Philosophies

Architecture + Philosophy research seminar, ResArc, Sweden: Dr Hélène Frichot, Critical Studies in Architecture, KTH Stockholm

Month: April, 2013

Conceptual Cluster 9: Ficto-Criticism

by sepidehkarami

Metro-cable in Caracas by Urban Think-Tank

Metro-cable in Caracas by Urban Think-Tank

Interruption 

The Red-Haired Man

There was a red-haired man who had no eyes or ears. 
Neither did he have any hair, so he was called red-haired theoretically. 

He couldn’t speak, since he didn’t have a mouth. Neither did he have a nose. 
He didn’t even have any arms or legs. He had no stomach and he had no back and he had no spine and he had no innards whatsoever. He had nothing at all! 

Therefore there’s no knowing whom we are even talking about. 
In fact it’s better that we don’t say any more about him. 

Daniil Ivanovich Kharms

This is a story about somebody who does not exist, somebody who exists through nonexistence. It is a story about a man’s existence and as he does not exist therefore there is no story. The story eats the existence of a red-haired man through description and illustration of how he does not exist. The story and the character contradictorily negates each other; the latter through vanishing from the context of the story and the former through describing his disappearance in the sequences of narrative. The writer brings a nonexistence to existence by describing his nonexistence. In other word, by describing somebody who does not exist he brings him to existence and at the same time by describing his nonexistence he negates him. There is a conflictual dialogue between existence and nonexistence, between affirmation and negation in this narrative. At the end of the story both the character and the story arrive in a zero point of existence and that is how a void is produced; like nothing has ever existed. Ultimately the title is also killed as there is no “hair” because there is no “man”, and “red”, bewilderedly has no place to sit. But while reading and getting to the end there is an intention to go back and read it from the scratch; an intention or insistence to bring both the character and story to existence. There is a struggle between the story and itself, a continuous and fast “undoing” of every given fact by “turning it on itself”, which I believe is a sort of “interruption” –in Anna Gibbs’ term- in the progress of the story. In fact the story eats itself through continuous and fast tiny interruptions in tandem. The voice of the writer interrupts itself.

“Interruption” as one technique germane to various forms of fictocritical practice can also be transformed in the practice of architecture when it is defined as a practice writing on the site. The idea of “fictocriticism” in general can define the practice of architecture that aims in making a gradual change in the fabric of the existing social order; that its intention is not to impose a language of its own but to enter critically into existing linguistic configuration. One challenge is to find and making apparent the discontinuities, ruptures, gaps and silences that lies in the politics of urban space and act within these ruptures to interrupt the continuity of dominant power. I would like to call these interruptions “micro-revolution” through special interventions. They are opportunist actions that are waiting and searching for the exact moment or place of possible action. One of the most famous projects by the architect-activists Urban Think Tank, Caracas Metro-Cable can be a translation of an interruption in a continuity of dominant urban flow.  The metro-cable is an additional loop of transportation, that connect the most desperate parts of the city, the informal settlement to the loop of transportation of the formal city. The stop in the formal city metro is the place of interruption. Metro-cable actually interrupted the loop of formal flow -that is mostly servicing the higher class- by injecting the informal flow that is highly excluded from the right of being in the city and using the formal infrastructure.

Conceptual Cluster 07: Container Technologies

by evaminoura

Conceptual Cluster 7: Container Technologies

by asahelenastjerna

Stjerna03

Since some time, I refuse using the iPod function in my iPhone during my daily travels in public space. I leave the headphones at home. The aim is to avoid letting my listening – this active, sensuous, bodily instrument – becoming appropriated by the very private act iPod-listening in public space generates. One could claim this as media conservative or retrograde, but my position is neither conservative nor retrograde. What it all is about, is that I consider the act of listening of being an active action. The act of listening being an act of producing. What do I chose to produce through my act of listening?

In the wake of the last decades dismantling of the physical public space, replaced by a global virtual space cheered on by a likewise global information capitalism, the specific space the act of iPod listening creates, transformes the public space to a private one; displaces the focus of attention to something disconnected from a situated here.  This subject directly relates to the texts by Peter Sloterdijk, Lieven de Cauter and Alice Jardine (et al.) from several perspectives, in which they discuss how politics, technology and bodily-spatial- architectonic isolation stand in an immediate relation to each other. Bodies are both generated and manifested in the way technological achievements are politically adapted. The present conditions of the market are manifested through our bodies, in terms of producing cultural beings.

