Re: [-empyre-] Catherine Ingraham

>>Hi Tim:

That's a very interesting way of putting it--that the inhabitant is "in
fantasy".  I am not sure if that implies a captivity or not, which
interests me because I think receptivity to art (or the art in
architecture), which engages the subject/object dynamic, operates on an
arc from what Uxekull said of the honey bee--that it is completely "taken"
by the honey--to what Heidegger said of extreme boredom--that it opens
into the nothingness where being itself hangs out.  So from honey to
nothingness...somewhere in between the ambitions of subjects and the
claims of objects get played out.  In architecture, the sense of "living
in" art (which people say sometimes about people that live in Frank Lloyd
Wright Houses for example) is rare I would say, and is commonly spoken of
as some kind reverential state (i.e the honey bee perhaps, totally taken
by the art)--the architect thinks of the inhabitant as living in some
state of full attention (or full pleasure), on alert to every aspect of
the carefully realized building.  But, in fact, the word "distraction" is
not only more accurate to the way sense-machinery works, information is
conveyed, things are learned, eyes perceive the world, it is also the
basis of any profound absorption of aesthetic work that is not simply a

I am interested in the mediaskin architecture and, in general, using 
blank surfaces of the facade and walls as canvases and screens and
opportunities for reminding us about forces at work in and around us. 
Advertising is the usual script for these kinds of things and without
advocating advertising   I want to say that it is not easy to find a
script, political or otherwise, for architecture.  Laura Kurgan, whom I
mentioned to you earlier, is using mapping as a kind of script in her
Architecture and Justice project (see Spatial Information Design Lab on
Columbia website); Liz Diller and Ric Scofidio, in their early work in
particular, used a kind mediaskins as a way of writing  film noir and
travelogue narratives into architecture (the "arrival" of people entering
through a revolving door is broadcast into the interior; a "view" that the
house does not have is broadcast into the living room); Rem Koolhaas, now
with a very big commerical practice, used advertising in the Prada
building in a both suspect and yet provocative way. Many of these
moves--political messages, critiques of domestic life, critiques of
tourism, critiques of the culture of spectacle--are "architecturally
generated", only readable in light of the history of architecture.  This
is the drastic autonomy and hermeticism that was mentioned earlier.  Very
hard to script architecture.


