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brady burroughs Critical Studies, KTH - August 2013 Philosophies - ResArc PhD Course Conceptual Colouring-In Book
Arriving Meet Ali. Ali is 7 years old and has an Uncle Aldo who is a famous architect. Ali set off to visit Uncle Aldo in his row house in Bergamo, Italy, but upon arrival, Ali found that a Swedish-American PhD student had occupied the unit and was illegally renovating it, in the name of feminist architectural research! Uncle Aldo's bull terrier was still wandering around outside the building, and would bark every time a paper airplane whizzed through the air, launched from the balcony of the gallery.
S â€™ I L A F O P MA NTURE E V D A
BATHING SALON 2 A spatial exercise in Bodies that Matter 3 Watermark
1 Boy's guide to new existential territories?
5 A 'cognisphere' without cyborgs is like a 'research studio' without feminisms 6 In pursuit of 'hereness' and 'whoness'
4 Warning: operation of affective power tools may require ethical considerations
Entry Hall When Ali arrived at the entry hall, there were a group of angry feminists huffing and puffing and shaking their fists at the portraits on the wall. They aren't ALWAYS angry, it's just that they were tired of being excluded and were letting off some steam. Ali felt excited with all that passion and energy in the room, but the strange portraits hanging on the walls were a bit scary, as they kept shifting from one face to anotherâ€Ś and you never knew which one was looking at you.
Boy’s guide to new existential territories? In The Three Ecologies, Félix Guattari “bequeaths” us with a toolbox to initiate a new process of subjectification, as opposed to the construction/assumption of static and naturalised subjectivities formed by the capitalist machine (IWC- Integrated World Capitalism).1 These come in the form of social, environmental and mental ecologies in what he calls a new ecosophy. Nicolas Bourriaud deciphers and connects some of the ideas in Félix Guattari’s work more directly to the world of art and aesthetics, in “Relational Aesthetics”, propagating for an “artistic, ecosophic practice”, where art is defined as “a construction of concepts with the help of percepts and affects, aimed at a knowledge of the world…” and “the only acceptable end purpose of human activities is the production of a subjectivity that is forever self-enriching its relationship with the world”, where art is instrumental in this activity.2 I am left wondering, however, why these men continue to write about other men and the world men live in, and how men are yet again going to save “women, children and ‘others’” through their internal intellectual private conversations… If I’m not invited into the conversation, how can I be expected to take it seriously? Creating new subjectivities? Great! Fighting against capitalism and injustice? Fantastic! But let’s start by looking at ourselves and how and what we write, shall we? What privileges do I have in the position I occupy and am writing from? What references do I cite? What examples do I give? What audience do I assume? Which groups do I sacrifice (and belittle- i.e.“the usual archaizers and folklorists” or “a small nature-loving minority”) in the name of my own ‘professionalism’ and authority? What assumptions do I make about ‘others’ who I assume are not like me, yet I perhaps know very little about? Is there not a single female thinker for Guattari to learn from? Are there no female artists for Bourriaud to use in his examples? Come on, enough is enough! Isabelle Stengers hands us another tool for thinking about practices, an ecology of practices, in an attempt at a more politically and ethically responsible practice, as a reaction to her experience within the world of physicists where she noted a clinging to power through a claim of rational universality.3 Stengers reminds us that ”a tool is never neutral” and that “the tool coproduces the thinker”. Well, if the tool is a philosophical text and that tool is gender blind, then what does that say about the thinker? She eventually lands in the idea of empowerment, a discovery made among feminists and non-violent activists that base
their practice on the rituals and “magic” of neo-pagan witches. In light of the discussion above, regarding the texts of Guattari and Bourriaud, it is then perhaps no surprise that Isabelle Stengers (although she also primarily refers to the work of male philosophers… Was she aware of Susanne K. Langer’s book Philosophy In A New Key (1942) and just didn’t cite it? Or was her proposal of an ecology of practices in a “minor key” just a cooincidence?) ends her article with the statement “Maybe this is why I had to go back to this very beginning, since as a daughter, not a son, I could not belong without thinking in presence of women, not weak or unfairly excluded women but women whose power philosophers may have been afraid of.” 3 links to start with of female/gender bender thinkers, artists and activists who problematise and initiate new practices that simultaneously activate and construct new environmental, social and subjective relations: Indian activist, feminist thinker AND physicist Dr. Vandana Shiva (http://www.democracynow.org/2013/3/8/vandana_shiva_on_intl_womens_day) Artist and alternative rock icon, Amanda Palmer (http://www.ted.com/talks/amanda_palmer_the_art_of_asking.html) Photographer and LGBT activist, iO Tillett Wright (http://www.ted.com/talks/io_tillett_wright_fifty_shades_of_gay.html) Félix Guattari, The Three Ecologies, London: Athlone Press, 2000. Nicolas Bourriad, ’The Aesthetic Paradigm (Félix Guattari and Art)’, in Relational Aesthetics, Les Presses des Réel, 2002. 3 Isabelle Stengers, ’Introductory Notes on an Ecology of Practices’, in Cultural Studies Review, Vol. 11, No. 1, March 2005. 1 2
Bathing Salon Upon entering the room on the left-hand side, Ali noticed a sign above the door. Ali was very clever and could read, but was having trouble making out this sign. The sign said 'WOMENONLY'. WO ME NON LY? Ali thought maybe it was just written in shortened textmessage language and meant, 'Without me, now or never, lovely.' It still didn't make any sense, but Ali was hungry and smelled sweets, so decided to go right in.
