Page 1







MASKStheJournal Editors Zahra Safaverdi Shaowen ZHang Typeface used Berthold Akzidenz Grotesk © 2018 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Zahra Safaverdi, Shaowen Zhang

3 American Polynya Derek Kane O’Leary

21 Of Material and Myth: Unsettled Architectures of the American Frontier Elias Logan

35 Through Sick and Sane

The Illusory Architecture of the Supreme Court in Mass Hysteria Snoweria Zhang

51 Room as Horizon Peter Carl

61 Ornament in the City of Industry Juhee Park and Noam Saragosti

81 Embodying an Afterlife Shaowen Zhang

95 Same Story Zahra Safaverdi

107 Image Index

109 Contributors


1 Editorial




Sirens as muses; sirens as muses within; sirens as muses forming feelings; feelings that can merge wholly with thoughts; thoughts that can now ossify into objects; objects that can be elevated to things: from the realm of the things to the territory of affective things...from the territory of affective things to the grotto of feverish existences - painful and turbulent, in perpetual frenzy, in dynamic compounding, flesh descending from the bone, monsters in becoming...


An era which began on a note of heady optimism closes with insistent self-critique. Our futures can neither be adequately anticipated, nor can they be drawn through stable images. In fact, the collapse of “truth” and “realism” are already pervasive through the visual discourses. Tensions abound regarding the role of ‘representation;’ Modernism’s haze at dusk continues to leave many grappling for stable footing, grappling to find projects worth a life’s intellectual labor; dioramas once imbued with modest playfulness now find themselves the eerie harbinger of capitalism’s many critiques. In short - sirens become muses instead. In this climate of perpetual emergency, what are the tools available to us? Subversion? Resistance? Intensification? In this issue, we invite writers, designers, critics and scholars to offer their responses given that “sirens [have already] become perpetual frenzy, in dynamic compounding.” All this under the collective dialogue within visual - and related - fields in order to make some sense of what it means to work under such turbulence.



American Polynya Derek Kane O’Leary

Let us yet sing, the while the theme invites, The pilgrims of the pole. Ye muses, ye That seldom have indwelt the extreme north, Will ye accompany?1 Benjamin Groff Herre, Hyperborea: or, The Pilgrims of the Pole (1878)

Once upon your coasts, inaccessible mountains, I would reach the Northern Ocean and gather together the remnants of poor Franklin’s company. These would be to me the orchards and vineyards and running fountains. The ‘Lord of the Hill would see in me a pilgrim.’ ‘Leaning upon our staves, as is common with weary pilgrims when they stand to talk with any by the way,’ we would look down upon an open Polar sea, refulgent with northern sunshine.


Elisha Kent Kane, Arctic Explorations (1856)

Every acre of territory acquired by the late antebellum United States was a turn of the blade in the sectional crisis. When in the late eighteenth century the new nation was still a sliver of states to the east of the Appalachian Mountains, certain Americans had imagined their exceptional republic encompassing the continent—an empire of liberty, to recall Thomas Jefferson’s revolutionary lexicon. By the 1850s, that empire was cloven. If the founding generation thought slavery destined to dwindle, over the first decades of the nineteenth it burgeoned and sprawled westward over lands conquered from European competitors, American Indians, and Mexico. Legislators sought to integrate these vast new acquisitions into the fragile balance of slave and non-slave states without rupturing the Union. But by 1860, the failure to agree on the place of slavery in the continental project tore it apart. In the 1850s, however, Dr. Elisha Kent Kane drew the nation’s gaze northward, away from this riven landscape, and to an illusory, open polar sea—an Arctic polynya2. Kane appeared the consummate romantic man of science. When he strutted onto the national stage, he compelled Americans to imagine that clement, rich, navigable waters lay beyond the ring of Arctic ice, and that American navigators would be the first in world history to penetrate them. His star rose from 1851, when he returned to the U.S. as surgeon on the Grinnell Expedition. This joint private and naval force had departed the previous spring to recover the vanished Sir John Franklin and his 123-person British crew, which in 1845 had attempted to breach the ice-bound Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to Pacific Ocean. Since the crew’s initial disappearance, a transatlantic outpouring of emotion had been deftly curated by his wife, the Lady Franklin, who through an impassioned and tactical public relations campaign compelled the British government, its public, and, finally, the U.S. to seek her lost husband. In the hearts of millions of distraught Brits and Americans, this stalwart crew awaited salvation on the Arctic shore. Someone needed to bring them home. Upon American stages, in its cacophonous press, and among the coteries of the scientific and literary elite, Kane appropriated this mission to his own distinctly American vision. In 1853, he spearheaded a second U.S. expedition to recover Franklin. In one light, the North Atlantic and Arctic



Dreaded Landscapes, Seascapes of Longing


Oceans became a grand stage, and Kane performed within a transatlantic melodrama inspired by Lady Franklin: To return her long-suffering husband to the sanctity of their domestic hearth, or at least a sacred burial, would furnish the only adequate denouement to a Victorian audience. In another light, however, Kane subverted the Franklin tragedy to American tastes and needs. To launch his expedition, he produced a spectacle well-packaged for the nation’s mass entertainment market. In presenting himself as the scientist-hero, he thrilled a population assured of science’s progressive mastery of their expanding country, and eager to imagine Kane at its helm. And in conjuring an Arctic polynya on which shores Franklin waited, he offered the nation a pristine and remote space to be seized, collectively, beyond the bounds of its imminent geopolitical breach at home. In the Arctic, an idealized Kane could claim space that need not be ethnically cleansed, coercively labored upon, or peopled with immigrants. This was a variety of empire without the iniquities that for decades had troubled Americans’ belief in their sacred destiny.


To fund this voyage, Kane laid his case before the public in an exhausting lecture tour, lobbied scientific institutions and the federal government, and drew on the wealth of elite merchants.3 His showmanship captivated and entwined popular, learned, and political imagination. The expedition was bankrolled and promoted by the American Philosophical Society, the new Smithsonian Institution, and the Geographical Society of New York—the nation’s leading scientific bodies and the public’s gateway to science. With their cachet, he successfully beseeched further government support. In the instructions to Kane issued by Secretary of the Navy John P. Kennedy in 1852—and then published as preamble to Kane’s hit 1855 account of the voyage—we see how a sentimental mission endorsed with federal power, urged by the scientific community, abetted by private patronage, and announced through mass media all found confluence in an imagined Arctic sea: Lady Franklin having urged you to undertake a search for her husband… and a vessel, the Advance, having been placed at your disposition by Mr. Grinnell, you are hereby on special duty for the purpose of conducting an overland journey from the upper waters of Baffin’s Bay to the shores of the Polar Sea.4 With onlookers throughout the nation galvanized, Kane departed.5


Fig. 1, Kane’s map of route



Arctic Calling

At mid-century, amid the most perilous years in the young nation’s history, the Arctic called to Americans. Answering, Kane’s expedition sensationally cast the U.S. in a much longer play of polar endeavor and tragedy. The Arctic had first drawn European sailors centuries earlier in the attempt to reach the great concentrations of power and wealth in East and South Asia. But the Canadian archipelago threw into brutal relief the limits of those southern sailors. Year by year, they eked out geographical knowledge of its ice-bound seas. But it was a cartography of misfortune. Davis Strait, Frobisher, Baffin, and Hudson Bay: named for individuals lured, deluded, blocked, or abandoned on the ice.


The quest for wealth was propelled by the belief not only that a water passage to Asia existed, but that a gentle climate and open sea encircled the pole. We see this first in Johannes Ruysh’s 1507 world map [Fig. 2], freshly inspired by unprecedented Iberian oceanic voyages to the Indian Ocean and Caribbean. Then, vividly, in French cartographer Oronce Finé’s 1531 world map [Fig. 3], in which several islands girdle a blue polar sea. In Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator’s 1569 [Fig. 4] polar addendum to his famous, persistent world map, four rivers run between four balanced polar islands to an inner sea, where a magnetic mountain resides. In centuries since, the frozen walls encountered at lower latitudes halted voyages northward and dimmed visions of a polar sea. The colonized Americas became the source of extraordinary--and devastating--wealth, rather than an impediment to it. And by the time Kane stood before eager audiences to call for Franklin’s rescue, an Arctic passage to Asia had long lost all economic appeal. Without this potential, the Arctic became available for other uses. In the mid-century U.S., a Renaissance belief in an open polar sea was revivified by modern science and refracted through the mania of mass culture.6 Esteemed oceanographer Matthew Fontaine Maury, head of the Naval Observatory and Hydrographic Office, offered a sober and speculative vision of a polar sea: Based on the migratory patterns of whales and the necessity that the warm Gulf Stream empty somewhere, it appeared that hospitable polar waters should exist for at least for some portion of the year7 [Fig. 5]. But in Kane’s hands and before mass audiences, speculation became certainty, a sometimes open sea


Fig. 2, Ruysh World Map

Fig. 3, Fine Heart Map




Fig. 4, Mercator Arctic Map

Fig. 5, Supposed Open Sea Map

The Arctic became a stage for a particular model of the American man, unburdened by an industrializing, urbanizing, and increasingly diverse nation on the brink of war. In public anticipation of his 1855 return and then in the immensely popular account of the expedition that he swiftly published, Kane emerged as the paragon of mid-century manhood. In his intrepid attempt to penetrate the secrets of the Arctic and wrest Franklin’s crew from it, Kane fused the public ideal of progress, the romantic aesthetic of the poet-traveler, and the domestic virtue of restoring Sir and Lady Franklin’s sacred union. Though resonant with Medieval ideals of chivalry, the effort—and the particular heroism that Kane performed—drew its symbolic force from its very non-violence. His adulators insisted on the superiority of his philanthropy over the martial valor of a Leonidas, for instance, at the Battle of Thermopylae.8 Of the innumerable tributes to Kane, one poet intoned, Oh War! Thy brightest blood-stained lustre yields To glory wrested from the Arctic fields! Thy hurried immolations pale their glow Before the martyrs of the realms of snow!... Thy country claims thy birth-place, but all lands Link they proud name in con-fraternal bands.9 Published in 1860, as the Civil War loomed, this poem constructs the Arctic as an antipodal space, and the man striving there an antipodal masculinity to the violent, terrestrial combatant. The Arctic also enabled a mode of manhood that transcended increasingly sedentary urbanized life and the coming savagery of war. Meanwhile, it allowed Americans to imagine this identity within Anglo-American transatlantic fraternity. On the eve of his departure, Kane reflected on the failed British efforts to recover Franklin, “Science felt for its votaries, humanity mourned its fellows, and an impulse, holier and more energetic than either, invoked a crusade of rescue.”10 Though Kane’s crew were often depicted as crusaders, such metaphors were distilled of their historical violence or acquisitiveness. Kane’s commentators, following his lead, instead focused on the humanitarianism of the voyage: in Franklin,



widened, warmed, and filled with fauna, and the hope brightened that Franklin’s crew survived on its shores. In the broader fascination with the symbolic and imaginative potential of an Arctic polynya, a centuries-old vision inspired Kane and the public he entranced.


Kane saw not a foreigner, but “a Brother, pent up in the ice-girt seas and eternal snows of the North, awaiting, with prayerful hope, to be rescued from his long and fearful imprisonment.”11 As his first major biography admired, “Mercury, chloroform, and proof-spirits may freeze in the Arctic zone, but hearts as warm as these would stand the cold of the North Pole itself.”12 These zealous hearts, of course, burned for the Franklins. In part, however, this humanitarian fervor smoldered because it was highly gratifying to imagine kinship with the elite of British polar navigation. Even more so, Americans relished the occasion to so publicly surpass the Brits’ strenuous, scientific exertions. This aspiration to Anglo-American fraternity, however, also masked the troubling, racialized construction of American identity enacted by such Arctic imagination. Rescuing Franklin from a polar polynya could serve to inscribe American scientific and humanitarian valor as the end point of a much longer and racially coded historical quest to surmount the Arctic. In an age obsessed with ancestry, it provided an especially brutal form of genealogy: man’s suffering against the Arctic wrote him into a longer lineage of valorous, elite, northern European adventurers.13 The Arctic explorer became an avatar for American observers who wished to imagine themselves undertaking this journey. And that heroic figure could also act as an imagined synecdoche for a pristine nation that was in reality becoming far more diverse and complex than that narrow image allowed. Reviewing Kane’s expedition in 1857, the bastion of Northern intellectual life, the North American Review, mused that


There is somewhat more than a selfish passion for gain and conquest within the Anglo-Saxon heart. There is a chivalrous love of triumph over difficulties…There is also a laudable desire to extend the bounds of human knowledge…Let us give full credit to the elements of character which English and American history amply proves to exist…in the constitution of the Teutonic races.14 Throughout the long American nineteenth-century, claimants to this Teutonic lineage positioned themselves as the pivotal agents of the nation’s history and future. The Arctic offered another mirror in which to observe the special traits of Anglo-Saxon identity, while cropping out the racial and religious diversity of this expanding nation. American history was an expression of the “Anglo-Saxon heart”, in Kane it found a fitting avatar, and in the Arctic polynya a realm to exhibit its singular qualities. If few directly suffered from Kane’s voyage, it cast a distinctive

Although Anglo-Saxon centrism was most commonly exalted by Northern elites, Kane’s and kindred ventures inspired observers throughout the nation to envision a Union transcending the riven republic. Arctic expeditions assembled men from throughout the nation on a seascape remote from sectional antagonism and free of the divisive enticements of conquest, extraction, and development. To some viewers, Kane was animated by “…a patriotism as ardent and enthusiastic as a pilgrim’s religion devoted him to his country’s glory.”15 Though this reference to the nation’s seminal English settlements contained a northern bias, it shows how Kane symbolized a national mission. Indeed, Southerners joined Northerners in applauding the undertaking. Henry Clay, formidable Kentucky senator, was the crucial voice behind congressional support for Arctic voyages. US Naval Observatory head Matthew Maury, writing in New Orleans’s esteemed DeBow’s Review, asserted the higher unity organizing these missions, which could indeed transcend nationalism: “Men of science, as such, know no internationality. They owe allegiance to but one power, and that is Truth; and they are all fellow-citizens alike of the great Republic of Science.”16 As the sections moved toward war, the Arctic drew American attention to distant shores, allowing some to imagine an identity and order greater than the political structure that would soon collapse.

