Sunday, September 13, 2020

Find common ground [and] subject things to change

 "Objects! For me there are no such things! What counts are the relationships. They are infinite. ... And what is between ... I started by painting a space and then by furnishing it. The object is a dead thing. It only comes alive when it is activated. That is what poetry is, don't you see? Find the common ground between things. ... You have to subject things to change, to stop living on automatic."

— Georges Braque (in conversation with Paul Gruth), cited by Bernard Zurcher, Georges Braque: Life and Work p154, n17.

 

Elsewhere: "...the quality I value above all else in art ... [poetry] ... a matter of harmony, or rapports, of rhythm, and - most important for my own work - of 'metamorphosis'"

— Georges Braque (Richardson, Georges Braque 1959), cited by Dieter Buchhart, Georges Braque: Pioneer of Modernism (Aquavella, 2011) p50.

Monday, August 10, 2020

the moment has suddenly come to switch the ceiling lights back on... architects poets artists... see things in eternity rather than in the temporal.

 

Francis Ponge: "... it seems that some architects still forget electricity at times. I mean, that some still do not account for it - that is, as being of an importance equal to that of either air or daylight - when they draft their plans. This work has only one aim: and that is to be - I do not say convincing - but rather unforgettable, so that not a single one, as readers, will ever forget that electricity exists... Is that clear? / And now, we are going to turn off the ceiling lights on this book and on our intentions and instead, turn on the desk lamps or the bedside ones, and, with your permission, we are going to become more intimate... Isn't it already evident, in parenthesis, how pleasant it is thus to vary the lights instantaneously according to our state of mind, or according to the setting, the atmosphere or, as the saying goes, the ambiance that one wants to create? / And so, a layman was called in... himself a technician in another field... Language, quite simply... Because, all things considered, our language is the only one that has, in the Tower of Babel of techniques, some chance of being understood by one and all. / ...and yet, it had to be written... Architecture houses all the techniques. Electricity sheds light on them and animates them. And speech? Well, Speech (in another sense, it is true) houses them, animates them and sheds light on them, all at once. ... And now I must go on... I must suddenly turn aside and dig in: I must go back to my plan. / According to my plan... I must call myself a poet. What does that mean? Well, a layman, but lay in all things, systematically.... and in a paradoxical manner... for the enjoyment of his readers. / And now, the moment has suddenly come to switch the ceiling lights back on. / ...(but a moment, if you please) - to remind myself in my personal notebook to ask my architect, in the house he is building for me, to put in light switches near the windows (and not just close to doors and beds) so that I may better savor the night. / Here we are, then, in the night, and here is the open window. Whether the sky is overcast, as the saying goes, whether the darkness is without a break, and we should, for example, expect a storm, or that myriad stars, on the contrary, appear in the firmament, our basic feeling remains the same: we are placed, all of a sudden, and once again, in the presence of natural forces, and the infinite - spatial and temporal at the same time. / If we were, first of all, going to feel spatial infinity, the astronomical one, we now know that it is only a matter of electricity... let us put that aside for the moment, and let us rather plunge into temporal infinity, in the Night of Time. / Let us remain in the night a while longer but let us once again become aware of ourselves, and of the very instant, this instant of eternity through which we are living. Let us gather together, in this type of amusing, the most recent knowledge that we possess. Let us remember all that we were able to read... / How should I then consider the spectacle that night offers to my eyes? ...the very striking image... made us conceive of the atom as a solar system and its free electrons as comets. And, indeed... I am willing to concede for a moment that everything is an electrical charge, an electrical field, etc. But, in the final analysis... there is nothing there that does not remind me, given the quantum notion of action and of the principle of uncertainty (which only confirms it), of the famous 'clinamen' of Democritus and Epicurus... / And then, I reread Lucretius and I said to myself that nothing as beautiful has ever been written... And I know that he has been described as an anxious person, and as a madman... But since we are still on our balcony, with the lights out, looking at the nocturnal sky, I can also maintain, remembering Electra, that one might find in it an example of divine behavior... that he too had been placed among the stars... where his light has not yet diminished. / And now... I am beginning to see, although still indistinctly, a few reasons that had prevented me from explaining... / Note that we still haven't turned the lights back on. ...I must benefit a little longer from the darkness and... the possibilities of 'constructions' that it contains; the monstrous abstractions that it allows. / ... What would you want us to do? Well, exactly what we are doing, we artists, we poets, when we work well. ...It happens when we too dig into our matter: into meaningful sounds. Heedless of ancient forms and melting them back into a mass, as it is done with old statues, in order to make cannons out of them, ammunition... and, when necessary, new columns according to the demands of the Times. / Thus, we may perhaps, one day, create new Figures that will allow us... to traverse curved Space, non-Euclidean Space. / Not bad at all... as of that moment, I think now we have become one. I must admit there is something agreeable about all that. But to tell the truth, knowing myself as I do, if I have indulged in this fantasy, it was only because I knew how to suppress it instantaneously. What did I have to do? Well, suddenly switch the lights back on. / And here I am, without delay back on my feet in the visible world. And as I had better savored the night, by eliminating dusk... At that instant, in the glare of the electric bulbs, I see how wrong I had been about several things that the night had led me to construct. / Admittedly, at times, this can be rather unpleasant: a short-circuit or an atomic bomb. But we shall take it in stride... / We have now adopted washing machines, tape recorders, and electric razors. Why not? We would be foolish to get along without them. However, we will neither be the last ones to use them, nor the first, definitely not the last... Electricians have understood this. Isn't it about time architects understood it, too? / The way that man presently feels about electricity [1954] has not yet produced any major work, any major poetic work. Couldn't this lag, among architects and poets, be due to the same causes? Architects like poets are artists. As such, they see things in eternity rather than in the temporal. For all intents and purposes, they are wary of fashion... / Wouldn't the very speed of the progress of science prompt architects, like poets, to a certain resistance insofar as their deep commitment, their affiliation, their 'connection', is concerned? / Out in the street once more, I was stunned by all sorts of light. I then went to the home of a duchess friend of mine where I dined by candlelight. / Because of this, I soon became aware of a new fact. Electricity is a lasting marvel, not only because it determines our conquest of the future but because it does not, in any way, stop us from appreciating the pleasures of the past, and perhaps makes us more sensitive to them. / ...And I said to myself that I too could aim those beams on the pediment of a monument in order to bring out, as never before, a particular detail... I could dazzle an assailant or fascinate a prey... double or multiply my observations... provoke scandals or surprises, amazement or those grimaces that sometime accompany the revelation of a truth... / Coming back home in a mental state you can imagine, I felt simultaneously spurred on by emulation, an imperious need to sit down at my desk and finally write a worthy hymn to Electricity, but also, and such are the contradictions in nature, a need, no less important, for coolness, for silence and meditation in the night. / So much so that, switching off the lights, I went out on the balcony again. / .... In the end, I said to myself, because I was tired, I think that electricity has acted in a rather negative manner on poetry and art. We experience its influence in a general modification of taste. I mean to say that it has contributed in making us prefer clarity to the penumbra, perhaps pure colors to subdued ones, perhaps speed to casual manners, and perhaps a degree of cynicism to effusion. / All that has had a part, in all the arts, in shaping a certain type of rhetoric: one marked by a spark leaping between two opposite poles, separated by a hiatus in the expression. Only the elimination of the logical link allowing the spark to flash. / Poetry and electricity accumulating from that moment on, and remaining unknown until the lightning... / Such is the state of things that must be taken into account by architects, because there is no turning back... / At that point, I started to laugh... / It seems to me that we have indeed shown in everything that we've just said, although in our own way... the importance of electricity in dwellings... "

