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robertogreco : paulvirilio   7

Spinoza in a T-Shirt – The New Inquiry
"This is the social and ethical function of design standardization: to assign and put bodies in their “proper” place. Standardized design creates violent relations between bodies and environments. The intensity of violence the standard body brings to bear on an individual’s body is measured in that body’s difference and distance from the standard. A chair that is too high, a beam too low, a corridor too narrow acts on the body forcefully and with a force that is unevenly distributed. Bodies that are farther from the standard body bear the weight of these forces more heavily than those that are closer to the arbitrary standard. But to resolve this design problem does not mean that we need a more-inclusive approach to design. The very idea of inclusion, of opening up and expanding the conceptual parameters of human bodies, depends for its logic and operation on the existence of parameters in the first place. In other words, a more inclusive approach to design remains fundamentally exclusive in its logic.

If Spinoza’s critical question points us toward an understanding of what standardized design does wrong, it also indicates how to get it right. The works of fashion designer Rei Kawakubo and of the artists-architects Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins are the result of materialist practices that reflect the Spinozist principle of not knowing what a body is. Their approach to design is based not so much on what the designers claim to know about the body, but instead on what they ignore. Their approaches refuse predetermined conceptualizations of what a body is and what a body can do. For instance, Kawakubo’s “bumpy” dresses (from the highly celebrated “Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body” Comme Des Garcons Spring/Summer 1997 collection) form a cloth+body assemblage that challenges preconceived ideas of the body and of beauty. At a larger scale, Arakawa and Gins’ Mitaka Lofts in Tokyo and Yoro Park in Gifu prefecture deny any predetermined category of the body in favor of a profound ignorance of what makes a body a body at all.

These designs can have profound sociopolitical effects. Momoyo Homma (the director of the architects’ Tokyo office) relates how her mother, who normally cannot walk without her cane, had no problems navigating the bumpy floor of the Mitaka Lofts. Homma’s mother’s experience does not mean that the Mitaka Lofts are a miraculous instrument that would resuscitate a septuagenarian’s ability to walk without a cane. It reveals that her body only needs a cane in environments designed for bodies that differ substantially from hers.

The cane, itself a designed object, is a clear marker of the differential (often antagonistic) relations that design produces between bodies and spaces/places, and between non-standard and standard bodies. As a prosthesis, the cane’s purpose is to “correct” the non-standard body so that its functions reflect as closely as possible a fidelity with the “normal” body. Arakawa and Gins’ architecture offers an environment where the non-standard body does not need a “corrective,” since the environment’s design is not structured around what they think a body is.

Spinoza’s question—what can a body do?—insists that we set aside preconceived and normative notions of what a body is. Arakawa and Gins’ architecture suggests a slight but significant revision: Rather than conceptualizing bodies from the position of not knowing what they are, we should begin from the position that we don’t know what bodies are not. The double-negative allows a crucial correction to the Spinozist account of the body.

Spinoza’s question delays conceptualizations of the body, but it still doesn’t do away with normative formulations of the body. Affirming an ignorance of something presupposes that what is ignored could be actually known. “We don’t know what a body is” implicitly suggests that a holistic knowledge of what a body is actually exists—we just don’t presume to know it (yet).

The position of “not presuming” is too close to the liberal stance of having tolerance for difference—a position of liberal multiculturalism we find suspicious. The problem with liberal tolerance is that it already assumes and takes up a position of power. The designer is in the privileged position of being tolerant of another, and of designating who is deserving of tolerance. Whether the presumption is to know or not know the body, it is either way an act of the designer’s agency since knowing/unknowing the body is realized exclusively in the design of the garment, room, chair, table, etc. The power of the designer remains intact either way.

Alternatively, to not know what a body isn’t does more than suspend or delay normalizing conceptualizations of the body. It refuses such total claims of body knowledge at all. Just as the double-negative construction becomes affirmative, not knowing what a body isn’t affirms all bodies by doing away with the ideal of the normative body altogether. To not know what a body isn’t means that the idea of the body is infinitely open, rather than just momentarily open. To not know what a body isn’t means that all bodies are equally valid modes and forms of embodiment. Nothing is “not a body” and so everything is a body. This is not a philosophical issue but a political problem. What is a body? What is a human body? These are philosophical treatises that do not address our concern with how built environments empower some bodies and disempower others according to a set of “universal” design presumptions and methods.

By shifting our focus from what a body is to what a body can do, we can begin to explore the political—sometimes violent—relations of bodies, objects, and environments that are produced and maintained through standard design practices and knowledge. How might a collaborative relation of body and environment create the potential for a more non-hierarchical architecture? How might it build one that frees all bodies from the abstract concept of a “normal” body?

