Colloquia: TRANS_THINKING I“Architecture & The Mind: from bio-politics to noo-politics
October 31 & November 1, 2008.
Venue: Faculty of Architecture, Julianalaan 132, Auditorium B.
Organized by Deborah Hauptmann, with guest organizer Warren Neidich, Visiting Artist, Center for Cognition, Computation and Culture, Goldsmiths College, London.
Speakers and Participants include:
Yann M. Boutang
Abdul - Karim Mustapha
For participant's bios, please see below 'More Information'
To register to attend Trans_Thinking events, please send an email to the DSD [email@example.com] with "Register: Trans_Thinking" in the subject line.> More information Info: Download PDF
TRANS_THINKING THE CITY: ARCHITECTURE IN MIND: from bio-politics to noo-politics
Two-day Colloquium: October 31 & November 1, 2008
[for full program - see pdf download]
The aim of the TRANS_THINKING THE CITY series is to bring together experts and scholars in both the sciences and the humanities to discuss issues of relevance to current architecture and urban practices; issues effecting our cities, polis, ethos, communities. Trans_Thinking is a term employed to indicate a new mode of intellectual activity, thinking as part of mental mechanism brought to bear on emergent fields in both theoretical discourse and practice based activities operating at the margins of what has often been referred to as trans-disciplinarity. As such, Trans_Thinking attempts to think in the intervals between art, technology, politics, science and philosophy - between the so called empirical and speculative.
ARCHITECTURE IN MIND: from bio-politics to noo-politics colloquium invites thinkers in the areas of political and aesthetic philosophy, neuroscience, socio-cultural theory and visual & spatial theorists and practitioners such as architects, urbanist and artist. Two general concepts will guide the discussion: First, plasticity, generally indicating the idea of mutability, transformation and the inherent potential for change whether productive or prohibitive, positive or negative. For some this can be understood as a theoretical notion; for others a property of brain; for others still a metaphoric or diagrammatic concept applied to the culture surrounding built environment, as well as spatial analysis and design. Second, noo-power, understood generally as a power exerted over the life of the mind, including memory and attention which together form the ever evolving concept of the general intellect (nous). For some this will be directly related to current theoretical discussions on ‘noo-politics' and ‘societies of control'; for others the term will indicate the ways and means by which the neurobiological architecture may be reconfigured; for others this will be a new and yet unconsidered concept with respects to built environments and spatial analysis and design, and this, is precisely one of the principle aims of this colloquia - to bring an understanding of the importance of this issues to the fore with respects to thinking on the City.
The following provides a statement of interest prepared by the colloquium organizers. Invited contributors are asked to consider the below in formulating their own response to the topic of the colloquium.
ARCHITECTURE IN MIND: statement of interest
Approached from a theoretical perspective we believe that the concept of plasticity bears on questions pertaining to the conditions of the changing cultural milieu, what might be called cultural plasticity which may or may not through its direct or indirect actions effect memory, perception and experience. This, some would argue, could lead to subsequent transformations in experience due to technological developments. Of course, similar ideas have echoed through various discourses concerned with art and media and their effective relation to socio-cultural conditions whether considered as a virtual or actual real.
For instance, Walter Benjamin's now canonical claim regarding the organization and mode of human sense perception and its effects on ‘humanity's entire mode of existence' was related to transformations due not only to what he identifies as ‘nature'; but, more importantly to ‘historical circumstances'. By the latter he was referring to technological advances, and in particular to the advent of photography and film. ("The Work of Art in the age of Mechanical Reproduction", 1935). Also, Fredric Jameson, some 60 years after Benjamin, put forward a similar perspective; but here in relation to architecture, specifically the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles. Jameson believed that built space (object) is mutating to something we ourselves (subjects) do not yet possess the perceptual faculties to engage. He writes that this ‘new architecture' much like other cultural products, ‘...stand as something like an imperative to new organs, to expand our sensorium.' (Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, 1991). The question naturally follows, how with the advent of new technologies today we might imagine the impact on perception and experience either an aesthetic concern or scientific matter?