A Closing Arctic

Kane returned in 1855, having abandoned his brig and struggled southward with his remaining crew. In Greenland, he found refuge with an American naval expedition dispatched by the U.S. Congress to rescue them.17 Kane never attained his sea. But while Kane lay immobilized by scurvy, William Morton and Hans Christian – the half-Danish, half-Inuit guide often expunged from the “discovery” – claimed to have gazed upon its shores. Nonetheless, Kane implied his own encounter with the sea. Choreographing a skillful performance of both science and sentiment, Kane would write, that “[c]oming as it did, a mysterious fluidity in the midst of vast plains of solid ice, it was well calculated to arouse emotions



and exclusionary figure as the only meaningful actor in American history, wherever it unfurled.


of the highest order.”18 For many readers back home, his indirect contact was enough to prove the expedition’s great scientific and psychic triumph: …that open Polar sea, the hope of whose discovery had led so many of the most accomplished and daring navigators of the world to bid defiance to ‘the cold’s death-wielding strength…that open Polar sea which poetry had invested with a beauty and attraction that made the youthful mariner pant to reach the icy gates of the North;--every thing, I say, indicated that the waves of that sea were now indeed dashing at their feet!...The confident predictions of the master-spirit of the expedition, were now verified; his beautiful dream…was now a glorious reality.19


Kane’s image was rarified before the American public: a humanitarian, virtuous, romantic man of science, devoted to a cause that transcended personal, sectional, even national interest. Upon his death from lifelong ailments at the age of 37 in Havana, his body, repatriated, made an elaborate tour before adoring crowds en route to its burial in Philadelphia. Amid this posthumous fanfare, Kane coalesced as a figure who held together sundry, often contradictory American desires. He was at once an agent of the progressive expansion of the nation, and yet seemed a figure who transcended the very sectional rancor that this expansion exacerbated; he embodied a nationalist triumph, but also appeared an agent of Anglo-American fraternity; he heralded the global preeminence of those nations, but also the spirit of disinterested humanitarianism. Kane was mourned from all corners of the national elite, from the acclaimed Commodore Matthew Perry, who had forcefully initiated contact with Japan in 1853, to Washington Irving, who had devoted his literary labors to proving the merit of American letters to European readers. Farewell, illustrious Kane! No blemish-stain Or taint of blood, or fraud, or sordid gain, Shall on they cherished memory remain. But round thy grave the spotless lilies grow, In whiteness rivaling the Arctic snow— The fitting emblem of thy life below!20 Yet already by his death, and especially amid the renewed interest in Arctic exploration after the Civil War, both his theory of an Arctic polynya and his reputation frayed. While both American commentators in both the North and South easily endorsed Kane’s claim to have closed a 400-year search for an open polar sea, European contemporaries responded with

In the post-war U.S., Americans’ belief in an open polar sea and its most avid publicist likewise dimmed. A sea once teeming with whales and seals increasingly crowded with ice, and air filled by birdsong and warm breeze grew silent and frigid. By the 1870s, scientific societies in the U.S. concurred with earlier European assessments that the polar sea was a deeply frozen, impenetrable place. Some sought to keep the dream alive. Arctic explorer Isaac Israel Hayes, surgeon on Kane’s expedition, embraced the departed’s belief in a polar sea in his own 1860 expedition. Calling on the scientific elite, he exclaimed: Shall the victory remain with the sea, or shall it remain with us? Shall we not make one more effort to plant of it the standard of our science, to wave over it the flag of our country? Shall we not woe once more this Penelope of oceans?24 Already, though, one sees the shift away from the international humanitarianism and romantic aesthetic of Kane. Hayes was one of the few, strident voices pursuing a crew presumed long dead, and a space that could no longer offer the symbolic sustenance it once had. Increasingly, visions of a welcoming polynya withdrew to the realm of fantasy. Though many found vindication in the cascade of artifacts and data pouring into scientific institutions, others, weighing the balance, came to doubt that the long endeavor to recover Franklin was worth the tremendous expenditure in time, wealth, and life.25 By the time Charles Francis Hall departed on his federally funded expedition to the North Pole in 1871, more modest aims of scientific observation had replaced serious hope of a watery passage or sea.26 Over the next decades, Kane could still serve as a stirring model in popular boys’ literature, but far less for his scientific acumen, virtue,



cynicism.21 Danish geologist Hinrich Rink, who had carried out extensive studies of Greenland’s western coast, largely dismissed the validity of Kane’s claim of discovering the polar sea, drawn as it was on the uncertain scientific calculations of Morton.22 Professor August Sonntag, a GermanAmerican meteorologist aboard Kane’s expedition, similarly looked upon Kane’s triumph with sober eyes, deeming Kane’s failure, “in the most material points, a repetition of the history of every former undertaking of this kind.”23 It yielded nothing definitive of the polar sea, he averred, and thus joined the age-old tradition of southern men lured to ruin on Arctic shores.


and humanitarian impulses than for his nonconformist, individual daring.27 More damningly, although Kane remained on the pantheon of Arctic explorers, he was consigned to a lesser age of scientific inquiry. For most critics in the late century, his findings were tarnished; his claims to latitudes attained deemed impossible, and accounts of what he found there dubious. As one history from 1893 explained, “These blemishes on Kane’s great work doubtless arose from two causes: first, his implicit confidence in the ability and accuracy of his subordinates, and, second, to his poetic temperament, which transformed into beauty the common things of life and enhanced their interest by striking contrasts of high lights and deep shadows.”28 Here we read not just a shift in aesthetics—from the romanticism that swayed many mid-century disciplines to late-century positivism—but also the identity of self-consciously modern academic disciplines, as they took on their current form and rejected the methods and temperaments of their intellectual predecessors.29


The Next World to This

A half-century after Franklin sought a northwest passage, the fictional Colonel Littlepage wanders bleakly through the frame of Sarah Orne Jewett’s The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896), an ensemble of enthralling vignettes of late-century coastal Maine. The aged sailor has sought out the narrator as she works in a quiet schoolhouse, expressly, it seems, to tell the younger woman his tale. As preamble, Littlepage laments the departure from town of learned and worldly seaman such as himself, replaced by land-bound youth, “loafers…who once would have followed the sea,” but who have withered for lack of exposure to the world.31 She struggles to feign interest as he proceeds to earnestly recount a fabulous tale of a polar sea, and we watch him become a pitiable antiquity on the page. Years earlier, taking refuge in a Moravian mission on the coast of Hudson Bay, he encountered a Scottish sailor, Garrett, an ailing survivor of a British expedition to the pole. Beyond the northern ice, Garrett recounts, their crew found another land, “the next world to this.”31 There, on an open sea, they encountered an island of phantoms, figures like fog that retreated as the living approached, and an urban architecture that disappeared as

Fig. 6, Winslow Homer, Rocky Coast

The narrator indulges him. She then observes his rapture turn to dejection, as he looks over her shoulder at the schoolroom’s map of North America, his eyes “fixed upon the northernmost regions and their careful recent outlines with a look of bewilderment.”32 A new era of science had written his imagination off the Arctic map. Decades before, such firm belief in a polar warm sea and man’s capacity to know its mysteries had inspired so much. It would have placed the captain at the fulcrum of masculinity. But by the late 1800s it sets Littlepage apart, alone on his New England shore, a late ripple of the Arctic muse [Fig. 6].



they disembarked. When these specters suddenly amassed in “incessant armies,” the British crew fled, only to see the town re-emerge behind them as they pressed south. Garrett remained behind at the mission, claiming that he held the precise map to this polar netherworld, but waiting to share it with some future expedition heading north. “’T will be a great exploit some o’ these days,” Littlepage concludes.


Notes 1 Benjamin Groff Herre, Hyperborea: or, The pilgrims of the Pole (Lancaster, Pa., 1878), 17. 2 Polynya, derived from the Russian, refers in its literal sense to any open body of water surrounded by ice, though the word captured notions of a far greater, naturally endowed, and symbolically potent space in the nineteenth century before withdrawing to its current meaning. 3 Mark Metzler Sawin, Raising Kane: Elisha Kent Kane and the Culture of Fame in Antebellum America (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society Press, 2009) best explores Kane’s celebrity. The major funding came from merchant financiers Henry Grinnell in New York, who had his own speculative whaling interests in the North, and the American George Peabody, then in London. 4 Elisha Kent Kane, Arctic Explorations: The Second Grinnell Expedition in Search of Sir John Franklin, ’53, ’54, ’55 (Philadelphia, 1856).


5 Dr. Kane’s Arctic Voyage Explanatory of a Pictorial Illustration of the Second Grinnell Expedition (New York, 1857), ii. 6 The open polar sea question was first reinvigorated by John Barrow, longtime Secretary to the Admiralty, who used this theory to promote a range of Northwest Passage attempts by the British Navy after the Napoleonic Wars. His debate on the polar sea question with famed whaler William Scoresby, Jr. is recounted in Constance Martin, “William Scoresby, Jr. (17891857) and the Open Polar Sea — Myth and Reality,” Arctic, vol. 41, no. 1 (March 1988): 39-47. Famously, we hear echoes of this in Mary Shelley’s narrator, Robert Walton, from Frankenstein (1823), who begins that tale while seeking a warm Arctic haven. For a broader discussion of the Arctic in British culture, see Jen Hill, White Horizon: The Arctic in the 19th Century British Imagination (Albany, New York: NY Press, 2008). 7 Most clearly articulated in Matthew Fontaine Maury, The Physical Geography of the Sea (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1855), 146-9.

9 George W. Chapman, A Tribute to Kane: and Other Poems (New York: Rudd and Carleton, 1860), 16. 10 Elisha Kent Kane, The U.S. Grinnell Expedition in Search of Sir John Franklin (New York, 1854), 15. 11 Memoir and Eulogy, 21. 12 William Elder, Biography of Elisha Kent Kane (Philadelphia, 1858), 150. 13 Suggesting how cartography and genealogy entwined, the North American Review wrote, “These were the men who were the pioneers in the great movement of Norther discovery. Their names, as they deserve to be, are imperishably fixed upon the regions of land and sea which they so daringly explored. The spirit of the old voyagers lives in the new…Our national pride is gratified by the knowledge that we now share with England the honors of discovery at either pole, and that we can add the names of De Haven and Kane to the list of Arctic navigators,” in “The United States Grinnell Expedition in Search of Sir John Franklin. A Personal Narrative by Elisha Kent Kane,” The North American Review, vol. 80, no. 167 (April, 1855), 310-11. 14 “Arctic Explorations: The Second Grinnell Expedition in Search of Sir John Franklin,” North American Review, vol. 84, no. 174 (January, 1857), 97. 15 Elder, 180. 16 M.F. Maury, “Progress of Geographical Science,” DeBow’s Review vol. 17, issue 6 (December 1854), 573. 17 Deemed “a mission of humanity” by Lieutenant Hartstene, who lead it. Kane, Arctic Explorations, 323. 18 Quoted in Elder, 201. 19 Memoir and Eulogy, 48. 20 Chapman, 30. 21 One of the leading Southern journal, DeBow’s extolled his expedition. J.B.D. De Bow, “Dr. Kane’s Arctic Explorations,” DeBow’s Review, vol. 23, issue 2 (August 1857): 172-192. 22 Hinrich Rink, “On the Supposed Discovery by Dr. E.K Kane of an Open Polar Sea”, The Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London vol. 28 (1858), 281. 23 August Sonntag, Professor Sonntag’s Thrilling Narrative of the Grinnell Exploring Expedition to the Arctic Ocean (Philadelphia, 1857), 100. 24 Isaac Israel Hayes, “Progress of Arctic Discovery” in the Journal of the American Geographical and Statistical Society (New York 1868), 33. 25 Letter from Joseph Henry and Alexander Bache, to Joseph Kennedy, December 1, 1852, Kennedy Collections, Archives of the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University.



8 Memoir and Eulogy of Dr. Elisha Kent Kane (New York: Dexter & Brother, 1857), 24.

19 26 Charles P. Daly, “English Arctic Expedition,” North American Review, vol. 124, no. 255 (March-April 1877), 229-245. 27 M.L. Jones, Dr. Kane: The Arctic Hero; A Narrative of his Adventures and Explorations in the Polar Regions; a Book for Boys (London, T. Nelson, 1877). 28 A.W. Greely, Explorers and Travelers (New York: Scribner, 1893). 29 Dorothy Ross, The Origins of American Social Sciences (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991) insightfully examines this much larger story. 30 Sarah Orne Jewett, Country of the Pointed Firs (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1910), 27. 31 Ibid., 35.


