Keyword: Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis: The action or process of changing in form, shape, or substance; transformation by supernatural means; a complete change in the appearance, circumstances, condition, or character of a person, a state of affairs, etc.; change of form in an animal (or plant) or its parts; the process of transformation from an immature form to a different adult form that many insects and other invertebrates undergo in the course of maturing.

1797:  A new form or change of appearance is always implied in metamorphosis or transformation.

1899:  The sole difference between the folk notions of metamorphosis and metempsychosis lies in the fact of the former consisting in change of form during life, and in the latter after death.

1903:  The various modifications which the primitive form has passed through constitute its metamorphosis.

Definition by Oxford English Dictionary


Source: “Collage City and the Reconquest of Time” from Collage City

Chapter:  “Collage City and the Reconquest of Time”

Collage City Cover

  • Human history vs. natural history: “The only radical difference between human history and ‘natural’ history is that the former can never begin again…the chimpanzee and the orangutan are distinguished from man not by what is known strictly speaking as intelligence, but because they have far less memory.  Every morning the poor beasts have to face almost total oblivion of what they lived the day before, and their intellect has to wrk with a minimum fund of experience.  Similarly, the tiger of today is identical with that of six thousand years ago, each one having to begin his life as a tiger from the beginning as if none had existed before him…Breaking the continuity with the past, is a lowering of man and a plagiarism of the orangutan.” (Jose Ortega y Gasset) ***Tie back to Nietzsche – Avantages and Disadvantages of History for Life
  • We must continue from what people have done before us, must carry on tradition (Karl Popper)
  • City of collisive intentions – signifies historical process and social change
  • Things are what they are or are never what they seem to be
  • No human gesture is free from symbolic content
  • Attempts to free the world from references is useless
  • History of 20th c. architecture: building & city were to advertise no more than a determined pattern of performance and efficiency; or, they could only be charged with an emblematic role (as the evidence of complete integration of subject and content)
  • City as didactic (intended to teach) instrument (pg. 121)
  • Both ideas dismissed – ‘let science build the town’ or ‘let people build the town’
  • Only 2 reservoirs of ethical content available:  tradition and utopia
  • Popper – value of tradition
  • “tradition is indispensable – communication rests upon tradition; tradition is related to a felt need for a structured social environment; traditional is the critical vehicle for the betterment of society; the ‘atmosphere’ of any given society is connected with tradition:  and tradition is somewhat akin to myth, or…specific traditions are somehow incipient theories which have the value, however imperfectly, of helping to explain society” (pg. 122).
  • Conception of science – “not so much the accumulation of facts but as the criticism, in terms of their non-performance, of hypotheses.  It is hypotheses which discover facts and not vice versa; and, seen in this way…the role of traditions in society is roughly equivalents to that of hypotheses in science.  That is:  just as the formulation of hypotheses or theories results from the criticism of myth, ‘similarly traditions have the important double function of not only creating a certain order or something like a social structure, but also of giving us something on which we can operate; something that we can criticize and change’” (pg. 122).
  • Condensed Argument (Popper):
    • Impossible to determine ends scientifically
    • Problem of constructing a utopian blue print can’t be solved by science alone
    • Ends of political actions will then have character of religious differences – the utopianist must win over or crush his competitors
    • Period of utopian construction is one of social change – ideas are liable to change also
    • The whole approach is in danger of breaking down
    • Only way to avoid changes is to use violence (propaganda, suppression of criticism, and annihilation of all opposition)
  • Napolean I – idea of Paris as a museum:  “the city was, to some degree, to become a sort of habitable exhibition, a collection of permanent reminders which were to edify both the resident and the visitor; and the substance of the instruction, one guesses right away, was to be some kind of historical panorama not only of the greatness and continuity of the French nation, but, also, of the comparable…contributions of a mostly subservient Europe” (pg. 126).
  • City as a museum
  • As a positive concert of culture and education
  • As a source of random but carefully selected information
  • City as museum is distinguishable from city of Neo-Classicism
  • “The ideal of a conglomerate of independent parts has again become replaced by the far more ‘total’ vision of absolute continuity” (pg. 128)
  • What about city as museum/city of precisely presented objects/episodes)
  • If city of modern arch. has displayed a lack of tolerance for any import foreign to itself (open field, closed mind) and this has resulted in a crisis of internal economy (increasing poverty, decline of invention), then presumptions of formerly questionable policy can’t provide framework for exlusion
  • City as museum embedded in Enlightenment culture
  • City as a neutral and comprehensive statement
  • As an ad hoc representation of cultural relativism
  • Museum as a public institution – came into existence to protect and display a plurality of physical manifestations representing a plurality of states of mind
  • One might postulate a possible solution for problems of contemporary city through concept of museum (above)
  • City as a scaffold for exhibition demonstration
  • Tradition of modern architecture professes a distate for art but conceived of society/the city in conventional artistic terms
  • Picasso on Bull’s Head:  “Out of the handlebars and the bicycle seat I made a bull’s head which everybody recognized as a bull’s head.  Thus a metamorphosis was completed; and now I would like to see another metamorphosis take place in the opposite direction.  Suppose my bull’s head is thrown on the scrap heap.  Perhaps some day a fellow will come along and say: ‘why there’s something that would come in very handy for the handlebars of my bicycle…’ and so a double metamorphosis would have been achieved” (pg. 138).
  • List of reactions to Picasso’s proposition:
    • Remembrance of former function and value
    • Shifting context
    • Attitude that encourages composite
    • An exploitation and recycling of meaning
    • Agglomeration of reference, memory, anticipation
    • Connectedness of memory and wit
    • Temporal and spatial collision
  • Problem of composite presence identified in terms of collage (as technique, state of mind)
  • “Collage has seemed to be lacking in sincerity, to represent a corruption of moral principles, an adulteration” (pg. 139)
  • Picasso’s Still Life with Chair Caning:  “the section of chair caning which is neither real nor painted but is actually a piece of oil cloth facsimile pasted on the canvas and then partly painted over…for what seems most real is most false and what seems most remote from everyday reality is perhaps the most real since it is least an imitation” (Alfred Barr pg. 139)
  • Collage both innocent and devious
  • “Collage, often a method of paying attention to the left-overs of the world, of preserving their integrity and equipping them with dignity, of compounding matter of factness and cerebrality, as a convention and a breach of convention, necessarily operates unexpectedly.  A rough method, ‘a kind of discordia concors; a combinationof dissimilar images, or discovery of occult resemblances in things apparently unlike.’” (pg. 142)
  • Collage – a willfully interjected impediment to the strict route of evolution
  • Suggested that a collage approach (objects are conscripted/seduced from their context) is the only way of dealing with problems of utopia and/or tradition
  • Provenance of architectural objects introduced into the social collage not of great consequence
  • Examples of ambiguous and composite buildings (they all oscillate between a passive and an active behavior, quietly collaborate; capable of almost every local accommodation)


