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The Parliament of Things: Into Latour and His Philosophy
"Researching the conversations between Things, Animals, Plants and People and design the House of The Parliament of Things."



"The Parliament of Things is a speculative research into the emancipation of animals and things. It acknowledges that mankind has reached the end of an anthropocentric world. We can no longer maintain the distorted dichotomy between culture and nature. We share this world with many. Law should not be centred around Men, but around Life. We are just one party, among all animals, plants and objects. What if we welcome all things into our Parliament? What would be the plight of the planet? The reasoning of a fish? What claims would trees make, and what future would oil see for itself?

Do you you want to join? Send us an e-mail: info@theparliamentofthings.org

We at Partizan Publik have invented the Parliament and are playing the role of clerk by bringing it to you. The writer’s contest was a collaborative project that was organized by several partners. In the winter and spring of 2016 we invite several organizations to build the Parliament with us."



"We Have Never Been Modern and the Parliament of Things

Introduction

In We Have Never Been Modern (1991) Bruno Latour criticizes the distinction between nature and society. He states that our sciences emphasize the subject-object and nature-culture dichotomies, whereas in actuality, phenomenons often cross these lines. As an example, he mentions the hole in the ozone layer, and the different ways the sciences should look at it: ‘Can anyone imagine a study that would treat the ozone hole as simultaneously naturalized, sociologized and deconstucted?’ (6). With this mentioning of the hole in the ozone layer (as well as, among other things, computer chips, Monsanto, and aids) he gives an example of things or phenomena that are not merely objects, but that are hybrids between nature and culture.

With regards to the title of this work, Latour argues that this dualism between subject and object is a ‘modern’ mode of classification, and that this modern mode does not actually correspond with the practical ways in which we live. Thus, this modern dualism actually has never existed: we have never been modern.

The Constitution

‘Modernity is often defined in terms of humanism, either as a way of saluting the birth of ‘man’ or as a way of announcing his death. But this habit itself is modern, because (…) [i]t overlooks the simultaneous birth of ‘nonhumanity’ – things, or objects, or beasts (…)’ (13)

In this chapter, the question at hand is about the constitution. ‘Who is to write the full constitution?’, Latour asks (14). For political constitutions, this is normally done by jurists and Founding Fathers; for the nature of things, this is the task of scientists. But, if we want to include hybrids as well, who is going to write the complete constitution?

Latour calls this complete constitution the ‘Constitution’ with a capital C, to distinguish it from the political one. It defines ‘humans and nonhumans, their properties and their relations, their abilities and their groupings’ (14).

Hobbes & Boyle

When discussing the separation between science and politics, Latour uses the dispute between Robert Boyle and Thomas Hobbes as an example. Boyle can be seen as the founder of modern science – he developed the methodology in which scientists observe a phenomenon produced artificially in a laboratory (in Boyle’s case, the workings of a vacuum pump, in our case, for example, CERN).

Hobbes, on the other hand, rejected this manner of analysis, and focused on theorizing social and political order in terms of human conflicts and agreements. ‘Boyle and Hobbes, then, jointly constructed the program for purifying the discourses of nature and society – expunging from each the traces of the other’ (Pickering). This distinction between science and politics is not just typical for ‘modernity’, but actually defines it, as Latour argues: ‘they are inventing our modern world, a world in which the representation of things through the intermediary of the laboratory is forever dissociated from the representation of citizens through the intermediary of the social contract’ (Latour 27).

Hybrids

Latour established that the modern constitution ‘invents a separation between scientific power charged with representing things and the political power charged with representing subjects’ (29). However, he states we should not think that subjects are far removed from things. Even though Hobbes and Boyle create this distinction, they still speak about the same things: God, the politics of the King of England, nature, mathematics, and spirits and angels, to name a few. It becomes clear that in practice, this separation between science and politics, and nature and culture, does not hold. As Latour states:

Here lies the entire modern paradox. If we consider hybrids, we are dealing only with mixtures of nature and culture; if we consider the work of purification, we confront a total separation between nature and culture.’ (30)

The paradox of modernity, thus, is that we divided the world into two groups –

nature (science) and culture (politics) – but at the same time, in our daily lives, we constantly deal with hybrids between these two groups. But this division renders ‘the work of mediation that assembles hybrids invisible, unthinkable, unrepresentable’ (35). As Latour succinctly puts it: ‘the modern constitution allows the expanded proliferation of the hybrids whose existence, whose very possibility, it denies’ (35).

