giovedì 28 agosto 2008

Egotists of Expression (eidolon)

Living and viewing Rem's architecture, do we get to know Rem the man any better? From Zaha's? Perhaps a bit more. And more again from Mies. But what of Palladio?

It seems that these people's art does not closen us to them as, say, William's or Gunther's. Or even Thomas's or James's.

But perhaps what we think (or expect by analogy), is but a mistake. As what "seems". In any and every case, what the architecture seems to reveal about it's "creator" seems pretty uninteresting, and we are much more attracted and interested in the architecture. And often the little it reveals we would rather not know, for instance who Norman thinks he is.

There remains this sense of residual difference and distinction around architecture: that it is not about particular men but of Man. Of mice and men not Of writers and readers.

For my part, I have never tried to express myself. At least, only in a second moment. First the architecture (that is, the idea), and if it leaves me kindly room for my fancies and fixations, all the better.

Architecture is one art (at least) safe from those predative, maniac egotists of expression. Such as Lady M. But yet ever menaced by those who have nothing to say, like Lady M, who is no lady, but a beast.

domenica 4 maggio 2008

Step 12: Aut Aut brief candle....

No reference to real or existing persons and events are casual...On the real utility of genre theories revisited, and the consequent inevitable intentional fallacy (and btw,intensional fallacy as well). The most interesting argument I believe is around my understanding of Danto's distinction between contraries and opposites.

The efficacy of the genre theory comes thus to be questioned not only on the terms of its undecidability (beyond its normal, usual inaccessibility), but in terms of a necessary polisemy, connatural with the open work, where the open work is considered a necessary response to our more complex world view and experience. And yes, interesting the concept of "triviality" in arguments concerning compliance to genre... Ready?

Perhaps as a consequence of the difficulties traced out in the previous steps, some traditions have shifted the focus from genre thinking (that is technical compliance) to the search for the finality or the teleology of specific works, and/or of Art. This to take into account the explicit or implicit openness of works of art, an openness that cannot be denied even to historical phenomenon.

This renders vain the initial project, that sought to reduce criticism to description by compressing the intentional factor to the initial choice of genre. This per force. It is no longer uncommon and often necessary to ask the artists to explain the work, to justify its classification, to clarify its being.

This supposes not only that the artist be honest, that he or she be disinterested, but that there be a ready classification for what he intends to do. Furthermore, it is necessarily an under-determined procedure (neither sound nor complete), in that perforce there must be other, exogenous criteria if such a valuation of the work is not to be tautological. It is not sufficient to say that "I meant it that way", "I did it on purpose", now is it?

We have to develop a way of evaluating the criterion themselves. We have to as it were, to critique critique itself (the third man problem).

Let us take a step back. Let us suppose that all these dilemmas are difficult yes, but that generally we do not find them so problematic. In general, there is substantial convergence in our judgements. While there may be extreme or limit cases, a considerable consensus exists, and diverse methods whereby we build such a consensus. History is the mother of all truth, a rather cruel and obtuse mother, but nonetheless our mother. Probably the residual uncertainty is really in order, as this incomplete consensus is part and parcel of an evolved conception of sense and meaning, and it is not at all strange that our judgements should follow the dynamic upon which they sink their foundation, that is language.

Let us take a limit case. An artist creates his experience. He is quite accultured, and so he is certain to have created something quite new and unique. So new and unique that he feels the need to explain that which he has done, so that, understanding it, we may appreciate it, and consider it worthy of our evermore tried and pressed attention.

Whatever could he say to convince us of the value of what he has done? What possibile motive and reasons could he supply? What sort of arguments, if indeed it may be necessary an argument? To what could he appeal?

Arthur Danto, differently from Walton, considers just this case. He does not consider the evolutionary work, but the revolutionary work which sets out as its main purpose that of staying out of our usual or known categories. Where compliance to established genres is at best trivial.

To this end he considers two types of predicates. Contradictory and contrary. Predicates P an Q are said to be contradictory for all x, P(x) or Q(x) and if P(x) then not Q(x). Predicates S and R are said to be contrary more simply if S(x) then not R(x), leaving open that neither S(x) or R(x) . According to Danto, predicates utilised historically to the type of discussion we are examining have been implicitly of the second type. And, always according to Danto and perhaps logic, in order to meaningfully apply a contrary predicate, one must previously apply a higher order predicate, let us say K.
It is most probably that it this that we all mean when we ask, "to what may he appeal to?"

Now, I do not wish to go further into the specifics, nor defend further the claims, even though they are analogous to most the widely accepted claims regarding compliance of certainly less contended questions, such as that of concrete things and not abstract categories. My aim is as always another.

