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Architectural Possibilities of Renee Gladman’s Prose Architectures

By Albe Harlow.

All images from Prose Architectures. Copyright 2017. Printed with permission of Renee Gladman and Wave Books.

 

“I don’t remember setting out with any particular goal in drawing but I do recall clearly feeling that, through drawing, I had discovered a new manner for thinking.”

Renee Gladman, Prose Architectures

Thomas Weaver, 2017: “In your house projects from this same period [1970s], you famously suggested that the drawings are the architecture and that, as built, the houses themselves are merely a representation of this architecture…”

Peter Eisenman: “I still believe that now.”

Any work, poetic, philosophic or otherwise, that presumes to fly the musty casement from a hand-smudged window and offer view of some land between architecture and literature is well on its way to an anticlimax: while architecture and literature are both structured in space, it is the former that does not require interpretive preamble, for it announces itself—so it has been supposed. Jacques Derrida famously remarked to Peter Eisenman, “Architecture is the locus of the metaphysics of presence.” That is, architecture is an art of material profundity, insuperably immanent, already structuring one’s own spatiality before she can make it to the steps of the library. If, however, upon entering that library, one were to begin reading Renee Gladman’s Prose Architectures (hereafter, cautiously and ungroundedly, Architectures), he might soon find himself wondering how precisely he got where he is, what it means to be in loco citato, how the space of literature and architecture are structured.

Of structure, Derrida marks in his essay “Force and Signification,” “Now, stricto sensu, the notion of structure refers only to space, “geometric or morphological space,” the order of forms and sites. Structure is first the structure of an organic or artificial work, the internal unity of an assemblage, a construction; [sic] a work is governed by a unifying principle, the architecture that is built and made visible in a location.” Indeed, Architectures takes special interest in how literature is already structural, not only syntactically or as a semiotic scheme; it wonders about literature as a structure of “geometric or morphological space.” Gladman’s collection is a resolute and reverberative study of what happens when graphemic structures act as architectural structures. What Derrida provisionally names “geometric or morphological space” is construed by alphabetoidal axonometries—lines and planes and shapes, drafted of script-like writing, agglomerating paper architectures. Half-made words, lemmatic blips, lie as though in situ, in and through line.

One is careful not to obtrude the centuries-old zoo of “language drawing”—glyphic, pictographic, logogrammic and otherwise—from Leon Battista Alberti to Gertrude Stein to Mirella Bentivoglio and the Concrete poets of the 1950s and ’60s. It may be that the tradition of lettering the line, filling the plane, populating geometric postulates with the glitches and quanta of contentful markings remains inevitably familiar to Gladman’s sketches (one should note that this here version of things—which purports, in writing, the linear structure of a line—might be said ontologically to prefer “line,” “plane,” etc., while holding suspect “contentful markings” as dependent or derivative; naturally and as will continue to be inferred, this tidiness is scarcely sustainable). Yet Architectures seeks out architecture. It wants to challenge the felicity and allusivity of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities and suggest a more intimate and unscrewed plying-on at the meeting places of prose and architecture. Gladman’s are drawings of what resemble rectilinear architectural plans, the lineaments of which are thinking of handwriting.

Gladman herself indicates she has altogether escaped writing and the constraints pertaining thereto. In the introduction to her collection, quizzically titled, “Writing Drawing, Drawn Writings,” Gladman writes that “in contrast to writing, this [drawn] line moved in time [sic] with thought rather than chasing thought through syntax, as something already over, a movement we can now only describe.” Gladman suggests she has communed with thought, as it were, a priori. She fathoms a prepropositional space—like Maurice Blanchot’s desert—amid the dust storms of which one can space-out, walk alongside the other that is thought prior to thinking, cognition before the cogito. She writes,

Drawing extended my being in time; it made things slow. It quieted language. It produced a sense that thinking could and did happen outside of language. I saw the act as a line extending from the body, through the hand, as if being pulled out of one or let go from one. However, in contrast to writing, this line moved in time with thought rather than chasing thought through syntax, as something already over, a movement we can now only describe. Drawing was going into time; it was pulling the process of thought apart, and what was most profound was that it left a record behind, a map: the drawing itself.