Sloterdijk states that our living is constructed upon a politically generated culture of mega individualisation in which singular cells (the individual apartments) establish societies constructed out of separated bubbles; so called spheres. The technology helps to maintain this strictly separating structure. “The modern apartment […] is the material realization of a tendency toward cell-formation” (p. 89) “The apartment as an atomic or elementary “egospheric” form […] of which generates individualistic foams (p.90) “This single bubble in a “living foam” forms a container for the self relation of the occupant, who establishes himself in his living unit at the consumer of its primary comforts” (p.92)

Sloterdijk also interestingly claims that “[…]portable music players with headphones – an insulation technology that is the equivalent to the introduction of an acoustic micro-apartment into public space…” (p. 102) Sloterdijk comments on how iPod listening in public space, evoked by a capitalistic market, turns us away from the public space in terms of a shared experience. The act of listening therefore, according to my opinion, can not be said to be anything else then political.

During my travel through Stockholm during rush hours, the public space transforms into a by hundred of thousand of people executed solipsistic iPod-choreography not far from from what Sloterdijk describes as “the setting free of solitary individuals with the help of individualized home and media technologies, and the aggregation of masses, unified in their excitement, with the help of staged events held in “fascinogenic” mass structures.”

The individualized headphone culture establishes to a high degree privatized affective states, not shared with the passenger next to him or her, but only with oneself.

The technological separation arising with the consumer based use of iPod/iPhone, enhances a local alienation. It emphasizes the lack of a priority of the local and an exclusion of the neighbouring common. Such a techno-spatial demarcation between what is considered meaningful and meaningless connects to De Cauter’s discussion on the societal state of mind, entitled “high-intensity capzularisation.” This state, according to De Cauter, emanates from two basic developments: On the one hand the “technological logic of capzularisation” and on the other the “logic of exclusion in a polarized society.” The capzularisation influences all disparate layers of society.

Applied to the common market according to De Cauter – formed by a notion of capzularisation as the basic engine of inclusion and exclusion in a dual society – “the structuring of capital in the network society, corresponding to the shift from industrial to “informational capitalism”, has brought about a giant social exclusion, a polarization of society in the global economy” (p. 80) and “The rise of the network society and the formation of ghettos are intimately linked.” (p. 81)

Also the daily life is heavily affected by this, as we navigates through different capzularisations as “home, “shopping mall”, “work”. What unites these different modes of capzularisation appears to be an unanimous exclusion of the environment in which they are situated. By placing what is considered as valuable on an “inside”, the mental distance to a non-valuable “outside” constantly increases. Bio-politics – migration – the exponential growth of the refuge are extreme conditions caused by the capzularisation where problems are pushed away to an abstract “outside”.

– But also the distance to me and the iPod-using passenger next to me on the bus could very well fit into De Cauter’s argumentation.

The use of iPod separates us from the potential act of meeting implied with public space. I don’t argue for initiating a mega social activity. It is not about to shake hands with each person I meet in the subway during my travel from work. But the iPod, the way it is consumed, is an actively turning away from the political act implied with a collective possession of and in public space. What is left of public space, is a giant leftover, transformed into a “foam of ego-cells”. (Sloterdijk)

The iPhone as such is not the source of the problem. It is the use of if that is the problem. I can imagine scenarios taking place where the use of the technology deterritorializes the current capitalistic consuming, the consumers release themselves from Spotify, using technological software transforming themselves into producers establishing local networks here and now in public space. Imagine a technological patchwork connected to the subway where passengers, during the journey could connect to passengers in the other cars of the train set. Just as an illustration. I agree with De Cauter claiming that the increasing of the capzularisation in society is coupled with the informational capitalism, but not the statement that networks per se must establish capzularisation, or to quote De Cauter; “No network without capsules”. (p.85)

Meanwhile, besides an awareness of  possible technological uses that challenge the information capitalism transforming us from consumers to communicating producers, could such a simple act as an active listening be one way of, what Deleuze and Guattari would call, drawing a line of flight. A positive deterritorialization, a decoding of a situation transforming it into something else.

–To switch off the iPod, to put away the headphones and to start to listening to the always transforming multiplicities we call public space, might be the minimal action that makes the difference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conceptual Cluster 10: Altering Subjectivities

by katja2013

HarawayCyborg-KoolhaasDeliriousNY

Situating Koolhaas as a feminist objectivist

With situated knowledge, feminist objectivity, Donna Haraway develops an alternative for feminist science, instead of the polarizing positions; feminist empiricism or radical constructivism, which remain within the doctrine they critique. Haraway critiques the Western doctrines of scientific objectivity, based on reductionism, describing and discovering the world by means of deconstructing, constructing, and arguing, with the aim of finding universalities and claims to truth.

