suparc architects schweitzer song seoul/frankfurt

I     news
II    profile
        2.1  ryul song
        2.2  christian schweitzer
        2.3  office
III   work
        3.1  projects
        3.2  competitions
        3.3  theory

          3.3.1  plastic space
          3.3.2  suncheonization
          3.3.3  the black borderline

The Black Borderline1)
A text-collage cut and glued by Christian Schweitzer

     "I like the reality of things, but not without the fantasy - they must
     dovetail. Is that not so with life, with human reactions and emotions?
     We have our thoughts and also our deeds."   Friederich Wilhelm Murnau

Maybe it could be seen as a dynamic principle, in other words certain entities could be developed and tested. A principle that is continuously questioned and challenged, an open direction that constantly evolves. Maybe it is not even a network of satellites any more, but a form of an art and architecture academy that moves, not in a physical sense, but that is not fixed to a certain location. The entire infrastructure respectively the logistics is conceived in a way that makes it very simple to reach a different location or to dock to an existing institution like a parasite, using it and maybe even generating a synergetic effect. In other words a nomadic institution.
As the last fixed point of the academy in a city an all-known and easy accessible information point remains. Let it be an address, a telephone number or even an internet page, which turns even this last fixed point independent from a physical location. This means there is a certain offer of situations chosen by the particular user, ergo the student, in the city or the space. Maybe I better use the word scenario rather than situation because a situation is more understood as punctual in the timeline. A scenario on the other hand unfolds dynamically dependent on the particular continuance. The scenario that has to be created has to be a space of the quality of a cafeteria in an university. A connective space where everybody meets.
Therefore the responsibility devolves to the individual student. Through the breakup of a fixed special reference and the changing context at the same time arises an enforced accountability for the location itself. The confrontation with the location, let it be [Suncheon] or a favela in Latin America, will be a different one. It provokes the adoption of a clear position.

"A being's only reason for being is being. It must stay alive … otherwise, there is no being. Plants can stay alive without moving around. They take their nourishment directly from the soil. And thanks to the sun's energy they transform this inanimate matter into their own living matter. Animals, including man, can only stay alive by consuming the solar energy previously transformed by plants. This calls for mobility. They are forced to move from place to place.
To move from place to place requires a nervous system. This nervous system permits action upon, and within, the environment. And always for the same reason … survival. If the action is effective, the result is a pleasurable sensation.

A brain’s function is not thought, but action.
Evolution is a conservationist. So, in the animal brain we find very primitive forms. There is a 'first brain'. Paul MacLean calls it the reptilian brain … and so it is. It triggers immediate survival responses without which no animal could survive. Drinking and eating, by which it preserves its structure … and copulation, by which it reproduces. Then, when we get to mammals a 'second brain' is added to the first. MacLean and others call this the affective brain. I prefer to call it the memory brain. With no memory of what is pleasant or unpleasant there's no question of being happy, sad, anguished nor of being angry, or in love. We could almost say that a living creature is a memory which acts. Then a 'third brain' is added to the two others. It's called the cerebral cortex. In humans, it has become highly developed. We call it an associative cortex meaning that it 'connects'. It connects the various nerve paths which have retained traces of past experiences. It connects them in a way that is different from the way they were imprinted by the environment at the moment of the experience. In other words it enables us to create, to be imaginative. In humans, these 3 brains still exist, superimposed. Our drives are still primitive, coming from the reptilian brain.
These three layers of the brain must function together. Therefore, they are linked by nerve bundles. One nerve bundle we might call the reward mechanism. Another, the punishment mechanism. This one will lead to escape or to combat. A third one will cause the inhibition of action.(…)

But we must understand that at birth, the brain is still immature. Therefore during the first 2 or 3 years of existence a human being's experience of his surroundings will be indelible. It will play a very important role in the evolution of all his future behavior. Above all, we must come to recognize, that what effects our nervous system starting at birth, perhaps even in the womb, that these stimuli which act upon us come essentially from others. We are others. When we die, these others, interiorized by our nervous system, these others who have formed us, formed our brain and filled it … they are going to die.
Thus our three brains are there. The first 2 function unconsciously … beneath our level of awareness. Drives … socially-conditioned reactions. The third furnishes an explanatory language which give reasons, excuses, alibis for the unconscious working of the first two. We can compare the unconscious to a deep sea. And what we call the conscious is the foam that appears sporadically on the crest of the waves. It is the most superficial part of the sea, buffeted by the wind.
Thus we can distinguish four main kinds of behavior. 1) Consumatory behavior, which fulfills basic needs. 2) Gratification behavior. When an action results in pleasure we try to renew it. 3) Behavior in response to punishment … either by escape, to avoid it, or by combat, to destroy the aggressor. 4) Inhibition behavior … all action creases. We wait tensely … which leads to anguish. Anguish is the impossibility of dominating a situation."

