Mathias Dekock // email@example.com http://matsdekock.wix.com/home facebook.com/matsdekock
RECONSTRUCTING EMBODIED SPACES tracing architectural environments through perception, persistence and memory
Mats Dekock is an architect and an artist based in Brussels, Belgium. In his Transmedian work, he shifts the emphasis of his architectural discourse from a designer point-of-view to that of a subject embedded within space. The architectural toolbox and discourse remain his key instruments, but it is through the articulation of subjectivity in the dialogue between subject and space, that his architectural artwork arises.
This research dossier is submitted to the department of Transmedia in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of MASTER of ARTS in TRANSMEDIA Sint-Lukas Brussel LUCA School of Arts KU Leuven 2013
ABSTRACT Experience of architectural environments is a subjective dialogue between the self and space, shaped by both the physical, geometrical and objective realm of architecture as well as the mental world of the observer. When subjects are confronted with architectural environments, they don’t merely take spatial information in as an objective observation, but engage in a subjective dialogue with the space in which they are embedded. The subjective dialogue between the self and space is defined by spatial embodiment, or the subject’s interpretation and identification of space through sensory experiences. But there seems to be a difference between what we take in sensory, and what our mind mentally projects as an image of the world onto the images that are taken in. What we perceive is shaped by what we know, and what we know is shaped by what we perceive. Space can thus be read as a projection of the subject, as a result of the dialogue between the embodiment of spatial experiences, and the responses to these stimuli. Architectural experiences condense into mental models that, in the context of this research, will be defined as poetic images. They are a subjective “Weltinnenraum”, in which the experience of architectural environments defines the construction of the mental model that acts as a framework for the identification and orientation of the subjective self within space. These poetic images give rise to an imaginative reality, which allows for a projective identification with space. Poetic images tell about space. Not about the objective geometrical realm of space, but about the subjective, interpretative representation of space. The dialogue between space and subject, and the embodiment of poetic images is bound by the perception and memory of architectural environments, as well as the persistence of these spaces on the subjective mind. Tracing these phenomena engaged with the embodiment of poetic images will offer a better understanding in the way in which subjects appropriate spaces. This research is written from an architectural point-of-view, but tends to shift the emphasis of the experience of architectural environments from the realm of objectivity to the realm of subjective representation and embodiment. It traces perception,persistence and memory as a toolset to do so.
RECONSTRUCTING EMBODIED SPACES tracing architectural environments through perception, persistence and memory
Poetic images of architectural environments
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Perception of architectural environments
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Persistence of architectural environments
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Memory of architectural environments
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Mental imagery The simulated image The conscious image The neurological image The poetic image Embodying architectural environments Psycho-geographic topography Phenomenological consciousness Architectural imaginary Cognitive mapping Hieroglyphs of space Subjective Projection
Tracing cognition Cognitive enhancement
Perception of architectural environments
Persistence of architectural environments
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Memory of architectural environments Method of Loci Screen memories Mediatized memory
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CASE STUDY RECONSTRUCING MARIENBAD
Space as a projection of the subject Persistense of Vision
Cinema as embodied poetic image
Marienbad as an embodied poetic image
Case Study Project #1: Disembodied Narrative Case Study Project #2: Cinematic Decoupage Case Study Project #3: Regard-en-Abyme Case Study Project #4: Marienbad’s Method of Loci
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Last Year in Marienbad as an embodied poetic image The Case Study Projects as embodied poetic image The Case Study Projects and the introduced theoretical discourse The Case Study Projects and the traced methodology The Case Study Projects and the lecture of “L’Année dernière a Marienbad”
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INTRODUCTION ...silent rooms where oneâ€™s footsteps are absorbed by carpets so thick, so heavy, that no sound reaches oneâ€™s ear, as if the very ear of him who walks on once again along these corridors, through these salons and galleries, in this edifice of a bygone era, this sprawling, sumptuous, baroque, gloomy hotel, where one endless corridor follows another, silent, empty corridors heavy with cold, dark woodwork, stucco, molded paneling, marble, black mirrors, dark-toned portraits, columns, sculpted doorframes, rows of doorways, galleries, side corridors that in turn lead to empty salons, salons heavy with ornamentation of a bygone era... ...as if the ground were still sand or gravel or flagstones over which I walked once again along these corridors, through these salons and galleries, in this edifice of a bygone era, this sprawling, sumptuous, baroque, gloomy hotel, where one endless corridor follows another... (Robbe-Grillet,1961)
The experience of architectural environments is a subjective dialogue between the self and space. This dialogue isn’t approached as a mere interrogation of space in terms of its euclidian geometry and spatial syntax, where spatial objectivity would be traced from the bird’s eye perspective of objective oversight. In the context of this research, this dialogue between the self and space is approached as a subjective interrogation of space, where space is seen as a projection of the subject, in which personal memory and point-of-view defines the persistence of space on the human mind. The methods and phenomena engaged with, and the representations derived from this dialogue are the subject of the research that follows. This dialogue is engaged through the sensory interface between the subject and space. Through the perceptual act, and the positioning of the subjective body within space. In order to gain a better understanding of the structure of this research, its title will be decomposed into its building blocks in order to clearify their role and significance: “Reconstructing Embodied Spaces: tracing architectural environments through perception, persistence and memory”. EMBODIMENT: this notion orients the research of the subjective space-self dialogue to an embodied spatial cognition in which sensory phenomena are key in the understanding of the subjective situatedness. Embodiment argues that all aspects of spatial cognition are shaped by bodily aspects, such as the perceptual system. The relationship subjects have with their architectural environments is not a mere objective lecture, but a bodily and sensory experience. (Borghi, 2010) Embodiment is introduced due to its focus on the subjectivity or personal embodiment of spatial experiences. RECONSTRUCTING EMBODIED SPACES: As architectural environments are embodied, the mind translates these sensory experiences into mental models. They condense into mental representations that, in the context of this research, will be introduced as poetic images. A close reading of the poetic image as a condensation of embodied spaces is introduced due to its focus on the representations and reconstructions of spatial experiences as a result of the space-self dialogue. PERCEPTION, PERSISTENCE AND MEMORY: The embodiment of sensory experiences, and their mental representations in poetic images find their source in the processing of the perception, persistence and memory of architectural environments. As a combination of pure peripheral and sensory phenomena with mental interpretations, they are the generative forces behind the formation of poetic images through spatial embodiment. This introduces the embodiment of spatial experiences as a subjective spaceself dialogue, the generation of poetic images as a result of these experiences, and the perception, persistence and memory as generative phenomena in this
dialogue. This discourse is translated and structurized as follows: INTRODUCTION: The phenomena of perception, persistence and memory will be evaluated as building blocks for the embodiment of spatial experiences, and the generation of poetic images. METHODOLOGY: The building blocks of perception, persistence and memory are translated into a generative toolset for the construction of poetic images as a result of spatial embodiment. CASE STUDY: The generative toolset is deployed in a case study, where a dialogue is engaged with an architectural environment, in the form of the reconstruction of a cultural artefact. DISCUSSION: The deployed reconstruction will be evaluated against the study on the embodiment of spatial experiences, as well as the theoretical foundation for the generation of poetic images. CONCLUSION: The case study as a focus on a specific cultural artefact is seen in the broader context of everyday life’s subjective dialogues with architectural environments. Architecture, here, will thus act as a vehicle of memory and perception, and a tool in the construction of persistent poetic images. By reconstructing subjectively embodied spaces, this research shifts the focus of architecture from a designed objectivity to an experienced subjectivity.
Poetic images of architectural environments Mental imagery Mental imagery is a crucial vehicle in the perception, persistence and memory of architectural environments. It allows us to grasp the many faces and the multiplicity of architectural environments, since it generates a continuum of experience in time and space. “The most existentially and experientially rooted architectural experiences impact our minds through images which are condensations of distinct architectural essences. Lasting architectural experiences consist of lived and embodied images which have become an inseparable part of our lives”. (Pallasmaa, 2011) These embodied images are the foundation of artistic expression of architectural environments. Architectural experiences condense in the representations of the mental imagery, in which the complex multiplicity of space is summarized into an apprehensible model. Metaphorically, this can be clarified through the reference to archeologist, who combine the shards of a lost and found antique amphora into the objective geometric model. But as shards are missing, he has to interpolate over the missing parts in order to generate a wholeness in the reconstruction.
Shards as relicts of memory. Additions as interpolation for the reconstruction of a wholeness of image. It is this duality between factual experienced memory (the shard) and interpretative interpolation (the additions) that are combined in the mental imagery. Embodied are the subjective condensation of a sensory lived experience. Embodied images simultaneously evoke an imaginative reality and become part of our existential experience as well as our sense of selfhood. (Pallasmaa, 2011) As they are embodied, they are given a decisive role in our internal mental world. Or, in Rainer Maria Rilke’s notion; the ‘Weltinnenraum’. The Weltinnenraum is the familiar, intimate and personal representation of architectural environments with which one is capable to identify with. The simulated image Embodied images are, thus, not a mere representation of reality, but, since they are embodied, become the source for the creation of their own subjective reality. In this interplay between the objective real, and the subjective ‘Weltinnenraum’, Baudrillard offers a further treatise to interrogate the relationship among reality in ‘Simulacra and Simulation’. (Baudrillard, 1981) “...The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth- it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true”. (Poster, 1988, p. 166) Baudrillard claims that our experience of the architectural environments is always bound by simulation, represented in simulacra. They are not a mediation of reality, or a plain representation of reality, they simply hide that anything like reality is irrelevant to our current understanding of our lives (Baudrillard, 1981) He believes that simulacra saturate the human experience of architectural environments to the extents that all meaning becomes meaningless “by being infinitely mutable”. Simulacra can be a copy of reality, or a “reflection of a profound reality” (Baudrillard, 1981). Simulacra can be a perversion of reality, which “masks and denatures” reality. Simulacra can mask the absence of a profound reality, and can therefore be a representation without original. Simulacra can generate their own reality, unattached to any representational source. This study on the notion of the simulacra offers the insight that the image can precede the very reality it is supposed to represent, and that even “reality has become a pale reflection of the image” (Kearney, 1994) It is in this interplay between the objective real and the subjective imagery that the embodied, or poetic image plays its role. The conscious image The notion of ‘IMAGE’ has many faces: picture, visual depiction, photograph...
