prss release #21 ,october 24 2008 the independent paper blog aggregator
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
synecdoche, new york and infinitely iepeating cities | life without buildings hereâ€™s what happens when you look for truth: life without buildings interviews charlie kaufman | life without building etymology for republicans | biblioklept redemption | doors of perception dead words | lebbeus woods anxious utopianism | eye blog ruburb-ric: the ecologies of the farnsworth house | strange harvest urban renewal and partial amnesia in chechnya | new york times the blogging houseplant | next nature badiou on the financial crisis | infinite thought
illustration | v-annemarie
In Loving Memory Of The Boom Economy http://www.woostercollective.com/2008/10/in_loving_memory_of_the_boom_economy.html www.prss-release.org
1. Synecdoche, New York and Infinitely Repeating Cities
The trailer for the new Charlie Kaufman written-and-directed movie, Synecdoche, New York was released today and it’s every bit as weird and wondrous as you’d want it to be. A synecdoche, for those non-English majors out there, is a figure of speech in which a part of something is made to represent the whole; e.g. “all hands on deck.” The film follows the life of a failed, yet incredibly ambitious director (played Phillip Seymour Hoffman) as he attempts to stage a play inside a full-scale replica of a portion of New York City…built inside a warehouse. We learn during the preview that this process takes no less than 17 years. We also learn, as evident in the above image, that at some point during the production, another warehouse is built to encompass the already-cavernous warehouse that was originally adopted as a set — or does he build a replica of the original warehouse in itself? Intrigued yet?
When this film was announced last year, I wondered what would happen if we discovered that the portion of New York being reproduced includes the very warehouse within which the model is being constructed? Is it possible that the play will include an actor hired to play the director, who then hires an actor to play himself? Will this create some sort of infinite spacial vortex, like two face-to-face mirrors, the land-o-lakes butter label, or some sort of spatial Tristram Shandy? Judging from what we’ve seen so far, it looks like that’s exactly what happens.
…It’s the story of two incredibly eccentric billionaires, Feather and Stone (who are so rich that at times they feel immortal), who have decided to use their money to pursue some very peculiar passions. Feather collects what can only be described as byproducts of history. Almost irrelevant artifacts that I suppose he sees as a synecdoche of that particular historical event (see what i did there?). Feather, however is not the more compelling of the bizarre duo. This honor falls to William Stone, who is not a collector, but a builder. He modestly refers to his passion-project as “The City of the World” - an enormous scale-model of Stone’s ideal city. As he says “It’s the way I’d like the world to look.” It’s also a quasi-autobiographical asynchronic temporal utopia. Within the City of the World, Stone has included representations of himself at various important moments of life - his childhood, his wedding, the day he won the lottery, and most notably, the portion of his life he has spent working on The City of the World. When asked what will be built in a large blank area on the massive table, Stone replies “I’m thinking about doing a separate model of this room. I’d have to be in it, or course, which means that I would also have to build another City of World. A smaller one, a second city to fit inside the room within the room.” A model of the model. Of course, following Stone’s logic, there would have to be another model and another and another ad infinitum. The idea of this perpetual model — surely any architecture student’s vision of hell — does not disturb Stone in the least. He has been working on The City of the World for five years and he fully intends, in fact he embraces the fact that he will indeed be working on it until his death.
Which brings us back to the likely conclusion of Kauffman’s film. But I have to wonder…are the buildings in the model New York actually habitable or are they hollow stage sets? Is this a play with characters that reveal their lives in the theatre of public space or in the privacy of an Upper East Side apartment? And what role will the audience play? Perhaps they’ll follow the characters through the “city” like a mob of silent voyeurs. We’ll have to wait until October 24th to find out. Also: We’re so careful about backing up our data, but what about our homes? Should we keep partial back-up copies of cities in nearby warehouses as a last resort in the event of a large-scale attack or natural disaster? Manhattan II? New Orleans La Deuxieme? Discuss. Life Without Buildings http://lifewithoutbuildings.net/2008/09/synecdoche-new-york-andinfinitely-repeating-cities.html by Jimmy Stamp on September 18, 2008
If you’ll allow me the indulgence to again quote a previous Life Without Buildings post, I’d like to stress how much this reminds me of Paul Auster’s amazing book, The Music of Chance.
2.Here’s what happens when you look for truth: Life Without Buildings Interviews Charlie Kaufman
glaring problems. I remember watching Being John Malkovich. We had this one scene, scene 100, which was so difficult for us. It was a scene where Dr. Lester explains how the portal works and it was a bear. We did so many different versions, so many different angles and voice overs. But when I watched it, it goes by pretty quickly. You don’t really think about it. It serves its purpose and it works in a way that for an audience, I think… I don’t have anything like that in this movie — you know, glaring problems that I had to work around. It’s hard for me to sort of feel it . Spike Jonze was going to direct at first, correct? Yeah. Was it written at that point or were you still writing when you knew you were going to direct it?
Synecdoche, New York is a masterpiece of filmmaking. In his ambitious debut as director, Charlie Kaufman—who made his name writing such groundbreaking films as Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind—has crafted a film that can only be described as sublime - a piece of work so beautiful, yet so incredibly terrifying that it becomes even more beautiful; the ocean seen from the edge of a cliff. It follows the life of Caden Cotard (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman), a distraught theatre director who is willing to sacrifice everything to create a Great Work of Art that is, beyond all else, true. As his world falls apart and his body begins to shut down, he writes a play that slowly expands throughout the interior of a New York City warehouse whose scale and grandeur rival any work by Boullée or Piranesi. Life Without Buildings recently had the chance to sit down and speak with Charlie Kaufman, who generously answered this excited-yet-slightly-nervous interviewer’s questions about film-making, the search for truth, and the role of architecture in his movies. Discussed: Synecdoche, the practicalities of firsttime directing, Paul Auster, the lost art of wood carving, and the infinite potential of Las Vegas. Some minor spoilers follow. Charlie Kaufman: I’m kind of curious why an architecture writer wanted to talk with me. Life Without Buildings: Well I think part of the reason I enjoy your films is that they often raise these abstract spatial questions — from the consequences of what happens when someone climbs through a tunnel into their own subconscious to the dream-logic of Synecdoche’s theatre. But before we dive into that, I wanted to ask you about making the film. This is the first movie you’ve directed and in a 2004 interview with Charlie Rose you said “I’m curious to see what something I write will look like if I direct it.” So…what did you think? Were you at all surprised by the final result?