"Architecture is a spiritual order, realized through building.
Architecture – an idea built into the infinite space manifesting the intellectual power of man, materialized shape and expression of his destiny, his life. From its origin up until today the nature and sense of architecture did not change. Building is an essential need of man. It does not manifest itself in the first hand as building up protective roofs but as creation of sacral spaces, as the marking of hotspots of human activity – the origin of the city.
All building is cult.
Architecture – expression of man himself – flesh and spirit at the same time.
Architecture is elementary, sensual, primitive, brutal, horrible, mighty, dominating.
At the same time it is embodiment of the most subtle emotions, sensitive record of finest arousal, materialization of the spiritual.
Architecture is not the satisfaction of needs of the mediocre, it is not the environment for the narrow minded bliss of the masses. Architecture is made by those who stand on the highest step of a culture or civilization, at the top of a development of their epoch. Architecture is a concern of an elite.
Architecture – space – defined through the means of building. Architecture rules over space. Rules over it by rocketing high, by caving out the earth, by floating above the land cantilevering far, by spreading into all directions. Rules over it by mass and void. Rules over space through space."

"A rat is put in a cage that is divided in two by a partition with a door in it. The floor is intermittently electrified. Before the electricity passes through the grids a signal warns the animal that 4 seconds later the shock will come. He doesn't know at the start. He learns fast but at first is apprehensive. Then he sees an open door and he goes through it. The same thing happens a few seconds later. Again he learns the lesson quickly. That he can avoid the punishment of the electric shock by going back to the first compartment. The animal is subjected to this experiment 10 minutes a day, 7 days in a row. After these 7 days, he is in perfect health. His coat is sleek, his blood pressure normal. He has avoided punishment by escaping. It was a pleasurable experience. He has maintained his biological equilibrium.
What is easy for a rat in a cage is more difficult for man in society. Certain needs have been created by this society, starting in infancy. And it is rarely possible to satisfy those needs by resorting to combat when escape proves ineffective. When two individuals have different goals or the same goal but they are competing to attain it, there is one winner, one loser. The result is the dominance of one of the individuals over the other. Seeking to dominate in a space … we can call the territory … is the fundamental basic of all human behavior, though we are not conscious of our motives. There is no proprietary instinct. Nor is there an instinct to dominate. The individual's nervous system has simply learned the necessity of keeping, for the individual's one use, an object or person that is also desired, coveted by someone else. And he has also learned that in the competition to keep that object or that person for himself he must dominate.
We have already said that we are others. (…) Through language, man has been able to pass on to succeeding generations all the experience that has accumulated for millions of years. The time is long past when a person could ensure his own survival. He needs others in order to live. He can't know everything, or do everything. From infancy group survival is linked to teaching the young what they must know to function in society. We teach him not to soil his pants (…). Then very rapidly we teach the child how to behave so as to maintain the cohesion of the group. We teach him what is beautiful, what is good, what is bad, what is ugly. We tell him what he must do and punish or reward him accordingly, no matter what his own pleasure dictates. He is punished or rewarded according to whether his behavior conforms to the survival needs of the group."

"This kind of architecture is not concerned with beauty. If we want beauty then we want it less in form or proportion than in a sensual beauty of fundamental power.
The shape of the building doesn't develop out of the material condition of its purpose. A building shall not show its purpose. It is not an expression of structure and construction, it is not an enclosure or refuge.
A building is itself.
Architecture is without purpose.
What we build will find its usefulness.
Form does not follow function. Form doesn't originate by itself. It is the great decision of man to make a building into a cube, a pyramid or a sphere.
Form in architecture is determined and built form by an individual.
Today for the first time in the history of mankind, at this moment when immensely developed science and perfected technology offer the means, we are building what we want, making an architecture that is not determined by technique, but that uses technique - pure, absolute architecture."

"We are just starting to understand how our nervous system works. Only in the last 20 or 30 years have we learned how the system starting with chemical molecules which are its building-blocks establishes nerve paths, which will be programmed, impregnated by social conditioning. And all this within an unconscious mechanism. In other words, our drives and our cultural automatisms will be masked by language, by a process of logic.
Thus language only serves to hide the cause of dominance, to mask the mechanism that established it, and to convince the individual that, in working for the group he is gratifying himself. But usually all he is doing is to preserve hierarchical situations which hide behind linguistic alibis, alibis furnished by language, as an excuse.
In this second situation the door between the two compartments is closed. The rat can't escape. He will undergo the punishment he cannot avoid. This punishment will provoke inhibition behavior. He learns that all action is useless, he can't escape or fight. He stops trying. This inhibition, in man, is accompanied by 'anguish' and creates profound biological disturbances. So profound that, if a microbe is present whereas normally he could fight it off now he can't: he gets an infection. A cancerous cell, which normally he would destroy, now will develop into cancer. And his biological troubles will lead to all those illnesses called 'civilized' or psychosomatic.(…)"

"We want architecture that has more to offer. Architecture that bleeds, exhausts, that turns and even breaks, as far as I am concerned. Architecture that glows, that stabs, that tears and rips when stretched. Architecture must be precipitous, fiery, smooth, hard, angular, brutal, round, tender, colorful, obscene, randy, dreamy, en-nearing, distancing, wet, dry and heart-stopping. Dead or alive. If it is cold, then cold as a block of ice. If it is hot, then as hot as a tongue of flame. Architecture must burn."

