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2000.01.26 16:34
the body in architecture
B wrote:
I've missed the whole 'body' debate, not really having an understanding of its relation to architecture. Maybe someone on list can share what they know.
Steve replies:
Brian, you might find a series of essays in Anthony Vidler's The Architectural Uncanny (1992) of some interest -- there's a section on bodies. These essays provide a somewhat broad overview of the latest (trendy--for the late 80s late 90s anyway) architecture cum body thinking. As you know, I have my own theory about the body--chronosomatics--and I also have an extended idea of how then the body chronosomatically effects architecture, for example, the way I interpreted your AE thesis vis-a-vis the lowest tips of the rib cage and the heart.
Regarding body 'modification', I personally think the Bellonarii, the priests and priestesses of Bellona, the goddess of war, who were accustomed, in their mystic festivals, especially on the 20th of March (hence dies sanguinis, day of blood), to gash their arms and shoulders with knives, and thus to offer their blood, are still more meaningful as to the use of their bodies than any of the stuff going on and hyped today. Of course, I'm a bit predisposed in this regard since the 20th of March is my birthday (1956), and the day my brother Otto was lobotomized (1980), and the day a working mother was car-jacked and abducted to be then raped and murdered in Tacony Creek Park (1997) just a few blocks from where I live.
Since I'm lately interested in reenactment, I have on occasion considered reenacting the Bellonarii on 20 March 2000. If I were to 'gash' my arms and shoulders, it would be with an exacto knife; I feel I'd have to cut enough to draw blood, but I wouldn't go as far as to 'gash' myself. The other alternative would be to get four tattoos, single dark red lines one on each of my shoulders and on the sides of each of my biceps. I suppose my point is that if I were to 'modify' my body, I'd only do it if the modification held meaning.
Perhaps the architecture that is best in conjunction with body modifiers today would be called "gratuitous architecture" or "uncalled for architecture".


2000.01.28 10:24
Sorting out truth
P wrote:
Were I asked to nominate the pivotal architectural work of the twentieth century (no one asked, of course) I would suppose it be found at the nexus between the long architectural tradition and revolutionary modern movement in the earlier twentieth century, or else at the nexus with what as followed modernism. Restricting my view to the latter, I would suggest a work probably little known to most of others on the list: the project (unbuilt, alas) for a museum at Santa Barbara, California by Michael Dennis (and partner), which appears in Michael's book, Court and Garden. Without discussing this project further here, I advance it merely to assure others that I do hope to become more specific, offering "for instances" as exemplars of these fundamental issues. Clue: Michael's work was a brilliant confrontation of alternative spatial conceptions, and a highly rational and effective demonstration of how both spatial strategies may be employed together in a single work.
Steve replies:
I looked at Dennis' Art Museum project for Santa Barbara, and, although a nice design, I wouldn't call it pivotal because it is somewhat over the hump of the pivot of its particular time, i.e., the late 1970s - early 1980s. When looking at the Dennis design, I'm immediately reminded of virtually every published entry to the "House for Karl Friedrich Schinkel" competition run by Shinkenchiku and programmed and judged by James Stirling in 1979 (see The Japan Architect February 1980).
I notice that Schinkel is no where mentioned within Dennis' Court and Garden book, but Stirling is included on a few pages. The absence of Schinkel is curious in that the main historical precedent for the proposed Art Museum in Santa Barbara very much seems to be Schinkel's Court Gardener's House and Roman Bath complex (1834-40) on the palace grounds of Sansossi in Potsdam.
When it comes to values and truth (in architecture), I think it best to call "a spade and spade," and not rely on abstract categories which may or may not be of real use. Paul said, "artists commonly think that what they do is not to "express" what they bring to the work, but that they "explore" and "discover" in the process of doing the work what was not predetermined. Isn't this really our own experience as designers? ...this line of inquiry will bring us to Kahn's notion that we are not "inspired," divine "creators" of form, but that forms preexist us, and our function is rather to find them. This, of course, becomes metaphysics--and I admit to being not only a rationalist and a formalist, but a metaphysician." I don't know how metaphysical it is to see an architectural design from the past and then, as a designer, wish to somehow capture the essence of the former design in a whole new design, but I do know that many designers are very protective of their "inspirations" only because they already know how easy it is to "copy" secretly while at the same time manifesting one's own originality publicly.
Haven't we already seen in our own time just how hypocritical "value" and "truth" are? I am now much more interested in trying to understand the ways and means of hypocrisy than I am interested in trying to understand the hierarchy of "value" and "truth". The presence of hypocrisy appears much more real than the presence of value and truth.

