Saturday, 27 August 2011

Camille Paglia on Q TV

-Why are you an atheist who believes in religious education?

-Well I was a rebel against the highly puritanical and moralistic American Catholic church of the 1950's and found it unbelievably constraining and oppressive. I identified strongly though with the Italian Catholicism of my youth that wasn't so full of moral prescriptions but that was heavily image laden and spiritual; Cult of the saints, the iconography, heavy stained glass windows of my baptismal church in New York, and I just feel that the religious perspective is our best chance to see the universe whole. I think it's more adequate than philosophy or even science. On the other hand I don't believe in the transcendent god; I do worship nature, I feel that the legacy going from high romanticism into the hippy 1960's of my college years actually is ultimately humanistic and needs to be recovered. The 1960's generation wasn't just about politics, it was also about exploring Hinduism and Buddhism and alternate forms of understanding the mysteries of the universe. So yes, for 20 years I have been calling for comparative religion to be at the centre of education. A core curriculum for the world that we can understand anything in the world about another culture until we know the religious background and their assumptions even among non-believers of the present time.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Notes from 'Junkspace' by Rem Koolhaas

Air-conditioning has launched the endless building. If architecture separates buildings, air-conditioning unites them. Air-conditioning has dictated mutant regimes of organisation and coexistence that leave architecture behind. A single shopping centre is now the work of generations of space planners, repairmen and fixers, like in the Middle Ages; air-conditioning sustains our cathedrals.


Junkspace is additive, layered, and lightweight, not articulated in different parts but subdivided, quartered the way a carcass is torn apart - individual chinks severed from a universal condition. There are no walls, only partitions, shimmering membranes frequently covered in mirror or gold. Structure groans invisibly underneath decoration, or worse, has become ornamental; small, shiny, space frames support normal loads or huge means deliver cyclopic burdens to unsuspecting destinations... The arch, once the workhorse of structures, has become the depleted emblem of "community", welcoming an infinity of virtual populations to nonexistent there.


Because it cannot be grasped, Junkspace cannot be remembered. It is flamboyant yet unmemorable, like a screen saver; its refusal to freeze ensures instant amnesia. Junkspace does not pretend to create perfection, only interest. Its geometries are unimaginable, only makable.


The aesthetic is Byzantine, gorgeous, and dark, splintered into thousands of shards, all visible at the same time: a quasi-panoptical universe in which all contents rearrange themselves in split second around the dizzy eye of the beholder.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Heidegger the Fox - Hannah Arendt

Heidegger says, with great pride: "People say that Heidegger is a fox." This is the true story of Heidegger the fox: Once upon a time there was a fox who was so lacking in slyness that he not only kept getting caught in traps but couldn't even tell the difference between a trap and a non-trap. This fox suffered from another failing as well. There was something wrong with his fur, so that he was completely without natural protection against the hardships of a fox's life. After he had spent his entire youth prowling around the traps of people, and now that not one intact piece of fur, so to speak, was left on him, this fox decided to withdraw from the fox world altogether and to set about making himself a burrow. In his shocking ignorance of the difference between traps, he hit on an idea completely new and unheard of among foxes: He built a trap as his burrow. He set himself inside it, passed it off as a normal burrow—not out of cunning, but because he had always thought others' traps were their burrows—and then decided to become sly in his own way and outfit for others the trap he had built himself and that suited only him. This again demonstrated great ignorance about traps: No one would go into his trap, because he was sitting inside it himself. This annoyed him. After all, everyone knows that, despite their slyness, all foxes occasionally get caught in traps. Why should a fox trap—especially one built by a fox with more experience of traps than any other—not be a match for the traps of human beings and hunters? Obviously because this trap did not reveal itself clearly enough as the trap it was! And so it occurred to our fox to decorate his trap beautifully and to hang up equivocal signs everywhere on it that quite clearly said: "Come here, everyone; this is a trap, the most beautiful trap in the world." From this point on it was clear that no fox could stray into this trap by mistake. Nevertheless, many came. For this trap was our fox's burrow, and if you wanted to visit him where he was at home, you had to step into his trap. Everyone except our fox could, of course, step out of it again. It was cut, literally, to his own measurement. But the fox who lived in the trap said proudly: "So many are visiting me in my trap that I have become the best of all foxes." And there is some truth in that, too: Nobody knows the nature of traps better than one who sits in a trap his whole life long.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Token of Sacrifice

'Token of Sacrifice'
copyright 2011

Notes from "Hans Ulrich Obrist, The conversation series - Rem Koolhaas"

Hans Ulrich Obrist - Can you tell me about Junkspace?

Gjon Mili, 1947
Rem Koolhaas - One of the consequences is that parts of the building are never in the same space, which inevitably means that certain parts of the building are dying while other parts are being reborn, others are being used while some are still being finished. So, where buildings used to exist in one single time, now each part has a different timeframe and we have become completely used to the fact (although it is an insane situation) that half of our building scheme is in the process of conversion. Now it only consists of taping, gluing, not even hammering. So therefore, what has become the prominent force (and it can only be related to the market economy) is this unbelievably shared exposure of every individual, form the most famous to the most normal. I think that Andy Warhol famously said - probably also in 1972 - that everyone would be famous for 15 minutes; I think reality is much more tragic, much closer to hell, in that everyone will be famous forever. We are condemned to be collectively famous!
So basically, to define the architecture that we are working in, the text which is called Junkspace, was based on a famous economic model that has fuelled that market economy over the last thirty years. As you may know, to various theories "space junk" is the debris that is created by different satellite and planetary ventures. In a way, all the world relies on has the same junk status - junk space. It is not a negative term, but just the kind of term that defines the expectations and the properties that architecture can have today.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Notes from "Susan Sontag - Reborn - Journals and Notebooks 1947-1963"


In Schoenhof's [bookstore in Cambridge, Mass] today - waiting, nauseated again, for Philip to choose a book for [Professor Aron] Gurwitsch's birthday, after the Descartes Correspondance is discovered epuise- I opened a volume of Kafka short stories; at a page of "[The] Metamorphosis." It was like a physical blow, the absoluteness of his prose, pure actuality nothing forced or obscure. How I admire him above all writers! Beside him, Joyce is so stupid, Gide so- yes - sweet, Mann so hollow + bombastic. Only Proust is as interesting - almost. But Kafka has that magic of actuality in even the most dislocated phrase that no other modern has,  a kind of shiver + grinding blue ache in your teeth. As in [Robert Browning's] "Childe Roland to the dark tower came" - so certain pages in the Kafka diaries phrases - "But they cannot; all things possible to happen, only what happens is possible."