We Have Never Been Modern

‘Modernity has never begun’, Latour argues. Instead, he calls himself a ‘nonmodern’: ‘A nonmodern is anyone who takes simultaneously into account the moderns’ Constitution and the population of hybrids that that Constitution rejects and allows to proliferate’ (47). He states that hybrids – also called monsters, cyborgs, tricksters – are ‘just about everything; they compose not only our own collectives but also the others, illegitimately called premodern’ (47). So only minor changes separate our era from the periods that were before, Latour states.

Revolution

In this part, Latour discusses the action that has to be undertaken to acknowledge the existence and the importance of hybrids:

When the only thing at stake was the emergence of a few vacuum pumps, they could still be subsumed under two classes, that of natural laws and that of political representations; but when we find ourselves invaded by frozen embryos, expert systems, digital machines, sensor-equipped robots, hybrid corn, data banks, psychotropic drugs, whales outfitted with radar sounding devices, gene synthesizers, audience analyzers, and so on, when our daily newspapers display all these monsters on page after page, and when none of these chimera can be properly on the object side or on the subject side, or even in between, something has to be done. (50)

Latour calls for the need to outline a space that encompasses both the practice of purification as well as that of mediation. ‘By deploying both dimensions at once, we may be able to accomodate the hybrids and give them a place, a name, a home, a philosophy, an ontology and, I hope, a new constitution’ (51).

Quasi-Objects

Latour tries to locate the position of hybrids, quasi-objects and quasi-subjects by first problematizing the status of the social scientist. He argues that the social scientist, on the one hand, shows that ‘the power of gods, the objectivity of money, the attraction of fashion (…)’ have no intrinsic value, but ‘offer only a surface for the projection of our social needs and interests’ (52). To become a social scientist, Latour states, ‘is to realize that the inner properties of objects do not count, that they are mere receptacles for human categories’ (52).

On the other hand, social scientists also debunk the belief in the freedom of the human subject: they show how the ‘nature of things (…) determines, informs and moulds’ humans (53). So, Latour states that the social scientist ‘see[s] double’:

In the first denunciation, objects count for nothing; they are just there to be used as the white screens on to which society projects its cinema. But in the second, they are so powerful that they shape the human society, while the social construction of the sciences that have produced them remains invisible. (53)

The solution to these contradictory beliefs is dualism, much to Latour’s disapproval. The nature pole is divided into ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ parts, the same partition is made for the subject/society pole. ‘Dualism may be a poor solution, but it provided 99 per cent of the social sciences’ critical repertoire’ (54).

Latour, instead, states objects are society’s co-producters. ‘Is not society built literally – not metaphorically – of gods, machines, sciences, arts and styles?’ (54). He argues we should not focus too much on dialectics, as dialectics foreground the existing dichotomies; instead, he focuses on quasi-objects.

Quasi-objects are in between and below the two poles (…) [and] are much more social, much more fabricated, much more collective than the ‘hard’ parts of nature (…), [yet] they are much more real, nonhuman and objective than those shapeless screens on which society (…) needed to be ‘projected’. (55)

By focusing on the two poles rather than on that what is in between, ‘science studies have forced everyone to rethink anew the role of objects in the construction of collectives, thus challenging philosophy’ (55).

Relativism

In this chapter, Latour treats the function of anthropology and the role it might be able to play, as well as the concepts of symmetry and asymmetry. If anthropology is to become symmetrical, ‘the anthropologist has to position himself at the median point where he can follow the attribution of both nonhuman and human properties’ (96).

To analyse this new field of study, anthropology … [more]
multispecies  objects  plants  animals  brunolatour  robertboyle  thomashobbes  hybrids  modernity  nonmodern  modern  quasi-objects  law  biology  anthropology  entertainment  science  architecture  campainging  literature  things  theparliamentofthings 
april 2016 by robertogreco
UCSD: A Built History of Modernism | ArchDaily
"At just a little over 50 years old, the University of California San Diego is one of the younger college campuses in the United States, but despite this it is one of the most architecturally fascinating universities around. In the official UCSD campus guide, Dirk Sutro emphasizes that “UCSD does not have a single example of the historical-revival styles prevalent at other University of California campuses… and at San Diego’s two other major universities”. The history of UCSD architecture is one of ambition, which has made the campus a display case of modernism in all of its forms from the last half a century.