Foreshadowing Benjamin by half a century and Jameson by a full century we find the philosopher, Henri Bergson, advancing related arguments. Bergson analyzes such things in relation to notions of space; suggesting that people are inclined to project their psychic or mental states into spatial form; and in so doing, not only are these mental states themselves transformed, but simultaneously they return to generate alternative and new forms (other than those originally projected) when reflected back into consciousness. (Time and Free Will, 1889)
Put simply, Bergson saw clearly the double and dynamic movement, the continuous transformation, or, in our terms, the plasticity at play between mind & matter which he dealt with along a sensation-affect-action/perception-memory axis (and for the purpose of our discussion, we will take the liberty of qualifying these in terms of bios & nous respectively).
The examples outlined above will be known by most of the speakers invited to this colloquium. And, we would like to suggest, give rise to such questions as: how with the advent of new technologies today we might imagine the impact on perception and experience either an aesthetic concern or scientific matter? And with Bergson particularly, how might memory be understood in relation to both consciousness and our ability to process ‘the new'?
Of course, the implications of such questions on the nature of such things as sensation, affect, perception, memory and experience may well have once sat comfortably in the category of social theory and vitalist philosophy respectively. However, today political philosophy also encounters these matters when dealing with aesthetic concepts. Most notably perhaps is the area of political-aesthetics, which, for Jacques Rancière, have little relation with Benjamin's discussion of what we might symptomatically refer to as the aestheticisation of politics, particularly in respects to, again with Benjamin, the ‘age of the masses'. Rancière, in discussing what he refers to as ‘the distribution of the sensible', argues that Politics and arts construct ‘material rearrangements of signs and images' that produce real effects in that ‘(t)hey draft maps of the visible, trajectories between the visible and the sayable, relation between modes of being, modes of saying, and modes of doing and making....(defining) variations of sensible intensities, perceptions and the abilities of bodies'. (The Politics of Aesthetics- the above citation with respects to political statements and literary locutions). However, matters related to ‘materiality' come under fire once the issue of individuality and commonality are set against notions of the body in all its guises. Sovereignty, that body whether absolute or popular, local or global that has jurisdiction over a territory or group of people, today organizes this distribution with sophisticated apparatuses that are reminiscent of the (Foucauldean) ‘Society of Control' expressed in Michael Hardt's and Tony Negri's Empire and Gilles Deleuze's Foucault. Here, the logics of perception and experience are no longer materialistically defined only by contours of geometric and linear time and space arranged hierarchically in a rigid lattice but rather follow curved, non-linear Rheimannian paradigms that are expressed in complicated, non-hierarchical, rhizomatic flows. (Deleuze qua Bergson) Consider for a moment the way the Guggenheim Bilboa not only appears as form but functions as economic generator of cultural industry, the so called ‘Bilbao Effect', evidencing a direct impact on ethos, city and life. Or, simply, how commodities are now linked together as branded networks that intensify their desire quotient or how people communicate on chat rooms or move in and out of blog sites. Within architecture and urbanism we have similar concerns with respects to the ‘mapping of both visible and invisible trajectories' but with respects to socio-political practices as expressed actually or potentially in spatial configurations. Questions of how bio-politics and now the noo-politics can be mapped upon the surface of the city calls for discussion.
