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Tracks, Trace, Tricks

Author(s): Stan Allen


Source: ANY: Architecture New York, Writing in Architecture (May/June 1993), pp. 8-13
Published by: Anyone Corporation
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41845547
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Like the Pan
Archbishop of

with a mistress in his


garde

to erase their
following foot

dissolve into silence a sente

Tracks Causalityis inverted,


interpretation. pointingbackto a previousmoment,elicitinga
1. Inan anecdoterelatedat thebeginning ofBookVI ofVitruvius, Socratic reconstruction
ofcauses fromeffects.Theindexicalsignis an emptyslotawaiting
philosopher is
Aristippus shipwrecked and cast ashoreon theislandofRhodes. "Such,forinstance,is a piece ofmoldwitha bullet-hole
interpretation: initas a sign
in
Initially despair,he observesgeometric figuresdrawninthesand and criesoutto ofa shot;forwithout
theshottherewouldhavebeen no hole; butthereis a hole
"
hiscompanions: Benesperemus,hominum enimvestigiavideo"(Letus be hopeful, there,whetheranybody has thesense to attribute
itto a shotornot."
forI see thetraces/tracks
ofmen). To beginthisessay witha citationfromtheLatin
wouldseem unnecessarily academicwereitnotforthefactthatmuchhingesonthe CarloGinzburg has suggestedthattheoriginsofa readingmodelbased upon
exacttranslationofvestigia.1 Tracksortraces? Does thetrace/trackalwaysimply deciphering and interpretation
ofclues mightbe tracedto earlyhunting practices,
an evidentialparadigmpointing to thepast? Whatis thestatusofgeometry as the wheresmallsignsled thehunter to hisquarry,andto divination,
whichworks
traceofthought inarchitecture? Theanecdotecontinues:"Withthathe madeforthe through a "close reading"ofminute,eventriflingmatters ("animal'sinnards,drops
cityofRhodes,and wentstraight tothegymnasium.Therehe fellto discussing ofoil onthewater,heavenlybodies,involuntary movements ofthebody")to discover
philosophicalsubjects,and presentswerebestoweduponhim,so thathe couldfit thetracesofevents(past orfuture) thatcouldnotbe directly experiencedbythe
himselfout." Thegeometric trackslead to philosophy,which,inthiscase, takes observer.Ginzburg thenlinksthisto theinventionofwriting systems,pointingback
precedenceovernecessity. to Peirce'spropositionoftheindexas thefundamental of
category sign: "The
identification
ofsoothsaying withthedeciphering ofdivinecharactersinscribedin
2. To exemplify theconceptoftheindex,C. S. Peircetoo has recoursetothe realitywas reinforcedbythepictorialfeaturesofcuneiform likedivination,
writing:
footprintinthesand. ThefootprintthatRobinsonCrusoefoundinthesand, Peirce ittoo designatedone thingthrough another."
writes,"was an Indexto himthatsome creaturewas on his island." Indexicalsigns
are boundto theirreferentsthroughsome formofcontact,physicalorotherwise:"An 3. The indexholdsa privileged place intheontology ofthephotographic image.
Indexis a signwhichrefersto theObjectthatitdenotesbyvirtueofbeingreally Photography is unassailablyidentified withthemodernvalues ofprogress,
affectedbythatObject." Examplesoftengivenincludeanimaltracks,fingerprints, and exactitude.Butthisalone does notaccountforphotography's
authenticity,
handwriting, and medicalsymptoms.Yet,as theanalystknows,themovement from ontologicalauthority:"A photograph," Susan Sontagwrites,"is notonlyan image,
to
symptom pathology is neverentirely
straightforward.Peirce takesnoteof this an interpretation
ofthereal, itis also a trace,somethingdirectlystenciledoffthe
detachment, placingtheindexunderthecategoryof"secondness." The indexis real,likea footprintora deathmask." Photography's truth
value is directlylinkedto
doublymarked:bythedefiniteness ofphysicalcontactand bytheuncertainty of itsindexicalstatus. A photograph, likea fingerprint
ora fossil,can be classifiedas

