"The Raw and the Synthetic" T4T LAB 2014
Distinguished Invited Professors: Bruno Juricic,
Gabriel Esquivel, Studio Professor
Stephen Caffey, Assistant Professor of Art and Architecture History and Theory
Texas A&M University
Teaching Assistants: Zach Hoffman and Drew Busmire.
One of the things that modern society has damaged has been thinking. Unfortunately, one of the damaged ideas is that of Nature itself. How do we transition from seeing what we call “Nature” as an object “over there”? And how do we avoid “new and improved” versions that end up doing much the same thing (embeddedness, flow and so on), just in a “cooler,” more sophisticated way?
Zizek – “Living in end time” the End of Nature
Transpierce the mountains instead of scaling them, excavate the land instead of striating it, bore holes in space instead of keeping them smooth, turn the earth into Swiss cheese. An image from the film Strike [by Eisenstein] presents a holey space where a distributing group of people are rising, each emerging from his or her hole as if from a field in all directions.
Deleuze Gilles & Guattari Felix, Treatise of Nomadology – The War Machine in A Thousand Plateaus.
The ()hole complex carves ultra-active surfaces from solidus when it digs holes, unleashes delirious itinerant lines and constructs its nematical machines, installing peripheral agitations on the surfaces it cuts from internal solid matrices. Everywhere a hole moves, a surface is invented.
Negarestani Reza. CYCLONOPEDIA. Complicity with anonymous materials.
| Abstract |
The T4T LAB explored the ungrounding design potentials of the contemporary eco-logics in architecture and will open up provocative new lines of design inquiry beyond innocent and reductive approaches to ecology as in notions of sustainability and green. As Slavoj Zizek reminds us, the so called “Balance of Nature” is in itself a myth since catastrophes have always been an integral part of natural history. In 2002, the Nobel wining chemist Paul Crutzen published an article in the journal Nature, arguing that the we entered a new phase of natural history, a new geologic epoch called the Anthropocene – or “the recent age of man”. According to him and his eminent colleague the ecologist Eugene Stoermer the Anthropocene is defined as a period when human alterations of the environment have begun to surpass natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanoes. It means that the human mark will endure in the geologic record long after our cities have crumbled, in other words the humankind is becoming a geological force
Pursuing this line of inquiry, the question of eco-logics in architecture can be posed through the investigations of the porous boundaries between organic and inorganic, as the bridge between human world of categories and the independent real world. The role of those boundaries is not any more to enclose space, but rather to form tissue for osmotic exchange and therefore, solicit for architecture forms of contact with other praxis and with other mediums. This “porous- opening” generates different positions about what the agency of architecture is, what its objects are, and what its manners of cognition are within the contemporary denaturalized material ecology.
Rather than acting from a position of idealization with regards to nature, the ambition of the T4T LAB is to abandon old models of thought which are manifested as eco-relationality and instead produce a new speculative image of the matter driven by computational models. In recognizing the active participation of nonhuman forces in events and understanding that the agency spawns beyond human, provides a new frame for addressing design ecology.
Furthermore, the T4T LAB bound together ideas of Speculative Realism (SR) and Object-Oriented-Philosophy in philosophy, accelerated developments in science and new modes of digital production as it pertains to architecture.
| Introduction: "The Raw and the Synthetic" |
The studio borrowed the term from Lévi-Strauss, which meant to differentiate what is found in nature from what is a product of human culture. That dichotomy, Lévi-Strauss believed, exists in all human societies Part of what makes us human, however, is our need to reconcile those opposites, to find a balance between raw and cooked. But where is the dividing line between nature, which is emotional and instinctive, and culture, which is based on rules and conventions? In a metaphoric sense, a cook is a kind of mediator between those realms, transforming an object originally from the natural world into an item fit for human consumption. So by “cooked,” Lévi-Strauss means anything that is socialized from its natural state. The studio changed the term and instead of cooked used the term Synthetic as the re-appropriation of the scientific image to directly transgress the notion of the scientific classification of an object. It retains a notion of duration from the primitive to the synthesized and through its curation has begun to note not only the ontological shift defined by the mutation of the spline to the turbulent aesthetic, in other words an epistemological shift from the object to object of interest.
The “Raw”, as stated before, is the object that is fluctuating between a hard and a decayed condition. The decayed, “soft” surface is created by external, unknown forces acting upon it. The “raw”, hardened condition is articulated from the initial ground from which the object was excavated from.
The “Synthetic” is derived from generated patterns or surface articulations applied as a way of differentiating various object surface conditions (hard + soft). The synthetic is created by articulating a range of fidelities: high-fi and low-fi. The high-fi was determined as the sinuous graphic applied to the “simple” soft surfaces. It starts interacting and becoming an active graphic dependent on saturation values reverting the surface to its concentrated original form. As a consequence, the synthetic image works differently dependent upon the angle at which you see it.
| Approach to Research |
The T4T LAB approached the issue of design within a “denaturalized material ecology” in a way that is not simply determined by the continual transformation of inherited forms and traditions of the discipline of architecture but which draws on a universal account of matter – matter as information, an account enabled by computation. Instead of form being imprinted upon matter, matter is understood as an active agent in its own formation. It promotes dissolution of linear hierarchies, enabling heterogeneous and nonlinear nature of complex agencies to hybridize and be incorporated into increasingly complex fabric of architecture. Under this accelerated convergence of matter-information, architecture can begin to speculate its own possible futures within denaturalized material ecology and conditions far from equilibrium.
