Exhibition Lecture: “Architecture Before Speech: A Conversation”

Good evening. Thank you so much
everyone for coming out. We’re actually very excited
about the exhibition and about this opening tonight. And maybe even a little nervous. I’m Michael Hays if
there are visitors here and don’t know that. I’m joined by Andrew Holder. We co-curated the
exhibition outside, and we’ll try to go some way
toward explaining it tonight. I really do think if we can
come across and get some of this explanation, you’ll
see that the show is actually quite a lot of fun and merits
a lot meditation, and study, and returning to. We hope tonight, which is
really just the opening of the exhibition, will not come
off like a formal presentation. We really want this
to be a conversation. I think we’re going to
try very hard to leave enough time for a conversation
with the audience. Questions, answers, comments. Because one of the things that
we’ve tried to do in the school lately very much is to have
a public discourse that continues in the
hallways, in the studios, as well as in the classrooms. And we very much
see this exhibition as part of providing
material that helps establish that discourse. We hope that through
gallery talks, maybe with some of the
faculty, we can actually use it to continue those. But first, we owe a lot of
thanks I’ll ask Andrew to give. Yes. Michael and I are
deeply indebted, and there are a couple
of people that we would like to acknowledge publicly. So first and foremost, our sort
of dual patrons, MOS and Pat. Thank you for your
support of the exhibition and for your leadership. And please forgive us
when the bill arrives. [laughter] We would also like to add
to our list of patrons. Both Ken and Paige in
the communications office have been indispensable. And, of course, also Dan Borelli
and David Zimmerman-Stuart, who lead the exhibitions team. And they wrought miracles along
with their team of installers and did some really
brilliant work. So our heartfelt thanks. There were a great
number of students involved in the
production of the show, perhaps too many
to call out singly. But I would like to identify
three in particular from three different programs
here at the GSD. First, Mindy Hsu,
who is a current MDes student who is absolutely
instrumental to the exhibition design. Christina Shivers, a
doctoral candidate, helped to orchestrate all of the
logistics of getting this work here, which was no small task. Adam Strobel, who
is an MArch student. And we’ll just call him our
tireless jack of all trades. He sort of had his fingers in
everything and did brilliantly. With those thanks,
we should also emphasize the kind of
enormity of the task. So there are more
than 70 practices on display in the
hallway outside, many of them originating
here at the GSD. We have nearly 400 drawings
and images and 26-ish models if one of them made it through
customs this afternoon. And all of that was
brought together in a span of about
45 days by this team. So once again, thank you. “It need scarcely be said
that an epitaph presupposes a monument upon which
it is to be engraved.” This is the opening sentence
of Wordsworth’s longest critical text which is
part prose, part poetry, but it’s actually made to be a
kind of theoretical text called Essays Upon Epitaphs. This is 1810. When you come in and see the
main introductory wall text, this is the first
thing that appears. And for us, it’s
an inaugural case of the concept of
inscription, which I want to unpack a little bit. Notice that the word
monument, which is, of course, for us architecture
of a certain sort, it has a flatly literal meaning. It’s devoid of any
attribution of value. This is not the great monument
full of content and grandeur that is great because of
its meaning or its content. It’s rather a fairly
inert material object that provides a surface for
marking, for the epitaph. It does not have
any meaning in it. Now this, of course,
is a departure for an object of art, whose
artistic nature would usually be thought of as a function
of its form being transformed into some clear
representational content. And it’s that departure
that interests us. At the same time,
Wordsworth makes monument mean the material element,
the sort of culturally shared reading apparatus
that the epitaph presupposes. This culturally shared
reading apparatus has to already be in place if
the epitaph, if the speech, the text is going
to have any effect. The monument is a prior
condition for a text to come. This restrictive use
of the word monument is actually really
important for us. It marks an attention,
first of all, to a culturally specific
medium and yet, the medium is not semantic. It’s blank. It doesn’t have
imminent meaning. It is attention to an
expression yet to come. But at the same time, it
insist that the material will impinge upon that expression. The epitaph itself, the
mark, cannot exist without the architecture. And it’s for this
reason partly– So the use of the
word presuppose that means this precondition
that already exists, perhaps like in a virtual dimension. Architecture seems
to be already there before the epitaph speaks. And it’s for
partially this reason that the subtitle
Architecture Before Speech that we use for the
show, for the exhibition, came partially from this
Wordsworth quotation. So what we’re
going to do tonight is to try to make sense of
this notion of inscription, but do it by mapping on
this kind of definition onto the four categories in the
entire field of the exhibition. And we’re going to do
this by sort of going back and forth a couple of times. I’ll first comment a little
further on the background of the concept of
inscription, then Andrew will talk about the
field of work that we draw from. And I just want to point out
it’s extremely important for us that a lot of this work
comes from the faculty of the Graduate School
of Design because– and this is just
for the family– let’s say part of our
claim is that not only are we part of this
larger discourse, but we’re actually an
important driving part of it. And it’s important for
us that that’s the case. So Andrew will talk
about that feel. And then I’ll come
back and focus– you’ll see a couple
of diagrams out there. One is a very important
quadripartite diagram where we try to show the
relationship, or signal relationship, between
the four categories. And our claim is going to be
that these four categories are not arbitrary. They’re actually
logically related. And that’s what
I’ll try to explain. And then Andrew will
come back finally to talk about the
effects and affects that are sponsored by the works. I think we’re going to
interrupt each other. I think we would like to
have those interruptions be productive and lead to a
more informal conversation that we’d like to continue. So I’ll get on with
that so we have time. The intellectual
ethos of the work that we’re presenting in the
exhibition we want to suggest actually derives from the
profound cultural shifts not in the 1990s, but in
the mid to late 1960s. And we’re not claiming that
there’s any direct relationship between the work
and the ethos that I want to show the
background of, but rather that the architecture that
did evolve from this discourse went a different direction. And now what we see
is an architecture returning, not intentionally,
but returning nevertheless, to a discourse that
started in the ’60s. There are two discourses. One is the architectural
discourse itself, which I’m actually not
going to talk about, but it would involve people
as diverse as Archizoom, early, early OMA, and Ungers,
Venturi, and Ghery, Rossi. It would involve
those kinds of people. And Eisenman. And Eisenman. For sure. For sure. We’ll do that in a class. But the other that I
do want to talk about because I think it’s
less familiar, is the shift from
structuralist thought– Levi Strauss and others– which was largely
descriptive and synchronic, to post-structuralist
thought, which was historical. And it’s that historicity,
that attention to historical, that will be important for us. But actually I’m going to
demonstrate both discourses in a single example. And it starts with Tony
Smith, who in 1966 recounted the dark night in 1951
when Smith found himself in a car with three
students from Cooper Union, driving illegally down the not
yet opened New Jersey Turnpike. He talks about there
were no street lamps, there were no lane
markers or guardrails. So this photograph I’m using
is actually taken later. They relied on their
headlights, but also he says on the industrial glow of
the landscape of North Jersey. And in a now famous Artforum
form interview in ’66, he described the drive as
a revelation about art. He says, “The road and much of
the landscape was artificial, and yet it couldn’t be
called a work of art.” And it’s interesting
this word artificial. Artifice will also become
an important concept for us. “On the other hand,” he said,
“it did something for me that art had never done. It seemed that there had been
a reality there that had not had any expression in art. The experience of the road