excerpts from Francis Ponge, 'Text on Electricity' [1954] (in Gavronsky, The Power of Language, 1979, p161-199.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Critical archi-poetry — Before the End of the World

critical archi-poetry found in the middle
of Ed Roberson's To See the Earth Before the End of the World:

“A dome is the support
                           of the bridge-in-all-directions,
              anywhere the weathervane
                                             seated on it points.

The arch of each foot
                           stands on half the dome     of human balance,
             the start point   of the arc made step     our walking is,
                                        a colonnade of landing,  uplift,  then falling
forward.

                            The course the great domes of this program take
                to bridge over mortality       they think
                                               is to shape time and history,

or their stomp of progress           …arcing up andfallingdown,
                         the great capitols
                 each atop the other’s emptied footprint.

Geometries have narrative,
                               story,    program the building poses
               in its fit to the senses,
                                            the spatial drama of its lines
as built idea…

                   … is upside down made begging
            bowl    for wandering oceans…

                                                              … upside down
                           the foot’s upturned arches cupped into a ship’s
            hold   carrying each step’s ground
                                        gained by trampling another’s   

                    …an edge the earth shouldn’t have
                                                     for falling off itself…”


—————————————

The insides
of a space, the human
in a volume,

something
internal like the room
of the Pantheon —

          …

as it is poled through time —
also pulls through Grand Central
          …

in slant hour
of light         stroke the floor.
The traveler…

—————————————

                      ...travel
is a transitional structure
its doors in different places.

