Sensation, Sign, Situation. A Manifesto for informational impressionism and performative morphogenesis "The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes.â€? Marcel Proust
1. Introduction: The quest for a hyper-paradigm The articulation of the complex socio-economic, political and cultural situation of contemporary societies poses a huge challenge for the normative knowledge historically constructed by our civilization, most of whose disciplines are trying to reshape their epistemological principles in order to optimize their management of the specificities of the world today. However, Western thought seems abducted by its inability to establish new holistic paradigms: On the one hand the Academia is trying to save the optimistic and affirmative rationalism of modernity but on the other hand is forced to take into account the severe criticism, perhaps inexcusable, deployed by the most serious postmodernist thinkers. As an undead, the legacy of the Enlightenment theoretical corpus seems to have died without issue, atomizing knowledge in a constellation of seemingly dissonant fragments of speeches but, basically, chaired by the ghost of a modernity whose severe dogmas still resonate in the moral and deontological horizon of the different intellectual practices. Within architectural discourses, the so-called â€œeclipse of Modernity by Environmentalismâ€? still lacks a serious reformulation of the Being-in-the-world that emerges from the current atmosphere of turbulences. The sterile debate about the continuity or discontinuity between modernity and post modernity, between industrial age and information age - a debate that is sadly confined to the inbred forums of Academia - is unable to address the complex issues facing contemporary territorial management. This Manifesto is attempting to leave behind this apparent dichotomy between modernity and post modernity by seeking a transversal perspective on both categories, updating rationalism for an era in which the subjective can not longer be reduced to a contingent residue detached from objectivity. 1
The evolution of contemporary architecture can be read as symmetrical to the multiple cultural processes that have been taking place during the complex set of events that we call "globalization". The inertia of the contemporary city growth and dwelling overflows the normative epistemology we inherited from the Modern Movement, which had been founded according to the specific challenges of its heroic period: in the transition from nineteenth to twentieth centuries the main goal was the setting up of optimum conditions for the expansion of the Fordist middle class within the industrial city, during a period in which urban growth rates were probably the largest and fastest of all human history. Later events such as postwar reconstruction and the ongoing dependence on petrodollar economy represented situations characterized by highly expansive processes of occupation of territory, exposing a dialectic between nature and human space determined by technical, material and experiential conditions that we should put into review, namely: the specific features from which Modern architecture emerged may have been surpassed by later developments -a dislocation of our preconceptions of space and time, the individual and society, the local and the global- so profoundly that we can’t possibly be aware of its cultural implications yet, but that in any case we should put most inherited axioms into crisis. After the global housing bubble burst, the scope can no longer be dependant on the logic of expansion processes, but rather on phenomena of transformation, modulation, mutation, reshaping: these new conditions require the replacement of the metaphysics of Being on which modernity is founded, by the metaphysics of Becoming, in order to configure a paradigm that transcends the split between objectivity and subjectivity on the horizon of our news spatiality and temporality. Rather than a “Paradigm”, we may be looking for a “hyper-paradigm”, a cluster of open-ended approaches to existential space design, and capable of dealing with the specific features of transformative courses in a World understood as a set of multiplicities. In order to review the validity and legitimacy of classical architecture theoretical standpoints, we must analyze whether their foundations are as plural and diverse as we often take for granted, or if the mainstream of twentieth century treatises refer ultimately to the same paradigmatic axioms: although the formal features of actual buildings seem to evolve in accord with the social demands, such apparently constant evolution may be only the surface of a very rigid corpus of theories and practices anchored in the same principles for almost one hundred years. The long term tradition of architectural thinking that connects Viollet-LeDuc with Rem Koolhaas, Le Corbusier with Aldo Rossi, or even Camilo Sitte with Peter Eisenman, seems to have deployed disconnected discourses that have sufficient autonomy as to be considered independent paradigmatically, but that are in fact articulated around a series of common metaphysical considerations. Modernity relies on a set of concepts so habitual that architects take them for “natural” and “necessary”, when in fact they are contingent, and derived from very precise epistemic conditions. By updating these ontological assumptions we look forward to retrieve the endeavor of post modernity, or an aggiornamento of rationalism that, in accordance with contemporary cognitive sciences, surpasses the conception of the world of a field of objects and studies reality as a field of events. In many levels, what was called post modern architecture wasn’t post modern at all, but a merely iconic masking unable to bring Modernism’s fundamental core forward. One of the thinkers most radically critical of the positivist consensus on the structure of reality has been Gilles Deleuze, unorthodox philosopher that is often considered mistakenly a mere post-structuralist or post-modernist doxosopher, but whose most profound ideas are grounded on the Stoics and Spinoza, namely, the materialist philosophy tradition that relies on the creative power of pure immanence as opposed to dogmatic, dualistic determinations of Platonic transcendence. Beyond the recurrent topics about deleuzianism -flows of desire, abstract machines, schizoanalysis or control societies (ie, the work he developed along with philosopher Felix Guattari, that rendered him as an enfant terrible of contemporary counterculture) Deleuze is a "classical" philosopher whose early works aimed to reformulate the principles of what's called "classic image of thought" in a very rigorous and systematic 2
rhetoric. This question was posed mainly in his seminal "Logic of Sense" and "Difference and Repetition", books that grounded their philosophical program on a new conceptualization of the difference, trying to overcome the definition offered by Hegel dialectic, and thus â€œfreeing difference from its submission to identity, uniqueness and repetitionâ€?. Such a strategy offers interesting implications on how we can consider the constitution of reality and therefore space and architecture. Contrary to popular belief, Deleuze was still a rationalist whose goal was not to supersede modernity, but rather to update its foundations in line with contemporary science and discourses. His ideas will serve us as the starting point of this speculation on the potentials of Sensation, Situation and Sign as critical, stimulating concepts or tools to reconfigure obsolete theoretical presumptions about how to think architecture.