In critiquing this claim to scientific objectivity Haraway aims to develop better accounts of a ‘real’ world, not depending on logic of ‘discovery’ but on a power-charged social relation of ‘conversation’. Objectivity and the possibility to make rational knowledge claims, should be based on partial perspective, location, positioning, situating and the activation of the object. Acknowledging that seeing is not neutral, we all actively interpret and translate all we see and have specific ways of seeing, and that infinite vision, seeing all at ones, or from different points of view at the same time, is an illusion, a God trick, “only partial perspective promises objective vision”, means according to Haraway that we need to clarify from which location, position we are viewing, since we have a specific and particular subjective position we have to be clear about it. The objectivity in partial perspective is about being transparent and clear about ones position. “Objectivity turns out to be about particular and specific embodiment.”

Although the marginal and peripheral position, the subjugated position is a favorable one, because they seem to hold the promise of a transformative account of the world, Haraway warns us against the dangers of romanticising and/or appropriating the vision of the less powerful while claiming to see from their positions” Here we also have to be critical, partial and think and act situated.

Haraway believes that in partial perspectives lies the possibility of a rational objective inquiry into the world, but it is not about relativism and an ‘anything goes’, because “Relativism is a way of being nowhere while claiming to be everywhere equally. The ‘equality” of positioning is a denial of responsibility and critical inquiry.” And not just any partial perspective will do,  “We are also bound to seek perspective from those points of view, which can never be known in advance, that promise something quite extraordinary, that is, knowledge potent for constructing worlds less organized by axes of domination.”

A point of view or vision is always about the power to see, the position of one self in this world is always based on contradictions: contradicting point of views and departure, we have to make dirty hands, but, as Haraway, I see opportunities within the contradictory self “The split and contradictory self is the one who can interrogate positionings and be accountable, the one who can construct and join rational conversations and fantastic imaginings that change history. Splitting, not being, is the privileged image for feminist epistemologies of scientific knowledge.”

Vision is also about translation, and “translation is always interpretive, critical, and partial.  Here is a ground for conversation, rationality, and objectivity- which is power-sensitive, not pluralist, ‘conversation.’”  Understanding subjectification is multidimensional, that it is a about a continuous becoming, a continues constructing and stitching together imperfectly, will leave openings and culture for runningroom for the unexpected, the encounter, and possible emancipations.

The partial views, imperfections and unfinishedness, room for surprise and irony as being part of the knowledge production in feminist objectivity, the being part of the world, instead of viewing from a distance, conversations instead of a universal monologues, living with contradictions and opening up the cliché of the binary distinction, by the “activation of the object as knowledge’.

 I would like to call it a kind of ‘opportunistic optimism’. What I believe Haraway shares with Rem Koolhaas, is what you can call an ‘opportunistic optimism’ approach. What do I mean with that: Prejudice, judgment (from an ideal idea, or critique in advance) is delayed (on hold) as long as possible: you analyse; see what is there without prejudice, map it, operate within it to see its transforming possibilities in situ. And you believe, are convinced, that working from within, the everyday, (including its cyborg, artificial, virtual, media, popular transformations) can give situated freedom a chance to blossom. Not negotiation, but possibilities from within are mobilised. Not the formulation of ideas, that once applied in reality can only disappoint, but what reality has to offer can change the world. Like what happened in New York retroactively, through a lived experiences, they way the market works and enlightened developers. In fact, polemically stated, Delirious New York is the Cyborg City Haraway talks about.

While Diller Scofidio + Renfro deconstruct and make visible, Koolhaas (and Haraway) accept the schizophrenic and paradoxical reality of the modern everyday. They understand that we need to deal with this reality and even that we have to work for it to arrive at possible emancipation.

references

Donna Haraway , ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspectives’, in Feminist Studies, pp. 575–599, 1988.

Conceptual Cluster 6: Chora

by katja2013

IMG_3472

Performativity in Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Images no longer merely document buildings but investigate the visual and spatial realities of the present (…) these architects (Diller Scofidio + Renfro) make contemporary space intelligible, playful, and unpredictable by controlling how and what we see and cannot see.[1]

Judith Butler proposes that matter is “clearly defined by a certain power of creation and rationality,” so that to know the “significance of something is to know how and why it matters. Where ‘to matter’, means at once ‘to materialize’ and ‘to mean’.”[2] If the body then is clearly matter, how that body comes to materialize, mean, or matter is contingent on its origination, its transformation, and its potentiality. The body’s intelligibility therefore is not a given but is produced. Butler identifies the production of this intelligible body at the site of performativity or its “specific modality of power as discourse.” Sex and gender are both social and historical constructions according to Butler.[3]

Working in the spatial disciplines means, to look at how place and gender are performed. On the subjective level on which we perceive objects and the objective level that determines how and what we are able to perceive.

