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Xárene Eskandar
Los Angeles, US
Immortal since Apr 4, 2007
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    From Wildcat
    Some nothings are like...
    From Claire L. Evans
    Footprints on the Moon
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    Xarene’s projects
    Polytopia
    The human species is rapidly and indisputably moving towards the technological singularity. The cadence of the flow of information and innovation in...

    Epiphanies
    A series of rambles by SpaceCollective members sharing sudden insights and moments of clarity. Rambling is a time-proven way of thinking out loud,...

    The Total Library
    Text that redefines...

    What happened to nature?
    How to stay in touch with our biological origins in a world devoid of nature? The majestic nature that once inspired poets, painters and...

    Design Media Arts at UCLA
    In the 1970s space colonies were considered to be a viable alternative to a life restricted to planet Earth. The design of cylindrical space...
    Now playing SpaceCollective
    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    We look out into space. We look upon space. We look over an expanse of space. In the vastness and boundless space, we find ourselves equally vast. Whereas in place, our gaze shifts to the here and now: what we are doing, who we are with, what surrounds us. Even if the place is a small square meter that we occupy in a vast space, we feel grounded and belonging, as opposed to lost and seeking.

    Place is space in scale and familiarity. Looking into the vastness of Space, it shrinks by identifying and familiarizing ourselves with its parts. And so our distance suddenly shrinks: Pluto which was a bright speck among trillions of bright specks, became a planet, became a high-resolution poster of wonder. It became a place we can imagine and visualize. We see it; we imagine it; we imagine what it's like and so we can imagine both its potentials as well as our own potentials.

    In space we dream. We stare into it and drift off. In place, we realize the dream. We take a piece of that space and make it our own. Space charges us with the excitement of the dreams, place grounds us to live those dreams. Every space is an amalgamation of places not yet realized. As each place holds potential, so does the space as it is the vessel of all the places of potential.

    In an expansive space we walk. Our gaze walks by panning the land, our mind goes along in studying it, and our curiosity walks the land to explore it. Eventually we need rest and seek out ‘a place to rest’—this can be the cool shade of a tree, a smooth boulder warmed by the sun, a mound of plush moss. The act of marking a spot in space by identifying an object, a deformation, or a difference from its surrounding space is an act of demarcating, or measuring—measuring the quality and use of that spot. It gives value to a particular point in space, and therefore makes it a significant place.

    The shade, the rock, or the mound is that interstitial object between free-form space and marked place. By nature of activating the object through our interactions with it—sitting on it, sleeping wrapped in it, resting on its folds—it becomes the place. It shrinks the world to our size: the boundless desert becomes a site.

    Now it’s not that the nomads had no place and drifted. They had many places—many places with attractions that though temporal, were firm. They knew that season after season they could go back to these places: a cool watering hole shared with desert animals, a small grove of doum palms for a desert treat, armed shrubs of acacia for grazing. The nomads didn’t wait in one place for what they needed to be delivered to them; they would take on the adventure of finding what was necessary to their livelihood. It is in that spirit that the modern nomad exists.
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    In-progress–feedback welcomed.

    The Fold
    By using three keywords that Marcos Novak's concept of Transvergence is situated upon—ontology, immanence and allo–I begIn questioning what is to find the response this is. What is being? What is becoming? What is other? I follow this with "What if?". "What if?" is the question of the speculative; it is what transforms the philosopher's "What is?" to the scientist's "This is." This work, therefore, should not be mistaken for a utopia only latent with "What ifs"; it is the process of 'tomorrow' becoming 'now'. In this quest I have honed in on the fold and its potential for developing new possibilities for modes of existence and occupation of space, in the form of architectural organs–origami-like extensions of our body; an actual organ of skin. Where are fold (n.) and folding (v.) positioned as responses to these questions and speculations of change? Why a fold? What is a fold anyway?

    To fold is to hide; to unfold is to reveal; a fold therefore, holds both opposite actions (hiding and revealing) within one dimension of the fold line. Spatially, the area where my interest lies in, the one dimensionality of the line reveals and hides the capability of two-dimensional planes becoming a three-dimensional form. A fold is a multiple of potentials waiting to be realized. Therefore, a fold, a Deleuzian being-as-becoming, the line-as-plane-as-form, exists on a plane of immanence, latent with possibilities. The key to existing on this plane is desire.

