piranesi

1998

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1998.02.15
The City of God - inverse Ichnographia
I now have a copy of The City of God, and I intend to read whatever parts I feel necessary to make a connection between it and the Ichnographia. Sue Dixon mentioned a specific quotation where there is even a grammatical inversion used to describe the two natures of the city (the earthly vs. the spiritual). What I hope to ultimately demonstrate is that the Ichnographia actually represents both "urban" paradigms; the Ichnographia is a plan of earthly Rome and it is also oppositely/inversely the plan of spiritual Rome. I believe that Piranesi was trying to deliver both messages, meaning he was aware of the two "urban" paradigms and thus used the "planning" of the Campo Marzio to express both.
The connection that is strongest for me is the time-frame of the Arch of Theodosius (the end of the Roman Campo Marzio), the Visigoth siege on Rome, and the subsequent writing of The City of God--all these events occurred within a 40 year time-span. I believe Piranesi was trying to depict, delineate, reconstruct, reenact the inversion from Imperial Rome to the spiritual Rome of the Church. Along with this line of thought there is also the not-so-smooth conversion of Rome from a pagan state to a Christian state.
Now that I am writing this idea down, I see that I cannot really make a big issue of the Ichnographia representing The City of God, but then again, what I am basically saying is that the Ichnographia is neither a archeological reconstruction nor is it a critique of the baroque. (I should collect all the various descriptions of the Campo Marzio with regard to how it has been perceived esp. over the last half century.)
Today, 2.21,98, I see the connection between the Ichnographia and The City of God to be very strong, and, indeed, the basis of the double-theater concept underlying Piranesi's entire design.


1998.02.15
how to write the book on redrawing the Ichnographia
...it to be both easy and all encompassing. Do it all in note/aphorism form; not attempt to construct a few cohesive chapters because that would be too difficult to include everything. Somehow continue Piranesi's own theme of fragments, and there are many, many fragments. My head is full of racing thoughts because suddenly every idea I ever had about the Ichnographia and the Campo Marzio is suddenly an independent topic, and the range of topics is also open to all kinds of themes, such as personal thoughts, contiguous elements, the triumphal way, research, ancient texts, CAD, criticism of contemporary texts, and on and on.
Each topic will be an independent unit; it can include illustrations, it could be all illustrations, it could even be a single sentence or even a direct copy of some of my notes.
All I have to do is start with any topic and just move ahead. I will see a pattern develop and further organize the topics to follow the patterns. ...this is open ended. Furthermore, this fragmented approach is ideal for hyperlinked presentation. Just now thinking of the outlines from last summer with all its many topics, and of all the potential illustrations I can produce.

1998.02.15
continual mistakes and reversals
After seeing how the figure captions are inverted with regard to the Ichnographia and the Nolli Plan in the Peter Eisenman section of Autonomy and Ideology, it reminded me of the other mistaken inversions that I have found in other texts on the Ichnographia. For example, the east/west and other mistakes (Equirria and Antoninus Pius) of Fasolo, the mis-characterization in the Ichnographia-Jerusalem essay, the mention of inversion in the Allen essay, and my own mistake about the direction of the Triumphal Way. I find these mistakes to be uncanny, as if the Ichnographia had the power to confuse anyone who studied it (and here I can quote Kreiger).
"Rome's Campus Martius suggests an impossible tension among competing parts, perhaps even anarchy. The engraving itself seems to pulsate and change patterns as one studies it."
The strange thing is that Piranesi seems to make the same kind of (archeological) mistakes, and it makes me again wonder about the power or aura of the plan itself: is it a confusing plan that by its own elements of confusion somehow manages to manifest more confusion? (For some reason, I just thought of the Domitian Naumachia which Piranesi deliniates as a spirial--is this a confusing structure or what?)