… the exit to old Penn Station
long gone

                    A building travels
through time
                      … to the original


idea of a door
                        As an entrance to
the city     we could have picked up
our Virgil”




Critical archi-poetry excerpts from Ed Roberson's "Architectural Drawing", "Architectural Program" and "Travel Structure", found in the middle of To See the Earth Before he End of the World (2010) p75-78. Find more on the Chicago poet Ed Roberson and his thoughts on archi-poetry here, and here > where he notably proclaims "the audacity / to have survived. as the architectonic of a city."



Monday, May 11, 2020

the inexplicable - what really goes on

"There is a room of walls which come alive with images and words... You'll have to decipher what's going on, as it happens. Just like I did... on a journey to another dimension to save Words from their demise... This poem goes pretty far, and terrifies me, but it should be read for pleasure. A story, with characters, and illustrations, and qualities of humor and tenderness... the Survivors have with them an Anthology of poetry which is quoted from: only poems can deal in the inexplicable – what really goes on..."
— Alice Notley, "Preface" (excerpts), For the Ride (2020)

Monday, May 4, 2020

a small revolution can tranform the world

"...poetry is not at the margin of ordinary language; it is inside ordinary language. Its inner action renews a language... [and] emotion... is the transformative energy... renovating the social, and language itself. The [poetic]... unit within semantics... is not necessarily visual, although it is vehemently sensual. This is a great part of the pleasure of reading... The time of the poem is the time of an invention... elemental, it stands outside chronology. Through the presence in the poem of the desiring body... a small revolution is proposed.  ...the poem... an altered world... can transform the world... When language changes, life changes."
— Lisa Robertson (excerpts), from "Introduction to the Translation Feature", on Émile Benveniste's unpublished notes on the poetic language of Baudelaire. (ARC Poetry Magazine, n80, Summer 2016)

Friday, May 1, 2020

meaning parades through our brains

"I’m drawn to this idea of language as a stage that we all show up to see. First of all, it’s exciting to think there are objects in the field of language, that there are actually things to see... Language uses our memory of objects and our desire for meaning to world-build. So, if I’m inside your metaphor, and I’ve arrived at this stage upon which I will see language, I’m giddy, because I think I’m looking at nothing. Nothing is happening in my eyes. Though, somewhere else (perhaps through some other kind of seeing) shapes emerge. Signals go off and meaning parades through our brains. How fantastic is that?"
— Renee Gladman (speaking of her then forthcoming book Calamaties (in Bomb, Nov 2013)

Friday, April 24, 2020

Space for those who never go there

"A man with a book goes to the light.
A library begins that way...
This one starts with a man who wants to read a book...

Inspired by a great teacher the fortunate young man
winks to the chapel as he passes...
He was there though he never opened its door...

Not daring to enter the Piazza, I
diverted to other streets
toward it but never allowing myself
to arrive...

Space for those who never go there,
those who must be near and don't enter
and those who go in."

— excerpts from "The Continual Renewal of Architecture Comes from Changing Concepts of Space", Louis Kahn (Perspecta, v.4, 1957).



Thursday, December 19, 2019

Eccentric Crops

Exquisite Corpse is a surrealist game still worth playing. We're calling ours Eccentric Crops, and a chapbook is forthcoming.
periodic poetry table

book idea - inspired by color swatch books (too expensive)


more too expensive book ideas

duct tape moleskin

hostages to an idea 

Eccentric Crops


Saturday, November 16, 2019

when you open a book, the person pops out, and becomes you

Ray Bradbury on why we read.

“…you’re very curious, aren’t you, to find out how I fell in love with books. Now remember this, love is the center of your life. The things that you do should be things that you love, and things that you love should be things that you do. So that’s what you learn from books… You see, libraries is people. It’s not books. People are waiting in there, thousands of people, who wrote the books. So it’s much more personal than just a book. So when you open a book, the person pops out, and becomes you… So you find the author who can lead you through the dark. And Shakespeare started me there… and Emily Dickinson led the way for me, and Edgar Allen Poe said, ‘This way. Here’s the light’. So you go into the library, and discover yourself.”
—Ray Bradbury.