32 Ibid., 41.




Of Material and Myth Unsettled Architectures of the American Frontier Elias Logan


In those days, the wet ones anyway – too wet for construction work – it was our habit after school to pilgrimage across the asphalt of the kickball diamond, past the plastic playground props, and climb the big hill beyond the metallic forest of the tetherball courts. There, atop that steep slope – an acropolis to the likes of our second grade selves – they were building the next stage of suburban sophistication. At the threshold between scrubby ranchland and freshly poured pavement stood a monument somewhere in scale between yard sign and billboard. A slowly fading watercolor rendering overlaid by serif font announced the forthcoming “master-planned golf course community” as Grand Mére Estates. The bourgeois branding was of course lost upon us. No, to us, the allure lay before these imminent “addresses of distinction” had yet received their addresses, let alone their distinguishing coat of stucco. It was within the immanent landscape of sedentary construction equipment and incomplete infrastructure that we devised elaborate games of tag, hide-and-seek, and simulated combat (not unlike that rehearsed by the construction workers and their machines-of-war). Half-dug foundations and mounds of scoured soil, the leftovers of levelled hillsides and strands of straw bale to retain them became places of occupation, evasion, and imagination. We felt as if we were at the front-lines and, in the abandon of a damp afternoon, nothing was off limits. And so it was that one day – one near the end of the year when the light behind the cloud-cast sky was growing dim even as the classroom emptied – we made the trek to our improvised playground-beyond-theplayground. The afternoon rain had brought out an unseasonable scent of ozone from the kickball asphalt, leaving puddles in the pitted plastic play structures and a silvery sheen on the tetherball uprights. Atop the hill

Surveying the faces of my comrades, I saw eyes fixed upon the usual suspects; palette-d EIFS panels and stacks of stick framing were standby hiding spots. None, however, seemed to have noticed the cluster of earth-movers at the farthest fringe of the transforming tundra. Between their distance and menacing presence, I reasoned, these looming loaders and colossal compactors would be far from a first-stop in the impending search. Racing along a ridgeline, I pondered the details of my refuge: Would it be enough to simply crouch behind one of the machines? Maybe an operator had left a cab unlocked? What were the chances? More likely one of the things had dug a ditch or kicked up a pile of fill for me. But that would mean a load of muddy laundry and motherly guilt awaiting me at home… Bounding into the circle of mechanical wagons, my strategizing discourse was immediately displaced. To my left, echoing from the metallic chamber of a skid-loader bucket, came the exhalations of – rotating my gaze – some great mammal. Fearful I may have startled a wolf, coyote, or some such prairie predator, I abruptly halted my momentum only to stumble into the swampy soil. Recovering my feet, the canine creature appeared undisturbed, its breathing exhausted and erratic. Its head aimed away from me, I was presented with only a paw dangling between the skidsteer’s steely teeth and a once-white pelt now matted by mud and strewn with straw fibers. While unmaimed, the dog was evidently struggling for survival…

Growing up on the cusp of subdivision sprawl in middle America*, the pioneer project preached in history class seemed very much alive amidst the transitory landscape of peripheral development. For those not contented by school-sanctioned playground offerings, there indeed was still a frontier. One you could stand on. One you could watch being unsettled.



we huddled behind the hopeful subdivision signage to escape the prairie wind that must have carried the front away with it. Seated upon a series of bales to spare our jeans from the stains of softened soil, we settled upon a seeker only when the straw had begun to scratch at our rears. The countdown commencing, we frantically fanned out across the frontier in search of effective cover.


There would come a time to identify the ecological implications, critique the socio-economic underpinnings, and bemoan the aesthetic blunders of the resultant little-big houses on the prairie, but in the meantime there was a project. And it was precisely in this mean-time, when the material problem1 appeared very much unresolved, that the not-yet-manifest destiny of the frontier mentality still held promise. We realized only too late that the great mountains of loam and levees of straw would succumb to turf-carpet lawns, mansard motifs, and the blank stare of stucco on the ass end of three car garages. The connection between the bulldozers, backhoes, and blitzkrieg of banality berated by the likes of Kunstler and Lefebvre never quite occurred to us. Time was slow passing and stimulation in short supply. Those Plains had been Great, but they were still pretty plain after all. Our youthful romanticizing of capital’s spatial spread would gradually turn into remorse, revulsion, and – still later – more pragmatic and problematized interpretations of it all. But something in our enactment of a wild existence upon the frontier placed our pre-teen selves within a timeless tradition of American material practice and mythmaking.


This myth of an untamed wilderness to be civilized might be traced to the so-called founding days of the nation (the frame within which it inevitably dwells). Though it was Thomas Jefferson’s 1803 expeditionary dispatch of Lewis and Clark that became the stuff of legend among armchair historians, it was Jefferson’s father and Lewis’ grandfather who founded an organization devoted to Westward expansion as early as 17492. Certainly just one among many aimed at extending imperial influence across the continent, history would have it that the pioneer patriarchy predates the country itself. If indeed the frontier mentality was ingrained in the American psyche from the get-go, it undoubtedly reached its apex in the heady days of Manifest Destiny. It was John O’Sullivan’s editorial in the Democratic Review of 1845 that coined the term alongside phrases like “allotted by Providence”, “fair and fertile land”, and “free development”3. Although not unanimously endorsed by political powers-that-be, these pitches read like doorbuster deals to a population that had grown fourfold and weathered two economic recessions in the preceding fifty years4. In 1865 when another newspaperman, Horace Greeley instructed “Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country”5, ‘Frontier Fever’ was already well underway thanks to the distribution of 270 million acres – 10% of the country’s lands – to 1.6 million applicants through the Homestead Act6. Homesteaders carried out a project of equal parts morality – manifesting the Jeffersonian ideal of an agrarian economy tied to representative democracy – and materiality – in their efforts to live on and off a single section (160 acres). With much of the limited material and mechanical resources deployed in working this land, architectural efforts out of necessity embodied a similar intimacy with the soil. Inhabiting a largely treeless territory in




an era predating the development of railroads tied to timber markets, homesteaders had little choice initially but to embrace ‘soddy’ chic. The sod house, a simple stacking-up of earthen chunks held together by the roots of prairie grasses, became the model for inhabiting the nation’s rural interior. While far from refinement – its interiors were notoriously damp and interface with not-so-soft standardized building components demanding of a high tolerance – the soddy perhaps epitomized the frenetic excitement of dwelling on the frontier [Fig 1].


Fig. 1, Chrisman Sisters Homestead, Goheen Settlement, Nebraska

EXTERIOR, CATTAILS Holly’s dog bounds through a stand of cattails. Holly speaks angrily to her father, who walks toward the dog with a gun. We do not hear their voices, only music. He shoots the dog and Holly runs off in horror. HOLLY (VOICE OVER) “Then, sure enough, Dad found out I’d been running around behind his back. He was madder than I’d ever seen him. As punishment for deceiving him, he went and shot my dog.” - Terrence Malick, Badlands Screenplay, based on events near Lincoln, Nebraska (1972)




As is the case with most advancing front-lines, they are bound to become backsides. Like the erosion-prone soddy, the frontier was fleeting. Such was the claim of historian Frederick Jackson Turner when, citing population density data from the 1890 census, he declared the frontier chapter complete; civilization had been writ large across the continent and now stretched from sea to shining sea7.


In a bitter irony, Turner chose to unleash his little storm cloud at – of all places – the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, constructed to celebrate 400 years since the continent’s European discovery. And European the exposition most definitely aspired to be. The accumulated wealth of Chicago – what Cronon would later identify as ‘Nature’s Metropolis’ for its role in fueling the frontier8 – was expended in a great Beaux (Faux) Arts complex of colonnades and architraves, dentils and domes. Convincingly composed in a Classical manner, its materiality was a comparatively crude concoction of plaster-over-wood slats. Called staff, this stucco-y substance would go on to create the civilizing stage sets of several turn-of-the-century American expositions in Omaha, Buffalo, and St. Louis. Though cast in the architectural mold of Antiquity, the ersatz stone – like other cosmetic products of the day – contained a secret equine ingredient alluding to the untamed image of the American West: horsehair9. If the sod house had rejoiced in the low resolution inherent in its assembly, here an industrialized economy operating at full-force masked any tolerance of unruly architectural expression.

Fig. 2, World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, Illinois

-Bruce Springsteen, ‘Reason to Believe’ from the album Nebraska (1982)

With the continental conquest complete, Turner himself wondered, what new force might carry the banner of American individualism, optimism, and democracy into the twentieth century10? Perhaps it was not so much a new force as a dramatized riff on the recent past; the manufacture of a myth. In fact, Turner could have seen the evidence for this fantastical reprise of the frontier simply by peering over the exposition fence where Buffalo Bill Cody’s Rough Rider reenactors played out the greatest hits of the Wild West11. While Cody’s career had begun as a soldier, scout, and man of the open range, somewhere along the line reality had morphed into reality show. In Cody and Company’s Train Robbery and Attack on the Burning Cabin, the frontier was transformed – to blend Turner and Baudrillard – into simulacra of the third degree; a copy without referent12. If, arguably, both Cody (in the public arena) and Turner (in the halls of academia) prolonged the pioneer imagination of an unsettled oasis on the Plains, fodder for the next stage of pioneer practice was also present in the basilican halls of the American expositions. In the Palace of Agriculture, for instance, at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis the so-called ‘Strenous Life’ of rough-riding rancher and sitting-President Theodore Roosevelt was glorified by the presence of his rustic North Dakota cabin13. Situated just a stone’s throw away, in the Palace of Machinery were the coal, steam, and gas-powered mechanical contraptions that would serve to redefine the scale and extent of settlement in the West. When that same year Roosevelt signed the Kinkaid Act, amending the Homestead Act’s provision of 160 to 640 acres14, frontier mentality and farming machine united to open previously impractical areas to agricultural – and, to a lesser degree, architectural – activity. The Sand Hills of western Nebraska, with sandy soils and scant rainfall, was one such remaining frontier-for-the-taking. Like the settlement fringes forty years earlier, the region was remote from rail access and timber resources. Ranchers responded by rekindling the pioneer pragmatism of their predecessors to devise shelter whose material make-up was as locally grown – if more industrially assembled – as the soddy before



“Seen a man standin’ over a dead dog lyin’ by the highway in a ditch He’s lookin’ down kinda puzzled pokin’ that dog with a stick Got his car door flung open he’s standin’ out on Highway 31 Like if he stood there long enough that dog’d get up and run”


it. Enabled by the mechanical hay baler, undoubtedly on display at the era’s expositions, an agricultural off-cast became building unit. After early houses of baled hay were munched into oblivion by pesky bovines, homesteaders switched to straw (all stalk no seed) and applied a plaster coat15 whose thickness did little to erase the presence of the unruly units underneath. Stacked and shedding, lumpy and lilting the straw bale house – in its amiable irregularity – seemed somehow not-yet-settled even after receiving its stucco coat and timber cap.


Fig. 3, Pilgrim Holiness Church in Arthur, Nebraska “It was one of those really cold, harsh Nebraska winters - like colder than a penguin’s toes cold - and this fella’s old dog passed away one night. It had been in the negatives for a week now and the ground was so hard he couldn’t hardly start to dig a hole to bury his furry old buddy. Well, seeing as it was so cold out and the dog was deader than dead, he figured - what the heck - he’d just leave him propped up against the shed until he could get the hole dug. So there the poor old pooch stood, leaned up against the shed wall frozen stiff as a board, waiting ‘til finally things thawed out enough to bury the critter.” - Steve Krupicka, pioneer poet, as told to the author, (2009)




While the early twentieth century development of the Sand Hills proved far from the last straw in make-do materiality, a soft tectonic, and almost intolerably high tolerances, such architectures – like the conditions that bred them – are undeniably few or rarely considered today. If Turner’s Frontier Hypothesis was not immediately embraced in its time, in an era when our nation’s interior is still more settled and the far reaches of the globe are now connected across space and time, it is difficult to refute the erasure of frontiers in this millennium. Even if one were to insist upon their existence, post-colonial and feminist discourses – by highlighting the contributions of women operating against societal forces, exclusion of ethnic minorities, and eradication of indigenous populations - have lent an appropriately dim tinge to the rosy colored glasses through which American frontier phenomena have historically been viewed. An increasing attention to those displaced by government-sanctioned development has indeed exposed the presumed emptiness and perceived enmities of the frontier as the myth, if not full-on fallacy, we all suspected it to be.


Why then endorse the moderately-messy and make-do – an unsettled architecture – if its frontier locus has been both problematized and apparently past? While the myth has indeed been revealed for what it was, a romantic retelling and useful motivator, the material – in the meantime – has abided. The enduring presence of soil and straw, stick and stucco, attest to a continuity. We would do well to recognize both the beneficence of this inheritance and the promise of a project-still-inprogress. Herein, an advocacy for a tectonics of higher tolerance is not a reaction against the refinement achieved in an increasing number of internationally glorified exemplars, so much as a pragmatic embrace of the character imbued by issues of construction assembly. For it is the precedents that have acknowledged and absorbed, rather than masked or molded-over, these tolerances that ultimately created an architectural charisma all their own. Such an alignment between architectural mentality and material mannerisms should also not be confused with a compromise in standards of craft (one needn’t conflate soddy and shoddy) or waning of ambition. Such a stance is underpinned rather by the realization that as the stakes of building in the current century are raised – it will likely be demanded that (our) tolerance do the same. There is little left to prove, but plenty to do. Whether or not we stand upon a frontier, what comes next is bound to be unsettling. It’s high time we developed the tolerance to make it so.


If the 14th century French colloquialism would have us ‘let a sleeping dog lie’, it seems that the 20th century American – when confronted with a dead one – remains insistent upon the prospect of its revival… I, for one, have reason to believe that it never passed.



Notes 1 Leland D. Baldwin, The American Quest for the City of God (Mercer University Press, 1981). 2 Dumas Malone. Jefferson the Virginian. (Little, Brown, 1948). 3 Julius W. Pratt “The Origin of ‘Manifest Destiny,” The American Historical Review, vol. 32, no. 4 (Oxford University Press, 1927), 795–798. 4 Sean Wilentz. The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln. (W.W. Norton & Co., 2009). 5 “The Homestead Act of 1862,” National Archives and Records Administration, www.


6 Thomas Fuller, “‘Go West, Young Man!”—An Elusive Slogan,” Indiana Magazine of History, vol. 100, no. 3 (Indiana University Press, 2004), 231–242. 7 Frederick Jackson Turner. “The Significance of the Frontier in American History.” (Chicago, 12 July 1893), presented at the American Historical Association. 8 William Cronon. Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West. (W.W. Norton & Co., 1997). 9 Dane Stickney. “Architects Display Model of Trans-Mississippi Exposition for Centennial.” (The Daily Nebraskan, 15 June 2006). 10. Turner.

