dimanche 31 janvier 2010

# HETEROTOPIAS IN CINEMA /// Dark Days by Marc Singer

Dark Days (2000) is a documentary by Marc Singer traveling in the New York's underground in order to meet the "mole people", a group of homeless living underneath and along Penn Station's railway.
This zone is de facto not controlled by any instance of power, and life there is a mix of solidarity and conflict between people who chose this way of life.

samedi 30 janvier 2010

# HETEROTOPIAS IN CINEMA /// Touche pas a la femme blanche by Marco Ferreri

Touche pas a la femme blanche (Don't touch the white woman) is an incredible satirist western by Marco Ferreri filmed in 1974 in...the center of Paris. In fact, the entire movie is taking scene in the sector of Les Halles which were currently transformed from the central food market to a huge mall that we still know nowadays. Since this period Les Halles are known as "Le trou" (The hole) due to this impressive crater which needed to be dug.
Marco Ferreri therefore used this enormous construction site as the settings of his parody in order to eventually reproduce the battle of Little Big Horn (1876) as a battle against modernity. Whoever lived in Paris for more or less time would be probably amazed by those following very contrasted images of a recognizable Paris hosting troops of Indians and XIXth century US Army.
One could possibly regrets that the final battle seems to happen in a quarry (see last picture) rather than in "the hole" but the transition Ferreri succeeds to achieve thanks to a play of zoom and montages depicts a very interesting imaginary setting.
It is also interesting to know that before being Les Halles, this site used to be a cemetery (Cimetiere des Innocents) composed of numerous common graves and hosting more than two millions dead bodies...This movie seems therefore to be a kind of fictitious memory of the site which reappears when the earth is being excavated.

vendredi 29 janvier 2010

# Wagah Border between India and Pakistan

The border between Amritsar (India) and Lahore (Pakistan) is special by the "spectacle" it hosts every evening for the lowering of the flags. In fact, soldiers from the two sides daily starts at the same time a kind of ceremonial of intimidation dramatizing in an almost grotesque way, the conflict between the two countries. Stands have been built for the audience of both nation who compete as well to know who cheers the best his country.
This ceremony emphasizes considerably the symbolic and representative aspect of the border and constitutes a daily battle that nobody win, thus perpetuating the war to the infinite.

# HETEROTOPIAS IN CINEMA /// スチームボーイ (STEAMBOY) by Katsuhiro Otomo, 2004

Here is a movie we couldn't avoid for this thematic, Steamboy a masterpiece of the great mangaka & director Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira) . This movie his presenting a retro futuristic view of the mid 19th century in England, where a family of genius is building a steam powered tower combining the most incredible technology for the Great exhibition of 1851 in London. One can notice the highly detailed mecanic parts and beautifull retro machinery (cf : Wild Wild West by Barry Sonnenfeld). More over the graphic quality is bringing the picture to the dream, the perfect mix between 2d , 3D animation and color tones gives a great feeling of depth and a perfect motion fluidity. The 19th century London as a background is just as amazing as the wonderfull scenes that takes place in Paxton's Crystal Palace... I will notwrite longer about this movie and let you discovering it, following few pictures to give you a quick overview.

jeudi 28 janvier 2010

# HETEROTOPIAS IN CINEMA /// 砂の女 (The woman in the dunes) by Hiroshi Teshigahara

Following the previous article about the desert, let's stay in the realm of sand with the masterpiece 砂の女 (The woman in the dunes) by Hiroshi Teshigahara directly interpreted from Kobo Abe's novel.
The plot dramatize the captivity of a man in a house which lays at the bottom of a sand "dwell" in which lives a woman who needs each day to extract a certain amount of sand for the nearby village and in order to maintain her house out from being swallowed by the sand. It represents a daily fight for the existence of her life environment in order to survive against the intractable process of the sand.
Whether one talks about the book or the film, the sand descriptions are absolutely splendid and even comports a kind of metaphysical aspect to some degrees.
Here is an excerpt of the novel:

