THE SPACE IN-BETWEEN: ARCHITECTURE, ABSURDISM, AND THE ANTHROPOCENE

Type
Research

“The Space In-between” is a story.

The project uses Absurdism as a tool to destabilize architecture’s disciplinary assumption of autonomy in order to reposition the built environment in relation to environmental and planetary politics.

In Samuel Beckett’s short prose Imagination Dead Imagine, the playwright gestures to the impossibility for humans to imagine a situation in which imagination no longer exists. Beckett’s provocation provides considerable interest when placed next to the renewed importance of environmental imaginations and speculative architectural fiction in the age of the Anthropocene. The efforts to ask humankind to critically regard its actions in the decline of virtue, highly characteristic of the post-World War II context of the Theatre of the Absurd, is echoed by contemporary conversations around human impact on climate change. In his seminal essay “The Climate of History: Four Theses,” Dipesh Chakrabarty argues that while humans are inherently biological agents, we have historically become geological agents where “we have reached numbers and invented technologies that are on a scale large enough to have an impact on the planet itself.”1 Thus, when humans as geological agents must once again come to terms with ourselves and our own humanity, where our actions, systems, and infrastructures are slow violences against the environment and oppressed communities that operate on fields of invisibility and catastrophe, what can a renewed perspective on the Absurd potentially provide for architectural imagination in the age of the Anthropocene?

What follows is a story: the Descent of Sisyphus. As the boulder crashes down, as Sisyphus descends the mountain to repeat his absurd, meaningless routine, he traverses through scenes of the post-Anthropocenic built environment. That descent is the moment of consciousness. Architectural imagination as an operation of the Absurd presents a way in which we dislocate from identity to reveal the traces of the underlying systems of labor in a grotesque, intimate manner. In the exhaustion or death of imagination, it creates another way to see.

Each chapter introduces the Absurd as a narrative style and medium for architecture to reevaluate its phenomenology in relation to topics on maintenance, obsolescence, building failure, electronic waste, planetary urbanism, exoplanetary privation, space colonization, the wilderness-wasteland binary, and posthumanism. The Absurd, or rather a renewed Absurd, becomes a key player in situating these topics within the larger framework of the Anthropocene. It resists a solely utopian, existentialist, or nihilistic approach, ultimately positioning itself within the space in-between the familiar and the abstract, the real and the unreal, to delineate our own actions and complacencies. It is concerned with the truth. Architecture, under this guideline, facilitates an exchange between the familiar and the unfamiliar imagination without ever assigning a privilege to one or the other.

An 87-page written thesis accompanies these images and designs.

Full project and accompanying dissertative essay available upon request (coming soon).


© YOHANA ANSARI-THOMAS
THE SPACE IN-BETWEEN ARCHITECTURE, ABSURDISM, AND THE ANTHROPOCENE

Type
Research

Footnotes
1. Chakrabarty, Dipesh. “The Climate of History: Four Theses.” Critical Inquiry, vol. 35, no. 2, 2009. Winter 2009, 206-207.

“The Space In-between” is a story.

The project uses Absurdism as a tool to destabilize architecture’s disciplinary assumption of autonomy in order to reposition the built environment in relation to environmental and planetary politics.

In Samuel Beckett’s short prose Imagination Dead Imagine, the playwright gestures to the impossibility for humans to imagine a situation in which imagination no longer exists. Beckett’s provocation provides considerable interest when placed next to the renewed importance of environmental imaginations and speculative architectural fiction in the age of the Anthropocene. The efforts to ask humankind to critically regard its actions in the decline of virtue, highly characteristic of the post-World War II context of the Theatre of the Absurd, is echoed by contemporary conversations around human impact on climate change. In his seminal essay “The Climate of History: Four Theses,” Dipesh Chakrabarty argues that while humans are inherently biological agents, we have historically become geological agents where “we have reached numbers and invented technologies that are on a scale large enough to have an impact on the planet itself.”1 Thus, when humans as geological agents must once again come to terms with ourselves and our own humanity, where our actions, systems, and infrastructures are slow violences against the environment and oppressed communities that operate on fields of invisibility and catastrophe, what can a renewed perspective on the Absurd potentially provide for architectural imagination in the age of the Anthropocene?

What follows is a story: the Descent of Sisyphus. As the boulder crashes down, as Sisyphus descends the mountain to repeat his absurd, meaningless routine, he traverses through scenes of the post-Anthropocenic built environment. That descent is the moment of consciousness. Architectural imagination as an operation of the Absurd presents a way in which we dislocate from identity to reveal the traces of the underlying systems of labor in a grotesque, intimate manner. In the exhaustion or death of imagination, it creates another way to see.

Each chapter introduces the Absurd as a narrative style and medium for architecture to reevaluate its phenomenology in relation to topics on maintenance, obsolescence, building failure, electronic waste, planetary urbanism, exoplanetary privation, space colonization, the wilderness-wasteland binary, and posthumanism. The Absurd, or rather a renewed Absurd, becomes a key player in situating these topics within the larger framework of the Anthropocene. It resists a solely utopian, existentialist, or nihilistic approach, ultimately positioning itself within the space in-between the familiar and the abstract, the real and the unreal, to delineate our own actions and complacencies. It is concerned with the truth. Architecture, under this guideline, facilitates an exchange between the familiar and the unfamiliar imagination without ever assigning a privilege to one or the other.

An 87-page written thesis accompanies these images and designs.

Full project and accompanying dissertative essay available upon request (coming soon).