 Folding is the act of including and excluding, of containing both the inside and the outside, this and that. One desires to fold and unfold, or in other words, to pursue potentials. Italo Calvino’s city of Chloé best illustrates the desire of the potential, what Rosetta Di Pace-Jordan explains as the “dynamism latent in all matter”, and in Chloé, the dynamism latent in all relationships. Chloé both includes thousands of possible relationships between its inhabitants, as well as excluding them—the well being of the city based on the exclusion, or folding-in and leaving out, rather than un-folding and playing out. 



    A fold, or a ptychosis, as applied in medical English, is the behavior of becoming something other. A single becoming the double, becoming the multiple, exemplified in embryonic folding, where each fold yields another part to the single disk of the organism, multiplying its parts by continually folding over itself. This process is that of a machinic phylum, where folding of heterogeneous parts–ectoderm (outside) and endoderm (inside)–creates a new entity. In Origami, just as in embryonic folding, the combinations of transverse and longitudinal folds arrive at different forms. However, different from embryonic folding, origami has a homogenous base, which through a dynamic process ends in a static form. In Latin, fold (v.) and arrive (v.) are both plico, an active tense. Once a fold arrives at a point, that point should only become a departure point to another form.

    We are continuously experiencing series of arrivals and departures at and from points; our lives are broken into milestones and anniversaries. We are in a constant mode of unfolding and changing, our single body becoming multiples in the compounded unfolding of its future. Our body is therefore analogous to the fold. However, we go through this dynamic process with a static, homogenous base: our body. So the question now shifts from 'what is a fold?', to how can a folded form (our body departing and arriving at various points in space-time) continue embodying the dynamism that initially created it? How can our bodies become a machinic phylum for the realization of architectural organs? What are the heterogeneities that must be synthesized?

    “The machinic phylum is materiality, natural or artificial, and both simultaneously; it is matter in movement, in flux, in variation […]”
    –Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, "A Thousand Plateaus," p. 409.

    Here, the machinic will be the synthesis of the heterogeneities of the organic (human) and inorganic (literally, the machines of industrialization) into a new entity, a new human.

    Industrial Ecology to Social Ecology to Anarchic Ecology
    Through the emergence of machinic phyla, we are on-course for the realization of architectural organs. Over the last 150 years, our relationship with technology has shifted focus from production at any cost, to human-centered design, to environmentally conscious design. The final step is a shift to a fragmented and sustainable, autonomous design, a shift which has already begun.

    Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times is a seminal piece of the folding of the human into technology, the first machinic phylum of modern times. Filmed in 1936, it is the futuristic and extended vision of the events set off a century earlier with the second Industrial Revolution and the introduction of factory modernization to the domestic realm. This is a period when the technology takes precedence over the human, where production came at any cost to the environment; child labor was rampant, and worker rights were unheard of. The deep red sky and smoke stacks of Monet's paintings are not romantic reminiscing of the city, but factual impressions of the coal grime across the landscape and lives of citizens. Like Chaplin's film, Fritz Lange's Metropolis (1927) is created at the height of Scientific Management: The machinic efficiency of the human body, not for the benefit of the human, but for the production of profit–the "economic efficiency" of Taylorism, or better put, the efficient production of an economy of profit at the expense of the human worker. Christine Fredrick's Scientific Management of the Home (1919), by introducing the concept of efficiency for the female worker in her duties of housework, completes the cycle of profit production, with profit consumption.

    There is a contrarian shift within the same time-period, of efficiency becoming more human centered. Frank and Lilian Gilbreth, inspired by Taylor's work, focus on the production of efficiency towards the production of the welfare of the worker: a folding of the human onto technology. In their scenario, the human is still part of the machine, but the process of production is not at the cost of the human. This shift of focus hastens through the mid-century as more human elements are folded onto the technology, arriving at the second machinic phylum and Henry Dreyfus' Designing for Humans (1955) which sets the standards for the study of human factors: the sensibility and attention to the human element of technology, where humans are not the heterogeneous parts of a factory, but as in Marshall McLuhan's terms, the mechanical technology becomes an extension of the human body.

    This folding and re-folding of the human and technology has unfolded itself to a flat sheet of creases, ready to be re-folded with new terms: The environment. Once resolving the relationship of the mechanic modernization with the human, our focus shifted to the well-being of the human environment, Earth. We realize we have enveloped her in the same archaic ways as when we were enveloped by the machines of industrialization. In Ecology and Revolutionary Thought (1965), Murray Bookchin points out that the dysfunctional relationship between human and nature stems from the dysfunctional relationship between humans, “To state this thought more precisely: the imbalances man has produced in the natural world are caused by the imbalances he has produced in the social world."