Here, “language” ought to invoke strictly literary or writerly language. Such confinement helps to stay the keel of meaning and makes room for “language” beyond some normative associations involving its category-expansion and domain generalization. However Gladman writes that “syntax” too was averted. As with “language,” one would like to apply some interpolative lubricant but finds he is bumping up against the umwelt of the poet and poetry—perhaps even that of the visual artist. This is a particularly blashy moment in the explication. Saying one sidestepped syntax does not help one comprehend how the markings came to be so ordered as to evince a syntax, whether they moved “with thought” or merely “chas[ed] thought through syntax.” Moreover and curiously, if drawing can extend one’s being in time by abandoning writerly syntax and allowing an unsegmentable flow from thought to hand to pen to paper, time is, in proportion, rendered moot, disinterested, irrelevant, for it is either entirely embodied (taken up by the extensivity of the body, as espoused) or, and not dissimilarly, entirely spatialized.

Given nearly everything else about the work recommends the problematic of an architectural literature or a literary (prosaic) architecture, the reduction of structure, of “geometric or morphological space,” to a psychologism, or an anamestic and privately-accessed abyss, is beside the point and beyond the constellation posited by Architectures. Possibilities of a syntax shared between literature and architecture—to wit, narrativity—would be nullified by, as ever, an overweened subjectitude. Notwithstanding, the poetics of “internality,” psychoanalytical abyssopelagics, the Levinasian hither-side, Flaubertian realism, Barthian onions, Joycean or (Robert) Venturian complexity and a wide-ranging spectacle of the cuttable, the subatomic and the yet-reducible, a spatial hysterics locatable at least as far back as Zeno of Elea, has, as this very sentence measures out, a long and not-strictly-linear genealogy.

Gladman’s appeal to inner thought before language and syntax assumes a role in this genealogy. As for such appeals inasmuch they may concern structure—“space, geometric or morphological space, the order of forms and sites”—she is, of course, in arresting company. Many have relied on some protean and dubious innerness. Where Gaston Bachelard, in his The Poetics of Space, hangs his talk of structure on a “soul,” he is forgoing his phenomenological discernment and delegitimizing his reproach of psychoanalysis. Henry James slinks over a similar impasse, evidently referring to a thoughtless Kuiper belt of possible worlds, of spacetime become space, where everything is Vorhandenheit or present-at-hand, as Martin Heidegger would suggest, but nothing in particular warrants notice. For Henry James, selecting for structure from amidst “the continuity of things is the whole matter.” How does one constrain “the continuity of things” or wake meaning from the ambivalent quantal sludge that is “continuity?” —by drawing a “circle.” James insists,

Really, universally, relations stop nowhere, and the exquisite problem of the artist is eternally but to draw, by a geometry of his own, the circle within which they shall happily appear to do so. He is in the perpetual predicament that the continuity of things is the whole matter, for him, of comedy and tragedy; that this continuity is never, by the space of an instant or an inch, broken, and that, to do anything at all, he has at once intensely to consult and intensely to ignore it.

Where he writes of form and the contentful relations held therein, James cannot help but invoke a “geometry.” Withal, this geometry does not have precise or obvious recourse to a Cartesian outside or a Euclidean commons of axioms. It is rather sublated by the disappointing identity of the artist qua artist.