A spatial exercise in bodies that matter In “Woman, Chora, Dwelling,” Elizabeth Grosz writes on Luce Irigaray’s interpretation of Plato’s chora and its culpability in establishing a binary power structure, resulting in the oppressive treatment of women and notions of the feminine in architecture and the built environment. Despite a tendency, mainly in Irigaray’s analysis, but one that remains unproblematized in Grosz’s writing, to essentialize the category ‘women’, connecting it to femininity and maintaining a female/male binary with the assumption of a heterosexual norm, I acknowledge and sympathize with the challenge she poses in her conclusion. However, for me, the category ‘women’ (and ‘men’) could be exchanged with any number of categories of identity that make up our shifting subjectivities within unequal relations of power. “The project ahead, or one of them, is to return women to those places from which they have been dis- or re-placed or expelled, to occupy those positions- especially those which are not acknowledged as positions- partly in order to show men’s invasion and occupancy of the whole of space, of space as their own and thus the constriction of spaces available to women, and partly in order to be able to experiment with and produce the possibility of occupying, dwelling, or living in new spaces, which in their turn help generate new perspectives, new bodies, new ways of inhabiting.”1 Following, is a brief description and reflection of an instance that occurred during my 20% seminar, which was a first attempt at “occupying new spaces to help generate new perspectives, new bodies, new ways of inhabiting.” Stage: A seminar is staged in a streetfront office space with two symmetrical rooms, one empty with only a large Persian carpet, candelabras and an extravagant sweets table offering glazed cherry muffins, fruit and tea. The other room also has a Persian carpet, but is furnished with diagonal rows of chairs while a clothes rack and mirror stand at the back. Scene: Part-way through the enactment of a fictive guided tour of a row-house renovation, through a series of four rooms, participants are advised that the second room is designated as a “women-only” space and that anyone who does not consider themselves ‘woman-identified’ at that moment should proceed directly to the third room and wait for the rest of the group there.
