Sensations inside the church An intuitive drawing based analyse
This clour-in book is the result of a semester of weekly seminars run by Hélène Frichot between philosophy and architecture. Readings were commented through a blog (archandphil.wordpress.com) and discussed in class. The first part of the course was connected to sensations. The question of sensations is important, especially for an architect. What is actually a sensation? How is it transmitted to us? We tried to expose the difference between sensations, feelings and affects. We looked at those different notions, especially affect, to understand the interactions that can exist between the human body and a building. But also how the building interferes in human beings relations. Secondly the readings focused more on different types of societies and an evolution from sovereign to disciplinary and then control society. This was discussed in the light of some institutions such as the prison or the exhibition complex but also the economic or artistic world. All these elements have in common some power relations. Those power relations between different bodies can be expressed in various ways. Indeed a body can be a human person but also a group of persons or maybe even a building or a physical element. So we are here in the field of relations between persons (as individuals or groups) but also their interactions with the built environment. That’s perhaps where we connect the notions of sensations and affects. I choose the religious institution as a guideline to go about this broad theme. Especially the Catholic Christian church. Being from that confession, I can use my personal experience as a background knowledge. The religious building is a program in itself with specific needs. This choice has been motivated by different points. First of all this institution can be interpreted as a microcosm of a society. It has been continuously evolving and reflects the different societal changes evoked above. Really powerful institution before (European territory is full of old churches), it is in nowadays secular society weaker and searches for new ways of existing. Then the question of the architecture is important, it’s a symbolic building as much from the inside as from the outside. The church building is an icon from the outside. In former times those were the first stone buildings, they were signs to find the to the village. They are supposed to glorify God but also to showcase the richness of the society or the community that erected the building. Inside the symbolic and the sensations also plays a considerable role that becomes mystical and indefinite. Even if the ideas are probably the same, the layout of the building considerably evolved through the years. Weekly blog comments refers to the imposed readings and my personal experience (you can find the list of the readings corresponding to each week at the end of the booklet). All comments started from a drawing exercise. After a careful reading of the different essays, I tried to summarize or focus on an interesting dimension through the expression of a cartoon like drawing. This first spontaneous drawing is used as a starting point for the commenting exercise. More than a real objective analyse the small texts are small thoughts or questions without real answer. This collection of thoughts gives a general overview of the different readings. Most of the subjects are really wide and complex. Through this approach, I propose to travel around those points and pick some of the ideas. This aims to give an open interpretation of different notions such as affect, feeling, or control society. Simultaneously, it tries to question the position of the church, as an architectural realisation, in the twenty first century European society.
A potential visible effect
Trying to summarize those readings about affect, I first felt like Gregory Seigworth that read for the first time Laurence Grossberg: “The piece was written in a vibrant but rather unwieldy theoretical language that detailed this passionate thing called “affect” in ways that I could not always quite follow, (...)” (G. Seighworth and M. Gregg, 2010: 19). No doubt that this idea of affect has a really wide meaning and is touching a wide range of disciplines. I will try in the following paragraphs to depict it. My first thought was to link it with the idea of feelings or sensations, the affect as something that affects you. I was wrong according to Brian Massumi quoted in Eric Shouse's essay, the affect is not a personal feeling it is prepersonal in the way that it is un-conscious. Shouse gives us one definition (one of the definitions) of affect: “An affect is a non-conscious experience of intensity; it is a moment of unformed and unstructured potential” (Eric Shouse, 2012: chap.5). There are three elements in this only sentence which could summarize my understanding of the affect. The first one is the non-consciousness. We are not aware of the affect itself, we can only look at it's result through the modifications of a body, in the case of a human body it would be the expression of an emotion or a feeling. That was for me an issue, how can you deal with something that you can’t perceive or experience in itself? The only way to know about it is probably only to look at it's manifestations. Therefore the affect we are talking about is even more blurry, a same result could be produced by different affects (the inverse being also true). An other notion that is often coming in the texts is the intensity. “Affect is found in these intensities that passes body to body” (G. Seighworth and M. Gregg, 2010: 1). It seems that the forces moved or touched by affects can be really strong and powerful. I say can because it's still hypothetical. This leads us to the last point: the affect is about potentiality. I would refer to Spinoza and it's not yet. It is not existing in the present (this is also why we can’t experience it in itself). However the affect can give the spark that leads to an answer from the body and then could produce a result or an effect. And, as said before, it can lead to intense strengths that can have huge results, as this example of the woman that can control her leg after making musical therapy (Oliver Sacks' experience described in Eric Shouse’s essay). Through this really brief understanding of what an affect could be I wanted to emphasize it's really volatile and undefined aspect, but also the great power that is into it. As soon it could be exiting to see if we can find examples of effects of affects produced by architecture but how can we know where it comes from? What do we finally perceive instead a mixture of personal feelings sometimes deformed by the emotions?
