Gathered thoughts

by evagheysen

When reading Jane Bennett’s text on Thing-power as an imaginary ontology of things and their powers, a childhood memory popped up in my mind. When I was young, we lived in a house with a small courtyard. Seen the size of the courtyard, it was densely stuffed with all kinds of things; toys, garden equipment, chairs, pots and flowers… When it started to rain, I collected all the things that were lying on the lawn and gave them a secure and dry place under the shelter of the terrace. This was a ritual I repeated every time it rained. I did so because I felt a strong empathy for these objects. The ball, the flowers, the buckets…were my friends because I often played with them. Therefore, I needed to take care of them and make sure they wouldn’t get wet and sad. Of course I understood that these objects were inanimate and didn’t have any feelings but I guess it was a rather instinctive urge to take care of my environment.

The relation between human and non-human entities, and the spatial movements and patterns this generates, made me think about a project of a student. For this project, the student occupied her room during several weeks and tried to reduce her footprint of occupation every day a little bit more by moving her belongings and the furniture every time a little bit more closely towards herself. This evolved in a process of simultaneously densifying one side of the room and clearing out the other side of the room. The student initially started this experiment for investigating densification processes in relation to co-housing possibilities but when gradually the open space became larger and larger, she decided to keep the freed space open, to not occupy in order to make space for undefined activities. During the process of this project the students’ aim changed from densification in order to enlarge the number of occupations towards densification as a method for creating qualitative open spaces for the unforeseen to take place. In this case, the open space is in a state of impotence, perpetual tension and potentiality. This inner tension doesn’t exhaust the possibility of the situation but instead poses questions and points towards a new direction for both political and architectural action⌝.

Making space for alternative developments, or, in other words, disrupting conventional relationships and proportions, is also present in Agnes Denes’ Wheatfield project. By turning a building plot in Manhattan into a wheatfield, she visualises and effectuates an alternative ecological relation. Apart from the fact that the wheatfield represents the role of nature in relation to the city, it is in my opinion not so important whether it is a wheatfield, a basket court or a zoo, the quality of this work lies in the imaginative power of the act that stimulates a reconceptualisation of ecological relations.

According to Peg Rawes⌝, architecture plays an important role in these relations since through critical, poetic, political and ethical strategies and imaginaries, new places of occupation and inhabitation can be constructed. These might perform as the ‘existential territories’ discussed by Guattari, or the ‘vacuole’ mentioned by Deleuze; the space of resistance, where new forms of subjectivity can be invented and hence recognise and enable multiple and distinct ways of belonging.

⌝ words borrowed from Beyond Entropy in a reaction on the work of Adrian Paci, The Column, published in the Venice Biennale brochure 2014.

⌝ Peg Rawes in Relational Architectural Ecologies (2013).