weeknote 10

Listening to Peterlicht and sipping a glass of grüner veltliner on my last Sunday in Venice. I smell like sunblock even after a shower. It’s my last Sunday in Venice after being here for six weeks. It’s been anomalous and unusual, but good. I’ve missed Princeton and will look forward to the start of springtime there, to immersing into my dissertation proposal and chapter.

There’s South by Southwest. I need to write about that separately, especially about the panel I moderated: “Maps, Books, Spimes, Paper: Post-Digital Media Design.” This was the 13th year I’ve attended SXSW, the 12th I’ve spent on the advisory board. It was huge and messy and very inspiring. I didn’t know that it would offer that to me this time around, but it did. More on that soon.

I finally succeeded at updating, redesigning and moving Girlwonder to WordPress from Movable Type. I’ve had the Girlwonder domain since 1997 and websites of my own since 1995), but I vacillate between a personal site and a site that I create about my work, my interests and my professional presence. Over the last 6 years, I’ve had several sites– the latest of which is Active Social Plastic— that I used for writing on architecture, urbanism, social networks, literature. The inspiration for Active Social Plastic came from how Enrique uses Aggregat 456, his outstanding blog, for essays. I wanted to experiment with keeping separate the personal content. It turned out that I updated both sites less frequently. But also, it seems that the right mode for me is a hybrid, a blending of personal and academic/professional. Moreover, people readily know Girlwonder. So: I’ve blended the two sites. I’ve redesigned, though not quite as much as I’d like — the color palette needs work. After 8 years on the platform, I’ve left Movable Type for WordPress because it’s easier for me to redesign and manage. I also have an About page for the first time in a long time and will include more professional information there as well — articles, CV and such.

My writing continues on my dissertation proposal. When I go back to Princeton on Tuesday, I will be focusing very heavily on it, with the hope of presenting it in the first half of April. There’s not much to say till I finish it.

I wrote a remix piece titled “Today We Operate on Objects” for #lgnlgn that derived a set of rules on objects out of “The Great Gizmo” by Reyner Banham and “But Today We Collect Ads” by Allison and Peter Smithson. Rather than writing an essay, I wanted to create a set of operations from the two pieces that could be applied to objects. My overall body of work keeps coming back to how we interact with objects, whether 19th century interfaces to the postal service, or history of social networks, or digital systems, or holistic systems.

LA has been good in terms of art. We saw the Learning from Las Vegas exhibition at MoCA — a subject I devoted time to my first semester at Princeton in the Learning from Levittown seminar (the lost studio). We’ve been to the Rachel Whiteread drawings exhibition at the Hammer — lovely to see her working process in action. I saw her drawings as layers that build up to a final, cast and sculptural work.

It’s also been good in terms of architecture. We saw the London Eight panel and opening at Sci-Arc, with Peter Cook, CJ Lim, marcosandmarjan, Pascal Bronner and several other architects associated with the Bartlett. I loved their work: drawing as architecture in its own right is a subject dear to my heart, but found the panel discussion annoying. There were entirely too many people on stage, and the moderation dulled down what might have been much more interesting. A few days later, I returned to Sci-Arc to see my friend Michael Kubo speak about architectural publishing practices. The following night, I joined Alissa Walker at the Unplanned exhibition at Superfront LA and 2D3D: Fast, Cheap and Out of Control, a show on architectural drawings at the Woodbury University’s Hollywood Gallery. I liked the work at Unplanned (kudos to my dear friend and former classmate McClain Clutter for his work), but it could have been as easily perused online or in a book (much of it, at least). Interesting that LA has two shows right now on architectural drawing.

Meeting people here who teach and write about architecture and design is heartening and frankly, fun. It also inspires me to write more here — part of the reason for the website move and redesign. I’m curious to see what the next weeks will bring.

today, we operate on objects

“What, then, is the ‘object?’

Every object is the nodal point, the boundary point in the relationship between person and person. Whoever really grasps the object and designs, does so [grasps and designs] not only for the individual man and his desires, but rather grasps and designs the most important thing of all: the relationship between people.”
–Max Taut and Adolf Behne, Bauten und Pläne, Neue Werkkunst (Berlin: Hübsch, 1927), 21. (Translation: Molly Wright Steenson, image originally published in Scuffletown).

Today, we collect objects. Today, we make objects as a way to think through ideas. Today, we operate on objects.

Sometimes, those objects are gizmos. Sometimes, we subject those objects to strategies, oblique or otherwise. I started from “Today We Collect Ads” by Alison and Peter Smithson, 1956, and “The Great Gizmo,” by Reyner Banham, 1965. I then abstracted, subtracted, redacted and reacted.

The following is a set of operations derived from the Smithsons and Banham texts.  I’ve included thoughts from e.e. cummings, Walter Benjamin, Adolf Behne, and the reverberations from a South by Southwest panel I moderated with panelists James BridleBen TerrettMike Migurski, and Chris Heathcote.

Operating upon objects

Discover the object. Through the act of discovery, it becomes a found object; a raw object; its unearthing an artistic statement in its roughness and rawness. The object becomes an untrenching. The object becomes art.

Leave the object be. In so doing, the folk art potential of the object increases. Or it can be a myth. Either way, the object stays the same.

Tell the object, as one tells a story. Telling the object attaches texture to it. “It does not aim to convey the pure essence of the 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.” –Walter Benjamin, “The Storyteller: Reflections on the Works of Nikolai Leskov,” 91-2.

Depart from the object: jump off the object. Create a different object from this point of departure. The act transforms the object.

Devise and fix an object. Make it into a cheap, reliable, and contingent object, adapted to the need at hand.

Apply cunning to an object. Make it small and self-contained so that it meets desires then and there.

Amplify the social utility of the object over its other characteristics. It will outweigh all of its physical limitations, its heft outweighing its ubiquity.

Put the cunning objects to work. Observe what is left behind: An archeology of “massive infrastructural deposits:” the Pompeiian imprint of the Rust Belt; a “landscape with figures and gadgets.” (Banham)

Operate the object. It will perform.

Domesticate the object. It will live in the home.

Retrieve an object from the past. Apply it in the future.

Extend or compress the object in time.

Reformat the object.

Layer the object.

Collect objects and subject the collection to any other operations listed here.

Organize the collection of objects.Uncollect the collection of objects.

Change the scale of the object. “electrons deify one razorblade/ into a mountain range
–e.e. cummings

Remove the object from its context.

Remove the object from its infrastructure.

Apply a different infrastructure to the object.

Distribute the object.

Soften the object. Cover the object. Keep the object warm. Chill the object.

Ornament the object. Strip it clean.

Judge the object.

Subject the object.

#lgnlgn