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


Reflection on The Agency of Mapping by James Corner

by shydes

I have always loved maps. I gather maps wherever I go. Pile them up at home, thinking that they will be a great project one day. What is a map? Or what is NOT a map? Carroll´s Mein Herr said after he had realized that the map they had was useless: “So, now we use the country itself as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well”.

Mapping, definitions: James Corner:  a way of re-shaping worlds where people live. Reformulate what already exists and actualize the potential. Searching, finding, unfolding. Description of reality that is culturally situated. Deleuze and Guattari: Experimentation in contact with the real. But what is the real? Whose reality will be on the map? The one who are doing the activity, will be the one telling us what he/she wants us to see. The inverted map by Torres- Garcia shows who have been in charge of constructing the maps and the world.

What can a map do? Winnicott suggests that we should include transitional objects possessed by imagination. What a possibility to have transitional parks where citizens can imagine a perfect spot. My view on this, is that we often plan every inch of our space in the city just because we can. We can afford it and we want everything to be planned. No space for imaginary places.

Reflections: The extreme power of the Municipalities planning offices. Do the planners understand that? Are the people working there ticking boxes or are they imagining better futures? Tools from modernism. Tools from the past to form our future is not an ideal combination. I would love to see kids and all citizens making maps of our milieu where transitional objects take place. Where mapping and planning are a joint activity to “unfold and support hidden conditions, desires and possibilities nested within our milieu”. It should not be one map of the city. There should be several layers showing different perspectives. Gender, age, culture etc. One map to use at dark nights on my way home, another one for a sunny Sunday stroll.

I have lived in the countryside the most time in my life. I loved walking in the forest with trees that are several hundred years old. No street names, no shops. You turn by a big oak, big rock or where there is a funny grown pine. That would be a great map. How would it be made trustworthy? The big oak may be looking small to someone visiting, living close to Redwood national Park.

Thank you, Suha, for sharing the article. I will try to use it in my research how to share in the city. How could a map for sharing look like?

The cyborg alchemist

by helenawesterlind


I placed my human-computer/artist/alchemist/writer/shamans/scientist in the center and on the horizon line of a new canvas. I put the DIPswitches of the computer board on her chest as if it were a part of her dress. A giant keyboard sits in front of her and her hands are poised to play with the cosmos, matter, words, games, images, and unlimited interactions and activities. She can do anything. The computer screen in the night sky offers examples. There are three images that graphically display different aspects of the same galaxy, using new high-technological imaging devices. Another panel exhibits a diagram of a gravity well. The central panel offers mathematical formulas, one from Einstein and the other a calculation found in chaos theory. In the same panel a game of tic-tac-toe has been played using the symbols for male and female and the woman has won. In the foreground hovers a neon sign of the philosopher’s stone, the ultimate goal of alchemy, and a reminder of the cyborg’s ability to deconstruct and reconstruct matter as she wish. She transforms dust into super matter and water into substances with magical properties. The historical desert plain replete with pyramids, is implying that the cyborg can roam across histories and civilizations and incorporate them into her life and work. Finally I placed the shamanic headdress of a white tigress spirit on her head and arms…

(modified image and text by  Lynn Randolph, the artist behind the cover of Haraway’s Manifesto for Cyborgs)


Bureaucratic Phantasies

by bojanboric

I introduce the concept of bureaucratic phantasies. Inspired by the surrealist fascination with the bureaucratic operations of the unconscious, I plan to test the theoretical possibilities of this concept in the realm of the urban conditions through discussion based on urban phenomenon in post-Socialist Chisinau. This concept interrogates the idea of the urban unconscious as an archive of urban memories merging with the continuous processes of refinement of the bureaucracy repeatedly producing fictions projected as holograms into real spaces, more real then reality itself. The memories of unrealized futures, dreams, desires, never told personal histories are processed through the procedural repetitions embedded within austere bureaucratic procedures, calculations and statistics. Hidden in the corridors of the state archives and the urban space itself, today they are unleashed and mutating.