image, imagery, imagination, imaginal...mental image, affective image. This mixture of notions and meanings often render the definition of image and imagination vague. Our weak grasp of sensory and mental phenomena in general characterizes this blurring of definitions.(Pallasmaa, 2011) Traditionally, the image is acknowledged in its perceptual, mimetic and mnemonic roles, but less in its role in the creative exploration and artistic expression. Thus, the embodied image has its role to play in the interplay between sensory percepts and imaginative mental images. The mental image thus orients the subject within an environment. Imagination allows to fill the gaps in sensory percepts. Both the objective real and the subjective imaginary influence consciousness towards architectural environments. “The image and the percept are therefore not different objects of consciousness; they are different ways of being conscious of objects. The image is the relation of consciousness to the object; in other words, it means a certain manner in which the objects make its appearance to consciousness, or if one prefers, a certain manner in which consciousness presents an object to itself” (Sartre, 1948, p8) The neurological image “(Mental images) are not primarily abstract or alienated from lived experience; it articulates, compresses, distils, and amalgamates live experience” (Pallasmaa, 2011, p35) Or, to state things a bit more poetic: “Every definite image in the minds is steeped and dyed in the free water that flows around it. With it goes the sense of its relations, near and remote, the dying echo of whence it came to us, the dawning sense of whither it is to lead. The significance, the value of the image is all in this halo of penumbra that surrounds and escorts it”. (James, 1890, pp 16-17) The similarities between percepts and mental images are even enhanced further in neurological studies that show that they both take place in the very same areas of the brain. “The neurological activity in the area of the visual cortex related with images is similar to the activity of looking at real pictures” (Pallasmaa, 2011, p 37) Imagination, thus, creates a mental architectural environment that is neurologically processed as ‘real’. This sense of reality, or consciousness of architectural environments, is thus not just engaged with an objectively given, collectively shared world. It is an irrepressible imagination on the path of the unconscious, through the unpredictable ways of association. The poetic image Even though the image is commonly understood as an organizational visual
representation, in mental life it acts as a permanent mediation between the physical and the mental, the perceptual and the imaginary, the factual and the affected. Through embodiment of the image, is becomes part of our existential environment, and offers a sense of selfhood. It structures percepts, and mediates subjective narrative. (Pallasmaa, 2011) Embodied spaces condense in poetic images, the imaginative representation of spatial interpretation. “Poetic images are mental frames that direct our associations, emotions, … Due to its contradictory and often illogical ingredients, the poetic image escape rational, linear and exclusive reading and exploration. It entices our senses, imagination and emotions...It occupies our mind, conditions,...and gives rise to an imaginative reality” (Pallasmaa, 2011, p41) Poetic images as are artistic artefacts that embody experiences. With the notion of ‘projective identification’, Melanie Klein suggest that in the dialogue between observer and the poetic image, the observer projects its own subjectivity onto the poetic image, in order to identify with it. “We share our sense of life with our mental imagery”. (Modell, 2006, p12) Poetic images mediate the resonance of artistic discourse to the experience of the observer. Poetic images are, in this interest, polyphonic. They are multiple, superimposed lines of thought at once. This multitude confronts the subject with a scatterred and diffused input, onto which the subject projects personal narrative in order to identify with it. “An image must hold together, it brings together “determinate” elements, presentable elements, and these elements always are found caught up in certain organization and in certain order”. (Modell, 2006, p209) Poetic images incorporate both the real and the suggested, as well as the perceived and the imagined. It is material and mental at the same time. On the impact of poetic images on the mind of the observer, Colin St. John Wilson, Architect of the British Library, writes: “It is as if I am being manipulated by some subliminal code, not to be translated into words, which acts directly on the nervous system and imagination at the same time sturring imitations of meaning with vivid spatial experience as though they were one thing. It is my belief that the code acts so directly and vividly upon us because it is strangely familiar ....It is which is now recalled to us throuh art” (Wilson, 1989, pp 64-70) Poetic images are artistic entities or artifact that engage with subjective imagination in order to create a dialogue between subject and image, onto which the subject projects the self in order to gain consciousness of the architectural environments of the poetic image, thus allowing these architectural environments to be perceived and remembered through embodiment. “Experience of poetic images is about internalizing and identifying an
image. Through this experience, the image turns into an imaginative reality”. (Pallasmaa, 2011, p94) Embodying architectural environments The Embodiment of architectural environments thus occurs through the mediating faculty of the poetic image. Previous sections have defined the poetic image through a multitude of viewpoints. Mental imagery serves as a ‘Weltinnenraum’ to generate an image one can identify or even familiarize with. Simulates images make subjective representations. Poetic images engage consciousness of architectural environments, and are therefore in the mind of the beholder.But obtaining these poetic images requires sensory en mental processing of perceived input data. The mental interpretation of architecture experiences happens through a multitude of processes: perception, persistence and memory of architectural environments, whose working methods will be traced in order to gain a better understanding of the genesis of poetic images.
Perception of architectural environments Psycho-Geographic Topography “Not so many years ago, the word space had a strictly geometrical meaning: the idea it evoked was simply that of an empty area...generally accompanied by terms such as euclidean and infinite. The general feeling was that the concept of space was ultimately a mathematical one. To spread subjective space would have sounded strange”. (Lefebvre, 1974) The experience of architectural environments is bound by both the physical, geometrical and objective realm of architecture as well as the mental world of the observer. Our experience of reality is a result of our individual, subjective perceptions. Thus, spaces are not perceived as objective geometric realities, but as subjectively loaded entities. In the perceptual dialogue with the architectural environments, people are permanently confronted with an intertwining of narrative structures between space and the self. People are confronted with the spaces that surround them. The German term ‘Umwelt’ better defines the architectural environments as a combination of ‘Um’ (that what surrounds) and ‘Welt’ (world), therefor defining it as ‘that what surrounds the subject, that in which a subject has to find its place. In which the subject is ‘being-in-the-world’. Perception of architectural
environments is always a dialogue between subject and space. Through one’s attitudes, feelings, ideas, memories, personal values and choices towards architectural environments, one grows an experiential understanding, a place identity as a sort of self-identity consisting of a broadly conceived cognition about the physical world that surround the subject.
Fritz Kahn, ‘Maschine Mensch’ (1)
Robert Fudd ‘Bewusstsein’ (2)
Phenomenological Consciousness The permanent dialogue between space and subject relates to the positioning of the subject within space. How he experiences it, how he is aware of it, how he gains a sense of selfhood or place identity in it. In other words, how he is conscious of it. Thus, a brief exploration of phenomenological consciousness is required to gain a better understanding of how the space-subject dialogue resonates into spatial cognition. Phenomenology explores the way architectural environments are perceived and memorized, and their affect on our consciousness. It explores how architectural environments and their poetic images matter for our experience, cognition and the shaping of mental images as representations of the lived spaces. Consciousness itself, or the having of perceptions, thought and affects, is being refined by Descartes as a duality between an immaterial domain of thought (res cogitans) and a material domain of perception (res extensa). (Flanagan, 1984) Thus, consciousness rises in the interplay between sensory inputs and mental processing. (Lokhorst, 2011) This results in poetic images of subjective space, or the way spaces appear to the subject.
The embodiment of poetic images gives rise to a subjective space. The notion of this ‘subjective space’ should, in the context of this discourse, be read as a possibility for the conception of a certain ‘cartography of the subject’. This mapping of the subject allows for a better understanding of the exploration of how people ‘experience and imagine space and time’. (Lowenthal, 1961) According to Lowenthal (1961), this experience needs to be split up into an internal world of unconscious and personal manifestations, and an external world of common sense. The embodied spaces are irrationally influenced by personal distortions and enhanced with imagination. The externalized spaces pertain to the shared world view, a sort of common sense. “What people perceive always pertains to the shared ‘real’ world. Even the (unconscious) landscapes of dreams come from actual scenes recently viewed or recalled from memory, consciously or otherwise, however much they be distorted”.(Lowenthal,1961:249). He calls this distortion of perceived scenes ‘perceptual imagination’, thus combining the sensory input with the mental, cognitive processing. In this approach to subjective space, cognition seems to be a central term. Since it is through learning, imagination and memory that people form the mental spaces of environments. ”The places we live in, we visit and travel through, the places we read about and see in works of art, and the realms of imagination and fantasy each contribute to our images of nature and man”. (Lowenthal,1961:260) This previous outline allows for an understanding of the vague questioning of man concerning architectural environments as a duality between the shared rational, and conscious outer world and the irrational, unconscious inner world of perceptual imagination. The perceived environment is thus a psycho-analytic field in which phenomenal facts are arranged into patterns and structures that acquire values in cultural context. The perceived environment is thus valorized and learned. It is the site of inter-mediation between overt behavioral responses and the stimulus-providing world of phenomena. This duality in outer versus inner, behaviour versus phenomenon, conscious versus unconscious have been tackled by many philosophers. Sonnenfeld, for example, calls for the introduction of extra layers that make the distinction between: -The Geographical world: the geometrical, actual environment as presented to the subject. -The Operational world: the environment as encountered by the subject: reading environments
-The Perceptual world: the environment aware to the subject: perceiving environments -The Behavioural world: the environment eliciting behavior: responding to environments (Sonnenfeld,1972). Porteus on the other hand focuses on the contextual environment that patches the void between the individual and society: he distinguishes the contextual environment of cultural beliefs and expectations as counterpart to the phenomenal and personal environments: -Phenomenal environment: reign of physical environments -Personal environment: perceived images of the phenomenal environment -Contextual environment: cultural beliefs and expectations (Porteus, 1977) These different worlds of phenomenology and consciousness touch the very essence of the positioning of the self within space: the rise of spatial awareness, or consciousness. The role and importance of consciousness in the embodiment of poetic images has previously been described, but the discourse of Edmund Husserl offers an insight in the structure of Consciousness, which allows for an understanding of the impact of consciousness on the embodiment. (Husserl, 1907) Generally, consciousness isnâ€™t limited to the awareness of an external world towards the self, but engages an active positioning, and awareness of this positioning, of the self within space. Husserl describes the structures of consciousness in term of the various ways in which consciousness shapes the way various external phenomenons appear to the human mind. Husserl introduces two important aspects of consciousness: the noesis and the noema. The noesis introduces the intentionality of consciousness. Perception, Persistence and Memory of architectural environments anticipate the judgement of the sensory experience. Perception of the now, Imagination of the future and Reconstruction of the past supply the intentionality of consciousness with judgement. Consciousness has, thus, a temporal structure. The noema introduces the image of consciousness. The way the space is represented to the subject. Its appearance as it is presented or represented. Consciousness operates in a judgement state of expectation as well as an imaginative condensation of appearance and representation. Architectural Imaginary The consciousness of the subject concerning the positioning of the self in space is dependent on the anticipation of these environments through sensory
perception, memory reconstruction and persistent anticipation, as described above. Subjects gain cognition of the architectural environments through mental processing. In this dialogue, mental images have an important role to play. Mental images, or subjective representations of reality offer a framework to have an understand of the environments, as well as a projection of the subjective interpretation. Mental images are representations, that offer identification and affordance. (Gibson, 1977) Mental images are constructions of perceived realities. Understanding architectural environments is bound by “the deciphering of their dream-like expressive images” (Jameson, 1988) Architectural environments thus persist in mental images. These images are both a visual, perceptual construction as well as an architectural one. Places can therefor be understood in their ‘imaginability’, or the quality of a physical space that evokes an image in the eye of the observer. Architectural mental images, thus, aren’t statically defined as an optically unified vision, but evolve in representation, or ‘Architectural Imaginary’ (Bruno, 2009)
Michael Borremans, left: (3) right: (4)
‘Architectural Imaginary’ is a term for these representations of architectural environments in the mind of the observer. Architectural environments exist in the mental representations that can be imaged and imagined. But representing them becomes dialectic in the active relationship between environment and subject: the environment can be carved in photography, narrated in literature, portrayed in painting or sequenced in video. As such, it allows for the emergence of a process that makes urban space visible and perceivable. Representation, then, becomes source for permanent reevaluation of perception, generating endless changes and shifts in the image of the architectural environment, thus completing the two-way dialogue.
Cognitive Mapping Perception has been described as the engine that allows for the translation or processing of information between the individual and its surrounding. Perception is thus a vehicle in the cognitive structure that allows for the creating of mental maps of reality, by visualizing the environment through internal cognitive processes. Thus, mental or cognitive maps of the environment are formed. “Cognitive mapping is a process composed of a series of physiological transformations by which an individual acquires, codes, stores and recalls information of phenomena in his spatial environment”. (Downs&Stea,1973:9). Cognitive mapping is a method of representing spaces in mental spaces. It is important to note that this cognitive mapping can happen through multiple methods. According to Lacan (1949), a distinction is to be made between imaginary and symbolic spaces. The imaginary spaces focus on the realm of images, and hence of knowledge, on signs and codes. This is a more structuralist approach. Hence, the central assumption here is that human beings respond to their environment as it is perceived and interpreted through previous experience and knowledge. Since a perception or our architectural environment is decided by a personal cognition of the environment, it is subjectively skewed by personal preoccupations. Or, in other words: ‘Veram Partem Corporis’. Reality is a part of the self, represented as topographic restitutions of mental images. The awareness of a subject towards the spaces that surround him, which he gains through the sensory experiences of perception, have been the focus of this section. How subjects respond to this spatial awareness, and what they phenomenologically cause in the mind of the subject will be the focus in the section on the persistence of architectural environment.