1998.02.15
"Mistakes and Inversions - A Prefatory Review"
...an essay/article on "mistakes and inversion" with regard to the Ichnographia. Like the title suggests, it will be both a preface to further texts on the Ichnographia as well as a review of the literature on the Ichnographia from the last half century.
The theme of mistakes and inversions has come to the fore, ...allows me to state my own case in a succinct and introductory fashion.
...list the texts under review and then begin with the mistakes of Fasolo (which are abundant) concentrating specifically on those that by their nature are mistakes of inversion. ...end this with the illustration captions from Autonomy and Ideology. I will then move on to my own mistake (unless I find more mistakes in the other texts).
...may begin the essay with Piranesi's own quotes/text regarding the asccusations of the Ichnographia being a pure fantasy.
...finish up with mention of the Krieger mistakes and his quotation regarding the Ichnographia's visual perplexity.
The second group of mistakes/inversions will begin with the quotation from Allen concerning Piranesi's own view of the Campo Marzio as ultimately an inversion of Rome itself, rather than being an appendage to the city proper, it is actually the other way around. I will give Allen credit for latching onto the inversion theme, but I will also have to dispute his overall reliance on Tafuri's ideas on the Ichnographia. At this point I can bring up all my various disputes with Tafuri's ideas which I can now clearly demonstrate to be incorrect or just plain wrong. For example, I can begin with Tafuri's statement that the city "remains an unknown." I can easily dispute this with calling attention to the axes of life and death, and then comparing these axes to the ones that Tafuri (incorrectly) labels as the main axes of the Campo Marzio. Taking the dispute further, I will address the notion of archeological mask and how again this is not correct because overall Piranesi's "archeology" is relatively sound. At this point I can bring Bloomer into the picture and how she more than anyone else seems victim to the notion of mask.
To close this segment ...Rossi and the Cemetery of Modena and hence lift the "mask" once and for all (because the cemetery is also a reŽnactment).
The third point (perhaps final) will be to address Piranesi's own mistakes and inversions, particularly the inversion of the Circus Flaminius (which I now know to be also exchanged in location with the theater of Balba, which further shows Piranesi's intentional "mistakes" to make a specific point). I will make the point that Piranesi makes the mistakes, first to call attention to specific points, and second to highlight the notion of inversion. Piranesi is indeed being theatrical, which is only natural because of the whole notion of reŽnactment. I will at this point discuss the Ichnographia's Triumphal Way and how Piranesi redesigns (reŽnacts) the Way making it more ideal to its purpose (marching through the theater district). This will be a condensed version of the full Triumphal Way story. I will show how it (on the Ichnographia at least) ends at the Temple of Janus--a perfect example of inversion--and then demonstrate how following the Triumphal Way in reverse manifests the Christian theme of salvation and redemption, ending at the inverted "basilica"--the upside-down "inverted" crucifixion of St. Peter. At this point I can proclaim that the Ichnographia not only represents the history of ancient pagan city of Rome, but also the Christian city of Rome. This brings in Augustine's The City of God and also Bloomer's notion of the Ichnographia transcending time.
I can conclude with the Scenographia as the stage upon which Piranesi reŽnacts--this is the first scene and the "play" is about to begin. In the course of the "play" the most eggregious "mistake/inversion" is the misplacement and misorientation of the Circus Flaminius and its actual exchange with the Theater of Balba. This "mistake" manifests a composition of inverted theaters--essentially a double inverted theater. This configuration becomes one of the Campo Marzio's final scenes and thus represents the double inverted "theater" of Rome's own history--the narrative of pagan Rome and the narrative of Christian Rome, and in the Ichnographia the one story is indded a reflection of the other.

1998.02.19
"redrawing and reenacting"
I may find myself writing a prologue on the issue of my own redrawing and my reenactment of Piranesi's own process. This will lead to a discussion of Piranesi's own reenactment process which overshadows the notion of archeological reconstruction.
This is also where I bring up Vico and Collingwood and thus raise again the questionable validity of "reconstruction" as opposed to reenactment.
This essay may be short or it may become more than I expect at this point. In either case, I believe it will be the place where reenactment in general is addressed. This is also where an explanation of the book title occurs.


1998.02.19
"The Key Plan"
"The Key Plan"... ...about the tiny unnamed intercourse building at the end of the axis of life.
...unlocking secrets, gaining access to knowledge.
...the plan as depicting conception, and therefore the intentional starting point for meaning (and hence interpretation as well).
...the symbolism regarding the conception of Romulus and Remus--Mars and the royal Vestal Virgin as the parents.
...the tiny plan as the generator of all the subsequent plans; the beginning of the "embryonic development" of all the other plan formations.
...the signifying effect of inside vs. outside and of solid vs. void.
...the irony that Bloomer's key plan is just across the river and the unfortunate non-starter nature of her interpretation and underworld scenario.
...the connection to the The City of God regarding the fratricide of Romulus towards Remus and its parallel to Cain and Abel.