As soon as I finished it, I learned that Spike was already in a position where he needed to do Where the Wild Things Are first. That was after I turned in the script. So I asked him at that point if he would be willing to step down because I didn’t want to wait five years to see this movie made. And because I wanted to direct and it seemed like I could do this. He agreed to it pretty quickly. When you’re writing, do you have an image in your mind of what it’s going to look like on screen? In a vaue way… I mean, I think that as the director you come at in a very different, very concrete way. You know, you have to actually build the sets and think about what you can build and what you can afford to build and what effects you can afford to build. So that became a major determining factor in the aesthetic of the movie. Part of what made this movie so interesting was that the aesthetic— both visually and aurally—evolved throughout the course of the movie from something very…tense and closed-in and overwhelming to something colossal, completely quiet and serene. Yeah. There’s a lot of information in those early moments. There’s an unnatural time passage in the first few scenes that you may not see because there’s so much going on: the radio is saying what day it is, but it doesn’t relate to what the newspaper date is; the milk is expired; it’s the first day of fall but you hear the radio saying it’s October 20th; the cartoon is telling you what’s going to happen later on; after he gets injured, at the hospital, there’s Christmas music in the background, then when he gets to the ophthalmologist he thanks him for getting him in right away but the calendar says March 2006, which means it’s 3 months after. But at the same time, there is a real intent for this naturalism in the beginning of the movie— for very mundane breakfast conversation, but as the movie spirals out it gets more…surreal, I guess.
It’s so weird, and this is true of any movie I’ve worked on. It’s really hard to see a movie for several years after you finish it. Because you…you don’t have distance from it. It’s hard for me right now to know what this movie looks like. Woody Allen says something similar. He doesn’t watch his movies after they’re complete. Yeah. I don’t watch them either. You don’t want to. Because you’ve spent so many months going over and over it in editing. But I will occasionally, several years later, catch something on television. I feel I get a cleaner view of it after a few years. There are so many mistakes, so many
[image courtesy Sony Pictures]
The scale of the the play, and the film as well, becomes incredibly vast, but it also gets muted. By the end of the movie, it feels like the film is set in a completely different world from where it started. There’s an almost monochromatic palette at that point in the movie but at the beginning of the movie is really colorful. The bathroom is bright green and the basement is orange and Hazel is so bright a character, both figuratively and literally. While Caden is staging the play, it’s clear that some pretty big changes are happening outside the theatre as the years go by. Did you have a narrative for this sort of reverse play-within-a-play? Well, I had as much a narrative in mind as we saw. There’s somethign happening to the economy, clearly. They’re giving out government cheese and there’s a lot of homeless people and urban unrest and slowly that starts seeping into the theatre. At the same time that Caden’s personal life is seaping into the play, the urban decay begins to enter the theatre too and everything starts to fall apart. Some of those scenes actually sort of reminded me of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Around Halloween, it was this strange surreal time with military vehicles still on the streets and soldiers on the corner. So outside a bar you’d see this surreal scene where sexy nurses and vampires are chit-chatting with soldiers. Wow…really? Wow.
[image courtesy Sony Pictures]
Yeah…then during the movie, I thought “what if there was a ‘backup’ New Orleans in a warehouse somewhere…”
It seems like a very personal movie — most of your movies do actually. Is it difficult to repeatedly put that out there into the world?
…Yeah. I do really like the idea that there is this fake city that’s become more inhabitable that the real city — which is why people are on the line outside.
Everything I do is personal. I don’t know how to write except to write for myself. So even when I take on a subject like someone else’s book like I did in Adaptation, I couldn’t really figure out a way around the subjectivity, so I just included it. You know, otherwise I don’t think it’s real. That was a very specific way to include it but I did feel the need to put my world into it. Otherwise, I felt like I was being dishonest or unethical because I’m not Susan Orlean (author of The Orchid Thief, the subject of Adaptation). These are real people, so how can I say “this is what Susan Orlean said,” when she didn’t say it. I’m writing it without saying to people Susan Orlean didn’t really say this, you know?
In your movies, but especially in this one I think, there are these broader architectural and spatial ideas but then you also have these smaller set pieces—the burning house in Synecdoche, the 7 1/2 floor in Malkovich, the Montauk house in Eternal Sunshine. Are these just designed to convey a sense of place, or a mood, or do you always intend them to have deeper, metaphorical meaning? Yeah. It’s all of that. I find myself really interested in spaces, actually. I tend to think about environment early on in writing. I’m doing it now, actually. I find myself going back to houses or buildings as environments environments for my stories — you know, odd buildings or very specific types of spaces. I don’t know why… a Jungian scholar was in here talking about houses being representations of the self. I think that’s what it was, anyway… you know, I tend to write intuitively and I don’t really know why I do certain things, but they resonate or they feel funny or they feel sad. Um, you know, I have my ideas about why Hazel lives in that house but I don’t really explain that because I want people to be able to bring their own metaphor to the experience. That’s kind of the biggest goal I have — to put something out there and let people individually interact with it. So I try not to say “this is what it means” or “this is not what it means” or “this is what it means to me.” And sometimes a burning house can just be enjoyed as a burning house. Exactly. It can just be a burning house. They can enjoy it—or not enjoy it—just for what it is.
I’ve was curious if you’ve read much Paul Auster. A little bit. I think I’ve only read Oracle Night. Well, I ask because In his book, The Music of Chance, this eccentric millionaire hobbyist builds a model of what he calls ‘The City of the World.’ It’s a condensed depiction of his entire life that includes all the important places and pivotal events that made him the man he is— including the construction of the model. So in the model, he’s building himself building the model… Wow. That sounds great, but I haven’t read that. It does remind me of an idea I had though. I wanted to build a casino in Las Vegas called Las Vegas, Las Vegas. Like the idea of Paris, Las Vegas (the real life casino) is that you don’t have to actually go there — their campaign is something like ‘all the best of Paris without the French people.’ So then (with Las Vegas, Las Vegas,) there’s the idea that you don’t actually have to go to Paris, Las Vegas either because there’s a replica of all of Vegas—including Paris, Las Vegas—within this other casino. So you get even more safe by not having to go out into the strip at all. I thought that would be a pretty successful resort.
