The first in a series of Architecture Research Symposia, featuring speakers Felicity Scott, Spyros Papapetros, Maria Giudici, Davide Sacconi, Óscar Guardiola-Rivera and Godofredo Pereira, with respondents David Kim and Beth Hughes.
The ziggurat, the hut, the cave, the forest, the grotto, the pyramid, the labyrinth: architecture is populated by all sorts of archaic remnants, themes or forms that betray history. Archaisms surround us in literature and fashion, advertising and politics. From the Greek arche, archaisms always refer to origins, to an antique past or, to the allegedly latent, deep and underlying structures of social organization. This event proposes to discuss archaisms and their deployment by architecture by focusing in particular on the role of technology.
From the perspective of their instrumentality archaisms correspond to the use of obscure things from from the past in the present in such a way as to exploit a disjunction between what the thing represents and what it does. In this sense their mobilization is a political technology, one that finds its most systematic deployment in capitalism. As capital revolutionises modes of production, it must continually depend on belief in the form of pre-existing structures of power, even if they are deprived of their content. The name for this belief is archaism: see the way that ethnic and national identities are constantly deployed in support of financial and real estate disputes. In deploying archaisms capital guarantees that the functioning of its axiomatics is not put into question. Archaisms are capital’s insiders. Of course, if archaisms correspond to the mobilization of processes or things “out of their proper time," they equally reveal how what is archaic is itself up for grabs. The mere declaration that something is an archaism reveals a dispute over what is proper to the contemporary, a distinction between what should and should not belong to the present.
The seminar will foreground the role of technology and its ability to re-animate archaic motifs, traditions and characteristics in new ways. This happens with the relation between photographic archives and digital media as much as does in the relation between material artifacts and forensic technologies. In particular the evolution in material and spatial analysis technologies, from spectrometers to geophones has dramatically shifted our relation to the archaic: prehistoric caves are visualized as tridimensional point clouds while the 3D-scanning of skulls is used to “correct” the iconography of dead leaders.
And yet, a crucial question still remains: how and why do archaisms work on us even after they are "unveiled" as rhetoric? The most powerful example is perhaps the singing of La Marseillaise by Haitian slaves when fighting against the French colonial army. The multiplicity of effects that singing “Aux armes, citoyens…” had upon the Haitian slaves, upon the French troops or the military generals—catalyzing, disturbing, exciting, horrifying, irritating, etc.—cannot be reduced to simplistic discussions about origins or cultural appropriations. Equally, the deployment of arcane building types such as huts or historically charged forms such as pyramids often carries an excess beyond the simple interpretative play so dear to post-modern perspectives. If something archaic remains, it is precisely because it cannot be explained away.
This understanding of archaisms as sites of political dispute that act in excess of their causal relations is crucial to Archaisms & Architecture: in addition to debating what are archaisms and why are they deployed, we propose to pay attention to what archaisms do in spatial and political terms and to pose the following questions: What are archaisms in architecture? What is the power of archaisms? How do they act?
The event consists of a full day of lectures, conversations and presentations crossing architecture, cinema, psychoanalysis and art-history. Following the complex infiltration of archaic motifs within images of the future and the various perspectives from which something is deemed archaic, this seminar will address the use of archaisms in architecture as both speculative and projective tools."
10:30am–12:45pm Session 1
Oscar Guardiola-Rivera (School of Law, Birkbeck), “Sex, the City, and the Art-Work of the Future: A Perspectival Shift”
Godofredo Pereira (RCA), “Bodies in the Ground: Architecture from Below”
Respondent: David Kim
12:30–2pm Lunch break
2–4pm Session 2
Maria Giudici (RCA), “All that we Loved is Lost: Savage Design in Italy, 1969–2016”
Davide Sacconi (Syracuse Architecture), “Archetype and Alterity: Notes on the Jesuit Reduction”
Moderator: Beth Hughes (RCA)
4–4:30pm Coffee break
4:30–6:30pm Session 3
Spyros Papapetros (School of Architecture, Princeton), “Frederick Kiesler's Magic Architecture: Caves, Animals, and Tools from Prehistory to the Atomic Era”
Felicity Scott (Columbia GSAPP), “Re-attachment”
The event will take place in Room D162, 6th floor.