flight patterns of gnats: paying the [tab] for parametric design

Posted in Uncategorized by batteryboxop on April 6, 2009


I stumbled upon an old series of images I shot of the flight patterns of gnats as they encircled sodium vapor streetlights.  It was an unconscious or a purely aesthetic fascination at the time, but over the previous year or so, having been bombarded with formal pragmatisms of the Foucault/Deleuze/Guatteri trifecta, they have assumed a much more poignant dynamic.

While reading 1,000 Plateaus, I had to continually remind myself to not let the Rhizome infect my practice as I have seen it do to so many equally impressionable architectural students.  The rhizome’s infectious nature, I think, has less to do with it’s precise and easy translation to space, but more to do with it’s confounding liberation from hierarchical academic structures that so many students and practitioners have learned to filter and process even the most mundane and trivial matters through… It’s academia, liberating itself from academia, into such an abstract cyclical logic that is so aloof and emasculating to the critical powers of “arborous” structures, that they simply refuse to touch it.   I think this is silly.

Rhizomal structures, in writing and architecture as they more pertinently specified, are like lights to gnats.  The subject of the book or form dictates the color or intensity of the light, but the same contextual artifacts still flock, and circle, and define the nature of lineage from beast itself. Did these informal relationships exist before electricity? What did the gnats encircle before the formal constraint of electric bathing exist? Are these strategies an organic extension of some materialist mechanism inherent to a population plugged-in… or is it liberation via intoxication?  Sometimes it just feels right to get drunk, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to design my house with rounded corners, padded walls, and replace the stairwells with slides…  I tend to lean on the side of intoxication.

For a long time I refused to eat fois gras.  I did this because I thought the practice of force feeding ducks to be inhumane.  A neighbor one night, over a couple of beers,  explained to me his theory that the hierarchy of needs for a duck is 1. eat 2. fuck, and that what these  ducks were going through in human terms (in his human terms) would be a continuous stream of blowjobs in front of a plasma screen TV with every HBO, Showtime, and ESPN channel in existence.  While this was not overly enticing to myself, as I am one to enjoy pornography and horse racing in the american fashion of  3G wireless technology in the bathroom of the neighborhood shopping center, his argument remained sound.

This hedonist duck allegory is exactly how I feel about parametric design strategies… if design is a life full of blowjobs and plasma TV, who’s  going to care how the duck is prepared?

The rhizome is a very seductive prescription, indeed… but is it seductive because it works, or because it seduces one from the proponents of work?  What is the value of these flight patterns if they’ve been drowned in electrified gin- just as the gnats drown in the light of the sodium vapors?


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