2. Beyond objectivity Objectual Western Thought has been determined by the categories proposed by Aristotle in his concept of hilemorphic substance, whereby entities existing in the world would be determined by their form plus their material: according to this test system, the objects "in themselves" (considered independently of cognition or human consciousness) arise from the confluence of raw material and a given formal diagram that determines their specific characteristics. This hilemorphism principle has been crucial throughout the history of Western architecture, whose idea of "form" as an extensive and geometric articulation of raw, indefinite material has been kept from the treatises of Vitruvius to certain texts of Peter Zumthor or Steven Holl. This paradigm of thought will ground the logic of the project as the management of the extensive distribution of architectural elements in Euclidean space. Items or entities are thus considered under certain mathematical and epistemological assumptions later continued, expanded and profiled by Descartes and Kant, whose ontological systems will become the core of the standard modern thought. The Cogito as conceived by Descartes radicalized the split between subject and object of knowledge: in his philosophy, consciousness is transcendental to the world, so that the "res extensa" or mind-independent substance is regarded as alien to the subject. The subjectivity implicit in the dictum "I think therefore I am" sets the basis of a rationality that is considered omnipotent and unique, whereby positive knowledge is attained by the mode in which the human cognitive apparatus harmonically objectifies the raw sense data provided by a world that is in itself rational and objective
Continuing with this approach, Kant established the difference between the "phenomenon" (objects as presences in consciousness, subjective entities processed by rational cognition) and the "noumenon" (the object itself, in the world, as existing previously and independently to consciousness and under stable and objective conditions). As we see, the intellectual tradition of modernity is built on certain dualistic categories that establish a paradigm based on binary dialectic between complementary concepts: form versus substance, object versus subject, objectivity versus subjectivity, difference versus repetition, along with others as reason versus feeling, individual versus group, or body versus spirit. One of the most controversial statements in Kantian metaphysics is the universality and individuality of the subject, an assumption which was built on the precarious axiomatic logic of modernity and that has been harshly questioned by the post structuralist enterprise. In the philosophy of Kant, correspondence between phenomenon and noumenon, between reality as it is "in itself" and as it is presented to consciousness, depended on the existence of a transcendental ego, a universal and ideal subject whose powers allow him to develop a standard construction of reality through objective language, based on the so-called “a priori conditions of cognition”. The epistemology that Kant as developed in subsequent reviews of reason and judgment are based on a certain conception of time and space that will be central not only to metaphysics of classical modernism, but also to the standard scientific thinking prior to the Quantum revolution: relying on the perfect and stable correlation between universal conditions of objectivity and the capacity of the transcendental ego to capture it in accurate manner, the space will necessarily be considered as based on the metric attributes derived from the axioms of Euclidean geometry, while time is conceived as "chronos", an abstract temporal container whose evolution is constant and independent of the motion of objects. Kantian metaphysics presupposes the general space-time structure of reality as the foundation of any possible act of cognition: the stability of the correspondence between noumenon and phenomenon guarantees the possibility of positive rational knowledge of the world as a field of fixed objects. This system will be very fruitful for the development of modern science, which will use these universal definitions of time and space, notwithstanding such a cosmogony present numerous philosophical problems, mainly related to the subjective and emotional experience of reality as determined by individual conditions (and thus contingently constructed): the modern concept of Knowledge didn’t allow for the coexistence of different truths –a consequence that’s unacceptable nowadays, since one of the biggest challenges in the Globalization era is the acceptance and harmonization of the plurality and multiplicity of ideologies and truths. In this regard, the philosophy of Hegel will serve as a bridge between classical modern epistemology and the later development of phenomenology, the system that tried to deal precisely with these problematic Kantian presumptions about universality. Edmund Husserl, the great supporter of phenomenology, is especially critical of Kant's "dogma of faith", the aforementioned presupposition of a stable transcendental ego that echoes the actual constitution of the world from an exogenous but omnipotent standpoint. Rethinking Hegel's phenomenology, Husserl overcomes the split between noumenon and phenomenon, reconsidering the fundamental structure of the world by setting the focus on how reality is in fact given: as actual experience. From his philosophical approach, "real" objects are not considered as in themselves, but as entities that are realized only in conscious experience rather than in some noumenal and unattainable “world”. His strategy of "epoche" (or observational, cognitive distance from the entities) consists on the evaluation of phenomena as they are purely presented to consciousness, radicalizing the radical objectivism / subjectivism separation characteristic of modernity, and thus abandoning the assumption that one can speak of an objective reality, independently of the actual conditions for reflective apprehension. Based on Brentano’s concept of "intentionality" (according to which consciousness is always consciousness of something, necessarily defined by content and unthinkable as an autonomous or empty structure), the entanglement of subject and 4
