to extra large*:
a reader in incremental scales.
From understanding our individual positions, to working in and with the world.
By Céline Condorelli
This reader is structured in incremental scales, from small to extra-large via medium; this structure takes its cue from Rem Koolhaas’ book S, M, L, XL, which started in the field of architecture, but has also been a very influential work beyond it: to art, design, and spatial or cultural practices. What is meant by this is that the following series of references, texts, projects, films and websites, address issues and suggestions that start from ourselves as individuals, beings or bodies in the world, and gradually expand towards the larger scale, to how to be and act with the world. This is both a way to order this material in a comprehensible and accessible form, and a suggestion for understanding a particular way of being and learning that always starts from the particular and the personal before, or until, it can address the larger issues that may confront one’s work and interests. We can only understand the world if and when we understand where and how we are in it; where we are looking from.
This reader comprises material of varied natures, some very theoretical texts and others that are more casual in tone or just conversations. Some references are texts, others are films, or projects, websites, even a few buildings. Some of these items take only minutes to go through, while others requires some hours of concentration. No difference is made between types of references or materials (between texts and films for example); this is a choice to make no separation between theory and practice, to just consider all examples as works in and of themselves, that just happen to take place in different mediums. People address similar problems and issues in their work and lives, from different angles and through different languages, and I feel this list reflects this.
Lastly most of these works are online and include the urls to access them- those that aren’t online are included in the document itself.
This reader was originally put together for the students of Birmingham City University, on the request of Ruth Claxton and Stuart Whipps.
* (in hommage to Rem Koolhaas)
1. Charles and Ray Eames, Powers of Ten
2. Jorge Furtado, Ilha das Flores
3. George Perec, Species of Spaces
4. Yvonne Rainer, Hand Movie
5. Martha Rosler, Semiotics of the Kitchen
6. Jan Verwoert, I can, I can’t, Who cares
7. Martino Gamper, 100 chairs in 100 days
8. Eileen Gray’s house in Cap Martin: E1027
9. Raymond Queneau, Exercises in Style
10. Naomi Miller and Katarina Jerinic, The Work Office
11. Angela Melitopoulos, The Cell: Antonio Negri
12. Guy Debord, Theory of the Dérive, (from Society of the Spectacle)
13. Bik Van Der Pol
14. Hannah Arendt, The crisis in culture
15. Yves Klein, Le Vide
16. John Baldessari Sings Sol Lewitt
17. Louise Lawler, Pollock and Tureen, Arranged by Mr and Mrs Burton Remained, Connecticut
18. Chick Strand, Fake Fruit Factory
19. An Architektur, On the Commons: Public Interview with De Angelis and Stavrides
20. Gordon Matta-Clark, Day’s End
21. Hans Haacke, Photographic Notes
22. Brian O’Doherty, Inside the White Cube: the Gallery as Gesture
23. Michael Asher, Untitled
24. B. S. Johnson, Alison & Peter Smithson on housing
25. Dan Graham, Theatre, Cinema, Power
26. Walter Benjamin, The Author as Producer
27. Ines & Eyal Weizman, Celltexts
28. Michel de Certeau Walking in the City, (from The Practice of Everyday Life)
29. Diderot et D’Alembert, Encyclopédie
30. Italy: The New Domestic Landscape
31. Sean Snyder, Disobedience in Byelorussia: Self-Interrogation on “Research-Based Art”
32. Seth Siegelaub, The Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer And Sale Agreement
33. Temporary Services
34. Tatjana Schneider and Jeremy Till, Spatial Agency
35. Dziga Vertov, Man with the Movie Camera
36. John Berger, Ways of Seeing
37. Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
38. Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Touch Sanitation
39. Rikrit Tiravanija, The Land
40. Alain Resnais, Les Statues Meurent Aussi (Statues also die)
41. Roland Barthes, Mythologies
42. Rita Mcbride
43. Centre For Land Use Interpretation
44. Dan Graham, Rock My Religion
45. Rem Koolhaas, Junkspace
46. Chris Marker, Junkopia
48. Denise Scott Brown, Learning from Pop
49. Chris Marker, Sunless
50. They Rule
51. Michel Foucault/ Noam Chomsky, Human Nature: Justice versus Power
52. Elgaland and Vagaland
53. Dziga Vertov Group, Letter to Jane
Charles and Ray Eames, Powers of Ten
Powers of Ten is a 9 min scientific film essay produced by Charles and Ray Eames, and narrated by Phil Morrison, as part of their ongoing effort to integrate science and technology into everyday life, to make it more interesting and more accessible to the wider public through art and design. In nine minutes the film takes its viewers on a voyage, from a picnic in Chicago to the edge of the Universe, zooming out to cover ten times as much space every ten seconds; before returning to the picnicker, narrowing in on his hand by powers of ten, and coming to focus on a tiny quark within one of his cells.
This film is conceptually very simple and yet opens up extremely complex issues; of exponential growth and the appropriate units to define it, but also how questions of scale fundamentally articulate our understanding and relationship to the world.
Jorge Furtado, Ilha das Flores
The ironic, heartbreaking and acid “saga” of a spoiled tomato: from the plantation of a “Nisei” (Brazilian with Japanese origins); to a supermarket; to a consumer’s kitchen to become sauce of a pork meat; to the garbage can since it is spoiled for the consumption; to a garbage truck to be dumped in a garbage dump in “Ilha das Flores”; to the selection of nutriment for pigs by the employees of a pigs breeder; to become food for poor Brazilian people.
George Perec, Species of Spaces
(London: Penguin, 1997) Originally published as Espèces d’espaces (Paris: Galilée 1974)
Species of Spaces is a wonderful meditation on the world around us. Beginning with a contemplation of the space on the page before him, Perec gradually moves outwards to look at the bed, the bedroom, the apartment, the apartment building and so on until he reaches the Earth itself and then, once again, space. It’s an endearing combination of the comprehensive addresses that small children are inclined to give themselves and a serious scientific undertaking in the literary mode. In being forced to look so closely at the things that surround us, it’s impossible not to notice those things that we’ve taken for granted. It is also a brilliant example of how structures are invented to articulate and order ideas as a way to work.
pp.5 to 80
Most of it is accessible here
Yvonne Rainer, Hand Movie
6:17, b&w, silent
Rainer’s first film, Hand Movie, was shot by fellow dancer William Davis when Rainer was confined to a hospital bed, recovering from major surgery and unable to dance. The resulting five minutes of footage is a sustained close-up shot of Rainer’s hand against a grey background as it stretches and contracts, bends and points, performing the kinds of everyday, quotidian movements that characterize her pioneering minimalist choreography.
Martha Rosler, Semiotics of the Kitchen
6:09, b&w, sound.
In order to “bring conscious, concrete knowledge to your work… you had better locate yourself pretty concretely in it” said Rosler. Semiotics of the Kitchen is the clearest affirmation of how an artwork can be a form of knowledge production and what that might mean. I am grateful to Semiotics of the Kitchen for uncovering objects as instruments of normalisation, and refusing to be determined by them; for opening up the possibility to wrench them out of their pre-ascribed role and in this way re-invent the relationships they maintain, and taking hold of our own representation.
In Semiotics of the Kitchen Martha Rosler takes the role of ‘woman in the kitchen’ and proceeds to demonstrate kitchen utensils in alphabetical order. The removal of the instruments’ possible applications turns the piece into a performance of women’s instrumentalisation, with Rosler making herself into a tool to reveal social and economic conditions; in this way the piece shifts from what appears as an ironic critique on TV kitchen programmes, to a performance of structural violence. Investigating how the system of a male, white, capitalist-dominated culture permeates domesticity by working in it, Semiotics of the Kitchen shows how structures of domination and submission have to be understood not only within the economic, social, and political realms but also within the system of signs and language that constitutes them, as well as the fabric of everyday life.
The piece starts undoing the role of women in society, and while some of its details (like the fact it is in VHS) show its age, it is just as topical as it was at the time, and a fundamental reminder of the work yet to be done. The presence of women in society is still marginalised, albeit in other ways, and it rates particularly badly within the system of the art world. The numbers are shocking: Less than 8% of Tate’s solo shows have been by women in the 20th century, and generally, women artists comprise less than 5% of permanent collections at major museums around the world. Analysis of the one hundred highest grossing art auction performances of 2012 revealed there were no women on the list, and that women artists earn on average 25% less than their male counterparts . On the other hand and to make matters worse, practices associated with the feminine realm, for instance maintenance and service have been undermined by being historicized (as something that happened in a particular place and time) and the production of objects prevails.
Jan Verwoert, I can, I can’t, Who cares
Curatorial framework for the exhibition Sheffield 08: Yes No and Other Options
and extract from the pamphlet released during the exhibition:
Exhaustion & Exuberance – Ways to Defy the Pressure to Perform
Centre for advanced visual studies at MIT (2008)
A previous version of this essay was published in Dot Dot Dot 15 at the Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève.
“One thing seems to be sure: after the disappearance of factory work from the lives of most people in the Western world, we have entered into a culture where we do no longer just work, we perform. We need to perform because to do so is what is asked of us. When we choose to make our living on the basis of doing what we want to do, we need to get our act together, we need to get things down, in any place at any time. Are you ready? I ask you and I am sure that you will be as ready as you will ever be to perform yourself, do things and go places.”
I can, I can’t, Who cares
How can we address the current changes in our societies and lives? Some have said that we have come to inhabit the post-industrial condition. But what could that mean? One thing seems to be sure: after the disappearance of factory work from the lives of most people in the Western world, we have entered into a culture where we do no longer just work, we perform. We need to perform because to do so is what is asked of us. When we choose to make our living on the basis of doing what we want to do, we need to get our act together, we need to get things down, in any place at any time. Are you ready? I ask you and I am sure that you will be as ready as you will ever be to perform yourself, do things and go places.
Who is we? This group is ever expanding. It is us, the creative types who have created jobs for ourselves by exploring and exploiting our talents to perform small artistic and intellectual miracles. It is us, the socially engaged who create communal spaces for others and ourselves by performing the roles of interlocutors in and facilitators or instigators of processes of social exchange. When we perform we create concepts and ideas as well as social bonds and forms of communication and communality. Thereby we create the values that our society is supposed to be based on today. The Deutsche Bank currently sum up their company philosophy in a simple slogan (formulated in a symptomatically a-grammatical international English): A Passion to Perform (you have a passion for something but never to realise an end through actions. wisdom of grammar). So which side of the barricades are we on then? Where do the barricades stand today, anyway? We are the avant-garde but we are also the jobslaves. We serve the customers who consume the communication and sociability that we produce. We work in the kitchens and call centres of the newly opened restaurants and companies of the prospectively burgeoning new urban centres of the service society. To offer our services we are willing to travel. Being mobile is part of our performance. So we travel, we go west to work, we go north to work, we are all around, we fix the minds, houses and cars of those who stay in their offices. What do we feel about ourselves and our lives? Are we happy? Are we in charge? What pain and what pleasure are we experiencing in the lives we have created for ourselves?
What would it mean to put up resistance against a social order in which performativity has become a growing demand, if not a norm? What would it mean to resist the need to perform? Is ‘resistance’ even a concept that would be useful to evoke in this context? After all the forms of resistance we know are in fact usually dramatic performances themselves. Maybe we should rather consider other, more subtle forms of not performing, of staging as the Slovakian conceptual artist Julius Koller called them ‘anti-happenings’. What silent but effective forms of unwillingness, noncompliance, uncooperativeness, reluctance or non-alignment do we find in contemporary culture when it comes to inventing ways to not perform how and when you are asked to perform?
Can we ever embrace these forms of non-performance in art and thinking as forms of art and thinking? Or do we always find ourselves on the other side of the barricade, together with the performers and those who want to get things done and get enraged by people who stand in our way by being slow, sluggish and uncooperative. After all is not uncooperativeness the revenge uncreative people take on the society of the creative by stubbornly stopping it in its tracks? Have you
ever found yourself screaming (or wanting to scream) at an uncooperative clerk behind a counter: “I haven’t got time for this.” – only to realise that, yes, he has time for this, an entire lifetime dedicated to the project of stopping other people from getting things down? These people work hard to protect society from change by inventing ever new subtle ways to stop those in their tracks who want to revolutionise it. Are they the enemy? Or are they today maybe the strongest allies you may find when you want to put up defences against a culture of compulsive performativity?