Persistence of architectural environments Hieroglyphs of space In the dialogue between space and subject, mental images facilitate the positioning of the subject within space. In the ensemble of architectural environments, mental images allow to make an understandable representation that makes the vast totality understandable and apprehensible. Thus, reading the architectural environment depends on a human faculty to identify, through perception and recognition, correspondences between diverse visual stimuli and to interpret them. We create mental cognitive maps to orient ourselves through the architectural environment by generating mental
representations. One sees architectural environments only as one can. Perception is a central mental activity. The visual system, thus, does not make mere objective representations of the sensory information if receives from the eyes. The large datastream it received is evaluated mentally in favor of view consistency instead of mere objective reconstruction of the datastream. To verify between view consistency, ‘Change Blindness’ found in experiments of our visual system proves that the actual perceived is bent by the presumed. The mind stitches together the sensory stimuli based upon memory and anticipation. (Simons, 2000) Change blindness refers to the experiments conducted in order to trace the human ability to notice differences in the visual sensory datastream. In general terms, change blindness experiment stress the focus of the visual system on the coherence and wholeness of perception in contrast to the objective mere representational reproduction of the datastram. Sensory perception, thus, isn’t about generating a copy of the external physical reality. It is a reaction to stimuli, and a mental interpolation that creates links and coherence in the stream of stimuli.(Simons, 2000) Shifting and conflicting perceptions are combined into a unified representation. Perception interprets stimuli in correspondence with experiences from the personal,subjective past. Subjective projection The wholeness of perception through the visual system is thus created through mental activity, not peripheral reconstruction. Subjective experiences and inner projections are thus not limited to the sensory percepts and its processing, but are bound by previous experiences, and thus by the subjective anticipation of these percepts. Space, thus, is a projection of the subject. “And thus a harbinger and repository of all neuroses and phobias of that subject”. (Vidler, 2000). Agoraphobia, claustrophobia, oicophobia, monophobia and antropophobia are all psychological fears decided by the positioning of the subjective self in space. This positioning is condensed in many social structures that can be visualized in poetic images, or social structures in the architectural environment. Kracauer uses the mental space of the hotel lobby. A space that acts as the setting for narrative structures. A permanent in-transit space. A place where people are just passing-by, permanently in-transit. A human condition that is being described further in Rem Koolhaas’ ‘Generic City’ as a contemporary in-transit state-of mind in the contemporary metropolis.
Architectural environments are waiting to be given meaning by purposeful narratives and activities, a site of surveillance with an anonymous population, that thus generates alienation and a loss of self. (Kracauer, 1979)
Edward Hopper, left: “Hotel Lobby” (5) right “Hotel Room” (6)
Benjamin uses the mental space of the Arcades. Public spaces that are in-transit zones where dwellers move through, and are swamped by a flood of visual and social stimuli. The Arcades are perceived in a ‘state of distraction’, as a result of introvert thought, habit and use. We see Architecture, but don’t look at it...it passes us by. It is thus by habit and use that one determines the optical reception of architecture. The architectural appropriation in metropolis thus happens through use and perception. (Benjamin, 1979)Thus, “...an understanding of (architectural environments) depends on the ability to descipher the dream-like images it generates, its contradictions, contrasts, juxtapositions,...”(Kracauer,1987) Tschumi uses the mental space of Cinema, or the experience of space as a filmic sequence composed of ‘Events’. “In a merging of time and space, the camera introduces us to unconscious optics as does psycho-analysis to unconscious impulses”. So basically, the experiences gained and mental spaces conceived of the Architectural environment can be seen as a sum of space (which allows for filmic movement) and place (which demands a pause).
Bernard Tschumi, “Screenplays” (7)
This sum is the source for psycho-affective aspects as described by psychoanalysts, thus generating the mental spaces of representation. “...in our representations of reality, a relationship is to be established between space, movements and events...in order to gain the complete experience the succession of one frame after another is necessary” (Tschumi, 1994) All these settings find their way into mental representation through the subjectivity of the observer. In the mind of the subject, the mental representation of architectural environments if permanently skewed and distorted. And the way these mental representations are related to the subject, it is important to trace how they are appropriated, how they are made ‘part of the self’. How the subject identifies with space. This section has described how spatial awareness evokes mental responses, and bends the representations the subject generates of this architectural environment. But these responses are embedded both in space and time. Thus, the previous subjective experiences are the feeding ground for these responses. Memory of architectural environments is the feeding ground for the positioning of the self in space. This spatial memory is the content of the section that follows.
Memory of architectural environments Tracing Cognition The mind gathers information about architectural environments, which is processed to orient and navigate through it, and thus to understand it. In order to do so, the mind generates a cognitive map of the environment as a spatial memory device.(Magnussen,2009) Spatial memory is a cognitive process that enables someone to remember different places and remember spatial relationships between objects, of which the implementations will be evaluated in ‘Method of Loci’. In spatial memory, a distinction is to be made between a so called ‘episodic buffer’ and a ‘visuo-spatial sketchpad’ (Magnussen, 2009) The episodic buffer stores a memory as a story or movie sequence. It is often a linear structure with chronological order. It only survives in the short term memory, and experiences a rapid decay in its capacity to be recalled. “The content of memory is function of the rate of forgetting” (Virilio,1994,p.52) But the linear structure does not consistently represent a large number of visual details to verify between consistency. The actual memorized is bent by the presumed. The episodic memory, thus, experiences a sort of change blindness in
order to create a linear structure. The visuo-spatial sketchpad has a visual cache, in which object properties such as color and shape are stored, and a spatial cache, in which movement sequences of the objects are described. So basically, it describes the when and where of perceived objects. As an addition to the episodic buffer, it operates in the short term memory to specify the perceived objects in the episodic sequence. (Magnussen, 2009) Together they function to generate a long term cognitive spatial map, in which a general layout is supplemented by cue target locations, which function as landmark orientation. In these mental maps of objects, clusters are formed in hierarchic relationships, with landmarks for orientation. This layout is a set of spatial relationships, more than an episodic sequence. Landmarks and hierarchy are distilled from the what and where from the visuospatial information. The mind, thus coordinates and combines by binding, shifting, selecting.... information from the short term memory into long term cognitive maps that acquire,code,store,recall and decode information about relative locations, attributes of phenomena in everyday life, and architectural environments. Cognitive maps are a method we use to construct and accumulate spatial knowledge, allowing the mindâ€™s eye to visualize images in order to reduce cognitive load, enhance recall and enhance the learning of information. Condensations of representations of architectural environments as mental maps are a central notion in future sections on the role of the poetic image for the reconstruction of architectural environments. Cognitive Enhancement With the knowledge of the working methods of spatial memory, it is possible to trace the influences of visual sensory stimuli on the spatial interpretation. Visual perception is enhanced by memory that introduces recognition as a tool for impressions or judgement. There seems to be a duality between what we take in sensory, and what our mind mentally projects as an image of the world onto the images that are taken in. What we see is shaped by what we know, and what we know is shaped by what we see. â€œMemory images serve to identify,interpret and supplement perception. No neat borderline separates a purely perceptual image from one complemented by memory or one not directly perceived at all, but supplied entirely from memory residuesâ€?. (Arnheim, 1972)
METHODOLOGY The introduction has traced the positioning of the subjective self within space, as a result of the perception, persistence and memory of architectural environments. It is stated that the space-self dialogue results in poetic images that cover the wholeness of subjective interpretations of spatial impressions. But in order to engage a dialogue between the spatial experiences and their subjective impressions through poetic images, it is important to develop a toolset or methodology that allows to translate this dialogue into artistic expression. A development of a methodology that will allow for a reconstruction of subjective poetic images will find its roots in the introduced theory, and make a connection between the theoretical discourse and the projection of this discourse onto a specific case study of a poetic image. All developed methods will, thus, find their origin in the introduced discourse on perception, persistence and memory of architectural environments, and act as a tangible application or toolset for the reconstruction of poetic images. This developped toolbox will find its roots in the introduced theoretical discourse. Therefore, the toolset are embedded in their corresponding focus core (i.e. perception, persistence and memory) and are thus listed in that corresponding order. After having traced methods for the construction of poetic images, these methods will be deployed in the results section, where a case study of a cinematic poetic image will be evaluated against the previous theoretical discourse.
Perception of Architectural Environments Embodied imagination The condensation of imaginative representations of poetic images requires some sort of format of method. In order to interpret, orient or represent architectural environments, the human mind generates mental images. These architectural mental images aren’t statically defined as an optically unified vision, but evolve in representation, or ‘Architectural Imaginary’ (Bruno, 2009) ‘Architectural Imaginary’ is a term for these representations of architectural environments in the mind of the observer. Architectural environments exist in the mental representations that can be imaged and imagined. But representing
them becomes dialectic in the active relationship between environment and subject: the environment can be carved in photography, narrated in literature, portrayed in painting or sequenced in video, and as such, it allows for the emergence of a process that makes urban space visible and perceivable. Representation, then, becomes source for permanent re-evaluation of perception, generating endless changes and shifts in the image of the architectural environment, thus completing the two-way dialogue. One of the most intriguing examples of the use of the architectural imaginary for the positioning of the subjective self toward space can be found in the work of Michael Borremans. Through tactile painting, he questions this relationship in which Architecture acts as a tool for expression. The architectural imaginary contains all kinds of potentialities and projections, which are creative forms of imagination in the perception of architectural environments.
Michael Borremans, (8)
For Walter Benjamin (2002), they are also the â€˜product of cultural experienceâ€™, thus referring to the streets as a dwelling place place for the collective, where experiences, learning, understandings and inventions condense into mental representations. They are the product of social space, they map the vortexes of urban experiences and forces of public agency. Architectural environments are thus not only the product of their maker, but also of their user. (Benjamin, 2002) This focus on subjective experience in urban lectures is translated clearly in
the projects of the French situationalist Guy Debord, who uses several notions such as the ‘derive’ to rediscover the city as a set of personal and subjective references and identifications.
Guy Debord, “The naked city” (9)
Whereas Benjamin’s ‘Flâneur’ is all about social constructions, Georg Simmel’s urban dweller is a subject partaking in a novel, confronted with intense sensory and cognitive stimulation. “The psychological foundation, upon which the metropolitan individuality is erected, is the intensification of emotional life due to the swift and continuous shift of external and internal stimuli... the difference between present impressions and those which have preceded... the rapid telescoping of changing images, pronounced differences within what is grasped at a single glance, and the unexpectedness of violent stimuli... The architectural environment creates these psychological conditions -with every crossing of the street, with the tempo and multiplicity of economic, occupational, and social life- it creates... the sensory foundation for mental life”. (Simmel, 1903, p.324) In the architectural environment, we feel the rhythm of perceptual and mental processes and are immersed in the sensory ambiance of representational flow.
These narrative structures found in Simmel’s ‘Novel dweller’ are redefined by Bernard Tschumi in his ‘Event-Cities’. Tschumi, obviously influenced by cinematic theory concepts, envisions the architectural experience as an accumulation of sensations brought about through movement within an architectural environment. (Tschumi, 1994) Architectural settings become dynamic subjective flows of spatial events, thereby breaking with the traditional interpretation of euclidian sites with architectural objects. These flows of spatial events call for a fusion of space and time in our understanding of a place. Architectural experience is thus becoming a cinematic sequence. All these concepts help understand the psycho-geographical topographic meaning of architectural environments and their mental representations. Even though architectural environments can be deciphered in euclidean terms, the personal meaning of interpretation and the specific effects of architectural environments on the emotions and behavior of individuals is hard to represent without the architectural imaginary, a mental map, dependent of mnemonic traces and energized by subjective experiences. The Architectural Imagery is a primary vehicle in the reconstruction of poetic images, since it uses the architectural toolset to concretize and accentuate its visual appearance. What this means for the reconstruction of poetic images will become clear in Case Study Projects #2 & #3 of this this research.