object becomes absolute, setting up the basis for a phenomenology that some may relate to Hume’s empiricism. However, Husserl's philosophical system still maintains the validity of the transcendental ego that Kant prefigured, as "bystander" liability of a reality that is still outside, beside the self. Subsequent phenomenologists will solve the problem of the subject transcendentality by dissolving the ego as an epiphenomenon of experience. The subject becomes not an autonomous and purely active agent that constructs reality through his mind or in his mind, but the result of passive, residual processual synthesis centralized in a body. Husserl´s precarious philosophical project will be accomplished –or at least nuanced - by the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, whose "Phenomenology of Perception" lays the foundations for a materialist approach to experience drawing on the body's role as protagonist agent of perceptual or relational intercourses between the individual and the world. Therefore the self and the world become stewards and conceived as mutually determined, mediated on the common ground of the body. The Kantian model assumed an "objective" component to experience (raw perceptual impressions as direct testimony of the noumenon) and other "subjective" (the formalization of entities through intellectual and rational reflexivity), while Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology of the body merges both categories under the consideration that phenomena and consciousness are constituted by mutual intentional processes that exceed the split between the mind and its content., but also between the mind and the world –whereby both domains collapse in the body. This lead to the ontological primacy of the situatedness of the body in the world. In order to clarify this point of view without resorting to complex philosophical rhetoric, we will use one of the most remarkable of all time ethologists, Jacob Von Uexküll, whose work tried to establish the physiological principles from which the animal constructs its individual milieu disregarding the friction between "inner world" (subjectivity in the modern sense) and "outside world" (noumenal objectivity). For this scientist, each animal constructs its only reality based on its primary survival needs, using sensory devices that allow for the interaction with its environment getting specifically, strictly what it requires to sustain its existence. That partial and intentional reality that each specimen builds for himself is a result of the interaction between its demands and the environmental conditions, is what Uexküll called "Umwelt" or significant environment: a real but not universalizable territory, locally determined by the subject, whose categories of understanding are a result of the symbiosis and mutuality established between an animal and its environment. That is, each individual determines his construction of what reality is, inasmuch as the individual is the result of the possibilities and the determinations that his milieu is imposing on him. The "Umwelt" is, for the individual who produces it, the whole of reality, full reality. Deleuze will take from Uexküll one example that shows how this process is structured: the tick has only a few physiological apparatus of cognition, so that its access to "reality" is reduced to a minimum sense of touch and smell. Its whole existence consists in clinging to a tree waiting for a potential host to pass under, for the detection of which the tick has the sense of smell. When the animal approaches, the tick’s perceptual system alerts and it is dropped on its new host. The interaction with the world is strictly limited to this set of processes by which the animal established habits and limits of reality, which takes the form of a territory by means of the affections of the subject. A subject that not only produces its reality, but that is reversely and simultaneously determined by it. These ideas entail obvious consequences on how to think the relation between the subject and the world: in Descartes and Kant´s gnoseology reality is detached from the observer, while according to Uexkull´s model there’s not such separation, for the mind is embodied in the world in a relation of radical continuity and mutual co production. The ethical implications deductible from that standpoint imply overcoming the utilitarian, mechanistic exploitation of nature, given that nature and culture are ultimately one and the same domain, and the ontological substance of which we are made. The territory is an extension and the self and vice versa, as the result of the mediation of both in experience. 5
Furthermore, If reality and the subject are mutually constructed my means of relational and specific affects, the task for theoretical discourses is finding a manner to braid those partial and individual “umwelts” into a common sense of reality, surpassing the relativism that many have deduced from such atomized, discrete and localistic definition of the real. This enterprise is especially crucial during the complex dynamics of the Globalization and its difficult articulation of singularities under the threat of falling into totalitarian thought or exploding in incompatible fragments of discourses. This debate about the entanglement of the individual and the common, the singular and the normal, has been central not only to the recent political movements or academic philosophical world, but also to architecture and urbanism, disciplines whose most urgent endeavor is establishing a hypothetical "science of the habitat " or at least a comprehensive dialectic of singularities for a global “chaosmos” where everything is diverse, but connected. However, some poststructuralist thinkers sought conceptual alternatives from which to overcome transversely the paradoxes of modernity and give way to new kinds of thinking multiplicity, although they have generally been misinterpreted by architects, who have tried to translate literally into space some of the more complex concepts with unequal fortune. A typical example of this misunderstanding would be that of Jacques Derrida, involuntary father of the movement of the "deconstruction" whose formal pirouettes were a very superficial, downgraded interpretation of his complex analytical system. And another example of fertile paradigm would be as mentioned the implicit "philosophical system" deductible from the work of Gilles Deleuze, whose ideas serve to continue spinning the genealogy of this manifesto.