Rowe, Colin, and Fred Koetter. “Collage City and the Reconquest of Time” Collage City. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1978. 118-149. Print.

Source: Hoffman’s Collage: Critical Views (Chapter 19)

Chapter 19  | Video: Electronic Collage (Max Almy)

  • Video art involved with Neodada, formalism, conceptualism, feminism, performance, installation, documentary, experimental, and abstract work
  • Network anxious to define a position for video somewhere between art, television, and cinema
  • Video is a medium with inherent technical properties – electronic signal of video image can be manipulated, distorted, shaped, colorized, and collaged in different ways
  • Video artists have recomposed images and fragments within the video composition or frame
  • Gene Youngblood – “the collision of codes within the frame”
  • Youngblood – “the classical language of film in which the codes are constructed from the collision of frames’
  • Global Groove (Nam June Paik, 1971) – pioneered the use of video in avant-garde by altering TV sets with magnets

  • Scape-mates (Ed Emshwiller, 1972) – interest in movement, time, and tension between formal abstraction/representation imagery – combined live performance with abstract animation – surreal, futuristic look at man and technology


  • Analogue processing (type of image processing used in above films) – image is translated electronically into a video signal or voltage flow, can be controlled and altered by video switchers/synthesizers.
  • By 1974, could use specially programmed computer systems and software for editing
  • Sunstone (Emshwiller 1979) – one of the first works to create, move, transform, and combine images digitally

  • Hungers (Emshwiller 1988) – created with composer Morton Subotnick – involves layers of collaborative performance, dance, voice, acoustic and computer music, etc. – expresses the basic human hungers of food, love, sex, power, etc.
  • Woody and Steina Vasulka founded The Kitchen in 1971 ( – art center that continuously featured video screenings of new video work
  • Peter Weibel on “polytropic”: the ability of the frame to contain many planes of information, subject, image, and even concepts of time, such as present, past, future, and dream, within one space (pg. 362)
  • Weibel on “polychronic”:  the rate at which various images appear, their order, and speed
  • Woody Vasulka’s Art of Memory (1987) – digitally shaped historical images into 3D image-objects – an attempt to move from the illusionistic view of the frame as cinematic “window on the world”
  • John Sanborn – seven-part live opera collaboration with avant-garde composer Robert Ashley (Perfect Lives)  – “a post-modern version of the mythology of small town America.”  Visual themes and compositions designed as metaphors carefully moved in and out of conceptual focus

  • John Sanborn – Luminaire – dancers interact with a transforming digital environment – space and camera movement are articulated by computer animations and digitally moved video elements
  • The Whole Truth (Larry Kaufman) – studies and unpeels layers of lies

  • Perfect Leader (Max Almy) – manufacturing of a political candidate by having the computer create the perfect leader – leader is surrounded by a collage of visual info and icons that suggest the best ingredients for a successful candidate

  • Emshwiller:  “We live in a multi-layered world and in a world that is so self aware of various perspectives, ideologies and of the meaning of signs and images – it [collage] is something that enables one to reflect on the complexity of life and relish its mystery.”

