Walter Benjamin’s famous essay discusses the conditions and effects of cultural objects losing their ‘aura’ or sacred status. But is it possible for nature to undergo a similar process of devaluation through the ever increasing ease of access to it?

If anything is endangered in America it is our experience of wild nature—gross contact. There is knowledge only the wild can give us, knowledge specific to it, knowledge specific to the experience of it. These are its gifts to us.

How wild is wilderness and how wild are our experiences in it, asks Jack Turner in the pages of The Abstract Wild. His answer: not very wild. National parks and even so-called wilderness areas fall far short of offering the primal, mystic connection possible in wild places. And this is so, Turner avows, because any managed land, never mind what it’s called, ceases to be wild. Moreover, what little wildness we have left is fast being destroyed by the very systems designed to preserve it.

Natural resource managers, conservation biologists, environmental economists, park rangers, zoo directors, and environmental activists: Turner’s new book takes aim at these and all others who labor in the name of preservation. He argues for a new conservation ethic that focuses less on preserving things and more on preserving process and “leaving things be.” He takes off after zoos and wilderness tourism with a vengeance, and he cautions us to resist language that calls a tree “a resource” and wilderness “a management unit.”

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Readings for April 16th

Posted: April 13, 2019 in Readings

These are for Tuesday. I only plan to discuss Simone de Beauvoir and Linda Nochlin. While Laura Mulvey is fascinating and massively influential, I have decided not to assign her this semester. Her essay is simply too difficult for us. Still, do feel free to read her and ask me questions if you like.

Good luck with this next assignment. See you soon!

Simone de Beauvoir
The Second Sex (1949)

nochlin-linda-51
Linda Nochlin
(b. 1931)
“Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” (1971)

mulveywollen

Laura Mulvey
(b. 1941)
“Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (1975)

(optional!)

giphy-2

~ “Charles [Eames] was on the board of the the Ringling Brothers [Clown] College and often referred to the circus as an example of what design and art should be.”

–Beatriz Colomina, “Surrounded by Screens: The Eames’s Media House”

Living The Dream!

Highly influential New York artist Cindy Sherman made taking selfies an art form before the word even existed. Throughout her career she has experimented with costume, prosthetics, makeup and digital photography to create highly exaggerated and ofttimes grotesque character studies. A new exhibition at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane includes more than 50 large-scale works by Sherman. The images draw from her series Clowns (2003–04), made in the aftermath of the 2001 US terrorist attacks; Society portraits (2008), and work made in conjunction with fashion houses Balenciaga and Chanel

“There was a point where artists who made photographs and photographers were like really two separate tribes completely,” the artist Laurie Simmons said this week, minutes before she was honored at the International Center of Photography’s sixth Spotlights luncheon on Tuesday. Art, feminism, gender roles, fashion, and pop culture all changed dramatically during Simmons’s career, which spans over four decades.

The Architectural Uncanny presents an engaging and original series of meditations on issues and figures that are at the heart of the most pressing debates surrounding architecture today. Anthony Vidler interprets contemporary buildings and projects in light of the resurgent interest in the uncanny as a metaphor for a fundamentally “unhomely” modern condition. The essays are at once historical—serving to situate contemporary discourse in its own intellectual tradition and theoretical—opening up the complex and difficult relationships between politics, social thought, and architectural design in an era when the reality of homelessness and the idealism of the neo-avant-garde have never seemed so far apart.

In May 1906, the Atlantic Monthly commented that Americans live not merely in an age of things, but under the tyranny of them, and that in our relentless effort to sell, purchase, and accumulate things, we do not possess them as much as they possess us. For Bill Brown, the tale of that possession is something stranger than the history of a culture of consumption. It is the story of Americans using things to think about themselves.

Brown’s captivating new study explores the roots of modern America’s fascination with things and the problem that objects posed for American literature at the turn of the century. This was an era when the invention, production, distribution, and consumption of things suddenly came to define a national culture.

mad-men-opener copy

PRINCETON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2013
PLAYBOY & ARCHITECTURE— 1953–1979
AUTHOR: BEATRIZ COLOMINA


Playboy’s Progress
Research Seminar Fall 2008–09

Beatriz Colomina with students: Luis Avilés, Marc Britz, Daniela Fabricius, Gina Greene, Margo Handwerker, Joy Knoblauch, Yetunde Olaiya, Enrique Ramirez, Molly Steenson, and Federica Vannucchi from Princeton University

The seminar was dedicated to the study of Architecture in Playboy: 1953–1979. The thesis of this research seminar was that Playboy played a crucial yet unacknowledged role in the cultivation of design culture in the USA. Through a wide range of different strategies, the magazine integrated state of the art designers and architects into a carefully constructed vision of a desirable contemporary life style. The seminar explored the ways in which Playboy was ahead of professional and popular magazines in promoting modern architecture and design.

