Published as the 6th issue of DUE by the Architectural Association. November, 11, 2016
Hal Hartley's 1995 film Flirt rotates the same
script through three difference contexts: location, characters, and dynamics.
In the first scene, New York, February 1993, is a heterosexual couple: the man
the flirt. In the second, Berlin, October 1994, a homosexual couple: the
younger man the flirt. The third, Tokyo, March 1995, a heterosexual couple: the
younger woman the flirt. Flirt is described by its distributor as
spanning "three continents, three languages, three races, and two sexual
orientations." Though spanning implies continuity, each context instead
fractures the script. Lines delivered by the role of the flirt in one location
are absent or half-said by the partner in another, by the partner's spouse in
the next: dropped or resemanticized through their spatial transpositions. As we
take New York for the standard, we associate the deviations with the linear
progression of the film and the geographic distance between the cities: from
beginning to end and from east to west. The film’s structure proposes the
tentative thesis that standards operate on a principle of distance (spatial and
temporal) in respect to their source. The reconstitution of the script that occurs through its
iterations is a translation, the mapping of an object to a new index and scale,
resulting in a requisite modulation of both its relevance and resolution
– allowing for the introduction of errors. As Latour said in Aramis
"to translate is to betray:" derived from the Italian aphorism"traduttore,
traditore." The modulation in this process, occurring at
the interchange, the borders, of two discrete systems is understood
linguistically as the root of ambiguity, the instability of meaning, its
'play.' While the formal structure of the script exemplifies the ambiguity of
linear systems, the flirt (each flirt, all flirts) showcases the ambiguity of
substitutive systems: a lability of meaning located in the delta between two
channels that share either an origin or a terminus. Opposing mistranslation,
substitutive ambiguity is derived from the (un)intentional misreading or mis-delivery
of a message. As the New York flirt's lover exclaims, "We’re using
the same language I use when I lie to him." Flirt roughly shares its plot structure, its module,
with Arthur Schnitzler's 1985 German play Liebelei. The play reappears
in 1914, translated into English with the title Playing with Love. In
the foreword the translator notes that "even Flirtation" had
been suggested, but that it was not a happy, approximate, or appropriate
equivalent. However, as ambiguity plays with meaning, the flirt plays with
love. In 1935, Roger Callois proposed that transformation caused by external
stimuli was an "assimilation to the surroundings" rooted in a
"real temptation by space." Midway through the film a chorus
of laborers, interrupted in their restoration of an old landmark building,
takes a break to discuss this tactic. 1 The milieu is bound to change the dynamics of the
situation. 2 People are the same no matter what the milieu is. 3 So you don't think personality, character, has
any effect on the situation? 2 Please! Don't twist my words around! 1 The question, though, remains the same: What do
you do when contingent reality demands definitive response? 2 We cannot exist in ambiguity forever! 3 I disagree. I think we can. Although I think it
would be the deepest kind of isolation. The first laborer's initial proposition is easily accepted;
one must consider the implications of the site. The second posits an
Aristotalean "firm and unchanging disposition" of character. The
third attempts to clarify the initial statement, confusing the roles played by
context and character. The subsequent refutation by the second indicates a
distinction between character and person, appearance and identity. The first
rephrases, asking how a structure should respond to haphazard ground. The
possibility of remaining noncommittal to the demands of space, is declared
impossible by the second. In response, the third proposes its potential –
qualifying it as generating isolation and loneliness: creating a figure with no
ground. Viewed in this sense as an almost autopoeitic system, the
flirt lives parasitically off of the air, the space between meanings and
relations(hips). In Tennessee Williams' Orpheus Descending (1958), the
orpheuse, Val, delivers a monologue structured around birds that "live
their whole lives on the wing" never landing "on this earth but one
time when they die!” The first specimens of the Bird of Paradise named Lust
Vogel, “Pleasure Bird” in German, (and said to subsist on "dew and
vapors rising from the earth.”) received in Europe from New Guinea, had their
legs previously removed to make them suitable for sale. This impossible creature emerged from the flirtation between
possibility and actuality generated by the lack of information (not misheard,
but unspoken) produced by the process of trade (of transfer and transposition).
Edward Said, on the interplay between geography and memory, noted the necessity
of invention to the process of recollection – itself a re-production.
Invention can also be understood, via ambiguity, as the additive result
of a standard in its application to a specific context, an operation linking
linear systems by converging the delta of substitutive ambiguity that exists,
always, in-between. “I want you to tell me, is there a future for me and you? /
How can I answer that? / Yes or No / I can’t see the future / You don’t need to
see it if you know its there.” This exchange occurs without variation at the
beginning of each scene, the ultimatum being posed by the lover to the flirt.
Leaving the apartment, the flirt stops at a payphone and calls his other,
married, lover, repeating, but inverting, the exchange. As the flirt redirects
the ultimatum, the two external relations are brought to bear on each other
— though of course neither exchange is ever resolved. The flirt is not invention. It is not the normative
seduction by space or the pathology of the Lust Vogel, though
these are its possible futures. It is an embodiment of indeterminacy to
the ground; however its complexity is not contradictory: it is consistent in
respect to itself, whatever it is. The flirt, as an active agent, induces
error. It does this through the morpheme “re-” (again, anew, against,
back, withdrawal, and undoing): preferring reflection (mirroring behavior),
redirection (leading astray), and reticulation (being one to many).
Hal Hartley's 1995 film Flirt rotates the same script through three difference contexts: location, characters, and dynamics. In the first scene, New York, February 1993, is a heterosexual couple: the man the flirt. In the second, Berlin, October 1994, a homosexual couple: the younger man the flirt. The third, Tokyo, March 1995, a heterosexual couple: the younger woman the flirt. Flirt is described by its distributor as spanning "three continents, three languages, three races, and two sexual orientations." Though spanning implies continuity, each context instead fractures the script. Lines delivered by the role of the flirt in one location are absent or half-said by the partner in another, by the partner's spouse in the next: dropped or resemanticized through their spatial transpositions. As we take New York for the standard, we associate the deviations with the linear progression of the film and the geographic distance between the cities: from beginning to end and from east to west. The film’s structure proposes the tentative thesis that standards operate on a principle of distance (spatial and temporal) in respect to their source.
The reconstitution of the script that occurs through its iterations is a translation, the mapping of an object to a new index and scale, resulting in a requisite modulation of both its relevance and resolution – allowing for the introduction of errors. As Latour said in Aramis "to translate is to betray:" derived from the Italian aphorism"traduttore, traditore." The modulation in this process, occurring at the interchange, the borders, of two discrete systems is understood linguistically as the root of ambiguity, the instability of meaning, its 'play.' While the formal structure of the script exemplifies the ambiguity of linear systems, the flirt (each flirt, all flirts) showcases the ambiguity of substitutive systems: a lability of meaning located in the delta between two channels that share either an origin or a terminus. Opposing mistranslation, substitutive ambiguity is derived from the (un)intentional misreading or mis-delivery of a message. As the New York flirt's lover exclaims, "We’re using the same language I use when I lie to him."
Flirt roughly shares its plot structure, its module, with Arthur Schnitzler's 1985 German play Liebelei. The play reappears in 1914, translated into English with the title Playing with Love. In the foreword the translator notes that "even Flirtation" had been suggested, but that it was not a happy, approximate, or appropriate equivalent. However, as ambiguity plays with meaning, the flirt plays with love. In 1935, Roger Callois proposed that transformation caused by external stimuli was an "assimilation to the surroundings" rooted in a "real temptation by space." Midway through the film a chorus of laborers, interrupted in their restoration of an old landmark building, takes a break to discuss this tactic.
1 The milieu is bound to change the dynamics of the situation.
2 People are the same no matter what the milieu is.
3 So you don't think personality, character, has any effect on the situation?
2 Please! Don't twist my words around!
1 The question, though, remains the same: What do you do when contingent reality demands definitive response?
2 We cannot exist in ambiguity forever!
3 I disagree. I think we can. Although I think it would be the deepest kind of isolation.
The first laborer's initial proposition is easily accepted; one must consider the implications of the site. The second posits an Aristotalean "firm and unchanging disposition" of character. The third attempts to clarify the initial statement, confusing the roles played by context and character. The subsequent refutation by the second indicates a distinction between character and person, appearance and identity. The first rephrases, asking how a structure should respond to haphazard ground. The possibility of remaining noncommittal to the demands of space, is declared impossible by the second. In response, the third proposes its potential – qualifying it as generating isolation and loneliness: creating a figure with no ground.
Viewed in this sense as an almost autopoeitic system, the flirt lives parasitically off of the air, the space between meanings and relations(hips). In Tennessee Williams' Orpheus Descending (1958), the orpheuse, Val, delivers a monologue structured around birds that "live their whole lives on the wing" never landing "on this earth but one time when they die!” The first specimens of the Bird of Paradise named Lust Vogel, “Pleasure Bird” in German, (and said to subsist on "dew and vapors rising from the earth.”) received in Europe from New Guinea, had their legs previously removed to make them suitable for sale.
This impossible creature emerged from the flirtation between possibility and actuality generated by the lack of information (not misheard, but unspoken) produced by the process of trade (of transfer and transposition). Edward Said, on the interplay between geography and memory, noted the necessity of invention to the process of recollection – itself a re-production. Invention can also be understood, via ambiguity, as the additive result of a standard in its application to a specific context, an operation linking linear systems by converging the delta of substitutive ambiguity that exists, always, in-between.
“I want you to tell me, is there a future for me and you? / How can I answer that? / Yes or No / I can’t see the future / You don’t need to see it if you know its there.” This exchange occurs without variation at the beginning of each scene, the ultimatum being posed by the lover to the flirt. Leaving the apartment, the flirt stops at a payphone and calls his other, married, lover, repeating, but inverting, the exchange. As the flirt redirects the ultimatum, the two external relations are brought to bear on each other — though of course neither exchange is ever resolved.
