Alterity and Architecture

Most revolutionary strategies notoriously lack concerns about metaphysics, but focus entirely on ethics and politics. This blind-spot has done more damage to theory than is currently realized. It is certain that freedom involves the unmediated exercise of subjectivity and that the opposite of free action necessarily involves the appropriation of subjectivity through coercion or blatant violence. The first task in formulating a plan of liberation is to recognize the threats against the lived body in everyday life. Prior to institutions and others, one finds that it is the environment itself that militates against the subject. This aggression materializes in the existence of the building.

On Entering Buildings

When walking up to the doors of a building, just before crossing the threshold, there is a perceptible nausea. This existential angst is a foreshadowing of the metaphysical violence that awaits a person beyond the doors of any interior. To understand this feeling as a type of awe before a great edifice would be a grave mistake. Similar illusions are accompanied with other events that appear as radical breaks in the flow of everyday life: falling in love when one is only falling into bondage, joining a particular manifestation of the class struggle when one is only renouncing their individuality (e.g. the ability to join), and so on. These cases should not be taken as absolutes, but only failures of these institutions at a particular moment. The building, however, offers no dialogue like a lover or revolutionary council might. Its overwhelming threat of absolute appropriation of the subject (triggering an ontological conversion from subject to object) is perpetual. As one enters a building they become a cog in the machinery of the edifice. The possible withers away as the person is thrown into a limited space of pre-determined actualities. The nausea of entering is never a joyful experience and is always a distress call from our subjectivity.

Buildings as art; art as buildings—this is the greatest lie of modernity. The nausea of entering is sometimes confused with an appreciation for art, greatness, or Beauty. The only accessible aesthetic qualities of a building are seen from the desk of the architect. This space beyond spaces is the true center of the structure; a center that is non-center. From his desk, the architect weaves the grand narrative of the building with paths that facilitate flows of desire and engineered methods of moving. Due to this, the architect is always already a metaphysician in cognito. The art or style of buildings is always beyond the perception of the subject; always too high, large, distant, or ambiguous. The essence always escapes the inhabitant because it reconfigures her, but is immediately obvious for the narrator of steel and glass, the person at the desk, the architect.

When a photon particle gets close to an atom there is a fundamental shift in its behavior. It ceases to be a particle and becomes a wave. The building attracts us like the photon particle to the atom and we undergo the same metaphysical transfiguration. Hallways, rooms, corridors—these structures mimic the electron shells of the atom. It is wrong to say that the subject exists because the room is always prior to his birth.

The building’s main function is to appropriate subjectivities to fulfill the plan of the architect. This planning is most egregious in spaces like business towers, schools, prisons, and clinics. It represents the first act of terrorism in civilization. Today, capital and authority control and maintain the means of construction. The violence of the building is indistinguishable from the violence of the State. To reclaim life one must begin with the lived body which is always already situated by coercive forces. This will require a terrorism against the building.

On Destroying Buildings

The strategy against buildings can be neither destructive nor constructive. To participate in either of these methods would be to reduce oneself to the universal dialectic instituted by architecture of building/non-building, inside/outside. Physically destroying the building is a speech act in the discourse of buildings. Therefore, the terrorism to be waged against the building is beyond the universal dialectic and its practice of violence. The new terrorism is not productive and nothing new must be formed or made. The revolutionary has a simple, but difficult, task: relearning how to traverse spaces. Since the building stands for the appropriation of subjectivities, the only mode of being against this appropriation is the exercise of subjectivity through space. This process finally puts an end to the nausea of the building, but must be constantly reaffirmed, recognized, and re-established. For all of history, spaces have determined subjectivity, but now the transcendence of this hierarchy must be realized through the subjective determination of space.

We will call the expression of subjectivity through/in/as space a subject-space. Subject-spaces are direct responses to the dual-colonization of space as concrete and liquid. Geographical and mental spaces encounter the unremitting conquest of desks, advertisements, chalkboards, highways, screens, restaurants, flowers, radios, and sewers. Concrete colonization is the physical dominance of the object on the subject, while liquid colonization is the extension of an object through a subject. Where will we find the subject-space? Only in resistances to spaces of liquid colonization. To revolt against the concrete would return the subject to the destructive/constructive dialectic of the building and only further ingrain her. Liquid spaces are ripe with the intensities of subjectivity and must be subverted. Reclaim space to reclaim your-self.

On the Aesthetics of Subject-Spaces

The spontaneous creation of subject-spaces requires new architectures that facilitate the free flows of desire through liquid spaces. This unique aesthetic must exist outside of presence, material, domination, and colonization. It will call for a new conception of the room and even the most functional of everyday living spaces will be transformed without remorse. Architecture will be liberated as an art and the grand narrative of the architect (supported by the capitalist and politician) will be obliterated. Picture a whole city of people wandering the landscape transforming spaces as they go: Fourier without the communal localization of the phalanx. Every subject-space is a small pool of imagination reaching toward infinity.

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