https://youtu.be/Pqp38_uS-eg
 
Posted for #StudioBilbio, a studio/seminar on the architecture of public libraries.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

the most imaginative teaching hearth ever built

“Imagine... a Yestermorrow architecture, imaginative enough and large enough to enclose everything in a single structure... that lures, calls, leads, and pulls you from one area to the next.
...Imagine... an art gallery enclosing a museum, enclosing a library, enclosing a university, enclosing a theater. Five concepts, five environments, five ways of seeing life. Each circling, each rounding the other.
...Why a theater at our architectural core? Well, isn't life one drama topping another? Isn't everything theater? 
...Try to imagine any human activity that does not finally shape itself into vivid metaphors spoken, acted, taught. 
...stepping through from circle to circle, what would we find?
...An architecture, in sum, it seems to me, as marvelous as those rounded self-encircling nautilus shells found along the shores of our seas. Easy to build? In the mind, yes. With glass, brick, stone, and mortar? Difficult. And expensive. 
...What a pomegranate experience. What an incredible womb... Will it be built between now and the century's end? ....can it be the most imaginative teaching hearth ever built to warm our minds? I say it can be done. I wish it to be so.”
– Ray Bradbury, excerpts from "Yestermorrow Place" [1988] 
in Yestermorrow: Obvious Answers to Impossible Futures, Capra Press 1991, p 77-80.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Now is the Time to Take the Archi-Poetry Leap

Now is the time to take the Archi-Poetry Leap: 

“The language revising its own architectures is the cloud palace and drift of your desire.”
—Robert Duncan, Notebook 31 

[as cited by Steve McCaffery in “ParaPoetics and the Architectural Leap” in 'A Time for the Humanities: Futurity and the Limits of Autonomy' (Fordham 2008)]

2 choice McCaffery quotes, that I agree with (if that matters): 

1) “We must remain alert to architecture’s ominous expansion in the hyper-realism of the neoliberal dream, alert to the colonizing force in which architecture is mobilized by a compound telos of planning-for-profit.” p104.

2) “Why the leap into architecture? From ’stanza’ to the ‘prison-house of language’, architectural figures dominate within the very formulation of the linguistic. Architectural metaphors haunt writing to a degree sufficient to cause us to question a merely benign metaphoric presence. One of Heidegger’s lasting insights is into how both language and architecture ground us in the world. In architecture, as in language, human beings dwell (poetically or not) whether in open mobility or confinement. Derrida observes, ‘We appear to ourselves only through an experience of spacing which is already marked by architecture.’ Heidegger and Derrida alike suggest that prior to becoming social subjects, we are all architectural bodies [cf. Arakawa Gins]. We need, however, to add to Derrida’s grammatological conception of architecture as ‘a writing space, a mode of spacing which makes a place for events' the facts that architecture too is the materialized conception of dwelling and the dwelling is fundamentally a relation of ontology to spaces. Architecture in that enriched sense serves to return being to its problems by way of 'oikos' rather than 'poiesis'. And if Bachelard is correct when claiming that all inhabited space bears the essence of the notion of home, then the link between reading and dwelling appears to be far from a strained analogy.” p105.

I have more work to do, on #archipoetry from the side of the poets...
Thank you Adam Katz and Garry Thomas Morse for the breadcrumb trail.

Link to source text here, or via your library > A Time for the Humanities  

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Room To Room: Poetry & Architecture in Conversation (a limited edition chapbook)

Limited Edition Chapbook

Room To Room: Poetry & Architecture in Conversation




Three genre-jumping poets with a background in architecture have joined together to exchange poems and thoughts about the architecture of poetry and the poetry of architecture.

ARKITEXWERKS (2018) 4 1/2″w x 11″h, 100 numbered & signed copies of this limited-edition chapbook were printed with archival pigment inks on 28 lb. acid-free archival Mohawk Superfine Eggshell paper, wrapped in 100% rag vellum endpapers and a cover of Strathmore 300 watercolour paper, then hand-sewn with waxed linen thread.

available while supplies last for $10 via Plug In ICA (online or in-store)
or Knife | Fork | Book (in Toronto) 
or Ingrid Ruthig (who edited & made this wonderful little book)

Link here to Video of my portion of this Archi-Poetry event.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Poetry & Architecture in Conversation, Toronto Nov 2, 2018



3 archi-poets joined for an evening of Poetry & Architecture at Knife|Fork|Book Toronto Nov 2, 2018

Ingrid Ruthig + Komi Olaf + Ted Landrum

Stay for a Q&A led by Elsa Lam, editor Canadian Architect.

