piranesi

1998

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1998.01.04
notation of existing Campo Marzio texts - Tafuri 1
Tafuri gives Piranesi's Ichnographia of the Campo Marzio a number of descriptions:
1. an ambitious evocation (def.: 2 : the act or an instance of artistic imaginative re-creation or portrayal (as of a mood, time, place ,or personality) especially in such a manner as to produce a compelling expression of reality or authenticity) -- the graphic monument of that tentative opening of late baroque culture to revolutionary ideas.
2. Roman antiquity is a recollection embued with nostalgic ideologies and revolutionary expectations.
3. Roman antiquity is also a myth to be contested.
4. the Campo Marzio's classical derivations are mere fragment.
5. the Campo Marzio's classical derivations are deformed symbols.
6. the Campo Marzio's classical derivations are organisms of an order in a state of decay.
7. the order in the details creates a monstrous pullulation of symbols devoid of significance.
8. "forest"
9. an epic representation of the battle of architecture waged against itself.
10. [a] paradoxical rejection of historical, archeological reality [that]makes the civic potential of the total image very doubtful.
11. a sort of gigantic useless machine.
12 it is an experimental design and the city, therefore, remains an unknown,
13. a colossal piece of bricolage.
14. conveys nothing but a self evident truth: irrational and rational are no longer to be mutually exclusive.
15. [the Campo Marzio demonstrates] the struggle between architecture and the city, between the demand for order and the will to formlessness.
[Here are more Tafuri descriptions of the Ichnographia of the Campo Marzio as found in The Sphere and the Labyrinth:
16. a fully developed and articulated metaphor of the machine-universe.
17. polemical and self-critical.
18. a formless heap of fragments colliding one against another.
19. a formless tangle of spurious organism.
20. a homogeneous magnetic field jammed with objects having nothing to do with each other.
21. a kind of typological negation.
22. an "architectural banquet of nausea."
23. a sematic void created by an excess of visual noise.
24. a virtual catalogue
25. a typological sample book.]
The majority of Tafuri's descriptions (definitions?) of the Ichnographia of the Campo Marzio point towards the metabolic process. I did not expect to see this overriding theme, however, since it is here, I will make it the larger issue of my criticism (of this particular text). This emphasis now aims my comments more towards the BIA and Piranesi's imagination than towards an analysis of the Campo Marzio itself. (It all works hand-in-hand, nonetheless).
The secondary theme to come out of Tafuri's descriptions of the Campo Marzio is the notion of unknowability, insignificance, and the "archeological mask." It is these ideas that I will refute and subsequently correct. I can speculate that Tafuri believed the "archeological mask" covered a historical-polemical agenda on Piranesi's part, and, if so, Tafuri disclosed his own prejudices. Had he immersed himself more fully into the Ichnographia by "reenacting" Piranesi's work (and perhaps also imaginative process), Tafuri may have reached less negative conclusions. I suspect that Tafuri's own historicist-polemical agenda got in the way of an objective analysis-disclosure of Piranesi's true intentions as portrayed by the Campo Marzio. (I may have to describe what Tafuri's agenda is.) This reinforces the case for "reenactment" as a potentially more correct means of understanding history.

1998.01.04
notation of existing Campo Marzio texts - Tafuri 2
Here are more Tafuri descriptions of the Ichnographia of the Campo Marzio as found in The Sphere and the Labyrinth:
a. a fully developed and articulated metaphor of the machine-universe.
b. polemical and self-critical.
c. a formless heap of fragments colliding one against another.
d. a formless tangle of spurious organism.
e. a homogeneous magnetic field jammed with objects having nothing to do with each other.
f. a kind of typological negation.
g. an "architectural banquet of nausea."
h. a semantic void created by an excess of visual noise.
i. a virtual catalogue
j. a typological sample book.


1998.01.07
Campo Marzio: "points of departure"
I have decided to put together a critical essay regarding my interpretations and disputations of the contemporary existing texts on the Ichnographia. It will be called "Points of Departure" and it will appear in NOT THERE. In order to move quickly, I may try and be as experimental as possible with the format and layout of my text(s). This may or may not work, but this will be the best place to experiment. I will try to make use of all the various devises available with html, including marquees. I may also experiment with animated gifs or some other special graphics--although at this point I have nothing special in mind.