Action: In this instant, everyone participating in this fiction is forced to make an assessment and choice of their own sex/gender identification, something that is perhaps otherwise unreflected and/or usually taken for granted. Why did most of the participants who were typically considered female, either biologically or through their gender expression, choose in that moment to be ‘women’, where they had free access to the tea and cakes, but were also asked to serve refreshments to the ‘men-identified’ individuals? In turn, why did the participants who were typically considered male, either biologically or through their gender expression, not choose to test being ‘woman-identified’ in order to gain access to the sweets table? Reflection: This was a critical fiction, a theater of sorts, the perfect opportunity to test a role other than your own. Several participants mentioned afterwards that this thought occurred to them later, even several days later. They felt an immediate discomfort in being confronted with a choice that is usually uncontested, not an issue. Suddenly, they were asked to make a choice, define themselves and in doing so, to determine which spaces were accessible to them, along with certain privileges (i.e. the sweets table). Likewise, the choices they made had immediate material consequences, and they felt discomfort either in being excluded from a space, or in being forced into the stereotypical role of a ‘woman’ serving the ‘men’ their refreshments. As Judith Butler writes, “To problematize the matter of bodies may entail an initial loss of epistemological certainty, but a loss of certainty is not the same as political nihilism. On the contrary, such a loss may well indicate a significant and promising shift in political thinking. This unsettling of “matter” can be understood as initiating new possibilities, new ways for bodies to matter.”2 In confronting the participants of the seminar with the matter of their own bodies and by using separatism as a design tool, this moment of the enactment raises a point of contestation, although deeply sedimented and overlooked, and points to the possibilities of further exploration. Elizabeth Grosz, ‘Women, Chora, Dwelling’ in Jane Rendell, Barbara Penner, Iain Borden, Gender Space Architecture: An Interdisciplinary Introduction, London: Routledge, 2000 (1991), 221. 2 Judith Butler , ‘Bodies that Matter’, in Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex, London: Routledge, 1993, 30. 1
A watermark is 1) a mark indicating the height to which water has risen, 2) a marking in paper resulting from differences in thickness usually produced by pressure of a projecting design in the mold or on a processing roll and visible when the paper is held up to the light (Merriam Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary). Both definitions speak of matter imprinting itself on or into another matter. The first indicates perhaps a cyclical or repetitive process of water rising and falling, leaving a trace. I associate these with structural or institutional norms on a larger scale. The latter hints at a calculated or designed process, where the trace is much more intentional, and could perhaps represent a more individual scale of intention and effect. I’ve used the word Watermark as the working title for my proposed project, which I situate within the world of critical theories that Jane Rendell describes as “…forms of knowledge which are ‘reflective’ rather than ‘objectifying’ and take into account their own procedures and methods; they aim neither to prove a hypothesis nor prescribe a particular methodology or solution to a problem but to offer self-reflective modes of thought that seek to change the world.”1 Watermark has functioned as a metaphor for the inscription of norms in the things, spaces and places we inhabit, and in turn how these inscriptions settle into our bodies and affect the way we think about ourselves. Just as a watermark is only visible when a sheet of paper is held up to the light, so do these inscribed norms become apparent only when we look closely and critically at the built environment that surrounds us. So, part of the project is making these processes and traces visible, while the other part is to instigate new intentional processes. Although, I think watermark may have served its purpose, and a much more fluid model will soon need to replace it. I am interested in suggesting other ways of approaching architecture that can perhaps change the way we think about space and the way we think about ourselves. Although I appreciate the “setting out” of the modes and matters of feminist architecture and even recognize my position within the feminist/interdisciplinary/performative/critical writing practices, Jane Rendell discusses, I question her use of the term “spatial” rather than “architectural” in critical spatial practice to expand her field of discussion. I choose strategically to remain focused on “architecture” in order to expand the field itself, as I see power located in this term that is perhaps lost in the shift toward the term “space”. Just as Rendell points out in the
conclusion of her text, that references to feminism must be made clear, in order not to lose its political and oppositional potential, I don’t think we can afford to give up “architecture”, if the intention is to change it. Otherwise, we risk being relegated to the realm of ‘space’ while the bastion of architecture remains unchanged. The traces in the watermark are ingrained into the very material, so if I want to change the watermark (in the first or the second sense), I must re-make the material itself. 1
Jane Rendell, ‘Critical Spatial Practices: Setting Out a Feminist Approach to some Modes and what Matters in Architecture’ in Lori Brown, ed., Feminist Practices: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Women in Architecture, Surrey, UK: Ashgate, 2011
Gallery of Critical Fictions Ali left the splashing, dripping space and began to look for a towel to dry off. Ali stumbled out onto the Gallery of Critical Fictions, where there were some extra dry clothes (actually, costumes to play dress-up in) and another group of seemingly mellow feminists, making paper airplanes with secret messages inside and throwing them off the balcony onto the lawn. Ali grabbed a mask and feather boa, before moving on.
