Counterfeit Architecture: Surrogate Bodies Ivelisse Ruiz Upward
Master of Architecture Thesis 2009 Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning University of Michigan Ann Arbor
Counterfeit Architecture: Surrogate Bodies Ivelisse Ruiz Upward Submitted on April 29, 2009 Perry D Kulper, Primary Advisor Neal Robinson, Secondary Advisor
Counterfeit Architecture: Surrogate Bodies a look at the self-concept… Psychoanalytic theory describes the concept of ‘the body schema’ - the mental representation one has of oneself, which gradually develops in each individual, encompassing imagination, emotions, thoughts, and its spatial setting - as the center of integration of a human being. According to this theory our bodies and movements are in constant interaction with our surroundings; “the world and the self inform and redefine each other constantly.”1 Under this umbrella, no ‘body’ can be detached from its domicile and no space can be separated from the unconscious image of the perceiving self.2 Consequently, the body is considered as the site of the senses; as the medium of the mind; the echo of our peripheral world. This new emergent body oscillates from a fragmented to a holistic entity, concretizing the Self as the dissolution of the physical body. This view of the physical being as fragmented parts dates as early as 15th Century when Rene Descartes conceived the idea of the Cartesian Man (the body fragmented through its senses), and to the invention of modern anatomy in the 16th Century. However, it is not until the end of the 19th Century and the 20th Century that the concept of body fragmentation was understood as an important and defining aspect of the embodiment. This emphasized the significance of the whole and its parts and produced a “new and finely nuanced conception of the body as a complex form of mediation.” 3 Contemporary body criticism conceptualizes the body through the lenses of phenomenology, psychoanalysis and cognitive/artificial intelligence. Their theorizations argue that the corporeal boundaries have dissolved in
our contemporary experience due to the technological extensibility of our bodies. This in turns poses the critical problem of rethinking what the experience of human embodiment is in our world today.4 If the body is no longer just a corporeal manifestation, but instead a combination of disperse experiences, how should the image of the body be understood in relation to space? Moreover, how can space translate this existential shift in order to engage with these aspects of embodiment? Spatial constructs, therefore, play an important role in the reconciliation between the body and the world. “In its way of representing and structuring action and power, societal and cultural order, interaction and separation, identity and memory, architecture is engaged with this fundamental existential questions”5 , to the extent that the image of self cannot be separated from its spatial and circumstantial condition. As a result, the spatialbody assemblage is the transformation of emanated sensations engraved in a spatial medium. In understanding architecture as an integral component of human existence, spatial constructs can be analyzed as the manifestation, the medium and the instrument that gives presence to invisible aspects of our bodily existence. The question is how could, architecture engage, not merely reflect, this opaque interiority of our bodies? How can it become the medium of embodiment? who/what is the reconstructed body/self? To inquire for the (reconstruction of a body is not to ask for the redefinition of what constitutes to be a human being, but to question preconceived notions of innersubjectivity, self-consciousness and self-authorship in relation to spatial production. It is important to recognize that the terms ‘body’ and ‘Self’ encompass a broad range of connotations and
positions. For the work of this thesis, they both refer to the combination of surrogate6 objects and subjects that constitutes the essence of individuality and the internal aspects that render a sense of being and make up the bodily existence. It renders the body, not as a physical (corporeal) object, but as an elaborate combination of pliable transformations which continually mark and transform space. The body has been theorized as an accumulation of its own pieces and of others, attaining its integrity through the assemblage of surrogate objects and subjects.7 It has also been interpreted as unique medium; as a sensorial object and an object to be sensed.8 Bodies and selves are also considered to be divisible, boundary diffusible, unifiable, possesable, and introspectable.9 Contemporary concepts have also portrayed it as a Self of Selves composed of multiple aspects central to human beings.10 These ‘molds’ of human experience are by no means determinate, as it is not possible to talk about the self as a ‘matter of fact’ condition. However, the fact that it could be conceptually represented denotes that the interiority of the body is sufficiently determinate to be grasped as a construct. These philosophical concepts either interrogates the mind as separate from its material condition, make the body its central circumstance, or fragment it into parts. In either situation they create a replica; a double and surrogate of the original condition. In this sense, self-constructs represent a counterfeited11 form of the body’s interiority. …and who/what isn’t? Merleau-Ponty distinguished a ‘geometrical’ space (a homogenous and isotropic spatiality, analogous to our conception of ‘place’) from another ‘spatiality’ which he called an ‘anthropological space’. Prevailing views of the discipline either catalog the body/self as client, as occupant/user, as community, and, sometimes, as the architect himself. All of these views of the body/self
result in geometrical space, and deny the possibility for the human, anthropological space.12 Consequently, this thesis does not look at the standardized physical body (ergonomics, Graphic Standard’s building code, etc.), the standardized human behavior (Christopher Alexander’s Pattern Language), the user/occupant defined by programmatic functions, or the collective self embodied through the construction of ‘place’ and ‘community’ (Designing Places for People by C. M. Deasy). Neither does it to look at the supernatural or the mechanic.