12 Baudrillard, Jean and Sheila Faria. Glaser. Simulacra and Simulation. (University of Michigan Press, 2014). 13 Mark Bennit; Frank Parker Stockbridge; Walter B. Stevens History of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition: Comprising the History of the Louisiana Territory, the Story of the Louisiana Purchase and a Full Account of the Great Exposition, Embracing the Participation of the States and Nations of the World, and other Events of the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904. Compiled from Official Sources. (Saint Louis, Universal Exposition Publishing Company, 1905). 14 “Kinkaid Act.” Nebraska State Historical Society, 15 Hammet, Jerilou and Kingsley. “A History of the Strawbale Resurgence.” The Last Straw Journal (Paonia, CO), Originally ublished in DESIGNER/Builder magazine, (Santa Fe: Kingsley Hammett, Aug. 1998).



11 Rosemarie K. Bank “Representing History: Performing the Columbian Exposition,” Theatre Journal, vol. 54, no. 4, (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), 589–606.


Through Sick and Sane The Illusory Architecture of the Supreme Court in Mass Hysteria Snoweria Zhang

The night that Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, nobody in Boston went to sleep. Lights flashed. Sirens wailed. Hospitals were cramped with patients; people lined up only to be diagnosed with one form of mental illness or another. Some were depressed, others grew anxious. Some simply forgot everything that had happened in the past few months; others forgot everything in their lives. At first, patients were transferred by the busload to psychiatric wards outside the city, but those soon filled up. The number of medical professionals still sanguine enough to care for the mentally ill diminished quickly, as they themselves became patients. In three days, more than ninety percent of Boston residents had been diagnosed with one form of mental illness or another. The new state-issued IDs had one more entry underneath “height” that described what ailment one had. Everybody had an illness; it was like eye color. That simple. And with this pandemic, a new norm was born.


--I wasn’t actually in Boston on the night of the election. Along with two hundred strangers all anxious for news, I was flying towards a new America at 39,000 thousand feet, completely cut off from communication except from the pilot who chose not to relate the election results despite earlier promises. After the flight attendant, jet lagged and teary eyed, told me that Donald Trump had won, I dreamt about the insanity that must have ensued. Of course, to many of us in Cambridge, what happened in the last year and half had been almost just as aberrant as the annals of my imagination. Along with questions regarding Trump’s temperament and experience, there had

As it turns out, Section 12 of Chapter 123 of the Massachusetts General Laws controls the “admission of an individual to a general or psychiatric hospital for psychiatric evaluation and, potentially, treatment.” Section 12(a) allows for an individual to be “brought against his or her will to such a hospital for evaluation,” and section 12(b) allows for an individual to be “admitted to a psychiatric unit for up to three business days against the individual’s will with or without the individual’s consent.”1 Historically, treating the mentally ill has been as important a medical task as it has been an architectural one. Unlike other ailments, mental illness has frequently been isolated and otherized both socially and geographically. The prominent Kirkbride Plan from the mid-19th century aimed to arrange patients according to the echelons of their diagnoses, as clearly evidenced by the plan of Danvers State Hospital. In fact, four of the top ten psychiatric hospitals in the U.S. today are standalone institutions, and many of them assume the recognizable shape of surveillance: the panopticon. The mental hygiene movement at the onset of the twentieth century brought the issue from faraway asylums out to society, into schools and pop culture. Portrayals of mental illness shifted from a paradigm where Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, written in 1886, depicted an upstanding citizen’s moral as well as physical regression to a more primitive form, to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, written in 1962, where the author uses a clever critique of behaviorism to tell the story of a man who feigns insanity to escape prison but ends up lost in the institutional process. Around the same time, Michel Foucault described in The Birth of the Clinic that the medical gaze, despite being paraded as an objective, scientific discourse, can be mixed with power interests to manipulate the human body.2 In this paradigm, one has to either be confined to a behavioral norm, the definition of which has inherent power implications, or opt to be confined physically. Foucault was not the first one to postulate this idea. One can always turn to Shakespeare for tales of using madness to serve a political purpose. King Lear’s Edgar disguises himself as a Bedlam Beggar; Hamlet, too,



been many cartoons and satire calling into question the soundness of his mind. Some declared that he was insane. So, I wondered, what exactly would it take to call someone insane?


feigns madness to explain his erratic behavior. Frequently, Shakespeare uses these characters’ antic disposition to signal to the audience that it is not the speaking that is mad; madness lies with the rest of the world. As Hamlet says, “I essentially am not in madness, but mad in craft.”3 --Who judges the sick from the sane? In the United States, it is the court. The last part of Section 12b stipulates that “at any time during these three business days while the individual is hospitalized against their will, the hospital may discharge the individual or file a petition for involuntary commitment with the district court.”4 This three-day period is of utmost importance. It is a period of judgement — a Rosh Hashanah of the clinical kind.


In judging the sane from the insane, the normal from the aberrant, no other entity is more germane than the Supreme Court. In fact, it is bound to engage with the aberrant, to set precedents and to normalize contested situations. The law might be seen as a frigid body of work to be adhered to, but in reality, it requires judgement and interpretation. If the Supreme Court’s most prominent purpose is to interpret a living Constitution whose broad provisions are continually applied to complex new situations, then it is hardly an arena for right and wrong. Rather, it is an arena for everything in between. Ernst Kantorowicz, a German-American historian studying the Middle Ages, described the king as having two bodies, the body natural and the body politic.5 The body natural signifies the physical, biological body of the King, and the body politic is an embodiment of the realm and of all the people of a country. Similarly, the frontispiece of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan exhibits a human body formed of multitudinous citizens and surmounted by a king’s head. In this vein, one can argue that the Supreme Court encapsulates the confusion of the body politic and the body natural. Does the “Supreme Court” refer to the justices? The building? Or the judicial branch of government? Of course, the Court itself outlives the justices, but it is also nonexistent without them. The ambiguity precisely reflects the conflation of the body natural and the body politic of the court in the American political landscape. In fact, at the height of the mass hysteria, the court was imbalanced due to the absence of a ninth judge. As such, it seemed permanently suspended in a transient, aberrant state.

In many ways, this is a building that has the power to set norms and, at the same time, to epitomize a kind of delusion of grandeur. The Supreme Court building has five floors and a basement, but it is impossible to find drawings of any except the first floor where the courtroom and eight of the justices’ chambers are. The rest are about as inaccessible as they are inessential. Therefore, for the public imagination, it could be inhabited by dragons or haunted by the decrepit Millennium Falcon, which were all instruments for exhibiting grandeur in their own right. So, what might the Supreme Court — the building embodying both reason and grand illusions — look like in its suspended stage so that it not only reflects of the sickness in its body natural (i.e. the death of a justice) but also mirrors the mass hysteria in its body politic? ---



In the case of the Supreme Court, architecture is not only a signifier or proxy for reality, but it can also be the primary agent in producing a para-realism that is simultaneously sick and sane. In the case of the Supreme Court building, the architectural embodiment of supreme reason and judgment, it inevitably becomes an edifice and architectural type that is at once extremely honest and insane in its honesty. The aberration that arises out of the reduction from nine to eight is a practical one; the diminution creates a literal emptiness and imbalance that are further amplified by the architectural manifestation of the Court. In his essays on America, Jean Baudrillard paints a picture of the land of illusions. Las Vegas, Disneyland, and Salt Lake City are all dedicated to creating the “entangled orders of simulacra.” They are “a digest of the American way of life, panegyric of American values, idealized transposition of a contradictory reality.”6 Situated against all of Baudrillard’s suspended versions of the American reality, the Supreme Court emerges as the most supreme illusion and simulacrum of them all. This was manifest even in the initial design state of the building, as the architect Cass Gilbert put it, “the Supreme Court building did not have to be very big to function. Its program was tiny, to house nine individuals engaged in the most cerebral of tasks, big in stature but still small in actuality.”7For Gilbert, the lack of programmatic need for much size posed a serious design challenge. He needed a big building big enough to stand up to its neighbors. In other words, the built environment needed to reflect not only our physical needs, but also, and perhaps more importantly, our perceptual needs.






At the heart of the quest for an aberrant architecture, we search for a standard — a standard that tells us how things should be in order to live up to reason. Yet, the dialectic existence between the sick and the sane renders their relationship codependent. Their ontology cannot be parsed separately, as one negates the other. Thus, to evaluate the conditions of sanity, one has to explore the aberrant first in architectural terms. In other words, what renders architectural elements sick? Is it a house where the familiar symbol of domesticity, the gabled roof, becomes a hat for an incomprehensible structure? Or is a series of rooms where none of them are accessible? A structure whose form allows it to spatially accommodate only its occupant. Or an infinite corridor? Or is it any combination of an infinite list of “wrongs,” where architecture might signify one thing but act like another; where windows are blind, space malleable, and surfaces uninhabitable? More importantly, how can a vocabulary of seemingly nonsensical elements be recontextualized to become not only normal, but also rational?


How might one postulate a design for the Supreme Court in its aberrant state? We are in strange waters, where all the usual considerations may be reversed — where illness may be wellness and normality illness, where excitement may be either bondage or release, and where reality may lie in inebriety, not sobriety. It is the very realm of Cupid and Dionysus. Amidst a societal mass hysteria, the courthouse’s previously rational existence




is now challenged into insanity. In other words, only architecture that is insane can live up to reason. So, how might we speculate on a Supreme Court in its new incarnation? At its heart, the Supreme Court is a set of eight houses, a theater, basketball court, and a temple emblematic of the highest authority and deserving the utmost veneration. The datum that defines the norm that the rest of the structure is judged against must be erased. Instead, the new Supreme Court building, in response to its sickness, ought to produce a confusion of datums. In the case of almost all buildings on the National Mall, the ground floor and entry is elevated by a plinth. Hugh Ferriss’ renders Cass Gilbert’s design with an entry that is glorified and blindingly bright. As such, a new ground condition is created.


In its aberrant state, The Supreme Court is eight houses, one for each justice. In “The Lamp of Memory” from Seven Lamps of Architecture, John Ruskin says “if men lived like men indeed, their houses would be temples — temples which we should hardly dare to injure and in which it would make us holy to be permitted to live.”8 In Gaston Bachelard’s notion of the home, only the attic can be such a temple.9 Therefore, this set of eight houses, while suspended in their temporary reality and living in a Bachelardian dream, must embrace a new datum where the inhabitable ground is its attic. Thus, the legible form of the gabled roof is the architectural signifier for where the eight justices reside within the larger structure. The house, which is arguably a representation of the body natural, is fused with a larger frame containing the courtroom, which in the same vein represents the body politic. The dormer becomes the entrance, and the roof becomes the facade. The courthouse is a temple. After all, the very form of it echoes that of a Greek edifice dedicated to demos. Frequently, in mythology, the mountain is used as a bridging device between the real and the fantastical, as if the mere act of ascension signifies apotheosis. Here, the mountain is not only a container for the Supreme Court in its own suspended reality, but also simultaneously evokes the Tower of Babel and a house in Bachelard’s poetic reverie, where the mountain is the allegorical attic, and the theater the allegorical basement.




The courthouse is a place of performance. It is a constant stream of evaluations of freedom and incarceration. If the Constitution is a play, then each Supreme Court decision is an adaptation. The judges are actors that tell us what version of reality we live in. If the world is a stage, then courtroom tales are the oldest art form. What the elevated ground hides, of course, is the ever-essential and the non-characteristic Supreme Court basketball court. Of course, an honest building has to acknowledge its delusions. At the new Supreme Court, the ground is lifted around the perimeter, but as soon as it enters the realm of the building, it curves back down again, thereby acknowledging the elevated status as an artificial creation and an illusion. It is a plinth that emerges as quickly as it disappears. While the courtroom is not visible from the rest of the building, the basketball court is put on center display. Similarly, from the exterior, the courtroom is exposed while the true core of the building, the basketball court, is hidden from view. ---


The law is not frigid. As the ambiguity of many contested amendments illustrate, the constitution is interpretive and capable of producing realities. The Supreme Court, as a set for constructing legal narratives, has to act here as not only a courthouse, but also a theater, a house, a basketball court, and a space of psychosis where one’s sanity is called into question constantly. In a nation caught in mass hysteria, the court ought to present a renewed sense of rationality through architectural sickness, where suspended versions of American reality can find refuge. Through the subsumption of the sick and the sane emerges a new architectural constitution. E Pluribus Unum.








Notes 1 Commonwealth of Massachusetts, “Mental Health,” General Laws, The General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, TitleXVII/Chapter123 2 Michel Foucault, Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception / Michel Foucault; Translated from the French by A.M. Sheridan (New York: Travistock Publications Limited, 1973), 109. 3 William Shakespeare, Hamlet (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014), 352.


4 Commonwealth of Massachusetts, “Mental Health,” 12(b). 5 Ernst H. Kantorowicz, Kings Two Bodies - a Study in Medieval Political Theology (Princeton University Press, 2016), 9-10. 6 Jean Baudrillard, and Sheila Faria. Glaser. Simulacra and Simulation (University of Michigan Press, 2014), 12. 7 Barbara S. Christen, Steven Flanders, and Robert Arthur Morton Stern, Cass Gilbert, Life and Work: Architect of the Public Domain (Norton, 2001), 277. 8 John Ruskin, The Seven Lamps of Architecture (New York, 1857), 149. 9 Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994), 18.