Warning: operation of affective power tools may require ethical considerations
Dear Aldo, I’m almost finished with the renovation work on your row house in Bergamo, so I’ll soon be heading back to Stockholm for the Fall term.1 Melancholia is the affective state I usually associate with the impending approach of the Swedish winter, but I do look forward to the start of a new sauna season. I didn’t manage to fit one into the row house, but without the plunge in the ice-cold sea up north, it’s not the same anyway. That immediate sensation that comes from the anticipation (or fear) of this sudden jolt, followed by the shock (or distress) in the actual temperature difference, and finally the realization (or joy) that one has survived, makes for an empowering moment based on a repetitive act of vulnerability.2 These ‘raw’ affective sensations, along with our perceptions and memories, contribute to the experience of the places we inhabit. I’ve been thinking about whether we can purposely make things or spaces that work with/through these triggers of affective arousal, as they are often induced by the element of surprise or the unexpected.3 I find what Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick points out in her reading of Silvan Tomkins, as the ingenuity in Tomkins’ emphasis on ‘the strange’ in his accounts, useful in thinking through material affective acts.4 Your sketching, Aldo, is your way of remembering and storytelling, but I also see your sketches as examples of materialized affect. The playfulness and the unexpected mixing of scales, where private objects become houses or monuments, populated by both human and animal figures, engenders a theatricality or ‘strangeness’. I’m not sure how successful my renovation changes
have been in this respect, or if the novelty wears off after the first encounter, but many of the built alterations have this aspect of ‘strangeness’ or ‘out of placeness.’ They strike a chord that sends a signal to our unconscious that ‘something isn’t as it usually is’ or should be, not entirely different from the way that a funhouse in an amusement park capitalizes on gimmicks that become absurd, but here in a more quotidian manner. Why would we even want to consciously work with affect in architecture? My reply would be that affect reaches us immediately and deeply, as it affects us before we have a chance to value, judge, discount, and for this reason can be a power(ful) tool of instigation or provocation, once our capacity to reason has caught up with our ability to feel.5 Of course, affect is also influenced by our situatedness, therefore, the way triggers reach us and how deep they go depends on a whole variety of constantly fluctuating factors.6 I wonder if change could come about in a similar manner that Tomkins describes the necessary ingredients for the process of learning (in his case a humanlike machine), where our affective responses to ‘out of placeness’ would lead us to cognitive realizations of being ‘wrong’ about an object, and in turn instill the motivation to change one’s assumptions or original notions toward that object? 7 I would even venture to say that most of the images you use to complement your writing act in this way, as a ‘power tool’ of affect. The frozen black and white moments you choose to intersperse throughout the words of your scientific autobiography emanate a feeling of stillness, melancholy and reverence. They touch us as a moment in a place, rather than in a documentary or exemplifying way. However, you claim that it is only possible to represent something, once your desire for it is gone. It only remains an obsession, as long as you can’t ever have it.8 In making or using these images, I would suggest that the desire isn’t gone, but rather that today we are quite skillful in finding ways to temporarily or artificially create that distance to separate ourselves from what we desire, through technology. In doing so, it perhaps makes it feel safer to cross boundaries and become
intimate with otherwise ‘unaccessible’ objects of desire, to capture a particular experience in ways that would never be possible otherwise. As actress Ellen Page’s character in the film Hard Candy says, “Cameras, computers, they let you hide don’t they? So safe.”9 I recently asked Susan Sontag about the ethical implications of making and using images, their affective power on us, and the potentially dangerous sense of safety and distance technologies allow. She seems to think “(t)here is an aggression implicit in every use of the camera,”10 and that photography “…is mainly a social rite, a defense against anxiety, and a tool of power.”11 I tried to explain how Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick suggested that every affective ‘tool of power’ not only has the potential to be used for either resistance or repression, but rather that there are a wide spectrum (or finitely many (n>2) values) of possibilities available.12 It all depends on our approach and a conscious awareness in how we use them. Internet activism for example, now that cameras exist on practically everybody’s mobile phone, there is a better distribution of that power. But she said “(t)aking photographs has set up a chronic voyeuristic relation to the world which levels the meaning of all events.”13 I stressed that my biggest concern is with our position as ‘photographer,’ or one responsible for the production and use of images, where both the act of making the image and using it can be very persuasive, even seductive, at worst manipulative and consequently wield a lot of power.14 Her argument was that “(m)ost subjects photographed are, just by virtue of being photographed, touched by pathos… To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability.”15 Just within the field of architecture, I wonder how much images control our perceptions, expectations and appropriation of space? 16 Do we perhaps need an ethics of affective practices? 17 Susan Sontag seemed to be in agreement. She said “(p)hotographs cannot create a moral position, but they can reinforce one- and can help build a nascent one.”18 “Images