Bureaucratic Phantasy is an incomplete bureaucracy, a kind of bureaucracy that leaves room for interaction. It is also possibly a space of resistance and a space with many contradictions and complexities. Through this concept I intend to explore relations between micro realities of urban space and institutions of society involved in social production and reproduction. According to Lyotard, in the post-modern era, there is a “crises of metanarratives” but they have not disappeared. They only made a “passage underground” deep into the unconscious. “This persistence of buried master-narratives is what I have elsewhere called our “political unconscious”(Lyotard).

Bureaucratic Phantasy is a concept of material and non-material, human and non-human apparatuses linking the notions of seemingly opposite meanings, that of “phantasy “and “bureaucracy”. The meaning may seem paradoxical  only initially, expressed through an inherent conflicts in society, producing mythologies as norms for productions of truth and notions of reality. Its archive of memories operates through urban unconscious, as something not anticipated. Often, in form of a document that suddenly appears or disappears, materializes in reality without apparent reason or meaning.

Bureaucracy is an apparatus and a social institution associated with the state power with unclear boundaries. “Phantasy” according to the dictionary formulation “is the faculty or activity of imagining impossible or improbable things”. In order to understand the meaning of bureaucracy, Max Weber argues, one needs to begin to question boundaries of the state as a social phenomenon emerging from beyond the state. Bureaucracy is an invention and part of the phantasy of the society itself, part of its unconscious; it is reproducing itself through performative actions within the society while constantly developing and shifting boundaries, norms and regulations.

According to Donna Harraway, we live in mythical time, the society is changing through the logic of the bio-political machine. There are new “fruitful couplings” emerging from this coupling of politics and fiction as well as science and fiction. “The pre-cybernetic machines could be haunted; there was always the spectre of the ghost in the machine.” (Harraway D.) I would argue that the new forms of haunted political spaces are evolving today and along with the technological advancement and through the “mutation of capitalism” (Deleuze, Control Society). In the twenty-first century control societies the “real” is produced through fictions as much as through science, the ghost is still there. In this process, the boundaries such as that between the public and private are broken. “Our machines are disturbingly lively, and we ourselves frighteningly inert.” (Harraway D. Cyborgs)

The state is an imaginary social institution and as such it continuously produces imaginaries through bureaucracy. While reproducing the notion of the real it re-produces its own state imaginary. The loop goes on in a vicious cycle, the actions are initiated and produce other actions, creating myths, these produce spaces, then through acts of bureaucracy produce an imaginary state, these produce society, and it goes on and on…..

Deleuze refers to the similar process occurring in the contemporary state which he calls the control society. While in disciplinary societies there is a beginning and the end of a process, Deleuze argues that in the control society, there is always an ongoing transition, a transformation, “you never finish anything” (Deleuze, Control Society). As in Kafka’s Trial, the post-Socialist city is suspended in transition between two societies, one determined by disciplinary judicial norms expressed through the state of the “apparent acquittal (between two confinements)” and “endless postponement” (constantly changing) a characteristic of the control society.

History is not linear, it is a product of an unconscious process embodied in workings of bureaucratic phantasies. Through stories about the Ghost Boulevard and the concept of the bureaucratic phantasy, I investigate the nature of a different kind of bureaucracy. Such imaginary concept is a part of social and cultural reproduction and as such instrumental in production of spatial phenomenon. The Bureaucratic Phantasy represents an imaginary institution, a product of interface among various social forces; however, although a product of imaginary or even poetry, it manifests itself in a rational and calculated way, within its own internal logic and with the tendency of suppressing individual memories. Its endless archive is located somewhere between the arkheion, the official city of statistics, forms numbers, well categorised and the domus expressed through stories, narratives. It is manifested in space but also in public memory through virtual worlds, apparitions (in media or in space). “The question of the archive is not, I repeat, a question of the past…but rather a question of the future” (Derrida, Jacque Archive Fever)

