Creative Works + Literature Review

My review of literature entails reading politics and performativity in past, present, and speculative architectural spaces. The dilemma, and politics, of (in-)visibility is central to this project as it relates to access and exclusion from representation and participation through what political philosopher Jacques Rancière’s calls the ‘distribution of the sensible.’ “It is a delimitation of spaces and times, of the visible and the invisible, of speech and noise, that simultaneously determines the place and the stakes of politics as a form of experience.” Rancière continues, stating that “(p)olitics revolves around what is seen and what can be said about it, around who has the ability to see and the talent to speak, around the properties of spaces and the possibilities of time” (2004, 13). Also informing my understanding of socially and politically constructed mechanisms of the un-seen, is feminist film-maker and Vietnamese refugee Trinh T. Minh-ha’s politics of speak nearby and idea of inappropriate/d others (Chen 1992, Haraway 2004). Her ‘documentary’ films offer alternatives models to speaking for others, and explore, from her feminist and subaltern position, the frictions around the ‘other’ within, here and elsewhere, and (populations that are) refused and (seeking) refuge (Minh-Ha 2011).

This literature review also includes philosophical, socio- and spatio-political texts concerning labour as discussed by Sassen (2014), Standing (2011), and in relation to the built environment as suggested above; spatially manifest power particularly through architectures of incarceration and border-control (Foucault 1995, Mezzadra and Neilson 2013); historical and contemporary constructions of othering as explored by Moten and Harney (2013), Edward Said (1978), Homi Bahbha and others; and playful tactics and subversive practices used to critique and propose alternate power-space relations (Certeau and Rendall 1984).

Our focus as designers places near exclusive attention on the outcome of making. The other parts of the lifecycle of buildings have been off our radar screen. Both the aspects of what we design and those engaged in those activities are off our screen, or as Hilary Sample states, regarding maintenance, they are, those activities are ‘obscene.’ A performative approach foregrounds the in-between, messy, processes of things be-coming into the world, as well their un-becoming, as explored by Elizabeth Grosz.  For this project, it is important to distinguish work—as an activity that produces an oeuvre—from labour—as a repetitive activity creating and sustaining life—and for this I draw from Karl Marx (2001) and Hannah Arendt (1998). Furthermore, I use Elizabeth Grosz’s ideas of the virtual and of unbecoming (2001, 2011) and George Bataille’s idea of the informe (Bois and Krauss 1997) to trouble Arendt’s definition and give value to the potentiality latent in in-between states, between produced things as works (oeuvres) and labouring processes, as well as latent in unmaking and remaking. According to Elaine Scarry, making and unmaking, are also rooted in bodily pain and either its suppression or expression through language and artefacts (1985, 9). While architects Peggy Deamer, Hillary Sample and David Leatherbarrow write about architectural work, maintenance and weathering, respectively, my intention is to expand the view to consider the activity of spatial labourers not only in the making process, but including the full lifecycle of spaces.

To consider building as a cycle, that is open to ongoing re-creative potential, I draw from Umberto Eco’s open work (1989) as well as theories of emergence and co-composition discussed by Erin Manning and Brian Massumi (2014). Performance studies scholars, including Andre Lepecki and Jon McKenzie, offer an important counterpoint to the positive potential of endless ‘remaking’, which they present as anxiety-ridden “permanent performances” under neoliberalism’s imperative to perform of else (2001). The entanglement of performance and publics is fraught with complexity, and Claire Bishop’s reflections on this (2012), as well as Shannon Jackson’s idea of social works (2011), and Nicolaus Bourriaud’s relational aesthetics (2002), will inform and shape of relations that I build into the creative works. Jane Bennett’s idea of vibrant matter and thing-power contextualize these energetic and material cycles—human and non-human assemblages—from the perspective of political economy and ecology (2010).

Other terms that I will further theorize through practice, as well as literature review, include erasure and redaction, camouflaging and obfuscating, displacing and containing.

(24 April, 2017)

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