The collaborative research seminar assembled and analyzed the magazines, the secondary literature on Playboy, the related archives, and conducted interviews with protagonists. As in previous Media and Modernity research seminars, the project will culminate in the collaborative production of a definitive book, exhibition, or event.

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I suppose if there were more people this awesome we would not appreciate them as much.

BC PI

Med Mod Princeton

february-12-2013

The famous 1977 short film by Ray and Charles Eames. I distinctly recall seeing this as a kid.




Lots of cool photos to accompany Colomina’s “Split Wall.” Fascinating stuff!


“The look is directed . . . in such deliberate manner as to suggest the reading of these houses as frames for a view.”

— Beatriz Colomina, “Split Wall”

“But with all the interrogation of the word feminine, one sometimes forgets that in France in the late 1960s, it was the word écriture (writing) that was the common denominator for a wide range of explosive practices and publications.

Norton Anthology of Literary Criticism, “Introduction to Hélène Cixous”

“My architecture is not conceived in plans, but in spaces (cubes). I do not design floor plans, facades, sections. I design spaces. For me, there is no ground floor, first floor etc…. For me, there are only contiguous, continual spaces, rooms, anterooms, terraces etc. Stories merge and spaces relate to each other. Every space requires a different height: the dining room is surely higher than the pantry, thus the ceilings are set at different levels. To join these spaces in such a way that the rise and fall are not only unobservable but also practical, in this I see what is for others the great secret, although it is for me a great matter of course. Coming back to your question, it is just this spatial interaction and spatial austerity that thus far I have best been able to realize in Dr Müller’s house.”

–Adolf Loos, Shorthand record of a conversation in Plzeň (Pilsen), 1930

~

mller_0

Villa Müller
Adolf Loos, architect
Prague, Czech – 1930

CLICK!

~

Villa Savoye
Corbusier, architect
Poissy, France – 1928 – 1931

CLICK!

Fascinating.

“The horrible features of imperialistic warfare are attributable to the discrepancy between the tremendous means of production and their inadequate utilization in the process of production – in other words, to unemployment and the lack of markets. Imperialistic war is a rebellion of technology which collects, in the form of “human material,” the claims to which society has denied its natural material. Instead of draining rivers, society directs a human stream into a bed of trenches; instead of dropping seeds from airplanes, it drops incendiary bombs over cities; and through gas warfare the aura is abolished in a new way.”

–Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in The Age of Its Mechanical Reproduction (1936)

Virtual Futures presents Anna Feigenbaum in conversation on her new book, Tear Gas: From the Battlefields of WWI to the Streets of Today.


Anna Feigenbaum shares the story of how a chemical weapon went from the battlefield to the streets. Originally designed to force people out from behind barricades and trenches, tear gas causes burning of the eyes and skin, tearing, and gagging. Chemical weapons are now banned from war zones. But today, tear gas has become the most commonly used form of “less-lethal” police force.

“In addition to looking at entanglement of colonialism and the history of capitalism we also have to look at the rise of Public Relations. And it’s not a coincidence in the 1920s during the Edward Bernays rise of Public Relations. The first marketing of tear gas is happening this kind of Bernays-style PR stunts.”

–Ana Feigenbaum

https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2018/11/26/mexico-tear-gas-investigation-trump-border-protection-miguel-marquez-dnt-ebof-vpx.cnn

“The newsreel offers everyone the opportunity to rise from passer-by to movie extra. In this way any man might even find himself part of a work of art, as witness Vertov’s Three Songs About Lenin or Ivens’ Borinage. Any man today can lay claim to being filmed. This claim can best be elucidated by a comparative look at the historical situation of contemporary literature.”


