The field of architecture has searched for meaning since the collapse of modernism almost fifty years ago. The optimism and certainty of ‘form follows function’ in an architecture devoted to the betterment of mankind fractured in a widening chasm of ‘post’ theories and landed us in the safety of a present that uses software to generate form with algorithms and processing power.
Are there other ways to approach architecture? Is there something outside of the formal concerns of shape and space?
Arakawa, a Japanese artist and Madeline Gins, an American artist and poet met in 1963 and began collaborating on the research project ‘The Mechanism of Meaning’. In 1987, they founded Architectural Body Research Foundation as their conceptual art coalesced around the dependence of meaning on bodily interaction with the environment.
The pair's work, based loosely on a movement known as "transhumanism," is premised on the idea that people degenerate and die in part because they live in spaces that are too comfortable. The artists' solution: construct abodes that leave people disoriented, challenged and feeling anything but comfortable.
They build buildings with no doors inside. They place rooms far apart. They put windows near the ceiling or near the floor. Between rooms are sloping, bumpy moonscape-like floors designed to throw occupants off balance. These features, they argue, stimulate the body and mind, thus prolonging life. "You become like a baby," says Mr. Arakawa.
"Their research is a milestone in the history of conceptual art," says Alexandra Munroe, senior curator at the main Guggenheim Museum. She says many of their supporters don't literally accept the couple's message on immortality but appreciate it in a "metaphorical" way.
To the artists, eternal life is a real possibility. "This is a great chance for the human race," says Ms. Gins.
via: The Wall Street Journal Online Couple's Dreams of Immortality at Death's Door, Thanks to Madoff
In a society that values human life, Arakawa and Gins reason that dying could be looked at as immoral. I suspect that immortality is the tantalising carrot to entice us through a complex path of research. Their views arise from the essential human kinesthetic process of acquiring knowledge. We spend the first two years of our lives crawling, touching, tasting and falling as we learn to navigate the space of the world. Our experience of space is the foundation for concepts, conceptual organisation and creation of meaning. Concepts can be seen as not isolated in thought but dependent on physical experience. The human body and its interaction with architecture is what they term ‘Architectural Body’.
“Having observed near and far how the body moves through its surroundings, having thought lengthily of still other ways to surround it, and having built a few tactically posed surroundings, we now notice ourselves to have been tracing an architectural body, or at least a landscape for one”
(from the preface of Architectural Body)
These ideas are tested in practice in their ‘Reversible Destiny’ projects which include a home, apartments and parks.
This is the text from the ‘Directions for Use (to be Continued)’ page from the Yoro Park Site of Reversible Destiny website:
The Critical Resemblance House
The Critical Resemblance House · Enter the house several times, each time through a different entranceway.
· If thrown off-balance when entering the house, call out your name or, if you prefer, someone else's.
· Strive to find a marked resemblance between yourself and the house. If by chance you fail to do so, proceed even so as though the house were your identical twin.
· Move through the house as though you were presently living in it or as though you were its next resident.
· Should an unexpected event occur, freeze in place for as long as you see fit. Then adopt a more suitable (for being more thought out) position for an additional twenty seconds or so.
The Elliptical Field
The Elliptical Field· Instead of being fearful of losing your balance, look forward to it (as a desirable re-ordering of the landing sites, formerly known as the senses).
· When moving through the Elliptical Field, remember as many views of the Critical Resemblance House as possible, and vice versa.
· Try to draw the sky down into the bowl of the field.
· Use each of the five Japans to locate or to compose where you are.
· Always question where you are in relation to visible and invisible chains of islands known as Japan.
· Vary the rate at which you proceed.
· Associate each of the extreme forms your body is forced to assume in traversing the Field with both a nearby and a distant form.
· If accidentally thrown completely off-balance, try to note the number, and also the type and the placement, of the landing sites essential to reconstituting a world.
· Frequently swing around to look behind you.
· Minimize the number of focal areas (perceptual landing sites) at any given moment.
· If an area or a landing site catches your eye and attracts your interest to the same degree as the area through which you are actually moving, take it up on the spot, pursuing it as best you can as a parallel zone of activity.
· Make use of the Exactitude Ridge to register each measured sequence of events that makes up the distance.
· Within the Zone of the Clearest Confusion, always try to be more body and less person.
· To make a decision or to become more subtle or more daring (or both) in regard to a previous decision, use the Mono no Aware Transformer.
· Inside the Geographical Ghost, renege on all geographically related pledges of allegiance.
· Wander through the ruin known as the Destiny House or the Landing Site Depot as though you were an extra-terrestrial.
· Move in slow measured steps through the Cleaving Hall and, with each arm at a distinctly different height, hold both arms out in front of you as sleepwalkers purportedly do.
· Close your eyes when moving through and around the Trajectory Membrane Gate.
· In and about the Kinesthetic Pass, repeat every action two or three times, once in slow motion.
· Walk backwards in and near the Imaging Navel.
via: Yoro Park Site of Reversible Destiny
Arakawa+Gins website: Reversible Destiny