Situated Freedom - Experiments in the Aesthetic Practice of Rem Koolhaas/OMA
With my research ‘Situated Freedom’ I investigate how contemporary architecture – within the constraints of architecture’s societal actuality – can transform the real; situates horizons of possibility through creative experimentation. It is about architecture’s potential liberating effects; through what Jacques Rancière has called ‘the distribution of the sensible, the politics of aesthetics,’ creating what Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari have called ‘lines of flight.’
Thrown into a situation, architecture is confronted today with a particular set of given choices within the global neoliberal capitalist world order. The question arises — with the quest for change, wishing to explore how the world can become an emancipatory place — what actual freedom: as capacity to transcend the coordinates of a given situation, redefining the situation within which one is active — what an act of consciously changing the world through architecture as aesthetic practice can be?
With my research I advocate another way of doing architecture against the dominant image of thought. It experiments with, and explores an understanding of architecture and its subject otherwise. It wishes to promote a projective approach where critique operates as a predilection for alternatives. Its aim is to locate conceptual and practical tools that create openings and gaps, ones that provide running room, challenging closed systems of representation and action, and situate horizons of possibility. In other words, how through a politics of aesthetics – the practice of architecture itself – within this world freedom can be situated.
Through a series of ‘unfinished conversations,’ opening a multitude of dialogues between architectural projects, concepts and thinking with philosophy, art and film, I investigate architecture as performative practice engaged in the production of subjectification through its assemblage of matter and experience. A method avoiding an aesthetic analysis of strict formal or purely content matters related to the program of architecture alone; an assemblage thinking that breaks with the form/content duality since there is both form of content and form of expression. Working with concept tools, and in dialogue with artworks I aim at political action to expand and deepen the conversation about how the aesthetic practice of architecture is able to arrive at different degrees of freedom in three particular situations.
Aiming for situating freedom implies a gesture beyond what is. Somehow, I expect an aesthetic practice to do more than what accounts for a given situation. The aesthetic practices I am after gesture beyond themselves, create something else beyond what is; it is about a distinctive way of dealing with the meanings we are offered through a construction, a fiction, a narrative — that not only makes the world present itself, but invites an interpretation and transformation of it, in which its content acquires a broader significance. In other words, the work should be ‘exemplary’ — as having moral implications beyond the situation it operates within.
In a minimum autobiographical trait focusing on the ‘exemplary’ practice of Koolhaas/OMA, I try to gather up, and study, the potentiality of a historical, theoretical, and philosophical culture in three particular situations: Situation One (1) ‘Three Mediations of Three Private Swimming Pools - Semiotics, Semi-Autonomy, and the Time-Image,’ addresses the domestic: the paradoxical complexity of three private swimming pools: the pool on the roof (semiotic), the pool in the courtyard (semi-autonomy), the pool in nature (time-Image). All three pools, in different ways, situate freedom through the commodity fetishism of the commodified image. Situation Two (2) ‘The Central China Television Headquarters - Modulating Contradiction - Towards a Tectonics of the Irrational Cut,’ addresses the institutional. How can we rethink monumentality; the icon as representation of power, modulate contradiction, and arrive at irrational tectonics. Situation Three (3) ‘The Public Sphere of the Seattle Central Library - Any-Space-Whatever,’ explores if an engaged citizenry can be staged; theatricality can be rethought in architecture. The three situations explore how spatial and aesthetic techniques of framing -- architecture as device, syntax and specific knowledge – at different scales – from object to city –, has potential to situate freedom.
Katja Hogenboom, Sept 2019.