Persistent Architectural Environments Space as a projection of the subject Optical perception as a peripheral (i.e. sensory) phenomenon relies on the direct contact with the visual stimuli: ‘we see what is out there’, but is valorized by cognition and assimilation and thus learned from previous experiences: we see what we process. Before tracing the methods that orient and anticipate perception in sections to come, it is important to trace the optical and peripheral foundation of visual perception in the realm of the optical, sensory processing of information. In 400 B.C., Extramission was the dominant theory. Extramission relied on the conviction of light rays leaving the eye, thus being reflected by objects, and returning to the retina, onto which perception occurs. This idea of the eye functioning as a projector was questioned by Arab physicist Ibn al-Hamthay in 1021 in his influential ‘Book of Optics’. He inverses the conviction of extramission to intromission, or light rays being emitted by objects themselves, and intercepted by the retina. The eyes thus became a sensor, not a projector.
It is only since Ibn al-Haytham that the light reflection theory with the sun as light source got onto the foreground. His research projects using a pinhole into the wall of a dark environment, he would notice that reality would be represented inside the darkness. Due to perspectival principles, the represented images were upside down. al-Haytham figured out that as the pinholes became smaller, representations became sharper, but once they became too small, the images became blurry due to optical refraction, thus actually pioneering the entire development of registration/projection devices in painting, photography and cinema. The metaphorical reference of the similarities in inherent properties between perception and projection offer a valuable insight in the approach of cinematic spaces. The case study that follows in the results section will cover a reconstruction of a cinematic poetic image. Cinema, or the art of the projected image, represents reality. From a technical point of view, this projected image refers back to the perceived reality which it tends to represent. Emission of the image, or ‘Extramission’ of the image, and intromission of perception. In thay way, the metaphorical dialogue between projected reality and perceived reality in the light of al-Haytham’s study on optics triggers the use of the projected image in the reconstruction of the poetic image of the cinematic piece. What this duality between the projected image, and its perceived reality means for the factual reconstruction will become clear in project four of the case studies of this research. After the description of optics as a phenomenon of light reflection, and René Descartes’ ‘Dioptrique’, in which he anatomically analyses the retina functioning of an eye, the contemporary conviction is to see perception as a central (mental) phenomenon, in contrast with the peripheral (sensory) phenomenon it was long thought to be. There seems to be a duality between what we take in sensory, and what our mind mentally projects as an image of the world onto the images that are taken in. What we see is shaped by what we know, and what we know is shaped by what we see.
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave
Ibn al-Haytham’s Camera Obscura
What is reality? What is illusion? What is representation? What is projection?
Pinhole camera as a research device on the functioning of optics and perception
Giovanni Fontana’s Magic Lantern (1420 A.D.)
Magic Lanters are the very first illusiunary projectors used in theatres to create the illusion of magical appearance, often ghostly, named Phantasmagoria’s.
Emile Reymbaud’s Theatre Optique, Visualization: Mathias Dekock
Persistence of Vision ‘Persistence of Vision’ is the phenomenon in which an afterimage is thought to persist for about 1/25th of a second on the Retina. Afterimages play an important role in our visual perception, since they keep our vision form turning black every time we blink our eyes. These afterimages, or a superimposition of frames that pile up on the Retina, are combined in what is known as ‘Flicker Fusion’. (Ludy, 2000) This interpretation of the persistence of vision gave rise to the development of early cinema devices, by using superimposed images in sequences, that would optically merge into apparent and continuous movement.
The Zoetrope, Praxinoscope, Phenakistoscope, Zoopraxinoscope, Electrotachyscope and the Thaumatrope are all examples of 19th century inventions that rely on this phenomenon to develop early cinema devices with astonishing machinery. Afterimages piling up on the retina and forming motion is a peripheral approach to perception. It places perception in the realm of peripheral phenomena. But as stated before, perception is a mental and cognitive process, in which visual stimuli are evaluated and linked with assumptions and memory. A viewer isn’t a passive observer, but an active meaning seeking being. Perception is a central phenomenon, or a mental activity. It happens in the mind of the observer. Not on his retina. Psychologists explain the perception of motion, or as such the flow of stimuli to the observer, as a combination of different visual stimuli, such as changes, combined with expectations and anticipations.(Gibson, 1977) It is thus not a question of total frame superimposition, or retinal persistence of vision. Even though afterimages play an important role in the perception of apparent movement, they aren’t a very accurate method for the human perception of motion. The myth of the miracle of motion picture is found to be inadequate due to its belief in a ‘passive’ viewer. Afterimages piling up on the retina and forming motion is a peripheral approach to perception. It places perception in the realm of peripheral phenomena.
Eadweard Muybridge, “Locomotion 462” (10)
But as stated before, perception is a cognitive process, in which visual stimuli are evaluated and linked with assumptions and memory. A viewer isn’t a passive observer, but an active meaning seeking being. It is a matter of seeing differences and directions, a central phenomenon in
which the mind completes, or fills in the perception gaps. Different stimuli are perceived at different locations at different times. The mind fills the gap actively. Thus, visual perception calls for an enlightened understanding of how active viewers engage with the architectural environment that surrounds them. Human beings are meaning seeking creatures: we sample the world and see what does and does not change. We focus and see the broader picture and we seek information about what interests us. We seek greater clarity of vision and understanding of our architectural environment. Afterimages, or the persistence of vision as an subjective phenomenon is the founding principle for the reconstruction of the poetic image that will be researched as a case study in this research. As a mere optical phenomenon, it is the generative tool behind Case Study Projects #1 and #2 of this Research.
Memory of Architectural Environments Method of Loci Remembering isn’t a re-excitation of fixed, lifeless and fragmentary traces. It is an imaginative reconstruction or construction, built of the relationship of our attitude towards a whole active mass of organized past reactions of experience. (Bartlett, 1955) These mental constructs, or mental spaces, are phenomenologically entangled in past, present and future. Memory is the ability to recall things (past), embrace things (present) and contemplate things through anticipation of things to come(future). Thus, the mimetic faculty of the human mind relies on the perceived architectural spaces, and the persistence of cinematic sequences confronted with the self. This is the human ability to identify correspondences and analogies between diverse impressions and to interpret them. This mimetic faculty, or the continuation of the past in the present, has been widely elaborated in Frances Yates’ Art of Memory (1966), in which she describes the tradition of the creation of memory palaces, that allow for the positioning of events in the filmic sequences of spaces. When ancient rhetoricians had to give elaborate speeches, they created mental architectural environment, which they used to structurize all that has to be remembered. These architectural environments consist of a cinematic sequence of discrete rooms filled with specific objects in a place in the room. It is by following the sequence, of doing the ‘promenade architectural’, that the storyboard is unravelled, with storylines found in the objects that are structurized
in the rooms”.When we return to a place after a considerable absence, we not merely recognize the space itself, but we remember things we did there”. (Bruno, 2002, p. 221)) As mnemonic devices, they rely on memorized spatial relationships to establish, order and recollect memorial content (Yates,1966) As imaging techniques, they use visualization to organize and recall information. This method of devices and techniques is known as the ‘method of loci’. The subject memorizes the layout of a sequence of spaces, some sort of building, which is composed of discrete loci. In order to recall a sequence of information, the subject literally makes a mental walk through these loci, and reads the different images or discrete information elements he has attached to different spots within these loci. Retrieving of these images is achieved by walking through the loci. Thus, the method of loci is based on a series of LOCI (places) and IMAGINES (events). Loci are the places grasped by memory, for mnemonic purposes usually deserted solitary places, and many different unalike loci, constructed of the right size: when too big, the narrator will lose oversight, when too small, the narrator will lack oversight. Imagines are the forms, marks or simulacra of which we wish to remember. They are placed within a specific location in Loci, in order to obtain memory. The plot of sequences of loci is then filled with imagines. LOCI = Frames = Places. IMAGINES = Events = Images. For a better understanding of of the actual representations of memory palaces, a closer look at some examples is necessary: the memory theatres of Giulio Camillo, Giordano Bruno and Robert Fludd.
Giulio Camillo, “Memory Theatre” (11)
Camillo’s memory theatre is a distortion of the plan of a traditional Victorian theatre, composed of 7 gangways,or imaginary gates, from higher wisdom to the mere human wisdom (remember, it’s constructed during the renaissance). The function of the theatre is inverted, since the spectator here stands where one should expect a stage, thus allowing for an overview of ‘the entire knowledge’.
Giordano Bruno, “Memory Wheel”, reconstructed by Frances Yates (12)
Giordano Bruno’s memory wheel, in which the central position of the perceiver allows for rings of orientation in order to gain mnemonic recall. It is composed of different seals: the field, or earthly ample folds of which are to be worked upon by the method of loci (objects=imagines), the heaven, or the order and series of images that may be engraved (sequence=loci), and finally the chain, or the association or analogy of ideas.
Robert Fludd, “Memory Theatre” (13)
Robert Fludd’s memory theatre is a place in which all actions of words, sentences, of particularities of a speech or of subjects are shown, as in public theatre in which comedies and tragedies are acted, and therefore a memory place system. All of these techniques are mental models to make cognitive mappings of memory, on a conscious level. They ask for the construction of mental spaces that deliver the ability to pass through a series of rooms, with IMAGINES in specific LOCI in a scenographic sequence, where architecture acts as a topos for events, or a frame for memory. But these mnemonic techniques can provide an insight for another issue of spatial memory and the conception of mental spaces: tracing and mapping memory of spatial environments. These techniques question how they can be used for the interrogation of spaces as the primary vehicle for tracing memories, and to recover them into spatial representations. The method loci has a very strong architectural approach to spatial experience and memory. It uses architecture as the primary tool for memory. Therefore, it serves as an important tool in the reconstruction of poetic images. The method of Loci as a vehicle in the reconstructive toolset is deployed in the case study in the case studies section. The reconstruction of a memory palace will happen in project 3 of the case studies of this research. In fact, the entire poetic image of the case study is a memory palace, which is open for subjective appropriation.
Screen memories Psychological spatial pathologies accentuate the highly subjective relationship between the subject and space. Reconstructing or tracing the architectural environments that are embodied, as this research attempts to, can be done consciously, on the geometric spaces and its sequences and events. But it also has the capability to trace repressed memories, and to recall them into spatial representations or mental spaces. Thus allowing for a complex reproduction of the ‘repressed memory syndrome’. “Our childhood memories show us our early years not as they were but as they appeared at the later periods when the memories were revived”. (Freud, 1899) Perhaps one of the most intriguing implementations of the method of loci for tracing repressed memories can be found in Mike Kelley’s Educational complex, in which the artist traces his memories of the educational environment he grew up in. Architecture here is the vehicle for the tracing of memory. When he traces fragments of his memory, he tries to create spaces with them. Thus generating the loci for the memorized events. In a way, he thus attempts to escape the dominance of time by a retrieval of spaces. This is basically the inverted method of Freud’s Screen Memories, in which memory acts as a function of time and in which the recognition of temporality is a narrative that gives sense to life. Kelley inverts this by escaping the dominance of time through a retrieval of space. Where Freud is concerned with the evolution of memories of events in time, Kelley focuses on the conception of containers and environments for these events. Screen memories are a compromise between repressed elements and the defense mechanisms against them. We mentally refer to something familiar, in order to give the unfamiliar, or unrecognizable, a place in our memory. This phenomenon is known as ‘displacement’ (Freud, 1899). Screen memories are thus substitutes that offer a re-framing of spatial memory, in order to compensate for the blocked. Thus, Kelley’s exploration touches the dualities between the hidden and the revealed, the homely and the unhomely, the familiar and the unfamiliar. What has been forgotten was perhaps more than simply unregistered, but rather represents a transformation of something once heimlich and now rendered, by repression disquietingly familiar, or merely Unheimlich. Here, architecture introduces us to unconscious memory, as does psycho-analysis to unconscious impulses, through a precise model of memory.