was something mapped out but not socially recognized. And I thought to myself,
it ought to be clear that that’s the end of art. Painting looks pretty
pictorial after that. There’s no way to frame it–” And I’m suggesting he’s
saying there’s no way to frame that landscape
like you frame a painting, but there’s also
no way to frame it given the conventional
concepts of art. There’s no way to
conceptually frame it. You just have to experience it. This is actually already
a theory of inscription, though he doesn’t use the word. A year later Derrida
would publish– actually the collected
essays he publishes it– so probably it was
written at the same time Smith was writing this. Derrida would for the first
time use the word inscription theoretically. The context is Derrida is
quoting Antonin Artuad’s description of a
painful experience that he always has in
creative writing, This moment where you
feel like you’re entirely trained, and
prepared, and experienced. He’s at the top of his career,
but he has nothing to say. This combination of high
level of skill and drawing a blank Derrida
says actually should be understood as the
very condition from which all artistic expression comes. It’s not an anomaly. This is Derrida. “The thought of the thing
as what it is already merges with–” actually the reading
becomes confused with “–the experience
of pure speech.” Now pure speech, pure word,
is a code word for Derrida. It just means the
assumption that some unadulterated
extreme level of speech is the beginning
of any expression. He says, “When we try
to think reality–“, or what Smith calls
reality, it first gets confused with the
experience of pure speech, or just with experience itself. And then he says,
but doesn’t pure speech, which he should
have in quotations, as if there could be such
a thing, pure potential, doesn’t it require inscription? Something in the manner
of the way essence requires existence, and thereby
pushes on towards the world. In other words essence,
to think of the thing as it already is, to
think of its essence, requires existence,
materialization. And only through
that materialization, which he here calls inscription,
can existence act on the world. Or sorry, potential then
can act on the world. Now up here what
Smith calls reality, Derrida is calling
the thing as it is. Thought about reality
merges with the experience of pure speech, which
is an extreme case, but which really means pure
potential, pure possibility. That kind of pure possibility. The experience of
this pure potential, which Smith says has never
been expressed in art, which the road now conveys,
has been mapped out, Smith says, but not
socially recognized. It’s materially there. It’s been inscribed,
mapped out, but it’s not yet socially coded. It’s blank. It’s there materially, but
it’s not there semantically. But it’s already mapped. According to Derrida,
that materialization has to happen before coding. Coding is not first. Semantic is not first. First, it has to
be pure material. And that’s what the turnpike is. Inscription is potential pushing
toward action, Derrida says. And note, that this pushing
on is not a neutral force. It is a specific
force, or a vector. And in Smith’s case, that
specificity, that vector, is completely embedded in the
road and the landscape, which is to say architecture. So inscription here– and
the important point is that in theory and in practice– inscription is the
point of articulation between pure potential
and expression. Between force and form. It does not have to
do with sign, meaning, function, but rather potential. And then just to
conclude this first part, I just wanted to remind you
that this intellectual field is actually quite known. It’s just never until
now been brought into architectural practice,
which is what we’re saying happens. Roland Barthes
didn’t use the word. So this is where the
quotation from Derrida was published, in a
collection of essays. Roland Barthes never used
the word inscription, but he used the word scriptable,
scriptable, a French neologism as it is in English. But he compares the scriptable
text to the readable text. The readable text is a text of
pleasure, purely consumable. It’s easy. It’s lazy. It’s the novel that you
read to go to sleep by. That’s the readable text. The scriptable text
actually disrupts novelistic expectations. It must be constantly performed. It must be constantly
interpreted. Every time you read it again and
again, you have to re-enact it. And it will be different. Because he says reading
a scriptable text is like writing a text yourself. And it’s associated not with
pleasure, but with jouissance, which we will come back to. A pleasure that is
more like a bliss, but a bliss almost painful and
disruptive of expectations. Paul de Man on the other
hand, writing in English for most of his
intellectual career, distinguished between what
he called phenomentality, which is actual experience
of certain concrete things, and what he called the
materiality of inscription, which he says has to
be prior to phenomenon. He and Derrida are
very, very close. The Wordsworth example I
actually got from Paul de Man. He talks about
that the scratches on the surface of the stone
can be perceived as phenomenon. You can experience them in a
concrete way, but to the extent that they can be read, there
has to be this sedimentation of cultural history. There has to be the cultural
apparatus of reading itself which is already in place. That’s what the
epitaph presupposes, that that apparatus will be
there when the person comes and performs the reading. So again, architecture
preceding speech. So just a note to the
both of us, Michael. At some point I
would like to return to this idea of the road not
taken out of the ’60s that’s happening again now. So if Michael gave
you a kind of overview of the intellectual genesis
of our curatorial effort, I would like to give
you a kind of sense of some of our
early conversations as we’re simply surveying
the visual field of artifacts and examining
contemporary practice. And I would say that the origins
of the show in that sense, in a kind of optical sense,
developed as this suspicion or doubt about a cliche
that is almost totally dominant in its characterization
of the architectural field. And the cliche goes
something like this– architecture is a centerless
field at the moment. And this is a kind
of new condition, but it’s centerless and
anything is possible. And that perhaps in our
contemporary condition, architecture has
lost all measure except an oscillation between
the spectacular and the banal. So this collage by OMA is kind
of an emblematic expression of this cliche, architecture
as a sort of centerless field in which anything goes. This of course was produced
as a kind of diagram to advocate on behalf of
their Dubai Renaissance project, which is
sometimes known as the Dubai slab, the big
white thing in the middle. And according to OMA, if we
adopt the view of this cliche, there are only two
rational design options. We can either compete on
the grounds of spectacle and make better icons. That’s what everyone
in the background is doing in OMA’s collage. Or we can design voids
in the visual field and perform a kind
of act of erasure. Central to this view is the idea
that the canon has collapsed. That this let’s say core group
of mostly Italian buildings from 1500 to 1950, let’s
Alberti to Tehrani, is no longer studied
in such a way that it would give
us a kind of measure other than this oscillation
between spectacle and banality. And so we would like to
sort of respectfully object to this view. It’s quite common, but we would
like to propose something else. And we would like to
do so on two grounds. The first is this. And so, of course, this is
one of Piranesi’s Vedute. This is his depiction of the
Temple of Minerva Medica. And I think for
us this indicates that the canon has always
been represented back to the discipline as being
in a state of collapse. So let’s say from
the very moment of the invention of
the canon, per se, and its various inventions
in the 18th century, it was being projected
back to architects through drawing as something
in a disordered state that must be rationalized
from this state of abjection, and cleaned up
and taken up again as a kind of affirmative
set of principles. So, of course,
Piranesi is not alone in this kind of depiction
of the canon as something that must be recovered
from an abject state through difficulty
and rationalization. And this is sort of always the
way in which it arrives to us, and we just need to
sort of work harder to discern its patterns
and tendencies. Secondly, aside from the
sort of historical truism that the canon is always
in a state of collapse, we would like to claim that
we do see fairly evident order and rationality in the field. It’s simply not a form
of order and rationality that could be so
easily structured by the core periphery model that
would be indicated by a cannon or a kind of collapse thereof. So we’ll just say that the issue
of the canon is moot for us or maybe not a part of