Even as the “problem” James cites involves “a geometry of [the artist’s] own,” it is marked a “geometry.” The artist is drawing. Instants and inches measure space, not time. They measure circles, not periods or Historical integers. The artist must draw a shape, a circle, from out of the “continuity of things,” from out of what is otherwise determinedly an automatic and perhaps untraceable structuring—a structuring that is finally probably mostly, if not entirely, without structure. Architectures allies itself with this mood of sublation via the spatial, all the while assuming an impenetrable subjectitude tending toward the “monadic.” Happily, the latter feature is overrun by a sheer feast of lines, of lineated and linguistical chance. Some of the writings even seem to protest the metaphoric conditions of Mallarmé’s graven mantra, “Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard.” For Mallarmé tests chance, via negativa, with a strictly terrestrial and gravitational situation, whereby dice must fall, land, exhibit an upward face. Architectures supplants this necessity, that chance must land. It does this, not only by floating shapes in manners discrepant with figure-ground principles, but—more intriguingly—by compelling multiple syntaxes for upwardness, downwardness, laterality, circularity etc. These oscillating shapes co-occupy and even, if I may, intra-occupy the same space, or a space regeneratively abuzz with its own definition.

Tempestuous in its scrawled inflections, supple in its spatial vocabularies, Gladman’s  Architectures has yet one other dispute to arbitrate before the matter of architecture can be properly meted. In contour, these staid two-dimensional forms may present as a persistent if flippant set of iconographic scribbles—and if you are thinking this, you are probably a “writer,” not an “architect.” For architects draw—they sketch, they draft, they draw. They are accustomed to dancing with the pen. As Paolo Belardi affirms in his Why Architects Still Draw, “Drawing and project then—though remaining different entities—nourish each other from the moment of conception on, forming a tangle of meanings that demonstrates their interdependence.”

More distinctively, Mario Carpo, among others, has called architecture a series of notations. There are numerous methods of attaining this conclusion but the Albertian thesis is sufficient, as arranged by Carpo: “Alberti came up with the idea of making as many drawings as needed, then putting a name and date on them, so the builders would just follow the drawings. And when the building really looks like the drawing, then the designer can claim, ‘It is “my” building; not because I made it, but because I made the drawing.’ This is the act of foundation of the modern architectural profession.” Far from facile syncretism, Carpo and others understand architecture as always-too-late susceptible to the reading that apprehends meaning. That is, while it may be that architecture will always immanently mean, as Derrida expects, even architecture cannot do so without syntax—notational, geometric or otherwise.

Being as Architectures is a book—albeit, one elaborating the relationship between built structures and written ones, even between, say, das Bilt of Architectures and der bildungsroman of literature—architects will inevitably be inclined to consign Gladman’s work to the space of what Bernard Tschumi has called “paper space.” Likewise, they will be inclined to agree with Derrida, that architecture is not like that which can be written, that it cannot be interpreted away, that no reading of it can diminish its meaningful immanence. However, those who would distinguish architecture from mere buildings ought to host a riling distrust of such credulity. How can one grant architecture its status and artistic surplus but by reading and thus interpreting notations? To grant the problematic its most metaphysically hardwired status, how can one be amidst architecture—contained, retained, sustained, delayed, suspended, excited, regulated, grounded, protected, sedated, perspectivally managed by and with architecture—without dwelling in the stuff of space to which all art is subject?

Léon Krier once said, “I am an architect because I don’t build.” While this assertion may provoke bourgeois and conventionalist architects who do not recognize architecture’s potential for fetishization, it does seem squarely reactionary to suggest that architecture must stay in “paper space.” Indeed, it is Albertian melodrama. Moreover, it is in consideration of such epigrams as Krier’s that one is hesitant to reify Gladman’s book as a set of architectures. Although it may be that one cannot convincingly read Architectures as architectures, Gladman’s drawings do intervene on and spatially distort the phenomenal account of meaning that makes of architecture whatever it is. One even must contend with the possibility that, (a), its being a work published under the authorship of a poet (“writer and artist”) and, (b), its being titled with the syntactically aporetic title, Prose [adjective] Architectures [noun], are mere obscura, unjustly circumscribing the book to the aforementioned “land of literature.” Otherwise, the book is quite architectural, as it appears to probe for modalities and ways of drawing that make way for architecture’s escape from what is currently, perhaps, architecture’s homuncular will: the will to digitize or the will to the digital.