What I wish to say takes that its cue by recognizing that I am certain that for Danto being K stands for being ART. For Danto this means to be a member of the artworld (to which belong not only works but also subjects and authorities). How this belonging is determined is not really explained or justified, though it is convincing. No reasoning, no argument, no decision procedure is furnished that is not in the end open to a sonorous "So what!". What is important is that before we fill our mouths with discussions on esthetic criteria, and their applicability to specific cases, we must indeed seem to have to know or agree that we are really dealing with "Art".

And we are back to the start. We simply do not know what that means nor what sort of reasoning could satisfy our requests. Perhaps a judgment-consensus on the ultimate goal, use or purpose of art. But in that case we are certain of one thing and only one thing: that we will never possibibly succeed in our endeavour.

Does art give us something? And just one thing? And is it an example of itself? And if we don't feel anything, is it not art? And if we don't think anything, is it not art? And if we think just anything, is it?

And yet, it seems ever so importa to distinguish art from non art. For if we do not succeed in including or excluding an experience from this heavenly olympus, all our efforts seem not only vain, but vacuous.

And all our yesterdays have taught us that we have never succeed in this endeavour.

The contemporary crisis.

mercoledì 16 aprile 2008

Step 11: Strawberry and Hazelnut Cream

On taste theories of art.

They are a bit out of fashion, really, and that in itself is quite significant. In the era of superficial relativism (and oh boy is there another type, which in reality is all we have), theories of tastes are at best a confusion of liking and judging (de gustibus.....), at worse they are thinly veiled aggressions that intimate to let the matters be, for we will never come to head on it.

But we don't want to drop the matter. In our opinion it is important that we recognize, that, willy nilly, we are able to comunicate, and maybe even express our thoughts, that we are not really unspeakably alone.
It is our opinion that, magically, we can share what is most important to us, our thoughts, our feelings, our ideas. And that indeed we do, and we have all the reason to be satisfied of our sharing.

Such stuff as we are made of.

It fine to drop the matter and to be civil, to agree to disagree ecc ecc if pursuing a discussion will only be struggle and strife that can only bring ruin to a fine evening by the sea in front of the ice cream parlour. For really unimportant things, or things for which we really are as yet (and maybe for ever) incapable to decide, to leap beyond informed opinion into certainty.

But if the matter is close to our heart,or if on our opinion ride important matters and courses of actions, significant things?

Then it just wont do to let things be, it wont do to bite the matter of with a smile, roll the universe up with a smile...if indeed we are not disposed to examine and discuss, to put to discussion our ideas, what value do we give to these things? And what sort of truth is it if it is truth only for me?

Superficial relativism sins either of laziness or of incoherence. It lazily does not consider the meaning of the words. Real relativism does not exhonarate us from furnishing criteria or defending our thoughts. It simply requires that we furnish a "complement", fill in a preposition for our thoughts. It requires that we specify what something is relative to, it requires and exogenous criteria that does not beg the question, is not implicit in the judgement or the problem. (Absolutism says everything is "relative to God", whatever that means, but unfortunately that begs the question....)

You see, relativism is simply a recognition that reality is complex and manifold. That an umbrella is an excellent portable shelter against the rain, but a tragic parachute...

And superficial relativism is incoherent. It simply is not true that I can believe anything. I cannot even immagine everything. I can't immagine for instance a society that is based on the values expressed by the Addams family.

If opinion and truth weren't really two distinct things, then there would be no reason at all to speak. That we may not have access to the truth, and thus justly we value tolerance and democracy, does not justify that we deny that the truth is a meaningful concept.

This is the problem of taste.

Rooting esthetic judgment in taste, is an implicit recognition that - for whatever reason - the formulation (at least) of an esthetic judgment is not a mere description, or verification of class, but a decisive role is played by sentiment and sensibility. Which is problematic. Because it does not satisfy our aspirations, and also because the in the realm of sense and sensibility, the air is "too thin", and concepts wizen and wilt. And descriptions are like unto angels.

And we haven't a criterion for distinguishing the "goodness" of different and differing judgements. It is perhaps for this reason, that historically the modern theories of taste (way back to dear Hume, here reported),really fall back to a sort of plural and lay version of auctoritas. But that just shifts the problem to the next turtle below...For quis custodis custodinis, and there is always a third man that steals our true love....

Perhaps Deleuze was not far from the truth when he asserts that God, the truth, and the presence of present are unseparable drinking buddies.

sabato 5 aprile 2008

Step 10: Genre Theories and the Neutrality of the Critic

Genre theories of art are more or less a development of the Aristotelian approach to criticism. That is, art objects as a result of a technique, or techne.

