hejduk

apposing the shells of architectural thought

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Unlike the transcendentalizing schematism of Behrens's exhibition projects, or its reprise in the conceptual formalism of American Minimalism, Hejduk's work has never excluded the psychological or physiological. Even the most cubic and reduced of his early projects, the memorial to Dag Hammerskjold from the mid-1960s, is not only a pure and clear architectonic (in his words "a geometric fundamental"), but an apparatus for viewing the context in unexpected and stimulating ways. Set on the lawn of the United Nations, the monument anticipated a moving observer experiencing the object in its surroundings and then perceiving its surroundings through the object. Like so much of his later work, this cube is hollow and almost entirely devoid of openings. However, five small apertures direct the observer's gaze to selected views of the UN Building, the water, nature, city, and sky. Instead of structuring the subject to conform to the a priori categories of the mind, Hejduk's cube mediates between observer and environment (subject and object), setting up possibilities for relational "experiences" without determining their content, duration, or sequence.

The spiky and troubled cube of the more recent House of the Suicide has stepped through the looking glass of transcendental and perceptual subjectivities. There, the subject has turned away from externalities altogether, taking refuge in the self and the mind, represented by an anthropomorphosized block with a single door, a slot along one side, a tiny square window, and pinpoints of light coming from the tips of the numerous spikes. But, unlike the inwardness of the symbolists or even the surrealists (who took the interior of the unconscious as a site of creative productivity, Hejduk's house is somewhat misnamed for it is the town and not the inhabitant that welds the door shut, sealing off--not through a metaphysical or epistemological turn, but through social action imposed on the individual--the very possibility of an "outside." The house becomes a prison cell that configures the double bind depicted by Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit--that one can't live with others, but neither can one live without them. Alone and isolated, the subject is no longer figured as a generator or producer of meaning and reality; deprived of externalities this subject is left with only the possibility of death.

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