Mike Kelley, “Educational complex onwards: 1995-2008” (14)
Mike Kelley, “Educational complex onwards: 1995-2008” (14)
These mental spaces will thus become spaces of introjection, mirroring the space of projection characterized of our first experiences of our architectural environment, and will thus become an imaginary exploration of space itself, Since the tracing of our repressed memories will generate shards of spaces and events. Much like archeologists trace shards of cultures long gone, and through reconstruction of a representation can be conceived. In the conception of representational mental spaces of repressed memory, our mind will have to interpolate over these shards, in the tradition of the heritage, to generate representations. Mediatized memory A perceptual act is thus never isolated, it is a mapping of perceptual input onto existing knowledge structures that guide and constrain perceptual selection. Remembering is thus not a re-excitation of solid, lifeless and fragmentary traces. It is an imaginative reconstruction, built of the relation of previous perceptive impulses, stored as a cognitive map in the subjective mind. Memory as a central activity relies on cognitive maps as a source for the mental processing. But with the rise of visual technology such as photography and video, and storage devices such as prints, spools and hard discs, as well as online media representations, the storage medium for â€˜feeding memoryâ€™ is more and more externalized. They outsource human memory, and mediate it, thus creating a powerful external way of influencing internal (often episodic) memories. This mediatized memory outside the human mind asks for an understanding of the representational competences required for a dynamic use of these external memories. Research on the use of the diffused network of the internet by digital natives shows their mental switch in the mental processing of the visual data provided by the internet. Their external memories, in personal photostreams, weblogs and videodatabases, all have intrinsic properties that are embodied for a collaboration with the internal memory. In terms of representational competence, digital natives are found to be highly capable of reading flat images as (representations of) three-dimensional spaces, and to incorporate multi-dimensional visual-spatial skills that offer the possibility to create mental maps. In short, all externalized memory finds its way in the mental processing in order to become incorporated. But the intrinsic properties often have conflicting issues with the very nature of memory. Photographs are stills in high detail, much like Flashbulb Memories are. Snapshots, frozen in time and space. Video is a linear structure, with a
beginning and an end. Memory, in contrast, is a cognitive structure, that knows no strict top-down hierarchic logic, as described previously. But as external memory, all these media influence the way memory is mentally represented, and have the capability to condense the memory spaces into singular entities, as will be described in future sections on the â€˜poetic imageâ€™. Perception as a central phenomenon, sometimes enhances by externalized mediation, thus incorporates the past, the present, and the future by its embedding in the working methods of visual and spatial memory. In our perception and cognition of mental maps of architectural environments, mnemonic narratives condense in space, and their material residue seep into the imaginative construction of places and spaces. The density of perceptive mnemonic interaction build up the architectural imaginary of architectural environments. This mental map is reminiscent of mnemonic traces and energized by subjective experiences, an inner projection that shifts as it is affected. The use of mediatized and screen memories are influential and guiding in the conception of Case Study Project #4 of the case studies of this research, where a reconstruction of the projected poetic images is traced through the implementation of screen memories as a generative metaphor.
CASE STUDY RECONTRUCTING MARIENBAD Cinema as embodied poetic image All cultural artefacts engage poetic images. Whether it is in sculpture, music, literature, painting, cinema... they all engage the perceived and memorized to embody the experience through subjective embodiment. In painting, for instance, the architectural imagery in poetic image has the capability to structure human relations, engage a mental state of mind, act as framework for narrative and by doing so, to touch upon the very soul of architecture. The constructions and representations of cinematic architectural environments engage the mental ground of architecture.
Georges Perec, “La vie mode d’emploi” (15)
Saul Steinberg, untitled (16)
In sculpture, the architectural imagery in poetic images can frame view, perspective and approaches of the architectural environment. They can strengthen our existential sense and sensitize the boundaries between the subjective self and its environment. Through the embodiment of poetic images, imagination is emancipated in order to create the wholeness of the embodied experience. Imagination, in this regard, is not just the mere image forming faculty of the mind, as previously defined. Gaston Bachelard describes ‘imagination’ more as a deformation of the perceived and memorized. That what alters and changes perception and memory. That what frees the embodiment of poetic images from its objective feeding ground. (Bachelard, 1988) So poetic images become an artistic condensation of numerous experiences, percepts and ideas. On this regard, Rainer Maria Rilke states: “For (poetic images) are not, as people imagine, simply feelings...they are experiences. For the sake of a single verse, one must see many cities,men and things. One must know the animals, one must feel how the birds fly and know the gesture with which the little flowers open up in the morning...and still it is not enough to have memories. One must be able to forget them when they are many and one must have the great patience to wait until they come again. For it is not yet the memories themselves. Not till they have turned to blood within us, to glance and gesture, nameless and no longer to be distinguished from ourselves – not till then can it happen that in a most rare hour the first word of a verse arises in their midst and goes forth from them”. Poetic images introduce the subject to an environment of association and affect. They define the subject’s existential sense and question the boundaries between
space and the self. In cinema, the architectural imagery has a very close relationship with the architectural discourse as such. Both cinema and architecture articulate lived space. They create and mediate images of the subjective selfhood. They both express the human existential experience, or ‘lived space’. Cinema touches the mental ground of Architecture. Therefor, this research on the embodiment of perceived, remembered and imagined poetic images will focus on cinema as the feeding ground for poetic images. The relationship between cinema and architecture can be traces in terms of the representation of architectural environment, the suspension of cinematic architecture between reality and dream, and the representation of threedimensional spaces onto a two-dimensional image. But is can also be traced in term of a montage of separate experiential fragments that produce an impression of continuous environments that utilize the properties and deficiencies of the human perceptual mechanisms. The interaction of cinema and architecture ha many faces. Cinematic expression has inherent architectural properties. Architectural experiences have cinematic essences. Cinema exists, like architecture, in both time and movement. The subject conceives and read an architectural environment in terms of sequences “To erect a building is to predict and seek effects of contrast and linkage through which one passes...In the continuous shot/sequence that a building is, the architect works with units and edits, framings and openings...I like to work with a depth of field, reading space in terms of thickness, hence the superimposition of different screens, planes legible from obligatory joint of passage which are to be found in all buildings” (Tauttenbury, 1994, p33)
Diller & Scofidio, “Slow House” (17)
Cinema, thus, generates mental spaces that reflect the ephemeral architecture of the mind. These mental spaces structure our ‘being-in-the-world’ , or the dialogue between subject and space. Through architectural environments, the experience of outsideness or estrangement is transformed into a feeling of domicile one can identify with. This consciousness of architectural environments occurs through embodiment of the framing of human existence found in poetic images. These internal projections of poetic images can be seen as ‘lived spaces’. Lived spaces go beyond euclidian rules of geometry. They structure meaningless space by inserting existential, subjective meaning. Lived spaces resemble the structures of dream and unconscious, and are organized independently of the definitions of physical time and space. Lived space combine external spaces with mental environments. Lives spaces incorporate fears,dream,values,meaning that are projected onto the experienced percepts. Lived spaces intertwine the material and the mental world,the remembered and the experienced and the imagined, the past and the present and the future. The modes of experiencing cinema and architecture become identical in these lived spaces. Mental images are transferred from the experiential realm of the architect/director to the mental world of the observer, in which the building/film is a mere mediating object. Cinema and architecture frame life and narrative of subjectivity, thus generating a horizon for the understand of selfhood. Walter Benjamin traces even more elaborate connections between cinema and architecture. He suggests that they are both fundamentally tactile arts. Their embodiment happens primarily through the tactile realm, in opposition with, for instance, painting. “Even though the situation of viewing a film turns the viewer into a bodyless observer, the illusory cinematic space gives the viewer back his/her body, as the experiential haptic and motor space provides powerful kinesthetic experiences. A film is viewed with the muscles and skin as much as by the eye”. (Pallasmaa, 2007, p18) Architecture and cinema suggest a kinaesthetic approach to the experience of space. The embodiment of poetic images happens, thus, through haptic image as well as retinal pictures. Cinema creates architecture by triggering the observer to construct mental spaces as a framework for the cinematic narrative, much like the ancient orators did when using the previously described method of loci. Directors generate places for events, Loci for Imagine. The loci are the architectural environments that define the mental setup for narrative. The imagines are nor mere pictorial images, but experiences of embodied and lived space. Just like the the method of loci, this cinematic architectural method requires imagination to fill the gaps in the reconstruction of these mental spaces.
As previously described, both imagination and perception are equally true in terms of mental consciousness. Thus mental images and encountered images our equally true. Cinematic imagery reflects mental images. It obtains its psychological content through existential experiences within narrative. It is then enhanced by imagination to allow for identification and understanding. Thus, we encounter ourselves as well as our own being-in-theworld in an intensified manner. “Place and event, space and mind, are not outside of each other. Mutually defining each other, they fuse unavoidably into a singular experience; the mind is in the world, and the world exists through the mind. Experiencing a space is a dialogue, a kind of exchange – I place myself in the space and the space settles in me”. This dialogue between cinema and the subject is condensed in poetic images. Its impact on the identification of the subject, through embodiment, is made clear in Rainer Maria Rilke’s description of the fragmentary impressions of a childhood house: “Afterwards I never saw that remarkable house, which at my grandfather’s death passed into strange hands. A I recover it in recalling my child-wrought memories, it is no complete building; it is all broken up inside me; here a room, there a room, and here a piece of hallway that doe not connect these two rooms but is preserved, as a fragment, by itself. In this way it is all dispersed within me – the rooms, the stairways that descended with such ceremonious deliberation, and other narrow, spiral stairs in the obscurity of which one moved as blood does in the veins; the tower rooms, the high-hung balconies, the unexpected galleries onto which one was thrust out through a little door – all that is still in me and will never cease to be in me. It is a though the picture of this house had fallen into me from an infinite height and had shattered against my very ground”. (Rilke, 1992, pp 30-31) The cinematic narrative is intertwined with the subjective reality. Mental and objective reality are intertwined. “I can no longer think what I want to think, my thoughts have been replaced by moving images”. (Duhamel, 1968, p238) This result section has now described the phenomena engaged in the cinematic poetic image. In order to evaluate the cinematic poetic image against the discourse on the embodiment of poetic images through the implementation of the toolset of the perception, persistence and memory of architectural environments, this research will now focus on a specific case study, in which the developed toolset will be implemented for the reconstruction of a specific poetic image.
