Saturday, April 27, 2013

8. Walter Lang - Desk Set & Ian Bogost - Procedural Rhetoric

Desk Set is a 1957 movie by Walter Lang that features Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. What is perhaps most unique about the medium of film, and is particularly encountered in the Golden Age of Hollywood, is that despite whatever attempts it may make to do otherwise, film is a historical document, an expression of spirit. Film, and perhaps all other expressive mediums, are trapped within the time of its making: the future is the future of that moment, the past is the past of that moment.

Procedural Rhetoric is the first chapter to Ian Bogost's book titled Persuasive Games, published in 2010. The book looks at video games as the expressive medium of our historical epoch, much like film was half a century ago. As film was infamously championed as the ideal medium of continuity, computer software, and video games in particular, is claimed to be the ideal medium of procedurality. Both of these mediums are considered to be ideal not because the processes they employ did not exist beforehand, but that the form of the mediums themselves are those processes.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

7. Jean Baudrillard & Jean Nouvel - The Singular Objects of Architecture

It is only since the time this book was published, in 2002, as we have grown accustomed to seeing it next to the likes of Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, et al, that it would appear odd to find Jean Nouvel's name next to a philosopher of Baudrillard's kind. Despite his inauguration into the world order, it is perhaps no coincidence that these two came together on two separate occasions to converse, from which this book, The Singular Objects of Architecture, is the result (it would behoove us to remember that Nouvel started his architectural career by collaborating with Paul Virilio and Claude Parent).

Their dialog is extremely deep, yet at times non sequitur, as if the two were not talking directly to each other, but past, and towards a common point outside of each somewhere in the distance. Although Baudrillard famously wrote about the Beaubourg and a resident of Paris during the construction of Nouvel's seminal Arab World Institute and Foundation Cartier, and Nouvel's vocalized recognition of Baudrillard's work, the conversation is not about architecture per se, nor philosophy. The two settle on what we can call 'the metaphysics of space' and the future of the city.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

6. Think-Space - Past Forward

What do we do when we don’t know what to do? What do we think about when there is too much in our minds? In the most recent cycle of competitions and conferences, Think-Space, the annual program organized by the Zagreb College of Architects, proposed the answer of studying our history. But in our age of uncertainty, what does this mean? We can note that in previous points of historical uncertainty, such as Italy and England in the 18th century, following the reformation of the church and in anticipation of the industrial revolution, neogothic and neoclassicist styles emerged. Architecture focused on and accentuated its elements and tropes that remained in the fragments of the cultural war of aesthetic hegemonies and that could still established a degree of symbolic signification. However, when we think of history, especially in our contemporary epoch of atemporality, how we think of history it is debatably more important than what we think of it. This cycle, titled Past Forwardand curated by Adrian Lahoud, proposed to vault three competitions from the last forty years, within postmodernism and late-capitalism, to the level of cultural cannon that can act as a foundation of our contemporary history. In addition to this and for the first time, Think Space included an essay competition with the same theme and intentions.

The competition took as a starting point to repeat the canonical works as a means of not just searching for a lost or ignored space of historical operativity within the projects’ context or form, but to create a reflective device with which we can measure the differences between then and now. The projects presented used the historical competitions as empty shells, and in turn filled them with contemporary styles, techniques, thoughts, worries, and concerns. With a content base ranging from Zaha Hadid’s The Peak to FOA’s Yokohama Port Terminal and Diller + Scofidio’s Blur Building, to the Manifesto of the Situationist International and Ludwig Hilberseimer’s theory of urban growth, among others, it would have been difficult to conclude anything concrete from the images and words that were made available online.

The competition concluded with a presentation of the projects in a conference, with an innovative methodology called an Unconference, that effectively broke from the traditional didactic model and a Tumblr-consciousness of relentless stimulation, basing itself around the participation and discussion between all attendees, among them competitors, students, local architects, and more. The conference was coupled with the inauguration of The Competitive Hypothesis exhibition in Zagreb, which presented a wider range of the competition’s received entries and winners as well as establishing a conceptual base for reflecting upon the meaning of competitions themselves.

The conference itself to a certain degree formed a conclusion to the original questions of this text: we come together and get to know each other. With all of the participants debating between each other, presenting their work, and thinking collectively about their intentions and methodologies, moments emerged that were charged with friction and synergy to reveal what is there. Even though it was just for two days, in a social situation of non-stop work, after various presentations, activities, and relaxed meetings between people, it was possible to reveal in the time together, in its great complexity and incompatibility, the thought of towards where we are going.

Monday, April 8, 2013

5.2. Jonathan Hill - Montage After Shock

In the second part to Hill's book Actions of Architecture, montage and its underlying metaphysical effect of allegory is highlighted as the primary aesthetic operation of the avant-garde, tracing its conceptual history back to Walter Benjamin's analysis of Brecht in  The Origin of German Tragic Drama and further explicated in his seminal The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Montage is a direct response to the purported 'autonomy' of aesthetic production that was reified by the bourgeoise ideology and relegated art to a specific function of society. Montage, be it painting, film, sculpture, architecture, or whatever else have you, creates a radically different social relation between the aesthetic object and the viewing subject. Montage creates a defined whole whose definition is fundamentally incomplete, traditionally accomplished by the juxtaposition of disparate fragments. It is this act of incompletion, non-representationality, that leaves gaps in the experience of the object that, upon perception, are filled and "completed" by the viewer. The technique therefore depends on the inherent creativity of the subject, and in their experience of the montage draws the user out of passivity (as one who received defined representational signs). Not "this means that", but "this is this, and that is that, and that over there is that over there, and they all together mean something".

Saturday, April 6, 2013

5.1. Jonathan Hill - The Role of the User

The Role of the User is one half of the book Actions of Architecture written by Jonathan Hill and published in 2003. Even though a great deal of the reflections raised in this post may be directly responded to in the second half of the book, Montage After Shock, which will be the subject of the following post, each essay is explicitly meant to be readable and conclusive in-and-of-itself, and therefore will be treated as so in this post. Even though the book is only made of two sections, the form of the book in this sense is a demonstration of a concept of the book (much akin to A Thousand Plateaus).

4.X. The Thermodynamics of Ethico-Political Architecture

This essay was originally written as my reflection of Bernard Tschumi's Architecture and Disjunction (you will notice the first paragraph or so is the same). I in fact wrote this one beforehand, and subsequently decided to delete most of the essay and rework it more suitable for a blog post. But that said, as my current writings build off of certain concepts discussed in this essay, I have decided to post it here. It is unfinished, yet conclusive in attempting to construct a theoretical foundation for ethico-political architecture.