body dissolution and counterfeits…
Drawing from these concepts, this thesis targets two central conditions: the first is the concept of body dissolution proposed in the human sciences that establishes the dislocation of the single standardized body as representative of the self and proposes a new body with no physical boundaries; the second refers to the idea of objects and images that conceptually replicate the body and establish them as counterfeited reconstructions of the body. Under this theorization, the body is understood as an accumulation of both its own parts and those of others, attaining its integrity through the assemblage of surrogate objects and subjects. Thus, the thesis seeks to reconstruct a counterfeit spatial condition that frames the body with no boundaries as an architectural strategy, creating an artificial framework that reconstructs a new territorial extension for the body. This kind of reconstruction mediates between presence and absence, providing asylum to the body from its physical boundaries by revealing its subjective extensibility. By asking for this reconstruction of the ‘body’ is not to question whether or not this new extensibility creates a better or worst body. Instead, asking for a new understanding of its limits implicates rethinking the physical surroundings we design.
Body Blanket - Dissolution of the physical boundaries of the body through suffocation and erasure.
This thesis pursues an architectural condition that serves as a medium of negotiation between the body and its external surroundings; setting fort the body and self as analogs to architectural design and not as design criteria. Three elements were established in the work as means to guide the translation the dislocated body into spatial conditions. These elements were framed as characters, each which served as means to look at the subjective and situational bodies in order to bring them to the surface.
the schizophrenic - This character focuses on introverted reality, and challenges preconceived notions of boundaries, territory and space. According to Louis Sass in “The Consciousness Machine”, the extreme sense of autonomy, inwardness, self-intimacy and centeredness are characteristic of both schizophrenia and modern selfhood.13 This creates a new understanding of self-perception. According to Foucault, to the extent that the individual gazes outward, the world would appear subjectivized and, to a certain degree, unreal; to the extent one looks inward, thoughts, sensations, or feelings would seem objectified.14 To this end, the schizophrenic character concentrates in the translation of this subjectivized and situational reality into tangible space. the commodified - This character looks at the social personality and its modes of conformity, it questions the autonomous individual defined by self-consciousness and the cultural resonance of objects and commodities. It also explores the idea of the body as a possession and object, as the individualized subject of modernity became an instrument and product of process. To the extent that the self becomes objectified it produces a body that can be possessed and handed over. “The idea of the self as its own creation renders the self as analogous to a machine, something that can make marketable goods, including itself; this self-authored commodity is in control of itself, and it is perfectible.”15 This conceptualization of the self in complete ownership of himself and reveals a body oriented towards self-fashioning; an author of himself,16 a property and possession not too different from any other commodity.