It is mirroring society while producing its own public memories. It is a phantasy that replicates itself, and as in a dream reflects a distorted imagery, an illusion of what is normal and expected. According to Foucault, state itself is an imaginary formation, “Maybe after all, the state is no more then a composite reality and a mythisized abstraction, whose importance is a lot more limited then any of us think.” (Governmentality, MF) The project of the utopian future itself has become an artifact, a part of the burried grand narrative, now incorporated into the present, how is it going to be imbedded into the narrative of the present time? The space of the Ghost Boulevard, does not exist, it’s “real” is configured through continuous performance of the bureaucratic phantasies, through mythical reconfiguration, it is produced through the interface between the society and institutions. Because the Bureaucratic Phantasy is an incomplete bureaucracy, as it has not yet reached its maximum level of efficiency, it has allowed itself to be perceived as a machine for producing imaginaries, dreams, fictions. It is ambiguous; partially a machine that seems broken, a repository of images and memories, it recycles history and does not rely solely on objective reason such as raison d’etat. It is a cultural machine, a library of the past knowledge, a brain whose calculations have lost original purpose, still it is filled with elaborate data, plans and other artifacts of knowledge that could be transplanted into the present at any time as some kind of noise or as the ghosts of rational objectivity.

According to Weber, Bureaucratic organisation has proved to be superior to any other kind of apparatus due to its technical advantage. This was the main reason for its advance through history. When fully developed to its optimal level, it resembles the well functioning machine. “Precision, speed, unambiguity, knowledge, of the files, discretion, unity, strict subordination, reduction of friction, and of material and personal costs” (M. Weber) From today’s vantage point we can also talk about bureaucracy as a method of management of information embedded into the world-wide-web as the global system of management of information and society. But the bureaucracy can also be thought as an imaginary social invention, that when fully established to its highest optimal level is difficult to destroy. “Where the administration has been completely bureaucratised, the resulting system of domination is practically indestructible”. (M. Weber, Bureaucracy). Although the bureaucracy is produced in democracy, the conflict inevitably emerges as the democracy then needs to restrict the power of bureaucracy. Consequently, according to Weber, bureaucracy makes any “revolution” in the true sense of completely building a new type of rule and authority virtually impossible.Furthermore, according to Weber, bureaucracy is dependent on the “calculable rules” and “without regard for persons”. As the bureaucracy becomes more developed, the more it is “dehumanized”, and this is praised as the “spatial virtue of capitalism”. In turn it demands the need for “experts” who would support this apparatus and provide for its legitimacy with their expert knowledge. Such Weberian bureaucracy is obsolete, something else is occurring now, through emergence of a new beast.

The performative practice within which bureaucratic apparatus operates is relies on repeated creation and recreation of public perception of the bureaucracy, meanings and the actors involved. In it the state institutions subvert their own assumed logics. It is however, intangible and hard to grasp and locate as it operates through an interface between the public, it is constructed only as a virtue of the public imaginary, “Performance assumes an interface between actors and spectators; they both constitute and are constituted by an audience”. (The Antrhopology of the State, Gupta). In other words it is through the re-enactment of the minor bureaucratic procedures and daily routines that the institutions of the state are constituted but can also be destabilised. The “partial perspective” (Harraway D. Situated Knowledges) provides the only possible avenue towards reaching objective vision that constructs reality, through this interface in the in-between space. Donna Harraway, calls it “the power to see”. This is also where the possible resistance may reside.

I propose that the notion of contemporary public space dependent on such interface between various shifting agencies play continuously in the space of the city such as the “Ghost Boulevard” through the bureaucratic phantasy. Instead of excavating ancient artifacts from the ground, the artefacts are produced and invented  by being named, traced and mapped as links in the complex web of relations, they are created without the need to be excavated. Their meaning is broadened beyond the physicality of objects, things. Furthermore, through the composition of “partial perspectives”,  I seek to reveal the gaps in logic, inconsistencies and flaws in the system. These are expressed in the narratives and are regulated through varieties of traces, red lines, voids, numbers, words and images. These supposed “flaws” in the system are not necessarily presented as negative nor positive, they are just part of the complex narrative of the present and perhaps clues for what the future may be.