2000.03.22 10:52
Re: Aesthetic Intentions
Ludwig II of Bavaria well understood the potential of absolute monarchy, and it seems architecturally evident that he intended to fulfill that potential. I doubt it escaped Ludwig's cognition that monarchs are rare, absolute monarchs even more rare, and mid-nineteenth century monarchs (like himself), absolute or otherwise, were an endangered species.
Ludwig II took the notion of (European) absolute monarchy to its final extreme, and each of his major buildings, Neuschwanstein, Linderhof, and Herrenchimsee, are Gesamptkunstwerks (architecture, decorative arts, music, theater, mythology) that reenact absolute monarchy, as much as they represent a race against time (specifically, the race of European monarchy against time). Ludwig and his younger brother Otto (the real mentally ill member of his immediate family) were literally the end of their family's line. Ludwig was an extreme European monarch in every sense, and his architecture is also extreme European royal architecture in every sense--consummate examples of Zeitgeist and its effects.

I believe Ludwig II achieved his intentions as far as he could take them. But I doubt even he was aware of manifesting an architecture that will forever spark architectural imaginations.

2000.04.06 12:22
ironically, I never mentioned skin
After I wrote:
"Is not the 'architecture' of the human body an envelope rammed full of 'attributes' that DO NOT show their 'implementation' on the outside? For example, breasts with nipples hardly reflect either the lungs or the pumping heart inside, likewise the one-piece torso offers little 'superficial' indication of two cavities inside. And further, isn't the sublime singularity of the navel very much like the exact opposite of the twisting, turning, asymmetrical intestines just inside? [And just think how literally close the activities within barber shops and beauty parlors come to the activities inside the brain, yet who would dare say that these two activities share the same "function"?]"
John Young and Van Varga both replied with immediate references to corporal skin. This epidermal connection is appropriate because our skin is indeed our corporal envelope, however, I wish to stress that the examples I used (breasts, nipples, torso, navel, head of hair) where not about skin, but rather corporal design features specific to the body's surface -- yes skin is involved as the predominant material application of these features, but skin is not what predominates the design; our skin is what adapts to the design.
Van also mentioned the sense of touch integral to skin, and this undeniable connection has truly provocative architectural design implications, i.e., envelopes that feel and or respond to contact (or, as inspired by John Young, building surfaces that (visually) indicate how they are "feeling"). About five years ago, while I was heavily doing research regarding (the theory of) chronosomatics, I came to the conclusion that touch is the first sense to have come into being, and that touch/contact was/is indeed the medium by which "life" itself began. Not only did touch exist before tasting, smelling, hearing or seeing, but, most of all, it was the contact of two otherwise lifeless entities that 'spawned' animate life. Moreover, it can well be argued that tasting, smelling, hearing, and seeing are really only very specialized touch/contact senses. Note also that the sense of touch is not just an attribute of the body's external skin, but a sense indigenous to all parts of the body inside and out.
So what were these two lifeless entities that spawned life through contact with each other? Of course, my answer is that I reasonably assume the true answer may at this late point never re-appear, and that even a reenactment would fall far, far short of the original event. Nonetheless, I believe there is a very significant clue as to the 'scenario' of that first contact right on our own bodies, specifically at the body's extreme external tips, i.e., the tips of our toes and the tips our fingers. It is there that last vestiges of humanity's physical hard external shell still exists, namely our nails, and right underneath our nails are those cross-sections of our body's that are largely just skin. I theoretically propose that this soft entity under a hard entity represents the same conditions that first spawned life. Essentially, it was something soft and vulnerable that found "security and protection" under something hard and more permanent. Animate life began when the contact between the soft and the hard actually became a bond, and thus too the sense of touch came into being.
Now skipping millions of years on the evolutionary scale, I see this soft/hard duality as the beginning of two sexes as well. Contrary to common perceptions, it is the female that is hard and the male that is soft. In simple undeniable terms it is woman that enables embryonic development within her own body -- woman's bodies themselves are a hard protective shells (only women corporeally possess and facilitates the human egg that in turn allows fetal development). Men, on the other hand, very much do not have that "built-in" protectiveness, hence men make great displays about forever being on the defensive, and indeed it is almost exclusively men that have continually created our planet's foremost industry, if only to create that protective shell that their sex was not born with -- the age old military apparatus (shields, armor, war ships, submarines, tanks, stealth bomber, etc. are all "man"-made protective shells).
So what then is architecture? Is it a hard, 'simple', 'natural' protective shell that engenders the continuation of life? Or is it a soft formlessness forever (re-)designing an applied shell it doesn't naturally have?

