Quiz #9 1) If architecture is merely sculpture that bodies can enter, then is poetry merely prose into which certain tunnelings and orifices have been chiseled? If this definition is valid, would you qualify it as an effective materialist definition of poetry? Write your answer in block letters. architecture is not merely “sculpture that bodies can enter.,” in fact we’ve been going this whole quiz without ever talking about what architecture is. perhaps we can say that some architecture is merely this type of functional candy, some is not. in poetry i would say that certain types of poetry – say much of billy collins, much ‘confessional’ “lyric,” etc – are merely chiseled prose, if even chiseled. but to return to the question, “what is architecture?”, is not really an answerable question. there are simply too many threads and unless one has an agenda, an architectural cause one intends to further, then the argument for a definition is superfluous. this is non-committal, I know, but i’ve tired of dialectics in favor of amorphous networks of ideas. that architecture should be changing, that architecture produces personal spaces, that architecture occupies relational space, forms place, and is able to reverse and deny all preceding is architecture. there is a parallel here with poetry and materialism. there is nothing to the above definition. 2) Assuming that there is something to the above definiton, consider the following: Recent research into Egyptian pyramids has found that the famous and heretofore puzzling secret passageways that rise from the burial chambers toward openings at the outer walls are in fact precisely pointed (when the movement of the heavens through reversed time is factored into astronomical calculations) at key constellations, especially Orion. What seems clear is that these tunnels were intended as a sort of launching ramp through which to shoot the mummy-spirit to the stars. Without losing the materialist definiton we have set forth above, would you say that poetry has a like purpose, in any way? If not, would you say that there are particular objective historical forces (beginning with 17th century English copyright laws) that have progressively accreted to seal over the launch-openings with a kind of viscous substance? Reflect, please, avoiding vagueness. I believe there are fertility rites connected with this theory of the secret passageways, no? Don’t they believe that the shafts were representational of the penis shaft and that the ascent to the stars was somehow related to ejaculation? (Please reread question and draw from this whatever conclusions, I, out of modesty, shan’t say) So what this question is asking is, essentially, does poetry have a purpose as did the pyramids. I shouldn’t need to invoke the ‘bardic’ tradition in order to speak of purposes, but it is probably true that today that poetry has no ongoing purpose. For people who do not read poetry often, the purpose seems to be merely an expression of or sympathy for emotion. This is the GWB reading of poetry. But purpose, no. When asked about the purpose of poetry, I think of the scene in Trainspotting when the group of Glasgow junkies discovered their baby dead in the crib. One of the characters says to the protagonist, “say something” (or probably “fucking say something”), meaning, in the context, he needs some combination of words to mollify the horror in front of them. Without intending to get pretentious, Ewan McGreagor’s silence is more the poetry I have come to prefer – that is the poetry that refuses to mollify or provide us with an escape from the horror. Does this admit to a purpose? I should hope not, unless of course poetry can be purposeful without being proscriptive...
4) Please consider Lenin. In 1920, in the midst of raging civil war, and shortly after a Social Revolutionary wounded him in an assassination attempt, he spoke before a Moscow conference of revolutionary architects, poets, and Constructivist artists, including Mayakovsky, Rodchenko, and Tatlin. It is dangerous, comrades, he said, to believe that Soviet art and architecture in the era of the dictatorship of the proletariat can outstrip the present and model the future. It is rumored that many of the petit-bourgeois intellectuals in the audience snickered at the ironic obviousness of such a remark. Mayakovsky, drunk, opened his trousers and produced his flaccid penis, saying, with a dead-pan matter-of-factness, Look, it is a cloud. Christian Rakovsky, later to become a leader in Trotsky's Left Opposition, laughed, and so did Brik and Mandelstam and Lunarcharsky (the latter who, in democratic spirit, had chosen to sit among the artists). Stalin, sitting across the aisle, two rows back, inhaled, blew smoke, and took note. It is said that Lenin was unusually lethargic and hesitant in this speech, perhaps due to his recent gun wounds. Taking the above scenario as starting point, make up a relevant question relating to Poetic Architecture, and then answer it. Could the erect cloud have fashioned a future? If so, which aphrodisiacs should have the Constructivists offered flip-floppy Lenin? ) Derrida has said, in speaking of deconstructive architecture (Tschumi, Eiseman, Johnson, Steven Holl, COOP Himelblau, and others): First of all, they do not only destroy, they construct, effectively, and they construct by putting this architecture into a relation with other spaces of writing: cinematographic, narrative (the most sophisticated forms of literary narration), finally experimentations with formal combinations... all of this is something other than a restoration of architectural purity, even though it is also a thinking of architecture as such, that is, architecture not simply in the service of an extrinsic end. So, I am now increasingly tempted to consider this architectural experience to be the most impressive deconstructive audacity and effectivity. Also the most difficult because it is not enough to talk about this architecture; one has to negotiate the writing in stone or metal with the hardest and most resistant political, cultural, or economic powers... It is these architects who come up against the resistances, which are the most solid ones in some way, of the culture, the philosophy, the politics in which we live. Doesn't this quote suggest to you that as soon as Derrida leaves the ethereal sky of Continental philosophy and enters into discussion about matters concerning everyday technology, that he comes across as a banal blabbermouth? In any case, consider, because he has a point: As long as innovative poets do not bring the imagination solidly up against the category of Authorship, that hardest and most resistant of ideological powers in the cultural field, will they ever succeed in constructing a truly new poetic architecture? Answer and speculate, in Piranesian fashion, what a revolutionary Archi-texture might be.