this discussion, per se. And we’re interested
in a field of relations that are more
horizontal, that could be included under this sort
of umbrella term, resemblance. Or at least resemblance was
a kind of guiding principle as we started to detect order
and repetition in the field as we saw it. Or at least the field
as it’s represented in the Druker Gallery. This term resemblance
is important for us because it indicates this kind
of appeal to something shared. An appeal to a certain
form of cultural agreement that precedes speech. An agreement that is
passed between authors and establishes continuity
between two things. And resemblance for us can start
in a very simple way, simply with the acknowledgment
of a kind of visual rhyme. Oh yeah. We have red and green,
and green is far and away the better pointer. Here we go. So it begins with
the acknowledgment of a kind of visual rhyme. And it need not be a
kind of high genre rhyme. Low is absolutely fine with us. It can even be bodily. So in this case,
we would say you can see a kind of rhyme that
has to do with protuberances and finger like digitation
being produced by architects and sort of differentiating the
detailing in their buildings. And although the rhyme may
start at the level of intuition and a kind of low
genre, we think it’s fairly easy to
start to build up a degree of sophistication
in identifying these kinds of through
lines or continuities in the work of
contemporary practices. And to do that
work, we might lean on a text like
Foucault’s discourse on similitude in
the Renaissance, which, of course, is all about
these sort of modes and methods of establishing resemblance. And this speciating resemblance
into different techniques that we can sort of identify
apart from one another. And so I’m just
going to take you through some
snippets of the show and start to call out these
forms of resemblance that establish little through lines. And then after that, Michael
will situate those smaller similarities inside a kind
of much bigger field of ideas and possible positions. So all of these that
I’m going to show– I’ll show four of them now–
are snippets from the wall. And I’d like to call out these
sort of three way continuities. So in the center we have
Ellie Abron’s Inside Things. And for us, this
establishes the proposition that the architectural
digit can clasp. That it affords
a kind of support by entanglement and intimacy. And then of course Mack Scogin
and Merrill Elam’s Wolfsburg Competition entry project
takes on that idea of support as a kind of
literal proposition. To lift the plinth that sort
of elevated above the city. And it’s interesting here that
this sort of bodily digitation is support for a kind of
unadulterated architectural plinth that can be
re-read as a kind of head because of the legs. And of course it
would be the plinth that is identified as
the head, because it’s this sort of seat of
non bodily knowledge atop a bodily support. On the other side we
have Outpost Office. This is a selection
from their series called Computer Architecture,
where there is no longer this separation
between architecture and its bodily support, but
instead the entire building has become enfolded in a
kind of clasping digit. The exteriorisation
of the support disappears in favor of these
sort of internal pleats that might organize the
section of the building. So for Foucault, this
mode of similitude would be called analogy. That each of these is related
to the other because of the way they are constantly
making reference to the body as a shared form
of agreement between them. There is another
kind of resemblance that we could call convenience. And convenience would have to
do with shared forces operating on the same set of material. Foucault would call it
an adjacency of places so that their edges touch,
and movement, influence, and passions can be communicated
between these places. So for us, Johnston
Marklee’s Hut House would occupy a kind
of central position in this sort of through
line of resemblance in that there’s a rotation that
is kind of playing on the found stuff of the eidetic house. That they are torquing sort
of roofs, walls, and windows. And it’s the same material that
is taken up by Sean Canty’s Ja House, also in a rotation. And similarly, in one of the
artifacts from Erin Besler’s Low Fidelity series of
projects, where again, a kind of shearing
and rotation are operating on this found and
known stuff of the house. And it is that kind of shared
material and shared operation that would establish the kind
of convenient relationship between these. This is a kind of
selection of what we would call trabeated stacks. And here maybe we
could borrow the term that Foucault uses to describe
another kind of resemblance– emulation, which is a form of
resemblance without contact. So if convenience requires
this sort of superimposition of places and
shared materiality, emulation does not
require that in order to set up this field of
relatedness between projects. Instead, they can work on
very different material and sort of reflect one
another as a kind of gaze in the mirror. So this is Ensamble Studio,
the Hemeroscopium House. This is our very own Jennifer
Bonner from Best Sandwiches. I believe this is
the Grilled Cheese. And Farshid Moussavi is
again, one of our very own– Divine Folly. So in each case there is
a very clear reflection of this idea of
the trabeated stack and yet, sandwich is
radically unlike fragment of infrastructure is radically
unlike the kind of undulating and purely formal perimeter
of the concrete slabs in the Follies. So they do not require that
shared overlap of place in order to perform
this reflection. And lastly, we would talk
about this more distant form of similitude that we
could term sympathy. And this is a kind of drawing
things toward one another in an exterior and
visible movement. So here I would like to begin
with Toshiko Mori’s Dialogue in Details, where
she is examining several important
buildings, but only extracting a very small slice
of their system of construction and setting it
free in a gallery. Painting it entirely
white so that it becomes being-like or
figure-like in its presence. And it is that kind of
separation then of entities sort of pulled out
from context that allows us to understand a kind
of sympathetic relationship between figures. Toshiko’s Dialogue in Details,
Christ Gantenbein’s Athens Series of occasional tables
that similarly establish this kind of figural
distance that then allows us to relate them as characters
in a room to Toshiko’s project. And then on the
very end, this is a project by Central
Standard Office and Kelly Bair called The
Cat That Ate the Canary. These are all
radically different in terms of their
function and let’s say kind of didactic machinery. This is an installation. This is furniture. This is a bird house. But it’s this
mechanism of sympathy that allows these figural things
by virtue of their standing apart to develop a
kind of relationship. So now what we want to
do is make the claim and try to convince you briefly
that despite this wide variety and heterogeneity
of work that we’re drawing from, that there
is a mechanism somehow, a deep structure that actually
generates that these projects have in common. And this deep structure, or what
I earlier called a materiality, is common across that field. In 1968, A.J. Greimas provided
a kind of little machine that he called the
semiotic square. Of course this contradicts
all the anti-semiotic rhetoric I was talking about
earlier, but it’s a matter of just using the term. He’s still using
the term semiotic, which we’re claiming that
the structure of the square works in a non-semiotic
way as well. So I hadn’t realized
that before. I just read that word. The square is designed to
diagram the way in which from a single starting
point, that an entire complex of permutations, positions,
a sort of combinatory of positions can be derived. It’s essentially
a sort of updating of actually an Aristotelian
logic of contradictions and contraries, where a
beginning term always, of course, produces its other. But any term will not only
have its direct opposite, or its contradiction,
but will also produce other oppositions
that also oppose its own first contradiction. Rather than go through
the mathematics of this, I’m going to give a very
quick example of how it works with something that
I hope you’re familiar with, which is Claude Levi Strauss’
The Raw and the Cooked. Now in Levi Strauss’ work, of
course, The Raw and the Cooked, raw food and cooked food by the
end stand for an entire network of social and familial
relationships that structure not only culinary efforts, but
things like the incest taboo, and which cousin can you
marry and which you can’t. And it’s a very
elaborate structure that finds its root in
what Levi Strauss calls a culinary triangle. With Levi Strauss it only
has three terms, the raw and its opposite, the cooked. And then something that Levi
Strauss says and he’s already doing the structuralist
right thing by saying, well anything that