transfix. Images anesthetize.” 19 “In these last decades, ‘concerned’ photography has done at least as much to deaden conscience as to arouse it.”20 “The omnipresence of photographs has an incalculable effect on our ethical sensibility.”21 Of course power is almost always connected to capital. What about the cultural and economic implications of using these instruments of affect? Aldo, your opinion is that “(w)ithout desire no certainty remains, and the imagination itself is reduced to a commodity.”22 You seem to think the key is a genuine interest in one’s craft, an honesty in intention and an acceptance of one’s own limitations. Do you really think it’s possible to resist forces of consumption and capitalism, while we continue to produce images, simply through what you describe as a type of ‘obsessive humility’? Susan Sontag, on the other hand, said “(n)eeding to have reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is an aesthetic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted… it is the most irresistible form of mental pollution.”23 Well, as you can see, she’s one tough cookie. Before I wrap up this letter, I think you’ll find some of the changes I’m making in the renovation interesting, even though there’s still much work to be done. I hope that we can continue this discussion in our future correspondence, and I will check the mailbox out front with anticipation! With feminist architectural affection,
brady burroughs PhD candidate Critical Studies, KTH
This blog post is from a section of a paper that I developed parallel to writing this assignment. It uses several of the readings to think about the role of affect in relation to my PhD project. The paper is written as a letter to Aldo Rossi, a fictive dialogue around his book A Scientific Autobiography, Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England: The MIT Press, 1981. 2 Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick discusses Silvan Tomkins’ work on affect where he names a range of ’activators of affect’: startle, fear, interest, anger, distress, joy, laughter. See Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, ”Shame in the Cybernetic Fold”, Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity, Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2003, 103. 3 ”First, systematic knowledges of the creation and mobilization of affect have become an integral part of the everyday urban landscape…” Nigel Thrift, ”Spatialities of Felling”, Non-Representational Theory: Space, politics, affect, London and New York: Routledge, 2008, 172. 4 Sedgwick, 97 5 Here, ’affect’ is considered more along the lines of what Sedgwick describes as Tomkin’s definition- an immediate arousal or sensation, rather than Thrift’s ’affect’ that is a form of intelligence. Although it does not deny that the effect of affect is dependent on social, cultural and historical factors. 6 ”Against the behaviorists, Tomkins consistently argues that relevant stimulus for the affect system includes internal as well as external events, concluding firmly that there is no basis, and certainly not the basis internal versus external,for a definitional distinction between response and stimulus.” Sedgwick, 104 7 ”Freedom, play, affordance, meaning itself derive from the wealth of mutually nontransparent possibilities for being wrong about an object- and, implicatively, about oneself.” Kosofsky, 107-108. ”The result is that we now have a small space of time which is increasingly able to be sensed, the space of time which shapes the moment. Of course, once such a space is opened up, it can also be operated on.” Thrift, 187. 8 Rossi, 57 9 Hard Candy 2005, director: David Slade, Vulcan Productions, USA 10 Susan Sontag, On Photography, New York, London, Toronto, Sydney, Auckland: Anchor Books Doubleday, 1989 (1977), 7. 11 Sontag, 8 12 Sedgwick, 110-112 13 Sontag, 11 14 ”Second, these knowledges are not just being deployed knowingly, they are also being deployed politically (mainly but not only by the rich and powerful) to political ends: what might have been painted as aesthetic is increasingly instrumental.” Thrift, 172 15 Sontag, 15 16 ”Third, affect has become a part of how cities are understood.” Thrift, 172 I recently read about a new film project called ”Frame by Frame” by Alexandria Bombach, a documentary about the revolution of photography in Afghanistan. It follows the story of four local Afghan photographers, Massoud Hossaini, Farzana Wahidy, Wakil Kohsar and Najibullah Musafer, after the fall of the Taliban. (Photography was completely banned under the Taliban rule 1996-2001.) The photographers explain how they struggle to remain the voice of the people there and to make sure the rest of the world doesn’t forget their situation, once the international troops withdraw. This, for me, is an example that shows the power the photographic image possesses. 17 Here, the ’we’ may be assumed to represent Euro-American societies, as Nigel Thrift reminds us that affect (and its effect) are culturally and historically specific. Thrift, 173. 18 Sontag, 17 19 Sontag, 20 20 Sontag, 21 21 Sontag, 23-24 22 Rossi, 72 23 Sontag, 24
Studio Salon The final room, that led Ali back to the entry again, was completely empty, except for the cats lounging on different levels of the bookshelves lining the walls and the dogs waiting alertly in the comfy nook with a low ceiling and all the cushions, and some other little creatures scurrying out of sight, as one entered. A strange feeling, like something shifting inside, came over Ali with the first footstep over the threshold. But before Ali had time to think about it, a gust of wind began to blow through the space, sending a wave of jingling through the ceiling made up entirely of thousands of thin steel lines weighted with solid steel hooks, each holding a little bell. It reminded Ali of an upside-down wheat field in the wind.