3. Deleuze´s aesthetics and Ranciere´s “Distribution of the sensible” As mentioned, the Deleuzian philosophical project tried to dodge the paradoxes of modernity by overcoming its axiomatic construction of critical theory by means of conceptual couples reduced to a binary logic low. As Martinez Quintanar exposes in his book on this topic, Deleuze cancels the distinction between principle and rule (Plato), determination and determined (Aristotle), condition and conditioned (Kant), position and positioned (Hegel), constitution and constituted (Husserl), and Heidegger's appearance and appeared. The complexity of the system retrieves an idea of "Truth" close to that of Nietzsche, in which truth is a creative instance, a movement rather than a fixed point, and thereby an open-ended process that allows for the coexistence of parallel, multiple truths. To carry out this ambitious intellectual project Deleuze departed from the metaphysical system of Spinoza, whose materialistic foundation of ontology was extended and nuanced by deleuzian re-readings of Leibniz (differential series), Bergson (time and duration), Nietzsche (the desire and the 6
eternal return) and the Stoics, through a radically immanent strategy that was called "transcendental empiricism", a complex analytical system from which to deduct the whole of his ontology, ethics, politics and aesthetics. Deleuze continued Uexküll´s ideas about cognition, pointing out that thought, as a creative activity, open to new things and unleashed by the problematic, has its germ in perceptual phenomena, addressed by the logic of experience. Philosophy can thus be summarized as an aesthetic, beyond the border between the perceptive / affective and the political: the struggle for the understanding of the world and the potential transformations of reality relies on the contingent production of Objects by the pure differentiation of the sensible. Pure immanent experience provides us with the raw material with which to build new configurations of objectivity: taken from a purely political standpoint, this is the foundation of contemporary activist mottos such as “There´s a war on for your mind”, that takes account of this more contingent approach to the cognition of objects and its dangers. The scope of so-called “noopolitics” is then to question the parameters that determine our processes of visualization, recognition, affection and communication and to what extent are personal or regulatory. For Deleuze, against Kant´s purely rationalistic and correlationist gnoseology, the construction of reality takes place in the realm of feeling, or blocks of "percepts and affects" before the establishment of an objectivity as a “set of measurable truths” in opposition to a subjective realm. As long as conscience is crossed by flows of pre-personal and impersonal forces and modes of affection, “reason” loses its purity and certainty. Kant distinguished between sensitivity as the form of possible experience (transcendental aesthetic) and a theory of art as a reflection on actual experience, while Deleuze considers that the overall aim of art is to "produce a feeling" in which the genetic principles of physiological feeling are identical to the principles of artistic composition. Art’s biggest subversive potential consists on its capacity to permanently put into question Aristotelian hilemorphism, namely, to explore and refigure the way in which the perceived substance is organized by our conceptual apparatus of recognition, by the power of feeling to reveal the "being of the sensible" or sentiendum, and even to produce new kinds of rational truths. Therefore reality, even objective reality, is the result of never ending perceptual processes in perennial selftransformation. Understanding the real is an affirmative aesthetic act, a labor of active design with no final point. Although skeptic about many deleuzian assumptions, contemporary French philosopher Jacques Ranciere proposed a concept that describes very accurately some issues of the deleuzian constructivist, post-phenomenological model of cognition: the distribution of the sensible. Radicalizing Deleuze´s criticism of Kantian objectivism, Ranciere refers to the way in which common social codes determine and delimit the potential modes of perception, by distributing the division between the visible and the invisible, the sayable and the unsayable, and thus setting the basis for a normative objectual reality conceived as oppositional. Artistic creation is then the strongest of all political weapons, for it is able to question the dogmatic distribution of identities by disturbing their foundation on the sensible. Art is then the speculative enterprise of guessing how the world could be by re-encountering it as a tabula rasa. Such a step would require regarding the formal field of objectivity from an upper pre-formal metafield where affects, feelings and impressions can still run free, untied from consensual dogmas about the identity of the perceived: the immanent domain of sensible experience. In a sense, this can be interpreted as similar to deleuzian philosophy of difference, although they differ in the role they attribute to discourses, among other issues. Can this conceptual articulation deal with the kind of programmatic challenges that contemporary architecture and urbanism are facing? The focus of these ideas is set on the potential creative power of experience, a long forgotten domain in architecture since Vitruvius´”firmitas, utilities, venustas”.As mentioned, the phenomenology of reality is transversal to such taxonomies, whereas its conceptualization of “beauty” or “function” do not regard them as separate instances mediated by reason, but as circumstantial and historically 7
determined modes of affection mediated by memory and culture. Many architects have focused some of their investigations on the topic of phenomenology –such a Steven Holl, Peter Zumthor or Juhani Pallasmaa, while on the theoretical world Gaston Bachelard´s book “The Poetics of Space” has been highly praised as an influential reference for contemporary aesthetics, but Deleuze´s or Ranciere´s most original contribution emphasizes the importance of “sensation” as a mean to take account of the potentials of experience.
