Transitioning: acts of disrupting a narrative or material assemblage through cataloguing, cutting, and sequencing Essay written for the precedent study between Stari Most and Neretva river Accompanied by the Catalog of a Space: Material and Time between Stari Most and Neretva
Transitioning: acts of disrupting a narrative or material assemblage through cataloguing, cutting, and sequencing Essay written for the precedent study between Stari Most and Neretva river Accompanied by the Catalog of a Space: Material and Time between Stari Most and Neretva
Introduction Mostar has a complex history, in which multiple narratives, containing information, thoughts, practices, and emotions exist, forming their own population. These range in dominance and together create history. These narratives in the space have come-into-being by the embodied experience in past and present, such as the activities and senses contributing to spatial hate. We can find material evidences of these narratives on bigger and smaller level, from the post-war border conditions affecting the built environment and the physical (dis)continuation of rituals to the growing of weeds over debris and the waste deposited in certain areas. We call these evidences of embodied experience are the material layers, or material assemblage, of the place. This material assemblage 1 is both organic and non-organic. The material assemblage has both stationary and transfigurative qualities, native to the qualities of embodiment. It captures the stable object and the “dynamic conception” 2 of time, process, and image, coming together in transitional interaction. Thus, the movement in material mediates between the transitional processes evident in the Anthropocene and the Nature. This “intensive coming together” 3 in transitional interaction is especially apparent in the conjunction of the Neretva River and the Stari Most, situated in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The spaces of bridge, river, terrace, ruin, human body, animal, plant, and residual objects (trash mainly) join each other in material interaction and therefor meaning. This layered experience, or embodiment, of the place can be abstracted in the archive of a place, where material layers are the items in the archive. If the city is made up out of different archives, each producing a set of narratives, then it is important to investigate the sequence of the layers in the space, harnessing their movements, to transition the narrative and embodied experience of a specific place. It is important to question the dominant, fixed or fossilized relationship of the material in its end form, to transition these to other meanings, and create spaces that remain in transition. We must, among other keywords, grasp the intended definition of transitioning. Additionally, the research actively attempts to disrupt normative subject-object
This is also described as mnemotechnical objects by Bernard Cache in his work Earth Moves. Liking it to sections in territory or cuts in film, mnemotechnical objects are both frames and processes. Here he also draws from Deleuze and Guattari’s assemblage theory. 2 Cache, Earth Moves. 3 Alexandrescu, “Frame of Frames.” 1
dichotomies, meaning the divide between human-nature, conscious-unconscious, and knowingsubjects and objects-that-are-known. The essay reflects on the notion of transitioning a space in transition and draws a theoretical framework from the precedent study as support for the MSc Methods and Analysis studio project to come. It places the strategy next to related historical and contemporary methods in ecological and assemblage thinking and the acts of disrupting and transforming spatial narratives in architecture. It outlines the need for a productive storytelling in the archive to transition trauma, grounding the theoretical framework and subsequent strategy in architectural expression. It is a writing, not only meant to reflect on the transitional force of ecologies, but also to serve as a reflection on a case study, a springboard for action, and a mode to enable testing on site. The first part of the essay frames the precedent study location through a brief overview of the layers and coupling it with embodied observations, which lead us to the problem statement. Then we disassemble the problem field of material assemblages, human-nonhuman interactions, and how that relates to the embodied experience of the location and culminates in the creation of archives. These embodied interactions are given as affective relationships in existence, stretching out to the concept of movement or transitioning in place, meaning, and time. This leads us to the research question: in which way can we use transitioning as a concept to disrupt space, being material assemblages, and thereby question fixed narratives? From here we depart toward a deeper understanding of the forces that form the perceived interactions and give opportunities for disruption. These opportunities for disruption of the material, as part of an embodied archive of a space, is outlined in the fourth part of the essay. The goal is to both physically and theoretically intuit the possible transformation of the narrative through embodied experience and to reflect on the location and its material layers through intense visualizing, laying bare, opening, and sequencing these elements. This is tested in the â€˜Catalog of a Spaceâ€™, where the various iterations of making this catalog have become my method of thinking into layers coming-intobeing. The methods of sequencing layers bring forth associations in between the material assemblage on which we can speculate additional narratives along the fixed conception of the space. The disruptive acts highlight the transitional capabilities of material layers in the construction of meaning, memory, and history, and effectively question the initial fixed or fossilized position of material in space or memory. The methods as applied to this location can, when we draw conclusions, be part of further interventions to transition spaces within Mostar, such as the studio project location. These disruptions are influenced by several theories grounded in the fields of ecological, feminist, and post-colonial thinking. The theoretical approach to territories as being dynamic, which I am building upon, is foregrounded by Bernard Cache. Cache approaches a territory as architecture and mediator of narratives of place while questioning its stability. He also investigates memory and meaning of a space by physical acts, which can be performed on
architectural objects. The assemblage theories in the essay in turn are informed by the ecological thoughts of Deleuze, Guattari, Massumi, and the contemporary theorists Mol and Hougaard. The latter merge the concept of female, non-normative, and nonhuman bodies into the equation of assemblages, which brings me to the importance of post-colonial and intersectional thinking in assessing materials for an archive. Here we for example quote Marks in her Notes on Documentary and Materiality. Finally, we look toward the productivity and specificity of the embodied archive proposed for the case study location Gojka VukoviÄ‡a 11 and adjacent terrace. After fleshing out the idea of transitioning layers through movement in embodiment, we can glance forward to possible meanings it could have from precedent studies toward project. This serves as our conclusion for now and gives space to think further on the loose ends encountered while writing, making, and thinking.