"In the third situation the rat can't escape. He will receive the same punishment, but he will be confronted by another rat who will serve as adversary. And he will fight him. He is still punished … but he has taken action. A nervous system is meant to act. This rat will have no pathological problems such as those we saw in the preceding case. He'll be in excellent condition although he has received the same punishment. But in man's case the laws of society usually forbid such defensive violence. The worker who is stuck with a foreman that he detests can't punch him in the nose. He'd land in jail. He can't run away; he'd be out of work. So every day and every week and every month, sometimes for years his action is inhibited. Man has many ways to combat this inhibition of action. Aggression, for example … it is never gratuitous. It always results from other action being inhibited. An outburst of aggression rarely pays off. But in terms of the nervous system it is readily explained.
Thus, as we have said, the person is in a situation where action is inhibited, it is prolonged, it will affect his health. The attendant biological disturbances will not only cause the appearance of infectious diseases but also the behavior we call 'mental illness'. When a person can no longer direct his aggression against others he can turn it against himself in one of two ways. He can react somatically, physiologically aggressing his stomach, causing a hole, an ulcer. (…) The other way he can turn his aggression against himself is even more effective. He can commit suicide. When we can't take out our aggressions on others we can still take them out on ourselves.

The unconscious is still a formidable instrument. Not only because it holds all that we have repressed, things too painful for us to express because we'd be punished by society. But also because of all that which is authorized even rewarded by that society and which has been placed in our brain since birth. We're unaware of its presence, and yet it guides our actions. This unconscious (which is not Freud's) is the most dangerous. What we call the personality of an individual is built up from a grab-bag of value judgments, prejudices and platitudes. As he grows older, they become more and more rigid, less and less subject to question. Take away one single stone from this edifice, and it all crumbles. The result is anguish. And anguish stops at nothing, neither murder nor genocide nor war, in the case of social groups. We now begin to understand by what mechanism … why and how … in the past and in the present the hierarchies of dominance have been established. To go to the moon, we must know the law of gravity. Knowing the law of gravity doesn't make us free of gravity. It merely allows us to utilize it. Until we have informed the inhabitants of this planet of the way their brain functions, the way they use it, until they know its motive is always to dominate others there is little chance that anything will change."

"Reality beats men. The individual cannot cope with so much reality as it is present in our world. At the same time no man wants to be powerless. So he denies his powerlessness and therefore creates a contra-reality. So we always exist in two realities.
Everything we carry in ourselves as arteries, as eyes, as ears, as music is about 600 million years old. It origins from a time when the earth still consisted out of ice. At the same time everything that concerns us is happening in this very moment: whether we fall in love or being hit by a car. Therefore again we live door to door to another life. We always exist in two aggregate-states, in long periods and in the very instant. Art [as a creative process] provides the bridge: it brings together information with and without sense. This is the only thing it is able to do: to move back and forth along our abyss, beyond the black borderline of thought, information and knowledge."

"In pitch dark I go walking in your landscape. Broken branches trip me as I speak. Just cos you feel it doesn't mean it's there (…) Feel it."

published in slow city – suncheon, pp. 22-29

(english) (korean)

1) Following a strategy by Walter Benjamin, but probably not his intelligence, this text is put together entirely out of quotations, trying to draw near a thought that I still cannot evidence through objective facts. Therefore you could call it an emotional collage that reveals its sense - or nonsense - to the reader only through his or her subjective interpretation.

Oncle d'Amérique Alan Resnais

Fig. 1: Photo-collage in the opening and ending sequence of the film Mon Oncle d'Amérique by Alan Resnais in 1980

2) Abstract of Szenario-Akademie, an interview by Constant Simenon-Reinhardt with Kathrin Dennig, Dietrich Pressel and Christian Schweitzer, in Metronome No. 4-5-6, Backwards Translation edited by Clementine Deliss, Vienna, Frankfurt, Bordeaux 1999, p. 26-33.

Oncle d'Amérique Alan Resnais

Fig. 2: Photo-collage in the film Mon Oncle d'Amérique by Alan Resnais.