Room as Horizon Peter Carl


The Room Above A Convenience Store [Fig. 1] from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks series is the opposite of everything for which architectural design strives. Virtually derelict, tobacco-stained, it is an empty box apparently about 4.5m square equipped with furniture discarded in the 50s and 60s. Bowls of creamed corn - ‘garmonbozia’, the ritual food of those in the Black Lodge, indigestible by people who do not - occupy a centrallyplaced green Formica table addressed by The Arm and Bob. They both laugh and both sit in chairs supported by metal struts like the table and stools in the background (and unlike the plump Art Deco furniture often used by Lynch). The Jumping Man marks the middle ground with his own spotlight. He wears a red suit like The Arm and a beaked mask similar to that worn later by the grandson of Mrs. Tremond/Chalfont (she has two names), who together occupy one end of a sofa as brown as the floor. Next to them is the Electrician. Two Woodsmen - who attack people’s heads, act as custodians of the Black Lodge, and revive Evil Dale complete the group pinned against the back wall; and they support a cobbled-together screen in front of a malevolent electric uplighter. Three papered windows suck air and light from the room. ‘Convenience’ here refers to life’s little needs or pleasures, sold at elevated prices often to transients, a commercial semiotics Lynch exploits throughout the series (even the characters seem imported from advertisements, exercising choices within their market segment). Lynch’s version of the rural west of America - the third series of Twin Peaks indicates the Convenience Store is a remote, isolated gas station - contains incomplete stories (lives), intermittent wireless, great distances inhabited by anything other than up-to-date urban sophistication. A neglected void within an expanse, the Room Above a Convenience Store is a consistently negative rendering of convenance (propriety), eighteenth-century French architectural theory’s version of Vitruvian decor. If the Vitruvian temple is the apex of goodness and beauty (from which all other architectural order is derived), this is its opposite. The Room Above a Convenience Store is linked to the Black Lodge, the Red Room (or Waiting Room), the Dutchman’s Lodge, a pit of petroleum surrounded by twelve sycamore


Fig. 1, The Room Above a Convenience Store



trees, all settings devoted to evil and ugliness, even violence and disgust.


For Lynch, a convenance of neglect and decay appropriately shelters the recently-dead-but-not-yet-forgotten, who constitute a fusion of coven and supernatural Freemasonic Lodge, with their meeting-places, modes of dress, behaviour and signs by which they recognise each other. They are not zombies, rather they spend their time managing the world’s evil (the viewer’s pity seems to be reserved for living characters). They can emerge from mirrors or, for example, Mrs. Tremond/Chalfont gives Laura Palmer a painting which she enters to arrive in the Red Room shortly before she is killed. The liminal milieu they inhabit - the evil they constitute - has a character like the Freudian Id, turbulent desires that threaten social conventions and are most alive in dreams. Indeed the Room Above a Convenience Store is only visible when it is needed (thus violating also Vitruvian firmitas); and the affiliation of film with dream (Merleau-Ponty uses ‘hallucination’) hardly needs rehearsal. In fact the room is obviously three canvas flats on a sound stage (as the Red Room is red curtains and a zig-zag floor pattern); and the question arises as to how the metamorphoses of such a room could be credible. Although sleeping dogs twitch their legs and bark in their dreams, we generally imagine that it is only humans who can speculate outside the immediate demands of survival; and of course since Parmenides, thinking and Being have belonged together. Exercising one’s freedom as a commitment to ethical coherence is a standard for right thinking, elevated to a cultural principle in Enlightenment Reason. However, this is evidently a special condition within our more generous capacity for evil, for misunderstanding, for delusion, for deception, for playing with options, for suspicion and jealousy, for being overcome by love, dread or anxiety or even mental illness, for being afflicted by phantoms, for having gods, myths and their sometimes bloody rites. The Sherlock Holmes who can read the physical evidence and peoples’ psychologies as well as sniff the cultural winds represents a canny wisdom - with its roots more in experience than scholarship - on which the reader/viewer relies for moral orientation. Lynch, co-author and director, plays this role (as Gordon Cole) in Fire Walk with Me and the third instalment of Twin Peaks, after the series’ original detective split in two between a Good (more dead than alive) and an Evil (more alive than dead) Dale Cooper. The ‘world’ of Twin Peaks is less attached to the Lynch who appears in the drama as Gordon than to the author/director Lynch, who is effectively trying to rescue his original avatar. However, in the viewer’s world, Lynch is a

The distribution of clues by the author/director for himself to interpret creates a tension between autobiography and a geography centred on the rural American West (both ‘heartland’ and topography of freedom-asestrangement), but stretching from fingernails to New York and Buenos Aires (“good airs”). Moreover the clues are peculiar, hard to understand; banalities might be significant. Twin Peaks evidently falls within the genre known as psycho-geography, which strives to re-situate within current protocols of understanding the archaic question of one’s place in reality (cosmos). The principal difference between the archaic and the contemporary renderings is that, for the latter, the perspectivism of Cartesian epistemology accords authority to intellection or mental life (psychology from which soul/psyche has been subtracted), whereas for the former, the given conditions are authoritative, associated with gods and a transcendence to which we no longer subscribe. Accordingly, Lynch deploys a cascade of frames beginning with the screen on which the drama unfolds, whose fourth wall allows us to peer into rooms that are similar to the ones in which viewers are sitting, but also into the dreams and psychological states of characters. This principle resonates in mirrors, pictures, curtains, portals as well as stage-sets, rooms, houses, institutions (e.g., bars, hotels, police-stations through which transients pass), towns, regions to which are attached more or less stereotypical associations embodied in characters and their mannerisms or customs which, finally, appear as events currently happening in the drama, in the past, in a dream or shamanistic transport, in a conspiracy, in a myth, as an obsession, fear or hope. The series scrambles the conventions of TV soap-operas; it is a convenience-store of apparently disconnected episodes, one next to the other like products on shelves, each fraught with good and evil. Following the commercial semiotics, the purchasable goods - coffee, cherry pie, furniture, drugs, women - are extracted from an ostensibly neutral ‘market’ which obscures the evil attached to desires, according to the spiritual economy of Twin Peaks. We consequently find inversions. For example, whilst domestic privacy hosting evil as cosily as family propriety is a



trying to rescue his original avatar. However, in the viewer’s world, Lynch is a distant media presence living just downhill from Mulholland Drive and wrapped in motifs of strangeness, Surrealism, happy movie-sets, etc. (but also inviting suspicion of indulging rather than understanding violence against women).


whilst domestic privacy hosting evil as cosily as family propriety is a familiar horror trope, Lynch also casts the supposedly benign pine-forest wilderness (moral corrective to urban corruption according to Jefferson and Olmsted...sent through the sawmill in the opening credits of the original Twin Peaks) as a realm harbouring native-American lore, aliens, drug dealing, gambling, prostitution, and violence. ‘Nature’ generally in Twin Peaks is not the nourishing salad for suburban delights: the pictures in the Palmer house are of nature, as are the views out the windows - leaks in domestic introversion - and floral wallpaper is menacing. Conversely, electricity is not the silent obedient service supporting the appliances of domestic ease, but an obscure malevolent force; one learns to beware a blinking light in a Lynch movie.


If anxiety regarding frames of reference is one way to understand PostModernism, the communication between frames attracts attention. In Twin Peaks, the iconography of electricity - from sockets to American telegraph-poles and their wires - provides a recurring metaphor for the transmission of ‘messages’, whether they arrive on a phone (voice or text), a screen, in a dream or vision, by telepathy, by a sign inscribed on a building or jewellery, or via conversations or gestures. People twitch and speak in aphorisms and epitaphs, as if they were speaker-phones for a remote agency (ultimately, Lynch). Indeed, the viewer becomes so alert to messages that nothing seems casual or inadvertent; and we share the characters’ fervent attachment to clothes, furniture, objects. Lynch seems not to be persuaded by Baudrillard’s disdain for American culture - and so this fervency is not cynical or ironic so much as tragic. For all the invocation of other places, other realities, this is the world we have made for ourselves in prime-time; and our condition of constantly interrogating the topography of clues - always more interesting than the resolution makes us co-conspirators in a ‘wedunnit.’ The ‘it’ we have done recalls a museum full of religious objects addressed by every emotion but worship; faith becomes Marx’s fetishism, that is, a convenience store. If it is true that animals are trapped in their needs, that their imaginative topography is dictated to them by their ecological niche - that the soaring kestrel never appreciates the countryside but sees only the traces of rodents - Twin Peaks suggests that the main difference in our behaviour is that we create the niches. We are not of course utterly free in this regard, except in our imaginations; and one person’s idea of goodness - a utopia - is generally more evil than the evil that already exists...which suggests a limit to Vitruvian or French theory concerned

Despite all the emphasis upon psychological ambiguity in Twin Peaks (and in film generally), we are never utterly disoriented, even in the face of apparently non-sequential scenes and episodes, or of the purely blackand-white patterns following the A-Bomb test in Part 8 of the last series of Twin Peaks, a kind of ground zero for any image-creation. Similarly dreams are rarely incoherent or arbitrary; the settings and materials of which they are composed are communicable, even if the narrative is obscure. Demis Hassabis, working from the perspective of computational AI, acknowledges the importance of settings to our narrative episodic memory. The objects of desire or need in the ecological niche, or the concernful, obsessive, fetishist or ritual attachments to people or things and their ‘messages’ are extracted from the assumption that they are always-already there in peripheral vision awaiting attention. The silent darkness between showings or between episodes is less the condition (or common frame) for their appearance than the movement between forgetfulness (death) and recollection (the Aristotelian dunamis and energia, potential and actual). Peripheral vision does not exist as nonbeing or a blank slate; it is always vision-of-something, of a context redolent with promises or threats, opportunities for understanding or misunderstanding. There is always more in these deep backgrounds than is available to focused or conscious attention (though of course the choices matter); and it is from these given conditions that our customary being-with people, things, technology, ‘nature’ (i.e. as a concept) takes its measure. We are beholden to the deep backgrounds, but the reflective distance from our contexts granted by our imaginations is the basis of the moral tragedy: our inability to resolve the tension between freedom-from and obligation-to the fundamental natural conditions. The ancient insight regarding the authority of the given conditions may still be instructive, even without gods. Regarding something like gods, explicit Classical references in Twin Peaks seem to be limited to the Medici Venus and the Venus de Milo in the Red Room (presumably related to the ideals of beauty represented by the prom-queen Laura). However the referential universe of Twin Peaks



to enable, or perhaps to enforce, a ‘good’ architecture. From whence, then, come the moral interpretations attached to the topography of clues - from the commerce of ‘exchanges’ Hayek called the market? If our imaginations are the hallmark of our freedom, are they purely mental, and are they not very vulnerable to a variety of ‘reasons’, even wrong or evil ones?



moves intriguingly close to the Eleusinian Mysteries (paradoxically both secret and open to all Greek speakers). The initiation hall, or Telesterion (light in the darkness), hosts the drama of Persephone’s third of the year in the underworld as bride of Hades, a cycle of divine/human death and renewal governing the seasonal rebirth of crops - notably corn. Demeter’s search throughout the land for her Kore and her subsequent withholding of the crops creates a land afflicted by great distress. Along with Gordon and his assortment of allies or helpers, viewers of Twin Peaks similarly find themselves wandering an anxious land (a common enough mythic theme) on behalf of a young woman taken to the underworld. The fire in which Demeter places Keleos’ son to endow him with immortality may be reflected in Twin Peaks’ frequently-intoned “fire walk with me”. Twin Peaks is utterly reticent about the putative White Lodge, it all takes place in thrall to the Black Lodge. The initiates of the latter, unlike those at Eleusis, are agents of the dead; and the third instalment of Twin Peaks is haunted by the considerable number of actors (the cast is another ‘lodge’) who aged and died across the twenty-seven year history of the series (most poignantly the Log Lady’s sign-off to Hawk, aired two years after she had succumbed to cancer). Although both the Demeter myth and Twin Peaks involve violent fathers who consign daughters to the underworld, death in Twin Peaks is associated with evil and the redemption promised at Eleusis is denied or treated ironically. Only the first half of the DemeterPersephone cycle would be relevant to Twin Peaks; and Lynch may doubt the possibility of redemption. However, more important for our purposes is the capacity for the Telesterion to re-enact events from a mythic past. For both Eleusis and for Twin Peaks the reciprocity between reality in general and mystery-rooms invokes a transcendence embodied in fundamental conditions to which we are all obliged. Lynch demonstrates, moreover, that the special conditions of the time-outof-time performed in sacred or secular celebratory settings depend upon how rooms behave anyway. He works with what is usually consigned to peripheral vision - the furniture, furnishings and architecture. He exploits the backs of things, the gaps which support the foreground, such as the space behind a sofa or between a bed and the wall, from where communications with the other world emerge (goodness has potential evil for its context). The Red Room and the Room Above a Convenience Store are both equipped with generous voids (in this respect a putatively crowded Convenience Store is the reciprocal of the Room above it). The morbid efficiency of modernist corridors, even brightly-lit ones, become apprehensive journeys by introducing a turn around which a protagonist

The spatial horizon is the receptacle of the temporal horizon. The horizon’s embodiment of memory - literally or as legend or lore or tradition or recollection/reconstruction or re-enactment (all versions of recognition) - supports the movement back and forth between actual and potential, between immediate absorption in practical obligations and the time-out-oftime of rite, ceremony, drama, reflection. Memory of course can be dread or hope, confused or exact, and this is what Lynch exploits in his use of what we hold in peripheral vision. The singularity of an horizon gives the general orientation or character of a room, which terms like convenance or decor attempt to capture. However, the movement between potential and actual is extremely differentiated - a cup of coffee is more mobile and closer to the present than the desk on which it sits (even if the coffee is drunk ‘automatically’, in partial attention). Temporality is always embodied, and therefore plural; it is more true to speak of temporalities than of ‘time’ as such and in the singular. The dependency of the coffee cup upon the desk is only part of a more general stratification: our thoughts and speech move faster than (and depend upon) our gestures and posture, which depend upon the furnishings and furniture, which depend upon the walls and floor. To this extent the horizon has a depth, which reaches into the past, into the primordial typicalities of dwelling (of which architectural types are a reified part), ultimately into earth as horizon of world (Heidegger’s rendering of potential/actual, conditions/possibilities). If it is our custom to regard a room as a species of Heideggerian clearing, it is Derrida who demonstrates the depth - and ambiguity of readings - of that in which the clearing appears; and long-dead figures like Lao-Tzu or Maimonides can claim our attention alongside last night’s dream, an unwashed plate,



(and the viewer) cannot see. The space beneath tables, chairs and stools perched on metal legs is visually unstable, therefore ominous. This estrangement of the background conditions de-stabilises whatever takes place within a room (enhanced by Lynch who laces the evil with a sardonic humour). That is, a room is an horizon for praxis. Paradoxically, the integrity of a room allows us to forget its immediate context whilst it is always imbued with the cultural (institutional) typicality of the whole context - as taste moves between individual freedom, personal mementos, and conventions typically called ‘style’. We instantly accept the world conjured by the Room Above a Convenience Store whilst acknowledging it is only three painted flats in a moving image that allows certain characters to emerge from mirrors.


a child’s laugh or the medieval carving scavenged from a World War, all without collapsing in confusion (a competence beyond the mentalist concepts governing current AI). Lynch recognises the rich scope to intervene in the ‘peripheral’ structure of temporal dependencies; but he also recognises it cannot be arbitrary - there is a world at stake which is the measure of credibility.


