Warped SpaceArt, Architecture, and Anxiety in Modern Culture Anthony Vidler
Author: Anthony VidlerDate of Publication: 2000Name of the Book: Warped Space: art, architecture, and anxiety in modern cultureEdition: ReprintName of Publisher: The MIT PressThis book was set Adobe Garamond by Graphic Composition, Inc. and was printed andbound in the United States of America.
‗Beginning with agoraphobia and claustrophobia in the latenineteenth century, followed by shell shock and panic fear afterWorld War I, phobias and anxiety came to be seen as themental condition of modern life. They became incorporated intothe media and arts, in particular the spatial arts of architecture,urbanism, and film. This "spatial warping" is now being reshapedby digitalization and virtual reality.‘(Book Description, [Internet], Available from: <http://www.amazon.com/Warped-Space-Architecture-Anxiety-Culture/dp/0262720418>)
Architecture Today …• Explained by an influenced vocabulary• Represented as ‗complex and curved, smooth and intersecting, polished and translucent‘• Conceived in virtual space• Intimately related to its available production technology How do we establish historical continuity with the avant garde?
By analysising of spatial thought with psychoanalytical thought ‗A common concern for space albeit defined in an entirely different manner from that of the first avant-gardes, and a similarly shared registration of the after effects of psychology and psychoanalysis, provide a historical continuity with early twentieth century developments.‘ (Vidler, 2000, vii)Image Courtesy: Judith Birdsong, Judds Bed, 2003, Austin, TX., Available at: http://www.grahamfoundation.org/grantees/3810-center- 17-space-+-psyche, Accessed on October 17, 2012
Vidler deals with …• Forms of spatial warping• The relationship between the two kinds of warping• Examines the underlying philosophy behind the ‗continuing experiment of modernism‘• The anxiety of the modern observer attempting to make sense of his architectural and spatial environment
Of space• Space is no longer a stable container of objects and bodies• It has become a product of subjective interpretation - ‗projection and introjection‘• Laws of design and perspective are transformed or ignored in the search for a space to represent ‗modern identity‘
Modern space is represented as … Image Courtesy: Lijo John Mathew, 2012, URBAN MACHINE_UNDERGRADUATE THESIS_2011.2012, Available at:<https://www.facebook.com/lijo.j.mathew.9?ref=ts&fref=ts#!/media/set/?set=a.2954781902753.144154.1057599532&type=3>
Part I• Horror Vacui - Constructing the Void from Pascal to Freud• Agoraphobia - Psychopathologies of Urban Space• Framing Infinity - Le Corbusier, Ayn Rand, and the Idea of ―Ineffable Space‖• Spaces of Passage - The Architecture of Estrangement: Simmel, Kracauer, Benjamin• Dead End Street - Walter Benjamin and the Space of Distraction• The Explosion of Space - Architecture and the Filmic Imaginary• Metropolitan Montage - The City as Film in Kracauer, Benjamin, and Eisenstein• X Marks the Spot - The Exhaustion of Space at the Scene of the Crime
• Through a series of anecdotes, examines agoraphobia, its origins and its founding case - mathematician Blaise Pascal‘s thought. • ‗... he saw an abyss at his left side, and he would have a chair placed there to reassure himself. I have this on good authority. His friends, his confessor, and his director tried in vain to tell him that there was nothing to fear, and that his anxiety was only the alarm of an imagination exhausted by abstract and metaphysical studies. He would agree, . . . And then, within a quarter of an hour, he would have dug for himself the terrifying precipice all over again.‘• Thus Pascal remains a potent source for ‗reflecting on the void‘.• Maurice Barres examined Pascal‘s malady and traced it to the ‗earthy precipitate‘ of architecture.
This explains Pascal‘s theory of infinity: because ―a space can be infinitely extended ... it can be infinitely reduced‖.‗Pascal gave the example of a ship endlessly drawing nearto the vanishing point but never reaching it: the ship endlesslydisappearing toward the horizon, the horizon point endlessly rising,the ship infinitely close to, and infinitely far from, infinity.Here geometrical theory coincides almost too neatly with theinterlocking relations of agoraphobic and claustrophobic space.‘ Thus, architecture informs the mind informs subsequent concepts and products
• Explains how the metropolis began to create social maladies – agoraphobia and claustrophobia• Speaks of how it engendered a culture of interpretation explaining new urban phenomena through the social changes it created, informed by other disciplines• ‗The Great City was seen to shelter a nervous and feverish population, overexcited and enervated, whose mental life, as Georg Simmel noted in 1903, was relentlessly antisocial, driven by money.‘• Urban space as an area of social alienation The ―universal trend of the time,‖ concluded Sitte, was the fear of open spaces. ‗Existence thus becomes a realm of a larger hostile space and a disproportionately smaller friendly space—with a loss, that is, of distance and thus of freedom in the world.‘
Cites the ‗case of a young soldier with a fear of contact, a ―délire de propreté,‖ accompanied by a panic fear of being alone in a closed space, a sensation of being in apassage getting narrower and narrower to the point of being able to go neither forward or back, an intolerable terror that was generally followed by a flight into the fields. A secondpatient panicked while climbing the stairs of the Tour Saint-Jacques. Neither could remain in their apartments when the doors were closed.‘Also presents the case of a patient who suffered epilepsy, agoraphobia, and vertigo, whodescribed his inability to cross the Place du Carrousel or the Place de la Concorde without fear of their emptiness and a corresponding sensation of paralysis.
