|Architecture Pill, Hans Hollein, 1967 (source)
||Die Antwoord (source)
Architecture’s legacy of replication and simulation calls into question the entire concept of authenticity. In fact, one could argue architecture is not visual at all, but instead it is the assembly of physical elements to produce a specific effect that is intelligible to the mind. The act of interpreting architecture dissolves form into symbol and experience. It is odor, it is texture, it is reverb. Conventional modes of architectural representation are inadequate if we collectively acknowledge architecture’s inherent complexity.
So if the visualizations architects produce are incapable of accurately describing architecture, how do we as practicing architects reconcile this contradiction? Moreover, what if architects no longer relied upon conventional modes of visual representation as proof of its existence? This debate demands revival. After all, Learning From Las Vegas is approaching its 35th birthday, and parametricism remains a stylized visualization tool used by academics and architects unconcerned with everyday constraints. In other words, while an authentic architecture is a moving target, this should not discourage us from including it in our everyday discourse.
In the 1960’s Hans Hollein used Bau Magazine as a platform to promote the idea that ‘Everything is Architecture’, a paper-revolt with a relevance echoed by similarly radical movements occurring in all fields of art and science. Hollein attempted to destabilize architecture’s foundation by challenging the assumption that architecture is a material discipline, thereby questioning architecture’s very existence.
Hollein’s survey is concerned not with the destruction of architecture, but instead he endeavors to preserve, prolong, and ultimately strengthen it. Pointing out the corrupt state of architecture was a gesture of affection, and expressed faith in its capacity to withstand moments of meaninglessness. ‘Everything is Architecture’ is evidence that architecture needed to be un-consolidated. Hollein considered the definition of architecture to be so homogenized and devoid of actual meaning, he acted to redefine it though the process of reduction and democratization.
Representation remains a crucial territory for examination, and before architecture can be physically realized it must first be imagined, delineated and visually tested. Despite the possibility for alternative forms of representation, architects are still committed (chained?) to the task of physically portraying their ideas, a challenge given the typical distance between what an architect and his/her audience considers ‘reality’. Here, a paradox emerges; these ideas are nothing without physical form and in their translation ideas are blurred—what was originally a valid representation of those ideas is now left to interpretation.
Distance can offer a clear perspective on a subject, but it can also be obfuscating.
When I watch Die Antwoord videos, while seduced by the highly produced worlds that they create, I am continually met with a sense that I am missing some crucial content, owing to our respective contexts. This leaves me to wonder how I would respond to their work if I was able to meaningfully navigate the details of their cultural references.
This South African group’s recently released single ‘Fatty Boom Boom’ is being cast as controversial, Lady Gaga references aside, for including blackface in its video. This is a concept with American roots, that the duo—who are always in character, further complicating any interpretation of their work—claim they are unfamiliar with.
As representations circulate around distinct and distant territories, they may remain fixed, or they may acquire varied meanings despite sharing a common provenance. Some may engage an archetype following a transformation, when its origin is perhaps less apparent and seemingly detached, while others may make references unknowingly. Given the complexity embedded within any reference, they are ultimately unstable and call into question what is authentic.
Erandi de Silva
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