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”


“the situation”

“the situation”


“the situation”

“the situation”


“which situation?”


“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!


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Violent and Unjust Stupidity of American Politics

"All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die."
— W.H. Auden, second to last stanza from "Another Time"
(Random House, 1940)

The full poem was posted by a defender of Humanity the day after a maniacal homophobe — himself probably a victim of unwarranted Islamophobia, and the extremist ideology of the NRAdemonstrated, yet again, the violent and unjust stupidity of American politics.



Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Charles Olson on the Job of Architecture—as revealed in a work (and story) by Cy Twombly, painter/sculptor, swimmer and lifeguard

"Sculpture fled. And architecture has now run after. And for good reasons: that the round world (which it was their job to lead us to enjoy—to illuminate) turned to rot. It had been treated cheap, not by these arts but by what makes arts: men.
     "All golden things, including the mean, got debased. Then everything blew up, from the inside, from cause [ie. from individual human beings]...
     "What seems clear is, that two dimensions as surface for plastic attack is once more prime...
     "The allure—the light—had better be in any painted, drawn, cut or carved thing [with reference to] that one [narrative] it has not been our habit to regard as one... Say it is not one. But it is surely the way—the tao—that two dimensions is now being given back the job.
     "Take it flatly, a plane. On it, how can a man throw his shadow, make this the illumination of his experience... (In my business [poetry] it comes out... 'voice'; to say what I got to say, which may be of interest to others because it can stand for what they have got to say, if it says anything; and it can only to the degree that, like a plane, it is no plane at all.) How make that plane, the two dimensions, be all—from a [the] point to any dimension?
     "It was Twombly...in some other reference... to how a lake we know in common afforded [understanding] about what Tao Yuan-Ming's east hedge was... who gave me suddenly, as he talked of contemplation, the sense of what architecture now had to do with."

Associative Images are by
photographer Myoung Ho Lee

"That is, I knew sculpture was buried, was become an art underneath us all, had gone down to be our sign—by a sort of inverted archeology—that each of us had now to come up live, like those stone images scholars are digging up in so many places; that only by ourselves can we find out... the round all men have been rifled of. And I knew this was... traction in dance... like combination of... documentation and... conjecture in the art of narrative. But I didn't know, until that instant, as the two of us were looking at a new large black-and-white canvas of Twombly's, what use architecture had now to be.
     "...I thought that here Twombly had... slipped off the wire any of us in all of the arts walk over...candor is still such a ruthless reality on the other side... and confronted by the will of that reality with which artists can have nothing to do... the will by which most of our fellow men manage to get through. An artist has to cross over.
     "I knew what Twombly was fighting for, even in this canvas... getting in to what he is confronted by—into that rectangle—that honor & elegance are here once more present in the act of paint.

     "...Twombly had tried to solve it outside the place where he almost every time does battle it out...
     "...his penetration of the reality bearing on us is... in the same diggings out of which he is digging himself
     "...his apprehension—his tien— is buried to the hips, to the neck, if you like
     "I underline his paintings to distinguish... that all document is not the equal of a man's life, what he bears inside himself and makes speak directly... no facts, only his own acts make it
     "Suddenly I understood, as the two of us were there inside that too small room in that too modern building jutting out over that lake [eg. at Black Mountain College] which we both had bent our art around, that architecture had no reason any longer at all to confine space, that it was we who were confined, that architecture, like sculpture, had gone elsewhere. And it occurred to me, that a billboard made more sense. That here, too, [we] had been given back [our] oldest job...
     "And so, if Twombly does make canvases boldly behave as two dimensions and yet makes forces present which... have been absent... look for cause
                    "... in yourself...
                    "... you can do it, because you
                     are the only round thing left...

     "And the wood of the tree which grew? how would you carve it otherwise than in like dimensions, and like candor?"

Excerpts from "Cy Twombly" [1952] an essay by Charles Olson in Collected Prose: Charles Olson (University of California Press, 1997) p175-178. As the editor notes (p414), Olson's insights arose not simply from looking critically at Cy Twombly's painting, but from his "questionings, to find out more" about a singular story: about how and why Cy Twomby, one night, came to dive into a lake to rescue his fellow [art] student Robert Rauschenberg "from drowning."