The flirt is not invention. It is not the normative seduction by space or the pathology of the Lust Vogel, though these are its possible futures. It is an embodiment of indeterminacy to the ground; however its complexity is not contradictory: it is consistent in respect to itself, whatever it is. The flirt, as an active agent, induces error. It does this through the morpheme “re-” (again, anew, against, back, withdrawal, and undoing): preferring reflection (mirroring behavior), redirection (leading astray), and reticulation (being one to many).
Here I could formalize the concept of the mask, as a mask is static (but it feels like it shouldn’t be). I could make it work for me, as the mask can be a tool: but as soon as it labors, masking, it becomes another thing entirely — divorced from its root. The mask plays with signification, thus the mask should refuse to be easily signified or clearly denoted. What are our masks made of? Clay, wood, plastic, leather, elastic…? No, I mean what are our masks made of? Culture, society, pathologies, fantasies, imagination…? No, further, what are our masks made of? White, black, blue, colors, dyes, negation, censorship, effacement…
Masking an object obscures its appearance or its purpose. It hides both the beautiful and the abject without discrimination, allowing for actions to play out under cover (camouflage). It can make an object recede, or instead stand out (peacocking). We can wear masks as such and we can take off the masks of others (discovery) to find a “truth,” or maybe just another lie. To mask an image is to select only certain parts of it: a mask is a filter, but one that only supplants its underlying actuality. To mask is to alter without changing, to refract without reflecting (as a reflection always transforms). Masking is, as Baudrillard would put it, a manipulation of appearances without the undermining of a foundation, without altering or even engaging being or truth in the process. Masking is the play of pure affect: attacking only the sensibilities of the other, but it is a feint: the blow lands but it never connects
The mask as an object functions as above in the application of its attributes. Masking as an action functions more obliquely - the mask seduces, that is it “leads astray,” intentionally misdirects. Seduction is, in a way, simulation. You appear to me as I would want you to, to the person I imagine myself as being. I can seduce myself by masking you with one of my own making. I simulate your image to reconcile your divergent character with my better image of it.
The mask is virtual, or maybe not; it is real after all, isn’t it? Perhaps that comes to mind just so I can quote Michael Heim that the virtual is “not actually but just as if.” But that better image is who we are, what we do, only if we wear masks:. Here the mask is our better self, just as we imagine it to be, only we are, unfortunately, not it. Or is it our worse self? Or even our true self? Can the body itself be a mask, a second mask returning us to who we are? We can remove the mask, to look out and say “this is who I am” and then we put it back on to say “this is who I am” again. But we see throughout, through the mask, from behind it, with our own eyes. And our real eyes are seen by others, but somehow they will never recognize us. “She has her father’s eyes” Then is the child a mask of the father? Logically not, but perhaps…maybe. Still we ask, what are you dressing as, what are you supposed to be, never, rarely, who (that would be impersonation, we are concerned here with costume).
Our masks are others, always: never persons, always characters. The Colombian, the Venetian carnival mask which covers only the eyes and the cheeks is so named for the actress who wanted her beauty to show through, who did not want to cover her face. The recognition of beauty (and personality through a disguise is a sign of true love, though the mask is also used to determine the fidelity of another – without the other noticing. The mask allows for surveillance, seeing through, while able to be seen through. After filming the music video for “Eyes Without a Face” in 1984, Billy Idol discovered that his contact lenses had fused to his corneas after being exposed to three days of fog machines, lighting, and fire sources. In 1960, Eyes Without a Face, directed by Georges Franju, a doctor steals the faces of other women to attempt to restore his daughter’s (previously disfigured). Both denounce the potential of humanity simply in eyes alone. We need the whole face to be ourselves again. Or do we just think so?
The Duchenne smile is regarded by physiologists and psychologists to be the genuine expression of true enjoyment as it utilizes the involuntary muscles of the orbiculares oculi (raising the cheeks and closing the eye). Maybe Colombia had other reasons why to cover those parts of her face…beauty being just a happy excuse. However its namesake, Guilamme Duchenne, was rumored to have experimented on the decapitated heads of prisoners as the electro-stimulus was too painful for living subjects. Why do masks so often lead us down this path? Near the fall of the Venetian Republic, the wearing of masks in daily life was restricted to a period of three months beginning on the 26th of December. Why? Because masks are dangerous. They remove responsibility “Oh, that wasn’t me,” “I wasn’t myself.” Then who was I? “You’re not yourself tonight.” Then who are you? Somebody else? Not likely… that seems like a ploy. There is always the attempt to look under the mask to verify identity. Is this a mistake?
Orpheus, by looking, loses Eurydice: Ovid says it as he was “too eager” but I would say he was too distrustful of what might be. He thinks it is a mask following him, a shade, therefore a lie. Around this time it was presumed that simply the sight of Medusa would turn man to stone. Medusa, whose mask is so kinetic it turns all others static, is defeated by a mirror. It wasn’t her gaze, but her appearance that had this affect. To be affected, you had to gaze, but to affect you only have to project.
The positive causality of a token based digital system is found in the “radically deterministic” qualities of automata / algorithms. Further, there are often arbitrary lines drawn to determine what is and what isn’t an automation / algorithm that are created by cultural, social, and historical impulses. That which resembles a digital automata, and may actually be, may not be considered as such within its context, though it may be to an outsider who either does not see the ‘black box’ or interprets it according to his own context which may have produced a similar automata that acts or looks differently. Not to be constantly quoting Deleuze (Though in Galloway’s formulation, it is always possible to invoke him being as he is “aesthetically coherent and politically incoherent”) but when the device is considered in its context, which it should to even be granted the title of medium-independent, we need to understand how it can viewed as both organic and artificial, smooth and striated. Excusing that potentially inaccurate qualified, here it is useful to invoke the asignifying sign, or pure intensity, of Deleuze, which establishes its referents and relations by the limits of its actions instead of the outline of its figure. This is to say that which doesn’t resemble X, can be X (If X is a sign) if it acts like one. This I would argue, and especially in the context of Seaver and Turing, goes beyond simple materiality and the Piercean definition of virtuality.
But these systems are not necessarily closed worlds and thus I do not think that computation is the enclosure of interpretation, especially as we have seen so many other attempts to inscribe computation and its technical worlds into spheres without taking into account the breach. The ultimate cop-out of the digital device is to not recognize ill formed token to the point that instead of it, as an infrastructure, failing, you – the user – feel that you have failed. Ultimately this is a function that supports the internal integrity of a device. We see that in many ways, dust screens that only let in ‘harmless particles,’ fans that let out hot air after a certain temperature has been reached. It is worth noting that both of these are also vents. This may be worth continuing from both a thermodynamic and theoretical perspective.
When I have used the phrase self-sufficient, I have meant only that for a system to read and write it needs nothing else. The condition for this self-sufficiency is a consistent standard of communication, a code or a language. However, for a message / string to be generated that is readable to a system there needs to be a conversion. It would be nice to imagine this conversion happening through the breach in the circle, the hole in the enclave, but, putting materiality aside, it seems to be that fact local agents who are not necessarily themselves part of the device will undertake this conversion before the message / string gets read by the system. This is the intimacy between organism and environment, and if we carry that metaphor further, specifying an exact location of conversion – where the environment becomes reconstituted for the use of the organism, is a futile endeavor – varying wildly with each conceivable type of interaction / intimacy.
Further, computation needs a field, the enclosure is not an enclosure if nothing exists outside of it, at that point it becomes a totality. This is the logic of the khora. Integral to any discussion of environment, space, place, or territory is what it is built on. This can easily be extended in relevance to devices, computers, and language. To this end, I want to briefly bring up the idea of the khora through its initial use in the Greek conception of space. Philosophical attempts to define the word point to the khora as being a sieve. In our context this requires the perception of another string, and sets up a system of recursion (one that we accept as being self evident within systems) Things pass through it, but it holds nothing. Derrida looks at the khora as that which “gives place,” which is the most reminiscent of its original usage. However, the best definition comes from John Sallis who defines it as “the other, the outside, of being, that which makes externality possible, that which makes it possible for something outside being nonetheless to be.” Here, the khora is that which something is defined against, but also a womb to give birth to forms that do not, in the otherwise normal order of things, exist.
So, to exist in a way that is not of the order of other things (this is a bad formulation), which is to be responsive to different effect (tactile, and visual spaces and thus languages, cultures, societies), is allowable or justified by the presence of the khora (existence seems like too strong a word). A device only exists as such because of the difference between it and what exists around it.
Can a system that rejects ill formed signs be a system that is enclosed and cannot be breached?
Mechanical and Structural Objectivity and the Digital and the Analog: is the Virtual an Image or a Symbol?permalink
Haugeland positions the digital and the analog not as oppositions but as differences of affordances and degrees. A digital device is one that succeeds positively in respect to its designed function. To do so with what he describes as its recognizable features of “copyability, complexity, and medium independence,” the digital device requires an input of consistent, or standardized, token (the specific sense of which we can call a type) and an output that is predictable and expected given the input to the point that the output can be understood as an effect of the input and thus be representative of the inputs. The degree of success of the device is tied directly to the legibility of the device’s types, the precision of its procedures, and the readability of its results in respect to the system that produced it. However, an analog device is one that succeeds approximately in respect to its designed function, the difference between positive and approximate being Haugeland’s clearest distinction. The three recognizable features of an analog device are “smoothness, sensitivity, and dimensionality.” Where the affordances of a digital system allowed them to be un-impacted by or simply not register the presence of ‘ill-formed tokens’ (those that possessed irregularities in comparison to the type that the system was formulated to read), this analog smoothness and sensitivity implies that both continuous array (not one defined by steps) is allowed as an input and, logically proceeding, “every difference makes a difference.” Haugeland notes that in certain situations, the analog device can function identically across a heterogeneous range of mediums as long as these system translations do not alter the range input / output, giving the example of a yardstick made of metal and bamboo, both measuring (their function) the same range of distance (the parameters of their approximate evaluative success). This is a perversion of the question of the pound of feathers and the pound of rocks, which itself is, as employed through the metaphor of valuing poker chips against sand particles in respect to the granularity of a digital device.