I just now thought that I could introduce illustrations that are not necessarily related directly to the critical text, but rather carry their own supplemental meaning. This reminds me of the approach that Stanley took in his essay, and this combined presentation technique may also follow Piranesi's methodology, thus offering the possibility of a further "reenactment" on my part.
The images themselves could be of a number of different types: typologies, contiguous elements, land use, 3-D extrusions, genealogy of the plans, symbolism of the plans, and maybe even some types of drawings that I haven't even thought of yet. In thinking of the typologies, I now see that the inclusion with the critical text is perfect, especially with regard to Tafuri's comments of the Ichnographia being a sample book and something he considers being unknowable. I just thought of scale comparisons as another type of illustration, and the comparison between St. Peter's and the Bustum Hadriani is a perfect place to start, although I could also compare the Ichnographia plans to other ancient Roman plans, particularly the large baths. Such drawings would refute the Tafuri and Bloomer statements regarding the smallness (and seemingly insignificantly treated Pantheon and tomb of Hadrian).
Just now I also thought of how Piranesi's cribbing of the Porticus Amelia for the Septa Julia may actually represent Piranesi's scale for the entire Ichnographia. My hypothesis is that Piranesi very purposefully installed the Forma Urbis fragment of the Porticus Amelia into the Ichnographia for the precise purpose of demonstrating more of the actual scale (and gigantism) of ancient Rome. (I can better elaborate on this when I have the plan in front of me--it is as if Piranesi is here illustrating his own quote about how one just has to look around at Rome and Hadrian's Villa to see the examples he emulates.) In no way was Piranesi trying to be deceptive or misleading, nor was he acting out of ignorance of the fragments true identity. More than anything, Piranesi used the Porticus Amelia as evidence and example (like an "exhibit" in a court of law [(2011.06.24) and like Collingwood's view of "scientific" history requiring evidence]).

1998.01.07
more texts from Tafuri 2
I was surprised to find that there are many more references to the Campo Marzio in The Sphere and the Labyrinth than I had initially noted.
I may also find some useful citings in the beginning of the first chapter. There are many yellow sticky notes in the book that I have not yet organized and/or transcribed.
More texts from Tafuri, The Sphere and the Labyrinth:
p.1: "There comes a moment (though no always) in research when all the pieces begin to fall into place, as in a jig-saw puzzle, where all the pieces are near at hand and only one figure can be assembled (and thus the correctness of each move be determined immediately), in research only some of the piece are available, and theoretically more than one figure can be made from them, In fact, there is always the risk of using, more or less consciously, the pieces of he jig-saw puzzle as blocks in a construction game. For this reason, the fact that everything falls into place is an ambiguous sign: either one is completely right or completely wrong. When wrong, we mistake for objective verification the selection and solicitation (more or less deliberate) of the evidence, which is forced to confirm the presuppositions (more or less explicit) of the research itself. The dog thinks it is biting the bone and is instead biting its own tail."
--from: Carlo Ginzburg and Adriano Prosperi, Giochi di pazienza: Un seminario sul "Beneficio di Cristo" (Turin: Einuadi, 1975), p. 84.
