not. While never concretely answered but moreso deferred by larger historical drifts, this topic seems to be addressed rather circuitously in the larger and core discussion of D&G's operative framework for subjectivity itself and how architecture is "unparalleled" in the capacity to effectuate its social becoming.