But does it have to take other people to make you stop performing? When and how do you give up on the demand and need to perform? What could make you utter the magic words ‘I can’t’? Does it take a breakdown to stop you? Do the words I can’t already imply the acknowledgment of a breakdown, a failure to perform, a failure that would not be justifiable if your body would not authenticate your inability by physically stopping you? How could we restore dignity to the ‘I Can’t’? What ways of living and acting out the I Can’t do we find in art and music? Was that not what Punk for instance was all about? To transgress your (musical) capacities by rigorously embracing you incapacities? To rise above demands by frustrating all expectations? When the Sex-Pistols on one of their last gigs, when it was practically all over already and the band simply could no longer get their act together, Johnny Rotten turned to the audience and asked “Do you ever feel you have been cheated?” Would that be a question to rephrase today? If so, how? There are ways of confronting people with the I Can’t that put it right in their face. But maybe there are also other means of making the I Can’t part of a work, of putting it to work, means that art and and poetry have always used, namely by creating moments where meaning remains latent. To embrace latency goes against the grain of the logic of compulsive performativity because it all about leaving things unsaid, unshown, unrevealed, it is about refraining from actualising and thereby exhausting all your potentials in the moment of your performance. We have to re- think and learn to re-experience the beauty of latency.
What is the time?
Performance is all about the right timing. A comedian with a bad sense of timing is not funny, a musician useless. Career opportunities, we are told, are all about being in the right place at the right time. Finding a lover to love maybe also is. Is there a right time for love? Stressed out overworked couples are advised these days to reserve ‘quality time’ for each other to prevent their relationship from loosing its substance. What is quality time? “Is it a good time for you to talk?” people will ask you when they reach you on your mobile. When is a good time to talk? We live and work in economies based on the concept of ‘just in-time-production’ and ‘just in time’ usually means things have to be ready in no time at all, urgency is the norm. ‘I haven’t got time for this!’ the just in time producer will shout at you when you are not on time and make him wait.
To be in synch with the timing of just in time production you have to be ready to perform all the time. This is the question you must be prepared to answer positively: Are you ready? Always. Ready when you are. As ready as I will ever be. Always up for it. Stay on the scene. Porn is pure performance. Impotence is out of the question. “Get on the fucking block and fuck!” is the formula for getting things down. Frances Stark recently quoted it to me when we talked about the culture of performance. She got the sentence from Henry Miller and included it in one of her collages.
What happens when there is a lapse of time, when time is out of joint. Are we not living in times now when time is always radically disjointed as the ‘developed’ countries of the first world a pushing ahead into a science fiction economy of dematerialised labour and virtual capital – while it at the same time pushes the
‘developing’ countries centuries back in time by sourcing work out to them and thereby also imposing working conditions on them that basically date back to the days of early industrialisation? Sometimes the time-gap doesn’t even have to span centuries, it might just be years as some of countries of the former East (like Poland for instance) are rapidly catching up to the speed of advanced capitalism, but still not rapidly enough. Migrant workers bridge this gap in time. They travel ahead in time to work in the fast cities of the West and North. Yet, they face the risk of any time- traveller as they lose touch with the time that passes while they are away. Will they ever find back into their time or learn to inhabit the other time of the other country. How much time-zone can you inhabit? Who is to set the clock and make the pace according to which all others are measuring their progress? “Que horas sont a Washington?” sings Mano Chao and it may very well be the crucial political question of this moment.
But would to embrace the I Can’t mean to vilify the I Can? Why would we ever want to do that? After all the joy of art, writing and performing freely lies in the realisation that you can, a sense of empowerment through creativity that in ecstatic moments of creative performance can flood your body with the force of an adrenaline rush. And then living out the I Can is not just a cheap thrill. To face up to your own potentials might be one of the most challenging tasks of your life if not even your responsibility. Giorgio Agamben speaks about the pleasure and terror of the I Can in this way. He refers to an account by the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova who describes how it came about that she became a writer. Standing outside a Leningrad prison in 1930 where her son was a political prisoner, another woman whose son was also imprisoned, asked her: Can you write about this? She found that she had to respond that yes, indeed she could and in this moment found herself both empowered and indebted.
Today it seems most crucial to really understand this link between the empowerment and the debt at the heart of the experience of creative performance. In what way are we always already indebted to others when we perform? In what way is it precisely this indebtedness to others that enables us to perform in the first place? Could an ethics of a different type of performance – one that aknowleges the debt to the other instead of over-ruling it hectically to improve the efficiency of performance – be developed on the basis of this understanding? How could we perform differently? Freely? In his film Theorema Passolini draws up a scenario of unleashed performativity. A factory owner hands over the factory to the workers. His obligations to work haver thereby come to an end. In the villa of the factory owner a young man arrives, he has no personality or features except for the fact that he is a charming lover. He sleeps with all members of the family and leaves again. Disconnected from work and freed by love all family members start to perform: The son acknowledges he is gay and becomes a painter. The daughter decides to never move nor speak again. The mother cruises the streets and sleeps with strangers. The housemaid decides to not commit suicide, instead she becomes a saint, starts to levitate and cure sick children. The factory owner himself decides to take his clothes off in the main train station and walk off into a nearby volcano. All of these actions remain uncommented and they are presented as all having the same value as they are equally possible and the possibility of each of these performances does not nivellate or relativise the possibility of any other. Passolini thus describes a situation where the end of work and the arrival of work creates the possibility for a radical co-existence and co-presence of liberated performances which are not forced under the yoke of any single dominant imperative to perform in a particular way. How could we create and inhabit such a condition of undisciplined performativity?
To recognize the indebtedness to the other as that which empowers performance also means to acknowledge the importance of care. You perform because you care. When you care for someone or something this care enables you to act because you feel that you must act, not least because when you really care to not act is out of the question. In conversation Annika Eriksson recently summed this point up by saying that, as a mother when your child is in need of you ‘there is no no’. You have to be able to act and react and you will find that You Can even if you thought you couldn’t. Paradoxically though, the I Care can generate the I Can but it can also radically delimit it. Because when you care for yourself and others, this obligation might in fact force you to turn down offers to work and perform for others, in other places, on other occasions. When the need to take care of your friends, family, children or lover will come between you and the demand to perform, to profess the I Can’t (work now, come to the event ..) may then be the only justified way to show that you care. Likewise the recognition that you are exhausting yourself and need to take care of yourselves can constitute a reason to turn down an offer to perform and utter the ‘I Can’t’. So from the I Care both the I Can and the I Can’t may originate. The I Care is the question of welfare. In the historical moment of the dismantling of the welfare state this is a pressing question. In a talk Jimmy Durham cited two people he had met in Italy as saying: “We are liberated. What we need now is a better life.” Maybe this is indeed the question: How do we want to deal with the potential of living life caring for yourself and others by negotiating the freedom and demands of the I Can and I Can’t in a way that would another form, another ethics another attitude to creative and social performance possible?
Martino Gamper, 100 chairs in 100 days
“This project involves systematically collecting discarded chairs from London streets (or more frequently, friends’ homes) over a period of about roughly two years, then spending 100 days to reconfiguring the design of each one in an attempt to transform its character and/or the way it functions. My intention is to investigate the potential for creating useful new designs by blending together stylistic or structural elements of existing chair types.
I see this as a chance to create a ‘three-dimensional sketchbook’, a set of playful yet thought-provoking designs that, due to the time constraint, are put together with a minimum of analysis. As well as possibly making one or more designs that might be suitable for mass production, I intend to question the idea of there being an innate superiority in the one-off, to use this mongrel morphology to demonstrate the difficulty of any particular design being objectively judged ‘the best’. I also hope my chairs illustrate – and celebrate – the geographical, historical and human resonance of design: what can they tell us about London, the sociological context of seating from different areas, and the people who owned each one? The stories behind the chairs are as important as their style or even their function.”
E1027: Eileen Gray’s house in Cap Martin
Raymond Queneau, Exercises in Style
Exercises in Style, written by Raymond Queneau, is a collection of 99 retellings of the same story, told in a different style. In each, the narrator gets on the “S” bus (now no. 84), witnesses an altercation between a man (a “zazou”), with a long neck and funny hat, and another passenger, and then sees the same person two hours later at the Gare St-Lazare getting advice on adding a button to his overcoat.
The Work Office
The Work Office (TWO) is a multidisciplinary art project disguised as an employment agency, adminstered by Naomi Miller and Katarina Jerinic. Informed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of the Great Depression in the 1930s, TWO is a gesture to “make work” for visual and performing artists, writers, and others by giving them simple, idea-based assignments to explore, document, or improve daily life in New York. From a temporary central office, TWO’s administrators interview, register, and hire employees; assign, collect, and exhibit work; and distribute Depression-era wages to employees during weekly Payday Parties.
Angela Melitopoulos, The Cell: Antonio Negri, Prologue
The Cell is a series of three video interviews with Antonio Negri: 1997 while he was in exile in Paris, in 1998 in the Roman prison of Rebibbia, and in 2003 after his release in Rome.
For Antonio Negri, a 17 year long chapter of repressive Italian politics of detention, exile, and imprisonment recently ended. The question for Negri is how one can preserve the freedom of spirit within a penal structure that focuses more on the interior than exterior life of the prisoner. He characterizes this particular loneliness as the powerlessness to act politically, in contrast to another solitude drawn by Spinoza, whom he already dedicated a study during his first imprisonment from 1979 to 1983. Negri describes Spinoza’s solitude as “a constitutive act of going out of oneself for the construction of community that passes the concrete analysis of every atom of reality.” In other words, solitude as a possibility to construct different worlds through what is common, solitude as indication of a common perspective, where “each of us is a machine that produces reality, each of us is a machine that constructs.” For Negri there is only the militant who succeeds in experiencing the poverty of the world, identifying new forms of exploitation and suffering, organizing around this processes of liberation, but also participating in them, for “thought is never abstract, it is always concrete.”
Angela Melitopoulos is an artist and filmmaker who has realized experimental single-channel films, video installations, videoessays, documentaries and sound pieces. For her, media art as time based technology reveals mnemonic and micro-political processes in documentation. Her work focuses on migration, memory and narration.
Guy Debord, Theory of the Dérive (from Society of the Spectacle)
Theory of the Dérive was first published in ‘Internationale Situationniste #2’ (Paris, December 1958). One of the basic situationist practices is the “dérive” [literally: “drifting”], a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. “Dérives” involve playful constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects and ,thus, are quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.
French writer and Situationist Guy Debord first theorized this concept in his studies of architecture. The original concept was to explore a built environment without preconceptions, without limiting legitimate discussion to architectural styles or residential percentages, instead aiming to discuss the reality of inhabiting an environment.
Bik Van Der Pol
Liesbeth Bik and Jos van der Pol have worked collaboratively since 1995. They live and work in Rotterdam.
For Bik Van der Pol, the art experience happens as a collaboration with the public, who through making use of the work, complete it. Liesbeth Bik and Jos van der Pol do not restrict engagement, but rather funnel it by means of the forms they give their work: a library, a public picnic place, an evening outdoor hang-out…. The conditions they set up for art experiences to happen, make their art a gift: ‘We can be very precise in the staging of our work, but we have no control…we’d rather let it go and hope that the articulation gives enough.’ Their openness allows for a true exchange: reciprocity without prescription. The gift that is their art is offered unconditionally, without obligation or payment. Yet it is because they give their art generously with no fixed expectation or goal, and because they give it with clear intentions informed by a ‘continuous optimism and trust in the function of art as a catalyst for change’, that manifold, reciprocal effects are set in motion.
This website is built like a book and offers a survey of their work:
Hannah Arendt, ‘The Crisis in Culture’, from Between past and future: Six Exercises in Political Thought
“That the capacity to judge is a specifically political ability in exactly the sense denoted by Kant, namely, the ability to see things not only from one’s own point of view but in the perspective of all those who happen to be present; even that judgment may be one of the fundamental abilities of man as a political being insofar as it enables him to orient himself in the public realm, in the common world these are insights that are virtually as old as articulated experience. (…) Therefore taste, insofar as it, like any other judgment, appeals to common sense, is the very opposite of private feelings. In aesthetic no less than in political judgments, a decision is made, and although this decision is always determined by a certain subjectivity, by the simple fact that each person occupies a place of his own from which he looks upon and judges the world, it also derives from the fact that the world itself is an objective datum, something common to all its inhabitants.?(…) At any rate, we may remember what the Romans the first people that took culture seriously the way we do thought a cultivated person ought to be: one who knows how to choose his company among men, among things, among thoughts, in the present as well as in the past.”