Leg Brace - Dissolution of the physical boundaries of the body through the objectification and commodification of the human body.
the ventriloquist - Finally, this character looks at the phenomenon where the “I” becomes personified and ambiguous. In these sense, ventriloquism is interpreted as a kind of translation and authorship, where the dummy becomes the translator and author of the words said. This allows for the effacement of the self, retaining a repressed presence that links him back to the dummy.17 It creates a counterfeited reality that is dependent upon the original ‘act’. This reciprocal connection of the self and the counterfeit scrutinizes emancipation and effacement; questions authorship and veracity. Thus, ventriloquism becomes a matter of displacement and dislocation.18 Much like an autobiography, the ventriloquist tells a story that is self-edited and self-constructed to echo a reality that is self-authored. In this way, ventriloquism offers a strategy to displace and/or remove as means to question, and to a certain extent, legitimize a statement. These characters were created as my own method of working; hence their importance lies on the translation they yield and not in their narrative structure.
Ventriloqual Body - Effacement of the body through the translation, reconstruction and dislocation of different forms of self-portraiture. This ventriloqual act retains the original definition of the body because of the referential structure of the parts to our knowledge of the body promoting a sense of belonging through our relationship with such parts.
two sites The first site is the dislocated body in which the early explorations were based. This is not a specific body, but rather the idea of the body removed. Using an element that posed of objectification to the body, a leg brace, the early explorations recorded, reconstructed and mapped the material evidence of the removed and dislocated body for which this object was made. In this way, the body as site surfaced as a subjective trace revealed through its absence, circumstance, and familiarity. The second site was established as the work unfolded due to its parallel aspects with the concept of body dissolution. The disappearing barrier island on the Eastern Shoreline of Virginia, Cedar Island is object of erosion and floods which constantly displace the islandâ€™s physical boundaries. Because of its topography, the transient island shifts position throughout the year. Cedar Island is unusual along the Virginia Eastern Shore because it once was at inhabit. Today, most of the houses have been abandoned resembling prosthetic elements to the island that extend its height over the rising ocean and serve as object of memory to the islandâ€™s domestic lives.
Dislocated Body Cast - The leg brace posed a level of objectification of the body, as well as it spoke about a subjective body that was repressed through absence. A vulnerable body with no identity talked about a past unknown but latent.
Cedar Island -The general plan strategy took on the entire 2 mile by 7 mile stretch of land and reinterpreted based on programmatic ideas about the body. This provoked the emancipation of certain land formations from their current condition into thematic constructs that both supported and reacted to the theoretical concerns of the work. A circulation spine was created along the natural corridor between the marsh and the sand banks. The derelict houses were sheltered; and individual gardens were set throughout the disappearing landscape on the south end. Finally, the banks on the south end that have already flooded surfaced as a place of becoming (a womb space), in which a disruption was placed as means to reorient the natural formations on the sand and allow them to resurface during low tides.
the formal exploration (embodied gestures) The design work began with the translation of the first site, the subjective body of the leg brace, and through a series of reconstructions and manipulations, that intended to remove its physicality. This in turned yield ‘principles’ on how to conceive this process of unmaking as a tangible construct.
cation through dis
Absence of the body through relationship; sense of belonging to the body because our knowledge; reframing through multiple translations; creation of a framework to release the body from its physicality; recording, reconstructing and tracing the body as opposed to represent it; the ‘counterfeits’ start to described the original through their material presence offering evidence, or trace, of the material and processes involved, while picking up unanticipated details and readings in addition to the geometry involved in re-forming the objects. These principles suggested alternative architectural strategies in which space could engage with the body responding as an object of embodiment and not as just a backdrop. Making physical the removal of the body (the dissolution), the early design explorations served as means to understand how to get rid off the body in a physical, spatial manner. replication through contouri
Reframing the Cast - Working in the translation of the leg brace, the cast was reconstructed through photography and tracing, mapping the material evidence of the removed and dislocated body for which this object was made. The unanticipated readings revealed the subjective body through its absence, making the removal tangible.