Unlike the pragmatic temporality of history, the paradigmatic time-out-oftime that can be re-enacted is complete (someone chopping onions at the beginning of a play alerts us to watch for knives and onions during the rest of the drama). The spectrum of time-out-of-time exhibits another stratification: in ritual our relation with the cosmic conditions is at stake, in ceremony civic order is at stake, in drama the division between actors and spectators allows for speculation on human finitude, and reflection is always with us (though, for present official purposes, it requires the elaborate apparatus of think-tanks, laboratories, publications, libraries, server-farms, the web and educational institutions - the so-called ‘knowledge industry’). Secular culture regards ritual as a somewhat desperate or irrational attempt to find meaning, best neutralised in the disciplines of psychology and anthropology; and, although we have some ceremony - notably in law-courts or parliaments - drama and reflection presently constitute the centre of gravity of our investment in time-outof-time. It is therefore instructive that Lynch works backwards through this spectrum to arrive at intimations of transcendence regarding our obligation-to the fundamental conditions. Whether or not Lynch is convincing, the implication is that we ‘think’ with an imaginative room whose horizon-depth of memories comprises the constant conditions for the possibilities of praxis. Thinking currently enjoys a priority over the embodying conditions which make it possible. If Heidegger is right that, for Parmenides being preceded thinking, whereas for Descartes, it was the reverse, the reciprocity of earth and world is mutually dependent - earth is always already architecture (and viceversa). Urban civility creates wilderness as its complementary sublime, paradoxically both pure and dangerous. In other words, the room’s time-out-of-time incarnates our capacity for anticipation and planning, for imagination’s freedom - and therefore its vulnerability. It must be on behalf of this freedom coupled with adherence to the facts of science that for the last century architects have used this room to create its opposite. Room-as-horizon depends upon potential practical

When Leger complained that one could no longer hide things in modernist architecture, he meant more than the remains of last night’s party. What resides in the depths of the room’s horizon - which can be invoked by even less than three panels of painted canvas - are the ethical claims upon our freedom (reified to buildings in the mandates of decor and convenance, and developed in terms of evil by Lynch). Indeed the ethical horizon provides the context for the moral judgements of praxis (always made in particular circumstances by particular people in history). The world’s cultures offer a variety of ontologies embodied in analogical practices by which finitude negotiates its tragic suspension between freedomfrom (modernism) and obligation-to (myth and ritual) the fundamental conditions.



involvements (claims and affordances) with all that lies in peripheral vision, whereas ‘space’ flattens this concrete, differentiated topography to a vast generalisation. ‘Space’ is a concept of immanent infinity that seeks to encompass everything from non-Euclidean geometries to individual psychology. Yet it perversely asks to be apprehended in ‘experience’, preserving the perspectivism inherent in Cartesian epistemology, as if we would otherwise evaporate into the infinity. According to this regime, walls no longer harbour depths but become objects - planes or surfaces obedient to ‘geometry’ (whether clinging to the remains of a Neo-Platonic ontology or offloading design to the computational generation of shapes), that is, to the principal icon of Reason. In practice of course, the situation is much more ambiguous, as the experiments in so-called autonomous architecture demonstrated - an interior accommodates but also greatly exceeds geometric specification.


Ornament in the City of Industry Juhee Park and Noam Saragosti

In the City of Industry, an industrial suburb that shares its twelve mile long border with seven other cities, the industrial big box sits center stage in the public realm. Monstrous, generic, and indifferent, these giants are relentless one-level climate controlled tilt-up concrete buildings defined by the extent of their plots. Their interiors are just as anonymous: typical plans ruled by logistics and programmatic indeterminacy. In the big box, architecture is limited to the envelope. It is evident that economy and pragmatism are the main directors of the city. Despite this, these monsters reveal an attempt at ornamentation. Whether it’s a stripe of paint or faux brick adorning the facade, they superficially attempt to deal with scale, order, and identity.


When only the necessary exists, ornament as applique is a contradiction. Rather than surface-level adornment, ornament embedded in its construction and material processes can emerge as the expressive agent that civilizes the big box, from facility to a work of architecture. The thesis is a series of portraits of big boxes in the City of Industry, each reexamining techniques of tilt-up concrete construction to approximate the role of ornamentation.




One Typically in tilt-up concrete construction, wood members are used as formwork for the construction of a concrete wall and the wood formwork is discarded. Exposed raw concrete is considered a crime. The walls are disguised through a process of embedding faux brick or veneer stone and when the money is tight, a thorough paint job. This project reconsiders these norms through careful consideration of the parts to the whole.


By inlaying the utilitarian elements of the wall--the formwork, structure, and downspouts are embedded into the concrete as a permanent and intentional part of the envelope as a single composite. The parts and materials that are on their own unremarkable, ordinary, and even dirty become elevated through the construction process. Like a precious marqueterie box that houses our most prized possessions, the inlaid industrial big box attempts to express its significance as a sacred building in the city of industry. This preciousness emerges not through the use of fine materials or fixtures but from inlaying utilitarian parts into the wall. The project is both precious and dirty. Ornament emerges from the construction process. The steel inlay become locations for miscellaneous attachments like lights and cameras. The joint between the tilt-up concrete panels become pockets for the downspouts to nestle. The truss on the facade is repeated in the interior, structuring the roof and ceiling. The ceiling is an extension of the facade and vise versa creating continuity between the interior and exterior.












Two Tilt up concrete panels are typically poured on top of the floor slab for a straight smooth finish. It is often perceived for its flimsiness, a so-called cardboard architecture - a big box. This project’s concrete panels are poured directly on top of the earth. A tractor, towing a dethatcher, tills the raw earth into three different striations. Rocks, debris, and sublayers of earth emerge to the surface of the formwork. On top of this, the typical formwork for the walls are laid. The loading dock openings are framed by a highly precise mold, that appears to be imprecise and archaic. The cast is a monolithic wall that traces the ground - rock, debris, and the worker’s footprints are inscribed onto the facade. The process is highly technical: the formwork is laid with high precision and the earth is tilled using distinct tools. Yet the surface is imprecise and rough. As time goes by rain, wind, and sun will transform the facade -- the granules of soil will erode away exposing the raw concrete underneath. Rustication makes the wall appear substantial and robust - expressing permanence and strength. It is not immediately apparent when the building was erected.


Thin and long attachments such as wall lights, cameras, and rain spouts adorn the facade casting long shadows across the rough textured surface. The corners reveal the construction process, the precise flat edge of the backside of the wall contrasts against the rough rusticated exterior. Though the wall is smooth and precise on the inside, the ceiling takes on a rough texture: a thick layer of fireproofing is sprayed over the ceiling substrate and structure without prejudice -- the many parts appear as a single surface. Industrial ceiling lights hang from the rough plane allowing the element of gravity to play a role in the construction. The building oscillates between precision and imprecision, technicality and craft.












Three Typically poured-in-place concrete is difficult to polish. With tilt-up construction, the horizontal process allows panels to be polished efficiently and economically. This project embraces this property of tilt-up in order to confront the notion of spectatorship through visual distortion. The panels follow the typical tilt-up process: formwork is laid on the building’s slab forming smooth precise panels. While the panels are still in their horizontal position, an industrial machine polishes and grinds the matte surface revealing a reflective surface above an undulating datum. The untreated base maintains a matte boundary where trucks and forklifts scuff and dirty the building. Dark blue pigment is mixed into the concrete so that the wall’s color is intrinsic and its surface more reflective.


Due to truck radii, onramps, dysfunctional railroads, and canals, many buildings in the City of Industry are curved or zig-zagged in plan. This project adjusts to the presence of a freeway onramp by both curving and zig-zagging in plan. The combination of the plan and reflectivity of the surface attempts to create a fun-house effect of visual distortion. The building begins to approximate the appearance of a large blue granite monolith- distinct but reflecting its context. The miscellaneous attachments are painted to match the blue tone of the wall to camouflage their presence, to make them disappear. The interior of the building is fairly standard, apart from a strip of mirror the lines the wall where it meets the ceiling. The ceiling’s insulation is held by a reflective space foil blanket that continues the effect of the mirror. The interiors attempt to produce similar effects to the exterior, to expand space infinitely above a certain datum. The typical vast big box interiors appear even more endless.












Embodying an Afterlife Shaowen Zhang

We travel a great deal in some of Sade’s novels….The voyage is a facile initiatory theme; nevertheless, although Juliette begins with an apprenticeship, the Sadian voyage teaches nothing; whether Astrakhan, Angers, Naples, or Paris, cities are merely purveyors, countrysides are retreats, gardens are scenery, and climates are operators of lust; it is always the same geography, the same population, the same functions; what must be gone through are not the more or less exotic contingencies, but the repetition of an essence, that of crime. If, therefore, the voyage is varied, the Sadian site is unique: one travels only to shut oneself away.


-Roland Barthes, Sade, Fourier, Loyola, pp. 15

These opening lines to Roland Barthes’ first chapter on the Sadian landscape ring of an insight so contemporary it is hard to resist the urge to substitute “globalization,” or the “global circulation of commodities” as that criminal essence underlining all this travel. That Barthes deems cities of the Sadian voyage as “purveyors” further amplifies this analogy: urban centers in the globalized world are bastions of commerce, communication and, one may say, culture, while places excluded from this list (as well as falling outside the “countryside”) labor in service of their center. Continuing along the lines of Barthes’ claims above, we could then understand globalization as the force which has made physical domains programmatic. Of notable absence in this narrative are the network of bodies – the human agents – bodies that labor to supply the products of globalization, and their role to play within globalization’s dizzying turns of difference and repetition. Carey Young’s first photograph from the 2007 photo series Body Techniques [Fig 1.] offers a provocation at the junction of this relationship.

Fig. 1, Body Techniques (after Sculpture II, Kirsten Justesen)



We see the artist dressed in her trademark grey suit, curdled up in fetal position at the front-center of the image, thereby obstructing the doubleloaded, one lane load which gives access to buildings on either side. This plate is the only one in her series composed with such strong one-point perspective. Divided into four sharp quadrants, the flanking buildings are found actors in Young’s subject “global corporate village,” whereas sky and ground find parity in their representative dulling greys. An illusionistic effect of this composition is brought forth by the perspectival depth, though no known use of digital alterations are undertaken. Instead, and on second glance, it is the complete obfuscation of vanishing point’s horizon, in tandem with strong compositional parities of sky to ground, building to building, that creates this optically nauseating sense of foreboding. As a result, though what is most readily apparent is the perspectival relentlessness, this is soon interrupted by a feeling of asphyxiation at the realization it is inescapable flatness that ultimately comes forth. Just as there are no compositional reliefs on either side of the image, neither is there any escape from the closed world of this scene.



The site of Young’s piece, is “set in the vast building sites of Dubai and (neighboring) Sharjah’s futuristic corporate landscape….[is] the location for Young’s photographs - a series of empty, uninhabited “new build” developments reminiscent of Las Vegas, rising from the desert’s tabula rasa.”1 As for this particular image, the mirrored row of buildings are programmed as some sort of distribution center. The buildings meet ground in a nonchalant, matter of fact manner. In fact, the entire complex is constructed expediently and cheaply with the lower portion likely stuccoed over a low CMU wall. The building’s main walls, as well as its barrel vault awnings (a formerly grand building component) are clad in corrugated metal strips. Once more, the entire structure is painted over with blue and yellow, as if the buildings themselves have something to hide. These materials are not the proud proclamations of steel and glass – the expensive and sleek embodiments of Modernism’s innovative project. In themselves, the materiality here is not capable of connoting the kind of metaphysical or aesthetic levitation (or elevation) by way of structural deception – instead they can only replicate, duplicate, get painted over. Perhaps owing to this fact, and in an effort to grasp at some kind of difference amidst the droning backdrop of corporate simulacrum, it would seem that instead of elevating the banal building to the special object, the low program into high art, Young is more intent on showing us how Modernism’s programmatic embodiment endures though amplified, scaled down, cheapened, painted over, mirrored endlessly etc. thus carrying over as one of globalization’s corollary embodiments. Continuing the analogy, “speed” and “efficiency” in these buildings comes forth only in their apparent lack. These buildings further amplify the relentlessness of perspective – the repetition of elements speaking to seriality in Modernist art, and the composition of the photograph as a continuum of classical Modernist perspectivization2. Similarly, one can understand these repetitious loading docks as a direct analogy to airport terminals, yet whereas the latter were imbued with a heady optimism as those smooth, airy conduits that usher the body to any which location by hopping on the airplane and following the horizon, the portals in Young’s photograph are dead ends. They face each other. They exit to one choice – that road leading to more of the same. This road is not a landing strip. The inescapability of reality owes simply to the building’s very existence – they are the elements that alone obstruct the horizon, denying us the pictorial relief while didactically pointing to the loss of any hopes for escape. Neither are there grandiose themes to be found as here everything is scaled down; the scene is more

A comparison between Young’s piece can be made, to start, when we consider the work alongside Walter De Maria’s 1969 Mile Long Drawing, wherein two parallel lines are drawn with chalk, set twelve feet apart and extending for one mile across the vast expanse of the Mojave Desert. The first noticeable distinction between these two works is that though compositional elements are clear in their formal similarity, the thematic element take a somber turn. Whereas De Maria’s parallel lines find their defining musculature in their conquest of a vast, untamed landscape, inscribed confidently towards the open horizon as if almost trafficking in Turner’s Frontier Thesis, Young’s piece forces us to come to terms with globalization’s evisceration of context. If the tone of De Maria’s piece can be understood as a continuum of Modernism’s sense of promise programmatically, geographically, and thus epistemologically, then Young’s work is its cerebral, retrospective counter-provocation. There is a double meaning to uncover in Young’s sited-ness – though we know from the artist statement that these scenes are staged in Dubai, there is nothing present save little bits of sand that call to this fact. Moreover, Young’s photographs all take place in corporate villages, places where while adhering proudly to an aesthetic code of self-referential simulacrum, do not fail to parasitically impose this aesthetic-architectural code to evermore diverse geographies under their operative banner. Whether Dubai, Angola, Chongqing or the Midwest, corporate activities are increasingly and undeniably extending their geographical reach, thereby closing off the notion of new epistemologies represented as, or at least strongly alluding to, contextual specificity. Instead, what this kind of economic-existential output leaves us is a more or less binary total landscape – who and where constitutes the purveyors; who and where constitutes the buyers. To put it another way, the physical characteristics of Young’s contemporary world-landscape are rendered meaningless as metaphorically “desert” landscapes devoid of available visual-material relationships to Dubai itself. The foremost program of globalization – the economic – has already made for itself a closed loop.



closed off than ever, and pulsates with ambivalence. Hence, the formalprogrammatic content allude to Modernism’s discontents by speaking to (or speaking as) the backsides of more glamorous endeavors: derelict shopping malls, dingy motels, shipping and packing centers located “in the middle of nowhere,” post offices – structures which support entire swathes of peoples and processes once shut out by Modernism’s opening of the world, and left as such by globalization’s apparent interlinking of any and all points of connection.



