December 22nd, 2010

S.C. Hickman

DAAR: Decolonizing the thin red line of hate

"Political spaces in Palestine are not defined by legal zones, but operate through legal voids."
                - Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency, The first U.S. Exhibition

Imagine an imaginary Maginot line as thin as a quark, yet as adamant as the Wall of China, that situates itself as an impossible void, a rupture within the very fabric of space and time that rises along the frayed edge of the war-torn and conflict-ridden region of Palestine like the invisible scar of a dead god.

We learn from DAAR(Decolinzing Architecture Art Residency) that a politics of decolonization, which "implies the dismantling of the existing dominant structure — financial, military, and legal — conceived for the benefit of a single national-ethnic group, and engaging a struggle for justice and equality" is a much needed respite from the harsh politics of despair that reigns in the region. This architectural project "does not articulate a utopia of ultimate satisfaction. Its starting point is not a resolution of the conflict and the just fulfilment of all Palestinian claims; also, the project is not, and should not be thought of, in terms of a solution. Rather it is mobilizing architecture as a tactical tool within the unfolding struggle for Palestine. It seeks to employ tactical physical interventions to open a possible horizon for further transformations" (DAAR: About).

The Crow's Nest, Oush Grab, like a volcanic monstrosity set in no-man's land of a void between two-worlds is enclosed within a lawless realm of ash and bones, a nightmare world of ghosts without return. Beginning with the 1993 talks held in Oslo between Israeli and Palestinian representatives inaugurated what was later referred to as the “Oslo Process,” which divided this region into three types of territories in the West Bank. Hidden among these three territories we discover a fourth:
"Existing in between, this space was the width of the line that separates the three areas. Less than a millimeter thick when drawn on the scale of 1:20,000, it measured 5.5 meters in real space. The Red castle and the lawless line delves into the thickness of this line, and follows it along the edges of villages and towns, across fields, olive and fruit orchards, roads, gardens, kindergartens, fences, terraces, homes, public buildings, a football stadium, a mosque and finally a recently constructed large castle. Within this line is a zone undefined by law, a legal limbo that acts like a vortex to pull in all the forces, institutions, organizations and characters that operate within and around it" (DAAR: The first U.S. exhibition).

It is this thin red line, this lawless line of a desperate people that marks the "legal voids" of a political space between Palestine and Israel. The Red Castle and the lawless line investigates "the clash of geopolitical lines onto the domestic space of the castle, and operating on the margin between architecture, cartography and legal practice, we seek to bring up a legal case that calls for an anarchic regime of political autonomy to inhabit this line. It is from these seam lines—, small tears in the territorial system—, that the entire system of divisions may finally be torn down" (ibid.).

Ultimately this group of artists and architects seem to be guided by the principle of "return":

"The notion of “return” has defined the diasporic and extraterritorial nature of Palestinian politics and cultural life since the Nakba in 1947-48. Often articulated in the “suspended politics” of political theology it has gradually been blurred in the futile limbo of negotiations.

Return is a political act that is both practiced at present and projected as an image into an uncertain future. But return cannot be understood only as the suspended politics of an ideological projection, but also as a varied form of politics constantly practiced, grounding a future ideal in present day material realities. This represents a varied set of practices that we would like to call “present returns”.

This project seeks thus to chart out and intervene within a wider field of possible political, social and cultural practices of return. Practices of return might include elements of daily life in refugee camps, and the interaction of the idea of return with the built reality of the camp – often a form of architecture that seeks to communicate temporariness – practices through which the camps become spheres of action carved out of state sovereignty. They might also include the material practices of memory, archaeology being one of them, or other cultural and artistic practices that operate within an extraterritorial space but always in relation to an imagined one. On occasion, present practices of return may also have a more militant dimension, with some guerrilla operations referred to as ‘operations of return’.

The varied forms of present return navigate the complex relation between two places – the place of refuge and the site of origins – and as such they are practices with a fundamental spatial dimension" (DAAR: Returns Introduction).

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S.C. Hickman

Iain Hamilton Grant: Reconstructing Schelling's Naturephilosophy - Part II

"Schelling’s Timaeus commentary is an essay in the philosophy of dynamics."
     -Iain Hamilton Grant


Grant describes commentary as being "less the ‘series of footnotes to Plato’ that worried Whitehead, than it is a collaborative ideating, a species of ‘co-mentation’, not merely with regard to ‘meanings’, but rather to the objects of thought" (26). He goes on to tell us that the "objects of this science – ‘speculative physics’ or ‘the physics of the All’ – are twofold and inseparable, for ‘philosophers of every age’: matter and Idea, or ‘the material of the universal’" (26).

After a careful reading of Plato's Timaeus and Schelling's essay on it Grant goes into an intricate and detailed account concerning the relation between Plato's physics and Aristotle's (of which we will not detail out here). He tells us that Aristotle creates a "matterless nature" by systematically eliminating matter from form, thereby dividing philosophy into a primary and secondary mode: the primary, in which the "formula is distinguished from the sensible particular, giving rise to an ontologically grounded prioritization of immaterial over material substance" (34); and, a secondary, physics, in which "form is ‘more essential’ than matter, since the nature of the concrete whole under physical investigation depends on its particularity as such-and-such, its ‘what-it-is-ness’. Accordingly, ‘form and the combination of form and matter are more truly substance than matter is’" (35).

After having followed "the vicissitudes of the dematerialization of form in the emergence, through Aristotle, of phenomenologizing physics and metaphysics as the predication of essences" (35), he investigates Schelling's use of Plato to counter the Aristotelian turn taken by Kant and concludes, saying, "The Timaeus essay attempts to combine these Platonic focii in order to produce a logical and material, ontic and metaphysical, account of the becoming of being. In other words, Schelling’s Timaeus commentary is an essay in the philosophy of dynamics"  (see note on "foci")* (39).

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