** This is the opening quotation of Part I of The Sphere and the Labyrinth and I think Tafuri himself is sometimes also biting his own tail when he makes sweeping conclusions regarding the Ichnographiam of the Campo Marzio. I am not unaware, however, as to fitfulness of this quotation especially with the "puzzleing" aspect of the Ichnographiam. In the opening paragraphs that follow, Tafuri speaks of the "language of architecture" and it is here that I can instead introduce my own theory of plans themselves being the texts that architects most know how to read and right. **
p. 2-3:
"The questions that we are posing arise from a precise assumption. History is viewed as a "production," in all senses of the term: the production of meanings, beginnings with the "signifying traces" of events; an analytical construction that is never definite and always provisional; an instrument of deconstruction of ascertainable realities. As such, history is both determined and determining: it is determined by its own traditions, by the objects that it analyzes, by the methods that it adopts; it determines its own transformations and those of the reality that it deconstructs. The language of history therefore implies and assumes the languages and the techniques that act and produce the real: it "contaminates" those languages that those techniques and, in turn, is "contaminated" by them. With the fading away of the dream of knowledge as a means to power, the constant struggle between the analysis and its objects--their irreducible tension--remains. Precisely this tension is "productive": the historical "project" is always the "project of a crisis." Franco Rella writes:
Interpretive knowledge has a conventional character and is a production, a positing of a meaning-in-relation and not an uncovering of the meaning. But what is the limit of this operandi, of this activity? What is the locus of this relationship? What lies behind the Fiktion of the subject, of the thing, of the cause, of the being? What, then, can bear this 'aweful plurality'?The body. 'The phenomenon of the body is the richest, the most significant [deutlichere] , the most tangible phenomenon: to be discussed first [voranzustellen] methodologically, without coming to any decision about its ultimate meaning' This, then, is the limit of interpretation, that is to say the locus of the description. . . . In fact, through criticism and the 'plurality of interpretation' we have acquired the strength 'not to want to contest the world's restless and enigmatic character,' and in this way genealogy has proved itself to be a critique of values, for it has discovered the material origin of them, the body."
** I will not copy the footnotes here because they are not all that revealing. **
For the following quotation I wrote this reminder note: the metabolic process is what is described here; this may be useful in coming to terms with Piranesi and his metabolic imagination.
p. 8:
"And regarding all this, a new question: is it legitimate to pose the question of when and why without constantly and repeatedly submitting to criticism the theme of origin? Thus we have come full circle, to face once again the question of genealogy, just as Nietzsche had proposed it--as a "construction" in the true sense of the word, an instrument (modifiable, therefore, and to be consumed) in the hands of the historian.
Historical genealogy presents itself with all the characteriatics of a labor: [does Tafuri here mean a connection to giving birth?] a deconstructive and reconstructive labor, a labor that displaces the Nietzschean "stones" and reassembles them, which produces meanings by removing those already given. Jean-Michel Rey has very acutely taken the "massive omissions" that Nietzsche had discovered in the formation of languages, of values, of knowledge and related them to the work of deciphermant that Freud indicated as basic for analysis. Freud observes in Moses and Monothesism:
In its implications the distortion of a text resembles a murder: the difficulty is not in perpetrating the dead, but in getting rid of its traces. We might well lend the word Entstellung [distortion] the double meaning to which it has a claim but of which today it makes no use. It should mean not only 'to change the appearance of something' but also 'to put something in another place, to displace [vershieben].' Accordingly, in many instances of textual distortion, we may nevertheless count upon finding what has been suppressed [das UnterdrŘckte] and disavowed, hidden away somewhere else, though changed and torn from its context. Only it will not always be easy to recognize it.
Let use try to turn the discourse back on itself. Are not the language history and the languages codified by critical analysis also "spoken" through a series of censures, repressions, negations? Textual criticism, semantic criticism, iconological reading, the sociology of art, the genealogy of Foucault, our own criticism: they are not techniques that decipher only by hiding the traces of "murders" committed more or less consciously? We could put it in a another way and say that even the language of criticism, the language that should "move and break up stones," is itself a "stone." How are we to utilize it, then, to prevent it from becoming the instument of a sacred rite?
Perhaps we can now see more clearly the danger that lies in the analyses of a Blanchot, a Barthes, a Derrida. By willingly taking on the plural aspects of objects themselves written in the plural--literally works acting as human sciences--these critical languages prevent themselves from crossing the threshold that divides language from language, one system of power from other systems of power. They can break up works and texts, construct fascinating genealogies, hypnotically illuminate historical knots glossed over by facile readings. But they most necessarily negate the existence of the historical space. It is indisputable that the task of science is to cut rather than to join together. And it is equally indisputable that the true supersignifying metaphor--supersignifying to the point of inpenetrability--is the linearity of scientific discourse: a discourse that by definition has sought to eliminate every metaphor from itself. Therefore, it is not against the acceptance of metaphor or aphorism within the historical sciences that we protest. The real problem is how to project a criticism capable of constantly putting itself into crisis by putting into crisis the real. The real, mind you, and not merely its individual sections."
