Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Two from Octavio Paz

What we need to build now is not only an aesthetics and poetics of the convergent moment, but an ethics and a politics that follow from this perception of time and reality. In such a new civilization, the present would not be sacrificed for the future or for eternity. Nor would the present be lived, as consumer societies do, in the denial of death. Rather, we would live in the full freedom of our diversity and sensuality in the certain knowledge of death. This ethical foundation of the new civilization would extol this freedom and creativity without illusion; it would seek to preserve the plurality of the present–the plurality of different times and the presence of the ‘other.’ Its politics would be a dialogue of cultures.

"West Turns East at the End of History" in New Politics Quarterly, Spring 1992


Since Parmenides our world has been one of neat and sharp distinctions between what is and what isn’t. The being is not the no-being. This first uprootedness—because it was a pulling out of
the being from the original chaos—constitutes the foundation of our mode of thought. An edifice of ‘clear and distinct ideas’ was built upon this conception, one that has made the history of the
West possible but also, one that rendered virtually illegal any attempt to embed the human being upon any other principles.
Whatever its future will be, what is certain is that from this perspective the history of the West can be seen as the history of a mistake, of going astray, in its double meaning: we have been
moving away from ourselves when we lost ourselves in the world. We ought to start all over again.

Obras completas, vol.1: La casa de la presencia, poesía
e historia México: FCE, 1994, pp. 116-117

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Melancholy and time

What is a specific architectural proposal for ruins? Beyond the devices of architectural experience and meanings which emerge from various transfigurations of the ruin, the basic emotional message of the ruin is the melancholy. In this sense, the classical formulation of melancholia as a disposition of the humors is not what is intended. Architectural spaces do not induce melancholia in this Aristotelian sense because architectural space, as constructions aimed at stimulation and inter-reference, provokes the visitor to action—whether it is the action of gazing or confusion, or the action of circulation or occupation. Therefore, the Aristotelian melancholia of boredom is not suitable towards the consideration of space. It is rather a “Kierkegaardian” melancholy which is deeply appropriate. Such a disposition in architectural space is premised upon the suspension of disclosure, or of total environmental knowledge, or of sensory satisfaction. In such dynamic spaces, the visitor awaits the Kierkegaardian moment when experience and knowledge come to fully bear on each other—when experience fully exposes the knowledge of one’s place, and when knowledge (for instance, political or social knowledge as in a site of conflict or emotional and cultural knowledge as in a site of hermitage or gathering) fully brings forth the breadth of experience.

The ruin is suitable in this capacity because it is, by laying bare in a state of ruination, establishing and broadcasting a potential—that is, a notion of what was once whole—that will never again be met. Whereas decay is always “contemporary” in the sense that a corroding stone is fully in its nature even though it crumbles and chips from a previous state, ruination is the recognition of a present state implicated in an ideal or otherwise informed state of wholeness. Whether these implications are optimistic or cynical is beside the point here (though I have a clear opinion on the matter) because both worldviews imply two things off the bat:

1. a system of valuation
2. a re-appropriation and transfiguration.

What is now evident is that the ruin, and other places of ruination, is situated by both place (as in place) and the aspirations of the visitor. In this way, the ruin is a performative social and cultural arena actively engaged at the moment a visitor beholds it. Moreover, this function when combined with the historiological weight of the ruin establishes parameters of narrativity and reiterative, projective temporality. That is, each visitor reiterates this narrativity such that the traits of the ruin (such as physical decay) that measure time are fused into the temporality of duration with-in and the projective-like thought of transfiguration that steep from the visitor’s experience. Each visitor draws out the story and urges the story onward.

Monday, March 31, 2008


the lesson learned from an education in architecture

diagrams are useless. they are generally bullshit.

Monday, March 17, 2008

1. Reflections on Bergson


Bergson writes that “we involuntarily fix at a point in space each of the moments which we count, and it is only on this condition that the abstract units come to form in sum.” In this way, spatial ideas become placeholders for lost moments. Therefore,

a. a point in time accompanies the collection of all items or signs toward a sum.
b. the moment in time is forever lost and irretrievable once it passes.
c. thus, a sequence relies on spatial placeholders to arrive at a sum.
d. this is the essence of duration.

