Dec 29, 2016

Tirana Masterplan(s) Again | In search of missing mastery

To those who have asked my thoughts on the new plan, as I havent had enough time to study it all in such a short amount of time, all I can say for now, and generally speaking about public design and planning practices in Albania (old and new), is that we're getting very good at the legacy of ripping up(apart) our legacy; borrowing the time of the present to do it, and robbing the future of a cemented foundation (pun intended). Thus, we've never truly or legally been historic, in the sense of sound decision-making based on context, nor have we been quite modern. We've always been a little off- (modernity and historicity), which is not necessarily a bad concept - it is actually good (theoretically and philosophically) but not in the way we've actually done it. As a too-real condition, it has made us schizophrenic (metaphorically and cognitively speaking).

Quick gratification as design and planning practices does not a legacy make, well not the one we want anyways. Instead of racing against time and reason (for the sake of perceived innovation) ; and declaring war on pretty much everything else, including common and professional sense with forms that violate our sensibilities and everyday life of experiencing the city, let's stop to watch and listen to how fundamental forms of life organically (not forced) intermingle in the city: human, social, physical, ecological, etc. Design and planning should be a synthesis that augments without dictating. They ought to focus on the forms of dwelling first, not buildings. They need to mobilize a deep communication with the life in and around (even within) these forms, not just function in order to follow (the) form (of vertically governin).

We crave new forms of agency: of cognition and critique; not shapes and doodles made in boredom. As designers, we are responsible for all we designate. As citizens, we've grown accustomed to the ‘safety’ of the shadows cast, fearing the unhealthy glare of the light. It is darkness that shapes light. It is the past that shapes the possibility for a future. It is our humanity that shapes our design.

With this in mind, I leave you with Victor Hugo's ‘Les  Misérables’, taken out of the context of a heavy (written) volume and placed in this fragment of post-thought still in formation. You can read it narrowly as in architecturally speaking, or broadly as in design and planning practices. After all, both are no small (de)feats and of war-like disposition.

“That form has long been fully illuminated; it did have a certain traditional obscurity through which always veils the truth for a longer or shorter time; but now the history is luminous and complete. 
This light of history is pitiless; it has a strange and divine quality that, all luminous as it is, and precisely because it is luminous, often casts a shadow just where we saw a radiance; out of the same man it makes two different phantoms, and the one attacks and punishes the other, and the darkness of the despot struggles with the splendor of the captain. Hence a truer measure in the final judgment of the nations. Babylon violated lessens Alexander; Rome enslaved lessens Caesar; massacred Jerusalem lessens Titus. Tyranny follows the tyrant. It is woe to a man to leave behind him a shadow which has his form.”


Dec 27, 2016

A year worth(y/less) of posts | In search of missing truths in 2016

Another year bites the dust.

Looking back, we can agree that such a year probably started to dissolve at conception (or concession in Albania). A kind of built-up presence, accumulated since the beginning of millennia, which has finally accelerated enough to materialize, becoming unmistakably visible, just enough to crash. An accident of time, maybe? It is time to re-read Virilio's "Information Bomb" and "Politics of the Very Worst" more closely this year-end:
“There are eyes everywhere. No blind spot left. What shall we dream of when everything becomes visible? We'll dream of being blind.” [IB]
The accident is an inverted miracle, a secular miracle, a revelation. When you invent the ship, you also invent the shipwreck; when you invent the plane you also invent the plane crash; and when you invent electricity, you invent electrocution...Every technology carries its own negativity, which is invented at the same time as [...] progress.” [PVW]
2016 was one for the books and drawing boards -- the perfect storm of invention(s). That is, invention of information, as impact [read: accident(s)]; redrawing lines of narrative and image, pushing for form instead of formation, causing a deep withdrawal into (or advance (out) of) oneself.

As a result, this blog was sporadic in translating (as) this trans-form-ation, and making legible the turmoil of its formation, thus fewer posts were written here and (unfortunately) faster 'truths' got made in social media. It got caught up in one too many reactionary sentiments, making itself more sensible to unproductive energy and vulnerable disposition. In an attempt to fathom the absurd logic and the information craftiness of whatever invention, It got distracted (and mildly co/stu-nned) by the face value of its impact; misreading (hence, mistaking) promise for premise and imaginary for imagined. Although, I feel that the thought-image construed and provided as (a cultural) truth was doing both (and all) simultaneously. It has been quite a 50 week (and counting) ride of inventing the anticipation of uncertain, yet already existing accident.

It is just the beginning though, and one doesn't know how to gear up for what seems like a long f(l)ight ahead. Should we feel sick to our stomach, be(come) somber, read Hannah Arendt, or just be and let the hype direct the flow of (one's) thought, energy, and the myth of democracy? If this year was one of attacks on public space just to see its publics hurt (through suicide bombers or privatization); of wars made just as banal and real as the everyday; of post-truths, alt-right, selfies, and nihilism; then, 2017 can be anticipated as one of mass(ive) PTSD (post-traumatic-stress-disorder), of post-revolutions and freedom-fluidity, of alt-delete and alt-control (with no alt-option), of the displaced self (made possible by the displayed self or the selfie) as a representation of the real distanced by reality. A year of paradoxes where cultural progress (as a human construct) will mean both, the normalization of, and invention as/of the accident. ("We'll dream of being blind.")

A new sort of cultural nihilism has emerged in the accident of the post-, and the post-accident of the progress (invention/accident) paradox, where the human makes way for its inhuman self, in a kind of post-colonization (a de-colonization and re-colonization cycle of) survival. 2016 has provided much evidence of (unreal) human fictions and (real) inhuman influences, be that by advancing AI-s, or human cruelty and imagination. We've witnessed way-too-real historical re-enactments of violence enter as newness, in what now marks the era of post(s) human-centrism, the acceleration/deceleration paradox of human artifice. The camouflage(d) has been abstracted; political health, stealth and wealth have become spectator sports, whose public service operate on the inhuman scale of market value; whose public scrutiny has not been (human-)scaled to citizen prosperity and safety of place

The future will be an anomaly: a normalization of alienation.

an experimental film by Jonas Mekas

Where does this leave/take us? This is the one question on everyone's mind, beyond what I might as well call hope (Einstein's definition of insanity - doing the same thing and expecting different results), and the perversity (branded as innovation/invention) of New World [B]order(s). Well, be it a blessing (some sure do see it as such, sigh) or a curse, one thing is certain; 2016 showed us the paradox of being human, that we're on the verge of fulfilling a very old proverb, albeit its warnings:
1. May you live in interesting times. 
2. May you be recognized by people in high places. 
3. May you get what you wish for.
We are, then, left to figure out the last one:
4. May you find the final blessing/curse.
With this in mind, I feel the new year ought to be one of forensics, in deciphering facts, truths and what's real - just so we're clear on where the line stands and which side of the paradox we're on (if any). This line of f(l)ight is a spatial (and cultural) force associated with violence (most often than not), but it can also be a tool/place for critical thinking. In disseminating and diagnosing the dimensions of the paradox, we open it up as a line of communication, that determines the progress of and in (its) formation, and not as a (form of) commodity of invention.

We should (learn to) be better critics, diligently and sensibly so. 

Lastly, I leave you with Jan Švankmajer's Dimensions of Dialogue and the possibilities of interacting forms.