The art of transmitting sensations
The extracts of Deuleuze's book “The logic of sensation” are discussing the question of representing sensations into art, more specifically into painting. Depicting the work of Bacon who tries to translate or to render invisible sensations in a picture, he is touching the question of rendering the invisible. “In art, and in painting as in music, it is not a matter of reproducing or inventing forms, but of capturing forces.” (Deleuze, G. 2004: 56). This quote could be observed with the architecture as an art. Nowadays architecture is often looking at forms and appearance, what about forces and sensations? I choose the example of the church or temple as the artefact of a religious institution. The religious buildings are specific in architecture, they are already in the field of spirituality and feelings. We can use the distinction between the figuration, the general aspect of the church, and the Figure that I understand as the superposition of different sensations given by the building. These sensations can be protection, greatness, or meditation. There is an interesting question on how can we render those sensations or feelings. Deleuze also discusses this theme: “Time, which is nonsonorous and invisible – how can time be painted, how can time be heard? And elementary forces like pressure, inertia, weight, attraction, gravitation, germination – how can they be rendered?” (Deleuze, G. 2004: 57). Here architecture work links painting productions in the questions. But the way to answer to it is probably different. Another point is the addition of different sensations. The sensation in a church as a building is about a lot of different variable factors like the music or echoed voices, the light coming through the glass painted windows, the temperature, the smell and the theatrical behaviour of the people. All those aspects affects you to produce a general feeling (or Feeling). The building is a tool, that allows the architect to try to play with, like a conductor directing all the music players to render a general sensation. The painter has a more restricted domain to play with. Nevertheless Bacon also tries to render it, for instance in his triptychs or couples: “coupling of sensations from different levels creates the coupled Figure” (Deleuze, G. 2004: 65). We could maybe make a parallel between all the elements used by the architect and the lines or traits disposed on a painting, those elements brought together forms the work.
Working together on working together
The reading of Joel McKim's interview with Biran Massumi, directed me in a concrete dimension of affect. We will take some distance from the church to see how affects can be used. How this in-between stage that is affect could act and how we could try to use it? To be direct this is a great potential to work together, interacting, exchanging and always re-questioning the established. But how is it linked to affect? The notion of event becomes really important within his description of affect “an event or a dimension of every event” (McKim J. with Massumi B. 2009: 1). He describes effect as a coming event preceded by a shock or a microshock, of course, “that is felt without registering consciously”(McKim J. with Massumi B. 2009: 4). This microshock is the departure point. I would characterize it as a destabilizing point that leads to a movement (to the better or the worse). This movement, this transition, is what we could qualify of affect; “a power to affect and be affected governs a transition, where a body passes from one state of capacitation to a diminished or augmented state of capacitation.” (McKim J. with Massumi B. 2009: 1). For me then the beginning of a questioning and re-thinking process that could lead to new ideas. But the event also contains this idea of gathering, exchanging. Massumi also talks about symbiosis, mixing different fields and different people. How to make groups? How do they interact? How can we guide them to certain unexpected results? How to keep them motivated? “We wanted them to bring not the work, but what made the work” (McKim J. with Massumi B. 2009: 15). There is here a notion of self consciousness of what is happening, he explains this idea brought from Spinoza: “In Spinoza, it's only when the idea of the affection is doubled by an idea of the idea of the affection that it attains the level of conscious reflection.” (Massumi B. 2002: 31) Therefore I want to make a parallel with participative architecture. Participation is a really wide term, but we could interpret it in a team planning, not a building, but the process of planning. How do they frame the participants, how do they lead the discussion to the right points and keep them involved so that the new ideas and propositions seeds. Some practices as the Rotterdam based ZUS are working on that (www.zus.cc). They are developing locally based solutions, by interacting with the local people, creating a community or a network (for instance they created a website to sponsor an build a bridge). They are growing projects step by step, starting from the micro scale. We could easily compare this with the Sense Lab and the experiences or events where they try to develop ways to interact and work together. As showed in Massumi’s experience, a key is to make the work “compelling enough that you are moved to do it again, differently, bringing out another set of potential” (McKim J. with Massumi B. 2009: 18).
