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 Text for e-flux / http://www.e-flux.com / 

“gre(Y)en”
This seems to be a history of the stuttering between Green and Grey, between chlorophyll addiction, the dream of an ideal biotope re-primitivised and re-artificialized in pursuit of paradise lost, of Eden Park lost, a story to calm the fears of little boys and girls, and Grey, the dark grey that never appears in the visible spectrum (“The Devil’s best trick is to convince you that he doesn’t exist,” wrote Baudelaire/1 ), an antagonistic stealthy force, an embedded demon – a mix of contradictory human desires emerging from the mud, from permanent, unpredictable and relentless conflicts, factors of domination and servitude, destruction and emergences, sparking unlimited quantities of arrogance and illusion, where the notion of success or failure depends on a kind of absurd Pendulum/2 swing between life and death, caressing the boundaries of both in an infinitely unstable movement, polymerizing ugliness and beauty, obstacle and possibilities, waste materials and efflorescence, threats and protection, the fantasy of technology and revenge on nature, all knotted together in a process of becoming, a never-ending movement… where we glide into a silky, strange sensation that scares and caresses you… that scares and caresses you…
We are at a crossroads. Faced with the autistic, blind, deaf and mute violence of our technological, industrial and mercantile machinery and our own human servo-mechanism, nature reacts… with violence and without warning, in a flattering of the original chaos… a mutiny against human organization… Gaia seems to take revenge (Katrina, El Niño, Hurricane Jeanne, the cyclones Thomas and Nargis, the Xynthia storm and the Ewiniar typhoon, the Indonesian and Japanese earthquakes with their collateral tsunamis all the way to Fukujima… a chain of devastating incertitude, unpredictable despite our seismographic sciences). The elements rage, and the gods, so quick to pardon our folly, seem powerless to appease the rebellion, armed with infernal power…
Nature is not an ideological “greenwashing” for backyard politics, nor the millenarian, eschatologist dream of Eden Park from which we have very fortunately escaped, freeing ourselves from gatherer-hedonist blindness, to negotiate consciousness with the hostile dark forces stuck in the depths of the forest…
But these forces have come out of their hiding places, their biotopes, they are invading the spaces that Man had thought he could take without giving anything in exchange, with no transaction. War has been declared… nature’s revenge is not a bedtime story for innocent brains… our bellicose enemy operates openly… in the light of day… the ultimate arrogance.
How could we reveal the conflict between the strategies of “knowledge and domination” of the former and the monstrous wild beauty of the latter’s destructive power in this field of an unpredictable battle, cleared of all that greenish moralistic junk and its post- capitalist allure…

To get a sense of this ambivalence, this permanent disequilibrium where contingencies are the main factor of emergences, let us navigate in this history of “gre(Y)en”.