Almy, Max. “Video: Electronic Collage.” Collage: Critical Views. Ed. Katherine Hoffman. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research, 1989. 355-371. Print.

Source: Hoffman’s Collage: Critical Views (Chapter 3)

Chapter 3  | Collage:  Philosophy of Put-Togethers (Harold Rosenberg)

Picasso Man With a HatPicasso’s Man With a Hat

  • Collage is a way of making art, not a specific art form or style
  • Collage is done by kindergarteners and housewives making their own projects
  • No aesthetic of intellectual character
  • Has become more than a technique/genre for folk artists and amateurs – has entered the realm of painting and sculpture
  • Dadaist Tristan Tzara:  “the most poetic, the most revolutionary moment in the evolution of painting”
  • Components of collage add qualities that paint/plaster can’t achieve
  • Low-relief figure on a flat ground vs. three dimensional assemblages (like John Chamberlain’s crushed, rusted automobile parts) – seen as a translation into 3D from de Kooning and Kline
  • Introduction of an emotionally expressive physical component can enable a work to surmount its formal background/the inventive limitations of the artist
  • Tzara:  incorporating “a piece of everyday reality which enters into relationship with every other reality that the spirit has created.”
  • Collage opens art to common daily things of life – “poetic junk” of the city streets (Rimbaud)
  • Art no longer copies nature or seeks to
  • Metaphysics of mixing formal and material realities – concreteness of the paste-in
  • As art, collage lacks an independent history – relies on/retells other art movements
  • Economical aspect of collage – substitutes for expensive art supplies (in Albers’ class at Bauhaus)
  • Photos of collages often indistinguishable from photos of paintings/reliefs – the inserted elements blend in with the painted forms
  • Collage changed relation between painting and world outside painting
  • Collage is the form assumed by the ambiguities that have matured in our time concerning both art and the realities it has purported to represent
  • Wescher:  “into paintings with the techniques of American action he [Rauschenberg] inserts wildly disparate objects which he integrates by dashing paint over them.  Whatever he can lay his hands on is serviceable:  pieces of cloth, underclothing, frames and wood panels of earlier days, objects useful and useless” (pg. 64).
  • Mockery in collage – a put-together is like a painting but without the effort or know-how of painting
  • Since materials are picked by chance, it seems to say to the spectator “how easy it is to make a work of art”
  • Representing things and images in a universe of forces and energies
  • In collage, identity of an object is suspended between its practical reality and conceptual whole
  • Sometimes people only recognize the objects in a collage in terms of common sense (ex. money in collage pg. 65)
  • Exposure of duplicity of art is comparable to tradition of theatre (an actor in a play, steps out of character)

Rosenberg, Harold. “Collage: Philosophy of Put-Togethers.” Collage: Critical Views. Ed. Katherine Hoffman. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research, 1989. 59-66. Print.


Source: Hoffman’s Collage: Critical Views (Chapters 1 and 11)

Reading on the work of Kurt Schwitters

Merzbau 1 tumblr_mj9r4uizIt1ql98k2o1_1280

Chapter 1  | Collage in the Twentieth Century: An Overview (Katherine Hoffman)

  • Schwitters says: “Every means is right when it serves its end…What the material signified before its use in the work of art is a matter of indifference so long as it is properly evaluated and given artistic meaning in the work of art.  And so I began to construct pictures out of materials I happened to have at hand, such as streetcar tickets, cloakroom checks, bits of wood, wire twine, bent wheels, tissue paper, tin cans, chips of glass, etc.  These things are inserted into the picture either as they are or else modified in accordance with what the picture requires.  They lose their individual character, their own special essence (Eigengift), by being dematerialized (entmaterialisiert) they become material for the picture.”
  • “I myself am now called MERZ”
  • “Schwitter’s Hanover apartment became a Merzbau, a cavern of old lumber, strangely molded plaster, and other materials that might be called an early ‘environment’” (Hoffman 14).

Hoffman, Katherine. “Collage in the Twentieth Century: An Overview.” Collage: Critical Views. Ed. Katherine Hoffman. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research, 1989. 1-37. Print.


