Architecture, Phantasmagoria, and the Culture of Contemporary Capitalism Symposium

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    Culture of Circulation
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2017-03-31) Ockman, Joan ; Georgia Institute of Technology. College of Design ; Georgia Institute of Technology. School of Architecture ; University of Pennsylvania
    Once upon a time, in the days when modern architecture was young, circulation through a building was primarily a functional problem. By the mid-twentieth century, when the monument building morphed into the spectacle-building, the circulation system began to take on aesthetic implications of its own and to become a central feature of a building’s architectural identity. Think of Wright’s Guggenheim Museum or Saarinen’s TWA Terminal. Of course, Baroque architects already appreciated the expressive potential of dynamic scenography four centuries ago. But today the mania for circulation spaces manifest in cutting-edge architecture goes well beyond formal virtuosity. Escalators, ramps, elevators, stairs, bridges, catwalks—these privileged elements of contemporary buildings not only belong to a form-making culture that at all costs (figuratively and literally) wishes to avoid the appearance of fixity, but emanate from the very structure of the neocapitalist imaginary. In this talk we attempt an allegorical reading of architecture’s “culture of circulation.” What are the implications of an architecture that is about circulation?
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    Architecture, Phantasmagoria, and the Culture of Contemporary Capitalism - Panel
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2017-03-31) Cronan, Todd ; Johnston, George B. ; Marratt, Marisabel ; Georgia Institute of Technology. College of Design ; Georgia Institute of Technology. School of Architecture ; Johnston+Dumais
    Panel discussion on Architecture, Phantasmagoria, and the Culture of Contemporary Capitalism.
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    The Gothic Imagination: From Castle to Shipwreck
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2017-03-31) Cohen, Margaret ; Georgia Institute of Technology. College of Design ; Georgia Institute of Technology. School of Architecture ; Stanford University
    The gothic is a term designating a style in medieval architecture, which inspired a mode of the imagination in the Enlightenment and Romantic era. This mode found its fullest expression in narrative, popularized by the gothic novel in the British Isles, before spreading across the continent and indeed across the globe. My talk starts with an overview of the gothic mode as conceived by modernity, involved heightened sensation, melodrama, the persistence of irrational forces and fantasies shaped by the tortured, claustrophobic architecture patterned on medieval cloisters, churches, and castles. While inspired by architectures of power from the feudal era, gothic spaces were adapted by the modern imagination to express haunted or otherwise uncanny features of other types of environments. An urban gothic proliferated in the 19th century across the globe, peopled by the ghosts of the marginalized and the displaced. In the United States, Southern gothic, as well as the suburban gothic are two examples of how the gothic travels: in the case of the suburban gothic, to rend the façade of middle-class banality and in the case of the Southern gothic, to express tormented race relations still shaping consciousness and history. The paper ends by adding to these familiar gothic topoi a form of environmental gothic: the underwater gothic, enabled by the invention of technologies to take human vision beneath the ocean and record it with film, which is the subject of my current research. It shows how the vista of the shipwreck fits the criteria for the gothic using James Cameron’s virtuosic sequence filming the historical wreck of The Titanic in Titanic (1997). Under the sea as well, the gothic confronts Enlightenment modernity with irrational forces – staging, however, not a form of human power but rather the menace to modernity of the indifferent, natural environment. This menace has an uncanny beauty as strange natural forms recolonize technologies that were the epitome of modern aspiration, and give an alluring afterlife to a tragic grave.
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    A Specter is Haunting Babel - The Specter of Language
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2017-03-31) Kishik, David ; Georgia Institute of Technology. College of Design ; Georgia Institute of Technology. School of Architecture ; Emerson College
    Urban theology begins with a biblical tale of two cities: Enoch, built by Cain, and Babel, destroyed by God. The fact that the pithy primeval story in Genesis 1-11 finds it necessary to develop separate critiques of the same phenomenon (soon to be tripled with the account of Sodom and Gomorrah) is enough to show why the city is seen not only as the foundation of the created world, but also as the fountain of our deepest human anxieties. Assuming that all our modern urban sensibilities are secularized theological sensibilities, I will take in this talk a tiger’s leap from the observation deck of the World Trade Center to the locked room at the seventh floor of the Babylonian Ziggurat.