Location: A brief overview of layers Relating to a new space is often aided by the residues of past spaces and the built archive of associations. It is complex and multi-layered. We can mirror this population of layers, or material assemblage, to our conception of memory and creation of narratives. This described memory is essentially an embodied one, it can relate to other layers, but finds meaning in symbiosis to its own environment. The entering of a new space, such as the project location in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the positioning of the body in various sections herein has led to a personal fascination of the interchanging of layers in this location. In contrast to investigation done in Delft before the field research, I witnessed while being in Mostar that the intersections are much more complicated. First the political narrative of the border became a foregrounding object of confusion during my stay (fig. 1). The ongoing territorial dispute between the three major ethnicities in Mostar, the Bosniaks, the Bosnian Croats, and the Bosnian Serbs has most certainly not been resolved, not after the Dayton Peace agreement 4. It seemed not to be this acute inflammation. There were no barbed wires that prevented movement between people. Rather, it was a subject to be read from more subtle material layers in the environment, which are still being performed, such as Arna Mačkić hints in the excerpt below. “There was a big celebration; trained divers dove off the bridge with torches. The bridge became a national and international showpiece that needed to show it had succeeded in once again unifying the two different ethnic groups of Mostar.” 5 These material layers became known to all who set foot in Mostar and was aware of its history. You could tell the division from empty spaces, written slogans, littered trash, and unused pathways (fig. 2). Around these layers, life seemed to have sought an equilibrium and stories and opinions have been buried in favor of a main narrative of peace. While placing my body in the unknown environment of Mostar, I moved around and tried to touch as many layers to evoke these buried narratives. As my secondary medium, I used my old Canon analog camera, which I consider an extension of my body, a lens behind which I can hide and think. My encounters were intimate and intertwined with my body, perceived as female and colored. People have told me things, about their jobs, their childhoods, the best places in town, but where they placed their silences turned out to be as meaningful. I have tried to interact with the earth, the solid rock, the name scratched in with a key, the greenbluewhite cold waters of Neretva, the plastic bag floating to elsewhere as if they are all narrators and evidences (fig. 3).
Accord putting to end the Bosnian war, setting up the bureaucratic and territorial framework in which Bosnia currently operates 4 5
Mačkić, “Mortal Cities: The Irreversible Disappearance of Mostar.”
Fig. 1: The division of Mostar with Neutral Zone instated after the Dayton Agreement (Sophie Mitchell, 2013)
Fig. 2: Example of littered trash floating in Neretva (own image)
Fig. 3: Greenbluewhite Neretva (own image)
I understood that during our stay we were part of an ethology of life in Mostar. Feeding into this research is thus my body and personal collection of imagery, encounters, and narratives collected from Mostar. On various levels, the movement of layers creates relationships, which add to the memory of the space. The horizontal movement of the layers can be defined as the movement from place to place, carrying and forming connections. The vertical movement of layers can be defined as movements throughout time, introducing the fluidity inherently present in memory. Below I give an outline of the layers present in the location area to be able to further reflect on their importance in the creation of histories or memories. The Stari Most is one of the bridges crossing the Neretva (fig. 4). It is one of the most recognizable and, after the Croat-Bosniak war and its destruction, the most discussed restauration in Bosnia. The original Ottoman bridge was constructed out of stone along with two fortified towers several hundred years ago. Before the war, the main layers of meaning were crossing the bridge to trade or to pass to the other side of the city, to gather in the cafĂŠ Cardak, to swim underneath or to jump off the arch of the bridge. During the war, the bridge was used to carry victims and goods to safety. The appearance of the bridge changed several times during the war due to impact of the shelling, but also due to the safety needs of the citizens. Citizens placed a cover over the bridge or wrapped car tires around the arch. The bridge became physically layered, aside from its mental layers. Divers have kept on diving off one of the shelled buildings next to the Halabija tower. The Stari Most was ultimately destroyed in 1993 but resurrected in the 2000s with foreign aid and interest (fig. 5). The physical layer of connection was reinstated, but the mental specificity of connecting became tainted by the ethnic separation, which became part of the cityâ€™s mental archive. The signifying of the bridge as the restored crossing between two ethnicities is reason for the lack of physical expression of the mental layers, essentially setting in stone a perpetual equilibrium, or fossilization of meaning. This narrative built further on the assumption that this bridge was the border and that with its destruction the citizens were on their furthest point from reconciliation. Currently, the bridge is restored in its original state and being pushed as the restored (tourist) icon of the city and at the same time the icon of peace and reconciliation. Neretva is the main river flowing through the Bosnian city Mostar, which played an important role, before and during the Croat-Bosniak war, in the lives of Mostar citizens. Personal accounts of citizens have mentioned that the river was used for several leisure activities before the war. The connecting Radobolja River was used for drinking and sanitation. During the war the usage of the Neretva partially shifted to the Radobolja function of sanitation and drinking water. Yet, pictures show that people still used the spots near the Stari Most for leisure. The caves were used as hiding spots from the shelling from the direction of the surrounding mountains. The coasts and dams were used by armies to defend the city. After the war, the Neretva became increasingly touched by the new privatization of Bosnia due to shifting post-war politics. This has resulted into pollution of the river, usage of the river for hydroelectric dams, and disuse of the shores. Still, the mental image of the river has been one of pure natural strength and beauty albeit incongruous with its physical state.