From the physiological, early, simple dualism of the 1990 “shadow & light” where the Neuswantein/3 Grotto was fictionally adjusted to become a mirror-image of Playtime/4, weakly connecting a cavernous, dark, humid, sensorially primitive atmosphere with its schizophrenic, antagonist twin brother, crystalline, cold, luminous, dry, technologically blind, the recognition of an impossible, stuttered dialogue, to… the 1993 “Growing up” where chlorophyll energy and entropy collapse and strangle a fragile “chicken legs” house, wrapped up in and masochistically dominated by the danger of its own predictable death if the owner does not ritualize the necessary maintenance, a permanent conflict between nature’s destructive power and his need to survive… to the petrochemical blur “Filtration” in 1997, with its 5,000 square meters of plastic strips floating in a tree at the edge of a seasonally tidy wild river carrying nitrates and residues of plastic insecticide bags that farmers had abandoned on its banks as it passed through their fields, awaiting the spring floods to perform a natural depollution service and erase the traces of their chemical addiction, while instead, and paradoxically, the river brings them back to the visible spectrum as the floods ebb, leaving the bags hanging from tree branches. By means of the “Filtration” layer this concentration of waste plastic in forest canopies reveals the aesthetic planning of the countryside arising directly from its human management… and on to the weird “aqua alta1.0” in 1998, which sucks up the disgusting, viscous, super-polluted liquid called the Venetian Lagoon, so that through capillary action this contaminated water literally infiltrates PVC membranes and a building emerges from these lagoon substances… to “aqua alta 2.0”, the bar at the 2000 Venice Biennale of Architecture where “conventioneers“ could refresh themselves by drinking the lagoon soup as it was depolluted, in real time, by a military purification machine /5 being tested in the conditions of the Biennale, producing a schizophrenic reaction, swinging between a green-washing rhetorical discourse and repulsion, a digestive paranoia about the reliability of a cleaning machine of the kind often promoted as an efficient technology (for other people)… to “shearing” in 2001, a simple stealthly private home, an organized simulacrum of its own impermanency and apparent fragility, unfolded in the countryside, its entire envelop made of the petrochemical non-biodegradable fabric authorized by the government, following an agro-industrial logic, for use in natural settings to prevent rabbits from destroying newly-planted saplings… to the 2002 “Dustyrelief”, designed for to protect the skin and biotope of the Bangkok contemporary art museum from the city’s dust and the residue of its monstrous traffic jams (carbon dioxide and monoxide), in a recognition of the failure of public transport in the “greynish” equatorial eroticism, where a special fog of specks and particles becomes the traces of hypertrophic human convulsing activity, an adaptive second nature amid a bottom-up, unpredictable, unmastered and un-planned urban aesthetics. Without delegating power to autocratic and aseptic technocratic experts instead of the chaotic emergences of the multitudes, the aleatory rhizomes, the arborescent growths that are simultaneously a factor for its transformation and its operational mode. This unhygienic, intoxicating urban chaos is a sign of its human vitality, a permanent vibration between Eros and Tanatos… invisible but breathable substances are bred and attracted by an electrostatic machine to form a “skin” on a freakish hairy structure, exacerbating a schizoid climate split between the indoors (the Euclidean geometry of the white cube and its labyrinth) and the outdoors (the topological geometry of the dust reliever), and, in a second step, using a drainage system to collect the particulates that fell during the monsoon season period and then compacting them into bricks and using them to build a tea pavilion alongside the museum, an embodiment of the failure and beauty of the city…. to the “mosquitosbottleneck” scenario, in Trinidad, 2002, a week-end residence designed to deal with the epidemic of the mosquito-borne Nile Virus, signalling this disease as an objectively-based paranoia triggering strategies for safety. The fragile net in the shape of a Klein bottle protects people’s lives both by disjoining them from and in resonance with the death of the insects. The sound of their buzzing as they die, trapped in the double membrane, becomes the proof of the efficiency of the system, preserving humans against nature, against its offensive non-inoffensive biotope, protected and surrounded by the theatre of its own barbarity… to the buffalo machismo no-tech mechanization of the 2003 “HybridMuscle” in Thailand, a local mammal-muscle power station using gears to lift a two-tonne steel counterweight in a battery house, the mechanical energy transformed first into electricity (with an outlet and other connections) and secondly into the movement of pneumatic rubber muscles, making elastomer membrane leaves quiver and creating a breeze in the suffocating, hot, sweaty climate in an endogeneous-exogeneous narrative… to the “greengorgon” in 2005, its phasmid morphologies embedded in wood feeding the confusion between artificial and domesticated nature, its outdoor surfaces forming a vertical swamp to recycle the inert grey water, a water purification plan infrastructure that rejects only the clean liquid of Lake Geneva… to “Mipi”, 2006, a PI Bar in a temple of cognitive science, MIT-Cambridge, an extension of the Media Lab, a venue for experimentation to study the immuno-therapeutic affects of reabsorbing one’s own urine, including the schizoid balance between reflexive disgust and healthy effects… to a stochastic machine that vitrifies the city in “Olzweg”, 2006, spreading the contamination from a radical architecture museum in pursuit of Frederick Kiesler’s endlessness. This smearing is done through the recycling of industrial glass, mainly French wine bottles that are swallowed up and vomited out by a 12 metre-high machine in a process of staggering, scattering and stacking. Random aggregation is part of this unpredictable transformation following the fuzzy logic of the vanishing point. The machine works to construct a museum extension and collects “voluntary prisoners” wrapped in the permanent entropy of the grafting, who test the glass maze by getting lost in multiple uncertain trajectories and rediscover the heterotopian non-panoptical sensation of their youthfulness, using, if necessary, RFIDs on PDAs to rediscover their positioning… the opposite of an architecture that petrifies, historicizes and panopticalizes… to “waterflux” in 2007, a scenario for scooping out hollows in solid wood by means of a five-axis drill, supplied by 1,000 trees (2,000 cubic metres) cut down as part of the maintenance of the forest surrounding the site of this of extraction-manufacturing-transformation facility, following an anthroposophic logic where technologies and machinery are part of the site’s territory, endemic to the situation and its mutation, at the same time reviving the local forest economy… to the “gardenofearthlydelights” in 2008, a toxic garden in a new green house in Croatia, on the site of a former mediaeval Apotiker, a Franciscan monk medicinal plant garden, with access barred but the products able to be tasted and tested through a distillation and de-concentration mechanism, available at a bar… only for those who really want to try them, producing physiological and psychological effects similar to what happens with the Japanese “Fugu” fish, with an “at your own risk” protocol… where ecosophy is considered as a global interaction porous to the human body, as a Gaia /6 exchange, a chain of interaction and dependencies… articulating life and death and knitting paranoia… to “Heshotmedown” in 2008, a tracked biomass machine penetrating into the military zone known as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea, collecting rotten substances, the coating of a forest in decomposition, and bringing back this material to plug all the external surfaces of a projectile-shaped building, forming a natural eco-insulation utilizing the fermentation of the grass and the heat produced by its chemical transformation. Full of land mines, the DMZ is a restricted zone where North and South Korea never stop playing Cold War. The machine collects the residue of this pathological period and recycles it for productive use in this highly dangerous no-man’s land abandoned since the end of the war (more than half a century ago), restoring its natural wildness, with the reappearance of elves, wizards, witches and harpies, and some new plant species. Legends and fairy tales are transported out of the depths of the forest, as in a “Stalker ” /7 experiment, to touch the unknown… to “I’mlostinParis” in 2008, a bacteriology lab where the “Rhizobium” agent cultivated in 200 beakers is used for its potential to increase the nitrogen content of plant substrate without the use of chemical fertilizer, through the injection of these substances into the individual nutritional hydroponic system… in order to maintain a “rear window” /8 minimum distance from the petit bourgeois conservatism of Parisian neighbours located at the opposite end of a closed courtyard… this Devil’s Tower /9 emergence is constituted by 2,000 ferns whose origin dates back to the Devonian period, which are technologically domesticated to survive in the current “regressive monarchical period in France”… to a paranoiac system, the “TbWnD” (the building which never dies) in 2011, an alert detector or marker of our past/future symptoms: a Zumtobel laboratory for the study of “dark adaptation” and solar radiation intensity detection, covered with phosphorescent components (an “Isobiot®opic” oxide pigment made from raw uranium) that serve as a UV sensor and detector to indicate and analyse the daily intensity of the UV rays that reach the area and its inhabitants (including humans and all other species). Some 5,000 glass components reveal the depletion of the ozone concentration in the stratosphere and simultaneously the origin of this phenomenon, the sun’s radiation. This lab articulates the risk presented by ozone layer depletion (due to industrial pollution and CO2) with the paranoia generated from the last century’s scientific ignorance and criminal exploitation of the characteristics of some natural elements /10… to several escaping, lines of escaping (“les échappées belles” of Deleuze ) coming first through an utopian protocol of an “architecture des “humeurs” in 2011, a self-organized city conditioned by a bottom-up system in which the multitudes /11 are able to drive the entropy of their own system of construction, their own system of “vivre ensemble”. Based on the potential offered by contemporary bio-science, the rereading of human corporalities in terms of physiology and chemical balance, to make palpable and perceptible the emotional transactions of the “animal body”, the headless body, the body’s chemistry, and produce information about individuals’ adaptation, sympathy, empathy and conflicts (antipathy) when confronted with a particular situation and environment… to adapt the “malentendus” /12 of this result to an endless process of construction involving undetermined and unpredictable machine behaviour by developing a secreting and weaving machine that can generate a vertical structure by means of extrusion and sintering (full-size 3D printing) using a hybrid raw material (a bio-plastic cement) that chemically agglomerates to physically embody the computational trajectories. This structural calligraphy works like a stereotomy machine with its successive geometrics determined by a strategy of the permanent production of anomalies…with no standardization and no repetition except for the procedures and protocols, so that, based on this, technoid slums emerge… and… last but not least, the latest experiment, “hypnosisroom” in 2006 (Paris) and 2012 (Japan)… using hypnosis to produce a stargate effect in pursuit of the somnambulist/feminist political movement during first half of the 19th century that used hypnosis (called magnetism during that period) in an attempt to develop spaces of freedom and an egalitarian, un-racist, un-sexist social contract that could only be perceived and explored by travelling through this layer… in the face of the impossibility (or difficulty) of modifying the mechanisms of the real, tangible, political state of the world, this pre-feminist movement strove, on the contrary, to create this suggestive, immersive and distanced layer of another social contract… Although diabolized and treated as charlatanism, nevertheless all of pre-modern reformist thought drew on this movement… and…