As an example of a practice which has experimented with this specific performativity and intelligibility I will look at the work of Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R).

Around the 1980s, the focus of architectural theory had shifted from autonomy and linguistic semiotic approaches, towards cultural criticism and critical theory, concerns with constructions of subjectivity and gender, power and property and other themes, came to the fore in it spatial and constructional dimensions.

In a project like The withdrawing Room D+S used in a different and higher register of exposition the autonomous working of architecture and its self-referentiality of the 70s, by folding it into various discourses of context and exteriority, recalibrated according to what is sayable or thinkable in the idiolects of psychoanalysis, feminism, and other theoretical systems that seek to analyse the hidden structures of domestic life. [4]

This, what they called scanning, meant disclosing the extrinsic, ideological structures that contaminate and complicate the intrinsic, supposedly pure forms and techniques of architecture. [5] This intelligibility (in Butler’s terms), a disclosure of ideologies has become central to the work of Diller + Scofidio.

Work based on experience with everyday life (…) in their investigations of domestic space, the withdrawing Room (1987). It also introduced a predilection for viewing contemporary culture as a system of signs to be read, performed, and, most optimistically, rewritten. [6]

DS+F describe their work as an exploration of vision, vision in the partial sense as Haraway explains,The “eyes’ made available in modem technological sciences shatter any idea of passive vision; these prosthetic devices show us that all eyes, including our own organic ones, are active perceptual systems, building on translations and specific ways of seeing, that is, ways of life.”[7]

Their work explores new materials, shifting definitions of the body, and novel modes of architectural transparency. Or as Diller herself says: our interest lies in interrogating spatial conventions of the everyday. Their work produces connections between different levels of existence, not by presenting us with representation, but rather by scanning for the contradictions, gaps, and occlusions that prevent us from gaining any perspective on our situation beyond the immediate reified moment and its ideological closures.

Starting form deconstructing the everyday, as in the folded shirt project, Bad Press (1993) This series of ‘mis-ironed’ men’s white dress shirts examines ironing as one among many household tasks conventionally guided by principles of motion economy, With their abnormal creases and origami-like folds, the Bad Press shirts are the various results of ironing having been freed from the aesthetics of efficiency.[8] Showing how the body’s intelligibility is produced. Through a creation of displacement, in itself a performance, DS+R question the rationality of the action of ironing.

Their understanding of architecture as involved in the display of performers and audiences in space becomes visible in the Brasserie (Seagram Building, Mies vd Rohe, New York), a design in which their concerns with media technology, theatricality, and public space became mainly explicit in the dramatic entering into the dining space. In the theatrical performativity the value system is shown. The aspirations of the studio was to ‘use both architecture and theatre, merged with aspects of performance and art, to celebrate the social aspects of dining’; by the roles played out of man and woman, gender performativity, voyeurism is made explicit. By making subversive gestures at power through speech (architectural syntax). The entrance of every visitor is captured by a camera and displayed with a little delay onto fifteen monitors above the bar, the theatricality is being emphasised in the way you have to make an entrance over the stairs that are jumps into the dining, giving you the opportunity to overlook, but mainly to be seen.

The way DS+R are working reminds me besides Butler of the way Donna Haraway described feminist objectivity as it makes room for surprises and ironies at the heart of all knowledge production; we are not in charge of the world. We just live here and try to strike up noninnocent conversations by means of our prosthetic devices, including our visualization technologies.

Reflecting on the discipline of architecture engaging with the everyday in the ‘real’ world without becoming self-referential or about any truth finding, instead finding new ways of working for every new project on the way. With an evident visible joyfulness, full of indirect suggestions about how to live in the contemporary world, works as constant reminder of the indispensability of humour and irony. An inspiring reminder, that imagination and commitment to the public realm has the capacity to question commodification. However with their ever-questioning performance it becomes less clear what kind of world they are after, beyond what they make intelligible.

References


[1] Edward Dimenberg. Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Architecture after Images. (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2013)

[2] Judith Butler , ‘Bodies that Matter’, in Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex, London: Routledge, 1993

[3] Jane Rendell. Tendencies and Trajectories: Feminist Approaches in Architecture. In C. Greig Crysler, Stephen Cairns, Hilde Heynen, eds. The SAGE Handbook of Architectural Theory, London: SAGE Publications, 2012.

