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IMAGE AND CITY SCALE: ARCHITECTURAL SPACE VS. FICTION IN SPACE IN JORDI COLOMER’S “ANARCHITEKTON” (2002-2004) LUÍSA SOL “’Anarchitekton’ is the generic title of a video series made as a work in progress by Spanish artist Jordi Colomer: Barcelona, Bucharest, Brasilia, Osaka are the first stops on this journey. A peculiar character, Idroj Sanicne travels the city contaminating the streets with fiction. The models of the buildings are like grotesque banners, utopian provocations, or playful flags. Idroj runs to the broke rhythm of the cross dissolve static images which, paradoxically, reflect a sense of unflagging movement. A multi-projection in which each city is presented on a screen and everything happens simultaneously.” (Anarchitekton, (2002-2004) in Jordi Colomer’s Official Website) The term Anarchitekton is a coinage between the words Anarchy (the greek word for lawlessness and no coercion) and Arquitekton (the greek word for architect). Architecture, as a relationship between the architectural object and the individual who inhabits it, implies a representation – in the sense that while inhabiting a space, the individual also stages it. To inhabit implies the reading and assimilation of a mimetic code’s to which interpretation is inherent. That is, I inhabit because I imitate: “First, the instinct of imitation is implanted in man from childhood, one difference between him and other animals being that he is the most imitative of living creatures, and through imitation learns his earliest lessons; and no less universal is the pleasure felt in things imitated.” (Aristotle, 1994-2000, unpaginated) In this context as in all social organizations, city life is staged. Space, and/or spaces, act as a filter that allows for the emergence of the successive layers of drama productions and personae that each one of us plays. As such, architecture outlines the boundaries and shapes each action, bringing with it “the mimetic basis of realism... with a purely semiotic one. The primary artistic reference is no longer nature, but culture - the fabricated system of signs that has taken the place of things in our consciousness. In short, landscape has become signspace” (Carlin, 1988, unpaginated) The city fragments chosen by Jordi Colomer for Anarchitekton are signlandscapes who carry an “anarcho-arquitectonic” speech with them, which is inherent to the symbolic meaning of the buildings themselves. In Buchareste, Idroj (the actor) strolls among the housing estates from the “multilaterally developed socialist society”, a program developed by Nicolai Ceaucescu. The program aimed at the destruction of small villages in favour of dislocating people towards Government housing estates (sometimes, even, before the houses were finished). This program is part of a transitional stage in the process of the building of the communist society (img.01). While aspiring to create the 155
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“perfect” society, Bucharest underwent deep urban changes through a set of harsh and repressive measures. However, the main symbol of Ceaucescu’s autocratic Communism is the Palace of Parliament (img.02), whose construction made it necessary to demolish a huge part of the historical city in order to build what would become the biggest administration building in the world. Jordi Colomer will keep its approach to the city and its community as a whole. Meaning, as an extension of a total community as well. Another architectural example of the result of ideological reforms, plans and strategies is Brasilia (img.03). Brasilia emerges as an example of progress, as a modern city, whose rational and uniform model would define the principle of a complete society. This determination is confirmed by Harvey (2004): “To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world - and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are” (Harvey, 2004, pp.10-11). The modern city was a global project conceived for educated people who would be taught there, contributing, afterwards, for the community development. Structurally based on the planning of human labour, the city would then be made up by a series of nucleus linked to each other in a network system leading to the total unity between city and country. This consistency would be achieved by the permanent presence of nature in the city and by their smooth and mutual dealing. Modernity will set one Truth, one Man and one City, quoting Françoise Choay: “The architectonical components unification should contribute to give to our cities that healthy homogeneity which trades a superior urban culture” (Choay, 2000, p.177) When Jordi Colomer displays the National Congress Building model in Brasilia, along with the housing estates and the Palace of Parliament models in Bucharest, he is not only emphasizing an intentional society’s standardization but also the flagrant objectification of human beings