1998.02.20
in the mail, etc.
As promised, I have finally sent off 3 sets of photo copies:
Alan Plattus, "Passages into the City" in Ritual (Princeton Architectural Press, 1983).
Stanley Allen, "Piranesi's Campo Marzio: An Experimental Design" in Assemblege, 1989.
G. B. Piranesi "Thoughts on Architecture" in Oppositions (Spring 1984: 26).
I have made another discovery of yet another of my own mistakes regarding the Ichnographia, specifically to the area of the Bustum Hadriani. Hadrian's tomb is not in the Garden of Domitian but in the Garden of Domitia, the sister of Nero's father. Thus the twin circus to Hadrian's Circus is not the Circus of Domitian, but the Circus of Domitia, and therefore it is not a case of mislabeling and misplacement on Piranesi's part. The following is what Piranesi notes in the Catalogo of Il Campo Marzio:
Circo Apollinare di Domizia «Procopio nel lib. della guerra Gothica.» Furono dissotterrati diciotto anni fa li rovine di questo circo nel sito, ove l'abbiam delineato, ed ove son state dinotate dal Nolli nella sua pianta di Roma moderna. Di esse parla il Fulvio, ove dice: «Vi resta per anco fuori di porta Castello, in quelle vigne vicine, non lungi dalla mole Adriana una piccolo forma di un circo di pietra nera e dura quasi affatto rovinato.»
I see a reference to Nolli, the Gothic Wars, to Hadrian, and to the Castello. I think we are both interested in how this translates. I see it pretaining especially to your reconstruction paper and to the issue of Piranesi's archeology in general.
If nothing else, Piranesi certainly keeps us "digging"! Hope you enjoy the articles.

1998.02.20
animated gifs
I am particularly interested in using the function as an analytical tool, although I think it will be an effective display device as well. The following is a preliminary list of animated gifs that could be used:
highlighted (blinking) plans - alternately change colors of specific parts of a plan. This would work great for displays of the Ichnographia.
plan narratives - like the model pieces displays, except it would be pieces of a plan, e.g., the life and death axes and the route of the Triumphal Way.
meandering through the Ichnographia - experiment with this, but it might make for some interesting "journeys".


1998.02.24
Re: in the mail, etc. [Sue to Steve]
Just received them today! Thanks. I probably won't get to them for a while because I'm off to Toronto tomorrow. But they look interesting!
The translation reads: The Circus Apollinare of "Domizia" ([reference in] Procopius [he's the biographer of the Emp. Justinian, c. 527-40, and his famous book is On Building in which he describes Hagia Sophia], in the book On the Gothic wars [beats me, I didn't know he wrote such a book] P.S. There is another Procopius!! an emperor after Constantine, born 326 and died 366! He's more likely the author of this On the Gothic Wars. The ruins of this circus were uncovered 18 years ago in the site where we have drawn it, and where they are noted by Nolli in his plan of modern Rome. Fulvio (I think he means Fulvio Orsini, an archaeologist of the late 16th century) speaks of this, when he says "here rest still, outside the gate of Castello or Porta Castello, in those nearby vineyards, not far from Hadrian's tomb, a little form/outline of a circus made of black hard stone (actually I think pietra nera e dura is a type of stone that is black and hard rather than just any old black and hard stone) that is almost totally ruined.
I'm curious about the labeling of "Domitae" on the map, and the reference to the Italian "Domizia" in the text. I've never seen a reference to that stadium as other than the Stadium of Domitian, in all my 16th and 17th-century guidebooks. But then, I've never read this Procopius. But my thoughts are as follows:
a) -ae is the Latin ending denoting the possessive of a feminine noun. But Nerva's stuff gets called Nervae, and there is a grammatical oddity that gender of words/signifier doesn't always have anything to do with gender of the signified.
b) Piranesi clearly knew that the translation of Domitian in Italian is "Domiziano", and not "Domizia" because he uses "Domiziano" in his text.
c) He doesn't mention this stadium/circus at all in the text, but it should have been in ch. 6.
d) The Romans were very good at naming buildings after family members, as you probably know. In fact, the famous Basilica Marciana is named after some female relative of Caesar Augustus. In his text, Piranesi cites plenty of other examples of buildings named after imperial women.
e) The Domitia I know is the wife of Domitian, and is suspected of helping assassinate him. She might be the same one you've found that is related to Nero.
and finally:
f) It's really too much for me to sort through at the moment, and without the Procopius text, I'm not willing to make any big deal about it. It still looks like the stadium that everyone else refers to as Domitian's to me.
"If nothing else, Piranesi certainly keeps us "digging"! Hope you enjoy the articles."
He certainly does that! Sue

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