image: detail from photo by Finnish photographer Kai Fagerstrรถm
A ‘cognisphere’ without cyborgs is like a ‘research studio’ without feminisms “I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess.” –Donna Haraway1 “The cognisphere takes up where the cyborg left off. No longer bound in a binary with the goddess but rather emblem and instantiation of dynamic cognitive flows between human, animal and machine, the cognisphere, like the world itself, is not binary but multiple, not a split creature but a co-evolving and densely interconnected complex system.” –N. Katherine Hayles2
In her re-thinking of Donna Haraway’s notion of the Cyborg, also in relation to Haraway’s most recent work on the companion species, N. Katherine Hayles proposes Thomas Whalen’s concept ‘cognisphere’ as a potential model that more readily relates to our lived situation today. She states “Haraway’s insistence that the world is ‘relationality all the way down’ applies as much to technology as to companion species. …As inhabitants of globally interconnected networks, we are joined in a dynamic co-evolutionary spiral with intelligent machines as well as with the other biological species with whom we share the planet.”3 Hayles sees the cognisphere as a way to incorporate all of the ‘interconnected cognitive systems’ we are submersed in everyday at a global scale, but rather than locating them within a single figure like the cyborg, she hints at a more disembodied set of cognitive flows that bounce between multiple figures and sources. While I can understand the cognisphere as a relevant description of the complex networks we live in, and even agree with Hayles’ important point that today our lives are equally infused with technology and biology, I think the cognisphere perhaps loses some of its political potency in what I perceive as a move toward a model that is more abstract and less specific. I would argue that the compelling strength that the cyborg possesses as a tool for provoking political change, is its ability to evoke our recognition/sympathy with the single ‘human’ figure of the cyborg, while the split subjectivity enables a necessary distance to our own human animal selves in addressing difficult areas of struggle. In other words, the melding of technology and biology are already there, and it is rather a question of the specific single figure of the cyborg, as opposed to an abstract multiple set of flows. I wonder, how do you politically organize abstract sets of cognitive flows? And is it more easily dismissed than a collective struggle of many single figure cyborgs?
Likewise, I detect another (unconscious?) move away from the political dimension of Haraway’s cyborg in Hayles’ shift from ‘consciousness’ to ‘cognition,’ in order to make the transition from humanist to posthumanist and a clearer connection to technological environments. Although Haraway ends her text with the cyborg in a rival relation to the goddess, I suspect that it is not only a reminder of how important internal self-critique and self-reflection are, over privileges within the practices of ‘white’ feminist theory and politics, but it is also a strategic connection back to important historical feminist ties and perhaps a homage to those who came before us. In the shift to ‘cognition’, Hayles leaves behind ‘consciousness’ and its connection to the feminist tradition of ‘consciousness raising’, which was an important part of feminist history and a tool of empowerment (often for women who didn’t have an academic voice). ‘Cognition raising’ doesn’t pack the same punch I’m afraid, and it loses touch with a lineage of specific feminist tools in an attempt to become more generally inclusive… and perhaps less politically loaded? In relation to architectural theory and pedagogy, this idea of ‘genericizing’ or mainstreaming has surfaced in at least two local instances recently. First, a group of feminist cyborgs made a proposal to host an international architectural conference, suggesting the specific theme of ‘Feminist Architectural Practices’. A conflict arose when multiple cognitive flows suggested that the conference should focus on a more general ‘Ecologies of Practice’ theme, with the argument that it is more inclusive. My argument is that the more specific feminist thematic doesn’t exclude anyone, regardless of their feminist (or non-feminist) affiliations, but rather gives a necessary point of resistance to provoke vital discussions, as any relevant conference theme should. Second, in the midst of reformulating the profile of a masters design studio with an explicit feminist base for the coming school year, this same group of feminist cyborgs received a set of cognitive flows suggesting they alter the profile of the studio to a broader (more general) ‘research’ profile, with similar reasoning of inclusivity. Donna Haraway herself sent a message in response to this, “Feminist cyborg stories have the task of recoding communication and intelligence to subvert command and control.”4 1