4. Impressionism and architecture The plurality of aesthetic, political and phenomenological challenges offered by the concept of sensation has not reached in architecture the same fertility and acceptance that has found in other fields of collective expression. Oversimplifying the complexity of this matter, we can speculate that most accurate expressive language for sensation should have much to do with Impressionism: plastic languages that aim to overcome the notion of hilemorphic "form", by researching the intensive properties of experience, rather than the extensive ones. One way or another, the foundation of the different impressionisms relied on the game of pure perceptual phenomenon, in the early, founding moment of thought in which the encounter with the world still has not been codified in a formal molar regime. That strategy has been prolific in painting and sculpture, in literature or cinema, classical music and electronic noise ... but perhaps surprisingly there has never been an "impressionist architecture", an especially baffling fact given that other avant garde movements (from Futurism to abstract expressionism) did have an echo in the founding of the classical modern canon. As we tried to give, actually that disinterest towards impressionism by modernism is not surprising, because their respective aesthetic approaches stems from different metaphysical assumptions. While the modern movement posed a rational and Cartesian order as the guarantee for the values of Beauty, Goodness and Truth – an order that is apprehended by the subject’s intellectual reflection-, impressionist landscape prevailed the show of the diffuse as the ultimate exhibition of real experience, pre-reflexive and pre-formal. While avant-garde architecture demanded the rigorous ordering of edges in exact Cartesian metric, the Impressionists included the foggy city in sfumato, with fuzzy boundaries and barely distinguishable components. While modern space-time was measured with categories belonging to natural science, Monet or Cezanne described time phenomenologically as the becoming of existential and emotional durations, irreducible to the chronology of Newton ... The gap between impressionism and modern architecture is that while the first attempted to extract the purely intensive from its extensive determinations, the second has endeavored precisely on a language in which the trial parameter remains the logic of extension. Or what 8
is the same: Impressionism operates by the de-realization of the objective, while in modern architectural doctrine the project is mainly conceived as an object. This dichotomy between sensation and objectuality according to Deleuze serves to explain the issue of individuation, one of the key concepts on the cognition of any territory or milieu. The raw material of perceptive impressions comes as an undifferentiated and continuous field of intensities, upon which the consciousness distributes contingent boundaries between objects: the mind “cuts” reality into pieces by means of processes of individuation, or production of formal objects, according with Ranciere´s distribution of the sensible. But this process of individuation is what actually produces the subject’s aforementioned umwelt or significant territory, by singling differences and obtaining local and partial objects under relations of discontinuity. Individuation creates assemblages of sensations grouping them under the same form and the same identity. According to Deleuze, this creative process should be dependant on the potentials, intensities and affects offered by the sensible experience, which in turn depends on the memories, knowledge and prejudices of the knower. Namely, each individual traces a map upon the neutral, undifferentiated surface of experience as a mean to set the distribution of local objects that best fit his needs, so that “form” (and its correlative “identity”, or “unity”) is a matter of recognition, whereby affective and relational conditions are prior to objectivity. While sensation is an unmediated and spontaneous condition of the body, formal recognition is highly mediated by common normative codes of individuation. Sensation is “molecular” in deleuzian terms, while form is “molar”, characterized by binary relations of exteriority. These complex conceptual articulations may seem rather abstract, but we are ultimately reflecting upon the viability and legitimacy of the current idea of the individual “Project” as commonly understood in architecture. Architects take for granted the idea that the “objective” individuation of continuous space is as the sum of individual, discrete “projects”, both at the domestic and the urban scales. The “Project” is considered the natural distribution of objectual identities, as long as each project is conceived as a unity of form, production, management and destiny. The practice of projecting architecture is therefore correlative to its foundation in objectivity, in the sense that designing a building, a gadget or a city involves matters of formal coherence, compossibility and individuality: the scope of the project is to obtain a unitary Object, defined by its relations of exteriority but mainly by its inner coherence: the result of this mode of thinking is a discontinuous urban territory whose pieces are objectual projects. Space is therefore considered not as a pure multiplicity, but as a discrete aggregation of pieces, each of which is conceived solely by the internal logic of its unifying form. As correlate to this mode of producing the idea, architects often sublimate the “Idea” behind the project, or a unifying distributive diagram and transcendental composition order that legislates every projectual decision and that provides the project its aforementioned unity and uniqueness. Deleuze is very skeptical about any attempt to “unify” experience under one single law, so this general consensus among architect about the legitimacy of the ruling “Idea” must be put into question: therefore, this critique is against the whole concept and characteristics of the Project and the parameters under which we design it and evaluate it. Maybe all this seems too abstract, but will be better understood if we examine phenomenologically how our relationship with the territory is. The daily routine that takes us from home to work and from there to any entertainment space, moves us along spatial sequences that are transverse to each building, which we walk only partially and disregarding its unity or coherence. Our movements across the city are not “from building to building” but “from situation to situation”. The daily tour includes a bedroom, a hallway, a bathroom, elevator, sidewalk, parking, streets, parking at my workplace, the lobby of the office building, my office, the road again ... Our experiential relationship with the city is done through "fragments" of buildings, sequences of movements in which the inner coherence of individual building is indifferent, and the unifying “Idea” behind it, is irrelevant. While modern 9
architecture assumes that an office is fundamentally related to other parts of the building containing it and its physical environment, in our everyday experience that same office would be more related to my house, my street, the way to her ... Namely, the city forms a spatial continuity can be individuated from discretionary logic of "buildings", but according to Ranciere´s concept of "distribution of the sensible”, it could be considered alternatively as organized according to other variables. Rather than a succession of buildings (or selfsufficient, formally coherent objects), a territory is an assemblage of images and events. Deleuze called these kinds of intensive domains “planes of composition”, inasmuch as the “soil” that guarantees its continuity is not positional, but relational. According to the usual criterion used by architects to evaluate spatial composition, a "good project" is one whose parts form a intrinsically harmonious entity with appropriate relationships with its environment, but mostly legible locally (i.e., individually). The paradigm of judgment of a building or a city remains, for architects, its intrinsic logic, the way in which the sum of the parts result in a higher-order device whose purpose is to function as an organism or a machine defined by its limits and boundaries. The key point of evaluation is the coherence between parts. But as we have seen, this demanded coherence is irrelevant for the dweller, whose relation to the city establishes its own transversal, partial and rhizomatic connections between parts from different buildings, different projects, and different objects. An umwelt emerges from a sequence of sensations, affects, expectations, requirements, events, where the individuation of entities on the continuous space is traced by the specific necessities of the subject, and unfolded from his singular point of view: his feelings, sensations or sentiendum. Rather than visual, sensation is haptic, transversal to senses. Such considerations draw the conclusion that impressionist thinking can still be a fertile way of exploring the affective constitution of the real. We must make clear that our use of the word “objective” means “constituted by objects”, as opposed to the modern epistemological sense of true and measurable. Therefore, the giant leap that impressionism can provide is rethinking the Project by using intensive parameters or categories, so that the individuation of objects can be open to the dweller’s interpretation and determination. Impressionism reflects not on individual objects but on contingent situations of space time, where the wholeness of the multiplicity emerges from its specific conditions of affection and not from the stable and self-sufficient metrics of its parts. Significative landscapes are therefore the result of the active act of composing sensations differentiated by their singularity, and not by articulating parts objectified by their individuality.