2000.11.09
inconsistencies and hyperboles?
Thanks for your replies. I now have a better understanding of your evolutionary theory of architectural styles, and for that I'm grateful.
I'll add a few comments, however.
1. I agree that historians will never really know what an artist was thinking, and to that end whenever I analyze historically I try to give exact textual reference and/or make it clear that what I say is my opinion/interpretation (hopefully with some basis). Nonetheless, there is that (exciting) element about historical research that is akin to being a detective finding clues and then 'fabricating' a possible or likely scenario. Moreover, it is more and more the historian's job today to search out and correct the mistakes of previous historians (a kind of Baroque activity?).
2. I'd like to be on the record for proposing that in essence the Baroque involved: a) a bifurcation of reality and illusion, b) pervasive mirroring (figuratively and literally), and 3) reality reenacting its own illusory mirror. For now I'm working on the premise that the combination of these three attributes is mostly unique to the Baroque. [I am not asserting, however, that the artists of the Baroque were actively thinking about the combination of the three attributes when creating their works. I'm simply calling out a (distinct?) pattern that (for me at least) is there.]
3. Please consider my contributions to the recent discussion as addressing the notion of emergence of style as opposed to the invention of a style. [Although, I have to again stress that there really is a lot of invention going on within the designs of Michelangelo's fortifications of Florence.]
4. I'm going to venture into some new activity at architecthetics, and that is to outline and ruminate on the beginnings of Christian Church architecture and specifically the (very possible) role that Flavia Julia Helena Augusta (the mother of Constantine, St. Helena) played within those beginnings. I'll be sporadically sending posts that are more notes than polished texts, and the intention is simply to share the information I've gathered as well as invite comments and questions.


2001.02.08
more on (metabolic) control
The following is from Butler's Lives of the Saints January 24, St. Babylas, Bishop of Antioch, Martyr (c. A.D. 250):
The most celebrated of the ancient bishops of Antioch after St. Ignatius was St. Babylas, who seceded Zebinus about the year 240, but regrettably little is known about him. According to St. John Chrysostom he was the bishop who, Eusebius reports, refused admittance to the church on Easter day in 244 to Philip the Arabian -- alleged to be a Christian -- till he had done penance for the murder of his predecessor the Emperor Gordian. St. Babylas died a martyr during the persecution of Decius, probably in prison as Eusebius says, but Chrysostom states he was beheaded.
St. Babylas is the first martyr of whom a translation of relics is recorded. His body was buried at Antioch; but in 351 the caesar Gallus removed it to a church at Daphne a few miles away to counteract the influence there of a famous shrine of Apollo, where oracles were given and the licentiousness was notorious. The oracles were indeed silenced, and in 362 Julian the Apostate [the mid-4th century Roman Emperor that renounced Christianity and briefly revived imperial Paganism even though he was the son of one of Constantine's half brothers and was married to Constantine's youngest daughter Helena, namesake of you know who!] ordered the relics of the martyr be removed. Accordingly they were taken back to their former resting-place, the Christians accompanying them in procession, singing the psalms that speak of the powerlessness of idols and false gods. The following evening, we are told, the temple of Apollo was destroyed by lightening [how 'naturally' convenient!]. A little later there was a third translation, made by the bishop St. Meletius, to a basilica he built across the Orontes; Meletius himself was buried next to St. Babylas.
[The bracketed comments are my insertions.]
ps
It was with the death of Julian the Apostate during the night of 26 June 363 that the (thoroughly metabolic) Constantinian dynasty ended. Constantine first came to (an imperial level of) power 25 July 306.