Fig. 4: Stari Most, as seen from Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque (own image)
Fig. 5: Plaque commemorating the foreign aid used to reconstruct the Stari Most (own image)
The terraces seem to dominate the landscape between Neretva, the old town, Stari Most, and the adjacent neighborhood Ograda (fig. 6 and 7). A post-war intervention, the terraces stem from a more naturally formed coast on which roughly the same activities of leisure and spectating were performed by visitors. The terraces topographically mediate the height difference between the river and the upper located Ograda. Along the separate levels one can find natural borders of green patches, trees, and the water of the Neretva and Radobolja seeping in. Small stone steps intervene between each ascending level of the terrace until a paved road is reached, going up to the debris of the Gojka Vukovića settlement. Littered on several places one can find material evidences of visitors, mainly trash from food packaging and cigarette buds. A special quality of the terraces is the transitioning of the space during higher tides of the Neretva, usually after heavy rainfall. This is due to the specific topography of the location, earlier mentioned. Cache mentions that “topography is a primary concern in the establishment of cities” leading to “shifting relations between a city and its territory” 6. In the case of the topography of Lausanne, which Cache uses to elaborate his theory on, “the collective memory […] is structured by this plane that creates a sort of split” 7. We find the terraces in several, separate modes of accessibility and visibility, creating new spaces when submerged and therefor additional characters of site with their own narrative capabilities. Drawing again a parallel to Lausanne’s description, “the surface of the territory is mobile and fluid as it is given to the continual distortions of memory” 8. The ruin of the settlement Gojka Vukovića 11, accessible from the main road Gojka Vukovića and from the terraces if not flooded is at first sight a space literally and figuratively opposite from the Stari Most yet connected in several ways to be explained later on. The debris hailing from the Bosnian war is evident, few walls of the originally grand assemblage of complexes are still present. Going inside, the inhabitance of the location is taken over by several bodies, human and nonhuman, each leaving their marks of having been there. We consider examples of these marks the graffiti, the trash (mainly from food and drink packaging, cigarettes, and household objects), the growing of trees, bushes, and weeds, and the excrements and footprints of animals. In the Stari Most, the terraces, the ruin, and the Neretva River, we can find subtleties of various subject-object dichotomies: fixed-fluid, human-nature, conscious-unconscious, and “actively knowing-subjects and passive objects-that-are-known” 9. This innate questioning of the stability of a territory relates to one of Cache’s main topics in his seminal work Earth Moves. There the predicament explored is “how to show or create the kind of movement that is prior to the representation of stable objects, and so to introduce a new dynamic conception of both image and architecture” 10. This movement in territories otherwise perceived as stable proposes
Cache, Earth Moves, p.6. Cache, p. 10. 8 Cache, p.11. 9 Mol, The Body Multiple: Ontology in Medical Practice, p.33. 10 Boyman, “Translator’s Preface.” In Earth Moves, p. IX 6 7
Fig. 6 and 7: Terraces with Neretva high tide (own image)
“possibilities of seeing” 11. Where the stone bridge carries the image of stability, eternity, and elevation, the proximity of the river, or waters as material paradoxes this connection by signifying fluidity, carrying information, embodying the process of transitioning. Here we touch upon two key concepts which will be fleshed out in the rest of this writing and research: material layers being evidences of embodiment, or bodies, and the importance of movement or transitioning in understanding the interactions between the material. So first, by considering the sensory information as valid and foremost starting point, we tread on unstable territory. As Marks says: Nonvisual, or nonaudiovisual, sensory knowledge has tended to be dismissed by major world philosophies, and feminist thought is one area that has defended the importance of these senses as sources of knowledge and identity. 12 Then going beyond the consideration of the feminine body in the equation of my investigation, it is too the agency given to all bodies observed and interacted with, by the meaning of touch and other sensation. Again, we quote Marks when paralleling the scientifically unnatural importance given to the material in this precedent research to the instating of ‘fetishism’, as “the sort of practice that invested lifelike powers in objects themselves, powers attained through physical contact.” 13 Secondly, when considering the impact of movement, we can think about this powerful concept as having transitional, generative quality; otherwise called ‘disruption’. This disruption presents possibilities in transitioning territories of trauma. At heart of this being-in-transit are the terrace and the ruin. The “stability” of the firmer parts, “its ability to re-feature in experience from moment to moment, is an enabling condition for the ephemerality of the […] 14” river and the spaces in-between found at the location of the ruin. The blurred dichotomy can in this way be investigated by highlighting the question of the material assemblage’s horizontal and vertical process of movement; for example, spaces transitioning from debris caused by the shelling of the bridge to a submerged piece of stone and eventually gravel holding on to its position on the river bank. The narratives, or the act of storytelling therefore make up a significant part of the layers. They are not only part of but also describe the occurring events and cross-reference layers. Here we view both the narratives about the layers and from the material as layers, given that agency. During the research, many works of art and literature have aided to the scope of subjective viewpoints on the location. These ranged from descriptions in words, color, and shape to
Boyman, In Earth Moves, p. IX.