has its opposite will produce other
kinds of oppositions. So the raw and the rotten,
or the cooked and the rotten. So for Levi Strauss,
you get this triangle. What Greimas does is
say that actually it’s the square that will
produce an even more interesting fourth term. Because if the cooked is
the opposite of the raw, this unknown fourth
term here would be something like a stronger
positively anti raw. And Levi Strauss
didn’t suggest it, but the point is that
to use the Greimas, your mind immediately
starts putting together other possible logics. So I’m suggesting
fermented, which is neither cooked nor raw,
but also not quite rotten. And what’s interesting
about it is that it is related to the rotten. It’s boiled, right? But it’s also in a way related
as a contrary to the cooked, because it’s a different
way of consuming food. And you can’t consume either,
at least in this case. You couldn’t consume
either raw or rotten. So you get a highly mobile,
a highly dynamic field. And it’s just this
kind of field that we wanted to use to structure the
work that Andrew just sampled. We started in a
dialectical opposition that we thought all
architecture had. And that’s the opposition
between the transcendental and the imminent. It’s in philosophy. It’s in Aristotle. It’s also in architecture. The imminent for
us is represented by this casting of Ensamble. Whereas traditional
interpretation would go back to the
architectural image, to its signifiers, to
its sensory pleasure, but the image here by
contrast, is produced. For example, from the tug
of gravity on the concrete, which of course has the earth. You dig out a hole
and pour in this slab, and then remove the
earth, or actually raise it up from the earth,
but the tug of gravity gives it this kind of
particular image on the button. Or the heat transfers between
the concrete and the earth that causes certain chemical
mutations and colorings and different hardnesses. So this exchange of heat. In other examples we
have this propagation of light from unseen sources. So all of these kind of
earthy, bodily, phenomenal, and sometimes even
cosmic considerations that lead to almost– and if we wanted to think about
architecture before speech. In this case, it’s almost– In the case of the
imminent category, it’s almost a kind of
grunting, babbling, stuttering, as before speech
in that almost archaic sense. You know, the direct
opposite of that again might be something
like Justin Marklee’s houses. And this may not
even be the best one they were calling
transcendental, if what we mean
by that is a kind of attention to
form and process, but also Boolean operations. Boolean is just like when
you use a search engine, you can say this and
that, or this or that. And you can see here,
it’s this and this again, or it’s this or this one. And you get in these
kind of series. So what’s interesting
is Johnston Marklee always do about four
versions of a single project using the same elements. And that’s part of what
we’re calling transcendental, because it has to do with this
certain kind of very high level mimesis. The other examples we
give are labyrinths that are digitally generated,
or stochastic patterns in elevation. This is very divorced from
the organically related frames and cycles of the imminent. So that’s our first dialectic. The transcendental which attends
to issues of form, structure, probably type. Type is a very good
example of what we’re calling transcendental. These are highly articulable,
re-instantiated, re-iterable. They’re given, whereas
these tend to be more found in nature or in the lab. But highly sensible, attention
to material over form, phenomenon over structure, and
topos, or place, over type. So that’s the first dialectic. But then there’s
this other category. Let’s say that we believe in the
transcendental project, but not its truth. What will happen in that
case is if you think you can no longer actually
find an answer, what you start to enjoy is the pursuit itself,
the process, the sheer artifice of the discipline
driven machinations that you go through in design. And this will be
very complicated. It will produce
projects of traces, superimposition,
stacks, scatters. It’ll produce effects like
tiling, nesting, buckling, pleating. All of these are these kind
of nervous, compulsory, kind of hand wringing
machinations. Because you know you’re not
going to arrive at the answer, but you’re enjoying the pursuit. And then it will
be a revelation. And this was Andrew’s
insistence that we name it. There will be this revelation
to this overly compulsive processes. On the one hand, it’s related
to but kind of opposition to the transcend. It’s still formalist,
let’s say, but now it’s no longer about a kind
of given structure, but it’s about a
revelation of an artifice. It’s certainly not imminent. It’s exactly the opposite of
the earthy, phenomenal, bodily, mimetic category here. But what about this one? How could we get a
strong response that might be related to the bodily
mimesis of the imminent, but might also be related to
the kind of doubt, and artifice, and nervousness about revealing
the artifice as opposed to in a way believing
in the artifice. And of course, we found it
in a number of projects. But again, sticking
to our own faculty with Mack Scogin and Merrill
Elam’s Wolfsburg Tower, which originally I wanted to call the
category creaturely encounters. But we stuck with just
the idea of encounter to match the others. The characteristics here–
again, like the imminent, it involves body. But in this case
the mimesis is only an approximation to the human. It’s this just not quite human,
which is anxiety producing. It’s this not
quite human mimesis that provokes this attention
toward the creaturely. It’s as if this thing like a
golem in the old Jewish ghettos just appeared somehow, right? To save the city but
humans had nothing to do with its creation. It’s like architectural golem. It seems prehistorical,
pre-verbal. Lacan has a beautiful
word that I’m using here that when things that are
most familiar, most intimate, turn out to be not
quite right, he says the feeling of extimacy. Or this extimant as
opposed to intimate. It’s this thing that
you thought you knew that is now radically other. And I think that categorization,
or that explanation, is right. And then, finally, when
you look at this Greimas diagram outside– imminent, originals,
transcendental. This is the kind
of formalist axis. This is the kind of
phenomenological axis, but this is more
phenomenology gone wrong. This is kind of
formalism, in a way, exaggerated and artificial. So you can start to play with
all these different connections with the works across. And then finally–
and I’ll stop here– what we imagine is again,
going back to inscription. I said that inscription
is when force and– if we think of this
as a force field producing all these
vectors and relationships– is this what I’m here
calling virtual architecture, and where the inscription
begins here and passes through different kinds of
disciplinary strategies, different kind of archives. This triangle, or
cone, of inscription draws from that virtual deep
structure that you can’t see. This is the pre-supposed
that Wordsworth talks about, and then you finally end up
with an actual architectural project. All right. So we thought this
was a neat trick that one of our diagrams
sort of turned upside down equals the other. So I think we’d like
to close this segment of the conversation
between the two of us by talking about
effects and affects, which is maybe a turn
from the description of possible positions in
the ideological field, to asking the
question, what claims can we make with
respect to the audience? And particularly,
what claims can we make about the instrumentality
of the building with respect to the audience? Or maybe occasionally I should
use this word, beholder. Because we are
indebted in some way to the work of Michael Fried. So let’s begin here to start
to get at this question. This is an image of a model
that Wonne Ickx and Productora did in their proposal
for Aalto University. And for us, this was the kind
of first glimpse of a recurring trope that we see
again and again, almost like a kind
of tic, particularly in the category that we’ve
decided to call monoliths. So this is a project
by Geers Van Severen. All of their projects are
numbered, so this is 152. This is the Aalto University
project by Productora, and this is Jesus
Vassallo’s Water Towers. But in each of these,
we see a similar kind of awareness of the frame and
a similar kind of clustering of towers against one another
with respect to the frame as though there is a kind
of acute interest there. That these seem sort of too
perfectly framed and too perfectly clustered for
this to be accidental. And I think that we would argue
each of these three images is in fact this, a
kind of tower selfie, where the tower is aware
of both its position as a subject, but also the
possible subject positions that it engenders. So what I mean by that. This is you, the subject. You’re taking a
photograph of Kimye, but their affects, their