[4] K. Michael Hays. Scanners in Maxwell L. Anderson et al. Scanning the aberrant architectures of diller + scofidio (New York: Witney Museum of American Art, 2003)

[5] K. Michael Hays. Scanners in Maxwell L. Anderson et al. Scanning the aberrant architectures of diller + scofidio (New York: Witney Museum of American Art, 2003)

[6] Edward Dimenberg. Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Architecture after Images. (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2013)

[7] Donna Haraway , ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspectives’, in Feminist Studies, pp. 575–599, 1988.

[8] Maxwell L. Anderson et al. Scanning the aberrant architectures of diller + scofidio (New York: Witney Museum of American Art, 2003)

Conceptual Cluster 6: Chora

by bradyburroughs

women only

A spatial exercise in bodies that matter

In “Woman, Chora, Dwelling,” Elizabeth Grosz writes on Luce Irigaray’s interpretation of Plato’s chora and its culpability in establishing a binary power structure, resulting in the oppressive treatment of women and notions of the feminine in architecture and the built environment. Despite a tendency, mainly in Irigaray’s analysis, but one that remains unproblematized in Grosz’s writing, to essentialize the category ‘women’, connecting it to femininity and maintaining a female/male binary with the assumption of a heterosexual norm, I acknowledge and sympathize with the challenge she poses in her conclusion. However, for me, the category ‘women’ (and ‘men’) could be exchanged with any number of categories of identity that make up our shifting subjectivities within unequal relations of power.

“The project ahead, or one of them, is to return women to those places from which they have been dis- or re-placed or expelled, to occupy those positions- especially those which are not acknowledged as positions- partly in order to show men’s invasion and occupancy of the whole of space, of space as their own and thus the constriction of spaces available to women, and partly in order to be able to experiment with and produce the possibility of occupying, dwelling, or living in new spaces, which in their turn help generate new perspectives, new bodies, new ways of inhabiting.” (Grosz 2000 (1991), p. 221)

Following, is a brief description and reflection of an instance that occurred during my 20% seminar, which was a first attempt at “occupying new spaces to help generate new perspectives, new bodies, new ways of inhabiting.”

Stage: A seminar is staged in a streetfront office space with two symmetrical rooms, one empty with only a large Persian carpet, candelabras and an extravagant sweets table offering glazed cherry muffins, fruit and tea. The other room also has a Persian carpet, but is furnished with diagonal rows of chairs while a clothes rack and mirror stand at the back.

Scene: Part-way through the enactment of a fictive guided tour of a row-house renovation, through a series of four rooms, participants are advised that the second room is designated as a “women-only” space and that anyone who does not consider themselves ‘woman-identified’ at that moment should proceed directly to the third room and wait for the rest of the group there.

Action: In this instant, everyone participating in this fiction is forced to make an assessment and choice of their own sex/gender identification, something that is perhaps otherwise unreflected and/or usually taken for granted. Why did most of the participants who were typically considered female, either biologically or through their gender expression, choose in that moment to be ‘women’, where they had free access to the tea and cakes, but were also asked to serve refreshments to the ‘men-identified’ individuals? In turn, why did the participants who were typically considered male, either biologically or through their gender expression, not choose to test being ‘woman-identified’ in order to gain access to the sweets table?

Reflection: This was a critical fiction, a theater of sorts, the perfect opportunity to test a role other than your own. Several participants mentioned afterwards that this thought occurred to them later, even several days later. They felt an immediate discomfort in being confronted with a choice that is usually uncontested, not an issue. Suddenly, they were asked to make a choice, define themselves and in doing so, to determine which spaces were accessible to them, along with certain privileges (i.e. the sweets table). Likewise, the choices they made had immediate material consequences, and they felt discomfort either in being excluded from a space, or in being forced into the stereotypical role of a ‘woman’ serving the ‘men’ their refreshments.

As Judith Butler writes, “To problematize the matter of bodies may entail an initial loss of epistemological certainty, but a loss of certainty is not the same as political nihilism. On the contrary, such a loss may well indicate a significant and promising shift in political thinking. This unsettling of “matter” can be understood as initiating new possibilities, new ways for bodies to matter.” (Butler 1993, p. 30) In confronting the participants of the seminar with the matter of their own bodies and by using separatism as a design tool, this moment of the enactment raises a point of contestation, although deeply sedimented and overlooked, and points to the possibilities of further exploration.