In his discussion of “design mediums” and software’s determination of “architecture,” Damjan Jovanovic notes that “the very conditions in which the new architectural additions to ‘real life’ are being produced, organised and disseminated are already completely set in the virtuality of digital and algorithmic worlds.” Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s prison etchings—their unlikely cavernous organs, inconsistent depths, yarning staircases—in their way, are part of, if not the digital lineage, that of the glitch. They seem to have portended how representational and digital structures can agglomerate and notate glitches amidst their otherwise representationalist schemes. The etchings are “glitched drawings,” whereby, following Matthew Austin and Gavin Perin in “Drawing the Glitch,” “The glitched drawing resists the drawing’s material and spatial notions to be decoded [sic] via the allographic rules of the drawing.” Akin to digitally-rendered drawings, a Piranesi carcero “disrupts the viewers’ assumed allography of the images, forcing them to either reject the validity of the image or, more interestingly, attempt to spatially reconcile what the bizarre, uncanny and jarring elements introduced by these processes mean.” Piranesi’s work is just an exaggeration of a more liberating reality: glitching architecture was always a process endemic to Albertian architecture—for such architecture was always drawn. Of the critiques Architectures offers architecture’s will to the digital, it may be the alphabetoidal glitching of line that is most potent. Such gestures recall the digital as orthographic, that it can be ordered into language, piece by piece, one way or another, however consolidated and binary-bent. Is this an erstwhile and Ludditic critical involution?—can non-computerized drawing still matter? Rem Koolhaas’s “culture of congestion” is becoming, paradigmatically, a digital culture. Likewise, over the past decade, figures like Eisenman and Carpo have decried a digital mania of parametric, voxel-, rule-, building performance-based design and other Computer-Automated Design as misguided and ultimately wrapped up in a perverse technocratic epistemology that, well before considering anything about techne, thinks: “technology for technology’s sake.”

Of the Parnassian tilt, recall that Parnassian poets, being themselves nostalgic for some Doric solemnity, starved for μέλας ζωμός, engaged in a reactionary deadening of a field gone to seed. The awkward but distinct kinship between these antiquarian moods and those of a digitally-turning architecture continually outsourcing artistic decisions to programming syntaxes is unmistakable. Less like the materially and syntactically diverse gestures of Oulipo—an ongoing literary project, the stirrings of which could be said to analogize the digital in architecture—Computer-Automated Design can rely on schedules of optimization and randomization that have the potential to chase thoughtlessly after industrial, institutional, technocratic, arbitrarily capitalistic programs. Put elsewise, this dangerous “CAD” has the potential to emphasize architectural phenomena while stripping the discipline of its phenomenology.

There is certainly something laconic about programming architecture and pressing a “Render” button. Perhaps this is the écriture blanche of which Roland Barthes rigidly conceived. “How does one choose between designs?” Eisenman has asked. “How does one decide which design is better?” Works like Gladman’s can help arbitrate this loophole in architecture. Literature, as a “geometric or morphological” medium, offers architecture possibilities of structure that recouple the hand to the drafting instrument and recall architecture as art, as a process of selection, detection, discernment. Architectures exhibits places of difficult joinery, where the unplannable is systematically planned for. Page after page, one reads the endless crash-landing that is the management of inheritance and dissatisfaction, often going under the name, invention.

The extent to which Architectures purports an automatic writing or drawing is the extent to which architecture—in its “paper spa[tial]” plans, renderings, modelings, formulated constraints, etc., perhaps especially in its germinal digitalized beginnings—must admit of, not only accident, glitch, happenstance, but also a prepropositional syntax, forms before formation. The written begins before writing; thought begins before thinking. As Georg Lukács determined of the novel in his occasionally forbidding Hegelian vernacular, the content of a work of literature arrives already formed; thus it is the artist’s job (always-too-late situated by a workplace) to propose reifications of what is already arrived and decisively formed—to, as James wrote, “draw, by a geometry of [one’s] own, the circle within which [relations] shall happily appear to [stop].” Architecture cannot disentangle itself from relations, from “the order of forms and sites.” It cannot outwit the givenness of being-in-the-world. However much it has and will continue to postulate otherwise, architecture—of whatever technological epoch—will tend the mark of coercive power.