As impressive and seductive as the designers named above are, they are not politically egalitarian even though their designs may be aesthetically radical. Kawakubo, Gins, and Arakawa’s built environments are among a highly rarified class of design, out of reach to all but a select few inhabitants/consumers. Although their design approaches are unconventional, they don’t disrupt the hierarchical relations that structure dominant paradigms of design. In fact, their work is greatly celebrated in establishment fashion and architecture design circles.

A design process and philosophy that doesn’t know what a body isn’t can be found in a decidedly more mundane built environment. The jersey knit cotton T-shirt—a product found across the entire price point spectrum—is accessible and inhabitable by a great number of people. Jersey knit cotton is one of the cheaper fabrics, pliable to a broad range of bodies. Jersey knit cotton T-shirts really don’t know what a body isn’t—to this T-shirt, all bodies are T-shirt-able, all bodies can inhabit the space of a T-shirt, though how they inhabit it will be largely determined by the individual body. How the t-shirt pulls or hangs loose (and by how much) will certainly vary across bodies and across time. Indeed, the T-shirt’s stretchy jersey knit cotton materializes precisely this principle of contingency.

Julie Wilkins’ designs are aimed at “extending the grammar of the T-shirt.” Stretching the T-shirt to new proportions, her Future Classics Dress collections (made entirely of jersey knit fabrics, though not necessarily knit from cotton) are even more adaptable and modifiable than the classic T-shirt, which is somewhat limited by its fundamental T shape. (“Somewhat limited,” because its T shape has not precluded the vast number and variety of bodies that do not conform to the T-shape from wearing T-shirts.) Wilkins’ design approach is unlike those that make up traditional tables, chairs, windows, and clothing that are designed and fabricated around standard body dimensions. Wilkins’ designs create built environments that are pliant, dynamic, modular, and mobile.

Wilkins’ Future Classics Dress designs are modifiable by and adaptable to an unspecified range of bodies; they are conditional architectures. As demonstrated on their website, one garment can be worn in many ways, on many bodies. How users inhabit the clothes depends on them as much as on the designer. Choosing how to wear a Future Classics garment can be an involved process. While the Future Classics Dress collections don’t give individuals total autonomy, they allow bodies more freedom than we’ve seen before."

"The idealized relationship of bodies and designed grounds is a predictive geometric one. It is widely accepted that a surface directly perpendicular to the body provides the best environment for bodies to function. As a result, the surfaces of designed grounds are overwhelmingly flat, and non-flat floors are marked as problems to be fixed. Yet even a cursory glance at any playground and its many and differently uneven grounds—“terrains” is a better word—trouble this taken-for-granted logic.

Children tend to have a particularly acute relation to their physical environment. Their small and unpracticed bodies almost never fit the overwhelmingly hard, flat surfaces of mainstream environments. In this way, all young children can be understood as having non-standard bodies. Their “unfitness” is measured in relation to normatively designed built environments. The image of any young child climbing a set of stairs illustrates the kind of unfitness we mean. By contrast, the playground’s dense rubbery foam floors, its flexible pathways (e.g, chain-linked bridges), and its integration of Parent and Virilio’s Oblique Function of various slopes and elevations, are surfaces that children’s bodies navigate capably, oftentimes with a level of ease that escapes adults… [more]
spinoza  design  arakawa  madelinegins  body  bodies  normal  normalization  standardization  variation  architecture  fashion  politics  inclusion  tolerance  inclusivity  adaptability  léopoldlambert  minh-hatpham  henrydreyfuss  reikawakubo  juliewilkins  paulvirilio  claudeparent  theobliquefunction  futureclassicsdress  modification  stretch  give  glvo  uniformproject  audiencesofone  philosophy  standards  canon  canes  ability  abilities  disability  variability  ablerism  ethics  textiles  personaluniforms  fabrics  clothing  clothes  inlcusivity  disabilities 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Issue Five: On Slowness | vestoj
"In Slowness Milan Kundera, the Czech writer, remarks that ‘there is a secret bond between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting’. In the fashion system this bond seems to take on a particularly poignant meaning, with the degree of velocity often appearing directly proportional to the time it takes to forget a style that just moments ago it seemed we could not live without.