(laughs) I think you’re probably right. But of course there’s a darker side to that. There’s someone who actually has to build it! …Because they’d have to keep going. Within Las Vegas, Las Vegas, there would have to be a replica of Las Vegas, Las Vegas, and it would just continue. But I think even one might just make money!. Both the millionaire in the Auster book and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character in Synecdoche were strangely comfortable with the fact that creating this true thing—whatever it is—would take them their entire lives. Here’s what happens when you look for truth: it’s never ending. I find this when I’m writing a screenplay. Because I allow myself the freedom to explore an idea rather than write towards an end. You’re always learning new things, and eventually, if you want to finish something, if you want to complete something, you have to just stop and say “Ok. This is as far as this one goes.” But you could work on it forever. That’s one of the things I found so satisfying about this movie — seeing an artist give themselves so completely to one thing. You know, I remember once I went to the cloisters when I was younger, there was a wood carving, kind of a relief that was about this big (holds up hands about 18” x 12”) and it was so intricate and it was a scene with people in it…that was astounding. I think the guy worked on it for 25 years. This thing, that was this big.
And there’s this sense of being spoken to through time. When something like that exists. These people who are no longer alive are there with you through their work. And you can continue that. You contribute to it and it becomes alive. Right. That’s really touching to me, that sort of connection to other people and to their work through time. It’s like reading an old book and feeling touched by it – that this person who has been dead for so long is able to communicate with me after hundreds of years. It says so much about the human community that I often don’t experience. We’re such a fractured world now. So I think you get that with literature and I try to do that with movies in that I’m hopefully opening it up to interpreation, to personal experience which will change over time. You know, when you read Catcher In The Rye when you’re 13 and when you’re 45, it’s a totally different experience. Your work has a pretty big following now but this is a very different movie from any of your previous films. Are you at all worried about how it’s going to be received? I have been. I’ve been dealing with reactions since Cannes, which was in May. So I know there’s going to be a divide and I know some people seem to be passionately engaged with it and some people seem to get mad about it. I’ve had my period of being hurt by the negative reactions but I think I’m letting go. The multiple reactions are ok. There’s no tricky reveal here. There’s no real ‘a ha’ moment.
Wow. Yeah. And I had this thought at the time that the only reason that this exists is because somebody lived in a culture at that time where you could work on something for 25 years and it was acceptable, you know? It was like, this is your work. He wasn’t trying to be famous, he wasn’t trying to put a lot of stuff into the world, and he was comfortable with the idea although I’m sure it was partly because he was a monk. It was just “this is what i’m going to do.” And we don’t really have anything like that now in the world. It feels like…it feels like we’re lacking because we have this model of work which is almost like industrial production where you have to keep doing new things. You’re only as good as the last thing you did and you have to come out with new work. A lot of it is by what our culture suggests is important but you also need to make a living so you need to keep working. Um, this idea of resting on our laurels is such an odious idea. But I loved this thing and it really stuck with me over the years. The world that this guy lived in was just so different… It allowed him to make something like that… …And at point when 25 years was his entire adult life, probably. Not only can someone not do that now, but the idea of craft is missing form our culture. It’s sad. It really is sad. You go to Europe and you look at some old building that took centuries to build. And you can’t do anything like that anymore. Even stuff from the 30’s here, the detail on these old buildings, it seems like we can’t do it. I’ve lived in some very old, historic houses where you often see these hinges that were designed and there were all these personal, crafted details throughout the house. So much thought and time went into it. When done well, they really reinforce the entire stucture and it becomes something more that its parts. It becomes a work of art.
I think some of the negative reaction to the movie might be for that reason. That was one of the things that Jon Brion, the composer, suggested to me early on before the movie came out, that he thought people were expecting a Charlie Kaufman reveal. You feel a safety in that and I wanted intentionally not to do that. This is a movie about a man’s life. It takes you from a certain point to his death and I’m not giving you an out. My intention is to leave you with the raw experience of that and I think that there will be some negative reaction but I have to accept that that’s the movie I made and I have to live with it.
A Tender Hug Betwixt Mavericks [image courtesy Sony Pictures] Many thanks to Charlie Kaufman for taking the time to speak with me and for always striving to explore the full potential of film and expand the limits of the medium. It was true pleasure to talk with him. I just cant’ say enough about this film. It’s so dense, so engaging, and so damn compelling, it demands multiple viewings. Anyone who has ever labored over creating something true, something that matters, will find Synecdoche, New York both inspiring and heartbreaking; beautiful, yet terrible. In a word, sublime. Life Without Buildings http://lifewithoutbuildings.net/2008/10/heres-what-happens-when-youlook-for-truth-life-without-buildings-interviews-charlie-kaufman.html by Jimmy Stamp on October 13, 2008
3. Etymology for Republicans Conservative Republicans seem to be having an awfully tough time with their vocabulary lately. They keep misusing words, poor old dears. In particular, these confused politicos keep using words that have traditionally had a positive connotation in a pejorative sense. Therefore, we present a little gloss that might help them with their sorry diction. 1. Liberal “c.1375, from O.Fr. liberal “befitting free men, noble, generous,” from L. liberalis “noble, generous,” lit. “pertaining to a free man,” from liber “free,” from PIE base *leudheros (cf. Gk. eleutheros “free”), probably originally ‘belonging to the people’” (Online Etymological Dictionary) From the Indo-European root “leudh,” meaning “grow, rise,” as in progressive (Joseph T. Shipley, The Origins of English Words) 2. Elite
3. Maverick “1867, “calf or yearling found without an owner’s brand,” in allusion to Samuel A. Maverick (1803-70), Texas cattle owner who was negligent in branding his calves. Sense of “individualist, unconventional person” is first recorded 1886, via notion of ‘masterless.’” (Online Etymological Dictionary) Samuel A. Maverick refused to brand his cattle, ostensibly claiming that the practice was cruel. However, by not branding his cattle, he was able to claim any stray cows as his own property. What a devious genius! How’s that for laissez-fair? Clearly, a maverick would never let himself be branded with someone else’s label. He’d cut his own path, forge his own trail, create his own hackneyed metaphor, and not, f’r’instance, vote with the President 95% of the time. 4. Conservative “Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.” ( Ambrose Bierce, Devil’s Dictionary) 5. Change “From the Indo-European root “(s)kamb: bend, change; exchange, barter . . . Fr, change, exchange. Gc, change, changeable, unchanging, etc. . . . This root is related to camp, campus, campaign, etc.” (Joseph T. Shipley, The Origins of English Words) Synonyms for “change” include: modification, variation, transformation, revolution, conversion, adjustment, amendment, difference, and alteration. When used in politics, the word connotes a dramatic shift in ideology from the previous regime to its successors (e.g. “The idea that a new set of Republicans would be a change from the old set was both a paradox and a misuse of language”)
“1823, from Fr. élite “selection, choice,” from O.Fr. fem. pp. of elire, elisre “pick out, choose,” from L. eligere “choose” (see election). Borrowed in M.E. as “chosen person,” esp. a bishop-elect, died out c.1450, re-introduced by Byron’s “Don Juan.” (Online Etymological Dictionary) “1a singular or plural in construction : the choice part. 1b singular or plural in construction : the best of a class” (Merriam-Webster)
Let Them Eat Cake! W and Mav McCain Enjoy A Tasty Treat as Katrina Drowns New Orleans
biblioklept http://biblioklept.org/2008/09/07/etymology-for-republicans/ by ed bioklept on September 7, 2008
4. Redemption I’m sorry, but if I hear one more “expert” on the box describe the financial crisis as “psychological” I’m going to barf. I also heard a French commentator today blame “the redemption factor” - which sounds biblical, but apparently refers to the price being put on that huge red chunk of the pyramid (see story above) which seems to represent eight hundred times global GDP. Norrie C at The Guardian explains that what’s unwinding is “the mathematically flawed system of debt-based, fiat, Fractional Reserve Banking which is predicated on indefinite exponential growth. That is growth in debt, population, industrial activity, consumption of energy, consumption of raw materials, production of waste, production of pollution, destruction of the biosphere”.