in the two cities during a specific time. As Giddens refers, “A lifestyle can be defined as a more or less integrated set of practices fulfil utilitarian needs, but because they give material from to a particular narrative of self-identity” (Giddens, 1991, p.81) In other words, the Habitus leads to the homogeneity and unification of a specific group or class. The imagery uniformity is a clear reflection of Modernity’s social transformations, in the sense that it pushes a considerable amount of social habits and behaviours towards a specific pattern. Anarchitekton’s caricature emphasizes this idea of daily rhythm highlighting the urban infrastructures that define these new daily life routines. In this context, and according to Sarup, it is relevant to refer that “[...] identities are fabricated, that is to say, they are both invented and constructed. “(Sarup, 1996, p.40) Identity must involve an interpretation of the world, and in that sense, a representation of the interpreted world. That is, quoting from Janeiro, “To represent means, to present again” (Janeiro, 2010, p.85). The symbolic order allows for the transition from a natural existence to a cultural existence, which always requires mediation, a contact between a place and a time and its own subjectivity. This confrontation becomes real in the recognition of a reality as an image and in its inherent signification, interpretation and in its own connotation. As stated by Jung: “The term “image” is intended to express not only 156
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the form of the activity taking place, but the typical situation in which the activity is released.”(Jung, 2008, p.11) The image as representation, reproduction and speculation transforms “reality” into an inevitable and subjective interpretation, which is inseparable from the individual’s perception of the world. The miniatures/prototypes/models reproduced by Colomer convey a subversion of the totalizing thought and architecture imaginary disseminated by Ceaucescu and Kubitschek. The rational and standardized architecture is destabilized by its model (meaning, its representation) strolling in front of it, at a decontextualized speed. The solid, standing and “serious” Architectonical Space becomes the setting of its own small, grotesque, itinerant and ironic representation, lending itself to its own parody. This itinerancy between “images” reflects, quoting from Debrais, “les représentations subjectives de leurs spectateurs (...) contribué à former, mantenir ou transformer leur situation dans le monde.” (Debrais, 1992, p.71) The scale and intentions simultaneously creates a tension that, paradoxically, contemplates both repetition and exception. The repetitiveness instigates a contrast and inadequacy through confrontation between building and its prototype. Borrowing from Kierkgaard: “(...) repetition is a decisive expression for what used to be “memory” to the Greeks.(...) Repetition and memory are the same movement, only in opposite directions;(…) because all that is remembered, is simple past, meaning it repeats in rewind, while repetition is remembered forward” (Kierkgaard, 2009, pp. 31, 32) If symbol implies a memory, the copy constitutes a repetition, and in Anarchitekton we have both. In this particular case, only the architecture’s affirmation as a symbol emphasizes its copy’s meaning. Colomer’s framework of Osaka is a big screen, a neon and publicity holder, which refers to the multiplication of sign, code and symbol, typical of the post-industrial city and post-modern era and intrinsically linked to communication (img.04). The extension of the signification layers and the consumerism appeal will lead to the commoditization of architecture and, therefore, to its fickleness and fragmentation. According to Harvey: “Postmodernism cultivates (...) a conception of the urban fabric as necessarily fragmented, a ‘palimpsest’ of past forms superimposed upon each other, and a ‘collage’ of current uses, many of which may be ephemeral.”(Harvey, op. cit., p.66) The post-modern urban spaces’ disruption, juxtaposition and randomization of post-modern spaces is inseparable from the commercial character of the land. “either on the centre, or in the periphery, some result from the rehabilitation of decayed buildings, others from the renovation of obsolete areas, others still were built from scratch in a area that gained access very quickly(...). This random pattern is the social product of a highly speculative and not much regulated real state game (Salgueiro, 1997, p.02) Diagonal del Mar housing complex (img.05) and Agbar Tower (img.06) in Barcelona, reflect both this kind of rootless, independent, impressive and objectlike architecture. In a randomized way that only has to do with urban speculation, the post-modern city becomes a zoning patchwork, “spatial disorder of a social positions” (Salgueiro, op cit, p.05) The land undergoes continuous valuation and devaluation, following the same principle of the total absence of urban planning. Its management is drawn up 157