To connect the two by their features, the smoothness of the analog is made, by gradating its gradation, into units that allow copyability. The sensitivity, every difference making a difference, becomes complexity, where every unit is read in combination with its surrounding units. While I do acknowledge the dimensionality of the analog, I have difficulty understanding the medium independence of the digital which seems tied to the affordance of device’s system, and therefore dependent. I would qualify it as being a selective medium independence as “poker chips can be plastic disks, dried beans, or matchsticks,” but not sand.
An interesting feature of Haugeland’s digital device is that it is only truly detail when its level of detail, its ability to write, is greater than possible range of inputs, its ability to read. When the opposite is true, there is the existential question of it is anymore a device, to which Haugeland answers that it is not, neither analog or digital. While specific on that distinction, he becomes ambiguous when dealing with when a systems ability to write equals its ability to read (X variables of input and X discrete units - both a direct map and a discrete one). The differention that he claims seems to be the use of perceptible units in general, the idea of ‘gaps’ – that there is not, in these digital devices, a difference in-between X and X+1, where in analog devices there always exists something in-between.
In Haugeland’s formulation the digital is simply a second-order analog, creating a corresponding relation between positively and approximately, making the analog relative to the virtual as we understand it through Pierce as “a virtual X (where X is a common noun) is something, not an X, which has the efficiency (virtus) of an X.” As we understand the virtual to not necessarily be further than the real, with the virtual instead allowing us access to the real, the analog is our way of interacting with an abstraction of the real that is tied, through a systematic syntax, to its materiality. Conversely, the digital is an abstraction through- reduction of the virtual, further becoming a second-order simulation in Baudrillard’s definition. This difference of degrees is founded upon the graphemes that are relative to each systems affordance – the correlation of affordances and unit creating a system that operates self-sufficiently and recursively. Further, the analog, in his words, is that which ‘comes close to perfect success.’ This is its approach towards, but it is never equal to in the same way that we define the virtual as “almost or nearly as described, but not completely or according to strict definition.” This, paradoxically – despite our material connotations of the word analog, makes perfect sense.
From here I want to move on and see if it is possible to ascribe the two schools of scientific objectivity, mechanical and structural, to this difference between the digital and the analog. First, though, I want to make note that I do sense the connection between Haugeland and DeLanda in the relation between the digital definition of causality and an analog justification for emergence. As I look to begin to show, the approximate analog expression of emergence is rooted in its mechanical foundation while the positive digital expression of causality is found in its structural framework.
The difference between mechanical objectivity and structural objectivity can be roughly described as that of truth-to-nature and nature's truth: the latter being of universal value while the former, as evident in its tenuous phrasing, has a wider latitiude of interpretation. However, the direct definitions are contrasted to what we are shown through Haugeland. In another turn against colloquialisms, mechanical objectivity has more in relation to the analog device (including the more-often-than-not presence of ambiguity), gaining credibility with the invention of photography, while structural objectivity shares the features of the digital device (a closed and self-sufficient world).
In his 1666 dissertation De Arte Combinatoria, Leibniz outlines his theory for an Art of Combinations which, as Philipp Von Hilger describes, "had pursued the systematic decomposition of words" setting up his later proposal for an objective universal language comprised of signs, the result of the ars characteristica. Philipp Von Hilger proposes that this creation of a universal language is composed of two more of Leibniz's 'arts': the ars inveniendi (Art of Invention) and the ars iudicandi (Art of Inference). These two form a chain that first reduces words, objects, images and figures, to a series of universal signs by means of a reinvention and then processes these new universally symbolic creations by first verifying their validity and then providing localized meanings in context. (We have seen this before…) From Leibniz, these signs and their interactions and subsequent transformations (through a translation into local languages) form a diagram that would be fully and faithfully representative of the world due to the mathematical foundation of their construction, without resorting to the simple coupe de l'oieil of mimesis. As this new method of representation would be a universal one, it would be possible to extend inferences past local and knowable spheres. Such had been previously said by Alberti with his 'clever bombadier' who used planispheres to calculate the distance of remote objects and aligned his cannon with a pendulum, the veracity of the mathematics verified by the projectile hitting the target.
While Leibniz's representational theories were not purely mathematic, he wanted them to be used divorced from pictorial and graphemic schemes so as to generate a type of 'blind thinking.' It is no wonder that the wave of cybernetics theory that emerged in the mid 20th century took note of Leibniz's work; The idea of the 'black box,' as most recently and thoroughly conceived of by Vilém Flusser in The Technical Image. As Leibniz wrote:
"I can represent with characters and without figures or models extremely intricate machines, as if I had drawn them and designed them in a model; or even better than that, for with this symbolic representation I can calculate, as it were, shift and change the machine on paper and seek the correct positions through analyses, whereas I would otherwise need countless models to do the same, and on a trial basis."
This is the attempted objective logic behind the iterations of purely constructive simulations, that of two purely digital systems in communication with the other rapidly analyzing causes and effects. Early in the 20th century, the objectivity of mathematical systems is expanded to encompass the validity of these worlds with Max Planck in 1906, "the system of theoretical physics demands validity not merely for the inhabitants of this earth, but also for the inhabitants of other planets." Though Planck figures the extra-terrestrial, we can assume that if it holds for those far-flung worlds, so does it for those that are built on the earth and from it. This is the medium independence of the digital system.
Peter Galison and Lorraine Daston in their study of scientific objectivity highlight the moment that the word structure, frequently employed along with objectivity, "acquired new meanings and intellectual glamour." They trace its root to the Latin struere, "to build," and its original architectural connotation - which becomes extended to "any framework of material elements…[and] increasingly used (along with other architectural borrowings, such as bauplan) to describe how the parts of organisms were put together to make a coherent whole.” However in math and science, structural objectivity became associated with the removal of representation along the lines of Leibniz, the pure vision of symbols. This was in contrast to the (perceived) dangerous subjectivity of individual variability that illuminated inconsistencies. The intent of Leibniz was, in the later words of Bernard Carnap, to reveal the structures of an "objective world, which can be conceptually grasped and is indeed identical for all subjects:" the intent to create a self-sufficient closed digital world composed of tokens.
Deleuze said “the reality of the virtual is a structure.” In light of the above definitions, we would take that to been the real nature of virtual is found in its digital and structural features. However, through Pierce’s definitions, if the virtual is the analog then the reality of the virtual is instead mechanical. Though the difference between structure and structural is noted, and the ambiguity between device, machine, and mechanical, this transposition of terms paints the virtual as being an image based and therefore a subjective abstraction of reality – as mechanical objectivity is an impossible goal and it is always affected by subjectivity (it not being a self sufficient system). Objectivity, on the other hand, is representation without images, without their moral and tonal gradation and is found only in the construction of a structure instead of the operation of a machine upon one.
The thermos is internally mirrored. It conserves that which we conserve to it. Importantly it is not a closed system. It is a container, something that can be wrapped around an object. While I accept that it binds, I would qualify its blindness. That we cannot see behind a mirror is not something that we necessarily take for granted – for that presumes an optical literacy, to be able to read a reflection, and a presupposition that all thermoses are opaque. Instead of blindness, I propose that its more important quality is feedback; reflection is a lossy process, as is representation. The thermos is undeniably changed by its contents and by its conservational properties. McLuhan’s divisions between hot and cold find themselves literally embodied by the mutability of the thermos. While this would seem to imply a gradated adaptable membrane, the thermos can also be figured through its two oppositional faces: its reflecting interior and its absorbing exterior. This would imply that the thermos is a combination of two different types of media. The division between the interior and the exterior in relation to the virtual can be seen through Baudrillard in Seduction writing “there is no need to play being against being, or truth against truth; why become stuck undermining foundations, when a light manipulation of appearances will do.”
Feedback, as defined by Felix Geyer, is “a process in which the factors that produce a result are themselves affected by that result.” Seen through Benjamin, feedback is the adjustment of reality to the masses (desire) and mass to reality (aspire). Further, feedback creates awareness of the ongoing process. Negative feedback requests a reconsideration, its failure the essence of its functioning. Positive feedback allows for continuation, the affirmative response to the checking of a channel. From Jakobson, we can infer that feedback is a result of a phatic function, inherently social, and thus relational – both allowing interaction and borne from it. But if we are inside the thermos, where we all may be in some respect, we are only interacting with our reflections. If we are outside the thermos, we are never interacting with its contents, which could be called reality. Even if we can see its contents we cannot relate to them except superficially. Abstracting the form of the thermos lets propose two cubes possessing its same conservative properties. One is internally mirrored and externally opaque. The other is transparent, inside and out, a vitrine. They are both portable, they both preserve; the only difference is the ways in which they see and are seen.
A brief recap. What is contained within a media alters the media that contains it through the process of feedback. The condition of the media as it becomes altered through feedback is sensible only tactilely within the mirrored thermos and sensible both optically and tactilely within the transparent thermos. What is contained within either thermos is not functional, regarding Levinson’s functional equivalence, precisely because of its enclosed status – though it may be. It lacks the ability to actively interact with what exists around it. It forms passive relations to an audience (receivers) in its presentation (think jewelry arrangements, display cases, dioramas, specimens) and through the process of feedback to its container.