Manning and Massumi, A Thought in The Act, p.11.
Marks, “Fetishes and Fossils: Notes on Documentary and Materiality.”, p. 224 13 Marks, p. 225. 12
various expressions of emotions, which can be collected under the moniker of melancholia 15. Fascinating is how art and literature during the Bosnian war and post-war eras are used to digest and transition the trauma, almost drawing upon the unseen in their productions. Quoting Earth Moves on the qualities of images [and narratives], in which Cache links art and cinema heavily to architecture, is that they “always include an element that exceeds the intentions and functions of such making and links the image to an environment or milieu that is ‘before man’” 16. A few examples of analyzed post-war works are from the poets Tahir Delić Tašo, Mila Vlašić, Meho Baraković and the painters Affan Ramić and Turcel Roman, which all explicitly center situations around the location of Stari Most, Neretva, and the terraces/edges of the river (fig. 8). Here we also count the works by the Bosnian diaspora, who have settled in foreign countries and have continued creating on the topics of trauma. Meeting the diasporic narratives carries within itself too “a strong etymological connection to discourses of fertility” and transformation 17. By recognizing these narratives as material layers, we are giving agency to the embodiment and subjectivity and ultimately to the ethology of life in Mostar. Quoting Walter Benjamin: When information supplants the old form, storytelling, and when it itself gives way to sensation, this double process reflects an imaginary degradation of experience. Each of these forms is in its own way an offshoot of storytelling. Storytelling . . . does not aim to convey the pure essence of a thing, like information or a report. It sinks the thing into the life of the storyteller, in order to bring it out of him again. Thus, traces of the storyteller cling to the story the way the handprints of the potter cling to the clay vessel 18. In this way, the “totalized bodies” that constitute the location and narratives on the metalevel constitute out of “transitional objects, institutional objects (‘subject-groups’), faces and landscapes, […]” 19. I relate strongly to Annemarie Mol when she speaks about her research done in the medical environment, as she speaks about bodies that are “far from necessarily falling into fragments, multiple objects tend to hang together somehow” 20 and these “objects are enacted” 21. This enactment means that the object-layers are in constant becoming. We thus have a location, where the relationships in between layers of memories and activities throughout history is mentally embedded in the meaning of the space, ‘hang together’, and constantly become. Both human and non-human interactions compose together an “immediacy
Kassabian and Kazanjian, “Melancholic Memories and Manic Politics: Feminism, Documentary, and the Armenian Diaspora.” 16 Boyman, “Translator’s Preface.”, p. XI 17 Kassabian and Kazanjian, p. 218. 18 Benjamin, Illuminations.p.91-92 19 Guattari, Le Tre Ecologie, p.44. 20 Mol, The Body Multiple: Ontology in Medical Practice, p. 5. 21 Mol, p.41. 15
Fig. 8: Obale, Turcel Roman (2002)
of mutual action, an associated milieu of their emergent relation” 22. Yet it is not necessarily clearly expressed in the grand narrative of the space due to active erasure, gradual amnesia, and spatial hate 23. However, the expression of this amnesia, and along with that a plurality of hidden narratives, can be sought in the physical expression of the environments; it is the interaction between layers in the material assemblage that can point us towards the submerged narratives in Mostar. The importance lies in highlighting these interactions, these “events” 24 and making them part of ongoing practice. It is thus fruitful to look at the material expression of the site, the ‘transitional objects’, to uncover submerged emergent relationships, to investigate their possibility to be productive, to question and disrupt the dichotomies leading to main narratives, and to initiate the transitional thinking into histories set in stone.