Marienbad as an embodied poetic image Subjective experiences of architectural environments through perception, persistence and memory have been the introduced discourse. An array of deployable methods have been evaluated as a spin-off of this discourse. Now this discourse will be evaluated through a focus on a specific case study. “Last year in Marienbad” condenses all the aspects touched in the introduction into a cinematic poetic image. It introduces the spectator to the subjectivity of reality by generating a construct of perspective, persistence and memory. It is an evocation of a dream-like construction in which imagination is called for in order to gain an active reconstruction of the subjective narrative inside the cinematic poetic image. Therefore, this cinematic construction is traced in the spotlight of all aspects previously introduced. With the insights this mapping and tracing will offer, it will become possible to generate a physical and visual reconstruction of the mental subjective environment generated in the cinematic poetic image. “Last year in Marienbad” is a French 1960’s cinematic masterpiece of both Alain Robbe-Grillet and Alain Resnais. Robbe-Grillet wrote the screenplay as a “cine-roman”, in which he accentuates the strict formal composition of the cinematic construction. Resnais directed the cinematic piece in the same formal way, which gives the atmosphere of the cinematography an ‘unheimiche’ or ‘unearthly’ atmosphere. This collaboration has led to the dream-like expression of a constructed memory, as it was intended to be. The plot basically follows the conviction troubles a man referred to as ‘X’ has convincing a woman reffered to as ‘A’ has, that they has met in the same baroque chateau last year. As they wander aimlessly through the vast baroque chateau, as they walk through endless corridors, the memory of a dream unfolds, but doesn’t become any brighter. It is a permanent questioning of the self, and the self within space. What is memory? What is dream? What is real of the spaces perceived? Architecture here acts as the primary vehicle X uses to convince A. Here, she was there and he was here. She said this out there. He in return walked there. Here and there. Situations embedded within space. As flashbulb memories covering the spatial memory. As the plot develops, actors act as actors. There is no natural feel to it, all is formally constructed. Voice-overs loop the same sayings over and over. The same corridors follow the same empty corridors. What is real and what is dreamed? What is memory and what is imagination?
CASE STUDY PROJECT # 1: Disembodied Narrative “Last year in Marienbad” is primarily a construct in the subjective mind of the observer. It questions the objectivity of reality. Enigmatic Narrative It has an enigmatic narrative structure, in which truth and fiction are difficult to distinguish. When confronted with the cinematic narrative, it is hard to generate a consistent logic of the information offered to the active spectator, who is invited to participate in the formation of the social and spatial structure of the narrative. The methods used to achieve this playful game, and to engage the spectator into an active mental participation, will be traced in sections to come. Its enigmatic structure for sure creates uncertainty in the mind of the spectator. It is enigmatic because of its open structure of the temporal and spatial relationships. Ambiguous flashbacks, flashforward, shifts of time and location, both space and time become disorienting. Conversations and spaces are repeated almost infinitely, sometimes modified by slight changes which contribute to the confusion. This concept of the enigmatic narrative is the subject of this case study project. The active observer is offered a number of threads that allow for identification and mental reflection, in its fragmentary and enigmatic narrative structure. One of the most intriguing enigmatic aspects is the confrontation between spoken narrative and experienced architectural environment. There seems to be an ambiguity between the narrative of the voice-over and the architectural environments envisioned. Disembodied Narrative Observers listen attentively to the ongoing narration of the eary voice-over, and try to assemble the shards of information. The puzzle unfolds, the observer tries to make sense of what is spoken. “...silent rooms, where ones footsteps are absorbed by carpets so thick, so heavy, that no sound reaches no ear, as if the very ear of him who walks again along these corridors, through these salons and galleries, in this edifice of a bygone era”. Simultaneously, the camera pans aimlessly and directionless through the excesses of heavily ornamented baroque interior rooms and hallways, though vast and empty interior spaces. Architecture and narrative on seperate tracks, but both equally important in the screenplay for active observation. The narrative conducts the observer through a past, engages a memory and asks for imagination to fill the gaps in the
construction. Though a calm, eery and emotionless voice, the narrator becomes a disembodied entity. One who is detached from a body, who becomes non-human. Just like the architectural environment is displayed as a construction. A mental architecture. A state of mind. A true poetic image a a condensation of a true and objective architectural environment. It seems as if the narrator, who has become non-human, thus also becomes objectified. “...no sound reaches no ear, as if ones ear were far away...” Who is this ‘one’? Who is the narrator? Who is the spectator? The wandering movement of the camera through the empty interiors enhances this question. It seems to be a non-human world, where subjects are objectified. Both narrator and architecture objectify both environment and subjects. Therefor, it goes back to the true essence of cinema: representing the architectural and subjective environment as objects to be experienced. It only reveals a fragment or facet of an object or subject that can be seen or experienced in reality. This disembodied architecture and narrator both question reality. What do we remember about specific events experienced? And how does a poetic image such as a cinematic construct become an index for memory? How can a cinematic construct become a ‘locus’ for the incorporation of the ‘method of loci’ as a tool in the embodiment of the poetic image confronted to the subject. Marienbad traces the elliptical conversations, shifting recollections and fictional narrative for an emergence of a subjective memory palace of relationships and events. Marienbad engages a postulate of memory and perspective, and thus becomes an enigmatic composition of perception, consciousness and memory. This lecture of Marienbad as an enigmatic and disembodied narrative structure is translated into a multimedia installation that focusses on the content of the introductory voice-over, which has previously been described. This narration is circular, repetitive and infinite. The voice dies out and returns. It is crisp and clear and noise at different instants. It is conjuring and confusing, thus questioning the position of the subject engaged with the cinematic construct. This project uses exactly these properties, by deconstructing the actual narrative into abstract components, which will only become clear and readable under the right conditions. The narrative is firstly decomposed into horizontal and vertical elements, thus creating an abstract graphic representation of these words. This abstract composition is mapped onto a large disc. Rotating this disc at a specific speed under the right lighting frequency will put the persistence of vision as a
phenomenon into work, so that the abstract figures will merge into readable text. This is achieved by relying on a stroboscopic light source, which refers back to the early cinema devices in which a multitude of still frames merge into apparent movement through retinal persistence. The persistence of vision has been described as a generative tool in the methodology of this research. It relies on afterimages which are retained by the eye’s retina to create a wholeness of perception. It is only at the right frequency that the abstract composition merges into readable text, and at different frequencies, different textual compositions emerge, thus reflecting the circular monologue and the fading narrative. Like in the approach of a subject with space, it is the personal point-of-view (‘or personal frequency’) that determines what is perceived and what persists. Persistence of Vision, the generative tool behind this installation, can be considered a metaphor for our understanding of architectural environments. Subjects merge several sensory tracks into one continuum of subjective interpretation. Spatial persistence is, thus, not a mere optical and peripheral phenomenon, but a subjective merging of sensory streams, in which the persistence reflects the condensations of these percepts into embodied images. In the reconstruction of Marienbad, this project focusses on the repetitive character of the disembodied narrative. As a circular monologue, the abstract intrductory speech of the unknown voice-over reverberates throughout the narrative of the cinematic construction.
Alain Resnais, still from“L’Année dernière a Marienbad” (18)
Case Study Project # 2: Cinematic Decoupage “Last year in Marienbad” does not aim to describe a unique objective reality, or a human and rational world. It is a subjective construct, that does not engage a sense of ‘realism’, but is more of a ‘formal’ construction that aimes for subjective interpretation and imagination. This goal of a pure formal construction is achieved through the cuts and editing of the cinematic sequences by confronting every rule of ‘realism’ in film editing frontally.In realistic film editing, space were to be broken up according to logic and narrative of the storyline. Therefor, it would be experienced as integral and ‘real’ space. Using several key components in the narrative as focus to cut around would follow the line of interest of the audience. Thus, the cinematic sequence would follow the perceptual process of the active observer as much as the narrative construction would evolve and emerge unnoticed, since the observer make sense of the relationship between events, not on the intrinsic values of these events. Subjective reality Realistic ‘decoupage’ simplifies the complexity of reality into a logical and coherent construction, that is uniformly to all objective observers. It reflects reality in an obvious manner, so that it is easily perceived by all. It forms a continuous homogenous reality, in which the audience is presented a carefully constructed narrative, which it has to follow, and in which the observer is undergoing the selected stimuli of the cinematic sequence, which should evoke scripted interpretations. “Last year in Marienbad”, on the other hand, isn’t engaged in an objective true reality. It embraces falseness as generative aspect to trigger the active observer to generate its own subjective reality of the poetic image. It underlines and accentuates its own falseness. Its structure refuses any objective cutting, so that it doesn’t guide the observer in any predefined direction, but triggers the observer to create its own subjective reality, and to define its own position towards the poetic image presented. What is the relationship between the observer and the poetic image? What is the relationship between the narrator and the architectural environment? What is the role of the actor within this environmen? The poetic image opens with a slow panning movement through the emptiness of the architectural environment. An architectural sequence is complemented with a disembodied narrator.
Alain Resnais, still from “L’Année dernière a Marienbad” (18)
He repeats, and repeats, and repeats his eery description of the excesses of ornament. We pan through empty hallways until we finally arrive in the salon. Where we see actors watching a play. What we have heared is a play. We were, just like the actors in the salon, all watching theatre. And the actors obviously play. There is no natural acting. Not even when the theatre has ended. Seamlessly, the actors maintain the same method: acting. The cinematic poetic image doesn’t present a natural representation. It is a pure construct questioning the positioning of the self towards the poetic image. It alters the subject’s perception of space and time, and facilitates the permanent shift in narrative viewpoint in the film. As a poetic image, it questions the essence of spatial experience: what is objectively true, and what is a subjective construct? What do we believe to understand, and how do we make representations of it? How does it affect our emotional being? Does it evoke a sense of unease, through a ‘strangely familiar’ sentiment when embodying the experienced? How reliable are our senses, and how do we process what they offer to us? The poetic image leaves threads open for interpretation and exploration. Imagination is called for, in order to generate a mental model of the experience provided. Speculation, subjective deciphering, fragment puzzling are all necessary ingedrients in this representation. Spatial continuity The poetic image can not be traced in units of spatial continuity, since there is no logical coherent construction.
Successive shots in any sequence can be distributed over an infinite number of spaces, of which it is uncertain to tell whether they are real of imaginary. The lack of logical consistency is not only a matter of a problematic reconstruction the spatial layout of the experienced architectural environment. It is also a mental issue. There isn’t only a mere spatial discontinuity, there is also a discontinuity in the positioning of the subject within the architectural environment. In the gardens of the chateau, geometrical and symmetrical elements are layed out in an abstract manner. The architectural elements appear a 2D setup, with a perspective line fading in the distance, accentuating the infinity of the setting. The subjects within this abstract figure are roughly scattered throughout the pictoral frame. The result is a setting, or a ‘mise-en-scene’ with a highly strange appearance. The scattered subjects cast long, dark shadows, whereas the scene remains abstract and figurative. There seems to be a discontinuity between subject and the architectural environment. Time continuity
Alain Resnais, still from “L’Année dernière a Marienbad” (18)
As spatial continuity is questioned in terms of logical cohesion and interplay between the real and the imaginary, as such are these questions valid for the continuity of time. Multiple chronological strata seem to coexist, incorporating contradictory times. Time is effaced in “Last year in Marienbad” in many ways. It is never made clear in what period the narrative is actually happening. Possible flashbacks and flashforwards are never explicited, thus becoming open for interpretation.
Various discrete locations seem to shift location. Times are often contradictory, since several events seem to be taking place simultaneously. All events seem to collide in a single and same present, therefor confusing a quest for chronologisation. Multiple time collide, and in the very cut of this eternal present. The ambiguity of time creates uncertainty in the mind of the active observer, who is confused about the causal relationship between several events. This confusion is achieved in the ‘decoupage’ by merging incompatible data in consecutive shots, or by impossible juxtapositions within one shot, or by repetition of events with slight variations.
Alain Resnais, still from “L’Année dernière a Marienbad” (18)
This merging of multiple times creates a condition of intertemporality. The infinite is captured in the instant. The cinematic construction is a timeless instant. Event spaces The intertemporality of the cinematic construction is expressed through the concept of the ‘event’. An event is a point in space at a moment in time. A construction of space and time. An event is an occurence or situation, sometimes even a rupture in the order of time. When an event happens, it arises as a construction in space an time, and questions the choice in the mental generation of a continuous construction of experience and perception. The mind tries to merge multiple mental tracks, offered in the cinematic construction, into a continuous model. An event forces the subject to make choices in the processing of these cinematic experience.
