Aug 5, 2016

False Prophets| In search of missing pieces

Reading Aaron Betsky's Violated Perfection: Architecture and the Fragmentation of the Modern, especially The Project of the Modern essay, I find many similarities to the Project of Rilindje in Albania. There are many fundamental differences of course, but it seems like their architectural model of control - concealed in the image and ‘perpetuated in physical form’ is shaped along same lines of reconstruction and reform. But, what is the order of the Albanian project, I wonder. The methodology of its operations, its logic of abstraction through reduction, the incomprehensible (some might say promiscuous) measure of judgment, the false public scale, its imprisonment (through manipulation) of values, meanings, consequences, and humanism. What is the point to all this?

I am trying to understand such project - its form, the promise of its trans-formation as a mere re-form, not even a formation. If Rilindje means re-birth, then I question not its new life, but its departure from the previous one. Its displacement. Its difference. The rejection of its form-er self. What does its resurrection means to its (new and old, continuous and fragmented) existence? What does it mean to (for) us?

What has architecture done these past three years that it didn't do in the previous twenty, and vice-versa?

This is my question. I understand that starting anew, in terms of transformation not rebirth, one goes through a puberty of sorts, questioning one's existence, lack of faith, drowning in self-loathing and pity, but at the same time there is a surge of fearlessness, stupidity yes, but learning as well, especially if one has been sheltered for so long. There's a bolder way of being, seeing the world and a curious courage of acting upon it, of living. A way of life that is quickly outed, denounced when there is a self-proclamation of being re-born. As if this rebirth or another chance of living comes automatically with a maturity entitlement. As if being considered mature (at this point only in image) validates actions, abstractions, distractions and redactions; as if it makes for a better and worthy life.

Alas, I digress. But the question remains: what has this (self-entitled) new era of architecture done that the previous one, or the one before that have accomplished or not?- other than a negation of prior self(s) of course, and nihilism of context (the contextual everyday life), cowardly branded as 'rebirth' - a market-loving, tax-evading, bureaucratic boilerplate. It is not a movement, a call to action, not even a haphazard ideology - it is a brand, not an identity.

What then becomes the critical investigation of such Project?

The architecture(s) of Albania is not an Exquisite Corpse but a Corpse of Excess. Think about it. It continuously imposes death on itself (in order to be reborn), it hoards or accumulates so much excess to cover and extend its missing body / identity, and ultimately it has been dehumanized thus it wants to dehumanize its public of people and environment alike. Maybe to start unpacking the architecture of Rilindje and its rebirth(ed) castration, we need to first read Reza Negarestani's The Corpse Bride, The Labor of the Inhuman, Frontiers of Manipulation, and some of his other texts on chimerization.

Then, and I really hope to do so in the future (if I'm able to of course), the critical investigation of Rilindje, becomes not one of rebirth but of the living dead.

This is an unexplored abyss for now, and it will remain as such for a while longer I suspect, or at least until we've learned to ask the right questions or think about the futurity we can expect, at least hope from its current existence and maturity. And, in case such obscure thoughts (of the living dead) persist and we're caught reading Brassier's Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction or other such confusing texts, then we might feel ready to dive in to the abyss. For now though, let's make sense of the Architectural Project of Rilindje through the clear words of Aaron Betsky and the Modern Project.

The Soundtrack of Our Lives - Second Life Replay

** These are only a few excerpts from his aforementioned book - what actually started my spiral undigested thoughts and provocations that it might be time to look at Rilindje not as a rebirth but as a forced death, as sparked by the text below when questioning the relevance of architecture as a profession. Also, what I mean to include in the Project is the strange dichotomy of the Albanian architecture: historical preservation and new construction, - both with devastating consequences of enlightenment and extinction (to borrow from Brassier). Both, with an unbearable nihilistic sensibility of being. As always, this is my reading of the Project and the text below has been taken out of its original context. To draw your own conclusions, I encourage you to read the book.
In economic terms, as Manfredo Tafuri has pointed out, architecture is losing its relevance as a profession. From client's perspective, the sole aim of architecture is to further the efficiency of industrial processes and their derivatives. For this architecture is no longer necessary; space planning, engineering and codification will do. Subsequently the whole profession is run by these considerations. The traditional role of architecture as an integrated and condensed representation of society, or a single human being, has similarly been taken over by mass media. 
What we are increasingly left with is an anti-monumental architecture, an architecture that diffuses into space planning, flexible arrangements (which can this not be easily composed), and facades that reflect this central instability. 
It is architects who "push" architecture's disappearance into mass production and engineering that manage to recreate an architecture out of the representation of its own absence. The unrealizable architecture of utopia is the last refuge of the representational and significant composition of physical resources. 
Architecture realizes itself in its own death. 
Over the last twenty-five years, numerous solutions to this problem have been proposed, countered by Tafuri's dictum that “No 'salvation' is any longer to be found within [modern architecture]: neither wandering restlessly in labyrinths of images so multivalent they end in muteness, nor enclosed in the stubborn silence of geometry content with its own perfection.” Neither the image-laden pastiches of the post-modernists, nor the self-consciously monumental reductions of the modernists can avoid the fact that their devices produce unnecessary artifacts and meaningless pieces of escapism, with one important exception: they sell the buildings. 
Its stylistic manipulations resurrect another world, removed in time and place from that of our modernized one. It creates a theatrical scene in which we can play roles more attractive than those to which we have been assigned. Architecture, in other words, sells our world to us. Architecture is an extension of advertising, but then every aspect of culture as industry has, in the end, no other function except to sell, whether specific products or their generalized context, "a way of life," a "lifestyle." 
We then find ourselves in cities where moments of order or reference are pasted onto otherwise non-significant interiors. Each of these gestures is of necessity incomplete. None of them really tells you about the building inside, or about the context: they do not condense and make visible what they are, how they are made, or what our relationship might be to them. 
At this point architecture is in retreat. Despite nostalgic attempts to reintroduce a former era in which human activity, the imposition of outside order, and built forms had a three-way relationship, we do not have an architecture in our urban environments (nor, increasingly outside of the urban/suburban configuration, either). Nostalgic objects or urban experiences only reinforce the sense of architecture as a mask, a piece of physical advertising to be used to sell a particular set of services such as food or souvenirs.


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