Let us pretend that we have not yet discussed, as we have, the closure or completeness of our daily concepts (Wittgenstein) nor of our abstract concepts (Goodman and compliance classes).

Let us begin with what is by now an acquired concept of modern semiotics, and that is the openness of works. This is by no means a quality shared by all cultures, but it is a distinct product of the European aesthetic research, a sort of cultural vice that we first raised as a banner and flag with the French revolution, but whose roots sink down well into the first modernism, Michelangelo and the cult of genius and originality.

We see this in the perduring 19th century rethoric of critique, crisis, war. The Bushes are Marx's leanest and meanest illegittimate children.

Looking into the openness of works, appears a logical vice in the genre theory of art, a vicious circle.

Let us suppose a clean slate, where we not only have not developed the criteria for belonging to a certain class or genre, but where we are yet to develop the genre's themselves. From a theoretical point of view, this veil of ignorance has to be admitted, in as much as the strong version of the genre theory hopes to trace out a descriptive and not evaluative, theory of criticism.

Let us suppose then to have neither criteria nor genre, but just works of art (how we come to classify certain objects as works of art and not other things, is quite misterious, but it is in the end just the same game...). The role of the critic behind this veil of ignorance, would be to distill the essential properties of each work of art and define the genres. But to do this, he would have to have instance of the genres. Just what he does not have, for not having the class, how could he have the instance. Look at it this way: it is the same problem faced by art historians in determining falsity or authorship of 16th century paintings.

He has to rely on his authority or on the individuation of the intentions of the artist (supposing he/she is known). But auctoritas is not something that we can believe in (step 12), and we have shown that intentions are meaningless. Particularly in our age, where not only revolutions happen, but they are the highest of our values.

Our concept of art is conceptual. Our concepts are open and in open evolution.a

The ouroboros, is the emblem of this sort of operation. It is not casual that it is also a mythic and mistical beast tied to all that is life.

It is also the emblem of the architecture that slithers beneath these words, and fills the empty belly of the white trojan horse that is this architectural novel.

sabato 22 marzo 2008

Step 09: the logical difference between sculpture and architecture

Some rather dry theory, but with interesting implications. The page has three elements. On the right face, two texts. The first is an examination of Aristotle's definition of tragedy as an exemplification of a particular esthetic strategy: the canon (or genre) approach, that is, that approach to art instances as technical objects (techne) complete with identification rules (complete and coherent classes) that generate descriptive evaluations. At least, in theory.

It should become clear through this piece why the novel has spent so much energy on the so called intentional fallacy, because it is here that ingenuous "subjectivism" tries to wedge in its doubt. The second text of the right face discusses just this.

It is a relatively crude approach. Firstly, because it is clearly a rigid and elementary case of the more fluid scenario proposed by Walton (discussed in step 3).

Crude also because it reduces art to a sort of painting by numbers, a much-too-cold academic endeavour. If I were to hazard a difference between art and artisanship, it would be exactly what this approach proposes as the certain criterion for the evaluation of art. The artisan knows exactly what he is looking for, his result is clear and his intention is a good (if not always precise) measure of success or failure. Artisanry is a technical endeavour indeed. The artist often does not know exactly where his research will lead.

On the contrary, it is this serendipity which is often the key to art's power, its capacity to tap into destiny, to betray our fears, to lay nude our shameful nakedness..

In any case, this approach must be discussed. It must be discussed because it reveals how the concept of "authority" (auctoritas), and its latent psicology, hovers behind many of our theoretical aspirations. And indicates, if faintly, what I propose as the final formulation of the physiognomy of judgment - consensus.

And furthermore, for an ambitious architect it is essential. Because to fully deploy the power of architecture it is essential not to deny that it is a technical art, but that it cannot be only technical. That is, to understand how its "technical" dimension not only can be subordinated to other ends, but in what manner it must be subordinated.

The text in blue is a small theoretical exemplification of these arguments ("eg"). In particular, it discusses the logical difference between sculpture and architecture, starting from a fresh reading of typology in architecture:

Scultpure is an idea of form. Architecture is a form of idea.

Peace, Frank.

martedì 18 marzo 2008

Step 08: 100 monkeys on a hundred machines (King Balthassar)

a stochastic demonstration of the soul...(writing on the wall)

a fretful writer spills his inkwell on the ledger.
The sun in dashes plunges into the oily pool,

as an ant passes and his rapid crawling

scrawls out the Poet's song.

Though highly improbable, this scenario is not impossibile. That is, it is not incoherent with our concept of physical laws. If it were to happen to us, we would be amazed. And if amazed, we would be amazed that ant should write, and write so well.

That is we would doubt that the ant had intended to write or could have an intention at all, but we would not hesitate to read the phrase. On the contrary, it is the veritable cause of our amazement. The consequence is that intention, or any "baptismal" theory of sense and meaning, is ... nonsense.