In other words, my global holdings in complementary currencies (one Lewes Pound) have gone up fourteen times in a single week. I’ve only got one Lewes Pound, and I’m hanging on to it. Or will someone out there will make me a good offer? What shall we say: a kilo of gold for it? Doors of Perception http://www.doorsofperception.com/archives/2008/10/its_psychologic. php by John Thackara on October 10, 2008
Continuous, relentless exponential growth of the above list is simply not possible indefinitely - and the end of indefinitely is what seems to be happening now. The fiscal model is fatally flawed, Norrie explains, because “you need a relentless, geometric increase in debt for there to be enough money in the money supply to pay back all the capital and interest when only the capital was ever created. The debt-based Fractional Reserve Banking system is killing itself, our savings and our planet”. This is a disgrace, and somebody should do something about it. But personally I’ve made a killing out of the crisis this week. On Monday, in Brighton, Andre Viljoen gave me my first Lewes Pound:
5. DEAD WORDS There are words and terms that once had currency in architecture but have become, in effect, dead. This short, annotated list contains a few, but I’m sure there are more, and I invite readers to submit their own in the comments section. The point here is not merely academic, but rather to note the shifts in thinking that impact the nature of our field’s development. The words we use—and don’t use—are important. radical This term used to refer to paradigm shifts and other important changes in thinking and practice that contributed to human progress [see below]. But today, it is associated with ‘extreme.’ In the era of terrorism and the so-called ‘war on terrorism,’ radicals are seen as the enemies of the currently hunkered-down system of social order—in short, as terrorists. They are to be shunned, especially in the application of the penultimate instrument of social order, architecture. It is certainly acceptable to propose extreme forms, now and then, but only in the service of already known and familiar programs of use, and therefore as a reaffirmation of the status quo. Proposing radical forms that implement radical programs is unacceptable. Indeed, radical programs of use are more unacceptable than they ever have been. new
This new complementary currency is designed to encourage demand for local goods and services and thereby to help build resilience to the rising costs of energy, transport and food. It’s intended to be used alongside pounds Sterling - but I couldn’t help noticing that LPs are selling at a healthy premium on eBay:
Advertising and media hype have used this word to death. But that, in itself, is not the reason for its demise. The application of the word— and concept—to many things that are not really new has effectively destroyed its credibility. The rapidity of change has made everything seem new, even if it is not. The ‘new’ model of car, the ‘new’ skyscraper concept are of the same ilk: new forms of what we already know and have. We embrace the contradiction, so we can have the illusion of newness, while clinging to the old. original
In the present time of appropriation in art, as well as the mass-merchandizing of brand name products, including those of famous architects, the idea of originality is not only of minimal interest, but, being a form of the radical [see above], rather dangerous. Of far greater interest is the recycling of ideas, products, and modes. Appropriation acquired legitimacy in the post-Modernism of the 70s and 80s, when the recycling of historical styles—including Modernism—was in vogue. Today, it continues in the guise of architectural populism and social realism, where low art, such as squatter architecture, is elevated to high, and presented as avant-garde. principles Today, everything is about technique. ‘How’ a building is conceived and made is of great interest, but not the ‘why.’ Principles are concerned with the ‘why.’ Principles are philosophical—they define basic, inflexible reasons to do a particular thing and not just anything. Today, principles only get in the way of architects who want to do as they are told by their clients, or be free to adopt new styles and modes.
wealth and resources. Today, socialism in all its forms is dead, having been soundly defeated by globalized capitalism. Further, the idea of class has been flattened out to a quotidian middle by credit-cards, retail franchises, tourism—in short, consumerism. The middle class does not live in housing, but in houses and condos. genius Like the word ‘new,’ genius appears to have lost its meaning. If everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes, then everyone will be a genius for about the same period of time. However, the main reason the word no longer applies is that it is too blatantly elitist. Today, the rich wear bluejeans, not top hats. In the age of consumerism triumphant, everyone is supposed to be, or at least to look, the same—somewhere in a ‘middle’ class. The words ‘celebrity’ and ‘starchitect’ are as derogatory as they are flattering or honoring. But also, maybe the age of geniuses, of people who discover or invent great new principles [see above] about nature, science, or art—and architecture—has, for the present, passed. future
progress Considered a hopelessly old-fashioned idea, progress means that things get better, that they somehow advance, reach a higher level. Developments in technology, political thinking, and architecture were once thought to be instruments of progress, that is, change for the better in the human condition. Today, it’s difficult to say in any general way what ‘better’ is—in the cacaphony of the marketplace, there are so many different voices, options, demands. Hence, we surmise that things pretty much stay the same, changing in form, not in content. Architecture valorizes wealth and power and the egos of architects, as it always has. Architecture is for an elite who can afford to commission expensive buildings, and the architects willing to design them.
Once upon a time, the future was where wondrous and terrible things were going to happen, where the present would be transformed, for better or worse, and in a sense reach fruition. The idea of the future has all but vanished from architectural conversation and discussion. Perhaps because the present is one of self-satisfaction—there is nothing to ripen and mature—and no great chances being taken that can succeed, or fail. Perhaps the future has become just another place we already know, or hope we know. LEBBEUS WOODS http://lebbeuswoods.wordpress.com/2008/09/18/dead-words/ by Lebbeus Woods on 18 September, 2008
experimental While this word is bandied about in architecture, its meaning is all but dead. There is little architecture, or design, that truly experiments, that is, plays with the unknown. The single defining characteristic of an experiment is that no one knows at the outset how it will turn out. The experimenter is looking for something, has a hypothesis to prove, but has no idea if the experiment will verify the hypothesis, or prove it wrong, or result in something entirely unexpected. Experiments are risky. Architecture is today, and generally has been, averse to this kind of risk.