    The point of view of this essay is completely Western. In China, unfortunately, factory citizens are the inhabitants of corporate cities, perhaps, one can say, true folding of human into machine. Therefore, it is naive to say that our shift in focus to the environment means we have resolved the social imbalances; it only acknowledges them. We exist on two parallel dimensions: one where we still exist within the first machinic phylum, the other where with much struggle we pretend to have moved out of it but in reality we have not, because we consume it.

    As we continue to fold in and out of the creases of the past to find new folds for our future, we have come upon the third machinic phylum, the folding of technology onto the human. Here we are tearing into two separate, yet related paths: the use of mobile technologies as prosthesis, and the expansion of embedded networks, a tethered prosthesis of the human to nature, and a reversal of our embedding into the factory. Whereas a century ago Scientific Management made the human–to its detriment–more efficient for the production of profit, embedded networks, through activating nature, make it more efficient in the production of knowledge for its own sake. Embedded systems also activate architecture by folding in multiple layers of interaction between systems–the systems of the different operators of the space and the bodies occupying it.

    "With every tool man is perfecting his own organs, whether motor or sensory, or is removing the limits to their functioning. Motor power places gigantic forces at his disposal, which, like his muscles, he can employ in any direction… and the dwelling-house was a substitute for the mother's womb, the first lodging, for which in all likelihood man still longs, and in which he was safe and felt at ease. […] Man has, as it were, become a prosthetic god. When he puts on all his auxiliary organs he is truly magnificent; but those organs have not grown onto him and they still give him much trouble at times."
    –Sigmund Frued Civilization and its Discontents, 1930, pp 42-43.

    For sixteen years Freud suffered from the pain of a prosthetic jaw and palate, put in place as a result of cancer. His prosthesis was placed onto him, rather than, as he writes in this self-reflective piece, "grown onto him." At some point, the heterogeneities of human and technology, having switched forces repeatedly over time, eventually find equilibrium. This will be the fourth machinic phylum: the folding of technology and human into each other. This is the point where technology is no longer a prosthetic, where metaphors of architecture as prosthesis for nature or body no longer hold true. This is when, as Arakawa and Gins arrive at, that we become Architectural Bodies, a reconfiguration of the organism-person-surround––an open-ended entity of potentialities of human and technology (or for Arakawa and Gins, human and architecture) possible through full responsibility of one’s being, revision and reinvention.

    We are, however, debilitated through our own hylomorphic history where responsibility of self is systematically stripped. If we are to follow through with Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the machinic phylum, its potentialities are possible not by outside forces, but by the nature of the heterogeneities of the phylum. To drive this non-holymorphic concept, they devise the artisan theory of metallurgical production, where the blacksmith ‘teases out’ form rather than imposing form on the metal. Similarly blocking us are archaic notions of beauty, narrow views on gender, misconceptions of race, and misunderstandings of philosophies of existence, which are all external forces, usually divine and transcendental, that are forced upon our bodies. These ideas must be re-evaluated through a process of unfolding, meaning that every scenario of the body should be allowed to play out in order to evaluate its effects on our progress: every idea of beauty, every variation on gender; every identification and valuation of self and not others, with reference to an empirical religion.

    Assuming the obstacles have been overcome, that we are in a world where the political body is obsolete, what will become of government, society, urbanism, the body? How do we come to define the concepts of generalities, organizations, striations, and control in order to move towards the obsolete? In an irrational world, should the making and envisioning of a new world be a rational process? Will a purely aesthetic philosophy provide the answer towards a vision?

    The organ is a metaphor. (On how many of our organs do we have control, and how much on those we believe we are in control of?) The Architectural Organ is therefore a thought experiment with intent: What do we keep and what do we relinquish if we wanted to take such evolutionary route?



    [1] Whitelaw, M., Guglielmetti, M., and Innocent, T. 2009. Strange ontologies in digital culture. Comput. Entertain. 7, 1 (Feb. 2009), 1-13. DOI=http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1486508.1486512
    [2] Calvino, Italo. Invisible Cities. Chloé. [1st ed.] ed. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974. pp.51-52.
    [3] Pace-Jordan, Rosetta Di. “Italo Calvino's Legacy: The Constant and Consistent Vision.” World Literature Today 66, no. 3 (1992): 468-71.
    [4] Folding of the germinal disk and the generation of the abdominal wall. Retrieved 14/07/2009.http://www.embryology.ch/anglais/iperiodembry/delimitation01.html
    [5] The Folding of the Embryo. Retrieved 14/07/2009 http://www.ehd.org/movies.php?mov_id=11  andhttp://www.ehd.org/movies.php?mov_id=12
    [6] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, "A Thousand Plateaus," p. 409.
    [7] Sigmund Frued Civilization and its Discontents, 1930, pp 42-43.
    [8] Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins, Architectural Body, 2002.
    [9] Tentative Architectures are clothing that tentatively behave as architecture only when the need arises.
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    I wrote this a while ago for the LandscapeTechne exhibit catalogue at Little Berlin gallery in Philadelphia.


