Sunday, August 1, 2010

Silence and Wonder

Phenomenology begins in silence.

Herbert Spiegelberg (1982). The Phenomenological Moment

The best formulation of the reduction is probably that given by Eugen Fink, Husserl's assistant, when he spoke of 'wonder' in the face of the world. Reflection does not withdraw from the world towards the unity of consciousness as the world's basis; it steps back to watch the forms of trancendence fly up like sparks from a fire; it slackens the intentional threads which attach us to the world and thus brings them to our notice; it alone is consciousness of the world because it reveals that world as strange and paradoxical.
Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1962). Phenomenology of Perception

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sans Image

... The sweeping devaluation and incapacitation of a human ability to generate one's own images (or imagination) is inseperable from the ascendancy of already manufactured external images, which increasingly become the impersonal raw material of psychic life and determine the formal conditions of all so-called mental images. The hegemony of the global image industries entails the cancellation of the visionary image....

Tony Bennett, Lawrence Grossberg, Meaghan Morris, Raymond Williams (2005) New keywords: a revised vocabulary of culture and society

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Ineffable

Jannis Kounellis, Senza Titolo, 1969

Thursday, June 3, 2010

New Eyes

"The real voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."

Marcel Proust

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Monday, May 3, 2010

Space and Time

The sense of space, and in the end, the sense of time, were both powerfully affected. Buildings, landscapes, &c. were exhibited in proportions so vast as the bodily eye is not fitted to conceive. Space swelled, and was amplified to an extent of unutterable infinity. This, however, did not disturb me so much as the vast expansion of time; I sometimes seemed to have lived for 70 or 100 years in one night; nay, sometimes had feelings representative of a millennium passed in that time, or, however, of a duration far beyond the limits of any human experience ...

Pinhole photograph, JB

The minutest incidents of childhood, or forgotten scenes of later years, were often revived. Of this, at least, I feel assured, that there is no such thing as forgetting possible to the mind. A thousand accidents may and will interpose a veil between our present consciousness and the secret inscriptions of the mind; accidents of the same sort will also rend away this veil; but alike, whether veiled or unveiled, the inscription remains for ever; just as the stars seem to withdraw before the common light of day, whereas, in fact, we all know that it is the light which is drawn over them as a veil, and that they are but waiting to be revealed when the obscuring daylight shall have withdrawn.

Pinhole photographs - superimposed, JB

In the early stage of my malady the splendours of my dreams were indeed chiefly architectural; and I beheld such pomp of cities and palaces as was never yet beheld by the waking eye, unless in the clouds. To architecture succeeded dreams of lakes and silvery expanses of water. The waters then changed their character--from translucent lakes shining like mirrors they now became seas and oceans.

Marlborough Sounds, JB

Text: Thomas de Quincey (1821) Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mourning News

Adam Farlie, Mourning Light

Everyday objects possess the most potent affective power. In their ability to withdraw their familiarity, to defamilarise themselves, ordinary objects constantly hold us to ransom. Through toying with our vested affections, they embody tremendous emotional capital. Adam Farlie's Mourning Light is lightshade as turncoat.
No longer the shedder of light, the familiar assistant with tasks, it instead casts blackness. Only the shade itself is illuminated, outwards. The interior of the lightshade is deathly black - not a flat disc, but a depth of darkness. One can place one's hand - or even one's head - into the void, and become increasingly in the dark. Our yearning for the return of the light's familiar helpfulness is met with nothing but an eternal void, a contrariness, a denial. We are left bereft.

Adam Farlie, Mourning Light

Friday, March 19, 2010

The X-ray

Thoughts of an Architect - John Hejduk, 1986

1. That architectural tracings are apparitions, outlines, figments.
They are not diagrams but ghosts.

2. Tracings are similar to X-rays, they penetrate internally.

3. Erasures imply former existences.

4. Drawings and tracings are like the hands of the blind
touching the surfaces of the face in
order to understand
a sense of volume, depth and penetration.

5. The lead of an architect's pencil disappears (drawn away)

To take a site: present tracings, outlines, figments, apparitions,
X-rays of thoughts. Meditations on the sense of erasures.
To fabricate a construction of time.

To draw out by compacting in. To flood (liquid densification)
the place-site with missing letters and disappeared signatures.
To gelatinize forgetfulness.

[from Victims. A Work by John Hejduk. Architectural Association. London 1986.]

