M A R Y A M
F O T O U H I
TOWARDS AN AFFECTIVE ARCHITECTURE A PORTFOLIO SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS FOR AN INTERDISCIPLINARY DEGREE OF Ph.D. IN VISUAL STUDIES/ARCHITECTURE
Research Statement, My work engages with theories
of bodies, performativity, and space. My aim is to develop a creative, multidisciplinary approach toward contemporary architecture theories and practice and to become actively involved in the critical discourse of academia, and creative practice in art and architecture. In June 2005, I graduated with a BA in English and Comparative Literature from Azad University of Tehran, where I completed a comprehensive and comparative study of Western literature. Since then, my research interests have focused on continental philosophy and the comparative study of 20th-century Western European literature, along with an overall knowledge of Persian literature. Eventually, I became interested in the visual imagery existed in the works of literature to portray the socio-political/cultural crisis and problems of the societies.I was interested in explorations of the spatial arrangement of the words and the material culture of the language; the constructed affective time-spaces in literary works that constantly unfold the memories, emotions, and
thoughts of their characters and thus activate a series of enabling political forces through making connections and associations with the reader’s body, mind, memories, and emotions. Here, following the readings of Adrian Parr on Jacques Rancière in “Art, Politics, and climate change,”(1) I understand a political force as one that “activates the very potential of transformation,”(2) prompting us to “reimagine what is currently exists.(3) The result of this research turned out to be a proposal statement on connections between literature and architecture. I was specially interested u understanding the creative modes of spatial visualizain tion in critical moments of awakened consciousness as depicted in literary works, in order to be able to (re)activate our everyday time-spaces in many different ways. I was looking for performative approaches to create and design spaces that actively and critically engaged with both conceptual and material understandings of time, body, gender, memory, and emotion, and politics. (1)Adrian Parr, “Art, Politics, and Climate Change,” in New Directions in Sustainable Design, eds., Adrian Parr and Michael Zaretsky. (New York: Routledge, 2011), 6-12. (2) Ibid., 11. (3) Ibid., 8.
In January 2007, I moved to the United States; soon after, I pursued a Master of Science in Architecture with an interdisciplinary focus on contemporary architecture theory and criticism at University of Cincinnati (DAAP). Through my graduate studies I have explored a series of experiential and progressive architectural time spaces that move beyond the containedment of spaces. I created an interdisciplinary body of work that uses the emergence of theories of performance and public art, corporeal feminism, installation arts, and French post-structuralist theory in combination with architecture to not only write about architecture, but also merge those theories with creative practice. As I was interested in the performative nature of everyday spaces and the corporeal materiality of spaces, I drew on a variety of theories of bodies and performativity in my work. More specifically, I am interested in how spaces can be composed in association with this complex understanding of corporeal schema as corporeal intensity. I am also interested in
experimenting with new media in architecture, more specifically in creating ephemeral spaces through collages of film, video installation, and performance that are meant to unfold in everyday space and time. My goal is to identify new forms of material and visual literacy for the field of architectural practice. I am interested in composing a new material language for architecture. The following trilogy is a series of three performative architectural time- spaces performed and installed one after the other during the past four years of my studying at University of Cincinnati.The final project,(Thesis) entitled: An Encounter with Janet Laurence: Towards an Affective Architecture has been presented in the forms of Workshop/Paper, and installation in the biannual interdisciplinary conference Gender, Bodies and Technology: (Dis) Integrating Frames, at Virginia Tech, USA in 2012. The final version of this paper is currently being published in the conference special issue, at University of Virginia Tech.
1 Fallen 2 Right of Inspection 3 An Encounter with Janet Laurence: Towards and Affecive Architecture
Fallen, (2009) a Multimedia Performance piece,
engaged with the body as the most intimate architectural time- space was performed at Reed Gallery, College of DAAP, University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio. This piece was served as my first thesis introductory presentation. I created a performative architectural event. In this semi-autobiographical body of work, I invited the architects on my committee along with the architecture students. I also had been working with two consultants from Dance Department at College of Conservatory of Music at University of Cincinnati that they have been invited to this Multidisciplinary event.
Traditionally, architectural thesis reviews are set in a way that architecture students pin up their drawings, photographs and notes on the wall or a board, in some cases along with an architectural model. In a formal session the panel review sit within quite a distance from the work and the student, and give their opinions and judge the work. I found this patriarchal method problematic as it looks at the body of the work of architecture as mere object of thought as one that can be pre-determined in architectural drawings or a model. This method originated from the Cartesian dualistic separation of mind and body and his understanding of mind, or cognition, as holding priority over the body.
