2012-11-29

Ne Travaillez Jamais (Never Work)


Without any doubt, the pending issue of contemporary urbanism is Luddism, if we consider that the approach that has been imposed from the twentieth century --Functionalism or Rationalism-- was the diametrically opposed. The Situationists were those who got closer to this ludic and anti-functionalist character, whose proposals were developed in the context of May 1968. But the fact that their ideas were hardly materialized shows to what extent these were visionary and still have potential. Perhaps the time had not yet come for them. The famous Guy Debord's graffiti Ne travaillez jamais ('Never Work') symbolizes an ideology which intended especially to call into question the functionalist and productivist ideology that is at the heart of capitalism.

But a possible Luddite approach in architecture and urbanism would consist, not so much in designing buildings and towns for a ludic, enjoyable or
pleasurable use, what would continue being a functionalist and final method, but rather, in transforming the architectural practice into a play.

Image after A. Vuillemin's Plan of Paris (1892) [pd].

2012-11-11

Los desastres de la guerra (The Disasters of War)

It seems obvious to remember that the symbol of the cross alludes to a sacrifice, political rather than religious. That committed by the Romans to appease a local minority led by Jesus Christ, who called into question the dominance of the Empire in the region. And while it might be thought that its religious dimension was acquired later, once this rebel became the founder of Christianity, the truth is that this sacrifice and sacrifices in general are already by their very essence political and religious at the same time (René Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, 1999). The Christian crucifixion is the sacrifice par excellence of this religion, but also the symbol par excellence, for all sacrifices involve some kind of symbolism.

In fact, we consider that the symbol par excellence, the one which provides the paradigm to understand the rest of them, is precisely the sacrificial symbol. This amounts to saying that the function of symbols is to signify, more or less explicitly, the violence that constitutes the sacrifice. In this sense the symbol is political. But as we said it is also religious. The more the symbol gets close to religion, particularly in highly institutionalized religions such as Christianity, the more it tends to mask the violence, the more a stylized symbol is. Religion cannot be understood without violence, but its violence is quite sublimated, veiled. According to this logic, the basic strategy to deconstruct symbols, necessarily involves revealing such violence, making it explicit.


Image after Francisco de Goya's Los desastres de la guerra (The Disasters of War, 1810-1815) [pd] and Pedro Muguruza y Diego Méndez's Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen, 1940-1958) [fu/fd].