Guido Reni (17th century), St Sebastian, X-ray carried out as part of conservation by the Auckland City Art Gallery, NZ

Painters see gardens as an issue of values, of colour, light and perspective. This is their right. But there is another way to make gardens which, for the sake of clarity I would call the gardener’s way. This is difficult to explain in words, because it is something very closely linked to the earth, to water, to the sap of plants, to the air, to sunlight, to blowflies and worms … something non-verbal and unreasonable. … It cannot be defined by arguments, or by a ruler and compass. Seen in ground-plan and section form, one of these gardens is very little. I should like to avoid the obligation of drawing it or tracing it out, even with a reed, scratching the earth among manure and flies. Drawn on paper, the garden is an X-ray: the lips, the smile, the clear gaze, the skin, its tepidity, all of this is missing.

Rubió i Tudurí quoted in Eduard Bru (1997). Three on the Site / Tres en el Lugar. Barcelona: Actar, 26-27. (Rubió i Tudurí’s words are from the 1931 report on the Duchess of Gramont’s garden in Vignoleno, Italy, planned in 1931, and originally published in Arquitectura i Urbanisme, Barcelona).

Guido Reni (17th century), St Sebastian, Oil on canvas

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Dark Times

In the dark times, will there also be singing?
Yes, there will be singing.
About the dark times.
Bertolt Brecht, Motto

Tomasz Bednarczyk, I see you

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Memory Mirrors

Andy Lock, 2003-04, Orchard Park series (Bed)

Like a death mask, Andy Lock's images of Orchard Park persist as impressions of something now gone. Before the building was demolished Lock photographed the abandoned apartments, the images gaining a metaphysical haunting with his alchemical photo processing. Taking the images as slides, Lock projected them onto a wall painted with glow-in-the-dark paint, and then photographed the after-glow, the after-image that appeared on the wall.

Andy Lock, 2003-04, Orchard Park series (Monopoly)

Like an apparition summoned to a séance the photographs appear unearthly. The green of the glow in the dark paint is at once nostalgic and toxic. The phosphorescence is is reminiscent of a Christmas decoration I have which is generations old, and glows in the dark. This magical quality always seemed very sinister, as, so family mythology had it, the glowing surface was radioactive.

Andy Lock, 2003-04, Orchard Park series (Vinyl Armchairs)

If photography is, as Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in the 1850s, "the mirror with a memory", then perhaps it is a mere skip from the specular to the spectral, of haunted reflections, the after-images of the after-life ....

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Island Dreaming

Video by Melinda Hunt

In the Western tradition, islands have always been associated with becoming rather than being, thresholds to other worlds, way stations rather than home places.
John Gillis

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Museum of Innocence

The future Museum of Innocence, Çukurcuma, Istanbul

"The museum is not an illustration of the novel and the novel is not an explanation of the museum. They are two representations of one single story perhaps." To build a real museum of a fictional event is to enter the möbius strip of reality, surreality, superfiction. Orhan Pamuk's The Museum of Innocence, 2009, is both a novel and an actual project, a museum to be established in Çukurcuma, an area in Istanbul. Exhibited in the museum will be items related to the novel, and within the pages of the book is a map and a ticket to the museum.

Like another museal superfiction, The Museum of Contemporary Ideas, the imbricated loops and links, shuttling between a real city and an imagined story, set up a parallel existence, one which is never wholly realisable. Peter Hill's Museum of Contemporary Ideas, 1989, was the birthplace of 'superfiction,' the use of visual and textual language of official institutions to frame invented, fictional institutions, events, or people. Hill’s Art Fair Murders was both a novel and an installation that interwove fact and fiction.

Or even the recent tale of real-life French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy who unwittingly cited a fictitious philosopher in his latest book, De la Guerre en Philosophie. In the book Lévy quotes Jean-Baptiste Botul, a faux philosopher invented by Frederic Pages. Although perceived as a major error on Lévy's part - even a quick search on the internet will reveal the nature of Botul's existence, and his particular strand of philosophy known as Botulism - perhaps, just maybe, it is an intricate work of superfiction... Like Pamuk's creation of a real museum for a fictional story, of Hill's elaborate interweaving of life and art, citing an imaginary theorist might elevate mere philosophy to a work of art...