deportment, and their bearing has a kind of consequence
that flows back to you as the subject. So the flatness of Kanye’s
scowl in a certain way denies the importance,
or even denies the presence of the
beholder, you, the subject. And Kim’s simper does something
sort of very different. And so we would like
to sort of start to think through the
work in those terms. In terms of how the
affects of the buildings start to permit and open
up different subject positions while
they deny others. And maybe before we start to
rehearse the possible positions that are on evidence
in the Druker gallery, we should just emphasize
the kind of difference in this mode of thinking from
other ways in which affect has historically been
taken up by architecture. So it’s clear here
that we’re trying to argue that affect gives
architecture a kind of role to play almost as an audience
member in terms of the way that it starts to go
to work on subjects. But historically, affect has
worked maybe more like this. So these are the self-portraits
of Jean-Jacques Lequeu, where he is kind of depicting
these extreme emotions. And we would call this
another different way of thinking through affect,
where we are interested in how buildings make you feel. What stimulus results in what
kind of externally observable response? So this is very
different I would say. Maybe the work, we
would argue, is not so interested in how
it makes you feel. It is, however, using affect
to construct possible positions with respect to it. So perhaps with any luck
that distinction makes sense. So here I’m going
to start working my way through the second of the
diagrams on the wall outside. And I’m going to build it
up in a series of layers that are similar to Michael’s
description of the Greimas square. And I think we would like
to begin with flat affects, because I think you will find
a great number of the works on display build a possible
subject position for you that is very much like being on
the receiving end of Kanye’s scowl, a kind of a flatness. And for us, flatness
is not homogeneous. Instead, it has a kind of
near and a far horizon. A nearness that we will
call an imperious presence, and a kind of far
horizon that we’ll call disinterested withdrawal. So an imperious presence
might be something like this. Again Geers Van
Severen, project 152, where the building
is quite near, but that does not necessarily
entail an engagement with the beholder. Instead, it is a
kind of aloofness. Or this Machado and Silvetti’s
tower from The Four Squares project. This is the Leonforte tower. Again, it is quite
near, but that nearness should not in any way be
confused with accessibility. It is aloof. It is imperious. It is literally above. And for us, maybe that sense
of a kind of imperious nearness would be tantamount to let’s
say Louis the 14th’s sort of arrival with his retinue. This is a tapestry, 1670-ish. It’s part of a longer series
called The History of the King. This is documenting Louis’
arrival into the Gobelins. He is attended by everyone,
and yet he does not care. He is staring out of the
frame of the tapestry and his attention is elsewhere. It is a kind of
denial of his retinue. So if that’s the
near horizon, I think you’ll also find examples
of this far horizon disinterest that takes
the form of a withdrawal. So this is T.E.A.M., their
Detroit Reassembly Plant project, where the building
is not only withdrawn, as in literally hiding as a
recluse behind piles of refuse. But it is also a
form that refuses to didactically explain its
lumpen appearance in any way. It is simply a kind of given. A slightly awkward given, let’s
say, that constitutes for us a form of withdrawal. Maybe even more to the point,
this is SIFT Studio’s Rocks. And this is an
architect withdrawing to the kind of hermetically
sealed zone of geology. Like we may not inquire
into its processes. It is simply there. This sort of movement
back and forth between the near and the
far horizon, of the flat affects in the show,
they are metered also in another direction. So here we might talk about
the impassive, the depressed, the absorbed, the bored,
or the distracted. And so this project
by First Office. I think it’s fair to
call it bored or boring. They, in fact, I
think, would appreciate me designating this as a boring
project, or a bored project. But there’s simply not much here
in the kind of white on white. It’s easy to sort of
go adrift in the kind of total lack of interest in
the flat field of the rendering. A kind of close relative
would be absorbed. This is another
project by First Office for the design of
a table that is to be assembled out of
Ikea parts, but a very difficult table. And all of this kind of
delirium of technical notation, we would argue, has to do
with a kind of absorption in the facts of
the drawing itself. A denial of the
beholder in the sense that all attention is supposed
to be sort of measuring the difference between
2 feet three inches and 3 feet 6 and 1/4, or
whatever it is up there. This moment of the kind
of absorbed band in flat affects for us is very
important, because it becomes a point of connection. Or let’s say a connective
tissue with a very different way of thinking through
affect in the show in a different category of work
that has to do with jouissance. So in a second I’m going to
return to this point, which is important to us, where
jouissance makes contact with the field of flat affects. But just to kind of
quickly rehearse– and Michael may want to
interject because this is sort of right in his wheel house. But jouissance as
I understand it, is not only pleasure, but
a particular intensity to pleasure. And as French theorists
have taken up this term, that intensity may also be
painful at the same time that one experiences pleasure. So it has these two
different modalities. And for us,
jouissance moves kind of upward in increasing
levels, not only of intensity and pleasure,
but let’s say also in increasing authorization
of the beholder. So if flat affects have
found these various gambits for denying your presence, or
by sort of completely absorbing attention in the
field, jouissance does something different. There is a form of
invitation to experience that is issued by the work. And so at the very bottom
point of jouissance would be work that we
characterize as feral. And for us, this is maybe
like a dog digging a hole. A kind of total
attendance to the task. Almost absorption,
but still a kind of minimum awareness
of environment and of the possibility
of a viewing subject. A kind of, let’s say,
animal awareness of context. And for us, Bittertang’s
project, Bessie, is a kind of ideal feral. This one deserves a
little explanation so I asked Bittertang
to submit renderings of this project, Bessie. And in its original conception,
let’s say in 2013 or ’14, it was a proposal for a zero
waste tent made of cowhides, and bones, and remains after
the consumption of the cow. So you would eat the
cows, use their skins, and use their bones to make this
kind of tent-like inhabitation. When I requested a
model of this project I was told that
cows don’t scale. [laughter] And so instead,
they would make us a new model out of
Cornish game hens that were of a size that
could fit on the pedestals. And so they purchased Cornish
game hens, roast them, ate them, and produced
the model that you see on display in
the gallery, which I think is a kind
of breathtaking idea about sensibility. And perhaps one that
issues a challenge to our very own HouseZero. I think moving upward
through the various strata in jouissance is the object. So here I am indulging
myself a little bit. This is a project by my own
office, The Los Angeles Design Group. And here the abject
is in our ability to identify these little
bits and trinkets. A kind of unfolded box, a
pipe, some dirt, wood blocks. But these have all fallen
from the station where we might have originally
encountered them, as a trinket, let’s say, in the
McMaster-Carr Catalog. So it is the fall
that is responsible both for our pleasure
that we might take in a model like this,
but also for its abjection. A bit higher up, but also
kind of closely related to abjection, would be
the kind of delightful. And this again is Jennifer
Bonner of MALL and her Grilled Cheese trabeated stack. And here the delight
is not in observing the collapse of a
system of manners, but in its maintenance, no
matter how absurd it might be. So we can see the sandwich. The sandwich is not contested. The sandwich has not fallen. Similarly, we can see the
imprint of a relatively reasonable building facades. And then finally,
above the delightful, we would place the ecstatic. This is a project by Millions,
Zeina Koreitem, and John May one of a series of
projects on collectives. And here, the delight
is in the experience of a technique that
almost overwhelms the material construct
on which it plays out. And so it’s kind of like the
pleasure of technique runamuck right up until the point where
it threatens the integrity of the entire enterprise. And for us, at that sort of