Le Corbusier’s plan for the guileless city-society, Ville Radieuse—what Colin Rowe called modern architecture’s fantasy of a “crystal city and the dream of absolutely unconcealed negotiation (no playing of poker)”—was predicated on a zealous and re-Enlightened enthusiasm about a post-aristocratic, post-parochial space. Inscribed versions of this zeal had already circulated before the “ecstasy of fumbling,” before the mustard gas bloomed to a “green sea,” as Wilfred Owen wrote among the trenches and canal crossings of France. For instance, der Geist of Kazimir Malevich haunted Corbu’s work; the supposedly para-institutional scope of the Rayonists, the coterminous bursts of event that are constantly manifest in line, presaged the interminable nowness of the new architects’ new city. Henri Bergson spoke of the intrapenetration of moments, the unfolding relay between one occurrence and another. Meanwhile, the gazettes did not record all the odes in lines struckthrough, the language of thought in the holograph of Dulce et Decorum Est:

Then somewhere near in front: Whew…fup, fop, fup,
Gas. Shells? Or duds? We loosened masks in case,—
And listened. Nothing. Far [illegible] rumouring of Krupp
The suddencrawling[illegible] bitstung us in the face.

“Krupp,” of the Krupp family, was a plutocratic multinational arms manufacturer. Owen and his men were listening for ammunitions produced by Krupp.

What Corbu possibly failed to appreciate was that poker would always be played, that, in some unlighted interior of the Ville Radieuse, in some between-space, the Krupps of the world were playing poker—they were ready to deceive in the favor of privatized enrichment. At this moment, that merged and mutated corporation goes under the name “ThyssenKrupp AG.” The will to transparency, to modernist-architectural clarity and scientificity, became, as is well documented, a most genial corporate partner to businesses and governments requiring cloaks of Humanism in the concealment of authoritarian daggers.

As Owen’s poem suggests, in between the programmatic literary structures of yesterday are possibilities for cogency and invention, morbid satire, exposures of what inherited formulae can do to the human condition. “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” is little different from the elating clichés of Adolf Eichmann during his trial, as recorded by Hannah Arendt. From title to final line, Horace’s proud ancient bromide is stretched open and left exposed its own contemporary poetic explication, spectating unlivable violence and decay. The interstices of monumental language, the will to clarity and piety, are host to the nasty, brutish and short(-ly lived)—the lines may as well flow with blood. More still, Owen’s holograph discloses a commentary on structure that beguiles the linear and tidy “poetic object” or product. It exhibits a spatially pliant plan, where meaning hangs in the lurch, even struggles for graphemic confinement.

The drafts of literature and the plans of architecture demonstrate the iterability of what goes under the title of a single work, of the eternal inheritance of structural relations that must eventually be drawn up into a manageable “construction.” Gladman’s Architectures, like Owen’s holograph, exhibits narratological and poetical relations that, while not relying on a strictly literary legibility, assimilate scriptural structurations. These structurations—or structures overtly of a piece with their being-in-process—mark-out stories about space and, specifically, dream an avant-garde of space that critiques the curatorial problematic Fredric Jameson associates with the contemporary “installation.” If the latter is the artistic determination of event that coincides with an arrangement of things—cultural, genre-metonymic, found disjecta membra—in a space, Jameson’s “installation” infers an objects-oriented voyeurism. Not only is stuff not doing what is expected of it; one interrupts the spatialization shared by these pieces of pieces.

