Cyborg Misprision

Date: 2019, Spring

Advisors: David Ruy, Maxime Lefebvre

Something has changed. Though architecture has been talking about the crisis of the discipline since the 60’s, this time it feels real. We think technology plays a big part in this crisis. We’re thinking of how normal it is today to use Google image search for finding architectural precedents. We’re thinking of how authoritative journals and institutions have lost their influence. We’re thinking about how we know the world more through our devices (like your phone) than through books, hearsay, or personal experience. We’re thinking about how Instagram has become a primary instrument of aesthetic dissemination. It used to take a long time to get to know or develop a form and a style. Today, we type in some words like, “Le Corbusier 5 points,” and get back “About 1,760,000 results (0.62 seconds).” Most of the images retrieved are copies of copies of copies. What does originality mean in this context? Who is retrieving these images? How should we use these images? What are we to do with this surplus, this accursed shared?

In Art as Technique, Viktor Shklovsky argues that great works of art do their work by defamiliarizing normal reality and slowing down habits of perception in the beholder. Similarly, but with regard to the difficulty of authoring great works, Harold Bloom asserts in The Anxiety of Influence that masterpieces are nothing more than creative misinterpretations of previous masterpieces. The new question, however, is how these theories of estrangement are to be understood when it is not the human author doing the reading or the writing, or the seeing or the imaging, but the machine? Or even more convoluted is the same question relative to a hybrid human-machine author. Though this may sound strange, I am interested in asking how a cyborg would design architecture? This question should not be taken as a crazy scenario of becoming a bionic designer as kitsch science fiction might like to imagine. As Donna Haraway points out in A Cyborg Manifesto (1984), we are all already cyborgs.

"Nested Church" trained by the collection of Gothic Churches

Diagrams