2001.03.28 09:53
Duchamp striptease quondam Piranesi, even
In Francis M. Naumann's "Marcel and Maria", a fascinating article on Duchamp's Etant Donnes in Art In America, April 2001, Duchamp is quoted as having said the following:
"I want to grasp things with the mind the way the penis is grasped by the vagina."
Now look at [inactive quondam URL] (and perhaps even look further via the innuendo link at the top).
Then read http://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/ architecthetics
Naumann's article is all about finding clues about meaning purposely hidden by Duchamp within his oeuvre.
Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius contains a nimiety of purposely hidden clues as well.


2001.04.08
Re: mil
I have to start by stating I know virtually nothing about the Etruscans and their relation to Rome and the Italian peninsula. Regarding the Roman (mythological) origins of Rome I do have some knowledge, however.
I began with a rape, specifically a divinity, Mars, raping a (Vestal) virgin, Rhea Silvia. [Perhaps an investigation into the history of the Vestal Virgin cult may reveal Etruscan origins?]
This rape engendered twin brothers, Romulus and Remus.
Then came fratricide in a fight for domination. Romulus killed Remus and thus the 'Eternal City' is hence known as Rome (rather than Reme).
To populate his namesake city, Romulus devises a massive date rape, culturally depicted as The Rape of the Sabine Women. [August 18, same date as the feast of St. Helena -- this is the only clue I'll provide now as to the 'Roman' Christian inversion of all the 'facts' here outlined.] So here we have the son reenacting the father via the act of rape all in the cause of procreation of citizenry.
A year or two after the rape of the Sabine women, the Sabine men decided to avenge their daughters and attacked Romulus and his urbs. Romulus remained victorious, and paraded his enemies armor to certify his 'triumph', hence the many times reenacted Roman Triumph.
So goes the 'myth' of the origins of an 'eternal' city and then the origins of an empire. In concise terms it's rape, fratricide, rape reenacted, triumph, triumph reenacted [and then Imperial Rome as a whole is reenacted by Roman Christianity, yet in an inverted fashion].


2001.07.21 16:25
Re: public democratic space an illusion
I now recall a whole other very Philadelphian daze just over 16 years ago--the MOVE house bombing in West Philadelphia May 1985. What a day that was. I can still remember seeing the 'percussion' bomb being dropped by helicopter on live television. A city bombing itself is for sure hitting a new level of urban precedence. Ramona Africa was one the few survivors.
And then a few months later there was quite suddenly the LIVE AID concert, half of which was performed at Philadelphia's now gone JFK Stadium (tradition home of the Army-Navy game). Everyone was now singing We Are The World.
the Summer of 1985: Shout, Shout, Let It All Out!!!
Campari on the rocks, no fruit, thank you very much.
I was working at the Univ. of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Fine Arts then. CAD system manager, and the landscape dept. was using cad mapping heavily. Their project was funded by the World Bank, and that's when I learned what that organization is really about. Funny world we live in.
And finally that September I was driving a visiting ex-con (convicted murderer actually but finally acquitted) around Philadelphia's smaller museums and antique shops. I've known Jim Williams since 1979, and yes Kevin Spacy played him very well in that movie. In 1983 I lived that scene in the movie where Spacy and Cusack are in the organ room/casino.
private space can be an illusion too.

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