Text as separate PDF
Yves Klein, La specialization de la sensibilité a l’etat de matière première en sensibilité picturale stabilize (Le Vide), Galerie Iris Clert, Paris
Le Vide makes the invisible visible, and exhibits something by exhibiting nothing. The empty exhibition at Iris Clert put the notion of ‘gallery’ on display for the first time, by reducing the system of the art world to its most stubbornly invisible and yet impregnable boundaries. Klein paid enormous attention to all the arrangements surrounding the exhibition, especially focusing on the opening night: a huge publicity campaign with monochrome-stamped invitations, blue cocktails and Republican guards at the entrance, pretending to control the crowd of three thousand people trying to get in. There was nothing presented inside that hadn’t been there before, but it might have been the first time it was actually seen, and therefore in many ways Klein invented the gallery context with that single, much self-mythologized gesture. Le Vide shows what frames the effective reality of art: its spatial, economic, socio-political conditions –a working site that needs to be questioned and exposed over and over again.
John Baldessari Sings Sol Lewitt
In John Baldessari Sings Sol LeWitt Balderassi sings 35 of Sol LeWitt’s conceptual statements each to a different tune. A hallmark of Balderassi’s work, from the earliest to the most recent, is that even viewers who might be unwilling to consider it as serious art, perhaps even as art at all, can still understand his humour and approach. That long-present quality is something he sees as deriving from an interest in pulling away from a more cloistered idea of art practice. “What would happen if you just gave people what they want?” he recalls of his early thoughts on the matter. “And I think the other thing that’s informed my work a lot was teaching. I did it just to support myself, but then it fitted back into my art, in that I realised that art was about communication… you wouldn’t be a closet artist. I thought: ‘Why not? What’s wrong with communicating?’ ”
Louise Lawler, Pollock and Tureen, Arranged by Mr and Mrs Burton Remained, Connecticut
Silver dye bleach print
For showing something never seen or shown: what happens to artworks after they have been sold, or before they are shown. For displaying an artwork as it exists in the context of everyday life, in its tangible reality of ownership, meaning how one works and lives with it. For disclosing how an artwork considered as exemplary appears outside the rarefied and thoroughly controlled space-time of the exhibition. Finally, for demonstrating how this laying bare of conditions and repressions is not a contradiction with making art, and that the critique can and should be integrated in the work, especially as it reveals how the separation of capitalisation is something in which artists also take part.
While being someone normally excluded from the homes in which major artworks might exist, Lawler was one day granted full access to the Connecticut home of twentieth-century collectors Mr and Mrs Burton Tremaine, and without her knowing, just a few years before much of their collection was dispersed at Christie’s. The photograph only uses available light, capturing with a 35mm camera the intimate dialogues established by belongings, as a late Jackson Pollock converses with the filigree of a soup bowl. Through its focus and frame, Pollock and Tureen tells how the hierarchies of value rely on specific acts of framing, classification and maintenance. As Brian O’Doherty observed: “We only see what we look for, but we only look for what we can see.”
Chick Strand, Fake Fruit Factory
This is a twenty minute documentary about a group of Mexican women making fake fruit. It is however something far grander and more realized than simply documenting an unusual type of employment. What Chick Strand creates in her brief documentary is an ethereal study of human existence as seen through the lives of a few under-appreciated and blatantly exploited women. Unlike other fly on the wall documentaries, Strand offers you no explanation as to what you are watching besides an occasional title card of explanation, you are left to glean from the film what is shown and what is said by the works, most of which is referencing the sexual life of the women. This approach makes considerable sense given Strand’s close ties to the ethnography program that existed at UCLA in the 1970’s. What Fake Fruit Factory becomes through Strand’s vision is a concise narrative essay on a few women who are being exploited by an often faceless white man, who only desires their craftiness and, at times, exotic bodies. We as viewers fear the worst when we realize that their is little these women can do to escape, until we are shown the women enjoying a picnic and swimming at an unknown park. This brief moment reminds viewers that life is not about the products we create or those things we can quantify, but instead the always fleeting moments of quality which toss and turn like agitated waters. Chick Strand offers something different and proves how integral experimentation in film has become to the grander evolution of cinema.
An Architektur, On the Commons: Public Interview with De Angelis and Stavrides
As Italian economist Massimo de Angelis argues, capital accumulation “must attend to the needs of a variety of social actors and groups, and at the same time make sure that these needs, desires, and value practices, manifesting themselves in terms of struggles, do not break away from its ordering principles, but, on the contrary, become moments of its reproduction.”
This contestation has two possible ends: the first is, as De Angelis clarifies, that social cooperation—which, as social beings, we cannot avoid—including the creation of sociality at work, in the home, and in all forms of cultural or activist knowledge-production, becomes an alien force under the laws of market competition; the other is—as he argues in his conversation with the editorial collective of An Architektur—that the very fact that we are social beings, that we possess an ability to produce commonness, and not only common goods, needs to be understood as a contradiction within capitalism’s own relations of production, especially as this relates to its need for enclosure and scarcity.
Gordon Matta-Clark, Day’s End
Gordon Matta-Clark’s artistic project was a radical investigation of architecture, deconstruction, space, and urban environments. Dating from 1971 to 1977, his most prolific and vital period, his film and video works include documents of major pieces in New York, Paris, and Antwerp, and are focused on three areas: performances and recycling pieces; space and texture works; and his building cuts.
Hans Haacke, Photographic Notes, documenta 2
For showing how people inhabit exhibitions and working against the removal of the perception, intention, and individual choice in how art exists: for presenting conditions. Photographic Notes, documenta 2, 1959 might count as Haacke’s first piece. It is a series of 26 black and white photographs that were taken at Documenta 2, where he worked as an assistant during his summer break from the Art Academy in Kassel. The photographs record one of the first confrontations of the German public with modern and contemporary art, including works by artists such as Mondrian, Pollock and Kandinsky. It also documents an important moment and attempt to re-ignite hope, through the possibility for culture, after the Nazi period, in a Germany devastated by destruction and depression. While being his first work in many ways, it also already clearly outlines Haacke’s concern with the sociology of art, and his unlikely awareness of the dependency of art on its context, which informs so much of his later work. This series of photographs were only first shown in 1988, in Stations of Modernism at the Berlinische Galerie.
Photographic Notes, documenta 2, 1959 reveals that galleries and museums are the intricate amalgam of social structures and historical narratives, visual and material culture, exhibition practices and strategies of display, and the concerns and imperatives of various governing ideologies. And yet social spaces are not containers in which subjects and objects are simply placed and in which the action then happens, rather they are made as spaces through the changing relations between subjects and objects . In that sense, a gallery is never empty and waiting to be filled with subjects, objects, discourses (or signs), but rather its condition of possibility as a gallery is brought into play through the tensions established around subjects, objects, discourses and signs. The exhibitions they host, therefore, manifest the complex and only partly explicit negotiations between museum or gallery conditions and the various practices and agendas that contend with them, while these might be imbedded in overlapping, or conflicting cultural ideologies.
an essay by Hans Haacke with Photographic Notes
Brian O’Doherty, Inside the White Cube: the Gallery as Gesture
Inside the White Cube was originally published as a series of three articles in Artforum in 1976, and subsequently collected in a book of the same name, which was re-printed in three further editions with postfaces updating the issues at stake and linking them to present conditions. Of the unexpected shifts in gallery conditions through the 1980s, O’Doherty said: “There’s a paradox involved because the book was meant to expose what was unseen, to make manifest the latent content of a cultural construct. It’s done that for some, I believe, but in the long run it seems to have confirmed for many that the white cube is a space that has virtue and should be used. So, there are two responses. One that confirms the white cube as a necessary modality for showing art and the other that says we must break down the notion of this privileged space.” The book is as relevant and important as it was forty years ago, and continues to be sold and read widely, which also confirms the persistent struggle against the normalisation of art’s conditions, and the white cube’s associated notions of ‘neutrality’, both of which function to dissimulate the ideology of commodity fetishism and the construction of value.
Inside the White Cube is part of the rich discourse that throughout the 1970s and 1980s meant the upheaval of western art world, while in the wealth of writings on space and politics and the ideology critique of the museum since then however, there appears to be a lack of critical literature on the means and underlying ideologies of the making and presentation of space, like scaffolding, support structures and infrastructures, types of frames and framing. The practices concerned with the active re-invention of the contexts for art production and distribution now seem to be absent or hidden, and there is a minority of cultural practitioners that work on circumstances beyond those already offered to them, that try and imagine as part of their work other possible conditions for cultural practice, which is such a powerful drive behind O’Doherty’s text. As has been said many times, by integrating the critique, in many ways institutions only co-opted it, and in this way capitalised upon potentially dangerous practices, a process which inevitably lead to their de-politicisation. At this point, rather than think ‘beyond the white cube’, it would seem necessary to engage critically with what this very white cube is made of, and how it is made.
Michael Asher, Untitled, Claire Copley Gallery, Los Angeles.
For being a sculpture formed by an idea rather than by physical gestures, and thus creating an exhibition that does not involve objects of the artist’s own making. For crafting the existing contingencies that make its own presentation possible. For literally opening the discourse of the exhibition to issues of labour and economic exchange, while inviting gallerist and public alike to re-examine their understanding of what constitutes an artwork
Untitled consisted of removing the partition wall that used to separate the exhibition space from the office area at Claire Copley Gallery, revealing the otherwise hidden gallerist working at her desk. All physical traces of any work having been done were cleaned up (in the same way that these are erased from any exhibition) and, in this way, visitors to the gallery entered a space whose only apparent focus was the administration of business. Untitled achieves, through the most precise economy of means, a radical shift in focus, bringing direct attention onto the larger discourses and conditions that inform art’s production and distribution. This simple work of removal has often been misunderstood for the display of an empty gallery space, while on the contrary it allows it to be filled with an altered set of conditions, which are in effect what is being exhibited in their full materiality through this act of inversion. Asher’s practice consistently responded to the ways in which museums and exhibition spaces present themselves, or the objects they display, to their various publics, making it a seminal reference to both notions of site-specificity and institutional critique. Re-claiming a slow production not based in objects, his careful projects persistently questioned the logic of particular organizational orders through their spatial manifestations, thus uncovering hidden or immaterial elements essential to a context’s functioning.
B. S. Johnson, Alison & Peter Smithson on housing
B. S. Johnson’s short documentary about Alison and Peter Smithson, made for the BBC in 1970 when they were working on Robin Hood Gardens in Poplar, E14, a housing block completed in 1972. The BBC hated the film so much that it ended Johnson’s working relationship with them as a producer, although he wrote the television play Not Counting the Savages for them in 1972.
Certainly, the Smithsons are not telegenic – they’re shot in close-up, cannot hold their gaze at the camera, and often come across like stern, detached schoolmasters. Aspects of their philosophy sound very dated, too, although there is a utopianism to their ideas and designs that has, for the worse, been squeezed out of the discourse. The Smithsons, if they were still alive, would be heartbroken that Robin Hood Gardens is currently being demolished to make way for a complex designed primarily for the financial classes that populate Canary Wharf.
Dan Graham, Theatre, Cinema, Power
In his essay, Theatre, Cinema, Power, Dan Graham analyses the development of the theatre as an enclosed architectural form, linking it to the codification of laws of perspective, and the political emergence of the bourgeois city-state in the European renaissance. Graham looks specifically at the hierarchies at stake in the arrangement of fixed seating, and the Baroque stage’s deep perspectival illusionism, which determined a privileged, ‘ideal’ viewing point and draws a macrocosmic parallel with the position of the Ducal palace looking over the public plaza. The last section of Graham’s article makes a reverse analogy with the position of then president Ronald Reagan, who, beginning as a film actor, now “plays ‘himself’and speaks the views of power” on an all-pervasively theatricalised world stage.