limit condition of the ecstatic production of
architecture, we’re also starting to introduce
a kind of invitation to the audience. A sort of total
involvement of architecture with people at the
scale of the body. All of these
infinitesimally small little crannelations that
one would continually encounter as you move
through the building at the scale of yourself. A kind of a threat of
dissolution between you and the building, or a
dissolution of the distinction between you and the building,
that is both kind of ecstatic and has this kind of painful
quality to it as well. Maybe as a kind
of closing thought before we move on
to conversation, I would say that the
diagram that we are not talking about too
much here at the end starts to build a case for us
about the place of authorship in a show like this. So if we’ve expended
a great deal of energy surveying the field, and
attempting to describe it with as much precision
as we can muster, there is this sort of unanswered
question of like, what now, the task of the architect
if we have indeed identified a kind of
contemporary trope that holds. And perhaps we would posit that
the signature of the author is no longer the kind
of operative term that we should be looking for. Instead, it’s the kind of
author as the maintainer, or the author as the one
who tends and sort of brings to the fore these
cultural agreements that precede semantic meaning. Yeah. Thanks. [applause] So we hope we’ve left
time, and we didn’t leave as much as we tried. But we hope we’ve left
some time for comments. Maybe it’s obvious, but to
emphasize that of course you challenge our categorization
and you challenge what slot we put some of these
projects into, which I think is kind of the point of
trying to find relationships by allowing and inventing
new types of reading. Not just to be satisfied
with one mode or another, but to try to open up new kinds
of reading these projects that find connections as
much as disjunctions. And that we hope is part
of the pleasure of the show is kind of playing
that interpretive game. Alexander. Thank you so, so
much for sharing all of this art with us. And I think that there is an
incredibly commendable kind of attention to
reading the field, as fragmented and
de-centered as it is. My question is
basically whether it is possible to sustain a reading
of the models in the hall as anything but spectacle. And if we were to identify
in the presentation a series of binaries,
we might say the first of them is imminent
versus transcendental. Or for my benefit, [inaudible]
binary of form or physique versus morale and discourse. And then the second I think
is Michael Fried’s binary of absorption and theatricality. But I think the
pinnacle of my question is, when we’re calling
Bittertang’s consumption of a chicken anything
but theatrical, we started to have some
questions about the degree to which we can
sustain differences between the bottles on a basis
other than theatricality. So I guess I wonder how we would
how we would start to do that. So what I would say, and try
to develop if I had time, would be that to dismiss the chicken,
though it is one of the most extreme cases, I think. But to dismiss it
is still to hold to a mode of reading
which privileges vision over other kinds
of performances. The comparison with zero house
is actually really interesting. What we normally
call zero carbon, it still has nothing to do
with the possible wastes in recycling. But we don’t yet have a
way of bringing those kinds of very real considerations in. And it goes without
saying that most of the preponderance of projects
are very preliminary stages of experimentation. Some are actually built, of
course, but most are not. And I think as an
experimentation, and even as a kind of manifesto
about consumption, recycling, that we have to find new ways
of evaluating and reading those projects. Fried never leaves
the platform of vision with his theatricality
versus absorption. I don’t disagree except
to say let’s think about more bodily, earthly,
but also more cosmic things, as well as vision. Let me just add
one thing quickly before you ask your question. I would say let’s not
confuse intensity generically with theater. That there are
certain agreements that must be in place in order
to sustain the theatrical that don’t apply to intensity
kind of generically. And so I think we
have to make room for some form of presence of
the viewing subject that is not in that kind of
theatrical relationship that Fried would
ascribe to anything that admits of a beholder. So if I sit down
to eat my dinner and it happens to
be a chicken, that is not necessarily theater. And so I would be
interested in kind of testing the limits of the
intensity of that proposition before it sort of slides over
into this other form that requires another
set of agreements. Yeah. I also amplify your thanks for
this incredibly revealing talk and presentation. Exhibition. Michael, can I ask you to
engage in active, pure thought? You had me at
Wordsworth, and what you didn’t seem to address– [laughter] –is the first five
words of the talk, because you dwelled on
epitaph and monument. But the quote starts with,
“It needs scarcely be said–“, which is classic preterition,
so clearly it need be said. Yeah. Exactly. That moment is called
apophasis, when you say it need not be said. But remember, what I think– It need not be
said clearly means that this is really important. And it is the first
line of a book. So he’s thought
about these words. But again, I just simply read it
as an introduction to the fact that his interest is going to
be things that are not said. And it need not be said, because
it can be sensed or apprehended in other ways. And so I think there’s a
circle in that first line that it need not be said. And even the epitaph’s real– And don’t forget the
other side of apophasis. What is it called
when death speaks? Pro– propo– proposophis? It’s full of
rhetorical machines, because an epitaph is
often attributed to speech from the dead. So it need not be said is also
it can’t be said by a human. And this kind of
inhuman quality, which some of the things
that we keep returning to like indifference,
boredom, the feral, these are also non-human, thing-like
qualities that I think is in that first line as well. Lane. Sorry for the third
male question. And I have two things. So first is I was hoping
that you would come back to the question of
the 1960’s discourse and how that’s been read,
how that has somehow returned or not. And the second is direct
curatorial question about the exhibition,
which is that on one wall, you have these diagrams. And on the other wall,
you have the work itself. And in a way, the work itself
is organized purely visually, purely based on vision. And I think the analysis
that Andrew performed on it is largely visual and
only transcends being visual when you’ve mapped
it onto these diagrams. So I wonder, why you have on
the East wall put the work, and on the West wall
put the diagrams, and not allowed
them to in that way, speak to each other or not. Do you want to take on the ’60s? [laughter] I’ll take on the ’60s question. So Rem Koolhaas’ AA
project, The Berlin Wall, which did nothing but
photograph the Berlin Wall and declare it architecture,
was really, really interesting in the same way I think that
the Tony Smith is interesting. That the experience
of the highway is declared as art
or as architecture. But then we started generating
things and this is by no– I don’t have this down. I would like to study this. Things like Ungers looking
at Berlin at the time that it’s shrinking and
accepting the shrinkage. But even something like
Venturi’s and Scott Brown’s learning from Las Vegas,
rather than Las Vegas is an abject sight. But accepting the
abjection, of course, they try to semiotize it. They try to make
it into a semiotic. But the very
interest in not just a vernacular, but an
abject vernacular, is very close to some
of the things that are going on now like with
First Office is very much that. So we were looking I
think there are, Oh, in Archizoom in the
No-Stop City project, where the first drawing– quote unquote
drawings of that– are done a typewriter with
zeros, slashes, and pluses so that they de-skill even
the architectural drawing process in order to produce
this different kind of feel. So I think that we’re interested
in those experimental projects that embrace the lack
of meaning and try to find other sensory,
affective, these different– To expand the sensorium again. I’ll give you the wall is
organized visually but trying to spark interests that
go that go beyond that. And I think the ’60s sort of– The other thing that for an
unreconstructed Hegelian, as Antoine has pointed out
many times that I still am, to have a theoretical discourse
and an architectural discourse align around issues of
materiality and non-semantic significance, if
you will, is just thrilling to kind
of think about. I would also– Lane, I appreciate the
question very much. And I would like to
maybe put it in relation to Alexander’s question. So if Alex is asking,