12 min. video of my reading here

Knife | Fork | Book, at The Dark Side Studio
244 Augusta Ave, 2nd Floor, Kensington Market, 

Toronto 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Keeping it up rather than Tearing it down

"Every time I heard or read about the destruction of a building I had known, or saw it burn on the local news, I felt like a piece of my flesh was being ripped away. 
         I've always turned the old corner with dread: What if, when I reach the apartment house where I grew up, there's nothing there? It wouldn't be surprising: so many of the buildings in these parts have been sealed up or torn down; streets that were busy and noisy and too narrow for the crowds twenty years ago are as open and empty as deserts today. But it hasn't happened, at least not yet; the building looks surprisingly good, a little Art Deco jewel in the midst of devastation. A heroic superintendent and organized tenants have held it together; and its present landlord appears to have some interest in keeping it up rather than tearing it down. I feel a sense of metaphysical relief...
     ...Life is rough in the South Bronx, but the people aren't giving up: modernity is alive and well."


—Marshall Berman "The Signs in the Street" [1984],
collected in Adventures in Marxism (Verso 1999) & Modernism in the Streets: A Life and Times in Essays (Verso 2017).
 

Considered among Berman's best essays, "Signs in the Street" was a reply to a review of All That Is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity. As Michael Walter points out, "The last line in Marshall’s essay summarizes his new position: “Reading [Marx's] Capital won’t help us if we don’t also know how to read the signs in the streets.”


Read it here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

All that is Solid Melts into Air - Berman's Howl

"Thus, in Allen Ginsberg's 'Howl'...remarkable things are happening...urging us to experience modern life not as a hollow wasteland but as an epic and tragic battle of giants. This vision endows the modern environment and its makers with a demonic energy and a world-historical stature that probably exceed even what the Robert Moseses [Fausts and Trumps] of this world would claim for themselves. At the same time, the vision is meant to arouse us, the readers, to make ourselves equally great, to enlarge our desire and moral imagination to the point where we will dare to take on the giants. But we cannot do this until we recognize their desires and powers in ourselves... Hence Ginsberg develops structures and processes of poetic language...that recall and rival the skyscrapers, factories and expressways he hates. Ironically, although the poet portrays the expressway world as the death of brains and imagination, his poetic vision brings its underlying intelligence and imaginative force to life—indeed, brings it more fully to life than the builders were ever able to do on their own... They could not bear to look into the nihilistic abyss that [Faust's/Moses'/Trump's] steam shovels and pile drivers opened up." 
—Marshall Berman [Archi-Poet], All That is Solid Melts into Air (1982), p311.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Poetry as Research: Fabricating Truth in Architecture, Feb 1-3 Atmos: Fabrications Symposium


                               

Presenting Archi-Poetry as Research, Feb 2, as part of the Atmosphere: Fabrications Symposium, 2018Faculty of Architecture, University of Manitoba. 
A small stack of books will be available for purchase.

More on the symposium here 
Download the full book of Abstracts here
Order Midway Radicals & Archi-Poems here

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Review of Midway Radicals & Archi-Poems

Thank you Jill Stoner for a generous review of Midway Radicals & Archi-Poems, in the November issue of Canadian Architect magazine.

Here is a link: https://www.canadianarchitect.com/poems-of-space-poetry/

And a downloadable copy is attached
Jill Stoner's book "Poems for Architects" is a wonderful threshold to archi-poetry.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Ted Landrum reading at Thin Air: Winnipeg International Writers Festival, Sept 24, 2017

Link here for a video of my reading at Thin Air, Winnipeg International Writers Festival, Sept. 24th 2017. I read three poems from Midway Radicals & Archi-Poems: "Snippets of Kairos for Enkidu Haircut", "Writing an Aid to Me" and "Agog":



Thanks to Charlene Diehl, for the opportunity; to Joshua Whitehead, Guy Gauthier, and Uma Parameswaran, for sharing the stage; and Lisa! for recording and so much more.

Midway Radicals &Archi-Poems (Signature Editions​ 2017) can also be ordered through any earnest bookstore by requesting the ISBN #978-1-77324-004-6. Or, simply order through the publisher > http://www.signature-editions.com/index.php/books/single_title/midway_radicals_archi_poems

#Poetry + #Architecture = #ArchiPoetry

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Midway Radicals & Archi-Poems



Midway Radicals & Archi-Poems will be published April 2017 (poetry month)

Publication info. here

Local Book Launch April 28th McNally Robinson, 7pm


A review of the Book > here.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

philosophy rises from the neighbors' chimneys

“With deep winter upon us and the weather growing colder, even the wood smoke out of the neighbors’ chimneys could be described as philosophizing. I can see it move its lips as it rises, telling the indifferent sky about our loneliness, the torment of our minds and passions which we keep secrets from each other, and the wonder and pain of our mortality and of our eventual vanishing from this earth. It’s a kind of deep, cathedral-like quiet that precedes a snowfall."
 