References:

Judith Butler , ‘Bodies that Matter’, in Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex, London: Routledge, 1993

Elizabeth Grosz, ‘Women, Chora, Dwelling’ in Jane Rendell, Barbara Penner, Iain Borden, Gender Space Architecture: An Interdisciplinary Introduction, London: Routledge, 2000

ANT and situated, subjective knowledge

by Jesper Magnusson

Bodies, as well as objects, are always situated, at least in the material world. It is from the body “the world unfolds”, not from “Husserl’s study” (Ahmed 2006). One starts to realise the world through learning about how the body perceives, responds to and affects objects and other bodies. To study an apple falling from a tree by measuring its size, form, weight and the speed at which it falls, doesn´t guarantee an understanding of gravity, nor the practical effects of gravity. Holding the apple, feeling its weight, throwing it up in the air and catching it coming down offers a vastly more significant knowledge about the nature of gravity. Additional information, like the smell of the apple, the texture of its skin and how the wind affects its trajectory we get for free. This is to say that situated knowledge can emerge from interaction; of being partial and using all senses to unveil what´s there and examine it. Situated knowledge is then to reveal actor-networks.

The physiological, objective data of a table (Husserl´s or anyone´s) tells me very little about what a table is and its affordances. When watching children playing with a table, turning it up side down and convert it into a boat, with the tablecloth mounted as a sail and the kitchen floor transformed into an ocean tells me more. Watching the play I notice a new and unexpected affordance and furthermore I observe how heavy the table is, where it might break if not handle carefully, how the legs are mounted to the board, etc. (I can even note how it may be improved to match this new use!) This is situated knowledge about a table. The actor-network is a key to situated and subjective knowledge.

Heidegger’s notions on objects as tools or “equipment” attaches the object with it´s predetermined or intended uses (Ahmed 2006). When the object is handled the way its intended it becomes an extension of our bodies and cease to be an object “in itself”. This is a useful notion from some aspects but at the same time slightly deterministic and limiting. The object emerges as an objective object when it fails to function as intended or when it´s broken (Ahmed 2006) – this is a bit mysterious. Sarah Ahmed remarks that a hammer might be too heavy for one person to use, and then fail as an equipment, but it might be perfectly adequate for another (Ahmed 2006). This is to me relational thinking. The hammer becomes a hammer when connected to someone that use it as a hammer, and it gains its properties from a situated network, not from a preconceived idea about its use. Another person can use the hammer to stir a soup and the hammer will still be a hammer, but used in another context, being part of another network.

Arjun Appadurai suggests that “We have to follow the things them selves, for their meanings are inscribed in their forms, their uses, their trajectories” (Appadurai 1988: 5 in Ahmed 2006) and that we need to “supplement phenomenology with an ‘ethnography of things’” (Ahmed 2006). This coincides very well with Haraway´s notions on situated knowledge (Haraway 1988) as well as with an Actor-Network-Theory perspective.

As a respons to the following texts:

– Donna Haraway, ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspectives’, in Feminist Studies, pp. 575–599, 1988.
– Sara Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology Duke University Press, Durham and London, 2006
– Rosi Braidotti, ‘Discontinuous Becomings: Deleuze on the Becoming-Woman of Philosophy’ in Nomadic Subjects, New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

The capsule-apartment as an illusory quest for independence (and individualisation)

by Jesper Magnusson

Lieven de Cauter draws on the fragility of the human body when he introduces the concept of encapsulation (de Cauter 2004), which is an intriguing perspective on built space. We simply need the support from a variety of technologies and material devices to protect our delicate bodies. Architecture sometimes is denoted as a third skin, a shelter – basically a climate protection. In addition to that, architectural space, or capsule as de Cauter sometimes labels it, also form a protection from the social, from others and the indirect presence of others (smells, sounds and distant visual appearance).

A growing part of private resources (money) appear to be invested in the material capacity to control the level of contact between the individual and the public society. The more resources an individual accumulates the more he/she seems to invest in the filter to the common, in devices that regulate the level of interaction with others. Sloterdijk frame this phenomenon in the context of apartment housing, referring to Corbusier’s concept “psychic ventilation”:

“An architecturally successful living unit does not just represent a piece of enclosed air, but rather a psychosocial immune system that is capable of regulating the degree to which it is sealed from the outside on demand.” (Sloterdijk 2007)

This notion has an obvious bearing on issues of exclusion, class and segregation. The most apparent examples of that is: gentrified and homogenised neighbourhoods, a growing state and private surveillance, apartment tower blocks with controlled and policed access, walled private homes, increased retail security with entrance guards, etc. Even in regular middle class areas the level of unintentional interaction with strangers are controlled by means of home security systems, neighbourhood signs declaring zones of surveillance, fences, walls etc.