5. Situationism and morphogenesis We started this analysis of the individuation of space in discrete projects from a phenomenological perspective, but now we are dealing with issues that bring about strong political consequences, in the sense that this objective discontinuity of space that we are criticising is determined by the conditions of ownership of each part of the territory –as Deleuze puts it, metaphysics is always correlative to very pragmatic, materialistic modes of living. The self coherence of a project is parallel to the way it manages the possibilities of accessibility, namely, the formal boundaries of a project deploy a set of barriers between what is common and what is private. Individuation is not only the distribution of identifiable formal parts, but mainly the stratification of potential accessibility and visibility, inclusion and exclusion. Actual space is continuous, while architectonic space is stratified and modulated by socioeconomic features of ownership and power as denounced by Foucault or the Situationists. Indeed, the concept of “Situation” can still be used as a revulsion against normative, objective modern architecture, given that while modernity proposed the idea of “function” as a rational, foreseeable set of conditions for the practice of formal design, “situation” is open to the contingent, the transversal and the sensational, for it is the immanent actualization of potential, partially unpredictable functions. The basic difference between “function” and “situation” is that while the former is ideal and synchronic, the later is material and diachronic. To further address this concept, again we must reconsider the principles of individuation in architecture through extensive projects. Modernity set the basis for the machinic or organic conception of the unified building, whereas each project is structured around operational demands that are listed as a function or sum of functions. According to the machinic or organic unifying diagram characteristic of modernity, each project is structured around operational demands of a plurality of requirements, establishing a morphogenetic principle according to which the correlation between form and function is straightforward and static, taking for granted that both domains –the functional and the formal- can be ruled by a single holistic “Idea of the project”. However, to raise the program of needs in terms of a set of functions involves defining a set of potential uses that in fact will never take place as expected. Moreover, as mentioned contemporary architecture can no longer rely on a stable set of hypothetical functions, because over the life of a project it will undergo transformations, changes in use, additions, alterations and mutations of all kinds. Furthermore, the occupation and dwelling of space does not take place as a “sum of functions”, but as the crossing of very diverse potentials that converge in the same situation, or under a certain spatial and temporal context. As the Situationists said, (situation) “it's a moment of life, concretely and deliberately constructed by the collective organisation of a unitary environment and a game of events". Constructing a situation thus implies collective construction of a moment - collective involvement in and modification of all the aspects of a moment in time, from the decor to how those involved are acting.” This interpretation can be read in Debord and Constant’s own, revolutionary terms which saw in the construction of situations the possibility of reinventing the subjective relation to space through the creative research of the affective powers of each encounter, each unplanned process, each crossing. However, we can speculate on the possibility of understanding the notion of "constructed situation" in a less revolutionary mood, as daily events, spontaneous and domestic, are in themselves situations, which are given simply by the fact of living and interacting with society and space. Facing the mechanistic univocal, stable and deterministic understanding of "function" as a property inner to objects, the "Situation" appeals to the chaotic, plural, metastable and open way that events occur, conditioned by coincidences and affections, way beyond any objective expectation, and whose predictability can be studied only in statistical terms. This approach overcomes the aphorism "Form follows function" without falling into relativism and post-modern contrivances game (Form follows fiction), by 11
approaching the study of the occupation of architecture from scientific disciplines more open to the indeterminacy of the event, such as game theory, set theory, thermodynamics of metastable systems, homeostasis or dynamic processes of autopoiesis. In any case, the situation transcends the objectual determinations of formal spaces, and overflows the expectations of "functionality" as a foreseeable utilization of space. Superseding “function” by “situation” implies a new consideration of morphogenesis. We can no longer rely on the modern assumption of the correlation between object and form, because the multiple processes that converge in the interaction with the object (and in the object) set up a dynamical network of events in which the “function” is not an aprioristic demand, but rather a resulting feature of the immanent usage of space. “Function” is a never ending creative process, open to the specific temporal situations and the personal and social evolution of affects, requirements and even casual encounters. Thinking the Situation requires going radically temporal: while function is a matter of being, situation refers to Becoming; while function is stable and normative, situation us dynamical and unruled; while function is intrinsic to an object, situation is transversal to the objective. And while function lasts in time, the situation is radically ephemeral. And all architecture is ultimately ephemeral: modernity takes for granted some kind of persistence of the building’s essence across time, ignoring the fact that both its material substance and its potential uses are subject to inevitable aging processes, transformation developments, and constant strain. We’ve reached the point where architecture exposes its ultimate scope: the disposition of events in space.