A space for affects?
Thrift describes the occurrence of affect in a really short time (the half second delay) and it's expression on the face (that can be shown through the video work of Bill Viola or in Le Brun's drawings). Then the human body and especially the face is a main vector of affect. In this context how can the urban space play with that? For Thrift the human body is a fully constitutive element in the design of the city: “So, the city as a sea of faces, a forest of hands, an ocean of lamentation: these are the building blocks of modern urbanism just as brick and stone.” (Thrift N. 2008: 196). I could understand that as a condenser of human interactions. The entrance of a church, for instance, where a high and narrow opening is a spiritual element, a boundary line to the realm of the church but it also forces some interactions between the worshippers waiting to enter. The way to design the space has an effect on the bodies, in this case it can just be a density or a proximity that generates new interactions. It can be more or less conscious and used. Let's take two more examples. The escalators in the subway have the same effect of condensing people but it doesn't lead to a lot of interactions, the people queuing is just a negative effect of a too small infrastructure during rush hours. It is not used as element of the design to provoke any reactions. A famous example in art playing with bodies and using the proximity as condenser is the performance from Marina Abramovic and Ulay with their work Imponderabilia (1977). The visitor has to pass in the narrow space left between their two naked bodies. It's a kind of aware use of the space, the proximity between people, (and some provocation) to produce feelings and probably different affects. In this latter example the architecture is left behind and the body is directly performing. The architect could then play with some qualities of the space not only for a reaction between the building and a person (as questioned is one of my previous comments) but also between persons. But the limit seems thin between this conscious use and the realm of manipulation. “In the twentieth century, it could be argued that much of the activity of the design of space was powered up again, becoming entangled with the evolution of knowledges of shaping the body (...) often in a politics of the most frightening sort” (Thrift N. 2008: 187).
Being there without being there
In the preceding comment, I discussed the importance of the interactions between human bodies and how the city's shape could influence them. Bentham's panopticon is working in the opposite way: the architecture replaces the human's presence. “Because, without any physical instrument other than architecture and geometry, it acts directly on individuals; it gives power of mind over mind.” (Foucault M. 1991: 206). The panopticon is first designed to be a prison. The cells are build around a tower in such a way that every cell is visible from this control tower. This visibility is reinforced by the use of backlight effect in the cells which have window on their two sides. The tower is designed to stop the light, so that you cannot see if someone is inside or not. “The power should be visible and unverifiable” (Foucault M. 1991: 201) therefore it can be run by anybody or even nobody. The importance in this discipline machinery is not the presence of guards or high thick walls but the expression of an omniscient, unverifiable power. “Hence the major effect of the panopticon: to induce a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power.” (Foucault M. 1991: 201). Coming back to the religious institutions, we could compare the panopticon to the power of the Church. If the panopticon is a way to discipline the subjects, the church was certainly playing this role before: “Religious groups and charity had long played this role of disciplining the population” (Foucault M. 1991: 212). Foucault sets those two systems as opposites, we could find some similarities. The invisible presence of a god is in a way comparable to the aim of the machinery used later in Bentham's prison. Maybe the architecture of the building can also in a way try to transmit to the worshippers a feeling of being observed, the presence of an undetermined strength above them. Outside, the tower of the church could be interpreted as a way to expresses the power of the institution over the village.While the greatness of the inside (so disconnected from the rest of the every day life) was connected probably to something stronger than human an intense feeling of greatness. The high and deep ceiling was a link between the ground and the sky. In the contemporary more secular society the video surveillance could be the reinterpretation of the panopticon system. The only presence of the machine has a dissuasive effect. The idea to have fake video cameras is the same as not having anyone in the tower. The question of adding video surveillance in the city's streets is now maybe trying to respond a lack of discipline, or security that is no more provided by architecture (architecture and geometry as said Foucault)?