The apartment/capsule can be regarded as a material quest for individual independence – a spatial urge to master ones own, private life. The apartment-concept is indeed boosting our desire for individuality, as Sloterdijk advocates, but its significance as a fortress might have an even more profound impact on society as a common ground – contesting the city as a civic space for exchange. As Lieven de Cauter puts it:

” …fear leads to capsularization, and capsularization enhances fear.” (de Cauter 2004)

Sloterdijk claims that even outside or in-between the apartments we maintain an inner-worldly individualism using Ego-technical apparati, like head sets, cell phones, small screen computers etc. to control the level of social exchange with others (Sloterdijk 2007). De Cauter comments this relation between humans and high-tech media as virtual or mental encapsulation. He identifies the digital media devices, expressively the screens, as extensions of the mind, as the car is a capsular extension of the house (de Cauter 2004). De Cauter argues further that the capsular society evokes a historic view on public space as something outside, something potentially dangerous:

”The capsular civilization might be a return to older phases in history, in which public space – the world outside the fortress – was, by definition, unsafe and uncontrolled territory.” (de Cauter 2004)

The perception of the apartment/capsule as a fortress, an individually controlled space of independence, is however an illusion. These private capsules need extensive support from a well-organized society. It is due to tremendous collective efforts we finally can experience an imaginary or fictional independence. Beyond the apartment walls we have a supportive infrastructure that cares for water supply and drainage, heating, transportation of digital and analogue information, security logistics, financial systems etc. Without the cooperative efforts to maintain this infrastructure we would very hastily have to return to a more collective life, dependent on mutual trust in others and in public life per se.

In Unité d´Habitation (Marseille) le Corbusier try to combine the effective multiplying of individual apartments (capsules) in a formal structure, with common spaces for social exchange. A generous collective space at ground level (the building is raised on piloti) is echoed at the top by a roof terrace with complex spatial structure and diversified uses. In the mid part of the building resides a street with shops, a public restaurant and a hotel. These spaces where strategically planned to raise the architecture from a mere piling of individual units (capsules) to a societal project with ambitions to create social, collective space. In modern apartment buildings this is very rarely seen. The privacy of residents and the individual right to control the filter to the outside world seems to be imperative. Unité can however be regarded as a capsule in itself, disconnected from Marseille

As a respons to the following texts:

– Peter Sloterdijk, ‘Cell Block, Ego-Spheres, Self-Container’ in Log 10, 2007 +
– Lieven de Cauter, ‘The Capsule and the Network: Notes for a General Theory’ in Capsular Civilisation: On the City in the Age of Fear, Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2004
– Alice Jardine, ‘Of Bodies and Technologies’ in Hal Foster ed. Discussions in Contemporary Culture, New York: DIA Art Foundation, 1987.

Conceptual Cluster 8: Feminist Writing Practices

by malkoshka

AGLAJA_fot_Sosin_male

Text(il) – The text is a woven thing

We are not allowed to love anything

I only know my motherland by the smell, it smells like my mother’s cooking

Here each country is foreign

Abroad does not change as, in all countries we eat with our mouths.

The smell of burned dawn is home for me.

My dolls became very skinny, they do not understand foreign languages

Most important: to be vigilant, never tell the truth, so that no one can laugh at us.

I would like to pack my mother into a suitcase

My father died of absence.

My mother lives in unconsciousness.

Abroad, my family fell apart like pieces of glass.

I feel like I’m falling to pieces.

It is crocheting textile made by me in 2013, size aprox 240 x 160 cm.

The sentences were taken from the book of the Romanian writer Aglaja Veteranyi – “Warum das Kind in der Polenta kocht”. In all of them “home” aspect is present. Aglaja was a child of a circus family so they were in permanent travel, escape form Ceausescu dictatorship. They spend almost every night in a different place. This is a story about how it is to be a foreigner, homeless, woman, child.

In the text of Jennifer Bloomer I found few interesting sentences which might refer to that work.

The word writing (…)do not refer simply to that concept of writing as a mirror of documentation of speech, but writing as a constructing nonlinear enterprise that works across culture in networks of signification. This writing, although it makes the use of language, is not limited by conventional concepts of language; that is, it does not exists in identity with language. 