6. Semiotics and the event Deleuze´s stake on the concept of the event relies on its immanent foundation in experience. As any other aspect of reality, the event is a constructive process, the result of a cognitive act of creation, based on the movement of signs. As he put it, “Everything I’ve written is vitalistic, at least I hope it is, and amounts to a theory of signs and events”. Sensation and situation are mediated and intertwined by signs, which from Deleuze´s viewpoint are not a matter of meaning or sense, whereas his concept of signification is dependant on the material, immanent capacity of the sign to dynamically mediate our apprenticeship of reality. “Learning is essentially concerned with signs. Signs are the object of a temporal apprenticeship, not of an abstract knowledge. To learn is first of all to consider a substance, an object, a being as if they emitted signs to be deciphered, interpreted. There is no apprentice who is not “the Egyptologist” of something. One becomes a carpenter only by becoming sensitive to the signs of wood, a physician by becoming sensitive to the signs of disease. Vocation is always predestination with regard to signs. Everything which teaches us something emits signs, 12
every act of learning is an interpretation of signs or hieroglyphs. Proust’s work is based not on the exposition of memory, but on the apprenticeship to signs”. His thesis therefore tries to surpass the semiotic conceptualization of the sign, transforming it into a very operative and physiological device, as opposed to some Semiotics traditions that approached signifying processes as eminently linguistic and representative instances. Each philosophical system has developed its own definition of the “Sign” depending on their respective axiomatic assumptions, but the closest to the deleuzian point of view is the semiotic theory developed by Charles Sanders Peirce. Unlike Saussure (whose semiotics where built upon the split between signifier and signified, or the immanent versus the transcendent), Peirce´s model allows for a much more physiological, impersonal concept of the sign, whereas it is understood as part of a universal field of possible significations that give birth to the events. “Sign” isn’t just the way human intellect encodes the intensities and capacities of an object in order to insert it in a language of differences, but the primary source from which the object is produced, thus involving both ontological and epistemological implications of high complexity. “Signification” is not only relational synchronically and diachronically, but also performative, as long as a “meaning” isn’t limited to representation and communication, but establishes the potential role of the sign in the event. Deleuze´s semiotics, under its layers of harsh and obscure rhetoric, is highly similar to aforementioned zoosemiotics of people like Uexküll, whereas for him the sign is a relational tool that informs the events: his concept of “information” not only refers to communicable content of a discourse, but to the actual production of reality. In-formation. Therefore, for what matters in architecture the most fertile concept of Sign is the one that’s used in scientific fields such as ethology, zoosemiotics or biosemiotics by authors like Kauffman, Beriberi, Varek or Maturana. These “natural semiotics” give account of the world as a semiosphere, where relationships between objects are given by signs, namely, by encoding and decoding information that in turn encapsulates potential events. That is, compared to the modern concept of "information" as an epistemological phenomenon, essentially intellectual and reflective (and therefore exclusive to human knowledge), contemporary science gives signs a universal ontological function that transcends the limits of the human act of knowing. The signs are no longer considered only symbols travelling in consciousness communicating a “meaning”, but the actual devices that channel natural energy flows, the interaction of affections and intensities between bodies. In its informational essence, the Sign is what gives way to forms. Peircean semiotics defined the sign as "whatever an object presupposes". As pure relationship, it works as a system of differences in which the object is constructed by reference to other signified objects, establishing the “regime” that traces the fabric of reality: from this point of view, signification operates establishing a set of expectations, reminiscences and associations between different and distant (both in space and time) objects, in which the significance of each depends on the other, in mutual co production. But the nuance that Deleuze brings to this concept takes its meaning from his critique of representation, trying to look outside the semiotic process of intellection or thinking, studying how the signs trigger events automatically by the mere actualization of their potential status. Contemporary study of signs examines how they report the object, and participate in the actualization of events. Nevertheless, the most common architectural semiotics (as the work of Umberto Eco, Yuri Lottman or Maria Luisa Scalvini) often emphasizes the merely symbolic and representative nature of signs, as if they needed a conscious act of thought to actualize them. However, the concept of "pushmi-pullyu representations" proposed by Ruth Gabriel Millikan offers new possibilities to study the semiotic space. The type of signs proposed by Millikan are both descriptive and prescriptive, ie not only transmit information but they actually trigger the event, because the sign “orders” and “commands”. This proposal relates semiotics with various organizational processes of natural structures such as DNA or autopoietic crystallizations, in which the information determines the different modes of growth and the 13
spontaneous development of forms. Deleuze, when he sought to overcome the Cartesian and Kantian rational subject, opened the door to this kind of semiotic analysis, in which the signs become prior to conscious mediation and are valued as material processes, operating according to the property that linguists call "performativity": the mere construction and enunciation of a sign makes it an event. Signification in architecture happens not by producing representations, but interfaces.
