THE SHELLS OF ARCHITECTURAL THOUGHT
1. Thinking : Things and Time
Among the numerous architectonic figures devised by John Hejduk in his work Vladivostok, two may be considered allegories for propositions that underlie the work itself : the Clock/Collapse of Time, which was constructed on Bedford Square in London, is emblematic of a radical reconfiguration of time, while the Object/Subject, installed in Philadelphia, exemplifies Hejduk's conception of architectural thought, of thought embodied in things.
The Clock is a perfectly aligned column of smooth wooden cubes, idealized pure forms carrying digital numbers in ascending sequence. The tower's caisson is made of rough-hewn timber with metal connectors and is fastened to steel axles with wheels that rest on steel rails. For Hejduk, "The clock tower on the caisson can be moved from place to place, from time to time." This spatial and temporal mobility may also be understood to be internalized in the structure of the caisson itself, which accommodates the Clock in positions that are analogous to different models of time. Not only does the Clock / Collapse of Time travel through time, but it enables time to travel through it. According to Hejduk, "The clock tower moves through spatial time, elevational, flat time (90 degrees), then angular, isometric time (45 degrees), finally horizontal, perspective time (0 degrees)."1 Presenting these different positions of time together, and in a way that fuses time and space into suggestive, although ambiguous, paradigms of knowledge (spatial time, flat time, perspective time...) effectively dissolves the opposition between linear and cyclical time, between history and the eternal return, without positing a new temporal construct. Time as such collapses into a kind of timelessness (could this be what "spatial time" implies ?), which is distinguished from the timelessness of idealist classicism, for instance, as a composite of "times," a ruin of temporality in which the spirits of all times intermingle. John Hejduk's work over the past decade has depended on this simultaneous construction and collapse of time in order to depict haunting scenes that are at one and the same time preindustrial, industrial, and postindustrial, that evoke many times, but are out of place in all times and could be conceived only in this time.
1. John Hejduk, Vladivostok (New York : Rizzoli International, 1989), 72.
CLOCK/COLLAPSE OF TIME
I am obsessed with time and have recently created time-pieces--clock towers. One of my recurrent persistences is that present time cannot be seen...present time has an opacity...present time is opaque...present time erases...blanks out time...
I envisage a single clock tower mounted on a caisson. The tower moves from a vertical elevational position back down to a horizontal planimetric position--from a 90° upright position to a 0° horizontal position. The clock tower moves through spatial time, elevational, flat time (90 °), then angular, isometric time (45 °), finally horizontal, perspective time (0°). The clock tower on the caisson can be moved from place to place, from time to time, (the first entry into a constructional diary). The clock will be used in my conversation on time with the north of Italy.
I have the idea of the clock.
I have the ten booklets from Venice.
I have the poem The Sleep of Adam.
All are objects and all are subjects.
In Berlin two structures of the Victims were built in the Light Hall of the Gropius-Bau. A third structure was contemplated. It was called 'Security' (this was not built in Berlin). 'Security' will be built for the journey to Venice.
The three initial elements for the constructions of a diary will be
1 clock tower (on wheels);
2 'Security' structure (on wheels);
3 booth (on wheels) ... woman contained.
These elements will be moved from place to place. The townspeople of one place will move the elements to the next designated place into the hands of the receiving townspeople. Each place agrees to erect a high wooden pole with a pulley system at the top of the pole; from this pulley system a wooden chair can be suspended.
The movable clock tower is placed in position facing the vertical wooden pole (attached pulley system). A wooden chair which is hung to the back of the movable booth (woman's booth) is taken from the booth and by pulley is suspended from the pole. A man chosen by the town climbs the pole and sits on the wooden chair facing the vertical clock. His eye-level is at the centre of the vertical clock tower; he is facing vertical time (flat time). The clock tower then begins its backward descent over a twenty-four hour period.
At a 45° angle of descent the man in the chair (also being lowered in sequence with the time) faces (eye-level) isometric time. At the completion of the clock's descent to 0° the man in the chair faces perspective, horizontal time (past time).
While clock and man are descending, a townswoman (chosen) reads, from inside the booth, the poem The Sleep of Adam continuously over the twenty-four hour period. When the clock tower reaches its horizontal position, the woman in the booth stops reading the poem and the man in the wooden seat attached to the pole gets down from the chair; removes the chair from the pulley system; brings it to the woman's booth; opens the door of the booth; helps the woman out and down from the booth; closes the door of the booth; attaches the chair to the back of the booth; then leaves with the woman.
Before they depart from the site, they take the appropriate booklet (pertaining to that specific site) from a pewter box and then·proceed to nail the booklet to the wooden pole, leaving it to the elements.
Throughout the twenty-four hour period, the 'Security' structure has been put into place in relation to the clock, the booth, the pole.
The townspeople then proceed to move the mobile clock, the movable booth and the 'Security' structure along the road to the next name-place, where the procedure will repeat itself as before, but with the receiving townspeople officiating· at the new site.
When all ten name-places have been visited, the structures will be brought into Piazza San Marco, Venice, where they will be ...