To continue from Baudrillard, seduction is a precursor to intimacy, invited by desire. We want to be close to our objects, to hold and possess them. So we want the object to be easy, loose, unconstrained within its walls, and able to be retooled to suit our desires. This is possible with replicas, not so with singularities. If we simply deal with its appearance, we can have our way with the object (used in a general sense for the sake of brevity). In this sense, the reality of an object is always contained. If we look at opaque thermoses then we have only to deal with its appearance, blinded to objects essential reality – if we look at transparent thermoses, then we are fully confronted with the object as it is while also able to figure it as we would like to see it as being, a double exposure. In either situation there is a fragmentation between the reality of the interior and the exterior, the thermos is truly not a membrane.
This is the contrast between foundation and appearance, and perhaps provenance and providence (though this may be a fruitless alliteration). With the introduction of providence, we can go back to the Renaissance and look at the idea of natura. Then, natura was used in regard to representations of the natural world which in the cultural climate “enacted the reintegration of the divine and the human [to the point that] the viewer might be moved to an essentially religious reverence by contemplating both the depiction of God’s creation and the inspired virtuosity with which it was done.” Replacing God’s creation with the notion of a singularity and its inspired virtuosity with its presented appearance, we have both aspects of the thermos. The transparent thermos allows us to see it both for what it is and what we want it to be, within limits defined by its original nature. The opaque thermos allows for a more labile reimagining of the object, within limits defined by the process of feedback (the two aspects of the thermos are connected back to back after all). So essentially, there is no true blindness. The replica must always be considered in relation to a singularity (subjectivity to objectivity, the model to the real, and virtuality to reality). Our intimacies are only so deep and while we may often see the image of a singularity, it is rare that we will ever be able to know it.
“Through the window, To the wall”
A wall where it is not expected can make all the difference. Here I am looking at the transposition of architectural forms outside of the structural and functional space of a building. Before beginning, I want to note that though I discuss walls and windows, this same line of thinking can applied to discuss the screen, and to this end I will make some brief asides to connect the two. As for some context, this develops from some ideas on the breaching wall used by the military so I will start with a brief description of that structure. I fear I may leave with more questions than solutions and as a warning I tend towards the heavy handed and obvious metaphors. But regardless.
The breaching wall is a part of a series of training environments that seek to understand complex environments by approaching each one of its elements in isolated contexts. The breaching wall is dropped into a cleared space and has an associated program of use attached. It needs to be moved through, broken, and thus presents itself as an obstacle. Its width defines its corridor (its training lane) and there is no circumventing it without ‘failing’ the training, the only motion allowed is forward and through.
Here there is a desire to penetrate the wall, which as I look to show, stands for all walls, and stands for a continuous wall. The method of breaching can vary, but the result, the desired end, is to allow a flow between two discrete areas so that they reach equilibrium (of pressure, volume, heat, control, occupation). On the level of the agent (particle, matter, temperature, the state) it allows for maneuverability and an extension of effect, allowed by the surmounting (by intersecting) of an obstacle. While looking at the breaching wall, and being enamored of it as an object, I found myself unsatisfied with its implications, and wanted to find something less static – less of an obstacle and more of an interface, a tool that offered engagement while embodying similar characteristics. Thankfully I found such an object, or at least I hope I did, which I will be concluding with.
Okay, so first lets develop an idea. We have a pane of glass. An event occurs, and causes that glass to become shattered. So, now fragmented, it can be said the event has produced parts from the whole. The parts still share a material similarity with the pane, but they are now called shards. They have sharp edges, are more intense, but are also smaller, with less mass. Often, with an event that breaks glass, the shards can become clouded. The kinetic force of the impact forces them to undergo a property change in terms of their transparency and tactility as well as their shape. However, the shard still has come from the pane. That much cannot be erased – it is a trace and in this relation, it communicates what it came from. In this situation, the function of the window (to seal, but see, the outside from the inside and vice versa) is lost. But in other fragmentations, less accidental and more systematic, function can be preserved.
So lets continue with the wall, a more concrete metaphor.
First lets position the wall on our graph. The wall is not a space to be occupied, though it can possess a width. I am firm on that. It is instead a third axis that increases the dimensionality and the complexity of our two previously established dualities. It itself is a two sided object, and importantly for our purposes, here specifically, it is not continuous. This wall impedes the vectors of what we plot on our graph. Its discontinuity allows for it to be avoided, but at the cost of a longer and slower, transition from public to private or from isolation to exposition. The position of the agent invokes a unique sensibility depending on the context of each side and the agent’s relation to either. This invites another metaphor, the childhood game where you are on one side of a car and your opponent on the other, one trying to catch the other, the other trying to evade being caught. Somehow, due to what exists between, you are able to avoid their touch. The border that separates you is enough of a distance, enough of a buffer, that you can predict and respond oppositionally to their movements, forever increasing the potential of an encounter, but never fulfilling it. In this sense he wall is the ultimate tease, similar to the situation of Pyramus and Thisbe an interesting case in itself in that the wall is continuous but is staged through its section to allow a full visibility of both sides to the audience.
Lets take the wall, fragment it like we did with the glass, and isolate one of its ‘shards’; though here, the more appropriate term is section. So lets abstract the shard into a section and suppose the fragmentation was a regular one. Now what we have is a module, an arrangement of which will re-form the wall, so it is of course modular. We could reconstitute the pane from the shards, but since the function of the pane had been lost in the glass in a way that I will argue has not happened with the wall, then I would hesitate to call the shard a module. This is stretching my suppositions, but it is necessary to proceed, and to differentiate between these two components of a building. As a support for this, I claim that the window is defined by its totality (as it fully constitutes its territory) while the wall is not and can exist in more ambiguous situations as segments as in the US Mexico border where the spaces where the wall does not physically exist are monitored by a “virtual fence
What may help to reinforce this extension of meaning is the connotation of a wall. The wall defines the space that it contains, it communicates closure and permanence - protection. The window does not. It implies an opening, a breach – or simply the possibility of a breach, and vulnerability. We often see windows shattered, passed through, with little damage suffered, while the effect of attempting to move through the wall is to be met with a stubborn resistance and make little progress at the cost of damage to the self. To a degree, of course. The implication of a wall is inherently tied to its structural strength. Of course the hand can break cinderblock, as we’ve learned through martial arts demonstrations, but we are concerned with the body within space. An obvious question here would be “is a screen a window or a wall?”
But what I am interested in is what happens when the module becomes non-modular. When it is unable to be repeated, to be stacked and to recompose what it came from, and must exist as a singularity. What happens when there is no interface, nor relation between a part and any coherent whole; when it is a fragment, but what it has been split from is not present due to its transposition. When there is no stretch of relation that could compose even an exploded diagram of what a structure containing the fragment would have resembled or give it the possibility to be reassembled. It is forced, by its projection into a new context, to form its own relations – to connect without connecting. What the wall proves in this situation is as a plane, and even as a fractured plane, it continues to assert its identity as part of a whole if not becoming a whole in and of itself. It allows itself to be extended through space and modified in scale and form without losing its base meaning and function.
Now that the term has come up, lets define extension. From metaphysics, we understand extension as the property of taking up space. Further as it partakes in the dichotomy paradox, possessing infinite divisibility no matter how many divisions it undergoes. It is still not as small as it can be, but it is still the same thing that it was. Extension allows the wall to have resilience, to be, as it is, an enduring and primal architectural element. From a form, and to express this continuity, I also would pre-suppose that it is in fact now just a shape, a minor but important distinction. This shape, with extension, is an effectual asignyfing sign, or pure intensity, its relations established by the limit of its actions and not the outline of its figure. This is to say that that which doesn’t resemble a wall, can be a wall if it acts like one.
In a physical sense I want to use extension and asignyfication as a toolkit for transposition. The wall, so far as it divides (stands between) stands for all walls. The wall, in whatever shape, connotes what all walls connate. Back to the graph, with this diagram, Richard Serra’s controversial tilted arc enters through a visual similarity - a line crossing a square. A sculpture yes, but also in the words of its public, simply a “12 by 120 foot steel wall” What I want to take from this is not that it is spatial mechanism to interrupt, but instead his statement that to move the sculpture from its location would be to destroy it. And not to be reductive, but counter to that is, as a wall, it will still be a wall no matter the context. Further, arguments over its relocation proposed that a ‘free sense of viewing’ would benefit its reception. In its bisection of the plaza, it forced engagement. Though this last remark was made to it as a sculpture, but if we applied it to it as simply a wall, would ‘free senses of viewing’ benefit our experience of the walls around us? Would a spatial mobility allow us to appreciate our borders more? How would such a thing even be possible when our walls are not free-standing, usually structural, bounded and chained to the earth with the ceiling, just another wall at an alternative angle, creating a complete enclosure. This is, I would argue, poor adaptation with the earth – to simply extend its mass upwards in volumes to house usFurther, when presented with both the tilted arc and the buildings at the foley plaza, would not the asignifying sign be at full work? Context is king here, rather than content. All other walls would become less wall-like, that distinction given fully to the steel bisector. To remove the sculpture would be to destroy it semiotically, as its significations would evacuate its shape and return to its lesser, surrounding, counterparts. It would then be empty during its transport, waiting for a new context to persuade meaning from, when it had been successfully transposed.
One more sculptural interlude, Dan Graham’s Labyrinth. Of note is that it came from his “love for the model form.” For us, it is a combination of the transposed wall, taking on, through a material similarity, the qualities of a window. This destroys the wall and fragments the sense of enclosure, requires an acceptance of the reality of its other side due to its visibility. Similarly Zoo’s employ the form of the glass enclosure to increase immersion. But with zoos and in other such situations, you see a lot of nose prints on the glass – the desire to be close to, the need to be within. (to the point that Graham often in his works, asks for both sides to be experienced to understand the full effect of the installation, (a request that we would not necc. ascribe to Serra.). An interesting opposition emerges where in tilted arc, proximity is avoided and in labyrinth, proximity is sought out. People want to stand with their nose to the glass wall, to better see through it and also to better feel enclosed. Tilted Arc is monumental and thus violent and Labyrinth is familiar and thus playful. But there is something more happening through the arrangement of the walls. At right angles to each other, creating corners (which of course the tilted arc does not have) the glass walls create enough of an implication of a room that normal behavior is allowed to resume.