Donna Haraway, ‘A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century’ in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, London: Free Associations Books, 1991, 181. 2 N. Katherine Hayles, ‘Unfinished Work: From Cyborg to Cognisphere’ in Theory Culture Society 23; 159, 2006, 165. 3 Hayles, 164 4 Haraway, 175
In the pusuit of ‘hereness’ and ‘whoness’ In one of my first papers entitled, “Meditations on lesbians who meditate on Lesvos”, I wrote the following note, later to be referred to as ‘note #4’ during my 1-year seminar. My respondent, Ramia Mazé, pointed to the possibilities contained in this note and suggested it could play a key role in beginning to position my work in a larger context, both theoretically and philosophically, in what she called “my pursuit of hereness and whoness”. In the Dictionary of Philosophy (Angeles 1981, p. 47) ‘meditation’ is defined, in the religious sense, as “the act of attempting to behold some spiritual object or gain spiritual insight”. Likewise, the epistemological definition is “synonymous with knowledge or the act of acquiring knowledge; the activity of thinking or pondering.” Edmund Husserl (Husserl 1999 (1950), Cartesian Meditations) and Marcus Aurelius (Meditations, Gregory Hays, transl. 2003), among others, wrote well-known meditations enlightening mankind with their thoughts on questions of an existential, ethical and moral nature… men writing for men, or as Husserl puts it, “…a world of men and things.” (Husserl 1999 (1950), p. 129) Although there is an element of the phenomenological in my study and an interest in embodiment, materiality and the senses in the way we inhabit space, the focus here is on the effect of affect and the phenomenology is a queer one (see Ahmed 2006). Rather than the androcentric “I think therefore I am.” these meditations follow bell hooks’ mantra “I am because the story is.” (hooks 2010, p. 50) They speak of the space between women, where the category ‘women’ is self-identified and subjects are not constants, but rather made up of many stories that change and shift over time. Rosi Braidotti uses the term ‘nomadic subject’ for this understanding of the subject with a ‘situated knowledge,’ to escape what she calls “the phallocentric vision of the subject.” (Braidotti 1994, p. 1) Importantly, she also speaks of desire as the catalyst for these “multiple identities”. (Braidotti 1994, p. 14) Theoretically, my project rests on a queer, anti-racist feminism, queer in that it problematises assumptions of gender norms and heteronormativity, anti-racist in that it attempts to challenge the privileges of ‘whiteness’ (although I don’t think it’s quite there yet) and feminist in that it has a political intention in the critical problematisation of power. As Rosi Braidotti writes, “Feminism as critical thought is a self-reflexive mode of analysis, aimed at articulating the critique of power in discourse with the affirmation of alternative forms of subjectivity.” She goes on to explain “the subject as an interface of will and desire” stating, “…what sustains the entire process of becoming-subject, is the will to know, the desire to say, the desire to speak, to think, and to represent.”1
However, despite Braidotti’s optimism of the possibility of feminist Deleuzian ‘becomings’, philosophically I turn rather toward the ‘willful subjects’ with orientations of desire that Sara Ahmed speaks of in a queer phenomenology, looking closely at orientations, habits and desires with gendered, non-static, non-universal subjects, seeking out disruptions and questions rather than truths. As Ahmed writes, “… a queer phenomenology would function as a disorientation device; it would not overcome the ‘disalignment’ of the horizontal and verical axes, allowing the oblique to open up another angle on the world.”2 Within the project itself, I also use identity categories of gender or species, such as ‘women’ or ‘humanimals’, strategically when working with the notion of separatism and separatist spaces. In this case, it is in the sense of ‘strategic essentialism’ – the forming of a collective group temporarily, on the grounds of essentialist identity categories for political purposes.3 Throughout the project, positioning plays a key role, whether it’s the position of the researcher, the architect, the narrator, or the characters of the stories told through critical fictions. In the constant search for ‘hereness’ and ‘whoness’, particular stories in a specific time and place, here and now, make it possible for others to temporarily occupy positions other than their own, through the narrative voices. These instances are ‘situated knowledges’ as Donna Haraway describes in the following: “We do not seek partiality for its own sake, but for the sake of the connections and unexpected openings situated knowledges make possible. The only way to find a larger vision is to be somewhere in particular.”4 I see a possibility in the practice of making these experiences of ‘other’ positions available, as a method of political change… the chance to ‘walk in someone else’s shoes’, to open up for unexpected meetings, partial understandings and critical reflections. 1