Thanks to photographer Darren Bradley, we can now share this history and a selection of the exciting structures it has produced."
ucsd  sandiego  lajolla  darrenbradley  photography  architecture  2013  dirksutro  modernism  modern 
may 2013 by robertogreco
Coast Modern
"Coast Modern Film. From LA to Vancouver, a legacy of inspired living by the pioneers of West Coast Modernist Architecture."
architecture  modern  modernism  film  losangeles  sandiego  vancouver  westcoast  design  history  documentary 
february 2013 by robertogreco
San Diego Dance Theater
"Founded in 1972 as a 501(c)3 professional company, the San Diego Dance Theater (SDDT) has for 39 years enriched the cultural life of San Diego through countless dance concerts and training for young dancers. Jean Isaacs was appointed Artistic Director in 1997 and under her direction, SDDT has earned its reputation as a company of fully-professional dancers committed to unconventional and deeply courageous programming which expands access to the stage for dancers of many nationalities, races, ages, and physical abilities. We are best known for our cross-border projects, our site-specific Trolley Dances, our summer dance workshops, and for the sheer beauty of our dancers."
music  sandiego  modern  theater  dance  glvo  tcsnmy 
may 2011 by robertogreco
MAS Context
"Francine Stock, president of DOCOMOMO US/Louisiana, writes about the current situation of the mid-century public schools in the city. Either demolished or in danger of demolition, these structures represent a type of type of architecture that was forward thinking and innovative in the way they were built and used by the public. The process to discuss their future when they become obsolete has failed to provide a fair space to listen to new options. Can we establish another way of approaching this problem?"
architecture  nola  design  masstudio  mascontext  schools  schooldesign  mid-centurymodern  modernism  modern  francinestock  neworleans 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Modern Schools - Practical Theory
"…does not assume that because we learned a certain way when we were kids that our children must learn the same. A modern school movement does not assume that what was good for us will automatically be good for them, nor does it assume that just because we did something a certain way in the past that it holds no value in the future…does not have to focus solely on tools or skills but rather on ideas and people and the lives we live today.

I want to create modern schools, in and of our time, for our time, for these kids."

[Don't agree with the word choice of 'modern'. 'Progressive' is better fit, but unfortunately brings misconceptions, preconceptions. 'Contemporary' may be the best option.]
chrislehmann  education  modernity  modern  words  schools  policy  tcsnmy  lcproject  teaching  learning  history  future  contemporary  progressive  2011  change  gamechanging  reform 
january 2011 by robertogreco
University of Cambridge: Beyond Modernist Masters
"A book which challenges traditional views about the nature and future of Latin American architecture has been written by Cambridge architect and lecturer Felipe Hernández.

'Beyond Modernist Masters: Contemporary Architecture in Latin America' demonstrates how architecture in this region has previously been represented by the work of only a handful of modern architects.

The book proposes an alternative approach to traditional architecture in the form of case studies from the past 15 years which explore the relationship between Latin American architecture and the rest of the world.

Hernández uncovers the wealth of new architectural practises amongst the younger generation such as the Santo Domingo Library in Medellin, Colombia, by Giancarlo Mazzanti; Alberto Kalach's Liceo Franco-Mexicano in Mexico; and the works of Alejandro Aravena in Chile which he believes are more than capable of holding their own besides the works of their modernist predecessors."