That is, duration has telos, described by the act of place-holding itself. Moreover, this telos is implicit to the conscious recognition of those things (mental representations) that describe these place-holders. That is to say, place-holding as a process, and the conscious appropriation of content that occurs in the act of place-holding together establish the idea of a sum as the ends of a duration. Bergson says something similar when he writes that “every number is a collection of units, as we have said, and on the other hand every number is itself a unit, in so far as it is a synthesis of the units which compose it,” and “this unity thus includes a multiplicity, since it is the unity of a whole.” (51) Indeed, Bergson continues that “when we look at a number in its finished state, this union is an accomplished fact: the points have become lines, the divisions have been blotted out, the whole displays all the characteristics of continuity.” (52)
Architecturally, the above list may mean that:

a. dimension is measured through the gathering of such information in experiential sequence. One first discerns the boundaries of a room upon entering, often according to how the entry happens.
b. the moment in time is retrievable in that it refers to constructed signs that are repetitiously accessible.
c. nonetheless, spatial placeholders in architecture come from constructed space itself, and as such a sequence relies on spatial placeholders to arrive at a sum; the sum is a fully-discerned progression of space, or a progression of space that is discerned appropriate to the visitor and her purposes.
d. this is the essence of architecture as sensory comportment which describes it as an environment of continuous components and thus, through accessing it in time, has duration.

Bergson’s next big point is nice given this list of architectural possibilities. Speaking of divisibility of the sum, having been “objectified” in that it is thought of as a semiotic entity and in a finished state, he writes that “it then appears to be divisible to unlimited extent. In fact, we apply the term ‘subjective’ to what seems to be completely adequately known, and the term ‘objective’ to what is known in such a way that a constantly increasing number of new impressions could be substituted for the idea which we actually have for it.” (52) This is a reversal of what would be popularly held; the subjective would be that which is not adequately known, at least to a community and often to an individual (since we now discredit personal experience as being not-what-it-really-is-yet-there-is-no-Really-Is-except-in-your-head-and
-that’s-not-what-really-is), and the objective would be that which is certainly adequately known and indivisible only within the parameters of the certainly-adequately-known’s rational rules. Bergson says that this is because the totality is something that belongs to the mind; that is, the mind is a necessary partner in constructing unity:
“What properly belongs to the mind is the indivisible process by which it concentrates attention successively on different parts of a given space; but the parts which have thus been isolated remain in order to join with the others, and once the addition is made, they may be broken up in any way whatever. They are therefore parts of space, and space is, accordingly, the material with which the mind builds up number, the medium in which the mind places it.” (53) For Bergson, the mind is the final synthesizing agent, making the parts of space seamless. This is why the subjective for Bergson is that which is certainly and adequately known. Within that unity, the mind may divide at will, break down the moments of sense and experience, in a way which re-objectifies the elements of space as distinct items in the sequence. How this happens, however, is left up to the individual and is not adequately known, and therefore objective, at least until the mind creates a new synthesis.

2. Reflections on buildings as artifacts that produce culture


a. Find any projects that deal with endurance, ideology, political malleability, immersive passivity (allows surrounds to infiltrate), the eternal gaze, ambiguity of position in space, product of the times, constantly changing experience, escapism, didactic place, unnatural inhabitation, and time-keeping.
b. Ruination as a contemporary condition coincident to inhabitation
c. the ruin as cultural performance v. that of display (modification of the ruin over time and the live archive?)
d. introduce the idea of ruination-ergo-time, and what would happen if you could inhabit the ruin through ruination (what on earth does this mean?)