Rosi Braidotti, “Discontinuous Becomings: Deleuze on the Becoming-Woman of Philosophy” in Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory, New York: Columbia University Press, 1994, 120. 2 Sara Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2006, 172. 3 This idea is explained further in texts such as “Essentially Speaking” by Diana Fuss, ”Den essentiella risken,” (orig. title Essentially Speaking ) ed. Lisbeth Larsson, Feminismer, Studentlitteratur: Lund, 1996 (1989), p 127-145., Gayatri Spivak, ”Fransk feminism i internationellt perspektiv” (orig. titel In Other Worlds ), ed. Lisbeth Larsson, Feminismer, Studentlitteratur: Lund, 1996 (1988), p 107-126. and in chapter 8 “Critically Queer” in Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex,” Routledge: New York, 1993. 4 Donna Haraway, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspectives” in Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, London: Free Associations Books, 1991, 196.
Don't forget to writeâ€Ś As Ali got ready to leave to make the journey home, someone pointed out the new mailbox attached to the front facade at the entrance. Ali decided to write a note to Uncle Aldo, just in case he came by after Ali had gone. Ali told Uncle Aldo of all of the adventures and discoveries during this short visit, and assured him not to worry too much about those feminists, because he might actually enjoy what they were doing, if he just gave them a chance. The note was dropped into the mailbox, as Ali skipped back down the stairs and headed for home.
Key: My strategy throughout this course has been to use the blog posts to think through concepts, issues or fragments of my ongoing research in relation to the readings of the given clusters. These ideas have then been developed and recontexualized back into my project, which at the moment is working within a critical fiction around the Bergamo row houses of Aldo Rossi. To structure the coloring book, I then pulled out the highlights from the Rossi fiction and retold the story in the guise of a children's story with Ali (purposely written gender neutral) as the main character, to provide a framework for the original texts. The blog posts are organized according to the typical floor plan, grouped and placed in the rooms they best fit. The images follow the secondary 'framing' story, rather than directly relating to the individual blog posts. The entry is based on an angry feminist manifesto and contains the rant about the gender blindness of male philosophers Félix Guattari and Nicolas Bourriaud, with some help from Isabelle Stengers. The Bathing Salon, room of water and desire, contains a text about the concept 'watermark' and its possible applications in relation to Jane Rendell's discussion of feminist critical writing practices, as well as a reflection over the design potential found in 'separatism' in relation to Elizabeth Grosz's idea of chora and Judith Butler's thoughts about bodies that matter. Next, The Gallery (of Critical Fictions) houses the method I employ throughout my work and contains the text on the political and ethical potential of affective power tools in relation to texts by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Nigel Thrift, with uncompromising input from Susan Sontag. Here I equate the affective power of fiction and images. Lastly, The Studio Salon, or the room of pedagogy, addresses ideas of subjectivity and knowledge production, with a text about the possibilities for education that lie within the specificity of feminist theory, in relation to Donna Haraway's cyborg manifesto and N. Katherine Hayles' concept of 'cognisphere'. Likewise, there is a first attempt to discuss my own central concepts 'hereness' and 'whoness' in relation to Sara Ahmed's queer phenomenology, Rosi Braidotti's discontinuous becomings and Donna Haraway's situated knowledges. And as for this ‘key’ and its position in the coloring book, I don't think all the answers should be given away immediately, before the reader has a chance to experience the work first and form some of their own thoughts or questions, but to 'qualify' as research the 'answers' or author's intentions must be there somewhere, even if it requires a little searching to find them.