A final distinction. Tilted arc is a module that is not modular – so as per my previous definition, the module in this context represents the whole. Labyrinth is modular. Some simple math emerges. One shape modified by extension or repetition (or reduction) is still that shape. One wall is a wall. A shape repeated, and jointed with its original, is no longer that shape. Two walls is a corner. Three walls is a pocket. Four walls is a room. Four walls and a ceiling is a house. The answer to “when is a wall not a wall” is simply that when there is more than one, when it becomes environmental. If we think of media architectures, the screen quickly disappears –replaced with the obvious video wall of the future which can fit itself into any of these taxonomies in similar fashions to the subjects which we have discussed (i.e. it can be modular, singular, shattered, or deconstructed) We can break the video wall (an action proven with Apple’s famous ad) and we can pass through the video wall (an action being experimented with today using mixed-reality methods). This is also an argument that the screen is a wall, and not a window, but as we’ve shown, a wall can be breached, and as we will shortly show, a wall can be breached and still be a wall. A screen can be breached without breaking.
So now I want to discuss the gun shield. Which is that thing that is less of on obstacle and more of an interface, than the breaching walls I began with. This is going to be a bit loose so please bear with me
Winston Churchill on body armor said “reduced to its elements, it consisted in interposing a thin plate of steel between the...body of a man and the approaching bullet". This is a simple premise, it recalls the idea of shelter – to make secure by providing separation - something between. Importantly Churchill’s interposition is the root of my transposition.
Abstractly, the gun shield is a portable, deployable enclosure. It is a transposed wall. It can operate in tandem with a number of mobile architectural elements that are meant to extend the function of a shelter. The contemporary military landscape, physical and on the ground, is composed of simple and abstract structures, usually with single and specific purposes, that hint at, but never fully connect to form the idea of a complex or a construct. It is best to think of them, like the breached wall trainers, as arrangements: as not modular, but instead, dispersed modules.
Specifically. A gun shield is rectangular section of ballistic armor fixed to the barrel of a gun. It has two openings – the first is where the barrel is inserted and the second is a slit or cutout to allow for aiming. So, two things protrude from it, lines of sight and lines of fire (As these openings are static and correlated to eachother, the gunshield ensures that the line of sight and the line of fire are always pointed in the same direction – forcing a specific perspective that makes every object observed a potential target in the most severe sense of the word. It also contains a breach, the gun itself is embedded in the wall and the wall is penetrated by the gun. This is a breach that allows for manipulation, but not for equalization. Differentiating between the two sides is the action on one (the pulling of a trigger) and the result on the other (the firing of a bullet). While the two part process is divided by the wall, the bullet’s movement from the chamber to the cylinder and out of it briefly ties these two spaces together through an action that importantly does not effect the integrity of the plane –contrasted to what we saw in the glass where to shoot through it is to shatter it beyond recomposition.
And of course the wall has been actively weaponized before (arguably it has always been passively and latently a weapon), and to that, the gunshield can be seen perhaps more clearly as a direct evolution of the crenellated wall (a combination of window and wall) – made portable, now able to be both static and elastic. In terms of our classifications, the gunshield is a module. It can be stacked and arranged like the fighting units of Macedonian syntagma, the Greek phalanx, and medieval crenellated walls, to create an enclosure and a boundary. Arranged consecutively it extends, arranged with varying angles it becomes environmental. It can also be modular as it combines with other structures, filling in gaps as it inserts itself (and by extension its bearer) into portable – earth filled – walls. In both these situations due to its complicity with a human agent, combining with similar and dissimilar types, it creates a boundary that is static, reactive, inanimate and animate.
This brings to mind the ‘landscape of war’, described 1920’s by Kurt Lewin, as one of shifting lines and boundaries, perpetually composing and recomposing. It is jerky or even as it attempts to be scale up and down and expand forward and back. you (the individual) can find yourself momentarily forward of your own advancing front, before it (the collective force) catches up. Similarly, the gun shield is a directional object, though it advertises its directionality by permanently defining what lies in front (this side towards enemy, the claymore slogan), and when operated to code it, as a wall module identifies its rear operator as an ally. Everything in front of it exists as a target. This is defining nature of its wall and perhaps all walls.
Further, the longer the barrel of your gun, the more coverage the shield offers, as it occupies more of your space when viewed from its opposite side. The further you are behind the wall module, the safer you are. The closer you are to it, the more exposed you are to danger, the more you become evident in the wall. However as it steadily projects the wall in front, the distance from the border is enforced (an Icarean modulation) as a permanent extended threshold. In this way, brought down to the level of the individual and enhanced by the gunshield, the border of war is no longer ambiguous as Lewin had concluded, but permanently inscribed as a definitive value through the material that composes it, and is importantly always in advance.
With the gun-shield, and as an individual, you become autonomous, pushing the border in front of you in real time. Writing on traditional mobile warfare, Lewin importantly noted that “where there had just been a position, there is now only countryside,” this observation is based on his concept of purposeful arrangements, complexes and bases, that defined a space as being war-like). As a free radical, you are never in the countryside, instead always occupying a position as drifting fragment of an enclosure given legitimacy by your own intentionality, your own agency as an active creator pushing a boundary. The wall is part of you and you are attached to the wall. At times you are the only thing in the landscape that resembles a structure. You can move around, attempting to insert yourself into walls, becoming fortification, or simply define a border by your presence, and the associated presence of your module in space.
In The Man in the High Castle, a 1962 Philip K Dick novel that takes place in a world where the Germans and the Japanese have won the war and split control of North America, one character spends his days making replicas of civil war pistols. At one point, due to the machinations of the larger narrative, he decides he needs the use of a real working pistol and bores the barrel. A simple subtraction is all that was needed for the prop, the facsimile, to be turned into the thing itself. So, if the virtual is a result of an addition to reality, a filling in of empty space, it is de facto an exaggerated object. Even if there is a loss of resolution or specificity within the replicatory process, the virtual is something more real than real, possessing more mass.
When reality becomes transferred into the virtual by means of modeling, it is often for the purpose of visualizing relationships that could not be revealed from a standard (human) perspective: the ability to spin, pan, tilt, and skew an object away from the constraints of the physical world. Just think simply of the visualization options afforded in design programs. However, as we now construct our physical worlds from models - the plan precedes the building - the need for virtual reconstruction is only found in objects that have continued their existence into the present or those that we do not, or cannot, know fully. These can be thought of organics, in the way that the history of their form is not ‘on file,’ unlike objects that have already had their histories recorded as part of the process of their creation. In the same way that soldiers first experience battle virtually, with simulated experiences providing a foundation for their deployments, new additions to the world are frequently first experienced virtually through walkthroughs, fly-bys, and renderings. These are all rehearsals, predictors, of some sort, able to be performed through the additive properties of the model and its virtuality. The sonogram provides an image of life before that life is realized and predictive models of finance and weather provide evidence of futures that may never exist.
The use of the virtual in military modeling and simulation presents us with new ways of thinking about organic processes such as birth, education, death, violence, and war. If we understand that a virtual state is an addition to reality, either through its exaggeration or doubling, and not an alternative to it - the implied hierarchy is that of the virtual over the real. This assumption echoes the words of military training design, which often uses the phrases ‘realer than real’ and ‘enhancing reality.’
"How beautiful the world would be if there were a procedure for moving through labyrinths.”
I am interested in the CACTF not for its own sake, but as a part - not the first - of a deep history. We could call this the alternative history of the model. Significantly it is also the history of reconstitution, of representation and replication, the process of taking things apart to know how to put them together. The re of all three words brings full attention to its asynchronous meanings: again, anew, returning to the original, and undoing. However, what the word reconstitution lacks, is the sense of fragmentation and loss that is forever a part of this operation. I do not mean to imply that this is a disordered process, only that with any transformation or compression information is lost - either intentionally or as a result of its mechanics.
I define these terms, together, as the way in which physical objects are selected, isolated, and transposed through corresponding de- and re-contextualizations, stripped of local meaning, retaining only their formal and functional characteristics. In this re-modeling, I seek to understand the urge to represent through replication (importantly not duplication). Throughout this thesis, I’ve looked to prioritize the physicality of the model in an attempt to deny the image and the screen their roles as the definitive mediums of representation within contemporary media. By ignoring physicality, treating it only as relative to a scopic regime, we tend to underestimate the implications of tangible artificiality.
Where is intensity located in the physical iteration of a model, the desire inherent in the process of replication? Is it that we reproduce things to know them all the better, or is it that in order to take things apart we must know how to put them together? Annabel Wharton defines the distinction between the copy and the model in terms of causality: between that which is definitively derived and that which is “ambivalent in respect to its source.” She continues to say that the city model, to her always a copy, not only reduces the size of the city, but, more dangerously, “gives it the appearance of comprehensibility.” While the model is often conceived of as being less-than, its diminished nature built in, what happens when reduction of space is no longer a component of modeling - when the model is as real as its source?
This condition never results from a first attempt at replication. Peter Brook begins his theory of 'rough theater' by looking at the claim of early electronic music studios to "make every sound that a natural instrument could make - only better." Finding their sounds marked by a "certain uniform sterility,” lacking the noise generated from physical interaction, they were compelled to produce "synthetic dirt - to 'humanize' their compositions." Here the drive/desire to denature, to possess through replication, fails to create a truly evocative sense of the original. The functional differences between the real and its model result from the ways in which each system orients to its reference and the associated senses produced by this relationship. The lack of naturalism in synthetic reproduction is not surprising, but what is of interest here is the obligation to humanize the product: to make it sympathetic and understandable.