I've been trying to find such examples. The 2006 exhibition Ideal City-Invisible Cities may give some clues. Presumably, the architecture created in the ideal city would communicate to some extent the ideals by which it owes its existence. Such spaces would be didactic, enduring, and ideological. Here are two links with overviews:

Ideal City-Invisible Cities exhibition website


An art blog article

Also, I found these projects in a book called Rethinking: Space, Time, Architecture. The book is generally a collection of verbiage and pretentious language but some of the pictures are informative:

1. "Marking Time and Territory"
Colin Ardley, artist with Hermann Scheidt, architect

2. Cafe Bravo
Dan Graham, artist with Johanne Nalbach, architect

3. "Hohe Dosierung"
Coco Kuhn, artist with K. Hufnagel, architect

4. "Why is it Called Paradise?"
Christoph Mayer, artist

Finally, here are two installations by Richard Sera and a drawing by somebody unknown and without citation:

What to do with a ruin of Earth

Droopy-eyed and procrastinating trying to wake up in studio this morning, I went on a Wikipedia safari which got me reading about the geochemistry of Earth's core and the magnetosphere it produces. There is, I guess, a somewhat extended history of fantasies dealing with traveling to the core of the earth. One such fantasy addressed what would happen if--if, through some inconceivably mind-blowing delusion of dimethyltryptamidely-exogenous irrational affectation--the earth were to cease its rotation. This amounts to asking what would happen if the earth lost its prized, protective magnetic field and succumbed to all the torrents of space with its gamma rays and solar plasma and angry showers of ionic torpedoes. What would the president of Future-America do with the ruin of Earth?

Just when I thought that no movie--now or in the future--could surmount the absurd nitwit-edness of Armageddon, I read about the 2003 film The Core. This is just too good to be true:


And for reprieve, take a visit to this fantastic site which I enjoy:

Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics

Alright, back to work.

Saturday, March 15, 2008



a. articulations between time and space and how they come out architecturally
b. spatial ideas become placeholderss for lost moments


a. Find any projects that deal with endurance, ideology, political malleability, immersive passivity (allows surrounds to infiltrate), the eternal gaze, ambiguity of position in space, product of the times, constantly changing experience, escapism, didactic place, unnatural inhabitation, and time-keeping.
b. Ruination as a contemporary condition coincident to inhabitation
c. the ruin as cultural performance v. that of display (modification of the ruin over time and the live archive?)
d. introduce the idea of ruination-ergo-time, and what would happen if you could inhabit the ruin through ruination (what on earth does this mean?)


a. ruination v. decay
b. assignment of meaning as deferred to place, and what is the placeless ruin?



a. spatial sequencing: the cinematic and the use of space through movement and time--the in-between, flux, etc.
b. the observation of ruination--from what gaze and stance?



Saturday, March 01, 2008

four from bergson

The ruin, as well as the condition and/or processes or ruination, owe their coherence or incoherence to questions of time. "When" questions are our first point of access for the ruin. "How long" questions are our first point of access when encountering ruination. These questions and the time-based issues that they raise (for instance, the decay of a material or the dating of an artifact) together form the concept of temporality. This is a word that is tossed about in discourse but lacks any obvious distinction in its normal use from just saying "time passes by." Temporality, I would like to argue, is a reflective proposition of how time passes. It takes a stance on an issue. The temporality of solitary confinement would be different, therefore, than the temporality of one's childhood or traveling in a plane. So temporality in ruins and ruination deal with why and how. That said, to be tangibly realistic, the experience of time depends on duration. Henri Bergon, in Time and Free Will, includes an essay called The Idea of Duration. It begins positing numbers and what they mean as symbols versus durations--durations of successive circumstance (i.e. 34 as a "duration," Bergson calls it, of 34 sequential entities). He argues that either way, because time, once a moment passes by, is irretrievable, multiplicity (e.g., numbers) rely on spatial reasoning in that we use a spatial abstraction as a placeholder, in the same way that in some video games the stairs crumble as the character progresses. From this point, the essay opens up into a compelling intellectual menagerie which would take me a while to outline. Here are four quotations to think about with respect to space, duration, and our conceptions of the objects (such as ruins) that we encounter in the world:

In a word, we must distinguish between the unity which we think of and the unity which we set up as an object after having thought of it, also between number in process of formation and number once formed...as soon as we consider number in a finished state, we objectify it, and it then appears to be divisible to unlimited extent. In fact, we apply the term subjective to what seems to be completely and adequately known, and the term objective to what is known in such a way that a constantly increasing number of new impressions could be substituted for the idea which we actually have of it.