Building upon the concept of releasing a body from its physical boundaries by creating an artificial framework that reconstructs the original body provoked the physical emancipation of the ground through the manufacture of a false landscape. The architecture of the landscape becomes a temporal scaffold that employs forgery techniques, camouflage, and illusion; combining relics and fabrications, in order to mediate fact and fiction. These translations allow the subjective body, the viewer and the island, to surface by relocating the bodyâ€™s perceptual horizon and his interpretation of boundaries and territories.
Forgery, Camouflage and Illusion - As a way to reconstruct our own understanding of the body, the design focuses on techniques of forgery, camouflage and illusion with the intent to create a false reality. This in turn provokes the viewer to question its own reality and his understanding of it. In this way, both the design of the architecture becomes the design of the construct itself, as means to replicate the intentions of the architectural space in a drawings medium.
As the work progressed, three main programs emerged taking on the situational conditions of the island and the thematic concerns of the work. Along the east shoreline were the abandoned houses are located, a hospice unfolds as a landmark of past lives. This new structure takes on the domestic program of the abandoned houses and locates them as objects of display framed within the new walls of the hospice. Settled as the last place for rest, it memorializes the lives of the now orphan houses by reframing our visual understanding and perception of them. The new structure gives a new live to these domestic symbols of commodity, while creates a marker of the disappearing shoreline. Like the houses, the hospice reconstructs the territory of the outer banks while awaits for the moment in which it too would become and object of display.
Along the length of the island between the marsh and the shore, a repository of house objects serves as a marker of displacement, while creates scrutiny through frame vistas of the unattainable landscape. The repository provides a circulation corridor across landscape, creating a space that recedes and contains. Here, the objects that once described the lives of the residents of Cedar Island are set on display. As a kind of curiosity cabinet, the repository produces a space that speaks about the past and reconstructs a false reality.
Hospice and Repository of House Objects - This two structures provide shelter and circulation along the east corridor of Cedar Islandâ€™s sand banks.
Temporal Scaffold - The hospice and the repository work as a cohesive unit, both functioning as markers of displacement and museum of forgotten bodies. While the hospice serves as refuge and landmark to the orphan houses on the shoreline, the repository reconstructs a new reality for the forgotten objects of the islandsâ€™ domestic lives, and frames the scenery of the unattainable and disappearing landscape.
Finally, a series of autobiographical theaters lay across the land. Conceived as a collection of gardens set throughout the landscape, the theater acts as a scaffold of separated individualities. Delineated with mirrors and reflective materials, the theaters reconstruct the visual environment, displacing the body by fragmenting and relocating his perception. In this way, the body is force to reinterpret the surrounding territory, as well as his owned body, because ‘things aren’t what they seem’. Each garden also sets a specific view of the landscape on display, making the body participant of it through reference, memory, and sense of belonging. Some of these gardens have thin steel rods that perform like the wildgrass on the wind along the landscape. This steel rod ‘sculptures’ respond to the natural landscape by rotting with the salt of the ocean, thus marking the temporal quality of live in this island. In addition, they transform the sorrounding spaces through their constant shift in height, shape and location. Other gardens enclose the vastness of the land, by setting the occupant as one within the space and framing the visual conception of them.
Autobiographical Theater Gardens - Several gardens are set throughout the landscape, all with the intent of framing the visual environment and our relationship to it.
As these spaces are set throughout the land, they trace the temporal existence of the islandâ€™s physical body, and, therefore, function as markers of displacement and material presence. At the same time, they reinform the behavior of the island, by changing the patterns and producing new paths of movement.
The counterfeit space acts like a diorama, setting the landscape as an object of display and inducing the situational and referential bodies to surface. In this way each spatial condition attempts to carry on an embodied relationship to the body, by reconstructing the visual environment in which the body becomes subject and object as well as content.
Referential Bodies - The architecture of the landscape is conceived in such a way as to manipulate the frame of perception. Much like the ventriloqual body, it frames the body through multiple translations, removal, distancing, reflection, and replicas.