What does that mean?
It means that meaning is NOT what we mean.
Or at least, meaning is not what we mean it to mean. What do we mean?

You can read the extreme consequences of this simple "observation", including the wisdom of janitors, in the text (if of course italian is meaningful, for you...)

What does this have to do with architecture you may ask? Everything, if only for the simple reason that architecture is the prosecution of philosophy with other means.

Do you recognize the army of monkeys in the graphic?

domenica 16 marzo 2008

Band-Aids (Mattino da Tappeto or Palladio's last lesson)

The client's problem:

  • Organise a 40 m commercial façade that drops 1,40m through its development (3,5% slope), with openings esclusively on street-side. The request translates constructively in the maximisation of shopwindow surface area, for commercial, living, and sanitary purposes.
  • Norms on accessibility for the disable impose that every commercial activity have a barrier free access. This required that the floor levels drop following the street slope. Commercial strategies permitted a compromise concentration of one shop every two shopwindows, limiting the number of discontinuities in flooring to four (h=17,5cm)

12 cm - The architect's problem

A straight forward resolution of client's problem, taking into consideration building technology, standardisation of specs, maximisation of openings, ecc ecc. would have led to a monotonous, ripetitive and anonymous façade, with a clumsy staircase effect, only partially attenuated by tried-and-true solutions (such as a townhouse organisation of the façade).

To reduce redesign costs (already in executive phase when I entered into the project), I needed to resolve the client's problem with the least intervention on the building distribution, which was in any case already hyperdetermined by the commercial-program requests,and without restudying the structural hypothesis already decided.

Formally, the problem was a classic façade and corner problem, which I formulated thus:

"how to resolve in a fresh attractive manner the foundation, development, and coronation of a flat, folded surface" (12 cm)

This is when and how I thought of Palladio.

The architect's solution
On a hairy morning of june, my skin would not hear of being courteous to my razor

Design strategies:
Having decided to act only on the surface of things, my imagination oriented itself automatically on various surface treatments, on philosophical metaphors for sense, on the slipperyness of meaning, and on the task that I had to absolve, that is, to put a patch on bad initial project (not mine). Thus the bandaid....a sort of hatch cut into the "meat" of the façade, like small cuts made by a fretful razor, artfully inclined and dispersed on the façade would have effectively impeded the eye from registering the perspective and the internal relationships between the façade openings.
one of the greatest difficulties was represented by the coronation of the façade. Not a pitched roof, but a flat roof was requested as a possible summer dehors. If in order to function as a confortable parapet, the gutter line would have had to necessarily follow the various roof levels (which for reasons of internal staircases had to follow the groundfloor levels), it would have thus been impossible to avoid a tell-tale staircase effect at the coronation of the building. Unless of course, the height of the coronation were left free to respond to esthetic satisfaction, and the view guaranteed by a different trick: here I thought of Corbu's penthouse in Paris. (Texans need not apply.)

The same element thought to "confound the eye, simply", becomes an opening in the façade from which to look upon the street.

Light play and Subcutaneous Inserts

(and play of light). The result was a playful façade, with large openings and a rich texture. That the band-aids were also occasions for street-signs, temporary installations ecc, did not hurt.

The coronation of the building, to guarantee the cleaniness of the façade in case of rain,could have been resolved through "sub-cutaneous" inserts, that would have broken the flow of rainwater
on the façade (and thus ordered soot and atmospheric dirt deposits), and enriched the texture of the skin, all whilst conserving the overall monolithic aspect of the façade

[design proposal for façade of the Balon flea market, Torino, Italy.
idearight reserved,2003]

martedì 11 marzo 2008

Step 07: mad mallards

The intentional fallacy.

A bbozzi di sillogis MO, che si trova a metà pagina.
E' il sollogismo che regola tutto il primo capitolo di questo romanzo architettonico.

Il romanzo si intitola 1steinstrasse, il capitolo 01 upbuilding: Heidegger su Heidegger su platone. Il sottotitolo: "it may not be good Plato, but it certainly is good Heidegger").

il testo inglese traduzione di una parabola di Kafka.
La foto s'intitola amitié.

domenica 9 marzo 2008

muro diesel 2007

Ci abbiamo provato, a fare qualcosa di più della grafica, una archigrafica se volete, più di un segno, più di un richiamo. pazienza! Con Luisella Cresto.

venerdì 7 marzo 2008

Step 06: s0l0:due;s0l1 [parmenide]

On translation in a translated sense, in the maieutic manner. Plato's and Socrates only defeat, apparently.

Il linguaggio come traduzione del pensiero...