Layers and interactions in material assemblage Summarizing from the previous section, we have argued that the layers in the location are embodied in the space. Their relationships, which hang together and constantly become, are expressed in the material of the site. In assemblage theory, a concept widely used in fields like archeology, geology, and more recently the arts and cultural studies, the layers mentioned are understood as “a group of objects of different or similar types found in close association with one another” 25, or assemblage. The emphasis in assemblage theory lays on the difference between the components in meaning, structure, and continuous arrangement. Deleuze’s and Guattari’s assemblage, stated as a framework in A Thousand Plateaus, relies on the idea of material self-organization in form and their constant re-organization in a hierarchy through form and meaning within a certain space, or constellation, around a body. In our study cases, it is necessary to first look at the mutual interaction between material, otherwise called, affect. This has been pinpointed previously but will be fleshed out further in this section. As Hougaard explains: “affect is a force that acts out in the way people [or animals, or plants, or…] live; in the life-world, with which architecture is inherently connected” 26. It is that this force or interaction points to “modes of existence” of these layers, which “involve comings-to- existence through singular events where objects are in the making” 27. The constant coming-into-being pairs with the transitioning, evolving of its ‘mode of existence’, creating continuity in the pairings 28, interactions, and relationships. The thought of a shared material Manning and Massumi, A Thought in The Act, p. 6. Pilav and De Wit, “Neretva Recollection: Materiality of War, Flowing Memories and Living Archive, Joint Research and Graduation Lab.”, p. 12 24 Mol, The Body Multiple: Ontology in Medical Practice, p.13. 25 Theoretical Archaeology Group Stanford, “Theory of Assemblage.” 26 Hougaard, “Haecceity , Drawing and Mapping.” 27 Manning and Massumi, A Thought in The Act, p.8. 28 Pairings, because interactions cannot be studied based on a singular object, since it takes more than one object to create a relay 22 23
environment and interaction, or affect, in the material assemblage simplifies the search for meaning in a complex spatial environment, as we have here in Mostar, by considering a plurality of narratives coming-into-being as an historical viable option. As stated in the introduction to The Three Ecologies, the complexity of a site “requires that a plurality of disparate groups come together in a kind of unified disunity, a pragmatic solidarity without solidity; what one might call, for want of a better word, 'fluidarity’” 29. As each object forms its own meaning, to which it has the ontological right to, each relationship brings forth different meaning in each separate case. In turn there are as many worlds as there are couplings 30. This means that the relationships that are uncovered are those affected by constant, ongoing, transforming interactions and “these [reciprocal relationships or] affects are intensive limits and found body to body.” 31 Again, we come to the importance of the limits and interactions between bodies, layers, objects, or embodiment, in their environments in the creation of narratives and meaning. This embodiment represented in the material assemblage can be abstracted in the embodied archive of a place, where material layers are the items in the archive. The discovering of physical and mental layers in the material assemblage, much like uncovering layers containing modern objects, older ruins, and fossils at an archeological site, unfolds a consideration for “the complexity of human-nonhuman and organic-nonorganic relationships” 32. To understand these layers as archive is to give importance, to care for the coming-into-being, as embodiment of valuable information, as signifiers of a time, through a time, for a time. Here we come to the second important notion of mutual interaction, which exists in movement in time, alongside the described intimate reciprocity of affective relationships. I call this the vertical movement (time) along the horizontal movement in space, from location to location, from placing a body somewhere elsewhere. Noël van Dooren examines the width of the notion time in his research, concerning the representation of time as dynamics in landscape architecture. This reference is relevant as we consider the layers as part of a wider continuum in a topography, rather than enclosed in a building. Van Dooren cites that “Vroom 33 in his renewed Lexicon does not mention ‘time’ as a keyword; he refers to ‘dynamics’. Seasonal change, long-term development, human use, movement in landscape and experiencing landscape by moving are all part of this keyword”. 34 We can for example understand this power of time as dynamics in the material layers via the harnessing of cultural history by the Afro-Futurists as a “truly generative” tool, where “scratching a vinyl” 35 can be equated to modes of usable human past. This scratching of the record is an embodied interaction serving as intervention, adding onto the material layers. We can also tie the ever-changing affects in the archive and the coming-into-being of its
Guattari, Le Tre Ecologie, p.15. Kousoulas, “Lecture on Affect Theory.” 31 Kousoulas. 32 Theoretical Archaeology Group Stanford, “Theory of Assemblage.” 29 30
Meto J. Vroom, Lexicon of Garden-and Landscapearchitecture Dooren, “Drawing Time.”, p. 5 35 Nowviskie, “Performing The Data Drive.” 33 34
relationships to the implied notions of transitioning-in-time through Gloria Wekkers conceptualization of the cultural archive as “that presence of the past in the present” 36. The understanding of the archive is thus twofold: it is both embedded and it can be added on to. If the city is made up out of different archives, each producing a set of narratives, then it is important to investigate the physical and temporal sequence of the layers in the space to transition the narrative and embodied experience of a specific place. We should thus be investigating the archive of a place through re-forming, transitioning, and highlighting its mentioned capacities for a space in transition. In other words, there needs to be a thought of the archive that keeps on archiving as much as the building that keeps on building, or the movement that keeps on moving. Drawing further on the theorizations made from the site observations, we stumble upon many implicit, unanswered questions on the possible productivity of the mentioned concepts around embodiment, assemblages, relationships within, and the narratives they produce.
Research questions as reflections to the observation of assemblages Over the course of the research done both in Mostar and Delft, which has been outlined in the sections above, several questions reared their head. They are either tied to the possible productivity of the speculated material assemblage in transitioning the war and post-war trauma 37 or to the interpretations of the plurality in witnessed narratives. Productivity and plurality come into play here again as words indicating the possible generative quality of the layers related to the war trauma of violence and loss, resulting in post-war “spatial hate and gradual amnesia” 38. Violence, loss, and trauma in turn can be transferred as the product of “complex subjective assemblages” 39. We can understand this trauma not only as a material assemblage but also as a territory, where “in these locations, spatial and bodily relations take on unique qualities” 40. Following Cache’s explanation of territories 41 they can in turn be disrupted and understood as being part of a mental and spatial ecology. The ecology of trauma in Mostar draws relationships not only within the timeframe of the Bosnian war, consisting of casualties, destructions of spaces, and the paranoia of living amidst the enemies. It relates also to the past changes in government (Ottoman versus Austro-Hungarian versus Bosnian versus Yugoslavian), the consideration of a heterogeneous population as natural in Mostar plus the constructed 36 37
Wekker, White Innocence: Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race, p.20.
Milevska, On Productive Shame, Reconciliation, and Agency.