First Published in Parachute (Montreal), no.31 (Summer 1983), this essay came directly out of Graham’s work on the cinema, and is a specific attempt to trace the class-based origins of theatre architecture. In addressing the broad theme of architecture and power, this essay continues many of the arguments Graham raised in The city as Museum, which was published slightly earlier. Most importantly perhaps, this essay is also a piece inscribed in his larger body of work, which uses text as a medium and the magazine as a format.
Text as separate PDF
Walter Benjamin, The Author as Producer
In his groundbreaking essay The Author as Producer Walter Benjamin suggests an aesthetics of production. Okwui Enwezor introduced the text as follows: “On April 27, 1934 Walter Benjamin delivered a lecture at the Institute for the Study of Fascism in Paris. In the lecture, The Author as Producer, Benjamin addressed an important question that, since, has not ceased to pose itself, namely, “to what degree does political awareness in a work of art become a tool for the deracination of the autonomy of the work and that of the author?”
Text as separate PDF
This project and resource by Ines & Eyal Weizman, is organized around a collection of hundreds of books and other texts from across the world written under conditions of enforced incarceration. The collection includes the work of writers who have been sent to prison for the contents of their writing, for their political involvement, as well as of prisoners convicted of other crimes who have used the time and seclusion of their incarceration to become writers. Through the collection of texts an archipelago of prison cells emerges. The cells are thus revealed as sites of intellectual production, marking the limit condition of writing. The collection is assembled in recognition that spatial confinement and isolation may induce a process of creative, imaginative, sometimes spiritual, cultural production.
The individual’s impulse to survive through texts, through reclaiming her own voice against the imposition of others, creates an autarkic realm in which practices of dissidence, political and personal, could be reinstated. Commissioned and designed by and for the state, prison cells acquire a potential subversive content, becoming critical spatial apparatuses. Paradoxically, imprisonment emerges as an active practice of citizenship a mechanism of political opposition that call for a confrontation or intolerance with certain forms of government.
Michel de Certeau, Walking in the City, (from The Practice of Everyday Life)
de Certeau’s most well-known and influential work has been The Practice of Everyday Life. In it, he combined his disparate scholarly interests to develop a theory of the productive and consumptive activity inherent in everyday life. According to de Certeau, everyday life is distinct from other practices of daily existence because it is repetitive and unconscious. In this context, this study of everyday life is neither the study of “popular culture”, nor is it necessarily the study of everyday resistances to regimes of power. Instead, he attempts to outline the way individuals unconsciously navigate everything from city streets to literary texts.
Perhaps the most influential aspect of The Practice of Everyday Life has emerged from scholarly interest in de Certeau’s distinction between the concepts of strategy and tactics. Whereas “strategies” are linked with institutions and structures of power, “tactics” are utilized by individuals to create space for themselves in environments defined by strategies. In the influential chapter Walking in the City, he describes “the city” as a concept, generated by the strategic maneuvering of governments, corporations, and other institutional bodies who produce things like maps that describe the city as a unified whole, as it might be experienced by someone looking down from high above. By contrast, the walker at street level moves in ways that are tactical and never fully determined by the plans of organizing bodies, taking shortcuts or meandering aimlessly in spite of the utilitarian layout of the grid of streets. This concretely illustrates de Certeau’s assertion that everyday life works by a process of poaching on the territory of others, recombining the rules and products that already exist in culture in a way that is influenced, but never wholly determined, by those rules and products.
A general introduction to Michel de Certeau’s Practice of everyday life here
And the chapter on walking here
Diderot et D’Alembert, Encyclopédie
Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (English: Encyclopedia, or a systematic dictionary of the sciences, arts, and crafts) was a general encyclopedia published in France between 1751 and 1772, with later supplements, revised editions, and translations. Encyclopédie was one of the very first attempts to document the world in its entirety in an encyclopedia. It is famous, above all, for representing the thought of the Enlightenment. According to Denis Diderot in the article Encyclopédie, the aim was “to change the way people think”.
The Drawings are available here
General info about the encyclopedia can be found here
Italy: The New Domestic Landscape, MoMA, New York
A seminal exhibition curated by Emilio Ambasz at New York’s MoMA in 1972, Italy: The New Domestic Landscape was described at the time as “one of the most ambitious design exhibitions ever undertaken by the Museum of Modern Art”. Combining 180 design objects with 11 environmental installations commissioned from the finest of the Italian design vanguard (Joe Colombo, Ettore Sottsass, Gaetano Pesce, Superstudio and more), the exhibition went one step further in its representation of design culture, by inviting the environments’ designers to produce short films to activate and accompany their installations. The films’ cosmic critical abstractions and adaptations of design and space to the moving image continue to resonate and influence. Combining 70s electronic and rock soundtracks with sci-fi futurism, the suite of films document a mesmerising set of experiments and a time capsule of 70s design thinking. Often appearing like a form of abstract theatre set inside the house of tomorrow, the films are saturated both in the film-culture of the 1970s, the aesthetics of advertising, and the spirit of a pending near future; a future viewed with a mixture of utopic revelry and dystopic apprehension by the assembled designers.
Sean Snyder, Disobedience in Byelorussia: Self-Interrogation on “Research-Based Art”
Sean Snyder’s Disobedience in Byelorussia attempts to reconstruct a series of interrogations he once experienced on a flight to Israel. Placed in the position of having to justify his profession as an artist to an El Al security officer, Snyder was forced into a series of frank admissions through which his relationship to his own practice and to the mechanisms of the art word were laid bare.
Seth Siegelaub, The Artist’s Reserved Rights Transfer And Sale Agreement
“The three-page Agreement on the following pages has been drafted by Bob Projansky, a New York lawyer, after my extensive discussions and correspondence with over 500 artists, dealers, collectors, museum people, critics and others involved in the day-to-day workings of the international art world.
The Agreement has been designed to remedy some generally acknowledged inequities in the art world, particularly artists’ lack of control over the use of their work and participation in its economics after they no longer own it.
The Agreement form has been written with special awareness of the current ordinary practices and economic realities of the art world particularly its private, cash and informal nature, with careful regard for the interests and motives of all concerned.
It is expected to be the standard form for all transfer and sale of all contemporary art and has been made as fair, simple and useful as possible. It can be used either as presented here or slightly altered to fit your specific situation. If you have questions as regards any part of the agreement, you should consult your attorney.”
“Temporary Services” is Brett Bloom, Salem Collo-Julin and Marc Fischer, is based in Illinois, and has existed, with several changes in membership and structure, since 1998.
“We produce exhibitions, events, projects, and publications. The distinction between art practice and other creative human endeavors is irrelevant to us.”
An extraordinary resource and fascinating project.
A project by Tatjana Schneider and Jeremy Till that presents a new way of looking at how buildings and space can be produced. Moving away from architecture’s traditional focus on the look and making of buildings, Spatial Agency proposes a much more expansive field of opportunities in which architects and non-architects can operate. It suggests other ways of doing architecture. In the spirit of Cedric Price the project started with the belief that a building is not necessarily the best solution to a spatial problem. The project attempts to uncover a second history of architecture, one that moves sharply away from the figure of the architect as individual hero, and replaces it with a much more collaborative approach in which agents act with, and on behalf of, others.
Dziga Vertov, Man with the Movie Camera
Dziga Vertov’s Man With a Movie Camera is a stunning avant-garde, documentary meta-narrative which celebrates Soviet workers and filmmaking. The film uses radical editing techniques and cinematic pyrotechnics to portray a typical day in Moscow from dawn to dusk. But Vertov isn’t just recording reality on his camera, instead he transforms it through the power of the camera’s “kino-glaz” (cinema eye). Vertov’s rich imagery transcends the earth-bound limitations of our everyday ways of seeing.
Vertov was a working-class artist who desired to link workers with machines. His film opens with a manifesto, a series of intertitles telling us that this film is an “experiment,” a search for an “absolute language of cinema” that is “based on its total separation from the language of literature and theater.” Vertov desired to create cinema that had its own “rhythm, one lifted from nowhere else, and we find it in the movements of things.” For Vertov an emphasis on the psychological interfered with the worker’s “desire for kinship with the machine.” As a people’s artist, Vertov felt that the people’s cinema must “introduce creative joy into all mechanical labor” and “foster new people.”
A general introduction to Dziga Vertov is here
and the film is here
John Berger, Ways of Seeing
“Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak. But there is also another sense in which seeing comes before words. It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but word can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it. The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled.”
Ways of Seeing is a 1972 BBC four-part television series of 30-minute films created chiefly by writer John Berger and producer Mike Dibb. Berger’s scripts were then adapted into a book of the same name, which was made by Berger and Dibb, along with Sven Blomberg, Chris Fox, and designer Richard Hollis (who is listed, appropriately, as co-author). It consists of seven numbered essays: four using words and images; and three using only images. The book has contributed to feminist readings of popular culture, through essays that focus particularly on depictions of women in advertisements and oil paintings.
Episode 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnfB-pUm3eI
And the amazing book
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
“Kublai Khan does not necessarily believe everything Marco Polo says when he describes the cities visited on his expeditions, but the emperor of the Tartars does continue listening to the young Venetian with greater attention and curiosity than he shows any other messenger or explorer of his. In the lives of emperors there is a moment which follows pride in the boundless extension of the territories we have conquered, and the melancholy and relief of knowing we shall soon give up any thought of knowing and understanding them. There is a sense of emptiness that comes over us at evening, with the odour of the elephants after the rain and the sandalwood ashes growing cold in the braziers, a dizziness that makes rivers and mountains tremble on the fallow curves of the planispheres where they are portrayed, and rolls up, one after the other, the despatches announcing to us the collapse of the last enemy troops, from defeat to defeat, and flakes the wax of the seals of obscure kings who beseech our armies’ protection, offering in exchange annual tributes of precious metals, tanned hides, and tortoise shell. It is the desperate moment when we discover that this empire, which had seemed to us the sum of all wonders, is an endless, formless ruin, that corruption’s gangrene has spread too far to be healed by our sceptre, that the triumph over enemy sovereigns has made us the heirs of their long undoing. Only in Marco Polo’s accounts was Kublai Khan able to discern, through the walls and towers destined to crumble, the tracery of a pattern so subtle it could escape the termites’ gnawing.”
Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Touch Sanitation
For integrating the activities necessary ‘to keep things going’ as an essential part of work and of artwork. For challenging the domestic role of women and putting it in direct relationship to that of maintenance workers, and for turning Ukeles into a ‘maintenance artist’ on the scale of an entire city. For opening up the possibilities of an artist working in society by collaborating directly with people, a city department, and with infrastructure.
In 1977, following her piece I Make Maintenance Art One Hour Every Day, which involved the workers who cleaned and maintained the building where the show was held, Mierle Laderman Ukeles was invited to be artist in residence at the New York City Department of Sanitation. The position included a studio, from which the artist still works, but no stipend, thus reflecting some of the issues at stake and providing structural support to her practice. For Ukeles maintenance corresponds to the realm of human activities that keep things going such as cleaning, cooking, and child rearing. Her 1969 Maintenance Art Manifesto! declared: “I do a hell of a lot of washing, cleaning, cooking, renewing, supporting, preserving, etc. Also, up to now separately I ‘do’ Art. Now, I will simply do these maintenance everyday things, and flush them up to consciousness, exhibit them, as Art.” Applied on the scale of the city, Touch Sanitation provides a powerful critique of the inherent de-valuing of care work in society, and contributes a powerful, optimistic, endearing option of how to do otherwise.
Rikrit Tiravanija, The Land
Initiated in 1998, The land (a more direct translation from Thai to English would be, the rice field) was a merging of ideas from different artists, to cultivate a place of, and for, social engagement. Though the action to acquire the rice fields was initiated by two artists from Thailand, the project was anonymous and didn’t legitimate a concept of ownership. The land was to be cultivated as an open space, though with certain intentions towards community, discussion, and experimentation in other areas of thought. The topographical environment (landscape), was cultivated using the argicultural techniques and philosophy of a Thai farmer by the name of Chaloui Kaewkong. The topography is composed: 1/4 earth (mass) to 3/4 water (liquid), the same ratio of mass to liquid as makes up the human body.
