Archived entries for

Nijuman no borei / 200000 Phantoms / 200000 fantômes (2007)

Robert Smithson – Site selection

   I’m interested in making a point in a designated area. That’s the focal point. You then have a dialectic between the point and the edge: within a single focus, a kind of Pascalian calculus between the edge and the middle or the fringe and the center operating within a designated area. And usually when you focus on it with a camera, it becomes a rectangle. The randomness to me is always very precise, a kind of zeroing in. But there is a random element: the choice is never abolished.

   I would say the designation is what I call an open limit as opposed to a closed limit which is a non-site usually in an interior space. The open limit is a designation that I walk through in a kind of network looking for a site. And then I select the site. There’s no criteria; just how the material hits my psyche when I’m scanning it. But it’s a kind of low level scanning, almost unconscious. When you select, it’s fixed so that randomness is then determined. It’s determined in uncertainty. At the same time, the fringes or boundaries of the designation are always open. They’re only closed on the map, and the map serves as the designation. The map is like a key to where the site is and then you can operate within that sector.

via Robert Smithson.

Devourer Of Encyclopedias: Stanislaw Lem’s “Summa Technologiae”

…By the late 1950s, his work had become darker, increasingly focused on the limits of humanity’s knowledge and the limits of human society in pursuing both truth and virtue. Lem esteemed his classic novels like Solaris because “[t]hey incorporate cognitive problems in fictions that do not oversimplify the world.”

More than any other author, Lem integrated science into science fiction, putting much “hard” science fiction to shame. But it was not enough to get facts right and respect the laws of physics: great speculative fiction needs to use creativity within the parameters of scientific and philosophical naturalism in order to explore the limits of what is metaphysically and sociologically possible. Many of Lem’s works take the form of thought experiments.

Lem does not integrate his concerns into a single unified theory; Summa is a fantasia that follows certain lines of speculative thought as far as Lem can take them. The spur, as ever for Lem, is the cognitive limitations of humanity. Lem announces early on that humanity is on the brink of becoming obsolete because it is reaching a scientific “information barrier” beyond which disorganized humans will not be able to process the amount of knowledge we are obtaining: “Science cannot transverse this barrier; it cannot absorb the avalanche of information that is moving in its direction.” That is, Lem sees that with the exponential growth of knowledge that has taken place since the Scientific Revolution, humanity is reaching a choke-point where the physical capacities of our brain, in conjunction with any and all possible societal configurations in which our brains can work together, will simply not be sufficient to (a) continue the work of scientific research, and (b) maintain a stable civilization. If we wish to exercise some sort of collective self-determination, we must accept that our current sentient forms aren’t up to the task.

via Los Angeles Review of Books – Devourer Of Encyclopedias: Stanislaw Lem’s “Summa Technologiae”.

Post-Partum Document

Post-Partum Document is a six-year exploration of the mother-child relationship. When it was first shown at the ICA in London in 1976, the work provoked tabloid outrage because Documentation I incorporated stained nappy liners. Each of the six-part series concentrates on a formative moment in her son’s mastery of language and her own sense of loss, moving between the voices of the mother, child and analytic observer. Informed by feminism and psychoanalysis, the work has had a profound influence on the development and critique of conceptual art.

via Post-Partum Document.

Theory/practice. What better formulation have we arrived at to describe the discipline’s divergent academic wings, as well as the sources of its cultural agency: But connoisseurs will have already smelled a rat. Is not this doubling up, this pairing, merely an obvious repetition of those quasi-oppositional premises on which “theory” was reinvented in architecture via the dialectical and deconstructionist traditions two decades or so ago? And by force of sheer historical momentum, if nothing else, has not the unstable double seen better days as an analytical device? Maybe. Or maybe not, since we have yet to come to terms with the fact that ours is a discipline full of holes, one that compulsively attempts to plug its leaks by staging false problems demanding immediate resolution or by elaborating shaky schemas condemned to perpetual suspension in the soothing lullaby of dialectical negation.

Despite their apparent clarity, each of these two terms -”theory” and “practice” — refers to a contested set of practices, in turn, equipped with its own, equally contested theoretical apparatus. Within each (as well as between them) is an abyss across which communication is perilous at best. Our temptation might be, in a middle-of-the-road sort of way, to build bridges across these gaps, on which theoretical practices and practical theories might meet. We might opt for a little of this and a little of that, in step with the over-determined sense of moderation so familiar in exhausted geopolitical “overcomings” of Cold War polarities. To do so, however, would be to forfeit the polemical capacity of all forms of architectural knowledge, which grant the discipline a distinct type of discursive and material agency.