In the space of the relation between text and weaving lies the generative structure that allows the logic of the construction to unfold before your eyes. This structure must be mapped across a constellation of concepts via a network of lines of ideas that(…) represent repetitious tracks of many movements across the same territory.(…)

the mapping of this generative structures itself operates in the space between the text and weaving:it is what it is about. Samuel Beckett(…)said the same about the Finnegans Wake:

Here form is content and content is form. You complain that this stuff is not written in English. It is not written at all. It is not to be read – or rather it is not only to be read. It is to be looked at and listened to. His writing is not about something ; it is that something itself”.

Jennifer Bloomer‘A Priming’ in Architecture and the Text: The (S)crypts of Joyce and Piranesi, Yale University, 1993.

 

 

Cluster 10: I want to have a conflict with myself

by kajsakorner

cluster 10 bild

Haraway (1991) establishes what she names as a feminist objectivity: situated knowledge. Its prominent character and approach to science is the partial perspective when studying the world, and how ”the world encountered in knowledge projects is an active entity.” (Haraway, 1991: 198). She questions a traditional Western theory of science that claims objectivity, where the world is comprehended as a neutral object, surface etc. The Western tradition of “objective” science studies and observes the world from a distance in order to “discover” facts or reveal an actual truth about the matter of things and the world. Situated knowledge/feminist objectivity is a critic of this traditional Western science theory, and an alternative to social constructivism and feministic empiricism. The two latter approaches to science also emanate from a critic of the traditional Western approach, where objectivity is taken for granted and science is about universality. Instead, Haraway depicts how objectivity can be partial perspectives of the world, where the very objectivity lies in a transparent and clear positioning of from which point I am studying a phenomenon. By this the world becomes something else than just an object for neutral observations and discoveries:

“Accounts of a ‘real’ world do not, then depend on a logic of ‘discovery’, but on a power-charged social relation of ‘conversation’.” (Haraway, 1991: 198)

Haraway’s situated knowledge approach is about acknowledging and renders power to partial perspectives, but it is not a relativistic claim where any perspective will do. Because

”Relativism is a way of being nowhere while claiming to be everywhere equally. The ’equality’ of positioning is a denial of responsibility and critical enquiry.” (Haraway, 1991: 191)

Instead, the partial perspective from a very specific position will give us the possibility to discuss new ways of understanding the world and how it might work. We have

“…to seek the perspectives from those points of views, which can never be known in advance, which promises something quite extraordinary, that is, knowledge potent for constructing worlds less organized by axes of domination.” (Haraway, 1991: 192)

Situated knowledge is about discussing the world from specific positions in order to obtain nonhierarchical knowledge, but also about distinct power-conscious investigations of the world. This is how we can gain rational knowledge. Rational knowledge is a continuous critical process of interpretation of different ‘fields’, where partial perspectives is a mean in order to provide a larger vision and greater understanding of these ‘fields’ (Haraway, 1991).

I understand the different partial perspectives as setting the frame for the possibility to compose an assemblage of mapped knowledge in order to embody the reality we try to understand. It is the inner contradiction which we as humans posses that make this possible. Contradiction is considered as a resource instead as a scientific failure causing inconsistency. Objectivity is about being and producing partial knowledge instead of defining universal rules.

”the split and contradictory self is the one who can interrogate positionings and be accountable, the one can construct and join rational conversations and fantastic imaginings that change history.” (Haraway, 1991: 193)

Haraway (1991) claims that traditional Western science fails in objectivity due to its position as the master of their own universe: you cannot investigate yourself if you are the one to set up the rule for how the world should work. Neither does a subjugated perspective inherit a guarantee for scientific and conscious scrutiny of the world. A multiple seeing of the world from several standpoints at the same time is not possible, according to Haraway. Instead, we have to define how and from where we watch the world. The subjective position of situated knowledge and its “critical positioning” is the premise for producing objective knowledge (Haraway, 1991).

I think that architecture, and how we perceive physical form and spatiality is a very subjective matter. Therefore, a subjective critical positioning is crucial when writing and doing research about architecture. The situated knowledge concept allows for embodying critical perspectives in the very process of studying architecture. It can be applied both as a methodological stance and to inform the actual design of method. In my research on the relationship between walking and spatiality Haraway’ situated knowledge provides a theoretical framework for discussing and producing knowledge based on subjective experiences of walking. Experiences, which might not be, acknowledge if I position myself looking at the world of walking from outside and above, and not participating in the world of pedestrians.

Reference

HARAWAY, D. J. 1991. Simians, cyborgs, and women : the reinvention of nature, New York, Routledge.