Where does the cyborg end?

by hannesfrykholmuma

Donna Haraway uses the term blasphemy as something that “protects one from the Moral Majority from within, while still insisting on the need for community.”[1] There is in the notion of blasphemy a built in tension. Blasphemy is an “ironic faith”[2], an act of seriousness and dedication that is still at the heart of the project it is desecrating. I think the cyborg should be read in this way, as deeply blasphemous – an impossible hybrid between previously separated worlds that also challenges our notions about given divisions. It is clear that the cyborg also implies non-human forms of life and systems.

I wonder where the boundary can be drawn between the techno-chemical systems and the animated flesh? Haraway asks, “Why should our bodies end at the skin”? How does the integration between architecture and cyborgs happen? Is the technology of the built environment also part of a cyborg system? Perhaps the aircrafts are temporary wings for our bodies, the escalators automated steps for our legs and the interior air-conditioners a cooling system that replaces our bodily perspiration? If we think of ourselves as constantly renegotiated amalgamations between on the one hand animated flesh with specific behavior, and on the other hand infrastructural “stacks”[3] of rhythms, flows and physical mechanisms, where does this put the practice of architecture?

Hannes Frykholm

[1] Donna Jeanne Haraway, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980’s,” in Feminism – Postmodernism, ed. L.J. Nicholson (New York: Routledge, 1990), 190.

[2] Ibid., 191.

[3] H. Benjamin Bratton, “The Stack,” Log 35 (2015).

Modulation of memory

by hannesfrykholmuma

I am interest in the mechanisms of memory put in relation to the economization of our cognitive capacities, a process Sven-Olov Wallenstein refers to as noopolitics.[1] As Maurizio Lazzarato argues: “To remember something – like every activity of mind – is to actualise a virtual, and this actualisation is a creation, an individuation and not a simple reproduction.”[2] Remembering and recollecting fantasies can be seen as part of a becoming. To remember is not the act of the archivist roaming through old files in our memory banks, but instead a process that actively changes us. Instead of repetition or reproduction, the recollecting of past impressions is always virtual and points towards a difference. The act of memory and attention is to Lazzarato what generates certain flows of desire. To what extent is the current economic system modulating our memories and desires?

The process of modulating memories can perhaps be located in what has been called “the experience economy”. Formulated by Harvard economists B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, the term describes how many successful business ventures today focus less on selling the commodity and more on the actual experience of consumption. Pine and Gilmore notes: “Commodities are fungible goods tangible, services intangible, and experiences memorable.”[3] (my emphasis) In the contemporary spaces of consumption the environment triggers certain experiences and desires through its design. I think the experience economy can be seen as one way in which our memories and desires are integrated to the productive logics of the current economy. How can we as architects challenge this system for memory modulation?

Hannes Frykholm

[1] Sven-Olov Wallenstein, “Noopolitics, Life and Architecture,” in Cognitive Architecture: From Bio-Politics to Noo-Politics ; Architecture & Mind in the Age of Communication and Information, ed. D. Hauptmann and W. Neidich (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers).

[2] Maurizio. Lazzarato, “Life and the Living in the Societies of Control,” in Deleuze and the Social, ed. M. Fuglsang and B.M. Sørensen (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006), 185.

[3] B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore, The Experience Economy (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2011), 98.


A ride in the car; capsules and capitalism come up in conversation.

by helenjrr

Eric was loitering in the parking lot next to the architecture school, where he said he’d be when I called. No one really knew the status of Eric Packer’s enrolment at the school: it was unclear whether he’d dropped out, or whether in fact he’d ever enrolled – he certainly had never taken part in an orientation day exercise, or queued for a student card. There were rumours that he’d been kicked out of the AA, or possibly the Berlage; there were rumours that he only did architecture in order to appease the demands of his mother, the CEO of a global construction company. Whatever the truth, Eric spent his days plying the share market, playing Candy Crush, and driving around the city in a slick German sedan with his best friend, Vija De Cauter. He referred to Vija as his “Chief of Theory,” presumably because they always submitted papers and projects based on conversations had whilst idling in peak hour traffic and aimlessly cruising the edges of the city. I liked Eric; even if he channelled a serious Patrick Bateman vibe at times.