Conversely, synthetic visual displays used by pilots contain digital environmental databases to generate graphic displays in real time so that if atmospheric disturbances (actual dirt) interfere with visibility, the synthetic geography can be prioritized to be able to better see the real. While the difference between Brook’s example and this is analogous to the difference between empathy and survival, it is of note that the need for sympathy with the synthetic is ignored when there are larger, more primal, issues at hand.
Further, can we answer the ontological question of the chaining between the model and reality? Does the real give form to the model or the model to the real? What are the contexts in which these inversions can occur, and what are their effects? Is the CACTF a model of a city or the city a model of the CACTF? The latter would certainly seem implausible, but when the CACTF is experienced before a city is, would it not possess a greater influence, its gravity greater than that of reality? It is not solely the question of the model being as real as the source, but that it can be perceived and experienced as being so. Karen Wonders, in an exhaustive history of the diorama, notices that by the 1940’s “the public was rapidly becoming familiar with the world through the increased applications of its models”
Anthropologist Don Handelman’s 1990 book Models and Mirrors describes the model as an always reduced version of the original, warning that if the model were to become equivalent to the world, it would become incapable of acting on it. According to his definitions, models are systems of rituals, events, and play, not strictly material objects. The model is a framework, (an idea indebted to the work of Victor Turner among others) distinguished from the mirror, which is the site or act of representation and presentation. His distinction between the model, the closed-world of the event, and the mirror, its representative aspects, is a suitable tactic for the anthropological study of ritual: an event that purposefully occurs in a decisively other space, referencing reality through oblique symbolism. However, in a foreword to the 1998 re-print of the book Handelman proposes a theoretical ‘moebius-model’ that expands upon his previous conception of the model as a microcosm, the result of a single, reductive, recursive function on the world. Applying his binary analysis to other disciplines becomes problematic as Handelman overlooks the frequent and problematic convergences of the model and the mirror that occur when the modeling event is directly representative of the world. His proposal of the moebius-model is an attempt to allow the extrapolation of his paradigm to other contexts.
The moebius-model, based on the paradoxical form of endless recursion, gives the modeling process autonomy, the ability to act upon and by itself without invoking the normative relations implied by representative mirrors. In this, it avoids the trap of being derivative that conventional models suffer with the outcome of becoming simple representations. The moebius-model operates independently from its original while still relying on it for “its internal workings,” borrowing its basic structures, rules, and parameters. This independence denies the reduction with which the model is usually associated (the model as miniature). It can now be more than since the geometry of the moebius-strip “ includes its own horizons of being and becoming.” It is only based on the system that it is modeled from, not limited to it. This extension of horizons allows for “determinate transformations (that are unavailable in the indeterminate world) to be made through the model” The moebius-model is derived from adding abstraction and mutability into Max Black’s 1962 formulation of the ‘analogue model’: that which is not identical to its original, but is similar to in its “structure or pattern of relationships.”
We now have a fair understanding of what the components of a model are, and how it can relate to its original, but what of its purpose? How does a model become functional, and what defines its success? Condensing Handelman on this: a model should be regulated, specifically informative (pedagogical), translate its abstractions into real actions, refer to or be predictive of future events, and be intrinsically rewarding (having its own internal system of goals and motivation). Simplifying now, a functional model should be a designed object/environment, possessing substantial similarities to its original, that imparts information (skills and/or knowledge) through its activation that will eventually be utilized outside of itself and towards the achievement of predicted results. From this we can infer that modeling is the (re)playing of causal relations in a virtual system (separate from the real) for pedagogical purposes, to learn from experience without the implications and irreversibility of real experience. The success of a model is eventually found in its productive (additive) application to its original.
In Delillo’s End Zone, Gary Harkness meets with an Army major to play a “crude form of war game.” This event is perfectly in line with the books conclusion that “warfare is warfare,” an equivalent conceit to “all but war is simulation” (the motto of the U.S. Army Simulation Training and Instrumentation Command). The major begins the game with the qualification that its simple environment “could never elicit the kind of emotions generated in times of actual stress.” The chapter ends as the ringing of a phone, contextually transformed into that iconic red Cold War hotline to the White House, interrupts the game. At its sound, the major turned quickly in his chair “terrified for a long second, and then simply stared at the commonplace black instrument as it continued to ring.”
The actuality of the ‘game,’ despite the major’s insistence otherwise, evokes a relevant response - one sympathetic to its system, from an ordinary object
In fairly simple terminology, I define real as that which both precedes a virtual versioning and is not itself a virtual version. How natural reality is, in this definition, is not of concern. What is, in the transformation from the real to the model, is fidelity and resolution.
The degree of autonomy that a model has is directly related to its distance from the real. Russel West-Pavlov, writing on the intersection of post-colonial place and literary deixis, contrasts the foolishness of Borges’ cartographers who, in the creation of their map, forget “their derivative, even indebted relationship to their spatial partner, that they fail so spectacularly” against the more tempered warning that “the city must never be confused with the words that describe it, and yet between one and the other there is a connection” from Calvino’s Polo. Polo’s self conscious, and importantly modest, conceptualization that maintaining distance between sign and signifier leads to a resilient method of representation perhaps illuminates the reasoning of the military in the construction and operation of training cities. The looseness of distance creates more room to point.
This idea is explicated by experiments in performance that take on the idea of “directed reality,” a term coined by the Polish artist Pawel Althemer, best exemplified by Jeremy Deller’s The Battle of Orgreave, a 2001 re-enactment of a 1991 confrontation between picketing miners and South Yorkshire Police. Deller said before the performance, “I’m not in control any more, really. As you would be in a real situation like this, you’d be a bit excited and a bit worried as well,” echoing the volatility of his piece. Deller had organized the re-enactment, assembling its actors and defining its stage, but the result of the event was unknown and would only be known once it had finished occurring. This may seem obvious, or simplistic, but it is precisely here that the difference between replication and duplication can be found. The doubling of meaning, action, and elements arise from the repetition of history and Deller’s lack of direct control over the events. In Rancière’s words, continuing Calvino’s sentiments, this organized but unknowable re-enactment gives rise to signs that are “capable of speaking twice, from their readability and from their unreadability,” their ambiguity.
The Exercise series by Irish artist John Gerrard deals with a different type of re-enactment: each of his videos is inspired by found images of military exercises. Borrowing the basic structure and aesthetic of his sources, he then begins to digitally model them. Recording the strictly choreographed movements of actors by motion capture, he translates them onto digital avatars and places them into rendered landscapes. Despite being re-creations, they lack the doubling of Deller’s re-stagings as they are strictly controlled, fully built environments, only borrowing aesthetic clues, instead of complex social structures, from the system on which they are based. They are thus ahistorical and untied, their translation to the digital removing all correlates to a sympathetic world, save for the human physicality carried over by the mechanics of motion capture.
The conflict, from Deller, and the drill, from Gerrard show two different takes on re-enactment. However, there is a difference between framing a situation and engineering one: the difference between directed reality and reality, directed.
Baudrillard, on Borges cartographers as well, continues this discussion by saying that it is with the same Imperialism that modern simulators attempt to make the real coincide with their models. As a result, he notes that the distinction between map and territory has disappeared. Importantly this is not the same failure that Borges illustrated. Manipulating the real to match the model is an inversion of the traditional process of the model coinciding with the real. That vanished distinction is the root of ambiguity and imagination, of “the abstractions charm,” and the source of the models ability to act on the world (ref. Handelman). Baudrillard’s perspective on the inversion of signification, and with it the loss of seduction, is reflected in geographer Oliver Belcher’s article on the Muscataturk Urban Training Facility when he remarks that “amidst these structures, one is immediately struck by a sense of abandonment within this counterinsurgent dream world, where all sense of place is neutralized as the Orient is designed as an objective activity environment.” All environmental ambiguity, the subjectivity involved in making sense of place, is lost as reality is structured to the form of the model and is further erased as the virtual experience becomes fully operational.
Ambiguity, in a linguistic context, is a deviation in meaning located either at the creation or the reception of a message. This deviation is generated via the creation of combined or substitutive channels (paths and movements) along the trajectory of the relation between signer and interpreter, which allows for a confusion of meaning. With combined channels (A to B to C), ambiguity is located in the interface between the end of one and the start of the other, giving rise to the differentiation between first, second, and third-order simulations and representations. With substitutive channels (A to C and/or B to C), ambiguity finds itself located in the delta between the two (which diverges or converges from either end). Ambiguity is also potential. The greater the distance (the difference) the greater the possibility. The limits of a systems potential, the number of possible outcomes it can produce, defines the extent of its meanings.
We have talked about the requisite distance between the model and its original to allow its representation to be resilient, and eventually successful, creating affect while becoming a representation once its ambiguity has reached an equilibrium and the model has achieved its utility. Looking at the mechanics of this distance allows us to formulate a concept to connect the model and the virtual. The property of extension, as used in metaphysics, is defined as ‘taking up space.’ While a semantic trick, to say that the extent of the system possess the property of extension is not a lie. It has the interesting quality of infinite divisibility so that no matter how many divisions it undergoes it is never as small as it could be (the aptly named dichotomy paradox).(Unattached Footnote) The virtual can be seen to possess the property of extension. It can approach the real but never equal it. It can surpass the real, but never meet it.
Reality, however, can never be qualified; it is binary. As soon as reality is qualified, it becomes a model, the result of a reductive, recursive function. While the terms model and virtual can be used interchangeably, I distinguish the model, as the form of a system of representation, from the virtual, which is the qualified reality that exists within it. Within the training facilities, modeled reality, virtuality, the charm of abstraction is used to moderate the violence of reality, preparing for the eventual use of real violence to impact reality.
While I make much of the statements that speak to the urge to make training facilities “realer than real” or “as realistic as possible,” perhaps there’s a reason that no one asserts that they can ever be ‘as real as real.’