As if the body of work of architecture is always in control of the mind of architects and reviewers. This subject-object schema has long dominated Western thought and architectural practice. Thus, my aim through creation of this work was to move beyond this dualistic pattern, and containment of space. Fallen was an alternative mode of architectural time-space in where body itself becomes an architectural time-space of investigation to rethink contemporary architecture beyond building(s) and to re-imagine architectural practice as a creative, dynamic, and performative process. Here, architecture, is not merely an object of thought, nor is the viewer a subject who experiences her work at a distance. Through the creation of an ephemeral architectural performance, my attempt was to disarrange the conventional relationship between the work of architecture, the viewer, and the architects, thus introducing new modes of architectural experience. The work has two short parts. The first part has been composed of multilayered, full- scale video pro-
jection on the main wall of the Reed Gallery. The content of the video is a footage taken from the winning film, A House Built On Water, by Iranian director Bahman Famanara, in where an old woman is knitting the threads of the life-network. In this performance, this footage has been collaged with an image of the half-naked, fallen body of the artist (me) on the film, creating an ambiguous and membranous effect. Then, all the threads and yarns extend to the actual and physical space of the gallery through using actual material, along with the actual half-naked, fallen body of the artist in the space of the gallery within the darkness. In the second part of this performance, the video projection is slowly fading out, while gradually the light comes in. The entire room is becoming lighter while the viewers are sitting among the yarns close the fallen body of the artist. The artist starts to move and breath very slow. She starts to touch the surrounding space and her body and slowly grows within the space and through time.
By creation of the slow space, this work explores a fluid and experiential passage where body, space and time enfold into one another. Here, the physical and tangible material such as rope, yarns, and the artist’s and audiences’’ body touching the wood floor of the gallery combined with the digital and non-tangible materials composed of light, (film and video projection) create a dramatic and affective experience for the viewers. Thus, within this space ta relationship between matter and immateriality is formed. The absence and presence of light and the multilayered video projections in association with the collective bodies, mind and memories of the participants in the space allows the invisible and complex moments of memories, perceptions, and sensations to become visible. My aim is to put my audience through an experience of a slow and progressive space, the space of in-between that only unfolds through the interconnectivity of its parts and elements, which seeps beyond the hierarchical understanding of space. Here, the
work is not separated from those who experience it. This work re-defines the normative understanding of a physical space as a solid object of thought, and it presents it as a complex entity. By creation of such an ephemeral architectural time-space, I have proposed an architecture that evokes an expressive, performative, and complex understanding of narrative of space. Furthermore, it reveals the interconnectivity of humanity and larger dynamic life systems, and sets out to awaken the viewer’s sense of their own interconnectivity within the life-world. This awareness results in an understanding of how human beings are affected by the world and how they, in turn, affect the world.
2 Right of Inspection
Right of Inspection,
(2009)is a Photographic Installation, inspired by the work (book) by Jacques Derrida, Rights of Inspection; a collaborative work by Derrida and the Belgian Photographer Marie-Françoise Plissart. This project has been installed in the public grand stairs situated Aronoff addition, designed by architect Peter Eisenman, in College of DAAP, University of Cincinnati. It has dealt with complexity of concepts of body, time, and space of everyday life in association with the forces of memory, perception, sexuality and surveillance. It is a narrative that questions the lines between the accepted definitions of public and private, visible and invisible in society. Thus, by re-arranging the normative orders of these definitions, it aims for creation of public intimacy in order to reactivate that public space in an affective and unpredictable ways. Thus, it allows the viewers to redefine their everyday narrative of this space. I used the book Right of inspection as a point of flight. The book has two parts. The first half is a collection of intriguing black and white photographs by Plissart and the second part is Derrida’s writing on the art of photography as he calls it light-writing.
In this work, I have composed a performative timespace using a photographic installation, created from fragments of a few images in this book. After choosing specific intimate fragments of some of the photos focusing on the body, gender, and sexuality, I rearranged these images in order to increase their dramatic sense of ambiguity and intimacy. Thus, I wrote my version of the story, or no story. I emphasized on the intimate moments of body, time, and space. I plotted those images in almost life-size bodies, including Derrida’s commentary on these images. The site was the DAAP grand stairs on the fifth floor. This stair case is one of the most interactive spaces in the Aronoff addition. Eisenman has designed this staircase in such a way that it has become the most public and as well as private space. There is a terrace from the sixth floor that gives the opportunity to look down towards this wide grand stairs, and in this way, the fifth and sixth floors share the ceiling and lighting.