Leni Riefensthal
Triumph of The Will (1935)


Orson Welles
Citizen Kane (1941)


Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in The Age
of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936):

Even more revealing is the comparison of these circumstances, which differ so much from those of the theater, with the situation in painting. Here the question is: How does the cameraman compare with the painter? To answer this we take recourse to an analogy with a surgical operation. The surgeon represents the polar opposite of the magician. The magician heals a sick person by the laying on of hands; the surgeon cuts into the patient’s body. The magician maintains the natural distance between the patient and himself; though he reduces it very slightly by the laying on of hands, he greatly increases it by virtue of his authority. The surgeon does exactly the reverse; he greatly diminishes the distance between himself and the patient by penetrating into the patient’s body, and increases it but little by the caution with which his hand moves among the organs. In short, in contrast to the magician – who is still hidden in the medical practitioner – the surgeon at the decisive moment abstains from facing the patient man to man; rather, it is through the operation that he penetrates into him.

Etienne_Jules_Marey_2

During long periods of history, the mode of human sense perception changes with humanity’s entire mode of existence. The manner in which which human sense perception is organized, the medium in which it is accomplished, is determined not only by nature but by historical circumstances as well. . . . This is the first consequence of the fact that the [film] actor’s performance is presented by means of a camera. Also the film actor lacks the opportunity of the stage actor to adjust to the audience during the performance to the audience during his performance to the audience in person. This permits the the audience to take the position of a critic, without experiencing any personal contact with the actor. The audience’s identification with the actor is really an identification with the camera. Consequently the audience takes the position of the camera; its approach is that of testing. . . . The shooting of a film, especially of a sound film, affords a spectacle unimaginable anywhere ar any time before this. It presents a process in which it is impossible to assign to a spectator a viewpoint which would exclude from the actual scene such extraneous accessories as camera equipment, lighting machinery, staff assistants, etc. – unless his eye were on a line parallel with the lens.

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Dziga Vertov
The Man with the Movie Camera, (1929)
35mm film, black and white, silent, 65 minutes (approx.)

Sigmund Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams” (1900):

The idea which is thus put before us is one of psychic locality. We shall wholly ignore the fact that the psychic apparatus concerned is known to us also as an anatomical preparation, and we shall carefully avoid the temptation to determine the psychic locality in any anatomical sense. We shall remain on psychological ground, and we shall do no more than accept the invitation to think of the instrument which serves the psychic activities much as we think of a compound microscope, a photographic camera, or other apparatus. The psychic locality [the entirely virtual location where the mind itself actually resides, note: bk], then, corresponds to a place within such an apparatus in which one of the preliminary phases of the image comes into existence. As is well known, there are in the microscope and the telescope such ideal localities or planes, in which no tangible portion of the apparatus is located. I think it superfluous to apologise for the imperfections of this and all similar figures. These comparisons are designed only to assist us in our attempt to make intelligible the complication of the psychic performance by dissecting it and referring the individual performances to the individual components of the apparatus. . . . Accordingly, we conceive the psychic apparatus as a compound instrument, the component parts of which we shall call instances, or, for the sake of clearness, systems.

Below are the trailer and the final cut for The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl.

Leni Riefenstahl’s show-biz experience began with an experiment: she wanted to know what it felt like to dance on the stage. Success as a dancer gave way to film acting when she attracted the attention of film director Arnold Fanck, subsequently starring in some of his mountaineering pictures. With Fanck as her mentor, Riefenstahl began directing films.

Her penchant for artistic work earned her acclaim and awards for her films across Europe. It was her work on Triumph of the Will (1935), a documentary commissioned by the Nazi government about Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich, that would come back to haunt her after the atrocities of World War II. Despite her protests to the contrary, Riefenstahl was considered an intricate part of the Third Reich’s propaganda machine. Condemned by the international community, she did not make another movie for over 50 years.

Readings for April 11th

Posted: April 9, 2019 in Readings

Beatriz Colomina
Princeton University
Architecture and Planning
Director of Graduate Studies

Split Wall: Domestic Voyeurism (1991)
(part 1 and part 2)

Domesticity at War (1991)

Enclosed by Images: The Eameses’
Multi-Media Architecture
(2001)

Photographers and reporters gather near Frenchman Flat
to observe the Priscilla nuclear test, June 24, 1957

Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev
American National Exhibition, Moscow, 1959

Scientific management provoked a backlash. Aldous Huxley satirised it in “Brave New World” (1932), as did Charlie Chaplin in “Modern Times” (1936).

Taylorism


Production efficiency methodology that breaks every action, job, or task into small and simple segments which can be easily analyzed and taught. Introduced in the early 20th century, Taylorism (1) aims to achieve maximum job fragmentation to minimize skill requirements and job learning time, (2) separates execution of work from work-planning, (3) separates direct labor from indirect labor (4) replaces rule of thumb productivity estimates with precise measurements, (5) introduces time and motion study for optimum job performance, cost accounting, tool and work station design, and (6) makes possible payment-by-result method of wage determination.