3) Abstract of the commentating text by Henri Laborit in the film Mon Oncle d'Amérique, a.k.a. My American Uncle, by Alan Resnais in 1980. As one of many layers, or in other words as part of a collage, Prof. Henri Laborit (French neurologist, chemist and philosopher) discusses behaviorist theories in parallel to the several stories told in this film. ‘Mon oncle d'Amérique’ is without doubt a cinematic masterpiece. Here the means of film and filmmaking are utilized to an extent of highest condensation. Five (or even more) very opposite forms of narration are weaved into each other, forming a collage of images and stories, fertilizing each other, unfolding each others truth.

4) Abstract of Architecture by Hans Hollein and Walter Pichler, Vienna, May 1963, in the catalog for their exhibition Architektur. Work in Progress at the Gallery St. Stephan, reprinted in arts & architecture, August 1963. In Vienna of the early 1960s the most radical and visionary artistic and architectural concepts since the modernist movement emerged. The reasons are various but it cannot be seen independent from the overcoming of a dictatorial regime. It seems that the deliverance of a society evokes a spirit of vision, as in Europe of the 1920s or in Spain of the 1980s. Same tendencies can be spotted today in the former Eastern Bloc.

5) ibid. Henri Laborit, 1980. From Jacques Tati’s film ‘Mon Oncle’ in 1958 about the absurdities of modern life to Alan Resnais’ ‘Mon Oncle d'Amérique’ about the impossibility of human existence is a small step. The similarity in the titles is probably not a coincidence. Man has created, consciously and unconsciously, the society he has to life in with all its consequences. His only window beyond, to escape for a millisecond, is his creativity.

6) ibid. Hans Hollein and Walter Pichler, 1963. Although this text is more than 40 years old I can picture it as the introduction to the sa summer workshop 2007, hyper-polis III: vision and utopia.

7) ibid. Henri Laborit, 1980. For me film is the closest form of creative expression to architecture, not in its result but in its making. It is probably not a coincidence that in 1929, one year after the foundation of the CIAM (Congrès International des Architectes Modernes) in La Sarraz, at the very same place the CICIM (Congrès International des Cinéastes Indépendents Modernes) was established. Although many members of both groups were close friends and their aims as a European architecture and film avant-garde showed great similarities, their avant-garde concept itself was completely different. While the film-makers claimed an express rejection of the film industry declaring film as an independent medium, the architects deliberately searched for the nearness to the building industry to realize their ideas. This blending with the industry was probably the biggest mistake in history, from which architecture is suffering until today. Reason suddenly became a dominating issue negating ever since pure autonomous creation. Before an independent creative process architecture has nearly lost its credibility as an artistic and philosophical concept. Film today still has the possibility to be art, architecture hasn’t.

8) Abstract of a manifesto by Coop Himmelb(l)au, Wolf D. Prix and Helmut Swiczinsky, Graz 1980, reprinted in Coop Himmelb(l)au: Architektur ist jetzt, Stuttgart 1983. This famous text can not be seen without the context of the specific Austrian architecture discourse starting in the early 1960s.

9) ibid. Henri Laborit, 1980. Being asked to comment the sa summer workshop 2006 turned out to be an impossibility for me. The sa workshop is a micro cosmos of Korean architecture discourse and education with all its strengths and flaws. Coming from Europe, not as a tourist but as someone who lives hear now for more than one year, I am confronted with a fundamentally different idea of time (of time itself, of durability and of endurance) which leaves me speechless. Only now I start to understand what Koolhaas calls the “generic city” or Aaron Betzky the “urban sprawl,” a principle I always believed to be an exaggeration. Maybe I am too much an architect than a theorist, I cannot yet rationalize the consequences but I think I can feel them and they begin to change my thinking.

10) Abstract of Das Zwerchfell ist ein Partisan unserer Gefühle by Alexander Kluge (film-maker, author and publicist) in profil, No. 30, 24th of July 2006, p. 104-106. His film Der Angriff der Gegenwart auf die übrige Zeit [The Assault of the Present on all Other Times], a.k.a. The Blind Director, in 1985 shows in its use of cinematic techniques fascinating similarities to Alan Resnais’ Mon Oncle d'Amerique.

11) Abstract of the lyrics of the song There There by Thom Yorke in Hail to the Thief by Radiohead, 2003

          3.3.4  liquid plans
          3.3.5  korean/german moot
          3.3.6  the ulterior dimensions of the line
          3.3.7  architecture as non-objectivity
          3.3.8  die tür zum garten
          3.3.9  setup for an electrotectural experiment
          3.3.10 zur psychologie des sexus
IV    exhibitions
        4.1  installations
        4.2  project exhibitions
        4.3  curation
V   publications
VI    teaching
        6.1  design studio
        6.2  theory classes
        6.3  lectures
        6.4  workshops
VII   contact

© suparc schweitzer song 2000-2013