(Image above from Açalya Allmer (2009) Orhan Pamuk's 'Museum of Innocence': on architecture, narrative and the art of collecting . Arq : Architectural Research Quarterly, 13(2))

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Diagrams ... out now

Since the 1980s, the diagram has become a preferred method for researching, communicating, theorising and making architectural designs, ideas and projects. Thus the rise of the diagram, as opposed to the model or the drawing, is the one of the most significant new developments in the process of design in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Diagrams of Architecture is the first anthology to represent – through texts and diagrams – the histories, theories and futures of architecture through the diagram.
Spanning the Pre–historic to the Parametric, Diagrams of Architecture illustrates over 250 diagrams and brings together 26 previously published and newly commissioned essays from leading international academics, architects, theorists and professional experts. These combine to define the past and future of the diagram′s discourse. Prefaced with a critical introduction by Mark Garcia, each text investigates a central concept or dimension of the diagram ranging from socio–cultural studies, science, philosophy, technology, CAD/CAM, computing and cyberspace and virtual/digital design to methodology, environment/sustainability and phenomenological, poetic and art architecture; as well as interior, urban, engineering, interactive and landscape design.
The first critical, multidisciplinary book on the history, theory and futures of the architectural diagram. Includes seminal articles on the diagram from the history and theory of architecture such as those by Peter Eisenman, Sanford Kwinter, MVRDV, Neil Spiller, Lars Spuybroek, UN Studio and Anthony Vidler. Features 16 newly commissioned articles by leading architects and theorists, including Will Alsop, Charles Jencks, Hanif Kara, Patrik Schumacher, Bernard Tschumi, Leon van Schaik and Alejandro Zaera–Polo.Includes a full–colour critical collection of over 250 of the most significant and original diagrams, many of which are previously unpublished, in the history of architecture from around the world.
[Includes: Jacky Bowring and Simon Swaffield, Diagrams of Landscape Architecture]
John Wiley & Sons 2010 ISBN-10: 0470519444

Beyond the Scene

beyond the scene
Landscape and Identity in Aotearoa New Zealand

Co-editors Janet Stephenson, Mick Abbott, Jacinta Ruru

Well-known writers, from a range of disciplines, explore the many meanings of landscape...

If a nation could be said to have a dominant passion, New Zealand’s would be its landscapes. Images of spectacular natural features pervade the media – between the pages of glossy coffee-table books, in tourism promotions and on screen as the setting for blockbuster movies - but are these scenes that define its people?

For Beyond the Scene the editors asked eleven writers to choose a landscape that was important to them and to write about it from the perspective of their life experience and knowledge. From farmer to art historian and film critic, geographer and planner to lawyer, from landscape architect to poet and environmentalist – these are diverse voices. Each discusses a very different landscape: from suburban Auckland and rural Waikato to a planned town in Canterbury and much-filmed Otago. Together they investigate the relationship landscape has to identity, community and psyche.

Foreword Diane Menzies
1 Entering Landscape Janet Stephenson, Jacinta Ruru and Mick Abbott
2 Land, Sea and Sky in Taranaki Maori Songs of Lament Ailsa Smith
3 Of Rocks and Recollections: Our home in the South Waikato Gordon Stephenson
4 Waitaha – A Canterbury poem sequence David Eggleton
5 Eternal Sunshine: The search for spotless landscapes Jacky Bowring
6 Otara and Dannemora: Contrasting landscape and ethnic identities in two South Auckland suburbs Wardlow Friesen and Robin Kearns
7 Films, National Identity and the Otago Landscape Davinia Thornley
8 Outside the Frame: Depicting Auckland's urban landscape Linda Tyler
9 A Cloaked Landscape: Legal devices in Mount Aspiring National Park Jacinta Ruru
10 Patina: People and place in Akaroa Janet Stephenson
11 Travelleing Landscapes: Ngai Tahu rock and and Ngai Tahu identity Lyn Carter
12 A Future with Our Past: Toward a creative practice of heritage in the Coastal Otago
Mick Abbott
13 Landscape’s Generosity Janet Stephenson, Jacinta Ruru and Mick Abbott

beyond the scene
Landscape and Identity in Aotearoa New Zealand
Co-editors Janet Stephenson, Mick Abbott, Jacinta Ruru
Environmental studies, Planning, Geography, Cultural Studies
240 x 170mm, 224 pp, ISBN 978 1 877372 81 0, $45.00
Otago University Press