— Charles Simic, "Winter's Philosophers" New York Review of Books, Jan. 4, 2011

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Milieu & the place of the poem

"...in the middle, halfway, where the carrier pylon is expected, 
from above or from below, there is the place of the poem..."

—Paul Celan, Microliths

more here  https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/articles/detail/91659

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Architects Fight - Make Poetry at the Crossroads

 "It is disaster to build cities without humanism and poetry—and architects are for that…We are at a crossroads. I propose to fight."
— Jean Nouvel, at the UN April 2016


source: http://www.metropolismag.com/Point-of-View/April-2016/Pritzker-Laureates-We-Must-Rescue-the-Role-of-the-Architect/

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Poetry and Fire

"If prose is a house, poetry is a man on fire running quite fast through it."
—Anne Carson

source: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/oct/30/anne-carson-do-not-believe-art-therapy-interview-float?CMP=twt_books_b-gdnbooks

Sunday, September 18, 2016

"Every Building Should Have a....

....Distinguished-Looking Scar"

—Madeline Gins, What the President Must Say and Do!! (1984) p21

source: http://ubu.com/ubu/pdf/gins_president.pdf

Friday, August 19, 2016

Time to Capture Rhythms of the City


from Lefebvre's Window:    “When rhythms are lived and blend into [one] another, they are difficult to make out. Noise, when chaotic, has no rhythm. Yet, the alert ear begins to separate, to identify sources, bringing them together, perceiving interactions. If we don’t listen to sounds and noises…usually we do not understand (hear) the rhythms and associations which none the less comprise us… To understand and analyse rhythms, one has to let go…but not completely. There is a certain externality which allows the analytical intellect to function. Yet, to capture a rhythm one needs to have been captured by it…in order to hold this fleeting object, which is not exactly an object, one must be at the same time both inside and out. A balcony is perfect for the street…to this placing in perspective (of the street)… For want of these you can always be content with a window… From a window open onto [the] street…one does not have to lean over much to see into the distance. To the right… To the left… Perpendicular to this…and on the other side…. All of Paris ancient and modern, traditional and creative, active and idle.”

“Over there, the one walking in the street is immersed into the multiplicity of noises, rumours, rhythms (including those of the body, but is the person aware of these…). But from the window noises are distinguishable, fluxes separate themselves, rhythms answer each other. Below…a traffic light: on red, the cars stop, pedestrians cross, soft murmurings, a babble of voices…and sometimes a cry, a call…At the green light, steps and voices stop. A second of silence and it’s the surge, the burst of speed of tens of cars accelerating as fast as possible… It’s incredible what one sees and hears (from the window). Strict harmony… After the red light, it’s instantly the bellowing rush of the large and small beasts: monstrous trucks turn towards the Bastille, most of the smaller vehicles dash towards Hôtel de Ville. The noise rises, rises in intensity and power, peaks, becomes unbearable, although rather well borne by the stink of fumes. Then stop… Sometimes cars stagnate in the middle of the road and pedestrians go round them, as waves around a rock, giving withering looks to the drivers… Hard rhythms: silence and uproar alternate, time broken and accented, striking the one who from his window takes to listening. This [urban rhythm] astonishes him more than the incongruous look of the crowds.”

“Incongruous crowds, yes… in groups or alone. They walk without cease, chewing gum or a sandwich… The noise that pierces the ears doesn’t come from the passers-by, but from the engines revving up. No ear, no apparatus could apprehend this ensemble of flows of metallic or carnal bodies. There must be a little time to capture the rhythms, a sort of mediation over time, the city, people.”

“Flows and conglomerates succeed each other; they increase or decrease but always accumulate at the corners then make their way, entangled and disentangled… These last rhythms…cyclical, with big and simple intervals, within more intense, alternating rhythms with short intervals… The interactions of various repetitive and different rhythms, as one says, animate the street and the neighbourhood. The linear…consists in comings and goings and combines with the cyclical and spells of longer duration. The cyclical is social organization manifesting itself. The linear is routine, thus the perpetual, made up of chance and encounters.”