Of course, establishing a relationship of correspondences at a distance between the ‘sayable and the visible (Rancière) or ‘statements and visibilities' (Foucault) is an issue addressed as early as classical philosophy. Nevertheless, contemporary thinking on this inherently socio-politic relation between forms and forms of communication utilize a twofold interface generating new forms of logic of representation, one might say that these are now more topographical than analogical. Perhaps this is most easily exemplified in the global market place, which, with the help of the continuing scientific research on perception and cognition, has conspired in creating powerful complex networks of attention which allow for the manufacture of explicit connectiveness that today further defines the both political and aesthetic regimes, which effectively determine the organization of the senses (bios & nous here collapse distinctions). In this sense, Lazzarato argues that the notion of a society of control must include an understanding that ‘... power relations come to be expressed through the action at a distance of one mind on another, through the brain's power to affect and become affected, which is mediated and enriched by technology.' (‘The concepts of life and the living in the Societies of Control' Deleuze and The Social). We can here return to one of the general topics of this colloquium; following Maurizio Lazzarato, support the argument that Foucault's analysis of ‘disciplinary society' - institutions aiming at the reproduction of populations (bios, bio-politics) - benefits greatly by extending this theoretical framework to include Deleuze's analysis of ‘societies of control' - referring to disciplinary institutions in crisis, forming modulations in behaviors of persons (nous, noo-politics), implying another manner of investigating power and its impact on both society and individuals (individuation of/into ‘dividuals'). Put simply, the colloquium seeks to put forward new ideas on how an analysis into ‘bio-power' - acting on body, inscribing habits and practices, constraining (extensive) discrete actions ‘from the outside', (Deleuze) has expanded to include thinking on ‘noo-power' - operating on mind and general intellect and mental disposition, dynamism and the potential for continuous (intensive) change.
Here we would include that the true conditions of these dynamic transformations, effective states and affective reconfigurations of both thought and action are most importantly found in the conditions of the production of the body-brain-mind-world axis. In the constantly mutating conditions of the cultural environment and the way these changing contingencies become brain and mind and how then those conditions are disseminated through social cultural networks to produce in the end new forms of subjectivity. New histories for the production of the mind through differential sampling of the pre-individual are located not only intra-personally, in the life of that person, but are shared as common ontogeny's in the production of the inter-personal social mind as well. It is this form of second degree individuation that according to Paul Virno leads to "non-representational democracy". It is now clear that by enlisting the communicative industry special interests as diverse as pharmaceutical corporations, military-industrial complex, culture-industry, private and public economies, as well as the scientific and scholarly community, have produced sophisticated "machinic assemblages" to organize the "distribution of the sensible" to confer with the new conditions of the general intellect and the mind. The implications of this are that there is no way for a group or an individual to intercede in these seemingly indiscriminate and accelerating processes, thus, a question for the colloquium contributors arises as to the possibilities they might see for actions that might be capable of disrupting these prevalent and non-mediated forms of distribution?
Recent ideas emanating from Neuroscience, such as the Theory of Neuronal Group Selection and Connectionism, have been linked to evolving ideas in media studies which have provided explanations for the way in which the evolving modes of perception mentioned in the above quote of Jameson are the result of Darwinian pressures which sculpt initially through there affect on the individual and then upon polis, new forms of neural architectonics which provide the brain with new opportunities for thought and the imagination. In fact the history of this thought and its image is what Deleuze has referred to as Noo-ology. In its present condition in the age of Empire or Global Capitalism the contemporary cultural conditions and the dispositifs or apparatuses necessary for its smooth operation have incited new connective potentials that together acting on things like binding, synchrony and neural plasticity form new operating programs and mental gymnastics to deal with these ever evolving cultural conditions. Questions come to mind, such as, how might the multitude, formed as a result of the ever expanding and complex cultural conditions in which these changes operate, be tethered together in the production of a new political (or a-political) subjectivity? Or with Rancière, if the distribution of the sensible as this relates to 'laws governing the sensible order that parcels out places and forms of participation in a common world', how and in what way might theorists and practitioners understand these conditions with respects to their own activities?
What Paul Virilio refers to as 'phatic stimuli'; which have evolved into highly attention-grabbing-conglomerates of stimuli that act as multiplicities and operate beyond the sensorium reaching into the folded gyri and sulci of the brain itself. Here we recognize intense, designed, repetitive stimuli and networks of stimuli acting in concert; for instance, the global relay stations of world wide television can stimulate certain conditions in the brain preferentially. Neurons and Neural Networks that (according to JP Changeux) match for instance a manufactured precept, the Nike shoe brand, with a genetically prescribed fuzzy pre-representative disposition; how might such things be preferentially stimulated leading to a greater overall efficiency in the network and possibly a competitive advantage over other networks not so stimulated in the competition for brain space? In this sense, the brain might become according to Gerald Edelman, sculpted by, for instance, the conditions of built space through which and upon which mediated environments operate. How do we comprehend both positive and negative implications of this? On one hand such conditions could provide government and sovereignty the tools to tightly bind a homogenous people together but on the other it might allow for artists and architects the chance to mutate those very conditions. Is it true, as Terrence Deacon has expressed, that over time these changes, like his example of language, could in fact change the very structure of the brain?