[via: http://archinect.com/news/article.php?id=95732_0_24_0_C ]
books  architecture  design  latinamerica  albertokalach  giancarlomazzanti  alejandroaravena  chile  mexico  colombia  modernism  modern 
february 2010 by robertogreco
Koenig's Case Study House No. 22 as home - Los Angeles Times
"The CA Boom contemporary design show this weekend will include shuttle tours of the home, still considered by many the archetypal 20th century Southern California house. Show impresario Charles Trotter says the "aha" moment for attendees will be when they learn the extent to which Buck Stahl worked with Pierre Koenig "in this masterpiece of modern architecture.""
losangeles  architecture  modernism  modern  pierrekoenig  casestudy  casestudyhomes  design  homes  history 
june 2009 by robertogreco
Beauty and Desecration by Roger Scruton, City Journal Spring 2009
"Art increasingly aimed to disturb, subvert, or transgress moral certainties, and it was not beauty but originality—however achieved and at whatever moral cost—that won the prizes."
art  beauty  aesthetics  modernism  modern  philosophy  originality  culture 
june 2009 by robertogreco
The Work of Sebastian Mariscal « BUILD Blog
"We often wonder why so many great lessons from mid-century modern architecture, and most notably the Case Study House Program, have been lost over the years...Sebastian Mariscal, whose work authenticates these ideas and more."
homes  housing  modern  sebastianmariscal  architecture  architects  sandiego  design 
may 2008 by robertogreco
Urban Outfitter: Sebastian Mariscal Develops, Designs, and Builds–One Project at a Time | Architect Online
“Many amazing architects—Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Tadao Ando—didn't go to school. My approach was just different [from traditional path]. You learn at the jobsite, you learn at the office dealing with projects, you learn what the consequence
sebastianmariscal  lajolla  sandiego  architects  architecture  design  alternative  education  autodidacts  modern  homes  housing 
may 2008 by robertogreco
MARMOL RADZINER Prefab
"specializes in customizing our prefab homes to meet your needs. We can tailor the module configuration, floor plan, materials, and details to maximize your site views and accommodate your specific requirements. We can also integrate custom site features,
architecture  design  prefab  homes  housing  modular  modern 
february 2008 by robertogreco
STREB
"Once called the Evel Knievel of dance, Elizabeth Streb’s choreography, which she calls “PopAction,” intertwines the disciplines of dance, athletics, boxing, rodeo, the circus, and Hollywood stunt-work. The result is a bristling, muscle-and-motion v

[Update 15 March 2012: Changed link to new URL http://streb.org/ See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Streb ]
acrobatics  art  body  circus  dance  performance  physical  modern  theater  nyc  brooklyn  classes  kids  children  elizabethstreb  bodies 
october 2007 by robertogreco
double negative: a website about michael heizer | tarasen.net
"double negative is the world's only website devoted to the life and work of the artist Michael Heizer, one of the pioneers of a movement known as "land art" or "earth art." Its purpose is to provide a publicly accessible source of information about this
art  scale  modern  architecture  sculpture  riceuniversity  artists  michaelheizer 
december 2006 by robertogreco
Curbly | DIY Design Community
"Make Your Home a Better Place. Post pictures of your pad, share design ideas, and get expert advice."
design  housing  homes  layout  interiors  howto  furniture  community  projects  hacks  inspiration  modern 
november 2006 by robertogreco
What We Value | Metropolis Magazine
"In fact the Rudolph design is now barely recognizable. But, the old school’s ­advocates say, the wounds can be healed and the building brought back to teach a vital lesson of connections between people, architecture, and nature."
architecture  design  schools  schooldesign  modern  modernism  sustainability  climate  environment 
november 2006 by robertogreco
Curbed LA: Pierre Koenig House Going Once, Going Twice
"Pierre Koenig’s Case Study House #21 will go on sale December 3"
local  losangeles  homes  housing  modern  architecture  casestudy 
october 2006 by robertogreco
www.BrazilianArtists.net, the A-Z of Brazilian Arts, Entertainment & Cultural Events in the UK
"Icaro Doria is Brazilian, 25 and has been working for the magazine Grande Reportagem, in Lisbon, Portugal, for the last 3 years. He was the author of the flags campaign "Meet the World" that has been circulating the earth in chain letters via e-mail"
activism  art  brasil  creative  culture  data  design  demographics  earth  education  flags  geography  global  graphics  government  information  infographics  health  international  mapping  maps  modern  nations  visualization  society  statistics  world  politics  brazil 
october 2006 by robertogreco
Plugimi » Blog Archive » So what’s new? [Had this conversation with Will today a few hours before reading this.]
"All the “The”-bands sound like something that has been there before, rendering themselves completely undateable. I can hardly imagine the feeling that our parents must have had when Rock’n'Roll came to western Europe. Maybe I’m idealizing things
media  music  culture  modern  language  words  change  future  creativity  newness  society  art  remix  longtail 
september 2006 by robertogreco

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