Posting on the Postnatural
Megan Mohney - On Narration
I think that some ambiguous territories are optimistic. And I also think that some ambiguous territories propose a new ontology.
But I think some ambiguous territories are decidedly safe. When a question was posed to Liam Young this past week about what architects can do in this reality of market forces, automation, and territorial manipulation inconceivable to the actors in the system, he responded, “Every school in the country is doing a studio about self-driving cars, but they should have been doing that 15 years ago.” In that case, what should we be doing now that will be relevant 15 years from now? That comment, without suggestion, reveals it’s too easy to be retrospectively critical.
It is significant that the ‘characters’ shown in the film were intentionally passive. He showed nïave teenagers and the most disenfranchised workers in factories and mines. He also showed some characters with slightly more agency: a scientist...walking across the arctic slowly? The rebels of the system...dancing and changing their clothes? No one who makes decisions about policy, no one designing the tech, no one advocating for the suffering. While Young was making the statement that we run the risk of being these acquiescent beings in the wake of these powerful systems, I think it is also reflective of his indifferent position.
I think passivity is a sort of default when you decide to pay attention to today’s overwhelmingly dynamic economies and technologies–where to point the blame, where to assert efforts, who to protect, who to condemn–taking positions on these things is difficult. It’s easier to be the person who exposes the situation, who narrates a possible future with seemingly no solutions.
Jiayue Qin - Thoughts on Epcot
I love Disneyland and we all love Disneyland. It is a utopia filled with magic, dreams, imagination and unlimited happiness. All the characteristics from fiction, comic books, and film become real and play with us. I liken it to a world fair for imaginative worlds, a party where I can temporarily escape from reality.
But what if it becomes a place that I live every day? Or what if the whole world becomes a Disneyland embracing everyone?
EPCOT is one territory that was conceived and designed primarily to be such a future community. The name stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Walt Disney imagined the territory to be a dwelling utopia combining technology and learning with everyday life. It included many different forms of communities inspired by different parts of the world with their own identities. It CONSTRUCTED enough happiness for people living there, so that there was no need to import more happiness or other emotions (like negative emotions) from the outside.
Is this man-made happiness a true and everlasting happiness? When I saw the picture of an entire theater audience wearing Mickey Mouse masks, I was scared. All I felt was formalized repetition and hollowness. The ‘happiness’, that was meant to be achieved in the territory, was defined and imposed by the author. It was constructed, controlled and homogeneous. When did human beings gain the desire to produce and control emotions?
It is fortunate that nowadays EPCOT is just an amusement park for people to be entertained and expand their horizons, rather than a living community to unify everyone’s happiness. We should never try to construct a utopia like the original EPCOT and it can never be constructed.
Jordan Turkomani - The Responsibility of Intellectuals
Francois Roche’s work has been quickly and quietly scrubbed from Ambiguous Territory following his public statement1 in which he denounced the speakers and disaffiliated himself from the exhibition. But his position certainly merits consideration - Roche asks us to interrogate what work is rewarded and what work is ignored, as a function of the work’s relationship to various institutions.
In his own words, edited here for brevity, though I recommend reading his original statement:
"We are facing…the positioning of two types of intellectuals, on the one side those…arguing to preserve the system of power and authority, and using politics to create a diversion…[and] gets the privileges, the grants, the branding, the direct profits from their cynicism as a business plan…the [other] gets censorship, exclusion, and in some cases banishment under the pain of prison…It’s easier and more comfortable to [not]…question our responsibilities in the abandonment of social and political demands amid the upsurge of the new Western populism…[the first type] are, determined to maintain the “old regime” pyramid by excluding everything liable to upend their privileges…[this] reinforces and stabilizes the organization of power…"
Roche urges us to ask ourselves what our responsibility is as intellectuals, as architects, and as a discipline, particularly in this political moment. How can we as a school get past the self-serving nature of the institutions which overlap here, and give/get an education as minimally limited by the self-interest of those institutions (AIA, the university, capitalism, etc.,) as possible?
1.Tweet by Francois Roche @F_Roche_NT on September 25, https://twitter.com/F_Roche_NT/status/912493019739209728
Aaradhana Aiyappa - Staging Encounters
The symposium and correlating exhibition Ambiguous Territory focused on the world in the state of the post Anthropocene. This marks the end of the geologic era as we know it and moves on to a new era where mankind has effectively altered the state of planet Earth to an extent where new rules and boundaries have to be set. These new rules need to account for the changes as well as consider a future where mankind can coexist with the altered state. The symposium targeted 3 elements primarily: Air (Atmospheric), Earth (Geologic), Life (Biologic).
Two speakers stood out in bringing forth relevant topics:
Christopher Hight, the first speaker on the Atmospheric panel, brought to light various interventions by mankind to create artificial systems to accommodate nature and its disasters. From the Astrodome to the Galveston Seawall in Texas, although these projects were good intentioned, they became bubbles of detachment and provided very little opportunity for interaction. Hight’s talk ended with the need for architecture to stage encounters rather than create bubbles. To engage with nature rather than fight against it.
Keynote speaker Liam Young’s clips and stills of his films were quite thought provoking. His insight into the deeper, darker aspects of the future of technology showed its vulnerability. Many of the ideas, although seemingly vague and far-fetched on first glance, were thoughtfully shown to have repercussions on current technology trends in the not too far future. Spatially capturing a feeling, a visual aspect, Liam Young managed to transport the audience into a different world, or rather a million different lives. Current location relevance is implied through the inclusion of both the ‘Renderland’ in Bangalore, India to ‘Samsung Cities’ in South Korea. The lithium harvesting fields particularly struck a chord because it strongly contrasts with the current beacon of hope that Tesla radiates about the future of solar powered electricity.
Laura Devine - Are you not Entertained?
I am a millennial, I grew up watching a size zero blonde shake it like a salt shaker during the Super Bowl halftime. My entertainment threshold, and I am assuming anyone else who had unmonitored access to a television during their developmental years, is high. So professional intellectuals reading a long paper from a podium next to a too-small screen doesn’t always do it for me. Do circuit lecturers need to cultivate a stage presence to connect with the new generation of students? Should they take acting classes? Is that completely absurd? The screen size is an easy fix, but the reading is an accepted discipline standard, the precision of elevated language being valued over the audience’s understanding.
Liam Young’s opening presentation, City Everywhere, admittedly was primarily read but was outrageously entertaining and more akin to a new superhero movie than an academic keynote. On the other hand, the bulk of the read presentations that followed required forced listening and resistance to bad e-mail checking habits. The final keynote, David Gissen’s Environment Documents…Landscape Writing Machines, wasn’t a sensory overload nor a monotone oration, it delivered a fresh idea with ‘off script’ interjections that added lighthearted moments for the more dense material to internally register. However, my favorite portion of any lecture is the questions, when the speaker doesn’t have a script and is left defenseless and at the mercy of the audience.