Our final conclusion, therefore, is that there are two kins of multiplicity: that of material objects, to which the conception of number is immediately applicable; and the multiplicity of states of consciousness, which cannot be regarded as numerical without the help of some symbolical representation, in which a necessary element is

That is, "states of consciousness" as that which strings together the gaps, and does so necessarily as spatial reasoning.


For if time, as the reflective consciousness represents it, is a medium in which our conscious states form a discrete series so as to admit of being counted, and if on the other hand our conception of number ends in spreading out in space everything which can be directly counted, it is to be presumed that time, understood in the sense of a medium in which we make distinctions and count, is nothing but space.

and finally,

For [the co-existence of inextensive sensations] to give rise to space, there must be an act of the mind which takes them in all at the same time and sets them in juxtaposition: this unique act is very like what calls an a priori form of sensibility. If we now seek to characterize this act, we see that it consists essentially in the intuition, or rather the conception, of an empty homogeneous medium. For it is scarcely possible to give any other definition of space: space is what enables us to distinguish a number of identical and simultaneous sensations from one another; it is thus a principle of differentiation other than that of qualitative differentiation, and consequently it is a reality with no quality.

Friday, February 29, 2008


1. what are examples of un-historical interpretations of the ruin?

2. what is an example of contemporary architecture that deals with temporality?

3. what about contemporary architecture that deals with temporality and the ruin, emptiness, abandonment, etc.?

bill viola

Sunday, February 24, 2008

keep going

two quotations from Peter Conrad's excellent Modern Times, Modern Places:

To close the gaps or to conceal the evidence of incompleteness would have seemed dishonest. We inherit waste, or whatever has survived the modern campaign--in science, warfare and culture--to destroy the past and (possibly) the world. Eliot in The Waste Land gathered poetic quotations together to solace him in what he gloomily called 'my ruin.' Later in the century, the Lithuanian poet Czeslaw Milosz--having lived through a series of historical calamities and geographical dislocations--took a less doleful and defeated view of the matter. 'Man,' Milosz argues, 'constructs poetry out of the remnants found in ruins.' For a child, a ruin is a playground, an innocent field of new possibilities. (716)


This, confounding all prognostications, is the simplest truth about the twentieth century. Doomsday did not occur. Nor was the individual exterminated, as the ideologues of both the left and right wished. (713)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


instituto superior de arte - cupola
Originally uploaded by jgeis

narrativity and super-modernity

Heiki Munder and Adam Budak, in An Immense Museum of Strangeness:

It is as if we were living through a moment of intense psychasthenia, as the attraction of space as well as the (forced) assimilation to space, are reaching their peak. As such, space dense in itself appears in Marc Auge's anthropological elaboration of super-modernity, as a feature of excess. It is not only a place (of a firm historical, sociological and ethnographic nature) but also a non-place (a transit space of everywhere and nowhere, something which we experience and perceive but only in a partial and incoherent way), contributing to this overwhelming and all-encompassing spectacle of spatial overabundance, resembling the Deleuzian despair of "any space whatsoever.

fragmentation and wholeness

Sanford Kwinter, in Chapter 2 of Architectures of Time:

Much of our (modernist) culture clung exuberantly to this new world, but often as a radical, new form of totality that was comprised no longer of oppressive, passe, or falsely consoling forms but of fragments. This gesture came to represent nothing less than an apparent rebirth of matter and meaning, for suddenly anything seemed again possible, the old laws no longer applied, the new ones were yet to be invented; all was polyvalency, possibility, and promiscuity. But this exuberance of experimentation was seldom separable from an almost universal anxiety of loss, of disenfranchisement and disorientation. Fragments after all were shards, ruins--at best, braves traces of a past or future plenitude. Fragmentation and its attendant spectacle of polyvocality was perhaps an incomplete consolation for a world that would never again serve as a home. Yet are we not still far from the Greek world of happy immancence where delight in phenomena and appearance was everything? Can our own "condition," typified and expressed through the modern emblem of the "fragment," ever be conceived free of the nihilism embedded both in myth and memory, a nihilism by whose agency we define ourselves (and our world) always in relation to what we are not (and never were)--that is, unitary and constant beings? Fragments, for the moderns--though still for us today--are too often "thought" in terms of a world and a Wholeness to which they no longer have any relation. Is it not possible, however, to restore to the fragment that which is properly its due, to develop it in the element of its positivity, as a specific characterization of matter within a continuous, fluctuating, and time-imbued multiplicity? (37)


1. Kwinter's last question is that which faces all students as they posit the function of constructed space under the pressures of pervasive globalism.

2. Kwinter suggests that we re-place the fragment within that which is continuous, but also that which is fluctuating and time-imbued. i'm not sure what he wants from such a project. isn't it the fragment that has not been restored to "that which is properly its due" that describes a continuity in a fluctuating multiplicity? i thought that's what he was saying before the last sentence.

3. i agree with Kwinter's use of the term 'ruin,' and my project at this point is to position the physical ruin within what Kwinter describes earlier in chapter 2 as the "philosophical, ontological problem of modernity."

on ruination

It is worth it to say that ruination is not the mere dysfunction of things. It is not ‘broken society’ in such terms. Rather, it is the greater arena for such conceptions of ‘brokenness’ in which communities and societies find outlet and dispossession in the physical environment for forces that act in other means. That is to say, all things meet the ground at some point and require an entropic expending of resources that affect the physical environment. This is at the heart of Harvey’s notion, invoked previously, of the “spatio-temporal fix,” which is a moment in time and a place on the earth, where economic forces and the constitutive forces that influence it (such as consumer habit or trade policy) require a physical outlet of appropriation.

My interests in defining the terms of ruination lie in a few key areas. They are: abandoning place, transfiguration, the iterative collection of artifacts, re-appropriation of content and meaning, and the hypothetical architecture of emptiness. To be more concise, I have broken down these areas below:

Abandoning place: ruination is a process of dis-inhabitation, the emptying-out of inhabitants and the items of inhabitation that describe inhabitation on social, cultural, and emotional grounds. Ruination in this description may be illustrated by cases such as the leaving-behind of all manner of items in the rapid dis-inhabitation of Pripyat; the art removed from the museum walls as it no longer becomes viable due to either extreme circumstances (flight) or more those more subtle (depopulation).

Transfiguration: ruination lends way to possibilities of transfiguration, for instance in change over time in which decay and trespass set in. Also, squatters and alternative populations (animals and sometimes entire ecosystems) neutralize the programming of space, pay it no heed, re-appropriate its edges, or make it the subject of artistic interpretation as in the case of the Heidelberg Project in Detroit. Even more compelling to me is transfiguration in the sense described by the modern urge of exhalation. Thus Kafka, Shoenberg, and Strauss articulated worldviews of transfiguration in a post-Nietzschean conception of death and potential. Anxieties of despair and hope in the modern mind run profoundly deep through ideas of ruination. Thus Strauss lamented the ruination of German cities laid bare following World War II—a sensitively cautious invocation of Germanic mythologies of death—in his Eroica-quoting and revealingly named Metamorphosen.

Iterative collection of artifacts: ruination often describes the planned or unplanned collection of documentary objects. Battlefields are left littered with abandoned war equipment and items of value or witness are deposited into safekeeping or hidden for future recovery. The spaces from which these items are harvested, and the intentions or deliberation by which such harvesting and depositing occur, point to those of ruination. The genocide museum of Murambi, Rwanda is a chilling example of the collection of artifacts within a place of ruination. The exposed laying-out of corpses from the massacres blurs the limits of cultural, physical, and emotional ruination.