An event vanished the very moment it arises. It is an eternal present. It captures the infinite in the present. It is neither past nor future. Therefore, an event, as a construction in space and time, can be seen as a condensation of the positioning of the subject in space, and thus the source for poetic images. Capturing the infinite in the present, or creating a timeless instant is the intention of the multimedia installation derived by this lecture of Marienbad. Once again, the persistence of vision is used as a generative tool to create a infinitely sculptural animation. Marienbad itself is a formal cinematic construction, n which the subject conronted with the cinematography is left alone in his interpretation of the content and meaning. Architectural environments here play the role of mental framework. The vague emtpiness of hallways determines the emotional setup of the cinematography. It is through the slow panning through the empty hallways that the mental setup is generated. In this project, the empty hallways are the central focus point. One important scene in the cinematic construction pans through an endless corridor, which is overexposed with light and becomes highly disorienting. The hallway is experienced through the eye of the camera, which pans slowly. This project creates a timeless instant by animating a repetitive sequence of the very same empty corridor. The use of the persistence of vision as a generative tool for the installation refers back to the notions of spatial and time continuity. The animated sculpture is at once a moving and dynamic installation. But on the other hand, it freezes a frame into a jittery percept. The result isn’t an animation, but isn’t a still either. It questions what is shown. It freezes the instant by creating the movement. Thus, it incorporates both spatial and time continuity. The project is thus a ‘decoupage’ of reality. It tends to create a wholeness of time and space continuity. By using a formal technique like the persistence of vision, this projects joins the idea of the cinematic piece as a formal construction. The project tend to be honest in its working methods. It is by being clear in how it works, that questions regarding what is means are evoked. Just like Marienbad itself questions what is shown. Not by focussing on the illusion of the acting, but by stressing the formal construction of the cinematography.
CASE STUDY PROJECT #3: Regard-en-Abyme Regard “Once more I make my way forward, once more, through these corridors, through these salons, these galleries, in this building from another century, this immense, luxurious, baroque, lugubrious hotel, where interminable corridors succeed other corridors that are silent, deserted, burdened with a cold and sombre décor of wood, stucco, moulden marble panels, dark mirrors, darkhued paintings, columns, heavy drapings...” (Robbe-Grillet 1961: 22-23) Discontinuous tracking The cinematic constructions opens up with a confrontation of two simultaneous narrative tracks. The visual track slowly pans through endless corridors and hallways, drifts though labyrinthine rooms, passes by mirrors and mirrored spaces. The enigmatic structure of the editing cut confuses the viewer, to whom the identification of the specific location, as well as the overall relativity of the discrete locations, is questioned. The auditory track, of which the opening sequence is quoted above, describes the experienced architectural environmentt in an almost conjurning manner. A circular monologue that is caught up in an interminable passing. This auditory construction often fades away mid-sentence, and than picks up at the beginning of the script again. It is a repetition that is caught in an infitinite loop, sometimes with slight variations that trigger the questioning of the role of the voice-over in the narrative of the cinematic construction. Together, the visual and the auditory question the objectivity of reality, by positioning the cinematic contruction in an eternal present, through the use of infinite loops. These loops fade in and fade out. They come and go. They are crisp and clear, and blurry and vague later on. But no matter what, they keep on reappearing. This results in an enigmatic narrative structure, in which truth and fiction become intertwined to the degree that they become impossible to distinguish. The dream-like cinematic construction is therefor an existential exposition on the malleability of reality and spatial experience and memory. The methods used to achieve this existential exposition, the disjunctions of time, consciousness and perspective, can be divided into two generative metaphors: the infinite movement and the ‘mise-en-abyme’.
Infinite Movement Marienbad seems to capture the infinite in the instant. This timeless aspect is enhanced by the construction of movement withing the cinematic construction. Movement is at the same time incessant and directionless. The camera pans through endless corridors, drifts through labyrinthine rooms, and introduces the subject to an enigmatic composition of architectural environments. It is never clear whether the camera drifts aimlessly or pointedly, whether the cinematic shots serve a specific purpose, or whether they are just a mere formal construction that triggers confusion. Just like the camera wanders through these environments, also the actors within the construction seem to wander incessantly and aimlessly through the spaces. Movement often seems aimless. Just like with the repetition of several monologues and spatial framings, the movement itself is repeted infinitely. This eternal movement thus becomes reflexive of the true nature of the cinematic construction itself. Mise-en-abyme Infinite repetition is key in the understanding of the mental construction of Marienbad. Repetition of events, of architectural environment, of conjuring voice-overs. In order to achieve this construction, endless corridors and labyrinthine rooms are deployed. Mirroring spaces enhance the reflective character of the mental role of the cinematic construction. Reflection and repetition are the credo in this construction, and are better described in its condensed version of the â€˜mise-enabymeâ€™. A mise-en-abyme is a construction in which an entity is repeated and reflected within a single contruction. A reflection within a reflection. A layer of reality within another layer. The repetition and the reflection are not seperate conjecutive tracks, but can co-exist within a single poetic image. In the opening sequence, the camera pans aimlessly through a seemingly enchanted crowd of actors. The voice-over isnâ€™t a natural escort to the cinematic narrative, but appears, just like the enchanted crowd, a formal construction that lacks all notion of reality. Actors seem like they are acting. The formal construction is never experienced as natural. The camera pans further through the crowd, while it becomes clear that the spectator of Marienbad looks at spectators of a play in a theater within Marienbad. Spectators are looking at spectators. People watching people.
Alain Resnais, still from “L’Année dernière a Marienbad” (18)
The voice-over comes from the actor within the play. This play within a play continues, as the voice-over is repeated whilst the play within Marienbad already has come to an end. The formal acting method as perceived within the plat continues within the narrative of Marienbad. There is no distinction between the play and the plot. They are endlessly repeated en reflected within the continuing narrative. They question the expextations of the spectator in the anticipation of the narrative and architectural environment with which they are confronted. Thus becoming a mise-en-abyme that questions reality and objectivity of the experienced cinematic construction. Reflection of mirrored spaces traces these architectural environments, but question its objectivity. Mirrored spaces are distorted, the layers of reality difficult to distinguish. Reality becomes a subjective projection of mental anticipation. The sensory experiences offered within the cinematic construction trigger the spectator to generate a mental model of their architectural evironment. Architecture is the framework for the mental atmosphere of the cinematic construction. Infinite hallways pass by. One corridor follows another. One endless corridor follows another. This projects reconstructs the many different hallways that form the backbone of the cinematic narrative. This reconstruction results into a sequence of spaces, one after another. This refers to the previously described method of loci, in
which discrete locations are used as the framework onto which the content of narrative is mapped. This method allowed ancient rhetoricians to memorize speeches, by making the walk through their self-generated memory palaces. Reconstructing the infinite sequence of spaces that are walked through by the camera will result into a memory palace of Marienbad, in which the subject confronted with this cinematic construction has to find its way. This project focusses on the camera point-of-view, which perceives the strong one-point-perspective as a central subject within space. Reconstructing this point-of-view results into a skewed sculpture, which vanishes into a single point in space. Thus, the beholder of this sculptural interior space is confronted with a forced perspective, which immerses the beholder into the interior environment. This project also focusses on the infinite repetition of the infinite hallways. Vast, empty corridors follow other corridors... By reconstructing the corridors into forced perspective sculptures, the discrete locations can be mapped circularly into a complete disc of discrete spaces. Rotating the mapped sculptural spaces will result into an installation in which the different hallways will pass the beholder by. Since its slow rotation, the spaces will follow one another infinitely, thus refering back to the linear aspect of making the walk through the personal memory palace. As a reference to the honesty of the formal construction that is the cinematic piece, this installation will project the captured images of the panned hallways as a livestream next to the sculpture itself. This links the sculpture to the projection. Or the honesty in technical execution which allows to question reality as it is perceived, just like the cinematic piece iself does.
Alain Resnais, still from “L’Année dernière a Marienbad” (18)
CASE STUDY PROJECT #4: Marienbad’s method of Loci Faux raccords The cinematic construct of Marienbad explores the uncertainty in the narrative connections and the concealed associations between social relationships and architectural environments. It does so through the construction of an enigmatic composition on the relationship between experience, consciousness and reality. Thus, it becomes a study on the workings of memory as a whole: How do subjects perceive and embody architectural environments? How do subject gain consciousnes of their position within architectural environments? And how do poetic images become a condensation for the experience and embodiment of a memorized architectural environment? Marienbad is a postulate of subjective memory and perspective. Method of Loci The postulate of memory in Marienbad concentrates on the arrangement of subject and spaces in a way that refers to the ancient ‘Method of Loci’, as previously described. The spatial arrangement of events in specific discrete architectural environments follow the use of the ‘method of loci’ as a generative tool. These discrete locations are then composed into a labyrinthine construction, an environment given to the subject interpreting it, and playing with it, in order to give meaning to the maze. Marienbad adds jump cuts to the mental walk through the memory palaces created in the method of loci. These jump cuts alter the contunuity of thought and interpretation of the discrete locations, and thus introduce confusion in the mind of the meaning-seeking subject. This confusion questions the perception and memory of architectural environments, or, to put it more generally, question objective reality as a whole in favor of subjective reality. Imaginative reality Jump cuts, variations in repetition, reflection of impossible environments, subjects that cast shadows and environments that do not...marienbad is a mental construction. The discrete elements of the cinematic constructions are combined into a continuous narrative require a huge amount of imagination in order to complete the whole of the construct. Impossible and unlogical elements are merged together into a continuous percept, thus calling for imagination to fill the gaps. The sequences in the cinematic construction thus do not only rely on the reconstruction of memory, but also a mere imaginative completion of incoherent discrete elements.
Whether or not these sequences are recalled from memory, or rely on imaginative completion, they all rely on the mental recontruction of these environments. As previously decribed, the mental activities that process memory and imagination are similar in terms of neural activity, and thus equally true in terms of acceptancy as ‘real’. In the reconstruction of past events, some details remain concealed,are obscured or become blurred. Other details become prominent and emerge highlighted. Reconstruction of a memory is thus a reconstruction of a past spatio-temporal setting in the present. As is the subjective mind recreates the entire scene as is were right in front. This reconstruction requires imagination to create a sense of wholeness in the construct, and to fill the gaps in the obscured. The relationship between imagination and memory has a double meaning in Marienbad. First of all, Marienbad is a cinematic construction. A poetic image. A condensation in an artwork. This construction is subjectively embodied. The spectator subjectively tries to make sense of the contruction offered. This requires imagination to embody the experience. Imagination in the sense of subjective interpretation, with appropriation of the narrative as a result. Secondly, Marienbad is a feeding ground for mental appropriation. Imagination and memory go side by side, and within the cinematic construction, objective reality is questioned as being ‘real’. A subjective sense of reality introduces the spectator to uncertainty in the approach of the narrative. What is true and what is false? And how do distortions and convolutions create doubt and uncertainty in the objective reality, and the subjective reconstruction of memory through imagination? In this sense, Marienbad refers to the memory of architectural environments as a whole, within the framework of the memory everyday architectural environments. What is objectively ‘real’, and what is subjective imagination in the reconstruction of architectural environments from our own memory? The intertwining of reality and falsehood is, thus, not only tangible in works of art, but the same tendencies can be traced within the experience of reality. An example that makes this clear can be found in the psychological tests on police study reports. In an experiment, subjects waiting for the experiment are confronted with unexpected events. After this unforeseen event, eyewitness accounts are collected and compared. Their reports show a myriad of responses to the objective reality. Objective reconstruction of eyewitness reports are always subjective representations.