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    Space After Spectacle: Infrastructure, Indifference and the Phantasmagoria of Transit
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2017-03-31) Spencer, Douglas ; Georgia Institute of Technology. College of Design ; Georgia Institute of Technology. School of Architecture ; Architectural Association (Great Britain). Graduate School of Design ; University of Westminster
    Andreotti and Lahiji’s The Architecture of Phantasmagoria presents an incisive critique of the discourse of spectacle in architecture. ‘Spectacle’, they note, has become the ‘tired mantra’ of a supposedly critical posture lazily reiterating its complaints against architecture as image and missing the critical thrust of Debord’s writing. Without wanting to abandon what remains for them still pertinent in Debord’s thought they suggest, in response, phantasmagoria as a model more adequate to grasping the machinations of contemporary architecture as an apparatus of power and subjectivation than that of spectacle. This paper builds upon and extends Andreotti and Lahiji’s critique. The discourse of spectacle, I will argue, rests upon the assumption of a cinematic mode of reception in which subjects are distracted from everyday realities under the spell-like influence of star architects and their iconic productions. This mode of reception is, though, exceptional rather than typical. As such, it is itself a distraction from the more everyday experience of the built environment and the analysis of its subjectifying powers. This subjectifying power, I will argue, operates through forms of attention that are very much divided rather than undivided; the fleeting glance rather than the focused gaze, the habitual as opposed to the extraordinary. In order to explore these more habitual and habituating forms of attention - exemplified here in the spaces of contemporary transit and their sobrely dressed interiors - I draw methodologically upon Benjamin and Kracauer’s concern with the everyday experience of the city as a ubiquitous environmental condition and, reaching further back still, to Simmel’s account of the metropolis as, in its economic and experiential essence, a ‘sphere of indifference’.
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    Haunts: A Eulogy to Phantasmagoria
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2017-03-31) Gilloch, Graeme ; Georgia Institute of Technology. College of Design ; Georgia Institute of Technology. School of Architecture ; Emerson College
    My aim in this paper is to rethink and reconfigure the notion of phantasmagoria not as forms of deception and domination (myth, fetishism, illusion, dreaming) but rather as sites of and encounters with ‘gatherings of ghosts’. To this end, I compare and contrast two key visions of contemporary urban space: the notion of ‘non places’ (non-lieux) identified by the French social anthropologist Marc Augé and ‘place of memory’ (lieux de memoire) as articulated by his compatriot, the historian Pierre Nora. I suggest that these may be understood as two sides of the same coin: non-lieux as spaces of alienation and individualization bereft of meaning and significance as characteristic of supermodernity (malls, airports, car parks, gas stations, fast food chains); lieux de memoire as spaces (and objects, texts, and other artefacts) of mythological history seeking to indoctrinate a national collective consciousness in the absence of any genuine connectedness to the past (monuments, school textbooks, historical personae and stories). One produces the atomized individual; the other incorporates this individual into the mass and mythology of the nation. Both kinds of ‘spaces’ are, in fact, about amnesia: the the absence of remembrance and / or its orchestration. So I will propose something else which might serve as sites of critique and counterpoint: those places that are haunted by the repressed, the down-trodden, the unsuccessful, the dead, the poor, the ‘others’ of conventional history. These are eradicated / erased by both these kinds of lieux: almost! They remain as traces and residues, they survive as ghosts. The places of the city are those that are alive with ghosts. Far from rejecting these as sites of fetish and ideology, we must redeem the crowds of ghosts that haunt the city. ‘Phantasmagoria’ is therefore to be understood here not so much as deceptive 'phantasms in the marketplace' (the fetish commodity chief among them) but more simply as a ‘gathering of ghosts’ in a certain place. And so what I am going to advocate, and this is very much in keeping with the Surrealists of course, iare what we might term lieux d'hanter or simply les hantes. Haunts because this is both an action and a place, a place which one frequents. Not ‘non-places’, not ‘places of memory’, but haunts. And this returns us to the writings of Marc Augé whose essays on Paris are very much a series of eulogies / elegies to his haunts: the metro, the little independent Left Bank cinema, the corner bistro.
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    Architecture, Phantasmagoria, and the Culture of Contemporary Capitalism - Introduction
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2017-03-31) Andreotti, Libero ; Lahiji, Nadir ; Georgia Institute of Technology. College of Design ; Georgia Institute of Technology. School of Architecture ; University of Canberra
    This symposium addresses the concept of phantasmagoria in architecture, unearthing its various manifestations in the contemporary culture of spectacle. Participants from a variety of fields at the intersection of architecture, technology, and political philosophy will examine the history of phantasmagoria from the late eighteenth century to the present and the place it occupies in the writings of Marx, Benjamin, Adorno, and others. More specifically, participants will discuss its role in analyses of capitalist commodity fetishism where, along with the notions of the spectral and the fantastic, it is used to question, and occasionally to subvert, the relationship between ‘reality’ and ‘illusion’. Special attention will be paid to the present-day significance of phantasmagoria in an age of tele-technological and communicative capitalism. Just as new technologies, according to Benjamin, reorganized the human sensorium in the 19th century, turning Paris into the interior space of the flaneur, so technical innovations are reconfiguring the most basic conditions of urban experience in our time, generating new forms of ‘hyper-mediated’ subjectivity that transform the city through the force of psychic shock. By bringing a variety of perspectives to bear on this one concept, the symposium will attempt to frame a general critique of the culture of contemporary capitalism.