We believe that architecture as well has created its own set of dispositifs that provide for the smooth realization of these new and diverse networks into the planned conditions of the built environment. Whether it be the distribution networks and circulatory patterns of configured urban space, the reorganization of program interfaces which, for instance, can alter economic distributions through something as simple as the conditions surrounding shopping. Or, the development and implementation of designer software or creating the ideas that later become the internal architecture of cyberspace used in video games or Hollywood special effect studios. Also, on a more direct note, Architects and Urbanist have long engaged in concepts such as ‘flexibility', and today such ideas are extended into research on sustainability; but at times it is useful to develop new concepts with which to reformulate our questions, adjust our analytic filters, and the concept of ‘plasticity' may well be of great use here. Are the above issues related to the ‘sculpting of brain' mere metaphors for architecture and urban practices or can they be seen as something more?
Put otherwise, architectural imaginations produce practices that allow for the exploration of remote territories, like the paranormal, non-linear, psychic, and insensible, which pulsate beyond the reach of the formulaic methodologies of the logics of CAD and Maya programs. Does this is imply that this kind of Architecture is disengaged and distanced from life as some form of hermetic endeavor or quite the opposite? Should we not grasp that such technologies are embedded in the interwoven fabric of social, political, economic, psychological, historical and spiritual relations of a community of differences and heterogeneity? Or, that in fact, such processes, procedures and products commingle to form complex systems of recurrent and recursive loopings? Which, in the end, help produce novel forms of networks that empower the imagination of each receptive/productive subject with new possibilities for creativity which in the end reconstitute the cultural landscape with new objects, object relations, contexts and arrangements. Works like ‘architecture with out a plan' of Jonah Friedman or the contingencies operating in the experimental work of Constant Nieuwenhuis' ‘New Babylon' seem to operate on more metaphysical levels superimposing meaning, contexts and critiques upon it in order to change the way those distributions are read, understood and processed as memories. Might, for instance, the Situationist International (SI), with their emphasis on a kinesthetic understanding of the urban environment - exercised through the deríve and detournement - be understood through the above considerations?
Finally, it is relevant to note that while architectural and urban projects can be extensive, both in scale and scope, both economically determined and impacting, and include many active agents and contributors - and thus a certain contingency of the architectural community must and does conform to regulations, codifications and unchallenged givens in order that it can operate on the grand scale - architecture and urban practices also evince a history in which they consciously or unconsciously undo the very conditions of this institutional built space, and the rationality that creates its gloss - thus reaffirming the conditions of other possibilities of becoming. Might architects and urbanist, in cases such as these, use their own historical referents, materials, processes, apparatuses, spaces, performances, to create complex assemblages that together compete with institutional arrangements to produce and redistribute the order governing logic of the sensible? In other words, while Architecture and Urbanism inhabit the same spaces and temporalities as the institutional arrangements that characterize bio-politics; their presence also possesses the potential to bend and contort the very systems in which they operate altering static and rigid arrangements in significant and yet to be adequately explored ways. In the end we pose this as the challenge to Architecture and Urbanism, to think the City along the intervals of thoughts and ideas provided by philosophy, science, politics and theory in terms of ARCHITECTURE IN MIND: from bio-politics to noo-politics.