The speed of change is a growing complaint about fashion, both amongst those whose livelihoods depend on it, and amongst those who observe these ceaseless shifts from afar. Grumbles about a ubiqui­tous acceleration are nothing new however; in fact, the grievance we appear to harbour against velocity is as old as modernity itself. Back then the machines that increasingly replaced the human hand aroused fear and trepidation; today our attitudes reflect much the same ambivalence towards the revolutions of time. It seems we always regard our own time as simultaneously the most progressive and the most relentlessly accelerated. The modernist project, however, firmly rooted the relationship between progress and speed, and in so doing also forever altered our notion of time. A universal temporal framework, with time zones, seasonal changes and accurate clocks, was constructed with the help of new technology, and the previous more subjective understanding of time had to make way for expedience and the hustle of modern life. With a more synchronised understanding of time, the future also became easier to grasp and, by extension, to control. For a future that can be measured in terms of the knowable present, is a malle­able future, a future that can be shaped according to our will.

With the advent of modernity, past, present and future came to be understood as a linear evolution, and the ‘temporal architecture’ that philosopher Krzysztof Pomian refers to in L’Ordre du Temps turned into an implicit and integral part of the experience of being modern. Sharing the same chronology is tantamount to sharing a similar basic understanding of the world, but we must not forget that time is a social construct. The sociologist Norbert Elias and the philosopher Michel Foucault have both argued that the modern ‘discipli­nary society’ attains its power by the establishment and inter­nalisation of set structures of time, and chrono­politics are consequently a potent tool for domination. In other words, those who arrive first, win.

In terms of fashion, the depre­ciation of the past in favour of the present is what keeps the wheels of the system turning. Fashion aims to always be ‘of the moment’, but to do so it has to disown its own past. The seasonal changes in fashion that we today are so familiar with, are an old fabrication. As early as the seven­teenth century, Paris fashion was organised according to the seasons in order to further French trade and economy. A more regimented system came into being in the early twentieth century when haute couture shows in Paris became organised into biannual fashion weeks, signalling for creators as well as consumers of fashion that the old had to make way for the new.

Fashion scholar Aurélie Van de Peer has written about ‘the temporal anchorage of fashion’ and points out the relationship between the termi­nology of time and the degree of fashionability of a garment. The aesthetic judgments we make on ‘out-of-date’ fashion tend to be strong, and terms like ‘passé’ and ‘old-fashioned’ are often used as potent tools for ridicule and scorn, symbolising as they do, a past that is no longer relevant. Similarly, idioms like ‘modern’ and ‘of the moment’ are employed to evoke the present, the moment that in fashion terms is the most desirable. We know of course that, as Elizabeth Wilson writes in Adorned in Dreams, ‘the “now” of fashion is nostalgia in the making’ – perhaps this is why a disingenuous term like ‘timeless’ has such cachet in fashion circles. But no matter how much we try and convince ourselves that eternal style is possible, in fashion the past is forever haunting the present. Fashion depends on perpetual movement – onwards, forwards – and in so doing, it must renounce its own history. In the vernacular of fashion, the most stinging insult that can be levelled at anyone is belonging to a past no longer relevant; derisively aiming this judgment at a rival is a way of establishing your own superiority. To be passé signals the demise of a fashion professional.

The politics of time are a sign­ificant device for separation; it creates a purposeful schism between those who dominate and those who are dominated, between us and the Other. As the sociologist Hartmut Rosa has pointed out, the ones who lead are, as a general rule, those who under­stand speed. In fashion, as in everyday life, temporal strategies like keeping someone waiting, changing the rhythm or jumping the gun are often cause for strife, as anyone who has ever waited for a show to begin, had their idea copied and produced faster by a competitor or been compelled to endure an interminable presentation by an important patron can attest.

The philosopher Paul Virilio talks of a ‘rushing standstill’, which seems to describe contemporary culture well. The cult of speed can sometimes feel overwhelming, but in the cracks of the system, a slower, more reflective pace is gaining traction. Whereas Virilio’s phrase appears aimed at a heedless velocity that despite its speed will forever return you to your starting point, slowness by contrast allows you to advance at a pace that encourages contemplation and observation. To be slow is far from remaining static; instead, slowness is a temporal notion that prioritises the journey over the destination. In this world of instant gratification we sometimes forget that speed is not a virtue in itself, nor is it to be confused with success or efficiency or happiness or accomplishment.