Architecture of the Landscape - The landscape becomes a temporal scaffold that employs forgery techniques, camouflage, and illusion; combining relics and fabrications, in order to mediate fact and fiction. These translations allow the subjective body, the viewer and the island, to surface by relocating the bodyâ€™s perceptual horizon and his interpretation of boundaries and territories. The resulting counterfeit space acts like a diorama, setting the landscape as an object of display and inducing the situational and referential bodies to surface. In this way each spatial condition attempts to carry on an embodied relationship to the body, by reconstructing the visual environment in which the body becomes subject and object as well as content.
endnotes 1 Pallasmaa, Juhani. The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2005. p 41 2 Ibid, p 40 3 Wegenstein, Bernadette. “Foreword”. Getting Under the Skin: The Body and Media Theory. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2006. p viii 4 Ibid, p xi 5 Pallasmaa, Juhani. The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2005. p 72 6 According to the Online Webster’s Dictionary http:// www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/surrogate, a Surrogate is defined as one that takes the place of another; a substitute. 7 As conceptualized by Jacques-Marie-Émile Lacan (1977) 8 As conceptualized by Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1945) 9 Jopling, David A. “Chapter 13: A Self of Selves?” The Conceptual Self in Context: Culture, Experience, SelfUnderstanding. Eds Neisser, Ulric and David A. Jopling. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. p. 250 10 Ibid, p. 259 11 According to the Online Webster’s Dictionary http:// www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/counterfiet, a Counterfeit is a copy, imitation or simulation created as a replication of something else (original). 11 de Certeau, Michel. “Chapter 3: Spatial Stories”. What is Architecture? Ed. Andrew Ballantyne. New York: Routledge, 2002. p 74 12 Sass, Louis A. “Chapter 11: The consciousness machine: Self and Subjectivity in schizophrenia and modern culture” The Conceptual Self in Context: Culture, Experience, Self-Understanding. Eds Neisser, Ulric and David A. Jopling. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. p 204 13 Ibid 207
14 Margolis, Diane Rothbard. “The Exchanger”. The Fabric of Self: A Theory of Ethics and Emotions. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. p 20 15 As theorized by Thomas Hobbes. Ibid, 21 16 Goldblatt, David. “Self-spacing”. Art & ventriloquism. London: Taylor & Francis, 2006. p 71 17 Ibid, p 77
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postscript While the primary concerns of the thesis focused on how to create an embodied and symbiotic relationship between the bodies and architectural space, the thematic interest of counterfeits and surrogacy also brought fort issues of architectural representation. These questions not only argue for the value of representation as illustrations but also for the interrogation of their significance as architecture themselves. Working with issues of translation, reconstruction and substitutes in the representation of the spaces became a matter not of designing the architecture, but designing that which represents the architecture. These provoked decisions that were only considered in such a circumstance and created an embodied relationship to the drawing itself, since our bodies were considered part of the construct. Another valuable remark was the discussion on the thesisâ€™ critical commentary of the disciplineâ€™s influence in the redefinition of our bodies, something the reviewers thought was somewhat lost between the environmental and technological concerns of the profession. This not only restated the origins of this thesis, but also confirmed its disciplinary resonance and importance. Finally, the most important thing I was able to take with, not only from the review but from the work overall, was a way of working. I think it is critical for the work of our generation to find ways in which to augment the theoretical value of the discipline while still be able to translate those theories into physical architectural expressions. Through working in this thesis I found a personal way of moving my research and conceptual ideas into spatial assemblages. This, for me, is of incredible value and will carry on through my professional career for years to come.
acknowledgements I like to say thank you to… My husband and daughter for being my inspiration, for your support and unconditional love. I couldn’t have done this without you. My sister, Yanira, and my mom, Iris, for all your help when I didn’t have the time to be a mom. Mika Larrison for all the off-the-record deskcrits and emotional support. The Kulper family, Amy and Perry, and Fernando Lara for your knowledge, commitment, and passion. You are a source of unlimited inspiration, admirable mentorship and friendship.