Digital Taylorism


Digital Taylorism, also known as New Taylorism, is a modern take on the management style known as classic Taylorism or scientific management. Digital Taylorism is based on maximizing efficiency by standardizing and routinizing the tools and techniques for completing each task involved with a given job. Digital Taylorism involves management’s use of technology to monitor workers and make sure they are employing these tools and techniques at a satisfactory level.

The latest scandal to emerge from Amazon’s warehouses centers on the company’s newly patented wristband, which gives it the ability to track and record employees’ hands in real time. Some have described the technology as a “dystopian” form of surveillance. Amazon has countered that journalists are engaging in “misguided” speculation. To hear the retail giant tell it, all the device does is move its inventory-tracking equipment from workers’ hands to their wrists — what’s the big deal?

Given the level of surveillance and regimentation already in place in Amazon warehouses, the company isn’t completely off base. Currently, warehouse workers called pickers carry a scanner that directs them from product to product. All shift they race the countdown clock, which shows them how many seconds they have to find the item, place it in their trolley, and scan the barcode.

A variation on this method exists in warehouses where robots bring the shelves to workers. There, workers stand in place as stacks of products present themselves one by one. For ten and a half hours, they must stoop and stretch to retrieve an item every nine seconds. The scanners control workers’ behavior by measuring it, preventing slowdowns and allowing managers to create new performance benchmarks. Quick workers raise the bar for everyone, while slow workers risk losing their job.

The wristbands introduce a wrinkle to this regimentation, monitoring not just the task but the worker herself.

The Costume Institute’s spring 2019 exhibition, Camp: Notes on Fashion (on view from May 9 through September 8, 2019, and preceded on May 6 by The Costume Institute Benefit), will explore the origins of camp’s exuberant aesthetic and how the sensibility evolved from a place of marginality to become an important influence on mainstream culture. Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp’” provides the framework for the exhibition, which will examine how fashion designers have used their métier as a vehicle to engage with camp in a myriad of compelling, humorous, and sometimes incongruous ways.


By close-ups of the things around us, by focusing on hidden details of familiar objects, by exploring common place milieus under the ingenious guidance of the camera, the film, on the one hand, extends our comprehension of the necessities which rule our lives; on the other hand, it manages to assure us of an immense and unexpected field of action. Our taverns and our metropolitan streets, our offices and furnished rooms, our railroad stations and our factories appeared to have us locked up hopelessly. Then came the film and burst this prison-world asunder by the dynamite of the tenth of a second, so that now, in the midst of its far-flung ruins and debris, we calmly and adventurously go traveling. With the close-up, space expands; with slow motion, movement is extended. The enlargement of a snapshot does not simply render more precise what in any case was visible, though unclear: it reveals entirely new structural formations of the subject. So, too, slow motion not only presents familiar qualities of movement but reveals in them entirely unknown ones “which, far from looking like retarded rapid movements, give the effect of singularly gliding, floating, supernatural motions.” Evidently a different nature opens itself to the camera than opens to the naked eye – if only because an unconsciously penetrated space is substituted for a space consciously explored by man. Even if one has a general knowledge of the way people walk, one knows nothing of a person’s posture during the fractional second of a stride. The act of reaching for a lighter or a spoon is familiar routine, yet we hardly know what really goes on between hand and metal, not to mention how this fluctuates with our moods. Here the camera intervenes with the resources of its lowerings and liftings, its interruptions and isolations, it extensions and accelerations, its enlargements and reductions. The camera introduces us to unconscious optics as does psychoanalysis to unconscious impulses.

–Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936)

The Optical Unconscious is a pointed protest against the official story of modernism and against the critical tradition that attempted to define modern art according to certain sacred commandments and self-fulfilling truths.
… Krauss gives us the story that Alfred Barr, Meyer Shapiro, and Clement Greenberg repressed, the story of a small, disparate group of artists who defied modernism’s most cherished self-descriptions, giving rise to an unruly, disruptive force that persistently haunted the field of modernism from the 1920s to the 1950s and continues to disrupt it today.

Umberto Boccioni
Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913)

See the complete film below. Read about Descartes’ Optics (1637) by clicking the link behind my photochopped juxtaposition.

Grope

Chien

This happens every ten years or so.