From temple to museum
This week’s essay exposed us the different aspects of the exhibition complex. The different roles it played in the society (from educating people to galvanizing a crowd of workers around the newest industrial productions). If, as in prisons, we are still talking about power relations, there is a switch: “The Panopticon was designed so that every one could be seen; the Crystal palace was designed so that every one could see.” (Bennett T. 1995: 65). The first expressions of museums where found in the royal “studiolo” or in the Church (as the cabinet of curiosities in the Vatican). We could take the christian church as a part of the evolution of exhibitions complex. As in the first public exhibitions the inside of the church was a temple of knowledge with it's glass painted windows, wall paintings, altarpieces and other sculptures. It is known to be a way to communicate to the illiterate crowd of worshippers. But as in the public exhibitions the aim was also to showcase the greatness and the power of the community, in the case of the church “through the representations to which they were subjected, they formed vehicles for inscribing and broadcasting the messages of power.” (Bennett T. 1995: 61). Another point that we could take from the text is the discipline or the way you should be: “instructions booklets advised working-class visitors how to present themselves, placing particular stress on the need to change out of their working clothes (...)” (Bennett T. 1995: 73). Nowadays another phenomena can be observed. On one hand some temples and churches are more visited by the tourists than the worshipers. This becomes in another way a new form of museum, a living entity conserving a period of the history of art in its walls. On the other hand, most of the new buildings are made in a more spare way, playing with light, textures and volumes rather than ornamentation. This is maybe a way to get rid of this power showcase or take distance with the consumerist industrial society that was growing in the great exhibitions?
From church to worshippers networks
Gilles Deleuze and Maurizio Lazzarato analyses the societies of control. They both describe this shift or transition from disciplinary society to control society. This is a change in the conception on every levels. If it is still a capitalist policy both agrees on this new virtual, variable, in a way abstract, dimension. Deleuze, for instance, describes this change from production to products “It’s a capitalism no longer directed toward production but toward products, that is, toward sales or markets.” (Deleuze G. 1995: 179). Lazzarato states that the employment replaces the work. “If work became the center piece of the disciplinary societies at the time of their exhaustion (Fordism), employment constitutes one of the principal forms of regulation in the societies of control” (Lazzarato M. 2006: 190). This abstraction or virtualization of the society could be observed in the church as well. We are probably switching to a community network taking over the usual church building. My grandmother is watching the religious service on sunday mornings on television. This is, according to me, an example of what Lazarato describes with this formation of publics and is linked to the main points of the development of societies of control. The second of those points: “the rise of the technological dispositifs of actions at a distance” (Lazzarato M. 2006: 180) includes, of course, the progress of the TV with the direct re-transcription of the religious office but also internet and so on. The third point is about these new publics: “the corresponding processes of subjectivation and subjection: the formation of publics, that is to say, the constitution of a being together that takes place in time” (Lazzarato M. 2006: 180). This could signify the end of the building with it’s first function: to gather the citizens together to celebrate the religious office in the house of God. Now with the entrance of cameras the building becomes a set. We will maybe arrive to a certain point where the design of a new church will be influenced by the angle of the cameras, sound and light requirements. The aim would be, then, to display it to new communities of worshipers online. The building, to survive, has to reinvent itself, searching for new programs and new diverse publics. But as states Lazzarato we are now in a society always reinventing “(...) converged in the twentieth century in policies of planning, that is, in the neutralization and control, at a social scale, of the logic of event, of the creation and production of the new.” (Lazzarato M. 2006: 177). It also questions which is the position of architecture in this world evolving always faster, with changing needs and multiple publics.