    LandscapeTechne. The crafting of a landscape. It begins with the irreducible landscape of nature. There is a rich history of landscape art, from Romantic paintings to Ansel Adams' photography and Robert Smithson's deformations in dirt, just to name a few that easily come into anyone’s mind when pressed on the topic. In all, and within this exhibit, landscape, among its many identities and roles, is a toolset, a carrier, and a medium. Technology has been crucial for many artists in the process of knowing and crafting the landscape. Its role in the landscape has been one of compression—rail and telegraph compressed days and months worth of landscape to minutes and hours; of extension—still photography or Muybridge's motion experiments; and of abstraction—creating layers upon layers of narrative and reality upon the concrete reality.

    Every landscape is thus a multiple of potentials waiting to be realized. Therefore, a landscape, a being-as-becoming, exists on what Deleuze calls ‘a plane of immanence’, latent with possibilities. The key to existing on this plane and unlocking its potentials is desire. What is the desired knowledge that is guiding these techni? Because, by Aristotle's account, technê is concerned with bringing into existence things that could either exist or not. It appears as a very casual position where being or not being of those things have no effect beyond their own existence. But as artists we appropriate everything at hand, not just landscape and technologies, to bring 'something' into existence, repeatedly.

    Craft-like and practically applied knowledge is called a ‘technê,'. (Wikipedia) Many early accounts of technê in Greek philosophy identify it with acts that are of necessity, such as farming, sowing, and other home and land management skills. Being that most of these skills are no longer a necessity for the general population, what is the necessity that pushes the artist to practical and philosophical technê?

    In modern philosophy, 'need' is also a driving force for creating. In Production of Space, a level-minded expansion of Situationist thought, Henri Lefebvre defines the spatial practice of 'appropriation' where nature is modified to satisfy human needs. "An existing space may outlive its original purpose and the raison d'etre which determines its forms, functions, and structures; it may thus in a sense become vacant, and susceptible of being diverted, re-appropriated and put to a use quite different from its initial one.”

    Lefevbre's space is a space that does not pre-exist us, but is simultaneously created and defined by social, economic and political forces. They are all fake spaces, fake social constructs, and re-appropriation shakes them up, with the goal to create new spaces for action and interaction. In the works presented in the LandscapeTechne exhibit, the space, however, is the pre-existing space of the natural landscape. It is diverted from its initial expanse of timeless space, to measured and coded space-time of each artist’s ideology. As Lefevbre asks, “What is an ideology without a space to which it refers, a space which it describes, whose vocabulary and kinks it makes use of, and whose code it embodies?" The spaces of the works may be the irreducible expanse of the natural landscape, reiterated over and over by each artist into their own unique narrative, but the ideologies coded into each refer back to the constructed spaces of the everyday, which are mostly mediated by technology, from mass media to mobile media.

    The natural landscape is where one goes to in order to hear oneself and to find a balance away from our everyday lives in the urban landscape. In the United States, we have the privilege of massive amounts of space, weighted down with thousands of different time speeds in a phase space, or liberated from time altogether, however you wish to feel it. Isolation—absence of others, lack of sound pollution and no burden from pre-segmented existence in time—gives us a sense of freedom and it is only when we are free, and voluntarily in isolation can we have "the liberty to know oneself.” (Robert Adams) The natural landscape is therefore an amalgamation of other landscapes—for an artist, the landscape of the body and the mind, upon which the they construct yet other landscapes: mythical, emotional, psychological, physical—real and virtual.

    Humans design, craft and make, and the references for making are outside and within our selves. The ultimate crafted landscape, however, is the landscape of the self. Artists first craft themselves and the qualitative measures of who they are as an artist, and this knowledge in turn crafts their work by appropriating acquired and existing toolsets. Though the spaces in LandscapeTechne are not detached from their parallel spaces of here and now, their creators have successfully been able to detach themselves in order to navigate between them and to take us along. Our desire for other spaces is just as strong as their need in delivering it. The need and the desire are one, and inherent within all of us.

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