Alain Resnais, Les Statues Meurent Aussi (Statues also die)
Les Statues meurent aussi was commissioned by the literary review and publishing house, Présence Africaine, which was set up in 1947 in Paris as a quarterly literary review for emerging and important African writers. Founded by the Senegalese thinker Alioune Diop, it housed the writings of some of the most important francophone thinkers in the latter half of the 20th century. Having emerged so soon after the new French Constitution of 1946 had declared a “French Union”, Présence Africaine’s publications, signalled a new, post-colonial status for French and francophone thought, which embraced what was then a key notion: that of négritude. It is this notion that the second half of Les Statues meurent aussi engages with most deeply, and perhaps most controversially, especially as it strives to connect the death of the statue with the rise in the commercialisation of African art for the pleasure of the colonial classes. Resnais and Marker’s film projected its passionately anti-colonial, anti-racist, even anti-capitalist audio-visual collage, against the backdrop of a France that had recently lost its colonial power but which still retained many of the quasi-Manichean distinctions between white, Western culture; and black, African culture. It is little wonder then that such a film should have been censored until the late 1960s, by which time it might have lost some of its topicality, but none of its political vigour.
Roland Barthes, Mythologies
Roland Barthes, in his 1957 book Mythologies, argues exactly this: that no language use can be separated from structures of ideology and power. Barthes often claimed to be fascinated by the meanings of the things that surround us in our everyday lives. Mythologies contains fifty-four short journalistic articles on a variety of subjects. These texts were written between 1954 and 1956 for the left-wing magazine Les Lettres nouvelles. The fifty-four texts are best considered as opportunistic improvisations on relevant and up-to-the-minute issues rather than carefully considered theoretical essays, and in this way they provide us with a panorama of the events and trends that took place in the France of the 1950s. Although the texts are very much of and about their times, they still have an unsettling contemporary relevance to us today.
“What we need is ACTIVE good mood. Mostly, I have had the chance to understand what collaboration can be. How fragile the development of an idea is and how quickly a collective structure can fail.”
Centre For Land Use Interpretation
“Dedicated to the increase and diffusion of information about how the nation’s lands are apportioned, utilized, and perceived.”
The Center for Land Use Interpretation is a research and education organization interested in understanding the nature and extent of human interaction with the earth’s surface, and in finding new meanings in the intentional and incidental forms that we individually and collectively create. It was founded in 1994.
“We believe that the manmade landscape is a cultural inscription that can be read to better understand who we are, and what we are doing.”
Neither an environmental group nor an industry affiliated organization, the work of the Center integrates the many approaches to land use – the many perspectives of the landscape – into a single vision that illustrates the common ground in “land use” debates. At the very least, the center attempts to emphasise the multiplicity of points of view regarding the utilization of terrestrial and geographic resources.
Dan Graham, Rock My Religion
55:27min, b&w and color, sound
Rock My Religion is a provocative thesis on the relation between religion and rock music in contemporary culture. Graham formulates a history that begins with the Shakers, an early religious community who practiced self-denial and ecstatic trance dances. With the “reeling and rocking” of religious revivals as his point of departure, Graham analyses the emergence of rock music as religion for the teenage consumer in the isolated suburban milieu of the 1950s, locating rock’s sexual and ideological context in post-World War II America. The music and philosophies of Patti Smith, who made explicit the trope that rock is religion, are his focus. This complex collage of text, film footage and performance forms a compelling theoretical essay on the ideological codes and historical contexts that inform the cultural phenomenon of rock `n’ roll music.
Rem Koolhaas, Junkspace
If space-junk is the human debris that litters the universe, junk-space is the residue mankind leaves on the planet. The built (more about that later) product of modernization is not modern architecture but Junkspace. Junkspace is what remains after modernization has run its course or, more precisely, what coagulates while modernization is in progress, its fall-out. Modernization had a rational program: to share the blessings of science, universally. Junkspace is its apotheosis, or meltdown… Although its individual parts are the outcome of brilliant inventions, lucidly planned by human intelligence, boosted by infinite computation, their sum spells the end of Enlightenment, its resurrection as farce, a low-grade purgatory… Junkspace is the sum total of our current achievement; we have built more than all previous generations together, but somehow we do not register on the same scales. We do not leave pyramids. According to a new gospel of ugliness, there is already more Junkspace under construction in the 21st century than survived from the 20th…It was a mistake to invent modern architecture for the 20th century; architecture disappeared in the 20th century; we have been reading a footnote under a microscope hoping it would turn into a novel; our concern for the masses has blinded us to People’s Architecture. Junkspace seems an aberration, but it is essence, the main thing… product of the encounter between escalator and air conditioning, conceived in an incubator of sheetrock (all three missing from the history books). Continuity is the essence of Junkspace; it exploits any invention that enables expansion, deploys the infrastructure of seamlessness: escalator, air conditioning, sprinkler, fire shutter, hot-air curtain… It is always interior, so extensive that you rarely perceive limits; it promotes disorientation by any means (mirror, polish,echo)… Junkspace is sealed, held together not by structure, but by skin, like a bubble. Gravity has remained constant, resisted by the same arsenal since the beginning of time; but air conditioning – invisible medium, therefore unnoticed – has truly revolutionized architecture. Air conditioning has launched the endless building. If architecture separates buildings, air conditioning unites them. Air conditioning has dictated mutant regimes of organization and coexistence that leave architecture behind. A single shopping center now is the work of generations of space planners, repairmen and fixers, like in the middle ages; air conditioning sustains our cathedrals. (Unwittingly, all architects may be working on the same building, so far separate, but with hidden receptors that will eventually make it cohere.) Because its costs money, is no longer free, conditioned space inevitably becomes conditional space; sooner or later all conditional space turns into Junkspace.
When we think about space, we have only looked at its containers. As if space itself is invisible, all theory for the production of space is based on an obsessive preoccupation with its opposite: substance and objects, i.e., architecture. Architects could never explain space; Junkspace is our punishment for their mystifications. OK, let’s talk about space then. The beauty of airports, especially after each upgrade. The luster of renovations. The subtlety of the shopping center. Let’s explore public space, discover casinos, spend time in theme parks… Junkspace is the body-double of space, a territory of impaired vision, limited expectation, reduced earnestness. Junkspace is a Bermuda triangle of concepts, a petri dish abandoned: it cancels distinctions, undermines resolve, confuses intention with realization. It substitutes hierarchy with accumulation, composition with addition. More and more, more is more. Junkspace is overripe and undernourishing at the same time, a colossal security blanket that covers the earth in a stranglehold of seduction…
Junkspace is like being condemned to a perpetual Jacuzzi with millions of your best friends…
A fuzzy empire of blur, it fuses high and low, public and private, straight and bent, bloated and starved to offer a seamless patchwork of the permanently disjointed. Seemingly an apotheosis, spatially grandiose, the effect of its richness is a terminal hollowness, a vicious parody of ambition that systematically erodes the credibility of building, possibly forever…
Space was created by piling matter on top of matter, cemented to form a solid new whole. Junkspace is additive, layered and lightweight, not articulated in different parts but subdivided, quartered the way a carcass is torn apart – individual chunks severed from a universal condition. There are no walls, only partitions, shimmering membranes frequently covered in mirror or gold. Structure groans invisibly underneath decoration, or worse, has become ornamental; small shiny space frames support nominal loads, or huge beams deliver cyclopic burdens to innocent destinations…
The arch, once the workhorse of structures, has become the depleted emblem of ‘community’, welcoming an infinity of virtual populations to non-existent theres. Where it is absent, it is simply applied – mostly in stucco – as ornamental afterthought on hurriedly erected superblocks. 13% of all Junkspace’s iconography goes back to the Romans, 8% Bauhaus, 7% Disney – neck and neck – 3% Art Nouveau, followed closely by Mayan…Like a substance that could have condensed in any other form, Junkspace is a domain of feigned, simulated order, a kingdom of morphing. Its specific configuration is as furtuitous as the geometry of a snow flake. Patterns imply repetition or ultimately decipherable rules; Junkspace is beyond measure, beyond code…
Because it cannot be grasped, Junkspace cannot be remembered. It is flamboyant yet unmemorable, like a screensaver; its refusal to freeze insures instant amnesia. Junkspace does not pretend to create perfection, only interest. Its geometries are unimaginable, only makable. Although strictly non-architectural, it tends to the vaulted, to the Dome. Sections seem to be devoted to utter inertness, others in perpetual rhetorical turmoil: the deadest resides next to the most hysterical. Themes cast a pall of arrested development over interiors as big as the Pantheon, spawning stillbirths in every corner.
The esthetic is Byzantine, gorgeous and dark, splintered into thousands of shards, all visible at the same time: a quasi-panoptical universe in which all contents rearrange themselves in split-seconds around the dizzy eye of the beholder. Murals used to show idols; Junkspace’s modules are dimensioned to carry brands; myths can be shared, brands husband aura at the mercy of focus groups. Brands in Junkspace perform the same role as black holes in the universe: essences through which meaning disappears… The shiniest surfaces in the history of mankind reflect humanity at its most casual. The more we inhabit the palatial, the more we seem to dress down. A stringent dress code – last spasm of etiquette? – governs access to Junkspace: short, sneaker, sandal, shell suit, fleece, jean, parka, backpack. As if the People suddenly accessed the private quarters of a dictator, Junkspace is best enjoyed in a state of post-revolutionary gawking. Polarities have merged, there is nothing left between desolation and turmoil. Neon signifies both the old and the new, interiors refer to the stone- and the space age at the same time. Like the deactivated virus in an innoculation, Modern architecture remains essential, but only in its most sterile manifestation, High Tech (it seemed so dead only a decade ago!). It exposes what previous generations kept under wraps: structures emerge like springs from a mattress, exit stairs dangle in didactic trapeze, probes thrust into space to deliver laboriously what is in fact omnipresent, free air, acres of glass hang from spidery cables, tautly stretched skins enclose flaccid events. Transparency only reveals everything in which you cannot partake. At the sound of midnight it all may revert to Taiwanese Gothic, in three years segue into Nigerian Sixties, Norwegian Chalet or default Christian. Earthlings now live in a kindergarten grotesque.Junkspace thrives on design, but design dies in Junkspace. There is no form, but proliferation…
Regurgitation is the new creativity; instead of creation, we honor, cherish and embrace manipulation…
Superstrings of graphics, transplanted emblems of franchise and sparkling infrastructures of light, LED’s, and video describe an authorless world beyond anyone’s claim, always unique, utterly unpredictable, yet intensely familiar. Junkspace is hot (or suddenly artic); fluorescent walls, folded like melting stained glass, generate additional heat to raise the temperature of Junkspace to levels where you could cultivate orchids. Pretending histories left and right, its contents are dynamic yet stable, recycled or multiplied as in cloning: forms search for function like hermit crabs for a vacant shell… Junkspace sheds architectures like a reptile sheds skins, is reborn every Monday morning. In previous building, materiality was based on a final state that could only be modified at the expense of partial destruction. At the exact moment that our culture has abandoned repetition and regularity as repressive, building materials have become more and more modular, unitary and standardized; substance now comes predigitized… As the module becomes smaller and smaller, its status become that of a crypto-pixel. With enormous difficulty – budget, argument, negotiation, deformation – irregularity and uniqueness are constructed from identical elements. Instead of trying to wrest order from chaos, the picturesque now is wrested from the homogenized, the singular liberated from the standardized.Architects thought of Junkspace first and named it Megastructure, the final solution to transcend their huge impasse. Like multiple Babels, huge superstructures would last through eternity, teeming with impermanent infill that would mutate over time, beyond their control. In theory, each megastructure would spawn its own sub-systems, and therefore create a universe of rampant cohesion. In Junkspace, the tables are turned: it is subsystems only, without superstructure, orphaned particles in search of framework or pattern.