“Afternoon,” drawls De Cauter as I get in on the driver’s side. “Eric wants a haircut. You wanna join?”

I nod, immediately acquiescent. “Sure.

What’re you reading, Vija?”

“Deleuze. Agamben. Lazzarato. Foucault.”

I shouldn’t have asked. The car crawls lazily through the boom gates of the campus perimeter, outwards – that is, towards nowhere – not in any discernable direction, not taking the main highways, and not the arterials, just the feeders and local streets of the surrounding suburbs, which are (as always) leafy, idyllic, and still.

“You grew up in the suburbs, didn’t you?” Eric now, head turned, thumb hooked through the steering wheel. Not condescending, but not particularly committed to the notion. A foreign territory for the Erics and Vijas of the world. Hence their love of cars, I reflect. A novelty.

“Yep,” I reply, trying to sound non-committal. “Thinking of making the move?”

“In one way,” muses De Cauter, “we’re all suburbanites. Even us fervent city dwellers have to fight the suburbanization of daily life: cars, phones, tvs and computers are basically the tools – and, let’s face it, causes – of this process.”

“Capsules,” continues Eric, going straight through yet another roundabout, “all of it. Home to office. Office to home. Neoliberal individualisation plus suburbanisation.”

“The third law of capsularisation,” concludes Vija, happily.

I smother a laugh at their entitled irony. “Capsularisation? From the two of you? You couldn’t be more cocooned if you tried. Driving around all day, in this… car? Seriously? You live in a dream world. And you love it.”

“And don’t you love joining us in Disneyland?” Eric is laughing now. At me.

“The grimmer and uglier reality on the outside becomes, the more hyperreality will dominate the capsular civilisation,” I respond, quoting De Cauter’s latest, and most infamous, essay, which she’d posted all over the school instead of just emailing to the professor. The Capsular Civilisation On the City in the Age of Fear was urban legend.

The conversation reminds me of the last time I was in Eric’s car. Maybe Sarah was right, I reflect: maybe we had all already heard the same opinions, expressed in the same way, before. It was a few weeks back that I’d heard this last. Vija had asked Eric what it was that capitalism produces, according to Marx and Engels. (Clearly a trap.)

“Its own gravediggers,” he’d said.

“But these aren’t the grave-diggers,” Vija had responded, flipping through the pages of Spatial Agency: Other Ways of Doing Architecture, a book we were reading for our theory class, and pointing at various architects doing various things. “This is the free market itself. It breeds these men and women. They are necessary to the system they despise. They give it energy and definition. They are market-driven. They are traded on the markets of the world. This is why they exist, to invigorate and perpetuate the system.”

The car pulls to a stop. Time in the car is always different, more slippery, than time outside. We’re in front of a suburban barber, nowhere special.

“Haircut time. You wanna stick around and watch?” The offer is casual, excluding agreement in advance.

“Nah, I’m good. Might get the bus into town,” I answer, somewhat reluctant to leave the leather-clad surroundings of the car, but in need of some air. I grab my bag, suddenly gasping for metropolitan urbanness. De Cauter and Packer disappear into the barbers.

Hidden spaces

by obannova


I wonder where people hide and why do they do it? How different those hidden places would be in a big city and in the middle of nowhere? When we hide do we create or destroy? I try to investigate these questions in course of my research and see if there are issues that design or architecture can address.