End of the first chapter…

1)“Mes chers frères, n’oubliez jamais, quand vous entendrez vanter le progrès des lumières, que la plus belle des ruses du diable est de vous persuader qu’il n’existe pas,” Baudelaire, “Spleen of Paris”, 1858.
2)Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum” was the first Bachelor Machines scenario.
3)Neuschwanstein Castle, a palace commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as homage to Richard Wagner, famous for its artificial Romantic grotto.
4)Playtime, a 1967 movie by Jacques Tati, with its cold-glass-deterritorialized futuristic urbanism.
5)A machine using dual ozone and ceramic filters to produce drinkable water, though the Italian authorities forbid calling it “Natural Venice Water”.
6)The Gaia hypothesis is the bio-geo-chemical scientific theory that the earth (including its biosphere) is a dynamic physiological system that has maintained the planet and life in harmony for three billion years.
7)Stalker, a 1979 movie by Andrei Tarkovski, 1979, about a kind of post-apocolypse war interzone that can only be crossed according to a protocol, a ritual that has to be strictly followed to avoid awakening unknown forces.
8)Rear Window, by Alfred Hitchcock, a 1954 film about voyeurism, neighbourhood relationships, fantasies and realities…
9)Spielberg used Devil’s Tower in Wyoming as an alien meeting point in his 1977 Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In this move the character played be Richard Dreyfus reproduces it in his own living room, using soil, plant and mud materials acquired, in a raging fit of lucidity, by destroying a small decorative garden in the neighbourhood and taking these materials into his home.
10)From the discovery of the properties of radium by Pierre and Marie Curie to the plutonium day-after devastation of the “Little Boy” bomb.
11)In the sense of the word used by Spinoza and Antonio Negri.
12)A French word which navigates between mishearing and misunderstanding

 

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