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informed the whole modern movement, which were first interrupted by the Second World War, and then later abandoned as 'outdated'.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 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!