Sand: an aggregate of rock fragments. Sometimes including loadstone, tinstone, or more rarely gold dust. Diameter: 2 to 1/16mm

A very clear definition indeed. In short, the sand came from fragmented rocks and was interemediate between clay and pebble. But simply calling it an intermediate substance did not provide a really satisfactory explanation. Why was it that isolated deserts and sandy terrain came into existence through the sifting out of only the sand from soil in which clay, sand, and stones were thoroughly mixed together? If a true intermediate substance were involved, the erosive action of wind and water would necessarily produce any number of intermingling intermediate forms in the range between rock and clay. However, there are in fact only three forms that can be clearly distinguished from one another: stones, sand, and clay. Furthermore, sand is sand wherever it is; strangely enough, there is almost no difference in the size of the grains whether they come from the Gobi Desert or from the beach at Enoshima. The size of the grains shows very little variation and follows a Gaussian distribution curve with a true mean of 1/8mm.
Because winds and water current flows over the land, the formation of sand is unavoidable. As long as the winds blew, the rivers flowed, and the seas stirred, sand would be born grain by grain from the earth, and like a living being it would creep everywhere. The sands never rested. Gently but surely they invaded and destroyed the surface of the earth.

Kobo Abe. 砂の女 Suna no onna (The woman in the dunes). Borzoi 1964

mercredi 27 janvier 2010


Desert is something between an heterotopia and what I would call an atopia (a non-space). It defines itself as a territory whose limits seem to reach the infinite, which is not to say that it seems to have no limits. In fact, in the cinematographic desert, one always tries to reach the horizon as a tenacious impossible quest.

I think an appropriate author to quote here is Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio (see previous post) in his beautiful humanist novel Desert:

They appeared as if in a dream at the top of the dune, half-hidden in the cloud of sand rising from their steps. Slowly, they made their way down into the valley, following the almost invisible trail. At the head of the caravan were the men, wrapped in their woolen cloaks, their faces masked by the blue veil. Two or three dromedaries walked with them, followed by the goats and sheep that the young boys prodded onward. The women brought up the rear. They were bulky shapes, lumbering under heavy cloaks, and the skin of their arms and foreheads looked even darker in the indigo cloth.
They walked noiselessly in the sand, slowly, not watching where they were going. The wind blew relentlessly, the desert wind, hot in the daytime, cold at night. The sand swirled about them, between the legs of the camels, lashing the faces of the women, who pulled the blue veils down over their eyes. The young childre ran about, the babies cried, rolled up in the blue cloth on their mothers' backs. The camels growled, sneezed. No one knew where the caravan was going.
They were the men and the women of the sand, of the wind, of the light, of the night. They had appeared as if in a dream at the top of a dune, as if they were born of the cloudness sky and carried the harshness of space in their limbs. They bore with them hunger, the thrist of bleeding lips, the flintlike silence of the glinting sun, the cold nights, the glow of the Milky Way, the moon: accompanying them were their huge shadows at sunset, the waves of virgin sand over which their splayed feet trod, the inaccessible horizon. More than anything, they bore the light of their gaze shining so brightly in the whites of their eyes.
Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio. Desert (1980). Verba Mundi 2009

- Werner Herzog: Fata Morgana 1968
- Gus Van Sant: Gerry 2002
- Chuan Lu: Kekexili (Mountain Patrol) 2006
- Peter Watkins: Punishment Park 1971 (see previous posts)
- Michelangelo Antonioni: Zabriskie Point 1970
- Michelangelo Antonioni: Professione: Reporter (The Passenger) 1975

mardi 26 janvier 2010

# Franz Kafka's Tower of Babel and Great Wall of China

Franz Kafka, in his short story called The Great Wall of China, draws an interesting literate association between the most horizontal edifice with the mythic vertical one, the Tower of Babel, the first one being the foundation of the second. I am pretty intrigued by the obvious anachronism and its Cabalistic aspect...