The above quotations has more relation to the Timepiece than to the Campo Marzio analysis.
p. 33:
"What is amazing to the reader of the Magnificenenza is an incoherent dedication of faith to the "natural" laws of architecture:
Even though, as Horace has written, painters and poets have the right to venture as far as it may please them, this does not give architects the right to do things according to their whims: architecture also having its method and its fixed limits, beyond which one cannot go and still work with rectitude. In fact, not even the above-mentioned professors, of poetry or painting, are of an importance that gives them the right to depart from a resemblance to what is real, as they propose; inasmuch as all the arts are an imitation of nature, and he who conforms most closely to nature is considered the most excellent artist of all. And if all the arts are subject to this law, we most certainly not exempt from it architecture, which also springs from what is real, and whose purpose is, as we can see, to imitate man's first manner of dwelling. . . ."
** This quotation brings to mind the notion of "virtual architect" and the freedom granted by CAD and cyberspace in the making of fantastic environments. **
p. 36:
The overall result is this sample book of typological invertions excludes--the choice is deliberate--the characterization of the city as a completed formal structure. The clash of the organisms, immersed in a sea of formal fragments, dissolves even the remotest memory of the city as a place of Form. The "city as forest," theorized by Robert Castell, followed by Laugier, and picked up again by Milizia, has a specific value for the culture of the Enlightenment. It is in fact called upon to supply a formal justification for the doctrine of natural law and for physiocratic ideology.
p. 36-7:
Exactly this equivalence of form and content is negated in the Campo Marzio. The only "natural" element which appears in it--the Tiber, with its sinuosity--contributes to the dissolution of every residue of order. As in all of Piranesi's work, Nature is no longer identified with the origin of the "beautÚ positive et convainquante," which Claude Perrault had already excluded from the sphere of the naturalistic mimesis.
p. 37:
That the subject here is a city indicates that in the Campo Marzio--as in the Carceri--form brought to the point of self-consumption is an absolute. What was safeguarded in the Pianti di ampio magnifico Collegio--a formal arrangement criticized but not negated--does not survive in the Campo Marzio. Here, moreover, it is no longer a question of a criticism; it is the question of the representation of an active decomposition. The ordo whose dissolution is presented is none other than the totality of Form. The theme hinted at in the Capricci is here brought to full development.
p. 38:
And thus the cause of the "decline and fall" is one alone--the loss of republican freedoms and the advent of a laxist aristocracy. The Piranesian "labyrinth" begins to give itself a political significance, cleverly disguised.
The ambiquity of the Campo Marzio now becomes evident; it is at once a "project" and a denunciation. As a disenchanted documentation of the impossibility of an unambiguous definition of language, it--projecting this situation into the past--sounds like a merciless satire of the infinite capacity of late-baroque typology to reproduce itself metamorphically. (The fact that in the Campo Marzio the allusion to baroque typologies is filtered through a classicist geometrism fools no one; it is simply a means of rendering metahistorical and universal the polemic already begun.) Inasmuch as it is--despite everything--an affirmation of a world of forms, the Campo Marzio, precisely because of the absurdity of its horror vacui, becomes a demand for language, a paradoxical revelation of its absence.
Negation and affirmation cannot split apart. The na´ve dialectic" of the Enlightenment is already superseded.
The "great absentee" from the Campo Marzio, then, is language.