Chapter 11  | Rethinking Kurt Schwitters:  An Interpretation of Grünfleck (Annegreth Nill)

Merz 94 Grunfleck, 1920 (collage)  Grünfleck (1920)

  • Produced collages by collecting from sidewalks, dustbins, trash barrels, etc.
  • However, his work discussed in formal terms
  • Combines visual and verbal elements – multiple levels of meaning in his collages
  • Relationship between art and commerce
  • Collage elements – concrete and formal qualities
  • “their very concreteness, combined with Schwitters’s formal and verbal manipulation of them, creates possibilities for meanings of a very real kind”
  • “an autobiographical record, which bridged the gap between art and life” (pg. 225)
  • Didn’t fit into Dada or other contemporary art movements – called his trade MERZ from the word “Kommerz” in “Kommerz Und Privatbank” (commercial and private bank)
  • Art and commerce fused
  • Schwitters: “I pasted up pictures and drawings so that sentences should be read in them.”
  • Grünfleck – new compound words rich in compressed meaning – the name Grünfleck links verbal and visual content of the collage
  • Not randomly composed like previous collages
  • Based on cubo-futurist sources
  • Merz pictures – larger in size, characterized by centralized circular motifs, partially pierced by rayylike wedges coming from the edges
  • Scraps gain independence (compared to painted pieces) by retaining individuality, yet more relational
  • Grünfleck composition is centered around a circular core
  • Sense of a mounted jewel, central core held in position by its setting
  • Grünfleck is a compound word, takes its meaning from multiple sources/components
  • Grün:  green, spades, fresh, or new
  • Fleck:  spot, stain, blur, blemish, patch, etc.
  • These different meanings for the same words can be combined in different ways and are seen in his collage (except the color green)
  • Grünfleck is about making and viewing of collages/other works of art; the viewing of things in general; addresses economic situation of inflationary period after WWI
  • Uses collage as a formal device to associate “grünfleck” and “anlage” (beginning, foundation, plan; laying out, establishment; investment, stock/predisposition, etc.)
  • Schwitters’ collages are a way of preserving important fragments which have been discarded (pg. 233)
  • Anlage – artistic talent
  • Schwitters superimposed the idea of designing a garden and the idea of making a collage – both require anlage; city Schwitters grew up in  had a lot of public parks, or anlagen
  • All of his collages have connections to german words
  • Was officially an “abstract” artist by 1918 but painted landscapes for his whole life
  • Enjoyed “photographic painting”
  • Ticket stub to unspecified event – adds to the commercial dimension that ultimately dominates the content of the work – alludes to the idea of urban entertainment rather than a particular event
  • Sturm Gallery was very controversial at the time, so the activities there ranked with popular entertainment of the time, and it was customary to pay an entrance fee – Schwitters is implying that a ticket is required to see his “Anglage-Collage”
  • Ticket is both artistic and cultural
  • Für:  “for” (ticket to pay for the other things in the collage)
  • Streetcar tickets, cigarettes, chocolate, coffee (all the identifiable scraps in the collage) – the things to be paid for – all are either “goods” or “services”
  • Tickets refer to restlessness of the people – they wanted to move but were limited to poor state of the trains/surrounding area only
  • Why did he choose those particular goods?
  • Could be because all three are made of imported materials (pre WWI commodities)
  • Depiction of café tradition/urban entertainment is in the realm of Impressionists, Cubist still life, but he’s more aware of qualities of coffee (taste), etc.
  • Also very aware of strange economic situation (pg. 245)
  • The collage enters commercial arena, becomes a commodity to be bought (like the goods) – becomes an investment
  • Thought about his art in commercial terms – was fascinated by business
  • “Commerce = com mercurio.  Mercury is the messenger god and the god of commerce.  Mercantile art.”
  • Concerned with “marketing” his collages in 1919-1923
  • The created meaning of Grünfleck expresses Schwitters’s desires to market his collage

Nill, Annegreth. ” Rethinking Kurt Schwitters:  An Interpretation of Grünfleck.” Collage: Critical Views. Ed. Katherine Hoffman. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research, 1989. 225-251. Print.

Source: Collage: Critical Views (Chapter 2)

Chapter 2  | Collage:  “The Organizing Principle of Art in the Age of the Relativity of Art” (Donald B. Kuspit)