Fig. 2, Walter De Maria, Mile Long Drawing (1969)

Fig. 1

Fig. 3, Kirsten Justesen, Sculpture II (1969)



Though Dubai as geography doesn’t come forth in visual-material elements in Young’s photograph, the forces behind Dubai’s rather recent economic rise emerge as pure embodiment in an artist’s performance in corporate drag. Kirsten Justesen’s seminal 1969 piece Sculpture II, the performance-photograph Young’s opening photograph is parenthetically titled “after,” sheds light on the role of bodies and embodiment transcribed into Young’s contemporary. Justesen’s piece features a photographed sculpture of the artist’s own nude figure kneeled over and packaged as a commodity inside a plain shipping box. As a direct response to minimalist art, Justesen’s re-insertion of the body challenges the phenomenological presence of Modernist sculpture; her deployment of photography as sculpture further contaminates the presence of the elevated object. In this fashion, Young’s own body serves as a shock interruption to the otherwise smooth-functioning hyperreality of corporate miniature utopia. All eight photographs in Body Techniques align themselves on one end with the legacy of Conceptual Art, while at the same time speaking to present conditions – aesthetic, political, existential – of corporate culture’s globalizing sea.



Whereas Justesen’s piece deploys perspectival illusionism in terms of the nested orthographic view of box opening to a flat photograph as content in the box, and as the photograph itself being a body positioned inside another box (i.e. the room that Justesen was photographed in), thereby combining and contaminating both Modernist canons of seriality and perspective, one remains well aware that Justesen’s illusionism is a constructed one. On the other hand, Young’s piece does use perspective to interrupt Modernism’s drive against illusionism, but with a slightly different charge. What Young’s photograph lacks are the manifold perspectival layers and nestings that define Justesen’s piece. Young’s is not as clearly reactionary - while Young’s one point perspective is so exaggerated almost to suggest a state of emergency, it’s anything but incorrect. Thus the sense of foreboding, the discomfort and the critiques that Young’s piece raises is not directly evident as the compositional method. It is important to recall once more that no digital alterations whether artificial stitching, adding or removing content, or collaging was part of Young’s process. In spite of the haunting in Young’s perspectival depth, what she captured and how she did so is in its very essence emblematic the contemporary’s unadulterated real. Then there is the idea of repetition and difference. Whereas seriality, for Justesen, is addressed in the perspectival or optical nestings of box within box, much like the illusions of an infinite mirror, for Young, seriality is already a found component: in the awnings, overhangs and doors that make way for continuous loading docks. Repetition and difference, for Justesen, plays out as a critique of the female body in commodified form, but for Young it’s in the very essence of the picture itself – in the fact that its compositional rules as well as its programmatic scope bear much closer filialities to Modernism’s compositional canon. Yet despite these formal differences, the presence of the body unequivocally carries over, for these pieces are at the forefront re-enactments of canonical Conceptual performances. The position of Young’s laboring body, all carried over from her referential titled “after” works, speaks to the core of Young’s artistic message. Whereas Justesen’s piece uses the artist’s backfacing body to force us to come to terms with the ease and anonymity of gendered commodification, Young’s piece deploys her own body as well as that jarring lone figure imbued with the artistic statement: a visceral amplification of depicting “multinational commerce as depersonalized and dehumanizing, futuristic yet dusty projects of progress perverted.”3

To better understand the contemporary’s shifted pendulum from its earlier days of overwhelming consumption to the subject matter at hand in Young’s prescient vision of 2008’s immediate afterlife, notice the incredible tonal shift from Andreas Gursky’s 1999 Chicago Board of Trade II to Young’s Body Techniques. While it is evident that both artists employ the same medium of photographs to operate on the contemporary’s defining subject – globalization – their formal, compositional and tonal elements are far from congruent. Chicago Board of Trade II carries with it the usual Gurskian detalism. Taken from an aerial vantage point, Gursky’s eye casts downward onto these images of globalization’s spectacle, as is characteristic of photographs from the late nineties. Despite being filled to the burst, everything in Gursky’s scene is visually available. Immersive



It would seem that the imminent capacity of art, in Nestor Garcia Canclini’s formulation of the term4, come bursting forth when we consider how this series was so accurately prescient of the collapse. While somewhat ironically performing the hubris of ego-maniacal dominant forces gone wrong, what Young captures (or predicts) best here is that breathless moment of total shock shortly following 2008’s realization on all our parts. The total depopulation of her scenes, along this strand of thought, temporarily breaks off with political, social and economic domains of Young’s message to say instead, or additionally, that a watershed moment has (or for Young’s 2007, will soon) come. Such potent affective power this statement carries, in the Deleuzian sense, personal yet a-territorial charge impelling us to come to terms with the “global” metaphysical shock while at the same time asking if the artistic or aesthetic project shares the same sense of urgency. If indeed the contemporary is a condition that refutes historical periodization in the traditional sense of watershed moments, then there are perhaps two ways of understanding Young’s message. The first, and slightly more cynical, is that 2008’s collapse is another turn in the wheel of economic boom and bust, of artistic choices for or against references, of difference and repetition. If taken in this way, 2008 might soon become another appended date in the list of ever-growing “significant moments” that are emblematic of, but does not define or date, the Contemporary. Another way to understand Young’s scene of 2008 is in the sense of a suspended afterlife. As the zenith of corporate hubris and the promise of interconnectivity now forces our descent, the question at hand becomes perhaps less how to speak of contemporary art, locally though still en masse, but instead what to do with the detritus of those now passed-over ambitions, mantras, and projects of all kinds as the contemporary epoch persists in ever shape-shifting forms.



Fig. 4

Fig. 1

To speak on this work retrospectively, we ask: what is the global afterlife of 2008? For the corporations, under their aegis of economic revitalization by the simple act of resuming, things appear to be one and the same. These sites can after all, at any time, pick up again. That is to say that the corporate simulacrum picks up again - jet-setting, business models, and aesthetic codes do and must persevere as re-activated simulations. Yet the politics does matter immensely: for the subjects who labor within this closed world for a global economy anything but their own, the resounding emptiness of the photograph says it all. Young’s own body, here rendered in fetal position, in other photos theatrical, laboring, or all but defeated, speaks to the invisibility of the other side of a complex but indubitably exclusionary global labor politics. Her gray suit forces us to consider her own degree of complicity. Or is it resistance when taken together with her posturing? Consider the following excerpt from Young’s own statement once again: “In thus recasting earlier works centered around the physicality of the body in time and space, it is ambiguous whether the artist is molding herself to the landscape or exploring ways of resisting it.” She is well-aware of her own status as a Zambian-born, British-educated, New York exhibited artist commenting politically and aesthetically on the state



details are, the seduction is hard to pass up, for looking at a Gursky is a total body experience. And while under the seduction of Gursky’s lush, bursting pixels of color and detail, the gravity of what’s at stake in the photograph’s content – that is, the extent of these people’s global influence – become anesthetized by the our very own visual immersion. Sixteen years onwards, after 2001 and on the cusp of 2008, Young’s photograph performs an almost exact opposite – visual asphyxiation in spite of the simple clarity of forms, organizations, colors, and arrangements, a totally depopulated landscape of where the only two rows of buildings can be made up by the detailism of less than a fraction of one, a straight-on view inward into the functioning of a most banal program in this far more “charged” location, and the lone figure of the artist present at the center not silently capturing from above, but performing, embodying, and working atop her journalistic discovery. If Gursky’s work here indeed speaks to “a realism…of a highly qualified type, projecting a world in which the availability of everything for visual consumption tallies with the seeming availability of communications and the market,”5 then Young, in direct comparison, brings forth only what remains of its afterlife. Similarly, if Gursky’s photograph explodes with globalization’s tensions, promises, dangers, and projects, then Young’s continuum begets the lulling ambivalence that follows its total collapse.



of things in Dubai and Sharjah. In this way, her travelling grey suit alludes directly to what Pamela Lee would describe as the artist herself, packed up for global travel to work on art, give insight, and offer critique in the same dizzying manner as her piece would later see. By extension, whether it be the New York audience, the university audience or even the internet audience, the cerebral task in reading this piece is not one of immersion but rather a self-reflection on whether, and to what degree, we are performing complicity or resistance. Looking at Young alongside De Maria, Justesen and Gursky sheds light on three levels of the artist’s involvement with the contemporary. Whereas form, perspective and content in De Maria’s piece speaks most audibly to a still intact faith in the Modernist epistemological ambition, Young literally closes this Modernist horizon in on itself, eviscerating the specificities of her context, and thereby highlighting the global economy’s aesthetic code of droning sameness. Additionally, Young achieves this through a double meaning: if globalization and the global economy has indeed linked more and more geographies, then Young’s work is characteristically post-ethnographic. While performing Justesen’s artist-as-art-figure reenactment, Young brings back to the table the role of the artist’s body as embodiment, bringing to light globalization’s swathes of the disenfranchised private laborers (in Dubai this number reaches 99%) as well as the total shock this moment’s epistemic break. Lastly, with Gursky we find two contemporaries both working directly in globalization’s canon and discover that the most severe tonal difference in this pair, suggesting that “the contemporary” is anything but an ethereal efflorescence of difference and repetition. She argues for this through “soft” depictions by alluding to, or working against, canonical references. The elements in Young’s work are less iconoclastic compared to her references, a fact likely derivative from her career interest in combining antagonistic themes such as revolution and the confines of high corporate culture. As such, concept’s contextualization in the Body Techniques does depict the “dehumanization and depersonalization of the corporate simulacrum,”6 in Julia Bryan-Wilson’s words again. But just as the artist herself has weathered some criticism for working in close partnership with her subject corporations, the message here shouldn’t be taken as a total condemnation. By in large, the compositional and tonal qualities of Young’s image, coupled with her own visceral body performance speak to the incapacity of many audiences, in many different ways, to critically pick up again.



Difference and repetition, taken in the sense of Young’s portfolio of works at large, is not cyclical as the recording of events-as-lists, but the ambiguity of Body Techniques’ message: neither fully resistant nor fully complicit with Modernism’s canon on perspective, neither fully critical nor fully nihilistic about globalization’s work. It’s not that the lack of shock value in Young’s photograph here means her critiques are gentler than other, more formally or more tonally outstanding works. Rather, mired in a haziness between what constitutes complicity or resistance, the strong epochal artistic project or the reining corporate aesthetic simulacrum, the free-standing art practice or its need to involve globalization’s biggest perpetrators, what Young seems to be getting at is a method of art-making that takes ideas from old pasts and plunging them into new experiences. Young’s might be less concerned with portraying ambivalence or redolent nihilism, or embodying disenfranchisement as it is trying to find new representations of familiar concepts in a world of confusion and continual emergency. The project of Young’s Body Techniques attempts to make art programmatic in the contemporary by directly enmeshing on the one hand, the radicality of the Conceptualist movement, and on the other, the present ubiquity of corporate presence. Having taken an interest in this kind of imbrication in the earliest stages of her career, it is unclear if the artist believes there is alternative way to make art programmatic in the contemporary.


Notes 1 Excerpt taken from the artist’s website project description. body-techniques/ 2 Canonical treatises on perspective from Alberti to Serlio speak to both the painterly as well as architectural mechanisms of proper composition. In this way, these perspectival treatises take over cosmologically ordained proportions as the dominant canon. This is what Heidegger attributes to as “perspectivity” in “Age of the World Picture.”


3 Julia Bryan-Wilson edited by Michelle Kuo, “Inside Job” in Artforum Vol. 49, No. 2 (New York: Anthony Korner, Knight Landesman, Charles Guarino, October 2010) pp. 246. 4 Garcia-Canclini attributes to art’s imminent potential as “the place where we catch sight of things that are just at the point of occurring” producing a “zone of uncertainty […] suited not so much for direct [political] action as for suggesting the power of what hangs in suspense.” in Art beyond Itself: Anthropology for a Society without a Story Line. Trans. David Frye. (Durham; London: Duke University Press Books, 2014) 5 Pamela M. Lee, “Gursky’s Ether” in Forgetting the Art World (MIT Press, 2012) pp. 77 6 Julia Bryan-Wilson, pp. 246.