Re-appropriation of content and meaning: again, the Heidelberg Project in Detroit comes to mind. Natural reclamation, architectural or artistic intervention (to use a common example, Gordon Matta Clark), preservation of ruination, and memorialization are all ways in which content and meaning are re-appropriated to areas of ruination. This is one category that certainly merits more research at this point.

And finally, the architecture of emptiness: mold. What would an architecture which spawns from the tectonic, environmental, or otherwise physical circumstance of ruination look like? On the other hand, what about the cultural, social, or political circumstance of ruination? That is to say, is the architecture of emptiness poietic or technesic—in which the former represents an Aristotelian and mold-like self-manifestation whereas the latter represents a self-conscious and creative intervention.

Monday, February 18, 2008

weekend reading list

1. The Picturesque: Architecture, Disgust and Other Irregularities
John Macarthur
Picturesqueness and objecthood
Appropriation - all

2. Utopische Orte: Utopien in Architektur-und Stadtbaugeschichte
Kegler, Ley, and Naujokat

3. Archipelago
Ed. Peter McKeith
Space as Construct, Karsten Harries
The Sixth Dimension of Architecture, Esa Laaksonen
Place, Memory, and the Architectural Image, Philip Tidwell
Faith and Possibility, Marlon Blackwell
Body and Image, Peter Zumthor

4. For An Architecture of Reality
Michael Benedikt

5. The Architectural Uncanny
Anthony Vidler
Buried Alive
Architecture Dismembered
Dark Space
Vagabond Architecture

6. Architectural Regionalism
Ed. Vincent B. Canizaro
The Regional Motive, Wendell Berry
Universal Civilization and National Cultures, Paul Ricoeur
Regionalism with Modernism, Suha Ozkan
Becoming Regional Over Time, Timothy Cassidy
Strong Margins, Sarah Wigglesworth and Jeremy Till

7. Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered: Spatial Emotion in Contemporary Art & Architecture
Ed. Heike Munder and Adam Budak

death and transfiguration

Henrietta has a friend...
Originally uploaded by Martin Isaac

Sunday, February 17, 2008

what to do with an empty box ii

from the ruins

sound, in this case, (music) can attest to what remains. a composition of music is the articulation of idea. when the music is performed, again and again through time, the ideas at its origin may be accessed differently by different audiences, or created based on an individual's own listening experience. but the idea of the composer does not change. idea here is loose, not meant to be too weighty. the idea is always what remains in a piece of music. i will take from it what i will, as will you, but always in the background remains the idea at the origin of music. it is a ruin in many senses. the ruin is the remainder of the articulation of an idea of place.

what do you do with an empty box? here, the music of ryuichi sakamoto, the remainder of an idea, is taken as an empty box to be filled by the animated content of alva noto. this content is organic, in this case with a highly one-to-one (blob-to-note) correspondence between music-as-remainder and animation-as-content. what architecture fills a ruin? or what architecture grows like mold from its remainders?

what to do with an empty box

Saturday, February 16, 2008

reappropriation 1

Stuffed animal road trip
Originally uploaded by caterpillars

reappropriation 1

Friday, February 08, 2008

Thursday, February 07, 2008

port oneida

paperneg, originally uploaded by Matt Callow.

is the ruin
1. stark in the firmity of its place; or,
2. deworlded by abstraction?

Thursday, January 31, 2008


there is a difference between a deductive argument and an inductive argument. deductive arguments appeal to a subject to render an imaginary other. inductive arguments appeal to a real other to render a subject. of course, all things need imagination since the scope of our sensibility isn't infinite. what is the accountability for inductive arguments? two ideas:

1. imagination (v. the imaginary) binds together subjects in accord to real others.
2. the real other becomes abstract at a point because of the limit to our sensibilities, and requires imagination to prevent a deductive understanding of the real.

what results is inductive arguments in imaginary sandwich bread. like magnetic fields steering ions into the aurora borealis.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008