"First, it has to be said that achievements were brought to fruition at that time which rank slightly behind the Tower of Babel, although in the pleasure they gave to God, at least by human reckoning, they made an impression exactly the opposite of that structure. I mention this because at the time construction was beginning a scholar wrote a book in which he drew this comparison very precisely. In it he tried to show that the Tower of Babel had failed to attain its goal not at all for the reasons commonly asserted, or at least that the most important causes were not among these well-known ones. He not only based his proofs on texts and reports, but also claimed to have carried out personal inspections of the location and thus to have found that the structure collapsed and had to collapse because of the weakness of its foundation. And it is true that in this respect our age was far superior to that one long ago. Almost every educated person in our age was a mason by profession and infallible when it came to the business of laying foundations. But it was not at all the scholar’s aim to prove this. Instead he claimed that the great wall alone would for the first time in the age of human beings create a secure foundation for a new Tower of Babel. So first the wall and then the tower. In those days the book was in everyone’s hands, but I confess that even today I do not understand exactly how he imagined this tower. How could the wall, which never once took the form of a circle but only a sort of quarter or half circle, provide the foundation for a tower? But it could be meant only in a spiritual sense. But then why the wall, which was something real, a product of the efforts and lives of hundreds of thousands of people? And why were there plans in the book—admittedly hazy plans—sketching the tower, as well as detailed proposals about how the energies of the people could be strictly channelled into the new work in the future."
Franz Kafka. The Great Wall of China. Penguin91

lundi 25 janvier 2010

# HETEROTOPIAS IN CINEMA /// Fahrenheit 451 by Francois Truffaut

The film Fahrenheit 451 is a 1966 cinematographic adaptation from Francois Truffaut of Ray Bradbury's 1953 novel. More than a visualization of the book, Truffaut's movie is a real personal interpretation and brings something in addition of the original plot.
Fahrenheit 451 is the story of a system where firemen are burning every books they find since those records of knowledge are being prohibited.

The heterotopia here is this zone in the woods where rebels to the system are living and happen to have traded their name to a book they have read and remembered. Literature and knowledge are thus being transmit from generation to generation as both a hyper-personification of their content (since somebody actually embodies it) and a personification of this same content (since the author is not anymore the important thing here).
This heterotopia is then dramatizing a territory where culture is not contained by objects but by people and triggers thus a global solidarity and equality between them.

Here is a short excerpt from Bradbury's novel:

“Montag.” Granger took Montag’s shoulder firmly.
“Walk carefully. Guard your health. If anything should happen to Harris, you are the Book of Ecclesiastics. See how important you’ve become in the last minute!”
“But I’ve forgotten”
“No, nothing’s ever lost. We have ways to shake down your clinkers for you.”
“But I’ve tried to remember!”
“Don’t try. It’ll come when we need it. All of us have photographic memories, but spend a lifetime learning how to block off the things that are really in there. Simmons here has worked on it for twenty years and now we’ve got the method down to where we can recall everything that’s been read once. Would you like, some day, Montag, to read Plato’s Republic?”
“Of course!”
“I am Plato’s Republic. Like to read Marcus Aurelius? Mr. Simmons is Marcus.”
“How do you do?” said Mr. Simmons
“Hello”, said Montag
“I want you to meet Jonathan Swift, the author of that evil political book, Gulliver’s Travels! And this other fellow is Charles Darwin, and this one is Schopenhauer, and this one is Einstein, and this one here at my elbow is Mr. Albert Schweitzer, a very kind philosopher indeed. Here we all are, Montag. Aristophanes and Mahatma Gandhi and Gautama Buddha and Confusius and Thomas Love Peacock and Thomas Jefferson and Mr. Lincoln, if you please. We are also Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.”
Everyone laughed quietly.
“It can’t be”, said Montag
“It is”, replied Granger, smiling. “We’re book burners, too. We read the books and burnt them, afraid they’d be found. Micro-filming didn’t pay off; we were always traveling, we didn’t want to bury the film, and come back later. Always the chance of discovery. Better to keep it in old heads, where no one can see it or suspect it. We are all bits and pieces of history and literature and international law, Byron, Tom Paine, Machiavelli or Christ, it’s here. And the hour is lat. And the war’s began. And we are out here, and the city is there, all wrapped up in its own coat of a thousand colors. What do you think Montag?”