Same Story


Zahra Safaverdi

“He who loves the more is the inferior and must suffer.”1,2 Thomas Mann, Death in Venice (1912)




segment one: Triptych, May–June 1973

1. “(...) nearly all the great things that exist owe their existence to a defiant despite: it is despite grief and anguish, despite poverty, loneliness, bodily weakness, vice and passion and a thousand inhibitions, that they have come into being at all.”3 2. Francis Bacon, the artist4, meets George Dyer in 1963. Bacon, who is the dominant figure of the relationship for the first time, is drawn to Dyer’s paradoxical persona. On one hand he carries the typical East London rough trade: coming from a family deep in poverty and petty crimes, Dyer had adopted robbery and theft from a young age. On the other hand, underneath his intimidating macho build lies a timid personality and an introverted vulnerable nature. Soon after the start of the relationship, Dyer becomes the principle model and a prominent figure in Bacon’s painting: a recurring character in Bacon’s work as the artist moves away from painting extreme subject matter to portraits. In each portrait, an ineffable gloom transforms each human into a muddled mess and twisted flesh replaces the face. Dyer is well aware that the sudden attention brought upon him is entirely due to his lover’s bleak depictions; however, he neither appreciates the undying angst radiating from each painting nor pretends to like them5. As Bacon rises to fame, his close circle of sophisticated friends pushes Dyer to the periphery to take “their” Bacon back6. Dyer, a borderline alcoholic with a tormented personality, seeks solace in alcohol and barbiturates from the loneliness of the clique to which he clearly doesn’t belong. What used to be a gentle soul with a kind heart, slowly transforms into a full on alcoholic exhibiting erratic behavior. Dyer is now merely a needy burden for Bacon. His descent is the relationship’s demise. By 1971 almost all the remnants of the initial desire are gone and Bacon is rarely in contact with his former lover. On October of 1971, out of what could be seen as a mixture of pity and nostalgia for times lost, Bacon invites Dyer to Paris to what is going to be the opening of his retrospective exhibition7, providing him with a hotel room to stay. Two days before Bacon’s career defining exhibition on October 24th, Dyer commits suicide.


Devastated, Bacon creates the highly regarded black triptych series to cope with Dyer’s suicide. 3. When Bragg challenged him with the observation that Triptych, May– June 1973 was the nearest the artist had came to telling a story, Bacon admitted that “it is in fact the nearest I’ve ever done to a story, because you know that is the triptych of how [Dyer] was found.”8,9




segment two: Li ll 1.“Even in a personal sense, after all, art is an intensified life. By art one is more deeply satisfied and more rapidly used up. It engraves on the countenance of its servant the traces of imaginary and intellectual adventures, and even if he has outwardly existed in cloistral tranquility, it leads in the long term to overfastidiousness, over-refinement, nervous fatigue and overstimulation, such as can seldom result from a life of the most extravagant passions and pleasures.”10


2.. Hans Ruedi Gig , the Swiss painter and sculptor who is best known for his work on the Alien franchise, meets Li Tobler in 1966. Tobler is a lively eighteen-year-old actress with what Giger describes as a desire for a short and intensified life. Turbulent and volatile, the relationship could be seen as a reflection of both artists’ temperaments exasperated by drug abuse. Giger who is madly in love with his melancholic woman, air brushes her body several times and creates numerous art works, depicting Tobler’s body in a perpetual conflation with machinery, abstract weapons and morbid creatures. After an extensive touring for the play “My Leader, My Woman,” mentally drained and physically burned out, Tobler decides to take a break from acting in 1974. She leaves Giger to relocate to San Fransisco, only to return back to Switzerland a month later, disappointed in the United States and incapable of adapting to an American lifestyle. The reverse migration triggers a prolonged depression episode in Tobler. Her decision to leave acting and a subsequent failure in pursuing a career as an art curator coincides with Giger’s blooming career. His baleful paintings make a lasting impression on Dan O’Bannon, prompting him to write a movie script - Giger’s monsters: The Alien. As Giger slowly establishes himself as a pioneer of horror biomechanic art, Tobler’s depression spirals out of control. On May 19th of 1975, Li Tobler shoots herself in the head, ending her life. Although she appears in many of his work one way or another, Li l and Li ll are the only two painting directly depicting Tobler’s ob face. 3.. His flat was painted all bl k. All the walls and his paintings were stacked about four or five feet deep against the wall. They’re huge paintings. And one of them, as I was walking around, had little holes in it. I said, “Giger, someone damaged your painting here.” He said, “No, that’s where my girlfriend blew her brains out.”11




segment three: Lonely (the wrong women) 1. “A solitary, unused to speaking of what he sees and feels, has mental experiences which are at once more intense and less articulate than those of a gregarious man. They are sluggish, yet more wayward, and never without a melancholy tinge. Sights and impressions which others brush aside with a glance, a light comment, a smile, occupy him more than their due; they sink silently in, they take on meaning, they become experience, emotion, adventure. Solitude gives birth to the original in us, to beauty unfamiliar and perilous - to poetry. But also, it gives birth to the opposite: to the perverse, the illicit, the absurd.”12 2. Not much is publicized about Afshin Pirhashemi and his personal life. Pirhashemi is born on 1974, a year before Tobler’s suicide. He studies at Rome Art Academy and Iran’s Azad University. He meets his wife at an unknown date. “The woman” does not have much role in Pirhashemi’s public persona; however- for a long period of time- she is the inseparable face of many of his paintings. Pirhashemi’s paintings start as internal observations of human malaise and vague personal manifestation of melancholy. As time goes by, however, he becomes increasingly interested in the complexities of life in contemporary Iran and expression of power in gendered bodies surrounded by gendered spaces. He separates from his wife sometime around 2012. Less than a year later, he showcases the “wrong women” as a triumphant exhibition. The Wrong Women depicts his earlier political fascinations as a full body of work, delves deep into the psychological landscape of contemporary women living in Iran via photo-realistic portraits, each exhibiting extreme behaviors in surreal situations.


For the first time in his career, the enigmatic artist allows the audience access to his lost intimate life far beyond mere glimpses. 3. “Lonely is very important to me and it took me a long time to finish. My wife and I separated around eight months ago, and this painting is a reflection of society’s perspective towards the lonely me and the lonely her.”13





1 Tonio Kröger is a novella by Thomas Mann, written early in 1901, when he was 25. It was first published in 1903. A. A. Knopf in New York published the first American edition in 1936, translated by Helen Tracy Lowe-Porter. As Erich Heller –who knew Thomas Mann personally observed, Tonio Kröger’s theme is that of the “artist as an exile from reality.” 2 Thomas Mann, and H. T. Lowe-Porter. Death in Venice; Tristan; Tonio Kröger. (Penguin, 1989). 3 Ibid, 102.


4 Not to be mistaken with the English philosopher, Francis Bacon is an Irish born British figurative painter. He is often time dubbed as one of the most implacable British artists of 20th century. 5 “All that money an’ I fink they’re reely ‘orrible.” in Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon in 1950s. (Yale University Press, 2009), 214. 6 Michael Peppiatt. Francis Bacon in 1950s. (Yale University Press, 2009), 215. 7 Refers to the artist’s retrospective at the Grand Palais. The show was the high point of Bacon’s career to date. 8 Melvyn Bragg. “Francis Bacon,” South Bank Show BBC documentary film, first aired 9 June 1985.

10 Thomas Mann, and H. T. Lowe-Porter. Death in Venice; Tristan; Tonio Kröger. (Penguin, 1989). 11 “Alien: Harboring the Remains of Li Tobler.” Masters of Horror Explore the Art Hidden in the Nightmare. Forums . Accessed June 10, 2018. html. 12 Thomas Mann, and H. T. Lowe-Porter. Death in Venice; Tristan; Tonio Kröger. (Penguin, 1989). 13 Lee Ann Biddle. “The Wrong Women.” Contemporary Practices in Art Xll (March 2013), 10. 14 Every illustration featured in each segment is inspired by the art work directly referenced in the segment’s title.



9 David Sylvester. The Brutality of Fact: Interviews With Francis Bacon. (London: Thames and Hudson, 2016).


Image Index

American Polynya Derek K. O’Leary 1 Elisha Kent Kane, “American Arctic Expedition,” Arctic Explorations., vol. 2 (Philadelphia, 1856), 8. 2 Johannes Ruysch, “Universalior Cogniti Orbis Tabula” (Rome, 1507). 3 Oronce Finé, “World Map” (Paris, 1531). 4 Gerardus Mercator, “Map of the North Pole” (Amsterdam, 1623 version). 5 Silas Bent, “Supposed Open Polar Sea,” in “Thermal Paths to the Pole” (Saint Louis, 1872). 6 Winslow Homer, “Rocky Coast,” (Maine Coast, c. 1882 - 1890).

Of Material and Myth Elias Logan 1 Solomon D. Butcher, “Chrisman Sisters Homestead,” Goheen Settlement, Nebraska, 1886. Published in Butcher’s “Sod Houses, or the Development of the Great American Plains”, 1904, pg. 4. Obtained from Wikimedia Commons user Ammodramus. 2 “Agriculture Building, World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, Illinois, 1893” photographed by International News Service 1893. Obtained from Wikimedia Commons user Alanscottwalker. 3 Pilgrim Holiness Church, Arthur, Nebraska, 1928. Photograph courtesy of History Nebraska #RG3011.PH-3.


Through Sick adn Sane Snoweria Zhang All images courtesy and copyright Snoweria Zhang, 2018. Models photographed by Peter Raymond, pp 39-40, 47-48.

Room as Horizon Peter Carl Obtained from “Twin Peaks: The Secrets of the Room Above the Convenience Store,” by Matteo Marino. Obtained from

Ornament in the City of Industry Juhee Park and Noam Saragosti All images courtesy and copyright Juhee Park and Noam Saragosti, 2018.

Same Story Zahra Safaverdi All images courtesy and copyright Zahra Safaverdi, 2018.

Contributors of MASKS theJournal are responsible for contacting all copyright holders of the images and illustrations that appear in their pieces. The contributors and editors of MASKS theJournal were careful in reaching out to all copyright holders for permission, but it was not always possible to find all of them. Please get in touch with us, should you claim ownership of any illustration that has not been credited accordingly and we will correct the information.



Embodying an Afterlife Shaowen Zhang 1 Carey Young, Body Techniques (after Sculpture II, Kirsten Justesen). 2007. 2 Walter De Maria, Mile Long Drawing, 1968. Obtained from East of Borneo archive. 3 Kirsten Justesen, Sculpture II, 1969. Obtained from Brooklyn Museum archive. 4 Andreas Gursky, Chicago Board of Trade II 1999. Obtained from Tate London website. Photograph courtesy of Monika Sprueth Galerie, Koeln / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn and DACS, (London 2018).



Derek Kane O’Leary researches, writes, and teaches about archives, historical consciousness, and foreign relations in the nineteenth-century United States. He is a PhD candidate in UC Berkeley’s History Department, and has an MA from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and a BA from Amherst College. He co-edits the Journal of the History of Ideas blog.

Snoweria Zhang is currently a Research Fellow at the MIT Senseable City Lab. She studied architecture and mathematics at Harvard University. Her design work was recently featured on the cover of Nature, and she was awarded an Architizer A+ Jury Award in 2017.


She likes earrings and wears mismatched shoes.

Elias Logan is an architectural designer whose background extends to the fields of preservation and planning; conservation and construction. A graduate of the Master of Architecture degree programs at both Kansas State University (MArch ’14) and Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (MArch II ’18), his ongoing research and design efforts take aim at treacherous triads involving representation, rhetoric, and realism; matter, myth, and morality. He is currently both practicing in Boston and researching European lithic structures in preparation for on-site representation and excavation efforts to be carried out with the support of the Julia Amory Appleton Travelling Fellowship. He counts among his companions, a dog.

Peter Carl’s biography is a sequence of re-starts. Beginning at Princeton [‘71], the first restart took place at the American Academy in Rome [‘74-6], interrupting a stint at the University of Kentucky [‘72-’78]. A second re-start at Cambridge University [‘78-’09] was followed by a third at the CASS, London Metropolitan University [‘09-’16]; and finally the fruits - or detritus - of all this were explored at the GSD [‘16-’17] in seminars called Practical Wisdom...from the raw materials - or ruins - of which a book of the same title is being concocted.

Noam Saragosti is a designer based in Los Angeles. He received a Master in Architecture II from the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 2018 and a Bachelor of Architecture from California State Polytechnic Pomona in 2014. He currently works as a designer at Charlap Hyman & Herrero and as a design lecturer at California State Polytechnic Pomona.

Shaowen Zhang is from Atlanta. She recently completed a graduate thesis on contemporary images of American eclecticism at Harvard University. Her ongoing interests include the miniature and the diorama, the convergence of visual culture and its political tasks, and the relationships between aesthetic domains and their underlying systems of production. Shaowen has worked for a number of art and architectural practices across the United States.

Zahra Safaverdi is a designer from California. She practices architecture these days: building a tower in the morning, renovating her “fictitious living room” in the evening. “Aliens locked in the attic” is the newest annex to the fictitious living room. Zahra was the Irving Innovation Fellow at Harvard University, where she also received her graduate degree in architecture, before switching sides from academia to practice. She lives in a greenhouse with nine skylights and she thinks all the pedestals from her previous exhibitions are happier as planters.



Juhee Park is a designer based in Los Angeles. She received a Master in Architecture II from Harvard Graduate School of Design in 2018 where she was honored the Dean’s Merit Scholarship. She received her Bachelor of Architecture from California Polytechnic University of Pomona in 2015. Before her graduate studies, she worked as a project manager at XTEN Architecture in Los Angeles.