Warren Neidich & Deborah Hauptmann
Architect, Bachelor of Architecture Sci-ARC, (1992), MSAAD Columbia University, New York (1995). Angelidakis maintains an experimental architectural practice, whose focus spans the gap between ideas and buildings, often using contemporary art as a testing field and new technologies as thinking environments. Angelidakis has lectured in Europe, US and Asia, and his work has been the subject of or included in exhibitions at the Centre d'art contemporain - Grenoble, MU Foundation - Eindhoven, Fargfabriken - Stockholm, National Museum of contemporary art - Athens, Sonar Festival - Barcelona, Venice Biennale 2000, Biennale Sao Paolo 2002, Experimenta Design Biennal Lisbon, Netherlands Architecture Institute, Rotterdam and more. Publications include L'Arca, Purple, Interview, Arkitekten, New York Times, Visionaire, Citizen K, Contemporary, Arftforum, Metropolis M, Textfield and more. In 2008 Damdi Architectural publishing in Korea, published the first monograph on his work, entitled "Internet Suburbia".
More information and complete CV, see: www.angelidakis.com
Yann Boutang, professor in Economy, Compiègene University, France. Chief Editor of the Journal Multitudes (Paris). Author of: Le capitalisme cognitif, la nouvelle grande transformation, Yann Moulier Boutang, Editions Amsterdam, 2008.
Jordan Crandall (http://jordancrandall.com) is a media artist and theorist. He is Associate Professor in the Visual Arts Department at University of California, San Diego. He is currently at work on a multi-platform media work entitled SHOWING, which looks at cultures of self-exposure and display. It includes a video installation entitled HEAT, which is about the staging of arousal -- as it occurs dynamically within the realms of extreme intimacy, where techniques of control (biometrics) combine with techniques of the self (affective self-staging). He is also at work on a book manuscript on "Anticipatory Assemblages" -- a reformulation of assemblage theory that focuses on its immersive erotics. His most recent video installation is HOMEFRONT, a 3-channel work that combines live-action video, surveillance footage, and military tracking software, and which explores the effects of the new security culture on subjectivity and identity.
Keller Easterling is an architect and writer from New York City. Her book, Enduring Innocence: Global Architecture and its Political Masquerades (MIT, 2005) researches familiar spatial products that have landed in difficult or hyperbolic political situations around the world. A previous book Organization Space: Landscapes, Highways and Houses in America applies network theory to a discussion of American infrastructure and development formats. A forthcoming book, Extrastatecraft, examines global infrastructure networks as a medium of polity. Easterling has lectured and published widely in the United States and internationally. She has also published web installations including: Wildcards: a Game of Orgman and Highline: Plotting NYC. Her research and design work has been most recently exhibited at the Rotterdam Biennale, the Architectural League and Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York. Easterling is an associate professor at Yale University.
Scott Kelso holds the Glenwood and Martha Creech Eminent Scholar Chair in Science at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton where he is also Professor of Psychology, Biological Sciences and Biomedical Sciences. In 1985 he founded the first Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences in the US at Florida Atlantic and also led a NIH-funded National Training Program in this new interdisciplinary field. For most of his scientific career Kelso has been trying to understand how human beings (and human brains)-individually and together-coordinate behavior on multiple levels, all the way from cellular to cognitive and social behavior. He is considered an originator of Coordination Dynamics, a theoretical and empirical framework geared to understanding the functional coordination of living things.
Kelso is the recipient of numerous awards including the MERIT, Senior Scientist and Director's Innovation Awards from NIH, the Distinguished Alumni Research Achievement Award from the University of Wisconsin, Docteur Honoris Causa from the Republic of France and the University of Toulouse (est. 1228). In December 2007 he was honored to be chosen as Pierre de Fermat Laureate. Kelso is a Fellow of AAAS, APA and APS. His most recent books are Dynamic Patterns: the Self-Organization of Brain and Behavior (1995 and 1997, MIT Press) now in its 4th printing, Coordination Dynamics (with V. K. Jirsa) published by Springer in 2004 and The Complementary Nature (with D.A. Engstrøm) published by MIT Press in 2006 (ppbk released March, 2008). A recent invited piece "Coordination Dynamics" will be published by Springer in their upcoming Encyclopedia of Complexity and System Science (2009).