Pilav and De Wit, “Neretva Recollection: Materiality of War, Flowing Memories and Living Archive, Joint Research and Graduation Lab.”, p.17 39 Guattari, p.58. 40 Pilav, “Sarajevo: Material Mediation and Survival.”, p.3 41 Cache, Earth Moves. 38
evidences of this heterogeneity (Stari Most), and the current post-war trauma of pre-war melancholia, globalization, intensifying influence of Western and Middle-Eastern economies, EU pressure, and national economic stagnation. The disruption and remodeling of such territory of trauma is to be put next to the perceived blurry fixed-fluid dichotomy in the sense that “ethico-political” territories are often witnessed as needing to be stabilized 42. The trauma becomes here on the one hand object to the wish to forget, to impose amnesia on itself, and grow from the debris of Stari Most and the historical city center the narrative of a stable, rebuilt future for better or worse. The stable future suggests the resolving of all conflict and annihilation of friction, assumed by the Dayton Peace Agreement. I don’t write off the wish for this stable future as nonsensical. However, we can say that the implication of conflict and friction is needed to acknowledge the multitude of viewpoints of the war-witnesses, as much as the material assemblage of trauma can be productive when it loses stability. In which ways can we thus use transitioning as a concept to disrupt territories of trauma, them being material assemblages, and thereby question fixed narratives? How can we display past and present for an unstable future? How can we give meaning to the narratives and histories that bind us, human and non-human? We can couple the latter question of plurality in narratives to the understanding of the destroyed and rebuilt buildings as bodies on which the narrative of reconciliation is fixed. As the first section disseminating the layers of the assemblage put forward there is an intersection between these fixed, hyper-visible bodies and the non-normative, flowing, growing bodies. This intersection is blurred by the continuous change in embodiment of even these ‘fixed’ subjects and the embodiment of the narrating subjects, of which my body during the visit is an example. What can the relationships between bodies or embodiment do for us in a productive sense, when we look towards the embodied archive in a more physical sense? On the other hand, trauma is too the ongoing disruptions inflicted by time itself. It is a slightly different understanding connected to the adagio ‘time will mend wounds’. It lays emphasis on the caring aspect of shifting territories of skin to close the gap, grow closer, but not forget the scar. This disruption of the material assemblage does not mean that we need to seek refuge in the imaginary, but it does open the notion that histories of trauma are fixed in or that they have their only commonly accepted connection with the living in an anthropocentric reality. How can we translate the trauma and beauty of transitioning? Again, here we speak about a blurry dichotomy.
Kassabian and Kazanjian, “Melancholic Memories and Manic Politics: Feminism, Documentary, and the Armenian Diaspora. p. 204-212 42
Transitioning the material assemblage: disrupting layers as a method It goes beyond historical over-or misrepresentations of relationships in space when we take the interactions in the material assemblage, or affects, as equal starting points for the analysis of the space. In traditional architectural analysis of the space, which follows the simple uncovering, understanding interactions also typically undergoes a process of ordering and naming. The violence of categorizing in order to understand leads to the exact process of historical over-or misrepresentations of relationships in space. This also happens in the case of producing architectural drawings as ‘archives’ of the analysis and actual institutional archiving. The findings from the study case are in both cases archived, or fossilized, in spatial and cultural memory through relational reproduction. However, “the connection between ethics, art and affects enables the emergence of novel modes of creation, modes that are not subjugated to moral rules, but are directly engaged with living” 43. It is therefore important to research, utilize, and disrupt the notion of material relationships in layers and to ask in which way they can be useful in understanding layered, continuous spatial histories. Trans, transitional, transing, transgressing is a mode of operation reflecting on changeable nature, in this case the changeable nature of the location, as much physically in process and embodiment as it changes mentally. The layers at the described site seem partially physically fixed, solid, and fossil in contrast to the fluid, subverting energy of the growing and flowing elements. We have for example described in the first section the drowning parts of the terraces, the flooding of river banks and -in history- even parts of town, the liquefying of organic material as opposed to the floating plastic. The ‘fossilized’ parts of the site can be understood as being affected by other relationships forming in their environmental time. They interchange and exchange qualities, creating transitioning environments. The transitioning of these layers happens on a slower scale, thus that these relationships, or narratives, tend to be perceived as fixed. These described phenomena are all modes of physical transitioning, different yet equal. It is interesting to approach the question posed in the previous section in this way; by disrupting the territory of trauma through the physical energy of transitioning, which entails material transformations. Manning and Massumi aptly observe that “in the ebb and flow, temporary openings come and go” 44, thus the field of interaction lies the power to create meaning; “the opening is not simply a hole” 45. Disrupting space influences the narratives presented, opening them up for non-normative voices and other interpretations. As Guattari says, the goal is to “activate isolated and repressed singularities that are turning around on themselves” 46 .We can call this perhaps un-shaping or un-folding 47. By doing this we are coming closer to another, plural, understanding of the space through embodiment, embodied action, Hougaard, “Haecceity , Drawing and Mapping.”, p.38 Manning and Massumi, p.9. 45 Manning and Massumi, p. 9. 46 Guattari, p.9. 47 Like the concept dépliage Guattari uses, yet here the embodied character of the folding or shaping is accentuated 43 44
and what happened there throughout the years. This is an example of the productive storytelling we posed as question in the previous paragraph, proposing the transitioning of memory as an emancipating act, (micro)political in its affect. Following, we look at various modes of disrupting fossilized layers as methods. This methodology is physically examined in various stages of creating a catalog, as attached in Appendix (each first 10 pages of the catalog iterations) and the eventual ‘Catalog of a Space’product. First, we look at cataloguing and the considerations while making a catalog for an embodied archive, or layers of embodiment. Then we lay out ways to disrupt this, initially fixed, catalog.