Where the curator is the locum tenens for the artist, as Jameson suggests in the case of installations, it may likewise be said that the space is the locum tenens for the curator, for one observes space acting out the event and implicating oneself as intruder to what is always-too-late happening in space. There is, of course, this strange matter of the thready subject, invoked earlier. In one instance, the apparent dislocation and alienation of these installed disjecta membra work to, as by a mirology of estrangement, install the passerby by reifying her as specialized labor whose immanent interpretive task involves the work of “construction.” Many interesting conclusions can be extrapolated from this expectation, not the least startling of which clings to questions, once again, of the artist and artistic criticality. It will suffice to mark that the interrelationality of the installation is often numbingly reduced to a subjectivity (recall too those initial reservations regarding Gladman’s introduction), a subjectivity that merely activates the art so that it may gaze upon the subject herself or her subjectum, and intensify her own sense of rupture with some prepropositional situation, say, the Lacanian Real or the fetishized state of “space as such.”

Gladman’s work registers that “space as such,” whatever it is, is probably not the affectless cypher to structure but a structure already structured, “geometric or morphological.” Yet its implications are rangier than what might be summarized by a curator as those pertaining to “genre-bending.” Architectures makes to unravel the religious and industrial facing that is empty space. As such, the often pathetically ambivalent “post-ironic” spatially-charged genre of the installation is not just the spelling-out of a-s-s-e-m-b-l-a-g-e or c-u-l-t-u-r-a-l p-a-s-t-i-c-h-e across a gallery room. Nor is the installation merely a subjective interruption of objects-oriented interrelations, with its Cartesian economy of gazing. Architectures expands on space as a structuration of hidden contours. Space is not a would-be neutral plane or sphere of meaningful interactions. Rather, the isolation of meaningfulness (that is, into an objet d’art) is a vibration or wakefulness in space that renders whatever space is, apart from meaning, as factically viable.

In Architectures, meaning and its ongoing structuring is spatially designated—planned for by an inherited and instinctual spatial language. While one must not remain diverted by haggard accounts, vignettes, digests, entelechies…heuristically, meaning is the thing that pops out of the woodwork. It is instantiated by material immanences with suppositiously repeatable identities, e.g., a “corner,” a “sculpture,” a “wall,” a “painting,” “smile,” “line,” etc. It is the ripple in the grid of relegated context. Accordingly, space is off doing things away from the would-be Cartesian subject. And yet, as by actio in distans, space is already constrained and subjugated by the supposed sovereignty of the subject before she even enters the building, the town square, a heterotopia—before she even puts pen to paper. As Heidegger would say, what is always already operative is only present-at-hand until an aberrancy arises, the uncanny manifests, a glitch surfaces, etc. The normative and architectonic reading of structured relations in space as a linear movement from one tile to another, from one room to another, all events pegged together by Euclidean idealities, is an institutional put-on and Architectures knows it.

Architectural structures are narrative; they are scenographic. Like the installation, staging and stage set design is a place where glitching is exploited and built structures reveal the narrative dimension whereby legibility is possible—a kind of ultra- or surplus-dimension, what is, plainly, an architectural iteration of Derrida’s “arche-writing.” Piranesi’s etchings and Gladman’s lineations can be read as intra-allographic, scenographically set between two and three dimensions. As is instantiated in the diachronic smudging of Baldassare Peruzzi’s La Calandria, where iconic features of Rome are convened in theatrical proximity, Architectures recognizes architecture as liable to transposition, transformation, spatial fuzziness. In his paper, “Conjuring the Concept of Rome: Alterity and Synecdoche in Peruzzi’s Design for La Calandria,” Javier Berzal de Dios notes these “illusionistic irregularities” of Peruzzi’s stage, where “monuments are flattened,…impossibly stacked and piled up on one another,” are contiguous with traditional narrative inferences about space.

Importantly, the fragmentation of pictorial space need not be seen as incompatible with the humanists’ interest in Aristotle’s dramatic unity, which stipulated a main action without subplots. After all, the scene, as the semantic center of a play, can operate as a conceptual unity through the embodied engagement of viewers and actors in the visually designed space of the stage. Unity, in this sense, would not be a static, monolithic apparatus, but a malleable set of relations that is articulated by the engagement between each viewer, the space of that viewer, the performers, and the space of the performance.