“From my window overlooking courtyard and gardens, the view and the offer of space is very different. Over the gardens, the differences of habitual rhythms … fade; they seem to disappear into a sculptural immobility… But look more closely and longer. Up to a point, this simultaneity is only apparent; surface and spectacle. Go deeper, dig below the surface, listen closely instead of simply looking, reflecting the effects of a mirror. You then discern that each plant, each tree, has its rhythms, made of several… Continue and you will see… polyrhythmicallysymphonically… each being, each body, as having above all, its time. Each therefore having its place, its rhythms, with its immediate past, a near future and hereafter.”

“What this window which opens onto one of the most lively streets of Paris shows, what appears spectacular, would it be this feeling of spectacle? To attribute this… character to this vision (as dominant feature) would be unjust and would bypass the real, that is, of meaning. The characteristic features are really temporal and rhythmical, not visual. To extricate and to listen to the rhythms requires attentiveness and a certain amount of time.”

“Could it be that the lessons of the streets and the teachings of the window are exhausted and dated? Certainly not. They perpetuate themselves by renewing themselves. The window on the street is not a mental place from which the interior gaze would be following abstract perspectives. A practical site, private and concrete, the window offers views that are more than spectacles… Familiarity preserves it as it disappears and is reborn, with the everyday life of inside and out. Opacity and horizons, obstacles and perspectives are implicated, for they become complicated, imbricate themselves to the point of allowing the Unknown, the giant city, to be perceived or guessed at. With its diverse spaces affected by diverse temporalities – rhythms.”

“In this confusion, this scaffolding, is there a hierarchy?... The window suggests a number of hypotheses which restless wandering and the street confirm or invalidate. The bodies (alive and human, besides a few dogs) who move down below, the whole swarming whole wrecked by the cars, would they not be imposing a law? Which one?... The windows, the doors, the streets, the facades, are measured according to a human scale. Those waving hands, those appendages, although they throw off many messages, cannot be taken for signs. But is there a relationship between these physical flows of gestures and the culture which shows itself (and howls) in the enormous noise of the junction? After all, little bistros and shops… are, like the passers-by, on a human scale. The constructions across the street wanted to transcend this scale, go beyond familiar dimensions and also all other past and possible models. Hence, this exhibition of metal and solidified piping with the harshest reflections. And this is a meteorite fallen from a planet where rules an absolute technocracy… What are these strange contrasts saying? What does the proximity whisper…? Does it have a secret - or secrets? … This great building which was conceived not to be seen, but to offer itself to the gaze. Yet, one comes to see it, and one casts upon it an absent-minded look upon what it exposes. One goes around this void, which fills itself with things and people to empty itself again and so forth…”

“Rhythms. Rhythms. They reveal and hide, being much more varied than in music… Rhythms: music of the City, a picture which listens to itself… Rhythms perceived from the invisible window, pierced in the wall of the façade… but beside the other windows, it too is also within a rhythm which escapes it…”

“No camera, no image or sequence of images can show these rhythms. One needs equally attentive eyes and ears, a head, a memory, a heart…. The observer at the window knows that he takes as first reference his time, but that the first impression displaces itself and includes the most diverse rhythms, as long as they remain to scale… Here as elsewhere, opposites find and recognize each other, in a unity both more real and more ideal, more complex than its elements already accounted for.”

— Henri Lefebvre, “Seen from the Window” [ca 1986] in Writings on Cities,  edited and translated by Eleonore Kofman and Elizabeth Lebas (Blackwell, 1996).

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Artist Must Act as a Bridge—a Political Operation

"In the specific field of architecture there has been the most flagrant betrayal of the principles that informed the whole modern movement, which were first interrupted by the Second World War, and then later abandoned as 'outdated'.
     In this cancerous avalanche of disorientation everything is swallowed up, dissipated—rapidly ageing into total obsolescence and losing its meaning. In this way 'wild' architecture trounces Antoní Gaudí... the true values of Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion of 1929 would require precise historical research, yet the original meaning of Le Corbusier's architecture is given barely a passing thought and Frank Lloyd Wright's work...is on the way to losing all of its original communicative force.
     Art is not so innocent. The grand attempt to make industrial design a motor for renewing society as a whole has failed—an appalling indictment of the perversity of a system... The current debate has shed light on the way that design has been used as the tool of a system...