Markus Miessen, is an architect, researcher, and writer, director of Studio Miessen, a collaborative agency for spatial strategy and cultural analysis, and partner of the Berlin-based architectural practice nOffice. In various collaborations, Miessen has published books such as Spaces of Uncertainty (Müller+Busmann, 2002), Did Someone Say Participate? An Atlas of Spatial Practice (MIT, 2006), With/Without - Spatial Products, Practices and Politics in the Middle East (Bidoun, 2007), The Violence of Participation (Sternberg, 2007), East Coast Europe (Sternberg, 2008) and frequently contributes as editor and writer to various magazines and journals. He has taught and lectured internationally, including at the Architectural Association, Columbia and MIT, and is consulting for the European Kunsthalle, the Serpentine Gallery, and the interdisciplinary Swiss think tank W.I.R.E.; apart from working on his PhD and first single-authored book, he is currently the director of the AA Winter School Middle East and holds a Visiting Professorship in Shiraz (Iran). www.studiomiessen.com
Abdul-Karim Mustapha is co-editor of The Philosophy of Antonio Negri: Volume 1 (Pluto Press: 2005); Philosophy of Antonio Negri: Volume 2 (Pluto Press: 2007). He is editorial board member of Rethinking Marxism and Multitude and is the author of the forthcoming study entitled Age of the Globe. He also published essays in journals such as The South Atlantic Quarterly, Boundary 2, African Arts and in the Latin American Subaltern Studies Reader.
John Protevi (PhD, Philosophy, Loyola Chicago, 1990) is Associate Professor of French Studies at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He is the author of Time and Exteriority: Aristotle, Heidegger, Derrida (Bucknell, 1994); Political Physics: Deleuze, Derrida and the Body Politic (Athlone Press, 2001); and co-author, with Mark Bonta, of Deleuze and Geophilosophy: A Guide and Glossary (Edinburgh, 2004). In addition, he is co-editor, with Paul Patton, of Between Deleuze and Derrida (Continuum Press, 2003); and editor of the Edinburgh Dictionary of Continental Philosophy (Edinburgh, 2005). He is Founding Editor of the book series New Directions in Philosophy and Cognitive Science with Palgrave Macmillan. His current research is at the intersection of dynamical systems theory, affective cognition, and politics. His latest book is Political Affect: Connecting the Social and the Somatic, forthcoming in 2009 with University of Minnesota Press.
Dr. Wexler is a Professor of Psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine. He received his BA degree Magna Cum Laude from Harvard College with a concentration in Government, completed medical training at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Psychiatry training at Yale. He also studied psychiatry at Anna Freud's clinic in Hampstead and neurology at the Institute of Neurology, Queen's Square, London. He has published over 100 scientific research papers and is a member of expert panels and grant review committees for the National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Wexler's book "Brain and Culture; Neurobiology, Ideology and Social Change" presents new ideas about the relationship between people and their social and cultural environments (MIT Press, 2006). His scientific research on brain function is supported by a prestigious Research Scientist Award from the National Institute of Mental Health, and by multiple research project grants from the government and private foundations.
Charles T. Wolfe, ARC Research Fellow, Unit for History and Philosophy of Science, University of Sydney, works chiefly on the materialist ontology of Life and Organism in the Enlightenment and in contemporary thought. He has published articles on La Mettrie, Diderot, Sade, Locke and medicine, materialist laughter, monsters, organism, the identity theory of brain and mind, and has edited the following volumes: The Renewal of Materialism (2000); Monsters and Philosophy (2005), a special issue of Science in Context entitled Vitalism without Metaphysics? (forthcoming December 2008), a ‘Dossier' on Philosophy of Biology in Multitudes 16 (2004); he co-edited with Antonio Negri, Desiderio del Mostro. Dal Circo al Laboratorio alla Politica (2001) and is preparing (with Ofer Gal) a volume entitled Embodied Empiricism (forthcoming 2009) and (with Philippe Huneman) a special issue of History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences on Organism (forthcoming 2010). He has a book in preparation (Diaphanes Verlag) entitled A Materialist Theory of the Self. Charles is also an editor of the Paris-based journal Multitudes and was (between 1997-2004) an editor of Chimères, a journal founded by Félix Guattari.