What modeling (as an imaging technique) does is elide the punctum, the that was of a reproduction, and replaces it with a this is. The photograph, as classically understood, is a mapping of form to an index. Modeling adds another dimension, transforming the index according to a scale. Simulation, the third movement of form, is the extension of the model across time. To allow a reading of these training villages through the lens of photography, sculpture, and theater - and artistic practice more generally - we need to conduct a similar transformation that will connect the principles of operational art to those of artistic practice. Operational art, as defined by the military is the “cognitive approach…to develop strategies, campaigns, and operations…by integrating ends, ways, and means.” It can be understood as the strategic execution (strategies, campaigns, and operations) of an intention (ends, ways, and means) through the necessary use of models (the cognitive approach).
Interestingly, operational art posits itself as the solution to all wicked problems, a term defined in contrast to tame problems (those that can be solved strictly by tactical, scientific, or engineering solutions). The term wicked problem is borrowed by the military from the disciplines of social policy, planning, and design, but can be present in any system that is composed of differing perspectives. Here, wickedness implies a gradation; and with that gradation, a blur. Simply put, operational art and its wicked problems require conceptual approaches to be successful. They demand a shift in perspective and an abstract methodology that merges both design and execution to reach its goal. Of note here is Philippe Comar's analysis of the decisively inhuman axonometric perspective, its origins rooted in the design of military fortifications. He explains how the these drawings constructed the image of an entire strategy, not just isolated steps, from a god-like and infinite perspective but, in doing so, also problematized the human subject through the creation of this new, formal, space. The eventual solution to the inhuman formalism of the axonometric conception of space was the introduction of the rough and organic baroque (itself an influence on Brook's conception of rough theater). The solution to any wicked problem is the unique result of a combinatory function through which strategy, the statement of the desired end, and tactics, the detailing of the means, are brought together. The only space where this can happen, and where operational art can be tested before it is applied, is in a model.
Within this representational context, it is necessary to look at virtuality through the question of what we want from an image, instead of the older dilemma of 'what the image wants from us.' This is a necessary inversion due to the new systems of image-authorship and creator-economies that have recently emerged. André Bazin provides a foundation for this new line of questioning by showing how the image forces us “to accept as real the existence of the object reproduced, actually re-presented, set before us…in time and space. [It] enjoys a certain advantage in virtue of this transference of reality from the thing to its reproduction”
Looking at operational art as we would an artistic movement (a cohesive and specific series of responses in relation to ongoing trends in material and non-material culture) or a corresponding style (the attempt to reproduce a view of the world within it), we begin to see how representation can be understood as a wicked problem. The wicked in operational art comes from the unpredictable interplay between the systems that make up an operating environment. It “takes two to tangle.” For matters pertinent to our discussion, we will specify the wicked as rooted in invention - the result of constructive processes set into action by the intersection of systems. I take this from Said who, writing on the interplay between geography and memory, makes note of the necessity of invention to the process of recollection. Invention can also be understood, via ambiguity, as the additive result of a model as it converges with reality.
Invention allows for the prideful declaration of 'this is!' and the ability to ask for utility from the model. This type of functional representation, especially in institutional contexts, requires fidelity, which can be interpreted here as a correlation between an object and its representation - and further between a representation and its replication. This is essentially the logic of standardization or codification. Hélène Verin, discussing the relationship between military engineering and Renaissance garden design, states that "precision in measurement is essential in a war which pits artifice against artifice." In a highly constructed world, modeling requires accuracy - the aforementioned fidelity. Bernd Hüppaf escalates this argument by stating the "the war killed the natural landscape and replaced it with highly artificial and, within its own parameters, functional spatial arrangements."
The reconstitution that occurs through this translation is the mapping of an object to a new index and scale, resulting in a modulation of both its relevance and resolution. The CACTF and its predecessors all sprung up from otherwise empty land, but were limited in these factors by concerns over land-use, economic cost, and relative utility. The system that creates the model is limited by its own operational parameters and so, during replication, maps it to its own affordances - the schema by which a system invites interaction and relation - while retaining its meaning or its function. Institutional standardization is an effect of the affordance of a system and the attempt to remove the potential for invention, with its wicked problems, and thus the need for operation art of any sort. If problems arise, it wants them to be tame, simple, to allow for further modeling (replication) without complication. This leads to the question that if we rid ourselves of ambiguity and invention, if we ever established a procedure for moving through labyrinths, to return to my epigram, what would we have lost?
To briefly take this into the political through the screen of Deleuze’s Postscript to a Society of Control; control, present as standardization in the training facilities, is modulation while the enclosures are its forms and structure. The modulation of a form is the action through which a society practices control, thus a modulated form is the representative structure of the society of control. The enclosure referenced by Deleuze, which he asserts is in the process of being broken, is most similar to Foucault’s heterotopia of crisis, the eidetic representation of a disciplinary sovereign society. As the enclosure is fragmented and despatialized, made to exist across the full arc of its transformation (if we believe the paradox of Zeno’s arrow) control becomes present throughout its fragmented parts. As was the mole, now is the snake. What once burrowed down and made its territory by means of demarcating space has been displaced, its space now defined by a coiled and continuous presence. Control and standardization, that which is continuous and coiled, is not de-facto obvious or even evident in what it goes through or around. However, there are parameters that define the arc of the arrow, the length of the snake, the extent of control. As we look at this process of transformation, the reconfiguring of a fragmented enclosure over time (simulation), and see in it potential for becoming – we are forced to see it as combined with its regulatory mechanism.
We continuously lose things, representation is a lossy process. However it is doubtful that we ever lose everything as a result. For a physical model, standardization is never truly possible. The parameters run out; the specifics of the site will always affect the outcome (again the mechanics of replication versus duplication). Hal Hartley in his 1995 film Flirt takes the same script and rotates it through a series of characters, dynamics, and contexts. Midway through the film, a chorus of construction workers discusses this tactic.
- The milieu is bound to change the dynamics of the situation.
- People don't change regardless of the milieu they're in.
- So you think... that personality, character, doesn't have any effect on the situation?
- Please! Don't twist my words around!
- The question remains the same: What's to be done when contingent reality demands a definite response? We can't exist in ambiguity forever!
- I disagree. I think we can. Although it means the deepest loneliness.
But to bring the CACTF, the reconstituted urban space, into the 21st century invites it to be broken apart and intentionally placed across milieus. With that fragmentation comes loss, but with its transpositions comes a production. Like other models, the CACTF is now the result of increased complexity (with its companion contradiction). Unlike its precedents which were the results of singly purposed local initiatives constructed in house, it is owned, in part, by the multiple companies who supply its components. From CMU fabricators, who use the site to advertise the adaptability of their products, to electronic instrumentation providers, who use it as testing grounds for their own technologies, the urban training site, like so many other outsourcing attempts has now become like what it attempts to emulate: owned, produced, and utilized by a multitude of active agents. This has developed to the point that ambiguity is firmly coiled around the physical form of the model. At an urban training facility in Colorado in 1999, the base spokesman declares, “this is strictly for Bosnia, nowhere else.” The model must have an intention, otherwise it becomes dangerous. He continues, “I don’t want anyone to get the impression that this is for Kosovo.” Undercutting this claim, the contractor for the facility declares that this shift from Bosnia to Kosovo would be “as simple as changing signs.” With an almost palpable air of defeat, unable now to deny the mutability of the site, the spokesman concludes the article reluctantly with: “this could be a Bosnian Village…but in the future it could be a village anywhere.”
 Unless specified, my use of the word virtual refers to its definition of “Almost or nearly as described, but not completely or according to strict definition” not that of the digital.
 In doubling, virtuality also implies a lateral relationship
 Umberto Eco, trans. William Weaver, The Name of the Rose (London, Harcourt: 1983), 178.
 See etymology of re- : “word-forming element meaning "back to the original place; again, anew, once more," also with a sense of "undoing," c. 1200, from Old French and directly from Latin re- "again, back, anew, against.”
 Said of these training cities is “they don’t duplicate, they replicate as much as possible.” But what is the difference between duplication and replication? Duplication is a direct copy, a direct translation of origin, process, and result from one situation to another. However, replication is the construction of an independent route that only points towards the same result. Within the process of replication, factors encountered along the new path will invariably impress themselves onto the results. See OED definitions of replicate (“To create or constitute a reproduction of [an object, situation, event, etc.]; to represent or recreate in a similar form or manner but in a different context, circumstance”) and duplicate (“to make the double or exact copy of”).
 Roger J. Spiller, Sharp Corners: Urban Operations at Century’s End (Fort Leavenworth, KS: Combat Studies Institute, 2001), viii.
 Also “less apparent, but always potential, is the function of the model as a paradigm for the city of which it is a copy.”
Annabel J. Wharton, Selling Jerusalem: Relics, Replicas, Theme Parks, (Chicago, University of Chicago Press: 2006), 220.
 Peter Brook, Empty Space (New York: Touchstone, 1968), 79.
 Karen Elizabeth Wonders, Habitat Dioramas: Illusions of Wilderness in Museums of Natural History. (Uppsala, Uppsala University: 1993), 18.
 The model for Turner is the ‘meta-design’ of transformation
 Handelman, Models. xxii.
 Max Black, Models and Metaphors: Studies in Language and Philosophy, (Ithaca, Cornell University Press: 1962), ??
 Handelman, Models, 23-28
 Don DeLillo, End Zone, (New York, Penguin: 1986), 219.
 Ibid., 225
 For more on Deller, see Claire Bishop, Artificial Hells, (New York, Verso Books: 2012)
 A few in this series take the form of performances, relegating the digital landscape to serve as a backdrop and replacing the avatars with physical dancers, making them more conventional - but not necessarily less affective
 Jean Baudrillard “Simulacra and Simulations” in Jean Baudrillard, Selected Writings, ed. Mark Poster (Stanford; Stanford University Press, 1988), 174.