  • Relativism and relativity
  • Donald Kuspit – examined concepts of relativity to collage
  • Collage may be seen as “the exemplification of the use and dominance of relativity in modern art.”
  • Kuspit:  “Collage is a demonstration of this process of the many becoming one, with the one never fully resolved because of the many that continue to impinge upon it.  Every entity is potentially relevant to every entitity’s existence.  This is the relativistic message of collage:  the keeping in play of the possibility of the entry of the many into one, the fusion of the many into the one.”
  • Conventional description of collage:  “an agglomeration of fragments such as matchboxes, bus tickets, playing cards, pasted together and transposed, often with relating lines or color dabs, into an artistic composition of incongruous effect. It is a type of abstraction.”
  • Does not cohere
  • Junk art” – no more than an accumulation of the detritus of daily life in a composition that can only loosely be called a “synthesis” (pg. 40)
  • Crossover from life to art
  • Decisions made – choice of material, “composing”
  • A “structure” of relationships between fragments of material, a demonstration of the reversible relationship between life and art
  • The artistic fragments refine the life fragments – gives a more contemplative level of consciousness than in everyday life
  • Life fragments raised from transient to eternal present (impermanent to permanent)
  • Process is “a mockery of conventional conceptions of art-making…it becomes hard to take collage seriously as art” (pg. 40).
  • Collage is only relatively (not absolutely) art
  • Becomes to obviously relative to life
  • In a limbo that isn’t life or art – lost the clarity of its intention as art
  • Relativity – isn’t reductionist, it signals an expanded sense of possibilities/effectiveness of art, of creativity and art’s worldy role
  • From cubist collage on, art can’t be understood as anything but relative in its nature
  • Kant:  “transcendental illusion” to assume art can be complete, that it can exist entirely in itself
  • Alfred North Whitehead on “principle of relativity” (pg. 42)
  • “Collage is a demonstration of this process of the many becoming the one, with the one never fully resolved because of the many that continue to impinge upon it” (Kuspit 42).
  • Every entity potentially relevant to every other entity’s existence
  • Concrescence
  • Always coming into being, never “been”
  • Insistent yet porous
  • Nothing in the collage is necessary
  • Metaphor of universal becoming
  • Process of assimilation
  • Makes uncertainty a method of creation (for the first time in art)
  • About absences and positive presences of the fragments
  • “eternal objects” – color, geometric form, line
  • Fragments of art are equal with fragments of life in the collage
  • Art is no longer either representational or abstract; a creative, subjective choice of elements emblematic of becoming in general
  • Fragments are experienced as profoundly meaningful, but the meaning can’t be spelled out completely – this is what leaves the artist to arrange fragments as he wishes (whimsically or willfully)
  • Freedom and chance, indeterminate sense of their relation makes the fragments stimulating
  • Collage as a scene of the struggle between an objective and subjective sense of worldliness (pg. 47)
  • Epitomizes the state of contrast between categorization of actuality and expectation of becoming
  • Sense of a restlessly shifting range of stimuli is the essence of collage – reflecting the individuality of the artist’s becoming (pg. 48)
  • “Collage makes poetry with the prosaic fragments of dailiness.”
  • Cubist collage – ironical contrast is a mannerism – pursued so it becomes visionary
  • Collage is an “existential experiment with particular order patterns”
  • Relativistic art (collage) – the labor by which the modern world gives birth to a tradition (focusing itself in a ‘transcendent’ order)
  • “Collage undermines our ideas about things by refusing to establish them in a systematic relationship, reducing them to the elements of artistic experience” (pg. 51)
  • Collage destroys idea that imitation of nature is the basis of art – that art’s highest achievement is not simply to create an illusion of life, but to function as a kind of representation of it
  • Untraditional collage preferred over traditional painting: greater romantic possibilities, greater freedom of expression, and greater ease when traditional ideas can be dismissed (pg. 55)
  • Collage evokes sense of indep. depth of consciousness (directed toward itself, clarify its own perspective) and evokes sense of consciousness dressing up “things as they are” with profundity of its own perspective
  • Collage is an amalgam of 3 unresolved elements:  worldly, artistic, mixed/impure elements (this quote seen in Cunningham reading)

Kuspit, Donald B. “The Organizing Principle of Art in the Age of the Relativity of Art.” Collage: Critical Views. Ed. Katherine Hoffman. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research, 1989. 39-57. Print.

Source: Ambiguous Spaces

Ambiguous Spaces | NaJa & deOstos

Ambiguous Spaces

Notes | Introduction

  • Forces – relationship between individuals and institutions
  • Architectural interests reside in the spatial investigation of individual, state, corporate, or military relationships and how they can abruptly shift individual and communal life stories, seemingly without their consent
  • Architecture as a territory where the absurd and contradictory aspects of the situations themselves can be identified within the resulting projects
  • Explore architecture through literature – Kafka’s The Trial (reveals that what seems a strange depiction of reality is actually a much more sophisticated, darker excursion into the nuances of juxtaposed logics and worlds)
  • Book describes oppressive and alienating institutional forces and also depicts how these same forces manifest themselves:  elusive, absurd, violent
  • Blending of parallel realities
  • Investigating spatial design through opposing elements, cultural nuances presented in ideas and issues usually considered outside the scope of our profession
  • Ambiguous space – resulting architecture in which ambivalence presides and discordant logics are manifested
  • Architecture as an open language – can address issues considered unsuitable to its status quo
  • Exploration of strange elements – the common fissures that exist between oppressed individuals/communities and powerful political forces