Brunelleschi, for the dome in Florence, was one of the first to use a model to convince his customers. History of architecture, and especially religious architecture is full of representations of architects showing models to get supports from the priests or kings. This act of performing to convince is not new. But the evolution of our post-industrial society, as claims Jan Verwoert, tends to go further in that direction. “One thing seems certain: after the disappearance of manual labour from the lives of most people in the western world, we have entered into a culture where we no longer just work, we perform.” (Verwoert J. 2011: 13) In his essay he portrays how we are producing performance, as an artist, an intellectual but also a businessman for instance. Lots of parallels could be done with architectural production. Indeed an important part of the architect’s work is to sell his projects and not to erect buildings. Some concepts could be easily applied to architect’s way to produce. At least, those are feelings that I encountered several times in my architecture student’s life. This relation to time: the architect as I know it has a tendency to work always until the last minute available. “We live and work on the concept of just in time production” (Verwoert J. 2011: 35). Then after finishing an important project you have this gap, floating feeling, between the satisfaction of accomplishment and the restart of a new project: “time is up and you are finally relieved from the pressure to perform” (Verwoert J. 2011: 55). And still this question that you are never completely relived: “Still, you can never be sure whether the free time you gain is not just the time you need to restore your energies to be fit to perform again on the next day so that you never escape the cycle of compulsive productivity.” (Verwoert J. 2011: 58). It’s interesting to see how difficult it is to get rid of this performing act. As states the author, the simple fact to try to make it differently, or to protest, is already a way of performing. Not being normal is a norm. Furthermore you are always competing with your own intentions and the public or client’s needs: “this inextricable ambivalence between what you want and expect from yourself and what others want and expect from you is probably one of the hardest puzzles for anyone who works both creatively and on demand to solve.” (Verwoert J. 2011: 62).
Week1 -Gregg, Melissa and J. Seighworth, Gregory. ‘An Inventory of Shimmers’ in The affect theory reader. London: Duke university press. 2010. -Shouse, Eric. «Feeling, Emotion, Affect.» M/C Journal 8.6 (2005). 13 Feb. 2012. Week2 -Deleuze, Gilles. ‘The Diagram’ and ‘Painting and Sensation’ in Francis Bacon, The logic of sensation. Trans: Daniel W. Smith. Minneapolis: university of Minnesota press. 2004. Week3 -Massumi, Brian. ‘The Autonomy of Affect’ in Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2002. -Massumi, Brian. ‘Of Microperception and Micropolitics’ in Inflexions online journal, no. 3, October 2009. Week4 -Thrift, Nigel. ‘Spatialities of Feeling’ in Non-Representational Theory: Space, Politics, Affect, London: Routledge, 2008. Week5 -Foucault, Michel. ‘Panopticism’ in Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, London: Penguin, 1991. Week6 -Bennett, Tony. ‘The Exhibitionary Complex’ in The Birth of the Museum: History, Theory, Politics, London: Routledge, 1995. Week7 -Deleuze, Gilles. ‘Postscript on Societies of Control’ in Negotiations: 1972-1990, New York: Columbia University Press, 1995. -Lazzarato, Maurizio. ‘The Concepts of Life and the Living in the Societies of Control’ in Martin Fuglsang and Bent Meier Sorensen, eds. Deleuze and the Social, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006. Week8 -Verwoert, Jan. ‘Exhaustion an Exuberance’ in Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want, Sternberg Press, 2010.