Cataloguing Cataloguing is a first act of getting to know a subject through the describing and ordering of its characteristics in a systematic manner. In the strategy we refer this cataloguing to the understanding of the material layers, such as the elements of Neretva, Stari Most, trash, and weeds in the space of trauma. Cataloguing is related to the sciences and has trickled down to the “becoming-academic” 48 practices of art and architecture. It is a method to condense analysis and creates information about other information, which from then on are representing these original subjects. The recording gives additional meaning to these subjects through the various relationships unearthed in between the defined characteristics. Interesting is how information about other sources of information can be classified and interrelated. At the same time, cataloguing is a practice of making information retrieval efficient, enabling the discovery of the most useful resource for further investigation. It is thus of great importance that the catalog does not shift in its contents. Effectively, paths to gather information become increasingly less agile and open for interpretation and discussion. Connecting this to the practices between art and science, like architecture and art-history, we can see how the information-bearing element of the drawing and image, the narratives contained, has been subject of classification and analysis. For example, the architectural analysis of a place aids to the sense of place, knowing what material is there to work with before any additional mutations happen. It provides a cartography of relations, yet the danger is to fall into assigning objectified affordances 49. As Hougaard expresses on the importance of maps beyond the objectification: “maps of cities and maps of the globe obviously represent life-worlds; they can express both fact and fiction” 50. Similarly, the image of André Malraux (fig. 9) points to the early come-up of art criticism and art history as an institutional practice, coinciding with the recognition of images as relying increasingly on “techniques of information [transforming these Foster, “The Archive without Museums.”, p.97 Manning and Massumi, A Thought in The Act, p9. 50 Hougaard, “Haecceity , Drawing and Mapping.”, p.50 48 49
Fig. 9: André Malraux amid the illustrations for le musée imaginaire, taken from Foster, “The Archive Without Museums”
into] image-text” 51. Interesting is also the act of information-giving in the notation systems choreographers use regarding the more ephemeral relations of movement. “These […] notate in different ways what the body does, how this is related to the music score and where the body is in space at every moment” 52. As we already have constituted that types of information can be classified and catalogued, images containing information, or narratives, can be revaluated in their relationship to each other. The above description the information-giving usage of a catalog already imply several points through which the cataloguing can be disrupted, in order to allow for transitioning the offered information into a non-hierarchical system of narratives. The inclusion of subjective narratives already is as much disturbance as it complements the investigation, in the case that the “scientistic superego demands that psychic entities are reified and insists that they are only understood by means of extrinsic coordinates” 53. The giving of agency to narratives in this sense, “may be a way out of the dichotomy between the knowing subject and the objects-thatare-known: to spread the activity of knowing widely” 54. The disturbance and unearthing of narratives is therefore also a venture into our collective agency and psyche, where “annals of myth and ritual” come together with “scientific accounts” 55. Shuffling layers
When examining disrupting of layers as method, the entries can firstly be contested through disturbing the access, or finding and identifying, of the embedded information. The fixed place of the record ensures the possibility of finding and retelling the same narrative or making the same associations between materials. Shuffling, repeating, replacing, or changing the determining keywords of the records or the records themselves contests the identification through the order created, the meaning given, and the associations made. In the context of the space between Stari Most, Neretva, Gojka Vukovića ruin, and terraces this would mean finding and identifying new generative associations and relationships after freeing up the fixed layers. Shuffling the items in the archive as first example of disruptions in the layers, addresses the capacity of the ‘fixed’ relationships to become ‘fluid’ and express their ontological state of affecting each other. The reconfiguring of the relationships stretches in cases the interpretations of the environments to new limits. In the first iteration in the appendix shows a testing relying on fixed knowledge of a catalog, having entries back to back with their respective title page. In the following iterations, these pages become increasingly densified, as image-text overlaps and sources of narration are being sequenced and connected. 51 52
Foster, “The Archive without Museums.”, p.98
Dooren, “Drawing Time.”
Guattari, p.36. Mol, The Body Multiple: Ontology in Medical Practice, p.50. 55 Guattari, p. 37. 53 54
Repeating layers Replacing or changing the keywords from describing meaning to describing the material or the processes (as in a material assemblage) would give rise to other interpretations and relationships between the entries. Describing material or material processes would also introduce another mode of evaluation to judge the relationship, which is the located position of the body and the perceived time, in contrary to the objective projected position. Material sensation as point of connection between sources of information in the assemblage investigates the vulnerable associations made by the human mind regarding memories or personal histories of a space, implicitly scrutinizing the ‘layers upon layers of information’ mentioned in the introduction. It also investigates the organic-non-organic relationship formed in various modes of time as a possible catalog record. Replacing or changing the items themselves introduces the notion of vertical process in the catalog, where items will disappear as time passes. Reflecting on this, we can deduce that the source of the item throughout time is as important as the image, or ‘snapshot’, of the item at a moment.