Nuclear Breeding

  • Orford Ness – a former nuclear test facility in SE England, a military site used to launch reconnaissance sorties, experiment with aerial photography, develop a radar system, and test ballistics for the Blue Danube (first British atomic bomb in 1950s)
  • Now houses a nature reserve
  • Narrative as a generative tool
  • Generative – having the power to originate design investigations
  • Nuclear Breeding – explores the mechanisms of the nuclear bomb itself
  • Mapped the physical effects of nuclear detonation on land and water
  • Studied each resulting crater to understand extreme “landscape technique”
  • Main goal – to investigate generating a landscape design via fictional computer-simulated explosions
  • Three parts of form-finding method: creating formal 3D diagrams by computer, mapping and inserting design decisions in the process, and investigating spatial arrangements through hand drawing
  • Computer drawings as part of the process, never the final answer
  • Created fictional characters/users that could interact with the space to determine primary/secondary uses of the crater
  • Resulted in different programs to fit each user’s personality
  • Destructive power of atomic bombs to generate an alternative life model – contradictory to nature of military use of technology (creating farmland from the use of atomic power)
  • This project is not a product of science fiction but spatial and programmatic investigations into mysterious field of military nuclear technology
  • Binds a remembrance of past to necessity of progress

The Pregnant Island

  • In Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, creates binary extremes in fictional town of Macondo – things that defy science are depicted as matter-of-fact happenings, but also has familiar human practices (exploitation, ruthless violence, brutality of modernity/progress)
  • Magical realism – storytelling mechanism, similarities with surrealism and science fiction
  • Commonplace treatment of the supernatural grounds the narrative in a strange but recognizable reality – foregrounds other issues like social exploitation and political dilemmas
  • Macondo represents historical struggle of South America against postcolonial forces/provincial corruption and ascension of traditions (storytelling, native myths) that help maintain supernatural/mystical in people’s lives
  • Istanbul Architecture Biennale project (look up)
  • Local’s narratives and strong bond to specific natural features (rivers, plants, sounds, etc.) – relationship between this project and magical realism
  • Reality of building a dam – factual/quantitative data (landownership, etc.) must be balanced with magical/qualitative factors (creationist myths, local gods, ritual grounds)
  • Focused on two examples – Three Gorges Dam (Sandouping, China) and Tucuri Dam (Brazil)
  • Large dams – generate power, supply water, control irrigation but also have damaging effects on local ecosystems and displace vast numbers of people
  • Ineffective displacement patterns caused a broken sense of community and loss of livelihood – results in alcohol abuse, domestic violence, etc.
  • The Pregnant Island:  designed landscape based on two facts that sound fictional
    • 1600 hilltops were transformed into islands by initial flooding of the Tucuri Dam reservoir
    • Water level can vary by 60’ between wet and dry seasons, mutating landscape from valley to lake
  • Inspirations for generating a kinetic island were native fertility tales – their belief that nature is a living entity, with deities impersonating landscape features
  • What if both universes (magical and scientific) could merge?
  • Meeting of 2 parallel worlds would mirror condition of the dam – a colossal piece of engineering placed in archaeological ground among Amazonian rituals
  • Conceptual island evolved with only one generation of characters (unlike Macondo’s 7 generations of family life)
  • Design process in three parts:  the island, a dwelling building, and area between them
  • Derived a series of parameters to define how the building envelope and island’s pregnancy (kinetic aspects) would interact
  • Pregnancy:  gestation of a female animal to the “carrying of” the anthropomorphic island – distended (swollen) parts, fatigue (slow transformations), weight gain, and center of gravity shift
  • Mapped and zoned the island according to areas where swellings might erupt and more stable geological areas would allow for a building footprint
  • Concept of pregnant island as a key design process tool – used amalgamation of rational (building structure) and irrational (island)
  • Maloca (building) – reinvented version of the native Amazonian communal house
  • Vegetation has disappeared, land is eroded due to massive tide changes
  • Building serves as dwelling and includes typical architectural elements arranged around a vertical axis
  • Sinuous curves of building envelope – reference local tribal masks and archaeological remains found in Amazon region
  • Structural fibers made from tree roots create thin suspended bridges that provide access to the island
  • Maloca typically arranged in a circle around a central ceremonial patio – but this dwelling organized vertically
  • Envelope of the pods are constantly under production – dripping latex circles spiral frames and thickens the skin
  • Function of the project based around hybrid logic of fact and fiction
  • Design exposes and works with contradiction and challenges faced by uprooted native communities (to live in an island environment with significant landscape changes from winter to summer due to tide changes)
  • Want to create an architectural counterpart to magical realism or literary irony and humor in order to engage architecture as a reactive discipline
  • Pregnant Island absorbs factual and mixes it with mythical native tales
  • Project merges existing ingredients within a spatial narrative – space that changes with time and is a multidimensional experiment depicting cultural and social ambiguities within context of native communities
  • Resulting island is an ambiguous space that discloses the fragility of human habitat and individual choice

Jackowski, Nannette, and Ricardo DeOstos. Ambiguous Spaces: NaJa & DeOstos. New York: Princeton Architectural, 2008. Print.