All materialization is provisional: cutting, bending, tearing, coating: construction has aquired a new softness, like tailoring…The joint is no longer a problem, an intellectual issue: transitional moments are defined by stapling and taping, wrinkly brown bands barely maintain the illusion of an unbroken surface; verbs unknown and unthinkable in architectural history – clamp, stick, fold, dump, glue, shoot, double, fuse – have become indispensable. Each element performs its task in negotiated isolation. Where once detailing suggested the coming together, possibly forever, of disparate materials, it is now a transient coupling, waiting to be undone, unscrewed, a temporary embrace with a high probability of separation; no longer the orchestrated encounter of difference, but the abrupt end of a system, a stalemate. Only the blind, reading its faultlines with their fingertips, will ever understand Junkspace’s histories…While whole millenia worked in favor of permanence, axialities, relationships and proportion, the program of Junkspace is escalation. Instead of development, it offers entropy. Because it is endless, it always leaks somewhere in Junkspace; in the worst case, monumental ashtrays catch intermittent drops in a grey broth.
When did time stop moving forward… begin to spool in every direction, like a tape spinning out of control? Since the introduction of Real Time? Change has been divorced from the idea of improvement. There is no progress; like a crab on LSD, culture wobbles endlessly sideways… Junkspace is draining and is drained in return. Everywhere in Junkspace there are seating arrangements, ranges of modular chairs, even couches, as if the experience Junkspace offers its consumers is significantly more exhausting than any previous spatial sensation; in its most abandoned stretches, you find buffets: utilitarian tables draped in white or black sheets, perfunctory assemblies of caffeine and calories – cottage cheese, muffins, unripe grapes – notional representations of plenty, without horn and without plenty. Each Junkspace is connected, sooner or later, to bodily functions: wedged between stainless steel partitions sit rows of groaning Romans, denim toga’s bunched around their huge sneakers…Because it is so intensely consumed, Junkspace is fanatically maintained, the night shift undoing the damage of the day shift in an endless Sisyphian replay. As you recover from Junkspace, Junkspace recovers from you: between 2 and 5 am, yet another population, this one heartlessly casual and appreciably darker, is mopping, hovering, sweeping, toweling, resupplying… Junkspace does not inspire loyalty in its cleaners… Dedicated to instant gratification, Junkspace accomodates seeds of future perfection; a language of apology is woven through its texture of canned euphoria; ‘pardon our appearance’ signs or miniature yellow ‘sorry’ billboards mark ongoing patches of wetness, announce momentary discomfort in return for imminent shine, the allure of improvement. Somewhere, workers sink on their knees to repair faded sections – as if in a prayer – or half-disappear in ceiling voids to negotiate elusive malfunction – as if in confession. All surfaces are archaeological, superpositions of different ‘periods’ (what do you call the moment a particular type of wall-to-wall carpet was current?) – as you note when they’re torn.Traditionally, typology implies demarcation, the definition of a singular model that excludes other arrangements. Junkspace represents a reverse typology of cumulative, approximative identity, less about kind than about quantity. But formlessness is still form, the formless also a typology… take the dump, where successive trucks discharge their loads to form a heap, whole in spite of the randomness of its contents and its fundamental shapelessness, or that of the tent-envelope that assumes different shapes to accomodate variable interior volumes. Or the vague crotches of the new generation.
Junkspace can either be absolutely chaotic or freighteningly aseptic – like a bestseller – overdetermined and indeterminate at the same time. There is something strange about ballrooms, for instance: huge wastelands kept column free for ultimate flexibility. Because you’ve never been invited to that kind of event, you have never seen them in use, only being prepared with chilling precision: a relentless grid of circular tables, extending towards a distant horizon, their diameters preempting communication, a dais big enough for the politburo of a totalitarian state, wings announcing as-yet unimagined surprises… acres of organization to support future drunkenness, disarray and disorder. Or car shows.Junkspace is often described as a space of flows, but that is a misnomer; flows depend on disciplined movement, bodies that cohere. Junkspace is a web without spider; although it is an architecture of the masses, each trajectory is strictly unique. Its anarchy is one of the last tangible ways in which we experience freedom. It is a space of collision, a container of atoms, busy, not dense… There is a special way of moving in Junkspace, at the same time aimless and purposeful. It is an acquired culture. Junkspace features the tyranny of the oblivious: sometimes an entire Junkspace comes unstuck through the non-conformity of one of its members; a single citizen of an another culture – a refugee, a mother – can destabilize an entire Junkspace, hold it to a rustic’s ransom, leaving an invisible swath of obstruction in his/her wake, a deregulation eventually communicated to its furthest extremities.
Where movement becomes synchronized, it curdles: on escalators, near exits, parking machines, automated tellers. Sometimes, under duress, individuals are channeled in a flow, pushed through a single door or forced to negotiate the gap between two temporary obstacles (an invalid’s bleeping chariot and a christmas tree): the manifest ill-will such narrowing provokes, mocks the notion of flows. Flows in Junkspace lead to disaster: department stores at the beginning of sales, the stampedes triggered by warring compartments of soccer fans, dead bodies piling up in front of the locked emergency doors of a disco: evidence of the misfit between the portals of Junkspace and the narrow calibrations of the old world. Traffic is Junkspace, from airspace to the underground; the entire highway system is Junkspace, a vast potential utopia clogged by its users, as you notice when they’ve finally disappeared on vacation. The young instinctively avoid the Dantesque manipulations/containers to which Junkspace has condemnded their elders in perpetuity. Within the meta-playground of Junkspace exist smaller playgrounds, Junkspace for children (usually in the least desirable square footage): sections of sudden miniaturization – often underneath staircases, always near dead-ends – assemblies of under-dimensioned plastic structures – slides, see-saws, swings – shunned by their intended audience – kids – turned into junkniche for the old, the lost, the forgotten, the insane… last hiccup of humanism…Like radioactive waste, Junkspace has an invidious half-life. Aging in Junkspace is nonexistent or catastrophic; sometimes an entire Junkspace – a department store, a nightclub, a bachelor pad – turns into a slum overnight without warning: wattage diminishes almost imperceptibly, letters drop out of signs, air conditioning units start dripping, cracks appear as if from otherwise unregistered earthquakes; sections rot, are no longer viable, but remain joined to the flesh of the main body via gangrenous passages. Judging the built presumed a static condition; now each architecture embodies opposite conditions simultaneously: old and new, permanent and temporary, flourishing and at risk… sections undergo an Alzheimer-like deterioration as others are upgraded. Because Junkspace is endless, it is never closed… Renovation and restauration were procedures that took place in your absence; now you’re a witness, a reluctant participant… Seeing Junkspace in conversion is like inspecting an unmade bed, someone else’s. Say an airport needs more space. In the past new terminals were added, each more or less characteristic of its own age, leaving the old ones as a readable record, evidence of progress. Since passengers have definitively demonstrated their infinite malleability, the idea of rebuilding on the spot has gained currency. Travelators are thrown in reverse, signs taped, potted palms (or very large corpses) covered in body bags. Screens of taped sheetrock segregate two populations: one wet, one dry, one hard, one flabby, one cold, one overheated. Half the population produces new space, the more affluent half consumes old space. To accommodate a nether world of manual labor, the concourse suddenly turns into cashbah: improvised locker rooms, coffee breaks, smoking, even real campfires… The ceiling is a crumpled plate like the Alps; grids of unstable tiles alternate with monogrammed sheets of black plastic, improbably punctured by grids of crystal chandeliers…
Metal ducts are replaced by breathing textiles. Gaping joints reveal vast ceiling voids (former canyons of asbestos?), beams, ducting, rope, cable, insulation, fireproofing, string; tangled arrangements suddenly exposed to daylight. Impure, tortured and complex, they exist only because they were never consciously plotted. The floor is a patchwork: different textures – concrete, hairy, heavy, shiny, plastic,metallic, muddy – alternate randomly, as if dedicated to different species…The ground is no more. There are too many raw needs to be realized on only one plane. The absolute horizontal has been abandoned. Transparency has disappeared, replaced by a dense crust of provisional occupation: kiosks, carts, strollers, palms, fountains, bars, sofas, trolleys… Corridors no longer simply link A to B , but have become ‘destinations’. Their tenant life tends to be short: the most stagnant windows, the most perfunctory dresses, the most implausible flowers. All perspective is gone, as in a rainforest (itself disappearing, they keep saying…). The formerly straight is coiled into ever more complex configurations. Only a perverse modernist choreography can explain the twists and turns, ascents and descents, sudden reversals that comprise the typical path from check-in (misleading name) to apron of the average contemporary airport. Because we never reconstruct or question the absurdity of these enforced derives, we meekly submit to grotesque journeys past perfume, asylum seeker, building site, underwear, oysters, pornography, cell phone – incredible adventures for the brain, the eye, the nose, the tongue, the womb, the testicles…There was once a polemic about the straight line; now the 90-degree angle has become one among many. In fact, remnants of former geometries create ever new havoc, offering forlorn nodes of resistance that create unstable eddies in newly opportunistic flows…Who would dare claim responsibiliy for this sequence? The idea that a profession once dictated, or at least presumed to predict, people’s movements, now seems laughable, or worse: unthinkable. Instead of design, there is calculation: the more erratic the path, eccentric the loops, hidden the blueprint, the more efficient the exposure, inevitable the transaction. In this war, graphic designers are the great turncoats: where once signage promised to deliver you to where you wanted to be, it now obfuscates and entangles you in a thicket of cuteness that forces you past unwanted detours, turns you back when you’re lost. Postmodernism adds a crumple-zone of viral poche that fractures and multiplies the endless frontline of display, a peristaltic shrinkwrap crucial to all commercial exchange. Trajectories are launched as ramp, turn horizontal without any warning, intersect, fold down, suddenly emerge on a vertiginous balcony above a large void. Fascism minus dictator.
From the sudden dead-end where you were dropped by a monumental, granite staircase, an escalator takes you to an invisible destination, facing a provisional vista of plaster, inspired by forgettable sources. (There is no datum level; you always inhabit a sandwich. ‘Space’ is scooped out of Junkspace as from a soggy block of ice cream that has languished too long in the freezer: cylindrical, cone shaped, more or less spherical, whatever…) Toilet groups mutate into Disney Store then morph to become meditation center: succesive transformations mock the word ‘plan’. The plan is a radar screen where individual pulses survive for unpredictable periods of time in a Bachanalian free-for-all… In this stand-off between the redundant and the inevitable, a plan would actually make matters worse, drive you to instant despair. Only the diagram gives a bearable version. There is zero loyalty – and zero tolerance – toward configuration, no ‘original’ condition, architecture as has turned into a time-lapse sequence to reveal a ‘permanent evolution’… The only certainty is conversion – continuous – followed, in rare cases, by ‘restoration’. That is the process that claims ever new sections of history as extensions of Junkspace.