It is a common impression that population density creates social, political, health and economic problems. But does opposition to the density necessarily solves those problems? Hectic urban environment offers certain convenience to people living there and as a result pushes its edges further consuming more land, resources, and people. Stress that comes along with urban growth and density requires higher level of adaptation from people living there to its conditions and not everybody can adapt to it or fight it. People start looking for places where to hide, catch a breath, refresh or recoup.

One of big cities phenomena is that in spite of the fact that a person living there is usually exposed to thousands around him he may live unrecognizable and unnoticed throughout whole life. That creates a perfectly hidden place for one who seeks it. My research is focused on extreme environments and habitability issues there. Psychological issues that people have to deal with there are similar in a very unique way to many that an urban habitant experience living in a very technologically advanced environment and surrounded by millions of others like him. Would those who come from these different environments even understand each other?


by obannova


It may seem that coexistence or harmony is opposition of struggle although coexistence does not necessarily happen with a perfect balance or it may change with time and new players entering the scene. If “the unit of survival is organism plus environment” as Gregory Bateson said, then there always should be found a way of living in the environment without severely alternating it even if the environment is brutal and makes people to struggle to survive. There should be a way to look at habitation unit not like a protective barrier but as part of already existing system balancing between optimization of given tools and requirements and admitting conditions for environment to continue its natural evolution.

When Zoe Sofia talks about “container” technologies (Sofia, 2000)and awareness of containers being part of processes and environments she looks at it from different perspectives and argues passiveness of containers. She argued that “neglect of containers and containment functions is only the result of anti-maternal bias in western thought, but is encouraged by the unobtrusiveness of containers, traces of whose productive roles are not necessarily evident in the final product”.

Plato argues in Timaeus: “we should never speak as if any of the things we suppose we can indicate by pointing and using expression ‘this thing’ have any permanent reality: for they have no stability and elude the designation ‘this’ or ‘that’…” (Plato, 1965)  – that means that instead of forcing transformations that we would think are “good” we may try to “coexisting” and find layers of transformation where our needs don not contradict natural way of environmental evolution. If there were three distinct realities as “being, space and becoming” architect’s major task may be formulated as finding balance between them that would last for some time and conditions for that balance to happen.

Conceptual Cluster 10: Altering Subjectivities

by bradyburroughs

image from "Målarbok: Fantasi och Verklighet", bilder ur böcker i Skoklosters Slotts bibliotek

image from “Målarbok: Fantasi och Verklighet”, bilder ur böcker i Skoklosters Slotts bibliotek

In the pusuit of ‘hereness’ and ‘whoness’ 

In one of my first papers entitled, “Meditations on lesbians who meditate on Lesvos”, I wrote the following note, later to be referred to as ‘note #4’ during my 1-year seminar. My respondent, Ramia Mazé, pointed to the possibilities contained in this note and suggested it could play a key role in beginning to position my work in a larger context, both theoretically and philosophically, in what she called “my pursuit of hereness and whoness”.

 In the Dictionary of Philosophy (Angeles 1981, p. 47) ‘meditation’ is defined, in the religious sense, as “the act of attempting to behold some spiritual object or gain spiritual insight”. Likewise, the epistemological definition is “synonymous with knowledge or the act of acquiring knowledge; the activity of thinking or pondering.” Edmund Husserl (Husserl 1999 (1950), Cartesian Meditations) and Marcus Aurelius (Meditations, Gregory Hays, transl. 2003), among others, wrote well-known meditations enlightening mankind with their thoughts on questions of an existential, ethical and moral nature… men writing for men, or as Husserl puts it, “…a world of men and things.” (Husserl 1999 (1950), p. 129) Although there is an element of the phenomenological in my study and an interest in embodiment, materiality and the senses in the way we inhabit space, the focus here is on the effect of affect and the phenomenology is a queer one (see Ahmed 2006). Rather than the androcentric “I think therefore I am.” these meditations follow bell hooks’ mantra “I am because the story is.” (hooks 2010, p. 50) They speak of the space between women, where the category ‘women’ is self-identified and subjects are not constants, but rather made up of many stories that change and shift over time. Rosi Braidotti uses the term ‘nomadic subject’ for this understanding of the subject with a ‘situated knowledge,’ to escape what she calls “the phallocentric vision of the subject.” (Braidotti 1994, p. 1) Importantly, she also speaks of desire as the catalyst for these “multiple identities”. (Braidotti 1994, p. 14)