This is the double agency of an ability constantly to switch sides, to open up a leak that runs both ways, at all levels -between “theory” and “practice,” as well as between the discipline of architecture and its “interdisciplinary” outside. As with the structural ambivalence native to the double agent, this function does not come without a price. The double agent is at home nowhere and everywhere, a decidedly untrustworthy figure engaged in the perpetual construction of credibility. Nevertheless, it is here that we find architecture at its most polemically refined — not merely disguising itself in a theoretical wrapper (since there is nothing to disguise), but taking up provisional residence therein as architecture. And here also, we find theory at its most polemically refined — not settling for some spurious “practical” application, but practicing itself as if it were as real (which it is) as the architecture to which it may or may not actually be dedicated as theory.

For the double agent, there can be no question of a “postcritical” (read: “precritical”) anesthesia, numbed to the point of utter docility after having taken refuge in the anodyne reassurances of a longed-for instrumentality. There can only be an ever-sharpened alertness to indeterminacy, to the holes that refuse to seal up. Dogma and propaganda thence become mere institutional protocol — a convenient cover, nothing more. What counts is what happens behind the scenes and what is written between the lines. There, where all futurisms are irrelevant, the future is being negotiated. And there, believe it or not, architecture is at play in all forms imaginable.

Even to attempt to answer the call of the “theory/practice problem” is thus to get caught in the myopic concatenations of a discipline bored by its own crises, ever-narrowing its ambitions in a fantasmatic cascade of vanishing points around which a believable telos can be constructed. It is to submit to the logic of the identity card, in which the scope of one’s agency is determined in advance by a regime anxious, first and foremost, to protect its borders both internally and externally.

Under such conditions, all work, all research in architecture becomes a form of counterintelligence, carried out with a sense of urgency in which its status as theoretical or practical is beside the point. It is a risky business, in which there may or may not be a clear opponent, in which ethicopolitical agendas are defined by a willingness to advance propositions irreducible to some absolute principle, and in which there is always the danger of complicity. Such activity is always strategic, even (or especially) when its polemic is hidden under a dense layer of historical exegesis, or in the vivid actualities of the working drawing. So: forget “theory,” forget “practice.” Think and act operatively, in the sense of the “operative” about whose project we can never be sure, even (or especially) when it seems self-evident.

Double Agency. Por: Martin, Reinhold, Assemblage, 08893012, Apr2000, Fascículo 41

At the same time, he insists that the trouble with nuclear power was the inability of government and military personnel to foresee its inherent dangers: “The problem, both in the West and behind the Iron Curtain, was a lack of imagination. No one was able to picture the worst-case scenario.” In Herzog’s terms, the strength of the militarized imagination is its weakness: it is creative enough to churn out proposal after proposal, innovation after innovation, and yet somehow never creative enough to anticipate the resulting hazards. The imagination crafts a future that it can never quite predict. It is never imaginative enough for itself.

En todo caso, es en el ámbito de la creación estética donde Fernández Porta ofrece un juicio especialmente lúcido sobre el aprecio masivo de las obras más convencionales como una reacción acomplejada del consumidor a las complejidades manifiestas del afterpop: “lo que el público mayoritario hace no es asumir las condiciones de cambio de su época y saludar con parabienes aquellas obras artísticas que las representan con fidelidad, sino interpretar esas condiciones como un peligro y responder a ellas prestando atención a las obras que propongan una réplica tradicionalista explícita y sonora”. No se puede decir mejor

Lo real es un concepto críptico y difícil de definir en la teoría de Lacan, ya que para hacerlo, se requiere el concurso de los otros dos registros, puesto que se trata de lo que no es imaginario ni se puede simbolizar. Lo real es todo aquello que tiene una presencia y existencia propias y es no-representable. Aunque las palabras se asemejen, no debe confundirse con el concepto de “realidad”, puesto que ella más bien pertenece al orden del lenguaje, simbólicamente estructurado. Lo real aparece en la esfera de la sexualidad, de la muerte, del horror y del delirio. Lo real es lo que no podemos pensar, imaginar o representar, es decir, lo inconceptualizable, lo que no se puede poner en la palabra o en el lenguaje, constituyendo un indeterminado incontrolable. Sin embargo, no se encuentra completamente alejado del orden de lo simbólico sino que justamente constituye el no-fundamento inmanente del significante. En eso último consiste la paradoja de este no-concepto.

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