So, allow yourself to be idle, to dwell a moment, to delay and iterate. Use your hands to make something a machine could make much faster. Look for the beauty in the impermanent, the imperfect and the incomplete. Take your time. Because, as the writer Rebecca Solnit once so succinctly put it, ‘Time always wins; our victories are only delays; but delays are sweet, and a delay can last a whole lifetime’."
slow  slowness  magazines  vestoj  fashion  rebeccasolnit  milankundera  krzysztofpomian  norbertelias  michelfoucault  aurélievandepeer  elizabethwilson  hartmutrosa  paulvirilio  idleness  time  speed  process  foucault 
january 2015 by robertogreco
"Last night I dreamed of being able to curate a hub on Medium that was nothing but the confluence between the apocalyptic, the technological, the numinous, the archaic and the future. A Black Mountain College of the next new normal. Which is basically the space I’m thinking within all the time right now. I’m feeling very apocalyptic. I’m feeling like I want to explore it. In 1968, the year I was born, NEW WORLDS magazine ran a cover that contained a black-on-near-black graphic and the white text WHAT IS THE EXACT NATURE OF THE CATASTROPHE? The answer is both ahead and behind. Half of my brain is in deep time at present. I have a book on my shelf entitled APOCALYPTIC WITCHCRAFT.

“The Wild Hunt as living experience” is a phrase on the back cover.

(God, what if it’s just The New Hauntology? “We are as ghosts and might as well get good at it.”)

I’m a little worried about turning into the ghost of Terence McKenna and rattling on about The Archaic Revival for the rest of my days.

Anyway. I woke up and I was still poor, so I know it was a dream."

[Post referenced here too:

"“Science itself is on the verge of a systemic crash, a philosophical coma. In the face of this crash, I suggested creating a “university of disaster”…”

That’s from THE ADMINISTRATION OF FEAR by Paul Virilio. Connects to “a Black Mountain College of the next new normal.” Imagine if the Health Goth look became, in response to First World Ebola, the street-level iteration of the medieval “plague doctor” look, jumping right past cheap hazmat suits. Extinction Symbol connects to Health Goth by its stark black-on-white nature. The symbol leaps out at you on streets, but may not look so out of place in hospitals. Rewilding becomes a reaction, not an active response, to First World Ebola because the African hot zone where this latest outbreak originates is so wild and unmanaged that WHO has to state that its infection stats should be speculatively multiplied by three, due to the simple fact that they can’t get reportage out of a significant chunk of the region. You may indeed want to go back to the woods when our cities become viral incubators, but that really just means that nobody will know who you’re spreading diseases to. The cities are where the medical care is. Unfortunately, people fly into them from all over the place, and so Bruce Sterling’s notion that cities will be filled with old people who are afraid of the sky takes on a whole new meaning. And suddenly we’re living in the old BBC tv series SURVIVORS from 1975, a prime year in classical British hauntology.

Someone just prototyped a litmus paper test for Ebola over the weekend. Virilio contends that “speed” is the defining element of the present-day condition. Speed as agency of fear.

Still just thinking out loud here."]
warrenellis  2014  bmc  blackmountaincollege  1968  witchcraft  hauntology  magic  petergrey  terenecemckenna  paulvirilio  extinction  speed  fear  ebola  rewilding 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Journey to the Centre of Google Earth - Simon Sellars
"Google Earth is more than the God’s-eye view – more than just us mortals seeing through the eyes of God. In Google Earth, we are God. We see over, under, inside and out. We see into the beyond, with a second sight unavailable to our mortal selves. We see ghosts of dead friends and dead strangers. We see ourselves. If the colonial God’s-eye view in Mercator maps is an uneasy settling of the planet (hoping the savages will stay in their place and not upset the prescribed order), then Google Earth, with its forking paths Google Maps and Google Street View, is a parallel world bleeding into this one."

"Paul Virilio, urbanist and theorist of cyberculture, once told an interviewer about a science fiction story in which artificial snow was seeded with tiny cameras and dropped from planes. He explained, “when the snow falls, there are eyes everywhere. There is no blind spot left.” The interviewer asks: “But what shall we dream of when everything becomes visible?” Virilio replies: “We’ll dream of being blind.” Desperate, I will dream that same dream, but even gouging out my eyes – all eighteen of them – will not be enough, for the imprint will remain, the augmented overlay, glowing like tracer bullets in the radioactive darkness of the mind’s eye. Remember, I can never unsee.

Then I will dream of death, but even death won’t save me, for I will have left enough data, enough tweets, enough cookies and enough honey traps from my online browsing patterns to allow unscrupulous marketers to harvest the information and construct a digital version of me. It will be a magnificent feat of malware, social engineering composed of my online leavings. This digital construct will traverse the Google Earth just as I do now. It will spam my friends and family, and it will tweet the same observations about Street View as I do. Actually, not “the same observations about Street View as I do”, but “the same observations because it is me”. No one will tell the difference. In the future, we are all sentient spambots.