have you indeed escaped Michael Fried’s
judgment of theater? And you’re asking,
have we indeed found a kind of escape velocity
from the visual field? Both of those, I think, are
profoundly modern questions. Like, is experience describable
by this kind of the matrix construct? And to what extent are we going
to think through these sense data as sort of separate
streams where cognition is hovering above them? And maybe we would suggest not– Non-modern position
is maybe too strong. But I think we’re leaning toward
a kind of non-modern position where we would not be
embarrassed to admit of the visual. We would also simply claim that
it is not so easily pried apart from all of the other
ways in which we might sort of walk around the world,
and consume it, and think about it. So that the beauty of
Foucault’s meditation in the order of things,
that the prose of the world where he talks about
these Renaissance systems of similitude, is
that there is no easy way to kind of disentangle these
primarily visual metaphors from the intellectual content
that they are organizing and related to. So the kind of onion, and brain,
and dome similitude that he calls out is optical,
for sure, but it is also a kind of larger ordering
system for the world. Your talk was fascinating. My name’s Ann Sussman. I do a blog called The
Genetics of Design. I’m a licensed architect. I think your talk is
very, very interesting. On the other hand, I
think it’s stuck in time. We’re in Boston, in
Cambridge, the center of the biotech revolution. Harvard actually promoted a
lot of that biotech revolution. And I think the problem you’re
going to face going forward with this– this a warning– is that people are going
to start assessing it with biotechnological tools. Right now I’m a designer. So I know that car
designers all use biotech. Honda, BMW. Advertisers all use biotech. Facial expression analysis. I’ve used eye tracking, EEG. You can no longer talk
about Foucault and Derrida. Toyota would think
you’re out of your mind. And the same brain that looks
at a car or looks at an ad, is the same brain that
looks at a building. It’s a brain that’s
3.6 billion years old. It’s hardwired from birth
to like specific images more than others. I’m not going to
tell you what it is. OK. So part of your, I think,
intellectual foundation is false. In the first place, the
mind is not a blank slate. I’m quoting there Harvard
psychologist, professor, Steven Pinker, his
bestselling book. You argue the mind’s
a blank slate. The mind’s not a blank slate. Read Steven Pinker. The other way you’re
confused in your thinking is on one hand, you say,
which I agree with, we have an emotional brain that thinks. You’re saying that a lot. But on the other hand,
you say we have a thinking brain that has emotions. You cannot have it both ways. Read Harvard neuroanatomist
Jill Bolte Taylor. She’s got the most
hits on YouTube. She was a neuroanatomist
who got a stroke and watched her brain go down. So we have an emotional
brain that thinks. So how do we really define
architectural theory knowing we’re all emotional? And here’s the kicker. You can’t do it
unless you’re doing the same tools that Toyota
and BMW are already using. So I think your talk is great. And I think in a way
talking about affect giving architecture
a role to play, that’s absolutely
what they’re studying. But I think you need
to bring your kids into the 21st century. They’re going to enter a world– I know this. I just got a grant to eye
track buildings in the suburbs. Your architects won’t know
how I’m going to assess it. And I’m going to assess
it with hard data. I’m going to tell
them that people can’t find the front door. You get it? So you’ve got to take your
talk to the next level because we’re in
Cambridge, which is the center of the
biotech revolution. The fact is paradigm
shifts are brutal. They’re not nice. Think about Steve Jobs. Wasn’t a nice guy. But they’re going
to happen anyway. They don’t care what you did. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be– But I’d be happy to talk more– It’s definitely fascinating
to me that one could– Part of the response
that I think when Andrew was
responding to Lane about not to deny the
visual, but to layer other kinds of
considerations into it. What I would take from
your comment is just that. That I would love to have a
group of architecture people, some of whom understood the
technology that you’re saying. But to bring it and add it to
other techniques of reading. Rather than let’s say,
let’s forget the old but– Let me just finish. Let me just– One more
thing because the one thing that you’re
recommending, it tends toward the purely empirical. So that any dimension that
cannot be put in terms of data will be ignored, which is
in architecture, or in art, or in culture, is a huge
dimension of something that cannot be put into data. So you’re going toward
a kind of empiricism that’s very sophisticated,
but it’s still in empiricism. It has no
transcendental dimension of virtuality or speculation. This is a longer conversation. No, no. And I would love to have it. Yeah. And I would love to
have it with you. It’s very, very powerful. Yeah. The most powerful companies in
the world would be using it. And that’s what is
defining their designs. No. What’s defining their
designs is the economic hope of that technology. We’re not talking about an
economically driven reading system here. You’re talking
about a data system that the hope lies
in its bottom line, not in its cultural value. Modern architecture is about
technological revolution. If it weren’t for
the steamships, we wouldn’t have had modern
architecture, basically. And so now modern
architecture is faced with a fantastically
disruptive new technology. As disruptive as
steamships were. We could talk later. I’d be happy to
give you my card. I think it was a great talk. You can come to my class. [laughter] You’re on. You may have stopped
the conversation. Oh. OK. Why justify your
entire reading system using post-structuralists
when you’re doing a structuralist project? Oh, they gave me a mic. Are you guys ready? But all the post-structuralists
you like to cite reject the concept
of deep structure, and you’re trying
to re-imbed one. Why do you do that? Yeah. See. I always feel that
traps are set then if you don’t follow a
kind of linear logic. Why can’t I be structuralist
and post-structuralist based on the kind of explanatory
power of certain models? Where did she go? Oh. Why can’t I continue to use
Foucault or Derrida if they help me explain something,
but without worrying about the correctness and the
purity of keeping it structural or letting it be
post-structuralist when the one came from the other. I mean, when Derrida writes to
the criticism of Levi Strauss and says that he doesn’t
understand structuralism because he’s too
descriptive and synchronic, post-structuralism was born. But the one came
from the others. So I don’t know why
I have to be pure. You’re asking me to be pure. It should make sense that
if you want your philosophy or whatever this
is supposed to be– It’s not philosophy. It’s not philosophy. I never said I was
doing philosophy. No. I never said I was
doing philosophy. And also, Levi Strauss is not
a philosopher and Derrida, I’m not even sure
he’s a philosopher. And de Man is certainly
not a philosopher. They’re literary people, and
I’m an architectural theorist. And I’m a bad historian,
but I’m a very good architectural theorist. And I need philosophy,
because I use it. I don’t have to be
correct with it. I don’t have to be. Well then why should we buy the
existence of the deep structure you describe? All you’ve told us is
that a lot of these things seem to look similar. Where is the deep
structure in that? I mean, they all look
at each other’s stuff. That’s not deep structure. That’s culturally historically
specific structure. We all read Art Daily. We all look at the
same magazines. Where’s the deep
structure in that? I think the attempt was– as preliminary as it was– to try to look open mindedly and
speculatively of a generation. They’re more than
one generation, but there is a
certain age group that seem to be sort of
trending toward certain new sensibilities that architecture
has not looked at lately. And we found that
really interesting. And as Andrew said,
it had assumed that there was no center. And we’re not
looking for a center. It had been assumed that there
was no structure, that people were just doing their own thing. And I just don’t believe
that that’s possible when we live in the same world. And our response to
that world will– by that the fact that
we’re in the same world– will have something in common. And a biologist and an
architect may find common ground structurally because they
live in the same world. And that’s history is based on
is finding those connections. So we’re just trying to find– That’s the fundamental
premise about history that Foucault rejects. Stop trying to teach me
lessons about Foucault. OK. I can use Foucault, and
I understand Foucault. I can disagree with Foucault.