7. Conclusion. Sensation, Sign, Situation Behind these abstract-looking analyses, underlies a triad of concepts whose correspondence we have only sketched, but that allow us to "read" reality surpassing objectual thought: the world becomes interpreted as a field of intensities ranging from it through differences that shape signs and sensations that determine the potential of situations to occur. An analytical system that tries to do without thinking objectual and so avoid the problems of Aristotelian hilemorfisme. Facing positivist and rationalist metaphysics of modernity, contemporary cognitivism proposes a definition of territory traversal to the difference between objectivity and subjectivity, where events are determined so that affective perception and action, feeling and production, are parts of the same topological, intensive process, which overrides the primacy of form. Reality is no longer exploded in objects but in visions. The intelligible recovers its natural sensible foundation, classifiable and comprehended by a postphenomenological triad of concepts. The horizon of this intellectual step is the quest for a pluralistic approach to the art of space design –and the art of living, by a more symbiotic relation with nature. And, perhaps more dramatically, to leave behind the role of “Starchitects” and academic discourses as the only legitimate court to evaluate the “quality” of a project: what we are reformulating is the nature of the project itself. We therefore intentionally avoided any reference to actual “auteur” buildings and architects namedropping, as a logic consequence of our understanding of the territory, which is focused on its communal nature, its holistic continuity and vitalistic apprehension. The fragmentation of reality in identifiable objects is irrelevant in a world where an empty bottle can become a lamp, and a prison be transformed into a discotheque: objective essences are ephemeral. One of the conclusions of this speculative manifesto is the radical criticism of any sort of abstract language in architecture, inasmuch as an abstract relation with space is impossible. Dwelling and acting in space requires its creative figuration. Common architecture thinking evaluates the territory from God’s eye view, judging each objectual fragment (ie, each building) from a paradigm in which the primary endpoint is the internal coherence that unifies 14
the project as a whole. Our analytical system aims to decompose the project as an experiential assembly, made up of intrinsic and extrinsic connections with close and distant points, subject to the fluctuations of time, and whose understanding is not done thoughtfully by the intellect but experimentally by the perception. The semiotic dimension of architecture should abandon its former culturalist and academic matrix, and be reformulated from the new biosemiotics investigations in which the power of signs lies in their performativity. Our paradigm is materialistic and immanentist, dealing with disciplines such as ethology or set theory, and inscribed in the ongoing cultural shift of post humanism and post realism. CĂŠsar Losada Romero
Brief Bibliography De Landa, Manuel. Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy, Transversals: New Directions in Philosophy. London; New York: Continuum, 2002. Deleuze, G. (1990). The Logic of Sense, tr. M. Lester. New York: Columbia University Press. Deleuze, G. (1994). Difference and Repetition, tr. P. Patton. New York: Columbia University Press. Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia, tr. B. Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Foucault, Michel ‘The Confession of the Flesh’ interview, Power/Knowledge Selected Interviews and Other Writings, ed. Colin Gordon, London, Harvester, 1980. Hardt, M. (1993). Gilles Deleuze: An Apprenticeship in Philosophy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Hume, David. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, ed., Tom L. Beauchamp. Oxford Philosophical Texts. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999. Kant, Immanuel, and James Creed Meredith. The Critique of Judgement. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1952. Merleau-Ponty, M., 1962 (first published in 1945), Phenomenology of Perception, trans. by Colin Smith, London: Routledge and Kegan. Merleau-Ponty, M., 1967, “The Primacy of Perception and Its Philosophical Consequences,” Readings in Existential Phenomenology, Lawrence, N., O’Connor, D. (eds.), New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Press. Merleau-Ponty, M., 1968, The Visible and the Invisible, Claude Lefort and Alphonso Lingis (eds.), translated by Hazel E. Barnes, USA: Northwestern University Press. Perez-Gomez, A., 1983, Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science, Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press. Ranciere, Jacques, The Politics of Aesthetics: the Distribution of the Sensible. translated by Gabriel Rockhill, London, Continuum, 2004. Ranciere, Jacques. ‘Aesthetic Separation, Aesthetic Community: Scenes from the Aesthetic Regime of Art.’ Art and Research, No. 2 Summer 2008., http://www.artandresearch.org.uk/v2n1/ranciere.html, accessed 1/012010. Ranciere, Jacques. Aesthetics and Its Discontents. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009. Uexküll, Jakob von 1982. The Theory of Meaning. Transl. of Uexküll 1956  by Barry Stone and Herbert Weiner. Semiotica 42 (1): 25–82. Uexküll, Jakob von 1985. Environment and inner world of animals. Transl. (in selection) of Uexküll 1909, 1921 by C. J. Mellor and D. Gove. In Burghardt, Gordon (ed.): Foundations of Comparative Ethology. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 222–245. Uexküll, Jakob von 2010. A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans. With A Theory of Meaning. Transl. of Uexküll 1956 by Joseph D. O’Neil. Minneapolis: University of the Minnesota Press. Varela, F. (1999). Ethical Know-How: Action, Wisdom and Cognition. CA: Stanford University Press. Vladimirova, Elina; Mozgovoy, John 2003. Ecological semiotics: A set of problems and some biosemiotic traditions. SEED 3(1): 30–40.