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through territory fragments. Therefore, the city develops partially through a series of urban modules/prosthesis, some ephemeral and particular, some not. Harvey looks at this situation the following way: “But if, as the postmodernists insist, we cannot aspire to any unified representation of the world, or picture it as a totality full of connections an differentiations rather than as perpetually shifting fragments, then how can we possibly aspire to act coherently with respect to the world? The simple post modernist answer is that since coherent representation and action are either repressive or illusionary (and therefore doomed to be self-dissolving and selfdefeating), we should not even try to engage in some global project. (Harvey, op cit, p.52) The relevance of Anarchitekton in this context stems from the subversion of this zoom focusing some city buildings, and by the emphasis to its representation as well. The exclusivity and partiality of the cities The exclusivity and partiality of the cities chosen by Colomer are multiple and sequentially stages, either by a scene created by an actor which bursts into the scene running amidst the buildings, or through the transformation and exhibition of architecture as object (the architectural model). The Architectural Space lends itself to the Fictional Space, creating an itinerancy in which they caricature each other because “the humorous is no longer symbolic, it becomes critical” (Lipovetsky, 1983 p.130). Both Spaces mingle and influence each other and, from then onwards, the architectural space loses its references, it becomes hyperbolized and, most of all, fictional. In this context, the pluralisation of the truth(s), realities, spaces and times becomes evident, in the sense that “its representation implies a succession of mirror games in which illusion plays the role of a catalyst of effects that can be deconstructed (…) establishing that the fictional space is always a space for representation which exhibits the reality of the representation itself as an autonomous reality and, as such, it is likely to be represented itself” (Almeida, 1996, p.63) The city, its model, and the architectural model in connection with the real city, the filmed city and finally, this sequence of images, time and scales watched by the spectator emphasise the city as a fiction space. This layered reality, attempts to deny these representations as architectonical spaces. In Anarchitekton we witness the intention “(…)of proving the real through the imaginary, proving truth through scandal, proving the law through transgression, proving work through striking, proving the system through crisis, and capital through revolution (…)Everything is metamorphosed into its opposite to perpetuate itself in its expurgated form(…) in order to attempt, by simulating death, to escape their real death throes.” (Baudrillard, 1994, pp 14,15) In this context, by traveling Bucharest, Barcelona, Osaka and Brasilia, in its several models and representations, it is hard to decide if the individual (actor) is running in the city or running from it instead.
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Bibliography: ALMEIDA, Bernardo Pinto de, 1996, Plano de Imagem, Espaço da Representação e do Lugar do Espectador, Lisboa: Assirio e Alvim BAUDRILLARD, Jean, 1994, Simulacra and Simulation, University of Michigan Press CHOAY, Françoise, 2000, O Urbanismo, 5ª edição, São Paulo: Editora Perspectiva DEBRAIS, Régis, 1992, La Vie et la Mort de l’image, Éditions Gallimard GIDDENS, Antony, 1991, Modernity and Self-Identity, Cambridge: Polity HARVEY, David, 2004, The Condition of Postmodernity, Malden: Blackwell. JANEIRO, Pedro, 2010 Origens e Destino da Imagem para umaFfenomenologia da Arquitectura Imaginada, Lisboa: Chiado Editora JUNG, Carl Gustav, 2008, Four Archetypes, Oxon: Routledge&Kegan Paul KIERKEGAARD, SØren, 2009, A Repetição, Lisboa: Relógio d’Água Editores in collaboration with Centro de Filosofia e Linguagens da Universidade de Lisboa and Soren Kierkegaard Forskningcenteret Copenhagen University. LIPOVETSKY, Gilles, 1983, A Era do Vazio, Lisboa: Relógio d’Água Editores SALGUEIRO Teresa Barata, 1997, Cidade Pósmoderna. Espaço Fragmentado, III Congresso de Geografia Portuguesa SARUP, Madan, 1996, Identity, Culture and the Post-modern World, Edinburgh University Press Other Sources: ARISTOTLE, Poetics (1994-2000) translated by S.H. Butcher [online] available at http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/poetics.mb.txt [acessed 02nd March 2012] Anarchitekton, (2002-2004). Jordi Colomer’s Official Website [online] available at http://www.jordicolomer.com/?lg=2&id=4&prid=4 [acessed 22nd february 2012] CARLIN, Jonh, Pop Apocalypse, [exhibition brochure] (New York: Gracie Mansion Gallery, 1988), unpaginated.