Social space became a repository for:‗Agoraphobia (the fear of places) was supplemented by atremia or stasophobia(fear of elevated or vertical stations), amaxophobia (exaggerated fear ofcarriages), cremnophobia (the fear of precipices), acrophobia or hypsophobia(fear of elevated places), oicophobia (aversion to returning home), lyssophobia(fear of liquids), hydrophobia (fear of water—also connected to agoraphobia bythe fear of the sea as expanse, and of crossing a bridge), monophobia (fear ofsolitude), anthropophobia (fear of social contact) ...‘
The first phase of spatial warping is, thus, addressed in Part I. Vidler says that it wasproduced by the ‗psychological culture of modernism from the late nineteenthcentury to the present, with its emphasis on the nature of space as a projection ofthe subject, and thus as a harbinger and repository of all the neuroses andphobias of that subject.‘Here, the subject attributes space as filled with ‗disturbing objects and forms‘ andascribes them to various forms of architecture and the city. This informs the arts ofrepresentation which ‗are drawn to depict such subject/object disturbances,themselves distorting the conventional ways in which space has been described‘.
Part II• Home Alone - Vito Acconci‘s Public Realm• Full House - Rachel Whiteread‘s Postdomestic Casts• Lost in Space - Toba Khedoori‘s Architectural Fragments• Deep Space/Repressed Memory - Mike Kelley‘s Educational Complex• Terminal Transfer - Martha Rosler‘s Passages• Angelus Novus - Coop Himmelblau‘s Expressionist Utopia• Beyond Baroque - Eric Owen Moss in Culver City• Death Cube “K” - The Neoformations of Morphosis• Skin and Bones - Folded Forms from Leibniz to Lynn• Building in Empty Spaces - Daniel Libeskind and the Postspatial Void• Planets, Comets, Dinosaurs (and Bugs) - Prehistoric Subjects/Post historic Identities
‗Public space is leavinghome.‘Vito Acconci • Part II explains how cities today advocate ‗nomadology‘. It explains things in terms of the symptoms its citizens exhibit. • Explains the context of the huge population movements and urban invasions of the turn-of-the-century metropolis, characterized by the nomad (city dweller). He is no longer the ―wanderer who comes today and goes tomorrow but the person who comes today and stays tomorrow.‖ • Deals with the psychological phenomenon by which design strategies envision the triumph of the homeless, placeless and marginalised through spatial revolution.
Today, space is considered to be ‗an already occupied terrain,a territory to be surveyed carefully, invaded silently, and withpreparations made for partial retreat.‘‗... the present seems to be embracing a combination of strategic planning andtactical incursion as a way of intervening among the blighted remains ofcapitalism‘s last cities: total rebuilding, total demolition, or total revival are allblocked by the inertia of the ―already built‖ and the ―institutionally confirmed‖.‘ ‗In a fundamental updating of this characteristic, the squatter homeless refuses to move, the appropriates, the vagabond ignores fixed boundaries ...‘
Thus, Part II deals with the second phase of spatial warping – the city as a manifestation of thevarious neuroses through ‗the forced intersection of different media—film, photography, art,architecture—in order to make sense of and evocate space in new and unexplained ways.Artists take on architecture that critically informs their art. Architects, parallely take on art to‗escape the rigid codes of functionalism and formalism.‘ It has created a type of ―intermediaryart,‖ formed of objects situated in one practice that require the interpretive terms of anotherdiscipline. Image Courtesy: Lijo John Mathew, 2012, URBAN MACHINE_UNDERGRADUATE THESIS_2011.2012, Available at: <https://www.facebook.com/lijo.j.mathew.9?ref=ts&fref=ts#!/media/set/?set=a.2954781902753.144154.1057599532&type=3>