Pursuing this path, an architectural response to a site cannot any longer be circumscribed within the formal bounds of what we already know about the site and our intentions in relation to it; it will be informed by procedures and techniques that claim a speculative purchase on non-manifest material strata of its reality, and a technical manipulation of their potential in tandem with those of the materials with which we build. This is not only, therefore, a question of the technically-augmented formation of matter, but of material powers that computation can mobilize in ways that exceed our formal anticipations.
| Remarks |
In their cryptogenetic virtual and material forms, the objects generated by participants in Bruno Juricic’s and Gabriel Esquivel’s Poro-Eco-Logics Design Studio perform multiple functions of insurgency. They telegraph perceptual and systemic disequilibrium, prohibit access, defy cognition and declare autonomy. By inadvertently validating mereo[topo]-logical nihilism, they resist hyponym/hyperonym relations and classificatory systems. Though produced by humans, these objects resist the anthropocentric mandate that the laws of nature and the forces of nature must conform to the limitations of human cognition and human perception. Bound by forces unknown and unknowable (though partially accessible through the algorithmic apparatus), they transgress both grounding and ungrounding through a mutually constitutive and mutually catalytic triad of recursivity + refractility + non-reflexivity.
Texts rooted in Object Oriented Ontology, Speculative Realism and the New Aesthetic informed the conceptualization of these objects and those texts may offer some insights as to the objects’ composition and their individual and collective esoterics; however, as the objects remain their own best explanations, the theoretical and critical apparatus serves as a subordinate translation mechanism through which the words and their ontic parallels (images, objects, sites, structures and spaces) formed. The material and digital forms parallel text-expression while maintaining formal autonomy, willfully obscuring underlying organization such that the perceptually palpable and legible elements do not in any way reveal that underlying organization; similarly, and for the same reasons, the autonomous objects declare the subordination of urban and architectural order by refracting rather than reflecting the [algorithmic] conditions that impact the cognition of both participant/architect as object and critic/viewer/user as object (Schumacher 2005). These objects resist, defy and transgress both grounding and ungrounding with equal force.
As ontic specimens some of the objects explore, imply and/or defy certain conditions and characteristics: canalizations (Evans); “torsional porosities” (Woodard); “nemat-spaces” (Woodard); poromechanical potentialities; (un)groundings; nomadicities; exhaustions (via Deleuze); the raw and the synthetic (via Lévi-Strauss); the anonymities of the scientific image; liminalities; reticulations; and polygonal (in)fidelities high and low. In their freeze-frame specificity, other objects produced in this studio hint at the peristaltic, the asthenospheric and the cryptostratigraphic, while simultaneously defying, (re)defining and (re)deploying spatiotemporality. In their unanimous dissolution of the hegemony of the anthropocentric, these objects reifiy the erasure of the subject such that viewer-objects undergo (rather than undertake) aesthetic thigmotaxis, drawn to moments of indeterminacy and recursivity in surfaces and voids. In those objects in which the voids, the perforations and the porosities serve as determinants, primary conditions are preserved, as the tunnels, canals and nemat-spaces subvert rather than facilitate interiority, protecting the object from contamination (Meillasoux). Surfaces and spaces resonate through eruption, irruption and disruption, materializing an ontology of orogeny that syncopates with and against the carnality and quiddity of absence (Fowles).
Simultaneously revealing and obscuring the unforeseen unseen (Marion), these objects read as scriptural accounts of [architectural/algorithmic] truth as an unintelligible and incomprehensible collection of surface ambiguities with no resting place (Hegel) in a non-religious metaphysics (Meillassoux). Within this metaphysical mechanism, processes of desecration and desanctification emerge from the impotencies of [human-object] sentience in the presence of ungrounded sensuality and the grounded insensate [algorithmic] substrate from which these objects have liberated themselves. What emerges in these objects is ultimately (and perhaps unintentionally on the part of the studio participants) a Tiamateralist renunciation of the hierarchies and polarities that constitute the fallacies of the Anthropocene (Negarestani, Parsani).
 Speculative Materialism is in no way a homogeneous philosophical orientation, but is primarily an umbrella notion which gathers a group of philosophers whose only strict shared position is the reaction against “correlationist consensus” and anthropocentrism of contemporary continental philosophy and theory, as well as desire for affirming autonomy of reality. Translated into plain English, they think that Kant’s idea about impossibility to separate subject from object or thinking from essence is an excuse for philosophy to abandon dealing with the world that really is, without interference by man. According to them, philosophy should make distance from such correlationism and turn to objectivity of science. And so Quentin Meillassoux, as a student of Alain Badiou who was known for his interest for mathematics as part of his dealing with philosophy, claims that mathematics uses primary qualities of things in contrast to secondary qualities which are manifested through perception.
 "Ontology is the philosophical study of existence. Object-oriented ontology ("OOO" for short ) puts things at the center of this study. Its proponents contend that nothing has special status, but that everything exists equally - plumbers, DVD players, cotton, bonobos, and sandstone, for example. In contemporary thought, things are usually taken either as the aggregation of ever smaller bits ( scientific naturalism ) or as constructions of human behavior and society ( social relativism ). OOO steers a path between the two, drawing attention to things at all scales ( from atoms to alpacas, bits to blinis), and pondering their nature and relations with one another as much with ourselves." - Ian Bogost ( , 12/08/09)
 By ‘speculative’ we mean a theoretical position that goes beyond what is immediately given, that stitches what we know of reality together in a way that, whilst coherent, and whilst offering us opportunities to rethink our world, cannot be verified empirically.