6. Anxious utopianism How photomontage created the architectural mirages of the 1960s
critical This word has two meanings for architecture, both of which have to do with time. There are critical moments in architecture, when profound ideas are at stake, and the outcome of debates and discourse about them will impact the future [see below] of architectural ideals and practices. At present, there are no great debates on which the course of architectural thinking seems to hinge. And no ideals. The second meaning of the term is found in the idea of criticism. Criticism was once thought to be essential to high-stakes debates about architectural principles [see above], but, lacking those, has today become, at best, a matter of personal opinion, and, at worst, the stuff of careerist maneuverings. housing This word refers to large-scale developments, usually sponsored by governments, that provide living units massed into large building groups. These mass-dwelling projects were the products of ‘socialistic’ thinking, that is, governance committed to the fair redistribution of a community’s
Top: Altar for the Temple of the Spirit (Sketch for the creation of an altar at the Institute of Kinetics) 1969-70 by Lev Nussberg and Natalia Prokuratov. Image courtesy of Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, the State University of New Jersey. Radical young architects in the 1960s were as adept with the airbrush and the scalpel as with the conventional tools and techniques of the drawing board, writes David Crowley. Publicity-seeking design groups – with names like rock bands – demonstrated their credentials as visionaries by
creating arresting images of modern life. Archigram in Britain and HausRucker-Co in Austria and Dvizhenie (‘Movement’) in the Soviet Union were brilliant manipulators of the image. In their hands, the technique of photomontage – hitherto little more than an occasional practice amongst modern architects and one far more closely associated with caricature and unreality – was thoroughly renewed. Montage allowed, perhaps more than any other medium, entirely new architectural scales to be visualised. Mechanical elements were blown up to city-size proportions, landscapes dwarfed by domestic objects, and components wrenched from their familiar settings and turned into enigmatic monuments of modernity. These were not blueprints for future structures but attempts to ‘activate the imagination’ of the viewer. What – these images asked – might the future look like in an age of electronic communications networks and lightweight and floating plastic structures? ‘Communication’ and ‘networks’ were the buzzwords of the era. Influenced by media guru Marshall McLuhan, architects conceived their buildings in terms of screens, flows of electronic data and satellite broadcasting. Tired Victorian cities could be ‘tuned up’ by being plugged into new media networks. Conventional architectural ‘hardware’ would, it was claimed, be superseded by the software of modern communications. To prove their interest in the media, Archigram – which largely existed as an occasional magazine and a series of exhibitions – took their name by compressing ‘architectural telegram’. It was, therefore, entirely logical that the architectural visions of this new generation were fashioned from fragments of the mass media. Fashion spreads and lifestyle imagery culled from the new Sunday supplements provided colourful images of tomorrow.
Above: Superstudio: New, New York, from the Continuous Monument series, 1969. Image courtesy of Deutsches Architekturmuseum. These futuristic images were often laced with irony, an effect amplified by the techniques of montage. This was most clear perhaps in one of the most chilling images of Utopia of the era. Italian architects Superstudio proposed a Monumento Continuo (‘Continuous Monument’) – a massive linear structure, described as ‘an Architectural Model for Total Urbanisation’, which appeared to span the entire globe – in a series of virtuoso photomontages. In some images it locked familiar landscapes, such as New York City’s skyscrapers, in its freezing grip; in others it sliced through deserts and mountains. With its mute, grid-like mirrored surface, this suggested infinite capacity for extension and, as such, an escape from romantic ideas about place. Uniting the globe, the Continuous Monument appeared to be egalitarian. Yet its ordering effects were troublingly dictatorial. Accused of authoritarianism, Superstudio’s response was to claim irony: the Continuous Monument exaggerated the concept of a technological utopia to the point of absurdity. If irony could not be produced with bricks and concrete, the conventional materials of architecture, it certainly could be delivered through the media fragments combined in these remarkable montages.
These architects were the last utopians of the century. Utopia was no longer an uncomplicated ideal. Their visions of future struck a strange balance between utopia and catastrophe. During these Cold War years, complete annihilation of the planet by nuclear weapons was never more than a ‘push of a button’ away. Yet, at the same time, the triumphs of the Space Race and the communications revolution delivered by satellites and teletowers made it possible to imagine a brave new high-tech world. Both disaster and perfection seem to be combined in their visionary schemes. Archigram’s Ron Herron was the master builder of this aesthetic. His schemes for a ‘Walking City’ produced in the 1960s and early 70s were disturbingly mechanical (an effect amplified by the inclusion of photomechanical reproductions of his own architectural automata or electronic circuitry). These enormous itinerant pods, augmented with turrets and towers, resembled alien craft just landed on the planet. (See Archigram on the Design Museum website.) This anxious utopianism was also shared by Haus-Rucker-Co, a Viennese collective. In a design prepared for their 1972 exhibition, a nuclear family enjoys its leisure under a protective bubble in front of the Haus Lange (1929) designed by Modern Movement pioneer Mies van der Rohe. These contrasting visions of modernity are framed by the ruins of a city. What is unclear in this image is whether the environment outside the bubble represents the past or the future.
Above: Photomontage for the Great Vienna Auto-Expander installation, Vienna, 1969, by the Viennese group Zünd-Up. Courtesy of V&A Images. The work illustrated in this article features in the exhibition ‘Cold War Modern: Design 1945-70’, at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (25 September 2008 – 11 January 2009) before travelling to other venues in Europe. Curator: Jane Pavitt; consultant curator: David Crowley. To be reviewed in Eye no. 70, Winter 2008.
See ‘Strikethrough’, David Crowley’s latest essay in Eye no. 69 vol. 18.
Bottom: Haus-Rucker-Co wearing ‘Environment Transformers’, 1968. Photograph courtesy: Archive Günter Zamp-Kelp, Berlin.
The anxiousness that the recent Farnsworth flood seems to create goes beyond the simple everyday issues of orderliness to the very core of what makes it such an exceptional project. Part of the houses sublime beauty is its precarious balance between ‘nature’ and ‘culture’. The building exists in a state of hypertension, held up on legs whose practical purpose is to avoid all but the highest of floods, but which symbolically articulate the separation of distinct realms.