History corrupts, absolute history corrupts absolutely. Color and matter are eliminated from these bloodless grafts: the bland has become the only meeting ground for the old and the new…
Can the bland be amplified? The featureless be exaggerated? Through height? depth? length? variation? repetition? Sometimes not overload but its opposite, an absolute absence of detail, generates Junkspace. A voided condition of frigthening sparseness, shocking proof that so much can be organized by so little. Laughable emptiness infuses the respectful distance or tentative embrace that starchitects maintain in the presence of the past, authentic or not. Invariably, the primordial decision is to leave the original intact; the formerly residual is declared the new essence, focus of the intervention. As a first step, the substance to be preserved is wrapped in a thick pack of commerce and catering – like a reluctant skier pushed downhill by responsible minders. To show respect, symmetries are maintained and helplessly exaggerated; ancient building techniques are resurrected and honed to irrelevant shine, quarries reopened to excavate the ‘same’ stone, indiscreet donor names chiseled prominently in the meekest of typefaces; the courtyard covered by a masterful, structural ‘filigree’ – emphatically uncompetitive – so that continuity may be established with the ‘rest’ of Junkspace (abandoned galleries, display slums, jurrasic concepts…). Conditioning is applied; filtered daylight reveals vast, antiseptic expanses of monumental reticence and makes them come alive, vibrant as a computer rendering… the curse of public space: latent fascism safely smothered in signage, stools, sympathy…
Junkspace is post-existential; it makes you uncertain where you are, obscures where you go, undoes where you were. Who do you think you are? Who do you want to be ? (Note to architects: you thought that you could ignore Junkspace… visit it surreptitiously, treat it with condescending contempt or enjoy it vicariously… because you could not understand it, you’ve thrown away the keys… but now your own architecture is infected, has become equally smooth, all-inclusive, continuous, warped, busy, atrium-ridden…) JunkSignature™ is the new architecture: the former meglomania of a profession contracted to managable size, Junkspace minus its saving vulgarity. Anything stretched – limousines, body parts, planes – turns into Junkspace, its original concept abused. Restore, rearrange, reassemble, revamp, renovate, revise, recover, redesign, return – the Parthenon marbles – redo, respect, rent: verbs that start with re-, produce Junkspace.Junkspace will be our tomb. Half of mankind pollutes to produce, the other pollutes to consume. The combined pollution of all Third World cars, motorbikes, trucks, buses, sweatshops, pales into insignificance compared to the heat generated by Junkspace. Junkspace is political: it depends on the central removal of the critical faculty in the name of comfort and pleasure. Politics has become manifesto by Photoshop, seamless blueprints of the mutually exclusive. Rabbit is the new beef. Comfort is the new Justice. Entire miniature states now adopt Junkspace as political program, establish regimes of engineered disorentation, instigate a politics of systematic disarray. Not exactly ‘anything goes’; in fact, the secret of Junkspace is that it is both promiscuous and repressive: as the formless proliferates, the formal withers, and with it all rules, regulations, recourse. Babel has been misunderstood. Language is not the problem, just the new frontier of Junkspace. Mankind, torn by eternal dilemmas, the impasse of seemingly endless debates, has launched a new language that straddles unbridgable divides like a fragile pedestrian designer’s footbridge… coined a proactive wave of new oxymorons to suspend former incompatibility: life/style, reality/TV, world/music, museum/ store, food/court, health/care, waiting/lounge. Naming has replaced class-struggle, sonorous amalgamations of status, high-concept and history. Through acronym, unusual importation, suppressing letters, or fabrication of non-existent plurals, they aim to shed meaning in return for a spatious new roominess… Junkspace knows all your emotions, all your desires. It is the interior of Big Brother’s belly. It preempts people’s sensations. It comes with a soundtrack, smell, captions; it blatantly proclaims how it wants to be read: rich, stunning, cool, huge, abstract, ‘minimal’, historical. It sponsors a collective of brooding consumers in surly anticipation of their next spend, a mass of refractory periods caught in a Thousand Year Reign of Razzmataz, a paroxysm of prosperity. The subject is stripped of privacy in return for access to a credit nirvana. You are complicit in the tracing of the fingerprints each of your transactions leaves; they know everything about you, except who you are. Emissaries of Junkspace pursue you in the formerly impervious privacy of the bedroom: the minibar, private fax machines, pay TV offering compromised pornography, fresh plastic veils wrapping toilets seats, courtesy condoms: miniature profit centers coexist with your bedside bible…Junkspace pretends to unite, but it actually splinters. It creates communities not of shared interest or free association, but of identical statistics and unavoidable demographics, an oportunistic weave of vested interests. Each man, woman and child is individually targeted, tracked, split off from the rest.. Fragments come together at ‘security’ only, where a grid of video screens disappointingly reassembles individual frames into a banalized, utilitarian cubism that reveals Junkspace’s overall coherence to the dispassionate glare of barely trained guards: videoethnography in its brute form.
Just as Junkspace is unstable, its actual ownership is forever being passed on in parallel disloyalty. Junkspace happens spontaneously through natural corporate exhuberance – the unfettered play of the market – or is generated through the combined actions of temporary ‘Czars’ with long records of three-dimensional philantropy, bureaucrats (often former leftists) that optimistically sell off vast tracks of waterfront, former hippodromes, military bases and abandoned airfields to developers or real estate moguls that can accomodate any deficit in futuristic balances, or through ‘default preservation’Š (the maintenance of historical complexes that nobody wants but the Zeitgeist has declared sacrosanct). As its scale mushrooms – rivals and even exceeds that of the Public – its economy becomes more inscrutable. Its financing is a deliberate haze, clouding opaque deals, dubious tax breaks, unusual incentives, exemptions, tenuous legalities, transferred air rights, joined properties, special zoning districts, public-private complicities. Funded by bonds, lottery, subsidy, charity, grant: an erratic flow of yen, euros and dollars (´Û$) creates financial envelopes that are as fragile as their contents. Because of a structural shortfall, a fundamental deficit, a contingent bankruptcy, each square inch becomes a grasping, needy surface dependent on covert or overt support, discount, compensation and fundraising. For culture, ‘engraved donor bricks’; for everything else: cash, rentals, leases, promises, chains, the underpinning of brands. Junkspace expands with the economy but its footprint cannot contract… when it is no longer needed, it thins. Because of its tenuous viability, Junkspace has to swallow more and more program to survive; soon, we will be able to do anything anywhere. We will have conquered place. At the end of Junkspace, the Universal?Through Junkspace old aura is tranfused with new luster to spawn sudden commercial viability: Barcelona amalgamated with the Olympics, Bilbao with Guggenheim, 42nd with Disney. A shortage of masters has not stopped a proliferation of masterpieces. ‘Masterpiece’ has become a definitive sanction, a semantic space that saves the object from criticism, leaves its qualities unproven, its performance untested, its motives unquestioned… Masterpiece is no longer an inexplicable fluke, a roll of the dice, but a consistent typology: its mission precarious, most of its exterior surfaces bent, huge percentages of its square footage dysfunctional, its centrifugal components barely held together by the pull of the atrium, dreading the imminent arrival of forensic accounting… The more indeterminate the city, the more specific its Junkspace; all Junkspace’s prototypes are urban – the Roman Forum, the Metropolis; it is only their reverse-synergy that makes them suburban, simultaneously swollen and shrunk. Junkspace reduces what is urban to urbanity…instead of public life, Public SpaceŠ: what remains of the city once the unpredictable has been removed… space for ‘honoring’, ‘sharing’, ‘caring’, ‘grieving’ and ‘healing’… civility indicated by an overdose of serif.In the third Millenium, Junkspace will assume responsibility for both pleasure and religion, exposure and intimacy, public life and privacy. Inevitably, the death of God (and the author) has spawned orphaned space; Junkspace is authorless, yet surprisingly authoritarian… at the moment of its greatest emancipation, humankind is subjected to the most dictatorial scripts… from the pushy oration of the waiter, to the answering gulags on the other end of the telephone, the safety instructions on the airplane, more and more insistent perfumes, mankind is browbeaten to submit to the most harshly engineered plotline… The chosen theater of megalomania – the dictatorial – is no longer politics, but entertainment. Through Junkspace, entertainment organizes hermetic regimes of ultimate exclusion and concentration… Concentration gambling, concentration golf, concentration convention, concentration movie, concentration culture, concentration holiday. Entertainment is like watching a once hot planet cool off: its major inventions are ancient: the moving image, the roller coaster, sound, cartoons, clowns, dinosaurs, news, war. Except celebrities – of which there is a dramatic shortage – we have added nothing, just reconfigured. Corpotainment is an gallaxy in contraction, forced to go through the motions by ruthless Copernican laws. The secret of corporate aesthetics was the power of elimination, the celebration of the efficient, the eradication of excess: abstraction as camouflage, the search for a corporate Sublime. On popular demand, organized beauty has become warm, humanist, inclusivist, arbitrary, poetic and unthreatening: water is pressurized through very small holes, then forced into rigorous hoops; straight palms are bent into grotesque poses, air is burdened with added oxygen – as if only forcing malleable substances into the most drastic contortions maintains control, satisfies the drive to get rid of surprise. Not canned laughter, but canned euphoria…. Color has disappeared to dampen the resulting cacophony, is used only as cue: relax, enjoy, be well, we’re united in sedation… why can’t we tolerate stronger sensations? Dissonance? Awkwardness? Genius? Anarchy? Junkspace heals, or at least that is the assumption of many hospitals. We thought hospitals were unique – a universe indentified by its smell – but now that we are used to universal conditioning we recognize it was merely a prototype; all Junkspace is odor-defined. Often heroic in size, planned with the last adrenaline of modernism’s grand inspiration, we have made them (too) human; life or death decisions are taken in spaces that are relentlessly friendly, littered by fading bouquets, empty coffee cups and yesterday’s papers. You used to face death in appropriate cells, now your nearest are huddled together in atriums. A bold datum line is established on every vertical surface, dividing the infirmirary in two: above an endless humanist scroll of ‘color’, loved ones, children’s sunsets, signage and art… below a utilitarian zone for defacement and disinfectant, anticipated collision, scratch,spill and smudge… Junkspace is space as vacation; there once was a relationship between leisure and work, a biblical dictate that divided our weeks, organized public life. Now we work harder, marooned in a never-ending casual Friday… The office is the next frontier of Junkspace. Now that you can work at home, the office aspires to the domestic; because you still need a life, it simulates the city. Junkspace features the office as the urban home, a meeting-boudoir: desks become sculptures, the workfloor is lit by intimate downlights. Monumental partitioins, kiosks, mini-Starbucks on interior plazas: a Post-it universe: ‘team memory’, ‘information persistence’; futile hedges against the universal forgetting of the unmemorable, the oxymoron as mission statement. Witness corporate agit-prop: the CEO’s suite becomes ‘leadership collective’, wired to all the world’s other Junkspace, real or imagined. Espace becomes e-space. The 21st century will bring ‘intelligent’ Junkspace: on a big digital ‘dashboard’: sales, CNNNYSENASDAQC-SPAN, anything that goes up or down, from good to bad, presented in real time like the automotive theory course that complements driving lessons…Globalization turns language into Junkspace. We are stuck in a speech-doldrums. The ubiquity of English is Pyrric: now that we all speak it, nobody remembers its use. The collective bastardization of English is our most impressive achievement; we have broken its back with ignorance, accent, slang, jargon, tourism and multitasking… we can make it say anything we want, like a speech dummy… Through the industrialization of language, there are too few plausible words left; our most creative hypotheses will never be formulated, discoveries remain unmade, concepts unlaunched, philosophies muffled… We inhabit sumptuous Potemkin suburbs of weasel terminologies… Abberant linguistic ecologies sustain virtual subjects in their claim to legitimacy, help them survive… Language is no longer used to explore, define, express, or to confront but to fudge, blur, obfuscate, apologize and comfort… it stakes claims, assigns victimhood, preempts debate, admits guilt, fosters consensus. Entire professions impose a descent into the linguistic equivalent of hell: condemned to a word-limbo, inmates wrestle with words in ever descending spirals of pleading, lying, flattening, bargaining … a Faustian/satanic orchestration of the meaningless…Intended for the interior, Junkspace can easily engulf a whole city. First, it escapes from its containers – linguistic orchids that needed hothouse protection emerging with surprising robustness – then the outdoors itself is converted: the street is paved more luxuriously, shelters proliferate carrying increasingly dictatorial messages, traffic is calmed, crime eliminated.
Then Junkspace spreads, consuming nature like a forest fire in LA… The global spread of Junkspace represents a final Manifest Destiny: the World as public space… All the resurrected emblems and recycled ambers of the formerly public, need new pastures. A new vegetal is coralled is for its thematic efficiency. The outing of Junkspace has triggered the professionalization of denaturing, a benign ecofacism that positions a rare surviving Siberian tiger in a forest of slot machines, near Armani, amidst an arboreal Baroque… Outside, between the casinos, fountains project entire Stalinist buildings of liquid, ejaculated in a split-second, hovering momentarily, then withdrawn with an amnesiac competency… Air, water, wood: all are enhanced to produce hyperecologyŠ, a parallel Walden, a new rainforest. Landscape has become Junkspace, foliage as spoilage: trees are tortured, lawns cover human manipulations like thick pelts or even toupees, sprinklers water according to mathematical timetables… Seemingly at the opposite end of Junkspace, the golf course is in fact its conceptual double; empty, serene, free of commercial debris. The relative evacuation of the golf course is achieved by the further charging of Junkspace. The methods of their design and realization are similar: erasure, tabula rasa, reconfiguration. Junkspace turns into biojunk; ecology into ecospace. There is only a 31% difference between ecology and economy; in Junkspace they have already merged, it is an ecolomy. The economy has become Faustian; hyperdevelopment depends on artificial underdevelopment; a huge global bureaucracy is in the making to settle, in a colossal yin/yang, the balance between Junkspace and golf, between the scraped and the scaped, trading the right to despoil for the obligation to create steroid rainforests in Costa Rica. Oxygen banks, Fort Knoxes of chlorophyll, ecoreserves as a blank check for further pollution. Junkspace is rewriting the apocalypse; we may die of oxygen poisoning.