I've been meaning to enter into dialogue with Catherine about her
>>sense of "inhabitation" and how she distinguishes the architectonic
>>inhabitant from subject/object, viewer/viewed, etc.  I'm wondering
>>whether she feels that her psychoanalytic notion of the inhabitant
>>as something of an "invisible force" aligns her sense of habitation
>>with pyschoanalytical constructs of fantasy, through which the
>>inhabitant is caught "in fantasy," and lives the psychic situation
>>rather than produces or receives it.
> I'm also wondering about the critical spatial practice of wired
> architecture, such as the media skins designed by outfits such as
> "ag4" (I believe I read that they also were involved within the past
> couple of weeks in hosting a London conference on
> "mediaArchitecture")  The worst case scenario of such mediaskins is
> that they serve traditional corporate interests through which the
> facade becomes little more than an advertising panel.  But in the
> best case scenario, LEDs and surround sound might well enhance the
> conditions of "distracted attention" to such an extent that the
> architecture itself becomes a critical or metacritical practice.
> Would have any thoughts about this, Catherine?
> Best,
> Tim
>>Yes, hello.
>>Thank you Renate for the introduction.  I have been listening in a bit
>>during this past week to see how these forums develop since I have not
>>done one before.  In some ways the format is tedious, but the content
>> very
>>interesting.  Finding formats for critical practices always interests me.
>>I will give a general overview of a few thoughts and then I can develop
>>them as we go along in whatever direction develops.
>>In my view, in architecture, we are at a crossroads of some kind.
>>"Criticality," for which there are multiple definitions although we know
>>mostly what we mean, has less and less traction in architectural practice
>>and pedagogy.  It remains the word most used in describing studio
>> teaching
>>in architecture but is less and less influential as a idea or
>> methodology.
>>  Digital work in architecture (intelligent skins, interactivity, etc.),
>>some of which has been extraordinary and influential is, nevertheless,
>>heading straight for global capital, straight for a series of aesthetic
>>effects that have nothing whatsoever to do with any critical project,
>>political or otherwise.
>>As always, in architecture, the ideological split between academic work
>>and practice must be taken into account.
>>Critical spatial practices (those virtuoso projects described this week
>>for example) are never casual.  They are typically deliberate, carefully
>>imagined, filled with courage and promise.  But in architecture the
>> issues
>>are different because there is never an audience.  An "inhabitant" is not
>>an audience--he/she is neither a subject nor an object, neither observing
>>nor observed, neither doer or viewer (to use the words of one
>>contributor).  An inhabitant is, in fact, almost an invisible force field
>>of some kind, a biological presence, certainly also a psychoanalytic
>>presence but not in any revealed way that can be readily captured or
>>characterized.  An inhabitant  is a category of the "deeply private", a
>>doubly shielded body (skin and building envelope) etc.  Architecture,
>>which always probes the mind (symbolic language etc.) and benevolently
>>accommodates the body, cannot be a subject of discussion per se for its
>>inhabitants. To do so would be to risk a kind of isomorphism.  All we can
>>usually say about the space we so intimately inhabit is that "we like
>> it,"
>>"it's a nice space," or "we hate it," or something to that effect.  These
>>comments do not seem to describe what is going on.
>>"Distracted attention" is precisely necessary to inhabitation.  The
>>relation of architecture to its own meanings (ideological, critical,
>>aesthetic, biological) is not performative per se.  This meaning also
>>remains sealed inside an obtuse and semantically chaotic system of
>>expressions (material expressions) that we can name as modernism etc. but
>>that largely elude us.
>>Producing or designing architecture to some political or social end is,
>>thus, to operate in the dark.  Such architecture becomes pathologically
>>internalized, inventing private vocabularies and idiosyncractic gestures
>>that can only be read from an extremely oblique angle unless they are
>>spelled out, literally, with letters (as Venturi did) or cliched symbols
>>(as the Renaissance architects did).  And yet, we do it anyway, in an
>>eternal hopefulness of some kind.
>>There is quite a bit to say about this.  I am working at the moment on
>>questions of "aliveness" (along with many other people) because that idea
>>seems to contain not only contemporary biopolitics issues (such as
>> Agamben
>>and others have spoken of) but also possibilities for looking at "signs
>> of
>>life" (biological, cultural), or "life-likeness", in and around
>>architectural work.  Something along the lines of an "eco-ego" maybe that
>>connects with the "person" not as cultural construct but as "inhabitant"
>>who works everyday to maintain a homestatic relation to the resources
>>around him or her...resources that are psychological as well as material.
>>The question of power over "habit", "routine", "sustainable exchanges"
>>becomes more potent than the question of identity per se.
>>   This may seem strange since life is a necessary condition for
>>architecture (it's the art of life in some way), but almost all the ways
>>we have been critically formatting the world (humanism, modernity,
>>post-classical criticism, gender, migration, postcolonial work) seem a
>>little worn.  It was a shock to discover, during the start-up of the
>>Iraq war that demonstrations (smart, political resistance) had
>>absolutely no power.  (we could certainly blame some of that on the
>>repression of the Bush administration, but I think it was also the wrong
>>format for protest at that moment--we should have been instructing
>>people in the issues of nomadology).
>>I, like Millie Chen, am also interested in the auditory (as Lacan talks
>>about it when he discusses the play Antigone) because the auditory, not
>>the visual, is where we confirm the authenticity or interest of the mise
>>en scene.
>>Catherine Ingraham
>>empyre forum
> --
> Timothy Murray
> Professor of Comparative Literature and English
> Director of Graduate Studies in Film and Video
> Curator, The Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, Cornell Library
> 285 Goldwin Smith Hall
> Cornell University
> Ithaca, New York  14853
> office: 607-255-4086
> e-mail:
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum

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