Drawing upon the Derridean concept of deconstruc- narrative, and put this space in affective use in many tion and the Deleuzian understanding of time-space, creative and different ways. in this work, my aim was to create an architectural time-space that engages with a transformative mode of thinking in architectural discourse, one that functions through mobilizing and transforming bodies, timespaces, memories, and thus right(s) of inspection in order to sustain life as a dynamic, active force of change. Because of the very unusual formal an architectural qualities of DAAP grand stair, my installation concept was a challenging one as I ended up throwing fishing lines from sixth floor to be able to hang these loge-scale panels in order to create the sense of suspense. As a result of creation of this method of installation other collaborative projects and installations took place using the same method. Through this work I created a non-linear narrative that meant to be unfolding within the actual and present time-space of everyday to become a point of flight for other students and professors to (re)produce their
Verdant (2004) by Janet Laurence
Styx Forest (2007) by Janet Laurence
An Encounter with Janet Laurence: Towards an Affective Architecture (2011)
[Interactive presentation in Biannual interdisciplinary conference: Gender, Bodies, and Technologies: (Dis) integrating Frames, Virginia Tech, USA (April 26-28, 2012)] In "An Encounter with Janet Laurence: Towards an Affective Architecture" I propose an interactive architectural time-space/performance that uses a Deleuzian understanding of the body, informed by corporeal feminism (exemplified by the work of Elizabeth Grosz), to rethink contemporary architecture beyond building(s) and to re-imagine architec-
Unfold (1997) by Janet Laurence
The Deleuzian body is not necessarily a human body, but a corporeal intensity, capable of metamorphosis, transformation, and becoming. Drawing on this expanded understanding of the body, I will address modes of architectural thinking that are not constrained by traditional or static notions of architectural space but that dynamically engage with life, generating connections, affects, and intensities. In this performance, I aim to re-imagine architecture as an affective process that moves beyond simply the containment of space. In particular, I will explore these themes through the creation of an encounter and dialogue with a collection of work by the contemporary Australian artist Janet Laurence, wherein
3 An Encounter with Janet Laurence: Towards an Affective Architechture
the artist uses the body to create a time-space of investigation and enact an expressive and performative architectural process. In her work, Laurence introduces new modes of architectural experience through an affective architectural process that interacts with the environment. These affective architectural processes, in turn, are grounded in her holistic view of nature and critically engage with environmental issues. Laurence's work reveals the interconnectivity of humanity and larger life systems, and she sets out to awaken the viewer's sense of their own interconnectivity within the life-world. Inspired by this expanded understanding of corporeal schema, one that produces connections, linkages, change, and difference, and through the language of the virtual (video projection), my work will create an intensive and interactive dialogue with this artist and her work." Formally speaking, this public performance is composed of a series of projected images of the membranous and multilayered works of Janet Laurence on the walls of Tank Room situated in Historic Roanoke Hotel owned by Virginia Tech University. The projected images on each wall almost cover the entire surface of the wall. Thus each wall functions differently in conjunction with the image(s) and the viewers and moves beyond our conventional conception of the wall as a
solid divider. In this setting, projectors set in the small case, along with a small camera that documents the entire process, located on the very top corner of each wall and project or images onto the facing wall. Viewers enter the space and walk through, and they are able to approach the images closely. The content of the images, drawn from Laurenceâ€™s work, evokes the life-world in an intensive and intimate way; for instance, Waiting is a medicinal cabinet/garden encloses various fluids and solids, creating a space of revival and rejuvenation. The work, as Laurence explains it, talks about environmental sustainability, fragility, and loss of species. Based on scientific facts, the space amplifies and imagines the invisible processes and psychological state of plants, wherein â€œWe are confronted with their being and plight in which we are implicated.â€? Dynamic, shifting, and sensually engaging, the walls, in connection with the images, invite the viewer to encounter them as another living body with the capacity to affect and be affected. The wall becomes a living medium that connects its own body with other bodies. In this sense, the function of the wall is not reduced to a contained architectural element that is traditionally understood as a fixed entity that serves the purpose of dividing two spaces from each other.
Here, walls connect, rather than divide, and they have corporeal presence. Drawing on the Deleuzian understanding of the body, I understand corporeal schema as modes and series of linkages, assemblages, and associations that a body makes with its own elements and parts and with other bodies to create affects, intensities, and sensations. This project transforms the materials that compose it, vacillating between, transmuting, and blurring the boundaries between the viewers, the work of art, and the artist and between subject and object. The viewers enter the space and walk around; at some point in time, their bodies will inevitably be situated in front of or pass by the lens of the projectors and, by passing between the projected light and the wall, will create a void on the wall. The viewersâ€™ bodies become a new layer or surface (in essence, a screen) on which the projected image(s) can be embodied, as if the viewers are part of the life-world being depicted. Thus, the work puts the reality of our world into play in a dramatic way by eliding the boundaries between the viewers and the work of art. By transforming the wall into something that connects rather than divides and that reveals the invisible processes of the life-world rather than obscures them, it enacts a threshold between the private and public, invisible and visible, and absence and presence. Inspired by
and incorporating the works of Janet Laurence, this performance is designed to reconfigure the function of the work of architecture in a way that goes beyond its everyday context and typical functions. This architectural time-space seeps beyond the boundaries and conventions that attempt to contain it, and beyond building(s). In this project, architecture is presented as multilayered and complex network both visually and conceptually. It exist as a process; a time-space that understands architecture as performative, dynamic, and deeply engaged with the processes and events of other life systems, and that is exactly what Laurence evokes in her work.