Bibliographic Essay – Outline and Brainstorm


Collage and Art Movements

  • Topic Sentence:  Collage was involved with many different art movements, from Dadism to Schwitters’ “MERZ.”
  • Surrealism:  Copeland says “collage is interested in surrealism’s radical juxtapositions” (not interested in automatism or the unconscious)
  • Copeland also describes the work of Max Ernst (famous collagist) – collage as “the meeting of two distant realities on a plane foreign to them both”
  • Merz:  Hoffman describes how Schwitters created his own art movement.  “Quite consciously he searched for a trade name with which to present his work to the public.  He could not call it Dada, as he had been rejected by the Berlin Dadaists, and stylistically it did not fit under the label of any of the other contemporary art movements.  Schwitters chose the word MERZ, the title of one of the works he was about to exhibit.” (pg. 226)
  • Cubism:  “canvases from early 1912 in which the introduction of some kind of large plane which, like the chair-caning or the pamphlet ‘Notre avenir…’ is a wholly different color and texture from the monochrome faceting of analytic cubism, and inaugurates both the invention of collage and the opening of cubism to color.” (Krauss)
  • Collage itself didn’t fit into one art movement, resulting in many types of collages
  • Transition:  All of these movements involved with collage involve ‘random’ materials.

Collage and “Worldly” Elements

  • Topic Sentence:  Many collages in the visual arts physically incorporate “worldly” elements in the collage.
  • Dance Professor Roger Copeland talks about three elements of collage, one being “worldly” elements like newspapers
  • Copeland says collage includes “intruders from the world of real things”
  • Copeland also argues that the “newspaper provides a model for a collage-like distinctiveness of modernity itself.  On a single sheet, it treats the most diverse matters and ranges over distant countries”
  • Katherine Hoffman describes Kurt Schwitters:  “From 1918 to his death in 1948, Kurt Schwitters produced a vast number of collages, collecting from sidewalks, dustbins, trash barrels, and cast-off materials to create his own medium and idiom” (pg. 225).
  • Professor of Art History Rosalind Krauss discusses Picasso’s use of “word-fragments” and newspapers:  “that the word-fragments perform these jokes while serving to label the object – the newspaper – with its name, is very much Rosenblum’s point” (Rosenblum says that Picasso uses puns by fragmenting the newspaper titles in order to provide realism in his Cubist collages
  • Using “worldly” materials gives meaning to the collage about the spirit of the time in which it was created.
  • Transition:  ‘Wordly’ elements often used by collagist/bricoleur to create physical collages.

Bricoleur/Craftsmen – Collage Method

  • Topic Sentence:  The bricoleur is someone who uses readily available materials, which often creates a form of collage.
  • Merzbau:  “a cavern of old lumber, strangely molded plaster, and other materials that might be called an early ‘environment’” (Hoffman 14)
  • Schwitters says, “Every means is right when it serves its end…What the material signified before its use in the work of art is a matter of indifference so long as it is properly evaluated and given artistic meaning in the work of art.  And so I began to construct pictures out of materials I happened to have at hand, such as streetcar tickets, cloakroom checks, bits of wood, wire twine, bent wheels, tissue paper, tin cans, chips of glass, etc.  These things are inserted into the picture either as they are or else modified in accordance with what the picture requires.  They lose their individual character, their own special essence (Eigengift), by being dematerialized (entmaterialisiert) they become material for the picture.” (pg. 14)
  • Collage City:  Claude Levi-Strauss says:
    • “in our time the ‘bricoleur’ is still someone who works with his hands and uses devious means compared to those of the craftsman.”
    • “The ‘bricoleur’ is adept at performing a large number of diverse tasks; but, unlike the engineer, he does not subordinate each of them to the availability of raw materials and tools conceived and procured for the purpose of the project.  His universe of instruments is close and the rules of his game are always to make do with ‘whatever is at hand’” (pg. 102).
  • Transition:  The use of these random materials leads to a disorganized piece of art – not a single, central vision.