Eye blog http://blog.eyemagazine.com/?p=63 on 1 October, 2008
7. Ruburb-ric: The Ecologies of the Farnsworth House
It’s a condition described by Peter Smithson as “ruburb” - a compound of rural and urban which highlights the fundamental weirdness of the building, as though you’d cut a picture of the quintessential metropolitan interior and pasted it into the middle of a National Geographic spread on the flora and fauna of the mid west. The house exists as a juxtaposition: the raised platform of temperature controlled air and sanitation held between two slabs of whiteness against a backdrop of nature. The house is on the cusp of invisibility and impossibility.
When I last visited it, the house was still owned by Peter Palumbo. There was thick, virgin snow, and the house seemed to be more invisible with its structure camouflaged against the whiteness. Inside the oblong of warm air, Palumbo seemed to revel in the notion of the house as a piece of culture. In fact, you could interpret Palumbos inhabitation of the house as a mixed media piece about high Modernism, cold war politics, international finance, the cream of twentieth century fine art, society marriages, the British Monarchy, patronage, heritage and air freight, regular flooding (the ominous symbol of global warming) and insurance claims - rather than anything resembling domesticity.
Seeing the Farnsworth House up to its neck in floodwater is enough to bring out OCD symptoms in even the most relaxed of us. Just imagining the whiteness of its frame, its transparent walls, and its reduced abstraction lapped by the muddy waters of the Fox River makes me itchy, uncomfortable and agitated.
A letter of thanks from Margaret Thatcher hung framed in the bathroom. A photograph of Diana was on a bureau, and in front of this a line of sharpened pencils, each with an embossed House of Lords motif. Looking through the house, beyond a stack of Warhol Brillo boxes you could glimpse the turret of the Mappin & Webb building, which had previously occupied the site of No. 1 Poultry where Palumbo had battled for years to
build Mies’s only proposal for the UK. Here the old cupola was displayed like the severed head of a defeated chief, a kind of ritualistic offering of pagan apology to Mies.
Strange Harvest http://www.strangeharvest.com/2008/10/ruburb-ric-the-ecologies-of-th. php by Sam Jacon on October 19, 2008
Beyond that was a graffiti-covered five-foot section of the Berlin Wall. The proximity of the house to the wall was rich with irony and history: the most famous piece of free-plan without-walls-architecture set against a wall that had divided a continent and separated ideologies.
8.Urban Renewal and Partial Amnesia in Chechnya
These charged artifacts were set in the almost-void of Meisian abstraction: Loading this strangely dematerialized space with objects dense with cultural meaning seemed to ramp up the hyper-tension of the house - aligning it not only with an architectural concept, but also with totems of the machinations of the abstract and artificial. A series of framed photographs documented a previous, Palumbo era flood. These images showed those same Brillo boxes floating in greeney brown water. The interior of the house was filled with water as though it were a fish tank. In this liquid, the tension between landscape and architecture seemed to dissolve into a soup.
GROZNY, Russia — This is the year, according to an order from a president whom few dare to disappoint, that the architectural scars of war in Grozny, Chechnya’s capital, will be removed. That the order has nearly been fulfilled is a feat. Skip to next paragraph Not long ago, Grozny (the name means “terrible” in Russian) offered a panorama of sagging husks of buildings and unmarked graves, scenes that eerily resembled the ruins left by the most destructive urban battles of World War II. Grozny today is less a battlefield than the renovated seat of a new police state within Russia’s borders, led by Ramzan A. Kadyrov, the republic’s young and exceptionally violent president. And Mr. Kadyrov, a Chechen who has professed loyalty to the same Kremlin that many of his fellow Chechens fought for more than a decade, has decreed that by Dec. 31 his capital will bear no more of the marks of war that made Grozny worthy of its name. As the makeover nears completion, and at a pace recalling the feardriven public works of Stalin’s time, Grozny’s new look summons questions. The ruins are vanishing. How will the city remember the forces that destroyed it? The answer, in short, is very carefully. And partially. If the task of writing a war’s history falls to the victors, then Mr. Kadyrov is busy with a selective first draft.
The Farnsworths precarious relationship between nature and culture assumes that the definitions and qualities of the categories remain consistent, and separate. The science of climate change however persuades us that these are not distinct categories and the intersection of the two creates new and very real kinds of new environmental conditions - as the people of New Orleans or Bihar, India and many other places that have experienced far more terrible flooding than a local incident on banks of a river in Plano, Illinois might tell us. The Farnsworth House allows us a nostalgia for a view of nature as a romantic idealized ‘other’ seen from its cultured interior. Its flooding reminds us that any cultural interpretation of nature is likely to be overturned, and the forces that shape a structure as seemingly artificial as the Farnsworth House are the very same that shape the landscapes and climates that surround it.
Throughout the city, memorials have sprouted, but they are as censored and as celebratory of the republic’s latest rulers as are the contents of Chechnya’s state-run news media. Russia elsewhere is a nation with a well-developed sense of its enemies. It is also densely populated with memorials, many of them statues of thick-limbed Soviet soldiers standing against invading Germans more than half a century ago. To this day, on significant war anniversaries the Kremlin broadcasts messages of Soviet victory over Germany to its population and the world, just as it still celebrates the Nazi surrender in military parades at Red Square. But here in Grozny, public discussion about the forces that flattened
this city is complicated by the fact that those forces were not foreign. They were Russian. And so in the urge to memorialize the war, Grozny has become an outdoor shrine to the president’s father, Akhmad H. Kadyrov, who was killed by a bomb in 2004 at a ceremony, as fate would write it, commemorating the defeat of Nazi Germany. In the government’s version, Akhmad Kadyrov, a Sufi religious leader and former rebel, had grown so disgusted with separatists and the Arab jihadis who joined them that he led an armed countermovement, steering Chechnya back to the fold of a beneficent Moscow. These days the weary face of the deceased Mr. Kadyrov looks down from ubiquitous posters. His name adorns everything, including weightlifting centers and the city’s huge new mosque, the largest in Russia. Official remembrances of the wars are used to recall his civic-mindedness, judgment and courage.