The absolute disintegration of formal order, of what remained of the huminist Stimmung, of its sacred and symbolic values--and, above all, of perspective as a symbolic instrument for the quantitative control of space--logically also affects the subject of Piranesi's work: the relationship between history and the present. On one side, there is painstaking , scientific study of archeological findings; on the other, the most absolute arbitrariness in their resolution. (In this respect, after all, the Campo Marzio is anything but an exception in Piranesi's work.) History no longer offers values as such. Subjected to a merciless inspection, it is revealed as a new principle of authority, which as such must be disputed. It is the experience of the subject that establishes values; in this, already lies all the aspiration to the negative polemic of romanticism. Is Piranesi the "archeologist" interested in caves, underground passages, and substructures purely by chance, then? Rather, cannot this interest in "what is hidden" in ancient architecture be interpreted as a metaphor for the search for a place in which the exploration of the "roots" of the monuments meets with the exploration of the depths of the subject? In the AntichitÓ di Albano e di Castel Gandolfo (1764), the methodical reconstruction of the hydraulic and building techniques of the Romans is accompanied in a significant way--as Scott has noted--by views of mysterious underground passages. In both the Carceri and the Campo Marzio History and Nature become detached from the subject, not to open up a new universe of values, but rather to present this radical divergence as the only possible value.
p.39:
Let us try to link up the perspective restoration of the Carceri with the goemetric confusion of the Campo Marzio. The shattering of the organisms, the violence wrought upon the laws of perspective, the intuition of the possibilities offered by an indefinite "opening up of form"--the constant metamorphosis of the spaces in the Carceri, the gemmation, which theoretically could be continued ad infinitium, of the geometrical bodies in the Campo Marzio--mark, without any doubt, the end of Alberti's theoretical precepts of concinnitas and of finito. But they also sanction the definitive divorce of architectural signs from their signifieds.
We have already seen how it is precisely the hermetic emphasis on the content [contenutismo] of the Carceri which indicates that in this work the true meaning is entirely in the disorganization of the formal fragments. The list of the geometric variations contained in the Campo Marzio leads to the same conclusion.
The obsessive articulation and deformation of the compositions no longer correspond to an ars combinatoria. The clash of the geometric "monads" is no longer regulated by any "preestablished harmony"; and, most important, it demonstrates that the only meaning this paradoxical casuistry can refer back to is pure geometry, in the absolute semantic void that characterizes it.
Piranesi's constellation attacks not only perspective as a symbolic form, but also the utopia of the inventions of 1743 and of the Collegio. The swarm of theoretically equivalnt forms--theorems constructed around a single thesis--makes it clear that Piranesi's intent in the Campo Marzio is to draw attention to the birth--necessary and terrifying--of an architecture berift of the signified, split off from any symbolic system, from any "value" other than architecture itself.
** From here on, I will only cite the sentences that directly mention the Campo Marzio. I will simply remember to go back to the full text to read the contect of the sentences, and thus read the fuller menaing. **
p.40:
It is significant that Piranesi had this "freedom" coincide with a discontinuous montage of forms, citations, and memories (and not only in the Campo Marzio or in the plates of the Parere, but also in the dedicatory plates of the AntichitÓ romane).
p. 41:
...and it is certain that Canaletto's Capricci as well as Piranesi's Vedute, Carceri, and Campo Marzio are, in their way, "invitations to a voyage," publicity material: as we know, the economic value of his etchings is quite clear to Piranesi, who adopts a clever strategy to attract his public.
p. 44:
But the crowding of of objects around the multiple centers in the Campo Marzio, in many of the designs of the inventions, in the very plates that accompany the text of the Parere, and the annulling of the concept of space itself lead exactly to the same result.
p. 46:
In the combinatory paroxysm of the Campo Marzio, the reduction of architecture to geometric signs merges, not by change, with the proliferation of variations.
p. 49:
...in the Campo Marzio we have already glimpsed the demonstration ad absurdium of this necessary "nullification of the signified."
p. 50:
And, after all, the sadistic destruction of the organicity of space that takes place in the Campo Marzio and in the plates of the Parere leads directly to architecture as hermetic decoration.
p.51:
In certain ways, however, the etchings of the Diverse maniere mark a step backward with respect to the Campo Marzio and the altar of San Basilio.
p. 54:
The Carceri, the Campo Marzio, and the Cammini thus reveal his recognition--dramatic but for this very reason "virilely accepted--of the inherence of the abberrant within the real.

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