 Oliver Belcher, “Staging the Orient: Counterinsurgency Training Sites and the U.S. Military Imagination,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 104, 5, 2014, 1023.
 A curious military term doctrinally defined as “the cognitive approach by commanders and staffs—supported by their skill, knowledge, experience, creativity, and judgment—to develop strategies, campaigns, and operations to organize and employ military forces by integrating ends, ways, and means” Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Operations JP 3-0. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2011), xii.
 Barry Watts, U.S. Combat Training, Operational Art, and Strategic Competence: Problems and Opportunities (Washington, DC, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments: 2008), 33.
 Interestingly the axonometric functions differently in various disciplines. In architecture it is invoked to represent space while in engineering it represents an assembly.
 Comar quoted in Allen S. Weiss, Unnatural Horizons: Paradox and Contradiction in Landscape Architecture (New York: Princeton Architectural Press), 1998.
 André Bazin, “The Ontology of the Photographic Image," What is Cinema?, trans. and ed. Hugh Gray, vol. 1 (Berkeley: University of California Press: 1967), 9.
 “It is rooted in content; it is the specific form of a specific content.” from George Lukacs, 'The Ideology of Modernism' from The Meaning of Contermporay Realism, ed. john and Necke Mander (London: Merlin Press, 1963), 20.
 For more on the intersection of systems nf theory and Operational Art see references to Shimon Naveh in Celestine Perez ed., Adressing the Fog of COG – Perspectives on the Center of Gravity in US Military Doctrine. (Fort Leavenworth, KS: Combat Studies Institute, 2015), 4.
 Morton Deutsch, The Resolution of Conflict: Constructive and Destructive Processes. (New Haven: Yale University Press), 67.
 Edward W. Said “Invention, Memory, and Place” Critical Inquiry, Vol. 26, No. 2 (Winter, 2000), 182
 Related to the, “I have found it!” of Eureka.
 Vérin, Hélène. “Technology in the Park: Engineers and Gardeners in Seventeenth-Century France."
 Bernd Hüppauf, Experiences of Modern Warfare and the Crisis of Representation New German Critique, No. 59, (Spring - Summer, 1993), 57.
 James Brooke, “Army Builds Balkan Village in Rockies,” The New York Times, April 15, 1999, A13.
Shelter in Place is the newest of a long line of lockdown scenarios, safety precautions that are to be undertaken when the threat of violence has been established. In the Cold War era the response to the threat of bombing was to Duck and Cover – to lie face down, with hands clasped behind the head, underneath a piece of furniture. Duck and Cover was an attempt at protection against objects and their effects; blasts, fire, shockwaves, demolition. The body ducked, protected by tables and desks, looking directly at the floor. This precaution was practiced in schools and workplaces until the nature of the threat shifted to that of an armed individual, or individuals. Now it was the lockdown drill and its specific embodiment of threat, that of a person and a machine – a man and a gun, which took over the public consciousness. The lockdown drill involved the occupants of the room blacking out the windows and lining up against the wall so that they could not be visible from the hall window.
The precautions of Duck and Cover were the directing of one’s eyes away violence. As the threat came from above – eyes faced towards the ground. As the shooter walked the halls, in Shelter, eyes face away towards the exterior. The bomb was a diffuse threat while a shooter is a specific one – both target but in different ways. By avoiding being seen, and by avoiding seeing, one remains secure.
Shelter in Place, often called reverse evacuation, is a slight misnomer, a term meant to be used in the context of the threat of a chemical or biological weapon (though it could be fair to say a human is a chemical and biological weapon) describing the containment of a structures interior atmosphere against a hazardous external one.
The nuclear bomb exploded in Hiroshima, one of a few potential targets that were specifically chosen for being located on flat ground, allowing for the radius of the bomb to 'run out' and show the extent of its reach. In a way, the explosion of the bomb, compressed into a moment in time, resembles our current cities: dense, dynamic, and active centers with sprawling waves radiating to the end of its territory. The thermal radiation - the flash - of the atomic bomb sears the eyes, casts permanent shadows on walls, and cuts through the material of man. It makes man blind, bare, and vulnerable.
It's my belief that true implications of the moment of violence itself have yet to be fully embraced, save for those who commit it, and in fact it is the instinctual avoidance of violence (in ‘civilized life’) and the subsequent turning away that has created our current reality.
In Surrealism we are told how the simplest surrealist act is running down the street firing blindly into the crowd. It's hard now to distinguish an act like this from what we consider terrorism, but the main difference is in intention. Surrealism, in all of its form, aestheticizes, avoids, and is blind to violence. Surrealism presents us with a world after violence has occurred. The alluring disjunction of surrealism is merely detritus after a war, statues floating down rivers and amputated bodies.
Breton walked down streets as fast as he could, blurring the specificity of his surroundings through his velocity while Desnos closes his eyes in cafes and, with the loss of his vision – begins to speak.
Futurism (important to note that Marinetti's first exposure to war was in a cyclist unit later declared irrelevant to operations) is so wrapped up in the idea of the apparatus and the machine that it too ignores the moment of violence. It is just as invested as surrealism in the post-war detritus, but embraces its jagged edges rather than attempting to round them off.
As Juliet MacCannell makes note of, the image of men in cities, strong and square shouldered - mimicking their environment disappears during World War II. It is replaced by anxious and hunched figures. She notes that the only image she can find of a pre-war man in post war times is that of a blind man walking down the street being led by his dog with a caption that reads “From Experience Comes Faith.” Man becomes blinded before he sees the violence itself. He will see representations of its trauma afterwards, but trauma is no more than a response to violence The first sign of the Atomic Bomb is the instant burst of light, which is then followed by fireball, blast and winds, and finally by its fallout (its legacy). To note, the scope of my interest does not lie with the idea of being deprived of sight, but with that of not seeing.
John Mowitt writes in Cultural Critique 46 how violence (in his words trauma, but his explanations point more towards a moment of violence) can be seen as a concept, and as an experience, through which one can gain more access to the real and through which the real is manifested by means of a failure of symbolization. So if violence is an act that penetrates symbolism, and breaks it – perverting the meaning of a system by introducing new and anomalous elements and signifiers (viewable as the root of PTSD), then what does avoiding violence mean for how we experience the world – seeing only the confused response of symbols?
It is all too common that the mention of architecture in times of war is only as a target, as something that is destroyed. Whether the Israeli bulldozing of Palestinian houses as retribution for bombing strikes, al-Qaeda’s attack on the World Trade Center, the Taliban’s toppling of Buddhist monuments, the Nazi destruction of Jewish synagogues, the Turkish eradication of Armenian churches, or countless others: the symbolic structures of a specific culture are targeted as a stand-in, a substitution, or a simulation of the destruction of the culture-at-large. It’s true that genocide alone is not enough to eliminate a group of people from history. To truly do so, there must be a correlating urbicide. This ties the identity of architecture to a manifestation comprised of the cultural history and physical presence of a specific social or political group.
In contemporary war, “if you want to get rid of someone, you go after his infrastructure.” Infrastructure has taken over the role of the head in the age-old dictum: remove the head and the body will follow. In this relationship, architecture stands for the public substance of the body at large. It is the terminus of its nerves and synapses, and the compendium of its history and influences. An attack on emblematic architecture is a symbolic strike at its producing culture, as recent events have shown. Architecture marks space through its creation of a boundary based on the function and aesthetic of the structure. Architecture is divisive precisely because of how it marks space – is merely symptomatic of the larger flows of finance, society, and culture.
The above represents the notion of architecture as target. The idea of weaponized architecture is essentially a rephrasing of the same, only deriving its framework from construction rather than destruction. The two work hand in hand as the formalized creation of a weapon – an instrument of control – allows for it to be dismantled. Only once there is an established process can it be interrupted.
Weaponized architecture posits the idea of the built environment as a mechanism of control. It does not cause violence directly, but physically embodies the infrastructure of the security state, demarcates between inside and outside, public and private, and makes real the form of territories. Weaponized architecture is found in the design of checkpoints, border crossings, gated communities, airports, highways, overpasses, and data centers. It is present whenever there is a crossing or a boundary -- a collision of space.
The weapon points to the target and the target to the weapon. In most situations, the target itself is a weapon. That weaponized architecture is the architectural target of violence is not such a reach to propose, and fulfills its own objectives. By making real the forces that act on a site, architecture creates a localized center to be attacked and dismantled. It’s interesting to note that when talking of the effects of war. Cities are reduced (to rubble) and landscapes are torn or ravaged.
Is an urbicide truly possible? Genocide in its ultimate form removes all trace of a human presence, but the reduction of cities to its components still leaves the indelible presence of a city: its permanent foundation, its ruin.
Now we enter another argument, that of historicity, indelibility, and forensics. Can the above logic be applied to new cities or suburban tracts? Can temporary, reductive, structures be reduced or is their destruction a complete one?
The workings of suburbs is that they are erected en masse in un(der) utilized areas, in spaces that have usually held no previous infrastructural function. They are also new and lack the temporal depth (history) that we associate with ruins. This newness is exemplified in their material, their lack of authenticity (and if there is any, odds are it has been manufactured). It is easy to imagine a suburb disappearing with as much fanfare present in its creation, just sliding off the map. Can engineered cities exist with the same roots as organic ones? Furthermore, can these sites be targeted, or would they ever be? Are suburban sites weaponized, or simply a reaction to the threat that weapons pose?
Our wars are now generalized, but our battles are now named for sites and structures. The cultural significances that become imbued in spaces are targets for attack in attempts to change their meanings. In terms of architecture, violence acts out the transformative implications of type. It allows for the alteration of meaning an embodiment within the time it takes to fire a bullet.