     ...Any attempt to combat the hegemony of technology...must contend with the structure of a system: the problem is fundamentally political and economic. The idea of renewing society through art, a Bauhaus credo, proved to be a mere utopia—a cultural miscalculation or a means of salving the conscience of people who themselves wanted for nothing.  From these beginnings, it has developed into a kind of rampantly proliferating metastasis...the bankrupt utopia of a technocratic inteligentsia who, in promoting 'rationality' over 'emotionality', have emptied the concept [of planning] of its meaning, fetishistically converting it into abstract models that equate the world of statistics with the world of humans.
    If the problem is fundamentally political and economic, then the part played by the 'agent' in the field of 'design' is, despite everything, crucial. It relates to what Bertolt Brecht called 'the ability to say no'. Artistic freedom has always been 'individual', but true freedom can only be collective. By this I mean a freedom that recognises social responsibility and that breaks down the barriers put up by aesthetics... The strategy of 'non-planning'—a romantically suicidal reaction to the failure of the technocrats—must urgently be countered by a strategy for planning our environment...
     ....The corrupt mechanisms of real-estate speculation, the lack of provision of low-income housing, the profit-seeking proliferation of industrial design—of gadgets, objects that are for the most part unnecessary... We must develop a collective consciousness—any diversion at this time is tantamount to a crime... If it is the role of the economist and the sociologist to offer objective analysis, then the artist must act as a bridge connecting not just with the intellectual but with the engaged public...
     What we need to do now is to start again, from a new reality. One thing however is certain: those who concern themselves only with a small segment of society, those who are content... those who don't care to make a noise—they are definitely on the 'opposing side'.
   It is a mistake to want to eliminate collective reality in the name of aesthetics at any cost. All rebellions and avant-gardes have their basis in aesthetics, regardless of any assertions to the contrary... it is important to accept things that are aesthetically negative and to make use of them when necessary: art (like architecture and industrial design) is always a political operation."


— Lina Bo Bardi, "Planning the Environment: 'Design at an Impasse" [Malasartes 2, 1975/6], translated from the Portuguese by Anthony Doyle and Pamela Johnston, in Stones Against Diamonds (AA Publications, 2013), p86-90.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Situation Would if it Could


“the situation”

“the situation”

“the situation”

“the situation is only what it is”

“the situation holds on to itself”

“the situation paints itself as inevitable”

“the situation is forever”

“the situation is only interested in its own well-being”

“the situation does not think twice”

“the situation cannot do it”

“the situation does not want to”

“the situation would if it could”

“the situation isn’t half as bad as they say”

“the situation tosses everything into the garbage that doesn’t belong to it”

“the situation incarcerates everybody in its realm”

“the situation does not sing”

“the situation does not argue its case”

“the situation will go away”

“the situation must go away”

“the situation lets nobody off the hook”

“the situation sits on itself”

“the situation continues to invade territories”

“the situation falls victim to the same collateral damage that it inflicts”

“the situation does not invite self examination”

“the situation is an accumulation of its own past”

“the situation can’t stand itself”

“the situation necessitates longing”

“the situation routinely shoots itself in the foot”

“if the situation could understand itself it would not continue”

“the situation is hungry for more”

“the situation’s future can only be other than itself”

“the situation forever boasts questionable accomplishments”

“the situation… no!”

“the situation overwhelms or underwhelms”

“the situation the situation”

“situation”

“the situation”

“the situation”

“yes”

“the situation”

“the situation”

“situation?”

“which situation?”

“the”

“what? no”

“the situation”

“the situation has no other goal than itself”

“the results of the situation result from the characteristics of the situation”

“the situation requires all lives to be in it”

“to be alive is to be in the situation”

“all together are the situation”

“the hidden obvious is the situation”
“the situation is the end effect of history”

“the situation is what has us and surrounds us”

“the obvious cannot be admitted therefore it is the obvious”

“the situation is not something but everything”

“words transplanted like onions from their original sprouts
     cannot say the situation”

“the situation says itself in everything”

“the situation is life acquiring death”

“the situation is blind to itself”

“the blind situation acquires blind death”

“the situation is characterized by its blindness”

“its death is characterized by its blindness”

“the situation is everything and all”

“all together are the situation [again]”

“all together are blind”

“all together’s death is blind”

“the blind death of the all together is the obvious”

“the situation implies the possibility of revolt against it”

“the situation is what it is only as long as we allow it to be so”

“the muscles that make the situation function
     are the same muscles that must take it down”



—Peter Schumann, from Bread & Sentences (Burlington: Fomite, 2015).

Lines cited here as a found "archi-poem" are from a series of charcoal sketches for a 2014 performance called "The Situation", included as illustrations in an amazing book of aphorisms (“neither fiction, nor poetry, nor philosophy”) gathered from the working notebooks of the founder and director of the Bread & Puppet Theater.

Please obtain this book, and read it now!
The situation demands it!


http://sales.breadandpuppet.org/books/books/bread-and-sentences