Disorganization of Collage

  • Topic Sentence:  Collage is ‘disorganized’ and ‘centrifugal’ due to the many layers of meaning and material.
  • Architects Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter describe in Collage City:  “those who pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory, connected, if at all, only some de facto way, for some psychological or physiological cause, related by no moral or aesthetic principle; these last lead lives, perform acts, and entertain ideas that are centrifugal rather than centripetal, their thought is scattered or diffused, moving on many levels, seizing upon the essence of a vast variety of experiences and objects”
  • Collage City, Hadrian:  “Compared with this single-minded performance of Louis XIV, we have the curiosity Hadrian – of Hadrian who is, apparently, so disorganized and casual, accumulation of disparate ideal fragments and whose criticism of Imperial Rome (configurationally much like his own house) is rather an endorsement than any protest” (pg. 90).
  • Collage City:  “disunified, no central vision or single origin”
  • Cunningham:  “collage distrusts claims of closure, unity, and fixed boundaries”
  • Cunningham:  “collage is always divided against itself – components of any successful collage speak with separate, disunified voices”
  • Collage City:  Foxes v. Hedgehogs – “fox is preoccupied with the multiplicity of stimulus” (Aristotle, Shakespeare, Picasso, Wren, etc.)
  • Krauss/Picasso?
  • Transition:  Comparing collage/the fox to Gesamtkunstwerk/the hedgehog can assist in a better understanding of collage.

Collage v. Gesamtkunstwerk (A total work of art)

  • Topic Sentence:  Collage and Gesamtkunstwerk share similar traits in that every layer is designed/intentional, but very different in that Gesamtkunstwerk has a single vision – a total work of art.
  • Collage City:  “a total architecture”; “’total architecture’ and ‘total design’ are present in all utopian projections”
  • Cunningham:  “synthesizing the separate arts into a seamless and unified whole (Wagner); integrated work of art”
  • Collage City:  “The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing (Berlin 91)”
  • Collage City:  ‘single, central vision’ prevails in architecture – Mies, Gropius, Fuller, etc.
  • While collage is typically disorganized, Gesamtkunstwerk, or “total work of art,” has a single, central focus.
  • Transition:  Collage is primarily considered a 2D visual art, but it often appears in three dimensional works as well.

Collage in Three Dimensions – Room, Performing Arts, City

  • Topic Sentence:  After collage started to make an appearance around 1912 (through Picasso and other artists) on canvas, it made the jump into three-dimensional space as early as the 1940’s (ex. Schwitters’ Merzbau).
  • Merzbau:  a collage that becomes an environment – “he made it a performance…every visit from someone was different from everyone else” (Merzbau Video)
  • Cunningham:  dance performances as collages – “Cunningham’s movement vocabulary in Collage was unprecedently diverse…it juxtaposed his usual modifications of ballet with utterly pedestrian movement (hair combing, nail filing) as well as steps drawn from ballroom and social dance.  In other words, varieties of ‘found’ movement existed alongside varieties of ‘found’ sound” (Copeland 12).
  • Collage City – Napolean I on Paris as a museum:  “The city was, to some degree, to become a sort of habitable exhibition, a collection of permanent reminders which were to edify both the resident and the visitor” (pg. 126).
  • Cunningham:  “the way that society exists now…being able to take fragments, long and short, and put them together in different ways – we have to, in a sense, do that in our lives all the time, although we don’t think aboudft it” (Hutera 1987:8).
  • Cunningham:  derives inspiration from “deep disjunctive structures of the contemporary city”


Overlaps Between Sources (Brainstorm):

  • “worldly” collage elements – newspapers, etc. (Cunningham) – compares to Schwitters (Hoffman) taking elements for his collages from sidewalks, trash bins, etc.
    • Cunningham:  “intruders from the world of real things”
    • Newspaper as a model for collage
  • Collage & Surrealism/association with art movements – cubism, Dadaism
    • (Hoffman) – Schwitters as Merz movement/abstract, Dadaist
    • (Cunningham) – radical juxtapositions of surrealism
  • Collage is divided against itself – disunified, no central vision or single origin
    •  “disorganized, casual, proposed reverse of ‘totality,’ needs an accumulation of ideal fragments” (Hadrian, Collage City)
    • Compare to Gesamtkunstwerk (Cunningham) – similar to but different from collage
    • Foxes vs. Hedgehogs in Collage City (architects)
  • Collage v. Gesamtkunstwerk (Collage City and Cunningham)
  • Urban life as collage in Cunningham’s work:  “the way that society exists now…being able to take fragments, long and short, and put them together in different ways – we have to, in a sense, do that in our lives all the time, although we don’t think about it” (Hutera 1987:8); derives inspiration from deep disjunctive structures of the contemporary city
    • Compare to Collage City
  • Idea of the craftsman/bricoleur
    • Schwitter’s Merzbau – built it himself
  • Experiencing collage in three dimensions
    • Merzbau
    • Cunningham’s dance
    • City as collage
  • “concrete” sounds (real, preexisting sounds – Cunningham) – compares to Schwitters
  • their very concreteness, combined with Schwitters’s formal and verbal manipulation of them, creates possibilities for meanings of a very real kind”
  • Natural vs. Man-made collage
  • Definition of Collage?