Rome, Ville Radieuse, New York City—they are built of structural relations that are under constant revision in space. This is not merely “psychic mapping;” it is space, already structured, both logorrheic and vulgar, manipulated by its own consumability. Icons and symbols in and upon a city skyline are not, finally, in the earth but caught up in liminal meanings that are always and from whatever beginning structural and, thus, built-out. The Empire State Building being at 34th Street and 5th Avenue is narratively contingent, literarily pliable. Moreover, words, should they be related, are coiled up and sketched out amidst rectilinear probabilities. Any retreat into some conterminous mapping of a psyche—or, even better, waxen subject—only denotes an insecurity: a struggle to exhibit the vulnerabilities of architecture and its inevitable meaningfulness.

This considered, one may be inclined to reflect on the assumption that architecture confers—nay, necessitates—metaphysically riveted, architectonic structure, a structure more concrete than the palimpsestic quanta abounding spookily from Architectures. Are Derrida’s concerns, as indicated by the critique disclosed by Architectures, not just a little credulous? The tradition of architectural precedence in ontological discourses is impossibly long. Plato thought architecture was non-memetic and, by extension, non-narrative—that it did not bear a language to be arranged and “constructed.” When Heidegger wrote, in his discussion of the structure of Dasein qua care, that “it is beyond question that the totality of the structural whole is not to be reached phenomenally by means of cobbling together elements. This would require a blueprint,” he was both profoundly correct about the non-summative properties of phenomena but potentially naïve about the supervisory capacity for architectural plans to determine “structural whole[s],” Alberti’s drawings notwithstanding.

When Derrida told Eisenman that architecture will always mean—that it will always present as structurally complete—Eisenman sought to wake from architecture, by way of a literary semiotics, its own possibility to not mean. As Jeff Kipnis wrote of Eisenman’s House VI, Eisenman began “treating architecture not as a matter of architectural signs rearranged into new formal relations to be seen but into new texts to be read.” Constraining his work to an emphatically Cartesian grammar, House VI is a matrix of process notations explaining how the organizing principle of a so-called “structural whole” can be rendered entirely illegible, invisible. The diagonal of House VI is pushed into more flagrant immanences of structure and, in effect and in every other way, made traceable only through the analytical surplus this diagonal, as it were, leaves behind.

It is architecture like Eisenman’s that explodes into immanence what is otherwise understood as virtual and literary. His literary architecture extends its hand to literature in a way analogous to how Gladman’s work extends its hand to architecture. Literature—what Architectures already finds blitzing through any allograph of an architecture—is the drawing of a circle or some other shape around the constant bleeding of ink. Instead of architectonic reading, the movement from one chapter to the next, one stanza or square-yard to the next, one must face the difficult likelihood that one’s procession through and consumption of “geometric or morphological space” is itself nothing less than a kind of writing. Besides merely rebuilding what is built, this writing can reappropriate curatorial and institutional ideologies related to genre, process, techne. Judith Butler elaborates as much in her Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly. The land is being mapped, relocated, redecided, mark by mark. As Fred Moten writes in his computer-milled essay at the back of Architectures, “Not that there’s no there there, but that there moves. There is moved by what you say.” Let us assure that what we say does not amount to mere structural contingency. Let us assure ourselves that we are ready to get a bit lost.

Photo credit: Sasha Grafit

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Albe Harlow is a 2019 graduate of Columbia University’s MFA Writing Program and a reader for Harvard Review. His work is published in 3:AM MagazineLa Piccioletta BarcaContrary MagazineRHINO 2020, Charge Magazine, Princeton University’s Inventory. Meanwhile, his project relating to the auditory legacy of Jacques Derrida, publicized by Cornell University Library, is ongoing. Additional work is forthcoming in 3:AM MagazineBellingham Review and the Cambridge Literary Review. New York City is his home. He would like to thank Benny Morduchowitz for bringing Prose Architectures to his attention.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, December 10th, 2020.