I don’t have to use philosophy as a guidebook. I don’t have to. But you need to present
arguments for why– I had half an hour. Give me more time. I will. I need more time. Why are we getting beat up? [laughter] It was a bad lecture. Thanks for the talk. So I really love this idea
of trying to survey the field and figure out what’s going
on, because I think there’s a tendency to say
so much is going on that we just have to throw up
our hands and sort of jump in. But I think if I
could be convinced that you could survey the field
and create even like, a Hegel level master history
of what’s going on, I would follow you
there all the way. So my question is, if
what you’re trying to do is survey the field, how are
you defining the field such that only the things in this
exhibition are included? And I don’t want to be
too pointed about it, but if it is that
you’re just trying to sample a kind of
vanguard that is suggesting the direction of
the history, then why is it that it’s mostly
these sort of small, sort of projectless, sort of
bourgeois North American and Western European practices? Thank you. It’s very bourgeois. It’s very North American. It’s our friends. Yeah. No I mean, I think– it seems to me as though
many of the questions are being launched
from a place that sort of presumes an infinite and
infinitely neutral data set. And I use the word data
quite intentionally, as though we could sort of
like, look down from above on every architectural project
within the last 35 years and make informed
selections that would then result in their
presence in the gallery. And I would like to
posit two things. I’m not sure that’s
a useful exercise. And secondly,
that’s certainly not what we’re trying to do at all. We’re trying to construct
a kind of mythos really out of whole
cloth that has a certain kind of
interior coherence to it that is probably more intended
as a kind of generating mechanism for reducing the
crippling self-consciousness of young architects as they
attempt to do more stuff. More than it is an
attempt to describe anything in empirical terms,
or god forbid, correct terms. I have no interest in that. So I would say
what’s out there– well it’s A, available,
intellectually available. It’s B, work where we feel
quite confident that the GSD has a kind of generative role in the
initiation of certain strands of thought. And so we are already a
kind of bounded system if we want to take
the sort of data view. Certain agreements
have been made and we’re all in this room. And I think if this isn’t an
entirely accurate reflection of all of the
people in this room, there are a few lies in there,
we hope it’s a compelling one. And the power to compel would
be far more important to us than the kind of accuracy
of any single move. Yeah. What I appreciate is that
a lot of these things that led to this exhibition– This is a convergence
of a lot of things that the school has in place. Like Alice, where we first
talked about that Wordsworth passage. At a symposium,
the sort of salon, that Jennifer and
Andrew organized where we first started using
a certain kind of vocabulary. In the various convergences
from classes, to other lectures, to visiting critics, to trips. There’s a kind of
convergence and an excitement that the GSD has a way of
convening and collecting that just to amplify
what Andrew just said, that I hope we can continue. And move forward again,
without worrying about– We need to be rigorous. We need to be accurate. We need to be rigorous. But we also need to just
speculate and imagine. And I think that part of what
the exhibition is trying to do is to reward imagining. And I think it’s been really
enjoyable to talk about it and work with it. And thank you all
so much for coming. Thanks a lot. [applause]

3 thoughts on “Exhibition Lecture: “Architecture Before Speech: A Conversation”

  1. 1:19:00 part was great; for me this question keeps coming up. For now I am drawn to Kant to explore it. Plus we have to recall: computers are not just what we see as data which is already drawn to form; the computer itself is a schema too, and has its limits of form as well, no? The way it processes data? That would also be a language. I think the empiricism retort speaks to that.

  2. I absolutely loved this conversation. I think if this exhibition could have a second title it would be as Mr. Holder said "The Power to Compel." The discussion and strong audience comments were a refection of the successful presentation of a compelling and stimulating subject.

    What I found exciting and beyond exhilarating (literally pacing the room while the video was playing), was the semiotic square and the culinary interpretation. The movement of that interpretation into the architectural realm takes us on a processual path or cycle which I have discovered as a type of architectural adventure. That journey through process, which arrives and departs various states, is reminiscent of life itself. I would add that maybe the process is not a square but more of a hexagon, or even and octagon; if we added the states of life and death into the process. Life may even be described as a sort of birth or conception.
    We could even elaborate on this linear progression as:
    The possibilities of these states of process can be further elaborated and soon the square transitions to a hexagon, then to an octagon; ultimately to the cycle of a circle which is composed of a multitude of points and lines.

    Then there is the question of the "Anti" and what that could be in an architectural discourse. I think the anti would be something that is not architectural at all. As I thought more about the conversation and comments, I found that the Anti would be similar to the comment regarding Bio-Technology or any other interconnected facet that is related, yet not actually architecture. Semantically, I think that we are programmed to think that "Anti" has a negative connotation. However, "anti" in this instance, is not positive or negative; but rather: both. As a metaphor, Anti is the line that separates Yin and Yang. As our modern society grows increasingly complex, we straddle the line between the two, even reside within the line, as the evolution of our human minds gives us the understanding that the line of separation actually has a thickness and we have found a way to maneuver through it. Anti, in architectural terms, could be something as formless as air or maybe context such as an occurrence beyond the scope of our immediate control, yet, within the reach of our senses.
    The question I find myself asking: Is the notion of the "Anti" the driving force or stimulus of architecture itself. The anti seems to be the variable of an architectural equation, with architecture as the resultant or product. Upon finding the solution to the equation, we arrive at the solution to the architectural challenge that is presented to us. Thus, I would challenge that the Anti is actually the beginning of the cycle rather than the ending.

  3. Interesting presentation! But who's the asshole at 1:22:08 harassing Hays and Holder? Who does he think he is? Even if he's right about Foucault, he should learn some intellectual humility!

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