Mapping networks in disrupted layers This particular method is concentrating itself on the making concise of the new relationships laid bare through the previous acts. Hougaard explains the importance of mapping affect in the following quote: As drawings, maps represent life-worlds, and like an exploratorium that investigates how bodies can behave and how they are limited, mappings make it possible to scrutinize the connection between behaviour and the different processes of affect that produce a certain milieu. 56 Initial, existing maps offered by archives, war-museums, or the municipality mostly repeat the fossilized borders. The remapping of territories into new cartographies have the basal transitional quality of surfacing alternatives. An example is the scene from the documentary An Armenian Journey where one of the portrayed victims Marian revisits the place of her childhood and offers up another, disruptive interpretation of a fossilized cartography of violence: “Mariam here remaps this East-West cartography according to an alternative, North-South one” 57. Especially powerful is thus the rearranging of a fixed territory through the new networks. I have attempted to do so in the mapping of various layers of embodiment in two ways. First, more traditionally as a map along the Neretva river (fig. 10, 11., and 12), still taking the sequence of war as the major rupture line. This because citizens in Mostar, when asked, Hougaard, “Haecceity , Drawing and Mapping.”, p.50 Kassabian and Kazanjian, “Melancholic Memories and Manic Politics: Feminism, Documentary, and the Armenian Diaspora.”, p.220 56 57
Fig. 10: Pre-war activities along the river (collaborative map, data from myself and studio colleagues)
Fig. 11: War activities along the river (collaborative map, data from myself and studio colleagues)
Fig. 12: Post-war activities along the river (collaborative map, data from myself and studio colleagues)
presented the time before, during, and after the Bosnian war as distinctly different when it came to activities along the river. Secondly, the mapping of networks within the catalog, after the shuffling and repeating of layers has been partially left open. Not only because the possible affects and continuing narratives were to be drawn by the reader from the (seemingly) random pairings of image and text and image-text on the pages. It also was a tool for me to keep this open, to be able to further speculate the observed gaps and layers of melted, coming-into-being narrative.
From the transitioned material assemblage to a space in transit: the embodied archive of Gojka Vukovića 11 as project, or further considerations Now it is the task to go from the unearthed, disrupted information and the mobilized cut towards another, possibly architectural, understanding of the location in transit. From these sourced collections, we can dream alternate narratives and their interactions. From the space for speculation left by the cut, a new home can be imagined relaying the material connections. Important for the specific project site of the Gojka Vukovića settlement (fig. …) and terraces and the precedent studies of Stari Most and Neretva is that any proposed intervention honors their innate quality of being in transit. Here we use the definitions of the word established in the earlier section on transitioning as notion. In architecture it can be particularly difficult to keep a programme, an idea, a quality in movement or transit due to the stable factors of fundament and walls. This brings us back to our research question: ‘in which way can we thus use transitioning as a concept to disrupt territories of trauma, them being material assemblages, and thereby question fixed narratives?’ on which we can mirror the fixed narrative not only on the material archive of the location, but also the fixed conceptions of what an architectural space is, especially in the context of architectural transformation of existing constructions. Let us thus go back to the layers we have catalogued, and the networks mapped to make the next cuts and examine the material laid bare. Below I give a few further considerations relating to the specificity of the studio project, departing from the precedent study. The mode of architectural plasticity already is contested on site due to the fact that the settlement is in a state of ruin, more fluid than fixed, which leaves us natural cuts to be speculated upon along the openness whether it is truly an architectural project. A way to possibly mediate this is to reflect on Cache’s notion of architecture as the art of the frame, of which it does not require full subordination to the territory in terms of plan, wall, or fundament58. Another observation within the material layers of the settlement is the previous usage as dwelling, coherent with its immediate environment consisting of mostly housing, although leaving literal spaces for interpretation rather than enclosures or rooms. Both 58
Cache, Earth Moves, introduction p. XI.
typologies of dwelling and housing can be tied together through the programmatic notion of embodied ‘home’ to be added to the embodied ‘archive’. The pre-war situation of the homes was fully there in traditional sense yet currently falls victim to the gradual amnesia. The postwar condition of the home is revisited by the occupation of several bodies amid the rubble, their ethologies adding to the material layers of the location. This embodiment calls upon a certain intimacy of living, residing, furnishing, and sharing material, which is in a constant flow, or transition. Thus, the location is a currently ongoing creation of narratives from the now for the future, relating affectively to the past. In the spaces, the “interiority establishes itself at the crossroads of multiple components, each relatively autonomous in relation to the other, and, if need be, in open conflict” 59. The affective relationships between material layers is yet to be expressed “between form and their contexts”, not disavowing their difference in the process. Specifically, the interior and exterior should thus to not only point to the intended transformation, but also to qualities of production, reflection, preservation, and acceleration through addressing the blurry dichotomy of fixed-fluid within the location.
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Appendix Test 1
Appendix Test 2
Transitioning: acts of disrupting a narrative or material assemblage through cataloguing, cutting, and sequencing Essay written for the pre...
Published on Feb 10, 2019
Transitioning: acts of disrupting a narrative or material assemblage through cataloguing, cutting, and sequencing Essay written for the pre...