Theoretically, my project rests on a queer, anti-racist feminism, queer in that it problematises assumptions of gender norms and heteronormativity, anti-racist in that it attempts to challenge the privileges of ‘whiteness’ (although I don’t think it’s quite there yet) and feminist in that it has a political intention in the critical problematisation of power. As Rosi Braidotti writes, “Feminism as critical thought is a self-reflexive mode of analysis, aimed at articulating the critique of power in discourse with the affirmation of alternative forms of subjectivity.” She goes on to explain “the subject as an interface of will and desire” stating, “…what sustains the entire process of becoming-subject, is the will to know, the desire to say, the desire to speak, to think, and to represent.”[1]

However, despite Braidotti’s optimism of the possibility of feminist Deleuzian ‘becomings’, philosophically I turn rather toward the ‘willful subjects’ with orientations of desire that Sara Ahmed speaks of in a queer phenomenology, looking closely at orientations, habits and desires with gendered, non-static, non-universal subjects, seeking out disruptions and questions rather than truths. As Ahmed writes, “… a queer phenomenology would function as a disorientation device; it would not overcome the ‘disalignment’ of the horizontal and verical axes, allowing the oblique to open up another angle on the world.”[2]

Within the project itself, I also use identity categories of gender or species, such as ‘women’ or ‘humanimals’, strategically when working with the notion of separatism and separatist spaces. In this case, it is in the sense of ‘strategic essentialism’ – the forming of a collective group temporarily, on the grounds of essentialist identity categories for political purposes.[3]

Throughout the project, positioning plays a key role, whether it’s the position of the researcher, the architect, the narrator, or the characters of the stories told through critical fictions. In the constant search for ‘hereness’ and ‘whoness’, particular stories in a specific time and place, here and now, make it possible for others to temporarily occupy positions other than their own, through the narrative voices. These instances are ‘situated knowledges’ as Donna Haraway describes in the following: “We do not seek partiality for its own sake, but for the sake of the connections and unexpected openings situated knowledges make possible. The only way to find a larger vision is to be somewhere in particular.”[4] I see a possibility in the practice of making these experiences of ‘other’ positions available, as a method of political change… the chance to ‘walk in someone else’s shoes’, to open up for unexpected meetings, partial understandings and critical reflections.


Ahmed, Sara, Queer Phenomenology. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2006.

Braidotti, Rosi, “Discontinuous Becomings: Deleuze on the Becoming-Woman of Philosophy” in Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory, New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

Butler, Judith, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex,” Routledge: New York, 1993.

Fuss, Diana, ”Den essentiella risken,” (orig. title Essentially Speaking ) ed. Lisbeth Larsson, Feminismer, Studentlitteratur: Lund, 1996 (1989), p 127-145.

Haraway, Donna, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspectives” in Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, London: Free Associations Books, 1991.

Spivak, Gayatri, ”Fransk feminism i internationellt perspektiv” (orig. titel In Other Worlds ), ed. Lisbeth Larsson, Feminismer, Studentlitteratur: Lund, 1996 (1988), p 107-126.

[1] Braidotti, Rosi 1994, p. 120

[2] Ahmed, Sara 2006, p. 172

[3] This idea is explained further in texts such as “Essentially Speaking” 1989, Diana Fuss, “In Other Worlds” 1988, Gayatri Spivak and in chapter 8 “Critically Queer” in Bodies That Matter 1993, Judith Butler.

[4] Haraway, Donna 1991, p.196

Conceptual Cluster 9: Ficto-Criticism

by sepidehkarami

Metro-cable in Caracas by Urban Think-Tank

Metro-cable in Caracas by Urban Think-Tank


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.