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Killing Time

Lincoln, 2008, JB
Memories are killing. So you must not think of certain things, of those that are dear to you, or rather you must think of them, for if you don’t there is the danger of finding them, in your mind, little by little.
Samuel Beckett

London, 2006, JB

... we hold within us a treasure of impressions, clustered in small knots, each with a flavour of its own, formed from our own experiences, that become certain moments of our past...
Marcel Proust
One of those periods of harvesting - not sowing, but reaping, as the sun is high in the sky and the mind's eye turns inward. The mind has many chambers, akin to a cow's stomach. Thoughts, images, memories, move between these vast spaces, and after each passage are slowly transformed. Mnemonic enzymes are added. Sharp edges are slowly broken down. Precision becomes frisson, a mere glancing encounter, a sensation, the slight breath of wind. Was it so?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Pathology of Melancholy

Thomas Feiner and Anywhen, Dinah and the Beautiful Blue

Depression and death are black holes for melancholy. Their gravitational force is such that they claim melancholy almost wholly, leaving only small particles available for the remainder of the pathology of the self. For the un-nameable malaise of a Friday afternoon in summer, contemplating the passage of another of one's years, another circling, an ascent, a descent, the perfect annual spiral. And there are particles available for the particular state of mind brought on by the return from voyages, where the space of domestic life seems so poignant, a distant friend. And, too, for that which is most elegant in Latin, Post coitum omne animal triste ... if not la petite mort, then la petite post mortum.

The Little Death and the Beautiful Blue claim particles of melancholy, along with the sound one hears across the valley, a cliché perhaps that it is a church bell, and even one shrouded in the mist of a summer's morn, yet it causes a pathological affect in the small channel that connects the inner ear into the brain's most contemplative chambers, flooding them momentarily in the fugitive fluids which are the carriers for the fleeting pain of poignancy. The Physician's Guide to the Pathology of Melancholy is a slim, yet dense volume, largely considered an addendum to the weighty tomes on Death and Depression. It is seen by some as a hymnal, a litany of lyrical effects. And by others a wish list, an itinerary, a gazetteer, a route through a certain map of the human heart and mind.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Gerard Manley Hopkins, Waves. Study from the Cliff Above, Freshwater Gate, July 23,1863

The apparition of a line upon a page. Careful tracing. The discipline of drawing. These past few weeks of silence afford time to draw, the nudging of form, limning of space, dropping into details. Through the measured, studied investigations the mind grows its own convolutes, the spatial sense expands, the awareness of phenomena is heightened.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, Clouds, July 29 or 30 and July 31, 1863.

The prospect of a page and a pencil is laden with anticipation. Revelations. Imaginings. Inventions. Against the slick rendering of computer generated imagery is the humility of drawing, the humanism of representation. Almost as though unmediated, like automatic writing, the eye feeds the hand.

Peter Greenaway, still from The Draughtsman's Contract

(Mr Neville making the drawing - the actual drawing by Greenaway himself)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Contemplation of the Sublime

Confrontation, contemplation, the yielding of one's self to what is beheld. An alarming, piercing reality. A sense of suspension. The vertiginous falling into the world. The trance-like experience of immersion, submersion. Solitude, tranquility, isolation. Many of the actors in Werner Herzog's Heart of Glass performed under hypnosis, amplifying the oneiric atmosphere. The hallucinatory lucidity that lies slightly askance of the quotidian. How many degrees must one move to enter this realm, the everyday surreal sublime? What must shift for things to enter the pleasing unease? To allow one's self to suddenly fall, tumbling through the pane into the otherworldly realm that lies nearby, or within.

"Strange! So infinitesimally narrow is the threshold between the two realms, and yet no one raises their foot to cross it! The other reality borders on our skin, yet we do not feel it! Our imagination stops here, where it could create new land."

Gustav Meyrink, The White Dominican, 1921

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A New Year State of Mind

Straying through a world of pages, words, lost, loving being lost. Journeys of the mind this year. Faraway ... so close. A journey through the most utilitarian of places becomes a mystical ascension. The car park building is arranged around a perfect spiral, on the pretext of searching for a park one loops, ascends, up the line of grace, a helix built around the wonder of centrifugal force, the phenomenological ecstasy of driving, up, up, 8 floors, 9 floors, 10 floors, on ... 15 floors, then ... sky ... vast celestial dome of blue, and an expanse of open desert-like space. Vacant and tranquil. Transported within the city, to another world within. Scratch the surface and the city is surreal.