[C. J. Chivers/The New York Times] In a former rebel area of Chechnya, a plaque honored Chechens killed in the 1944 deportation. Enlarge This Image
The only images that compete with him are, in order, pictures of one of his sons, Ramzan, and portraits of the Kremlin’s most recent occupants, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin and President Dmitri A. Medvedev. But the problem with the Kadyrov cult of personality that the younger Mr. Kadyrov has sponsored is that it requires both selective forgetting and an awkward balancing act for former rebels now courting Kremlin favor. A visitor will not find official acknowledgment that by the time the elder Mr. Kadyrov rose to prominence, Chechnya and Russia had been at war, off and on, for nearly 10 years. Or that an accumulated mass of evidence has documented Russian human rights violations against Chechens on a grand scale. Nor does anything indicate that it was not separatists who destroyed Grozny, but Russian artillery, aircraft and armor. Such subjects are officially taboo. The current government has decided to let time try to heal what words and memorials cannot yet salve. “We understand perfectly well people who have no history of their own, who do not respect the memories of their ancestors — this nation is doomed,” said Salavdi Jamiyev, Grozny’s deputy mayor, who is coordinating much of the reconstruction. “But we are in a difficult time. “It is now maybe a time to bypass some controversial issues,” he continued. “Maybe it is better not to discuss the political mistakes of Russia’s leaders. Later, maybe, the task can go to future generations. But not now.” And so all across Grozny, there are signs of the airbrush. A memorial to dead journalists does not list their names. On the day the monument was unveiled, a list of killed journalists was read aloud. But it did not include some of the most prominent killings, including that of Cynthia Elbaum, a young American photographer and the first journalist to die in the war. Ms. Elbaum was killed by a Russian airstrike.
Outward signs of more recent bloodshed are being erased in Grozny under a decree by President Ramzan A. Kadyrov, right, with Vladimir V. Putin. “It was a ceremony for those who died in the name of freedom of speech,” said one person who attended, but asked not to be identified out of fear of retaliation. “But those who suppress freedom of speech held it, and they left out names that did not fit the message. It was farce.” As the noncontroversial monuments rise, monuments that more fully explore the darkly intertwined histories of Russia and Chechnya lie fallow. At one intersection, a small, rebel-made monument is overgrown and in neglect. The memorial is an assemblage of grave markers. The stones had been dug up by Soviet laborers after Stalin ordered in 1944 that the Chechen population be deported to Central Asia. The Soviet Union later used the gravestones for building foundations and curbstones. After Stalin’s death, Khrushchev allowed the surviving Chechens to return. And after the Soviet Union dissolved, Chechens collected the tombstones and arranged them in an outdoor park. From one pile of stones, a muscular arm rises. It is holding a dagger. It was a sure mark of rebellion, and over the years, as Russian pa-
trols have passed it, they have fired into the monument repeatedly, leaving it pocked with bullet marks. Mr. Jamiyev, the deputy mayor, said a contest was being held to design a new memorial to deportation. The gravestones are sacred and will be moved to a better location, he said. The winning entrant for the replacement monument, he said, will probably not include that defiant knife. Sitting at his desk in a new city hall, where the lobby bears a stone mural of Akhmad Kadyrov, across the street from a mosque named after Akhmad Kadyrov, Mr. Jamiyev allowed himself a warm, silent smile. Most everyone here knows that Russia made rubble of this city. Most everyone knows the history of cycles of war between Chechens and Slavs. But today, officially at least, Russia is an ally. Mr. Jamiyev recited a Russian proverb. “The one who recalls the past,” he said, “will banish his eyes.” New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/19/world/europe/19grozny. html?pagewanted=1 by C.J. Chivers on October 18, 2008
10. badiou on the financial crisis
[Hot off the keyboard, a quick translation of Badiou’s piece from yesterday’s Le Monde. Translation by myself and ICR. UPDATE: Badiou actually originally wrote this as a longer piece (which is here). We have added in the extra sections/noted changes in bold. As you can see, the original is quite a bit longer and includes a discussion of housing. Badiou on mortgages! Who’d have thought it?]
Of Which Real is this Crisis the Spectacle? Alain Badiou, Le Monde, 17/10/08. As it is presented to us, the planetary financial crisis resembles one of those bad films concocted by that factory for the production of pre-packaged blockbusters that today we call the “cinema”. Nothing is missing, the spectacle of mounting disaster, the feeling of being suspended from enormous puppet-strings, the exoticism of the identical – the Bourse of Jakarta placed under the same spectacular rubric as New York, the diagonal from Moscow to Sao Paulo, everywhere the same fire ravaging the same banks – not to mention terrifying plotlines: it is impossible to avert Black Friday, everything is collapsing, everything will collapse...
9. The blogging houseplant
Meet midori-san, the first blogging houseplant! Through sensors connected to the leaves of this Sweetheart Hoya reads bioelectric currents through the plant, this gives information about the lighting coondition, temperature, humidity etc. An algorithm created by the Keio University Hiroya Tanaka Laboratory translates this data into japanese sentences. In this way the plant gives information about the weather and his personal condition. Blog-readers can also activate a lamp to give the midori-san a threat, which is often immediately replied by a thank you from the plant. The days that internet was the domain of humans only are over. Via Pink Tentacle
Next Nature http://www.nextnature.net/?p=2878 by Bram on 23 October, 2008
But hope abides. In the foreground, wild-eyed and focussed, like in a disaster movie, we see the small gang of the powerful – Sarkozy, Paulson, Merkel, Brown, Trichet and others – trying to extinguish the monetary flames, stuffing tens of billions into the central Hole. We will have time later to wonder (the saga will surely continue) where these billions come from, given that for some years, at the least demand from the poor, the same characters responded by turning their pockets inside out, saying they hadn’t a cent. For the time being, it doesn’t matter. “Save the banks!” This noble, humanist and democratic cry surges forth from the mouths of every journalist and politician. Save them at any price! It’s worth pointing this out, since the price is not insignificant. I have to confess: given the numbers that are being bandied about, whose meaning, like almost everyone else, I am incapable of representing to myself (what exactly is one thousand four hundred billion euros?), I too am confident. I put my full trust in our firemen. All together, I am sure, I can feel it, they will succeed. The banks will be even greater than before, while some of the smaller or medium-sized ones, having only been able to survive through the benevolence of states, will be sold to the bigger ones for a pittance. The collapse of capitalism? You must be kidding. Who wants it, after all? Who even knows what it would mean? Let’s save the banks, I tell you, and the rest will follow. For the film’s immediate protagonists – the rich, their servants, their parasites, those who envy them and those who ac-
claim them – a happy ending, perhaps a slightly melancholy one, is inevitable, bearing in mind the current state of the world, and the kinds of politics that take place within it.
centuries – been a major, central component of capitalism in general. As for the owners and managers of this system, by definition they are only “responsible” for profits, their “rationality” is to be measured by their earnings, and it is not just that they are predators, but that they have to be. Accordingly, we do not find anything more “real” in the engine-room of capitalist production than on its commercial decks or in its speculative cabins. The last two in any case corrupt the first: in their crushing majority, the objects produced by this type of machinery – being aimed solely at profit, and at the derivative speculations which form the fastest and most considerable part of this profit – are ugly, cumbersome, inconvenient, useless, and it is necessary to spend billions to persuade people otherwise. This presupposes that people be transformed into spoiled children, eternal adolescents, whose existence merely consists in changing toys.