My digital doppelganger will see me in Google Earth, reflected in the hubcap of the Street View car. It will see me reflected in the illusory facade of the PricewaterhouseCoopers building, watching myself watching the Barcode Project. It will see me in the machine, which has taught me how to remember a past I never had and a future I will never see.

The machine will teach my doppelganger how to live, at the same time as it teaches me how to die. No one will tell the difference."
maps  mapping  simonsellers  2014  googlemaps  googlestreetview  streetview  googleearth  cartography  time  paulvirilio 
june 2014 by robertogreco
ying gao - designer
"2 interactive dresses, Super organza, photoluminescent thread, PVDF, electronic devices.

The project was inspired by the essay entitled "Esthétique de la disparition" (The aesthetic of disappearance), by Paul Virilio (1979). " Absence often occurs at breakfast time – the tea cup dropped, then spilled on the table being one of its most common consequences. Absence lasts but a few seconds, its beginning and end are sudden. However closed to outside impressions, the senses are awake. The return is as immediate as the departure, the suspended word or movement is picked up where it was left off as conscious time automatically reconstructs itself, thus becoming continuous and free of any apparent interruption. " The series comprising two (2) dresses, made of photoluminescent thread and imbedded eye tracking technology, is activated by spectators' gaze. A photograph is said to be “spoiled” by blinking eyes – here however, the concept of presence and of disappearance are questioned, as the experience of chiaroscuro (clarity/obscurity) is achieved through an unfixed gaze."
fashion  wearable  wearables  gaze  yinggao  presence  disappearance  chiaroscuro  clarity  obscurity  paulvirilio  absence  photoluminescence  vision 
june 2014 by robertogreco
A Crisis of Enclosure : One must also educate the surroundings
"When the possibility of pastoral flight dis­appears with the advent of agricultural settlements and a change in the nature of wealth (non-trans­ portable goods), it is no longer enough to be quickly educated about one's surroundings; one must also educate the surroundings. In other words, one must try to preserve, on that very spot, one's head start over the enemy. Whence the con­struction, around the hillock, of protected enclaves, enclosures and fences intended to slow the ag­gressor down. Attack and defense then split on this terrain to form two elements of a single dia­lectic: the former becomes synonymous with speed, circulation, progression and change; and the latter with opposition to movement, tautologi­cal preservation, etc."
environment  surroundings  paulvirilio  1990  speed  circulation  progress  progression  change  mobement  education  bighere 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Scan/flip/spread | Soulellis
"How we author, design and publish language-based communications is undergoing a radical shape-shift. The acceleration of the book (as commodity, technological device, art object) has entered a new stage of evolution in our trajectory towards constant presence and the post-human, and reading—the eye-brain processing of written culture—has much to lose, and gain, in the transformation.

What legacy of the book do we wish to bequeath to the future?

What is the futurestory of the book?

Several attributes of reading that are about to be lost, perhaps only temporarily (patina, olfactory, nostalgic), have opened up deep space for others (gestural, social, access, speed). And even more are on the way, as we prepare for the near-future absorption of the screen into the body (Google Glasses)…

…I propose a series of printed book experiments on the occasion of MutaMorphosis: Tribute to Uncertainty. These are actions of resistance—strategies for countering our growing need to read in haste. Three concepts will direct us to a poetic, if analog, investigation of book/time and the fast/slow speed of reading: scan, flip and spread. Working with found texts, public domain works, bot-generated ephemera and other digital artifacts, a printed book or short series of books that encourages and/or discourages slow reading will be produced as a limited print-on-demand edition for the MutaMorphosis conference (via Espresso Book Machine or other inexpensive digital-to-paper solution). The books will be distributed to all conference participants for discussion (panel, artist’s presentation or otherwise, TBD).

Scan/Flip/Spread puts forward the idea of the fast(er) book (print-on-demand) and braises it with the slow read. The investigation will explore the interface of the printed book—page-to-language ratio, typographic depth and density, page-turn-time, frame, weight, read rhythm, chance, flip speed and other formal aspects of the page; as well as content—questions of narrative, sense, curation and image/word play. Our goal, as a group, will be to create a space to embrace and counter the technologies of automation that are transforming language, visual culture, the page and reading—through the printed book object."
paulvirilio  design  longform  automation  dromosphere  printondemand  mutamorphosis  uncertainty  spread  flip  scan  future  ebooks  bookfuturism  googleglass  speed  access  socialreading  gestures  nostalgia  smell  patina  reading  publishing  books  2012  paulsoulellis  slowreading  slow  selfpublishing  self-publishing 
september 2012 by robertogreco

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