Subjects always interpret the objective reality. In order to gain an understanding of the objective reality, subject appropriate reality by embodying it, by interpreting and identifying with it. Since the psychological experiment asks subjects to testify on objective events, and don’t manage to objectively reconstruct the events, the same subjects will obviously subjectively distort the experienced events of in the personal sphere. Basically, imagination fills the gaps of sensory perception. Marienbad is more than a cinematic construction. It also serves as metaphor for the dialogue between subject and space in reality. Marienbad reflects reality, as well as the subjective approach towards reality. Subjects embody reality, through active imagination and appropriation. Subjects are involved with an active questioning of reality, instead of a passive acceptancy of a predefined projection of reality. What is objectively real, what is subjectively real, what is subjectively imagined? Memory impressions of the architectural environment of Marienbad come back and fade out. Flashbacks, Flashforwards are combined in order to questioning time and space in Marienbad. Memory reappears to the eye of the beholder at a sudden instant, before slowly starting to fade out into the flatness of the now. The episodic buffer of the human mind stores a memory as a movie sequence. It is often a linear structure with chronological order. It only survives in the short term memory, and experiences a rapid decay in its capacity to be recalled. “The content of memory is function of the rate of forgetting” (Virilio, 1994,p.52) As time passes by, the once so clear setup of memory into a clear instant, a clear image, start fading out. Perception appears to the eye of the beholder at a sudden instant, resulting in the impression of the percept onto the retina, which persists as an afterimage for a while, which allows for the creating of a wholeness of perception as a continuum of space and time at the blink of an eye. Retinal persistence and memory recollection are combined in this project, in which the content focusses on the recollection and reconstruction of the previously described and analysed architectural environments that form the framework for the narrative within the cinematic construction. This project acts as a memory screen, onto which the impressions of the architectural environments are shot through the use of a developped flash projector. The projector is a hacked dia projector which literally shots decomposed impressions of the slow movements of the camera through the vast, empty corridors of Marienbad.
DISCUSSION Last Year in Marienbad as an embodied poetic image. “Last Year in Marienbad”, the cinematic case study, is a poetic image, since it condenses a cinematic construct into a formal representation that is offered to the subjective viewer to interpret. It drags the subject confronted with the poetic image into the rabbit hole of the architectural environment that is the constructed baroque chateau. Within the inner spaces of the chateau, or the ‘Weltinnenraum’ of the chateau (Rilke, 1992) the subjective spectator finds himself questioning the proposed formal construction, as does the woman ‘A’ when she desperately tries to reconstruct her architectural memory of the chateau. The poetic image questions wheather the space is real or imagined, simulated or objective. The poetic image of Marienbad can thus be seen as a form of architectural imagery, in which the representation of the mental interior space occurs in the mind of the beholder (ie the woman ‘A’ or the spectator confronted with the poetic image) The subjects confronted with this representation can only see the represented architectural environment as they subjectively can: by stitching together the formal shards into a wholeness of perception, thus reconstructing the totatilty of the architectural environment. Because of its questioning of spatial memory, it refers back to the subjectivity of spatial awareness and representation. Because of its questioning of the truthfulness of the representation of the chateau (is it all a dream, or actual memory, or mere fantasy?) it refers back to the questioning of the position of the self in space, and thus refers to the lecture of space as a projection of the subject. Since the poetic image of Marienbad focusses on the recall of architectural memory, it engages a dialogue with the reconstructive faculties of the human mind on the spatial layout. These mimetic faculties have been the focus of “CASE STUDY PROJECT #4: Marienbad’s method of loci”, in which an led screen is wired as both a sensory and a projective screen, thus being a metaphor for the sensory embodiment of spatial impressions. Wheather it is the spectator trying to make sense of the memory screen, wheather it is ‘A’ who tries desperately to remember where she was, and what she had done, or wheather it is the spectator who is confronted with an infinite loop of information and sequences, in which he is left to stitch these datastreams
together in a coherent mental map of the architectural environment, they all engage embodiment of spatial impressions. Last Year in Marienbad is thus a case study on the embodiment of poetic images because it evokes the very phenomena described on this notion. The Case Study Projects as embodied poetic images. The Case Study Projects, the reconstruction of the case study of this research, has been an effort in engaging a dialogue between the subjective self and the architectural environment experienced in the poetic image of the cinematic piece. The result of this research has been a lecture of a poetic image (ie the case study on Marienbad) in the light of the subjective dialogue between the self and space. Reconstructing Marienbad has used all methods described in the methodology in order to create a coherent wholeness in the artist’s impression of the poetic image of Marienbad, the baroque chateau. It tends to be a reconstruction by an architect of an architectural environment. But not a reconstruction of a geometric objective reality, but of a subjective interpreter who questions his position within the architectural environment of the cinematic construct. How this reconstruction reverberates in the discourse of theory and methodology, and its implications on the finding of the case study, are the focus of the sections that follow. The Case Study Projects and the introduced theoretical discourse. Reconstructing the interior mental environment of the baroque chateau happens solely through the information provided by the camera’s point-of-view. This gives the subject confronted with the architectural environment a very limited range of information to form a representation of the totality of the spatial layout. He is left with shards of information, which he has to stitch together into a coherence of interpretation. This requires architectural imagery and imagination to create a wholeness of perception. Thus, in order to create the ‘Weltinnenraum’, or the representation of the architectural environment with which the subject can relate , the experienced environment is enhanced with architectural imagination. Case Study Project #2 achieves this goal by relying on the duality of a moving animation and a visual appearance as a frozen frame. This literally stitches together information into a single view, into a single entity. Case Study Project #3 in turn shifts the emphasis on this single condensation of perception towards a circular repetitive memory palace. The wholeness of perception here is achieved through the repetition of the interior spaces, infinitely perceived from a one-point-perspective, as the camera pans through a
vast array of empty hallways. The Case Study Projects thus stitch together the shards of information offered by camera into a wholeness of representation, or spatial simulation. The artworks thus try to reconstruct the architectural environments as a subjective simulation or reality. Subjective because it takes into consideration the subjects point-ofview and the personal perspective in the reconstruction of the spaces instead of a cartesian orthogonal reconstruction of the objective real. Simulation because it uses the architectural model as representation of reality instead of registering the experienced architectural environment. The Case Study Projects thus refers back to its ontological base of questioning the subjective self-space dialogue. This happens both in the positioning within the cinematic construction, but also in the position of the beholder confronted with the artwork. This questions the positioning of the self toward the poetic image, but also the positioning of the beholder towards the artwork. It is exactly this point-of-view that refers back to the lecture of space as a projection of the subject. The Case Study Projects and the traced methodology. The Case Study Projects feed on the traced methodology, since they incorporate the methods both on a theoretical and metaphorical as well as a practical generative way. The persistence of vision is a visual phenomenon engaged with the way visual impressions are embodied, as it has been described in the methodology. As a generative tool, the persistence of vision is the driving force behind Case Study Projects #1 and #2. They use the optical properties of the persistence of vision in such a way that boundaries in frequency at which the human mind is able to distinguish and embody changes in visual stimuli are traced. By differentiating in the frequency at this boundary, the beholder is confronted with a questioning of the perceptual experienced offered to him. At the border of fused perception and blurry impression. The persistence of vision thus refers to the individual approach to the perception of reality: what is the frequency at which subjects can clearly read and understand the architectural environments they are confronted with? When do blurry impressions become clear percepts. When does it all come together into a clear understanding? These are the questions the reconstruction of Marienbad raises in response to the use of the persistence of vision as a generative methodology. The method of Loci is a rhetoric method that uses architecture as the vehicle for memory. Therefor, it is used both as a method and metaphor for the reconstruction of Marienbad. In the method of Loci, rhetoricians use the
sequences of spaces in a walk-through. By walking through several discrete locations, they map discrete elements onto the locations where they belong. Objects embedded within space. And by making the mental walk through the constructed memory palace, their rhetoric speech unfolds. Just like the camera of the cinematic piece wanders endlessly through the memory palace of Marienbad. With one endless corridor following another. With one empty space following another. With ‘X’ trying to convince ‘A’ that they were here before. She was there. He was here. She did this. He did that. Here and there. Again and again. The memory palace of Marienbad is reconstructed in Case Study Project #3, in which the linear narrative structure of a memory palace is translated into a repetitive circular pattern. One corridor after another. In an infinite loop. The memory palace as a sequence of discrete locations unfolds. Thus a reconstruction of Marienbad as a memory palace is achieved in Case Study Project #3. Screen memories revive repressed memories at a sudden instant. Flashes of memory reappear suddenly to the mind of the beholder. Sudden instants, placed in time. But also: “The content of memory is function of the rate of forgetting”(Virilio,1994,p.52) . So memory is a time-based phenomenon. Project four incorporates this time-based aspect of memory. Flashing snapshots of memory at a memory screen refers to the snapshots of screen memories. The time-based decay of the generated impression refers to Virilio’s interpretation of time and memory. Mediatized memory traces memory of architectural environments as enhanced outside the human mind. Memory is mediatized. In Case Study Project #4, memory is electrified as memory in the capacitors. Memory can be situated outside the human brain, thus engaging a permanent dialogue between the internal memory and the references external memory evoke for their subjective interpretations. The Case Study Projects and the lecture of “L’Année dernière á Marienbad” The Case Study Projects do with its beholder what Marienbad did as a cinematic piece to its audience. As a cinematic artwork, it is a formal construction which is offered to its audience to be given meaning. No natural acting is involved. No natural voice-over is introduced. All is a construction that questions what is beeing seen. This is all intended as a questioning of the status of the scenography. Is it a dream? Is it a memory? Is it a perceptual experience? As a reconstructed artwork, the reconstruction of the mental interior spaces of the memory palace does the same with the beholder of the arworks. The artworks interact with the presence of the spectator in order to find the right frequency and the right point-of-view for the experiences. Where does the spectator stands towards the artworks influences what he sees,
as he approaches the artworks. As these reconstructed models are presented interactively to the spectator, they are offered to be given meaning and to be discovered. Where does the subject stand towards the spaces perceived, the images embodied? Two main aspects of the both the cinematic piece and the reconstructed artworks have resulted into the achieving of the goal of engaging a dialogue between subject and space, between subject and artwork. and confusion. Be it through vague shots of empty spaces, through uncanny voice-overs and highly detailed ornaments, through vague impressions and highly detailed ornaments. Thus, the case study tends to engage a dialogue between the subjective self and the architectural environment it is confronted with.
CONCLUSION In the reconstruction of a poetic image, the phenomena involved with the mental cognition of architectural environments are being deployed to gain a better understanding of the subjective dialogue between the self and space. In the context of this research, this understanding has been traced in terms of the reconstruction of a cultural artefact. “Last year in Marienbad” intrinsically condenses all the aspects of spatial perception, persistence and memory into a single poetic image. So as a case study it has shown how all of these aspects o the subject-space dialogue reverberate into a single artwork. “Reconstructing Marienbad” on the other hand has been an attempt to translate this flattened cinematographic projected poetic image back onto a spatial topography, and subjectively interpreting the artwork. A remix of an artwork as a method to engage a dialogue with the source artwork as well as the confronted beholders of the reconstructed artwork. But this dialogue has offered insights that go beyond the artwork it focusses on. By being specific, this research has been able to trace the phenomena that are equally true in the first world architectural environments that surround subjects in everyday life. How we perceive the architecturel environment when we approach it in everyday life. How we see space as a projection of our own subject. How architectural setups persist on the human mind, and how we make representations of it. How we memorize places we’ve been to. How we orient ourselves within them. How we respond to spaces when we’re right in the middle of then.
Reconstructing Marienbad refers back to the understanding of everyday architectural environments, through the use of the very same methods engaged. Reconstructing Marienbad is about reconstructing everyday architectural environments.
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Published on May 25, 2013