Let us turn instead to the spectators of this show, the dumbstruck crowd who - vaguely unsettled, understanding little, totally disconnected from any active engagement in the situation - hears, like a far-off noise, the mort* of the cornered banks. This crowd can only guess at the exhausting weekends of our heroic small team of heads of government. It sees, passing before it, numbers as enormous as they are obscure, automatically comparing them to its own resources, or even, for a very considerable part of humanity, to the pure and simple nonresource which is the bitter and courageous basis of its very life. That’s where the real is, and we will only be able to access it if we turn away from the screen of the spectacle in order to consider the invisible mass of those for whom this disaster movie, its saccharine ending included (Sarkozy kisses Merkel, and the whole world weeps for joy), was only ever a shadow-play.
The return to the real cannot be a movement leading from bad “irrational” speculation back to healthy production. It is the return to the immediate and reflective life of all those who inhabit this world. It is from that vantage-point that one can observe capitalism without flinching, including the disaster movie that it is currently inflicting upon us. The real is not this movie, but its audience.
So what do we see, if we turn things around in this way? We see, and this is what it means to see, simple things that we’ve known for a long time: capitalism is nothing but robbery, irrational in its essence and devastating in its development. Its few short decades of savagely unequal prosperity have always been at the cost of crises in which astronomical quantities of value disappear, bloody punitive expeditions into every zone that capitalism judges either strategically important or threatening, and world wars that brought it back to health.
In these past few weeks we have heard a lot about the “real economy” (the production and circulation of goods) and the – how should we call it? unreal? – economy which is the source of all evils, in that its agents had become “irresponsible”, “irrational” and “predatory” – fuelling, first rapaciously, then in a panic, the now formless mass of stocks, securities and currencies. This distinction is obviously absurd, and is generally immediately contradicted, when, by way of an opposite metaphor, financial circulation and speculation are presented as the ‘circulatory system’ of capitalism. Are heart and blood perhaps subtracted from the living reality of a body? Is a financial stroke indifferent to the health of the economy as a whole? As we know, financial capitalism has always – which is to say for the past five
Here lies the didactic force in looking at this crisis-film. Faced with the life of the people watching it, do we still dare to pride ourselves in a system which delegates the organisation of collective life to the basest of drives – greed, rivalry, unthinking selfishness? Can we sing the praises of a “democracy” whose leaders do the bidding of private financial appropriation with such impunity that they would shock Marx himself, who nevertheless already defined governments, a hundred and sixty years ago, as “the agents of capital”? The ordinary citizen must ‘understand’ that it is impossible to make up the shortfall in social security, but that it is imperative to stuff untold billions into the banks’ financial hole? We must sombrely accept that no one imagines any longer that it’s possible to nationalise a factory hounded by competition, a factory employing thousands of workers, but that it is obvious to do so for a bank made penniless by speculation?
In this business, the real is to be found on the hither side of the crisis. For where does this entire financial phantasmagoria come from? Simply from the fact that, by dangling miraculous credits before their eyes, people devoid of the means to afford them were browbeaten into buying flashy houses. These people’s IOUs were then sold on, mixing them, as one does with sophisticated drugs, with financial securities whose composition was rendered as scientific as it is opaque by battalions of mathematicians. All of this then circulated, from sale to sale, its value increasing, in ever more distant banks. Yes, the material measure for this circulation was to be found in the houses. But it was enough for the real estate market to go bust and, as this measure became less valuable and the creditors demanded more, for the buyers to be less and less able to pay their debts. And when finally they couldn’t pay them at all, the drug injected into the financial securities poisoned them all: they were no longer worth anything. But this only seems to be a zero-sum game: the speculator loses his wager and the buyers their homes, from which they are politely evicted. But the real of this zero-sum game is as always on the side of the collective, of ordinary life: in the end, everything stems from the fact that there exist millions of people whose wages, or absence thereof, means that they are absolutely unable to house themselves. The real essence of the financial crisis is a housing crisis. And those who can’t find a home are by no means the bankers. It is always necessary to go back to ordinary existence.
The only thing that we can hope for in this affair is that this didactic power may be found in the lessons drawn from this grim drama by people, and not by the bankers, the governments who serve them, and the newspapers who serve these governments. This return to the real has two related aspects. The first is clearly political. As the film has shown, the “democratic” fetish is merely the zealous servant of the banks. Its real name, its technical name, as I have argued for some time, is capitalistparliamentarianism. It is advisable, as several political experiments have begun to do in the past twenty years, to organise a politics of a different nature.
Such a politics is, and no doubt will be for a long time, at a great distance from state power, but no matter. It begins level with the real, through the practical alliance between those who are most immediately available to invent such a politics: the newly-arrived proletarians from Africa and elsewhere, and the intellectuals who have inherited the political battles of the last few decades. This alliance will grow on the basis of what it will be capable of doing, point by point. It will not entertain any kind of organic relationship with the existing parties and with the electoral and institutional system that keeps them alive. It will invent the new discipline of those who have nothing, their political capacity, the new idea of what their victory will look like. The second aspect is ideological. We must overthrow the old verdict according to which ours would be the time of “the end of ideologies”. Today we can clearly see that the only reality of this supposed end lies in the slogan “save the banks”. Nothing is more important than recovering the passion of ideas and countering the world such as it is with a general hypothesis, the anticipated certainty of an entirely different state of affairs. To the nefarious spectacle of capitalism, we oppose the real of peoples, of the existence of all in the proper movement of ideas. The theme of an emancipation of humanity has lost none of its power. Undoubtedly, the word “communism”, which for a long time served to name this power, has been debased and prostituted.
But today, its disappearance only benefits the advocates of order, the feverish actors of the disaster movie. But we will resuscitate communism, in its new-found clarity. This clarity is also its oldest virtue, as when Marx said of communism that it “breaks in the most radical fashion with traditional ideas” and that it will bring forth “an association in which the free development of each is the precondition for the free development of all”. Total break with capitalist-parliamentarianism, the invention of a politics on a level with the popular real, sovereignty of the idea: it’s all there, everything we need to turn away from the film of the crisis and to give ourselves over to the fusion between live thought and organised action (everything we need to turn away from the film of the crisis and rise up). *In French: hallali. In English, the nearest equivalent is ‘mort’, the note sounded on a hunting horn to announce the death of a deer.
infinite thought http://www.cinestatic.com/infinitethought/2008/10/badiou-on-financialcrisis.asp by Michael Forrest on 18 October, 2008