Ray Bradbury. Fahrenheit 451. Ballantine 1953

dimanche 24 janvier 2010

# Our Daily Bread by Nikolaus Geyrhalter

Our Daily Bread illustrates human's anthropocentrism by following Descartes who was wishing to see human becoming "master and owner of the nature". In fact, what this movie introduces is a global elaborate machine providing food for the Western World. It is then interesting as architects to wonder who are the designers as such a system and to notice that those ones are completely disconnected to the daily operation of their devices.
The comparison of this machine to a wider extent of a political system seems appropriate looking at the mechanization of the apparatuses, the subjectivation of the bodies and the exclusion and suppression of elements that are not adapted to such a system (here weak chickens, oversized apples, weirdly shaped eggs etc.).
However, the film, by its aesthetization of the machinery and the absence of comments, leaves the documentary genre to series of very ambiguous paintings often tending towards Rembrandt and Bacon as far slaughterhouses are concerned.

Pity the meat! Meat is undoubtedly the chief object of Bacon’s pity, his only object of pity, his Anglo-Irish pity. On this point he is like Soutine, with his immense pity for the Jew. Meat is not dead flesh; it retains all the sufferings and assumes all the colors of living flesh. It manifests such convulsive pain and vulnerability, but also such delightful invention, color, and acrobatics. Bacon does not say, “Pity the beasts,” but rather that every man who suffers is a piece of meat. Meat is the common zone of man and the beast, their zone of indiscernibility; it is a “fact”, a state where the painter identifies with the objects of his horror and his compassion. The painter is certainly a butcher, but he goes to the butcher’s shop as if it were a church, with the meat as the crucified victim. Bacon is a religious painter only in butcher’s shops.
Gilles Deleuze. The logic of sensation. Continuum 2003

PS: The film also shows what I think are incredible underground salt quarries. If anybody have some information or pictures or those, I'd be very interested to read about them.

# Lightness and darkness, the art of Gareth Pugh

Here is an overview of the work of the young and talented fashion designer Gareth Pugh. On the following pictures you will see how his using tiling, inflated balloons, perpex or shiny vynil to create amazing wearable sculptures.
This video is a collaboration with Gareth Pugh and the famous photographer/director Nick Knight.

samedi 23 janvier 2010

# R&Sie(n)'s Architecture "des humeurs" started !

The exhibition An Architecture "des humeurs" representing an important amount of last year's work time of parisian office R&Sie(n) officially started. The whole scenario of the exhibition is released on the New-Territories' blog and the exhibition itself is visible in Le Laboratoire in Paris until April 26th.

Une architecture des Humeurs

Crédits /
-R&Sie(n) / Le Laboratoire / 2010
-Scénario, design, production : R&Sie(n) / François Roche, Stéphanie Lavaux

Associés à :
-François Jouve / Process mathématiques
-Marc Fornes & Winston Hampel, Natanael Elfassy / Computations
-Stephan Henrich / Process et Design Robotique
-Gaëtan Robillard, Frédéric Mauclere, Jonathan Derrough / Design
et Process de captations physiologiques
-Berdaguer et Péjus / Scénario Nano-récepteurs
-Mark Kendall / Microneedles
-Delphine Chevrot / Takako Sato / “The Lift”
-Candice Poitrey / Interview Physiologique
-Chris Younes / Introduction aux «substances affectives »
-Jiang Bin, architecte
-Laura Bellamy
-Rosalie Laurin