The baroque complexities of Junkspace were compensated by the stark rawness of its adjunct infrastructures; parking garages, filling stations, distribution centers that routinely displayed a monumental purity that was the original aim of modernism. Now, massive injections of lyricism have enabled infrastructure – the one domain previously immune to design, taste or the marketplace – to join the world of Junkspace, and for Junkspace to extend its manifestations under the sky. Railway stations unfold like iron butterflies, airports glisten like cyclopic dewdrops, bridges span often neglible banks like grotesquely enlarged versions of the harp. To each rivulet its own Calatrava. (Sometimes when there is a strong wind, this new generation of instuments moves as if it being played by a giant, or maybe a god, and mankind shudders) Junkspace can be airborne, bring malaria to Sussex; 300 anopheline mosquitoes arrive each day at GDG and GTW with the theoretical ability to infect 8 to 20 locals in a 3 mile radius, a hazard exacerbated by the average passenger’s reluctance, in a misplaced gasp of quasi-autonomy, to be disinfected once he or she has buckled up for the return journey from the dead-end of the tourist destination. Airports, provisional accommodation for those going elsewhere, inhabited by assemblies united only by the imminence of their dissolution, have turned into consumption gulags, democratically distributed across the globe to give every citizen an equal chance of admission… MXP looks as if all the leftovers of East Germany’s reconstruction – whatever was needed to undo the deprivations of communism – have been hurriedly bulldozed together according to a vaguely rectangular blueprint to form a botched sequence of deformed, inadequate spaces, apparently willed into being by the current rulers of Europe, extorting limitless euros from the community’s regional funds, now causing endless delays for its duped taxpayers too busy on mobiles to notice. DFW is composed of three elements only, repeated ad infinitum, nothing else: one kind of beam, one kind of brick, one kind of tile, all coated in the same color – is it teale? rust? tabacco? – its symmetries inflated beyond any recognition, the endless curve of its terminals forces its users to enact relativity theory in their quest for the gate. Its drop-off is the seemingly harmless beginning of a journey to the heart of unmitigated nothingness, beyond animation by Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen…Valley cultures are the most resistant to Junkspace: at GVZ you can still see a universe of rules, order, hierarchy, neatness, coordination, poised moments before its implosion, but at ZHR huge ‘timepieces’ hover in front of interior waterfalls as an essay in regionaljunk. Duty free is Junkspace, Junkspace is duty free space. Where culture was thinnest, will it be the first to run out? Is emptiness local? Do wide open spaces demand wide open Junkspace? Sunbelt: huge populations where there was nothing; PHX: warpaint on every terminal, dead Indian outlines on every surface – carpet, wallpaper, napkins – like frogs flattened by car tires. Public Art distributed across LAX: the fish that have disappeared from our rivers return as public art in the concourse; only what is dead can be resurrected. Memory itself may have turned into Junkspace; only those murdered will be remembered…
Deprivation can be caused by overdose or shortage of sterility; both conditions happen in Junkspace (often at the same time). Minimum is the ultimate ornament, a self-righteous crime, the contemporary Baroque. It does not signify beauty, but guilt. Its demonstrative earnestness drives whole civilizations in the welcoming arms of camp and kitsch. Ostensibly a relief from constant sensorial onslaught, minimum is maximum in drag, a stealth laundering of luxury: the stricter the lines, the more irresistible the seductions. Its role is not to approximate the sublime, but to minimize the shame of consumption, drain embarassment, to lower the higher. Minimum now exists in a state of parasitic co-dependency with overdose: to have and not to have, craving and owning, finally collapsed in a single signifier.
Museums are sanctimonious Junkspace; no sturdier aura than holiness. To entertain the converts they have attracted by default, they massively turn ‘bad’ space into ‘good’ space; the more untreated the oak, the larger the profit center. Monasteries inflated to the scale of department stores: expansion is the third millenium’s entropy, dilute or die. Dedicated to respect mostly the dead, no cemetery would dare to reshuffle corpses as casually in the name of current expediency; curators plot hangings and unexpected encounters in a donor-plate labyrinth with the finesse of the retailer: lingerie becomes ‘Death and Survival’, cosmetics ‘The Human Figure’. All paintings based on black grids are herded together, compressed in a single white room. Large spiders in the humongous conversion offer DT for the masses… Narrative reflexes that have enabled us from the beginning of time to connect dots, fill in blanks, are now turned against us: we cannot stop noticing: no sequence too absurd, trivial, meaningless, insulting… through our ancient evolutionary equipment, our irrepresible attention span, we helplessly register, provide sense, squeeze meaning, read intention; we cannot stop making sense out of the utterly senseless…
On its triumphal march as content provider, art extends far beyond the museums’ ever increasing boundaries. Outside, in the real world, the ‘art planner’ spreads Junkspace’s fundamental incoherence by assigning defunct mythologies to residual surfaces and plotting three-dimensional works in left-over emptiness. Scouting for authenticity, their touch seals the fate of what was real, taps it for incorporation in Junkspace. Art galleries move en masse to where it is ‘edgy’, then convert raw space into white cubes… The only legitimate discourse is loss; art replenishes Junkspace in direct proportion to its own morbidity. We used to renew what was depleted, now we try to resurrect what is gone… Outside, the architects’ footbridge is rocked to the breaking point by a stampede of enthusiastic pedestrians; the designers’ initial audacity now awaits the engineer’s application of dampers. Junkspace is a look-no-hands world…The constant threat of virtuality in Junkspace is no longer exorcized by petrochemical products; the synthetic cheapens. Junkspace is like a womb that organizes the transition of endless quantities of the Real – stone, trees, goods, daylight, people – into the virtual.
Entire mountains are dismembered to provide ever greater quantities of authenticity, suspended on precarious brackets, polished to a blinding state of flash that makes the intended realism instantly elusive. Stone only comes in light yellow, flesh, a violent beige, a soapilke green, the colors of communist plastics in the fifties. Forests are felled, their wood is all pale: maybe the origins of Junkspace go back to the Kindergarten… (‘Origins’ is a mint shampoo that stings the anal region). Color in the real world looks increasingly unreal, drained. Color in virtual space is luminous, therefore irresistible. The average Powerpoint presentation displays sudden bursts of Indian exuberance that Junkspace has been the first to translate into realityŠ, a simulation of virtual vigor. A surfeit of reality TV has made us into amateur guards monitoring a Junkuniverse… From the lively breasts of the classical violinist, the designer stubble of the big-brother outcast, the contextual pedophilia of the former revolutionary, the routine addictions of the stars, the runny makeup of the evangelist, the robotic movements of the conductor, the dubious benefits of the fundraising marathon, the explanation of the politician: the swooping movements of the TV camera suspended from its boom – an eagle without beak or claws, just an optical stomach – swallows images and confessions indiscriminately, like a trashbag, to propell them as cyber-vomit in space. TV studio sets – garishly monumental – are both the culmination and the end of perspectival space as we’ve known it: angular geometric remnants invading cosmic, starry infinities; real space edited for smooth transmission in virtual space, crucial hinge in an infernal feedback loop… the vastness of Junkspace extended to infinity. Because we spend our life indoors – like animals in a zoo – we are obsessed with the weather: 40% of all TV consists of presenters of lesser atrractiveness gesturing helplessly in front of of windswept formations, through which you recognize,sometimes, your own destination / current position. Conceptually, each monitor, each TV screen is a substitute for a window; real life is inside, cyberspace has become the great outdoors…
Mankind is always going on about architecture. What if space started looking at mankind? Will Junkspace invade the body? Through the vibes of the mobile? Has it already? Botox injections? Collagen? Silicone implants? Liposuction? Penis enlargements? Does gene therapy announce a total reengineering according to Junkspace? Is each of us a mini-construction site? Mankind the sum of 3-5 billion individual upgrades? Is it a repertoire of reconfiguration that facilitates the intromission of a new species into its self-made Junkbiosphere?God is dead, the author is dead, history is dead, only the architect is left standing… an insulting evolutionary joke…The cosmetic is the new cosmic.
Chris Marker, Junkopia
Chris Marker, John Chapman & Frank Simeone (1981, 6 min)
One day, at the stroke of evening, on Emeryville beach in San Francisco, unidentified artists leave behind, without anyone knowing, sculptures manufactured with items that have washed ashore from the sea.
Adaweb, one of the first web-based art project, still seems to open up ways to think through working in and with the internet that do not mean just putting work already done online. Including projects by the likes of Jenny Holzer, and hosted by the Walker Art centre, it is unpredictable and a lot of fun to navigate.
Denise Scott Brown, Learning from Pop
Casabella 359–360 Dec. 1971 Architecture Theory since 1968, 2000,
edited by K. Michael Hays
Chris Marker, Sunless
“Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place”.
T. S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday (1930)
Sans Soleil is a meditation on the nature of human memory; it’s inability to recall context or nuances, and how this affects our perceptions of personal and global histories.
“The first image he told me about was of three children on a road in Iceland, in 1965. He said that for him it was the image of happiness and also that he had tried several times to link it to other images, but it never worked. He wrote me: one day I’ll have to put it all alone at the beginning of a film with a long piece of black leader; if they don’t see happiness in the picture, at least they’ll see the black.”
The film can be watched on Youtube here
The script is available here
Josh On, They Rule
Just a few companies control much of the economy, while oligopolies exert control in nearly every sector of the economy. The people who head up these companies swap boards, moving between one company and another, into and out of government committees and positions. These people run the most powerful institutions on the planet, and we have almost no say in who they are. This is not a conspiracy. They are proud to rule. And yet these connections of power are not always visible to the public eye.
They Rule aims to provide a glimpse of some of the relationships of the US ruling class. It takes as its focus the boards of some of the most powerful U.S. companies, which share many of the same directors.
Michel Foucault/ Noam Chomsky, Human Nature: Justice versus Power
The Chomsky-Foucault debate was aired on Dutch television in 1971. Both philosophers have points in common and points of difference, and seem to be working at opposite ends of the large issue of human nature. What they say and the way each approaches this issue, has completely different consequences in terms of action, and leads to fundamentally different ways of being and working, highlighting how these are inherently political choices. This debate show us how philosophers are also just doing their job, thinking in new ways and digging as profoundly as possible with an equal commitment to philosophy as to politics.
Chomsky argues that a fundamental element of human nature is the need for creative work, and that therefore we should concentrate on building a just society where this is possible. Foucault, on the other hand, looks right back at the institutions that form what we understand by society and the way we think in the first place, arguing that before we can even imagine what justice may be, we need to question the systems of power that create and maintain our civilisations.
And the complete transcript of the interview is available here
Carl Michael von Hausswolff and Leif Elggren, Elgaland-Vagaland
The royal Kingdoms of Elgaland-Vargaland were proclaimed in 1992 and consist of all Border Territories: Geographical, Mental & Digital. Elgaland-Vargaland is the largest – and most populous realm on Earth, incorporating all boundaries between other nations as well as Digital Territory and other states of existence. Every time one travels somewhere, and every time one enters another form, such as the dream state, one in fact is visiting Elgaland-Vargaland.
Elgaland-Vargaland is a semi-democratic monarchy founded by Carl Michael von Hausswolff and Leif Elggren; the state has a constitution, a royal chamber and a complex list of ministries, as well as embassies and consulates around the world.
Dziga Vertov Group, Letter to Jane
The Dziga Vertov Group (French: Groupe Dziga Vertov) was formed in 1968 by politically active filmmakers including Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin. Their films are defined primarily by their Brechtian forms, Marxist ideology, and lack of personal authorship. The group, named after 1920s-’30s Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov, was dissolved soon after the completion of 1972’s Letter to Jane.
Letter to Jane (1972) is a postscript film to Tout va bien directed by Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin and made under the auspices of the Dziga Vertov Group. Narrated in a back-and-forth style by both Godard and Gorin, the film serves as a 52-minute cinematic essay that deconstructs a single news photograph of Jane Fonda in Vietnam. This was Godard and Gorin’s final collaboration.