Stan Allen

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is who when he walked
,

'
n had three men with rakes

we are to
prints, obliged

nee
scarcely formed.-,

an indexbyvirtueofthespatialconnection ofthebodyinquestionto thechemical negative,theimprint, and thetraceoperatein resemblance'sterritory without the


surfaceofthephotographic negative(through themediationoftheopticalsystemof sanctionoftheIdea. The indexproceedsfromone thingto another.GillesDeleuze
thelens). The index,operatingunderthelogicofmetonymy, pointsa finger
back writes:"Forifcopies or iconsare goodimages,wellfoundedones, itis because they
overtimeto themomentofphysicalcontact,nowfixedand detachedaccordingto the are endowedwithresemblance.Butresemblancemustnotbe understood as an
logicofitsownmateriality(softsand,firedclay,photographicfilm). externalcorrespondence.Itproceedsless fromone thingto anotherthanfroma
thingto an Idea, since itis theIdea thatcomprisestherelationsand proportions that
4. ForRosalindKrauss,photography's indexicalstatus- theinverted shadowfixed constituteinternal essence. Interior and spiritual,resemblanceis a measureofa
onthelight-sensitive -
film is decisive. In "NotesontheIndex,"publishedin1976, claim." The index,insofaras itis an image,is alwaysillegitimate; itcannotclaim
Kraussproposestheidea oftheindexas a thematicconstruct withwhichthecritic thepaternity oftheIdea oressence. Thisopenstheindexto tremendous
cut the
might through heterogeneity ofthe artof the1970s to findsome common arbitrariness,slipperiness,and multipleinterpretations. Itfunctionsonthesurface,
thread.Thediverseproduction ofthatdecade, Krausssuggests,mightbe understood neverindepth;henceitsaffiliation withthesimulacrum.Deleuze continues,"Ifwe
to havea sharedpointofreference inthenotionoftheindex. ThusRichardSerra's say ofthesimulacrum thatitis a copyofa copy,an endlessdegradedicon,an
rubbercastingsorthrown lead pieces relateto video's "structureofnarcissism," slackenedresemblance,we misstheessentialpoint:thedifference
infinitely in
hyper-realism's to
appeal photographic veracity,and Dennis Oppenheim'sIdentity naturebetweensimulacrum and copy,theaspectthrough whichtheyformtwohalves
Stretchof1975, inwhichtheartisttransferred themagnified imageofhis own ofa division.Thecopyis an imageendowedwithresemblance,thesimulacrum is
thumbprint ontoa largefieldoutsideBuffalo.The importance ofdocumentation in an imagewithout resemblance."
bothperformance artand earthworks (wherethenotes,photographs, and artifacts
standinforinaccessibleorshort-lived works)underscores theindexicalcharacterof 6. The indexinarchitecture has been linkedwitha narrativeofprocess.
theseworks.Likea readymade,each oftheseworksfreezesan instantintimeand Architecture's
extendedtimeofrealization, theindirectness ofitsprocedures, and
initiatesan interpretive
movement onthepartoftheviewerto fillup theemptyplace itsdistinct
patronagestructure all drawoutthismomentary congealing.What
oftheindexicalsign. The "snapshoteffect"oftheindextiestheworkto a Vitruvius's
philosopher saw on thebeachwerenotfootprints butgeometric figures:
hermeneutics ofthetimeofitsmaking. abstractedtracingsofidealizedforms,mediated,iconicsignsinterpreted as an index
ofintelligence- i.e., a kindofwriting.Thedetachment oftheindexicalsign-
5. The mechanicalcharacteroftheindexhas anotherconsequenceintheoriesof -
Peirce'ssecondness is doubledinarchitecture. Thearchitect is already
The indexproduces"automatic"externalcorrespondence.The
representation. disengaged from the of
process making as
architecture; Robin Evans has succinctly

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pointedout,architects do notmakebuildings, theymakedrawingsforbuildings. 2. "Thereis notraceitself,nopropertrace,"writesJacquesDerridain Marginsof
Inarchitecture theindexpointsbacknotto a momentofphysicalcontactbutto the Philosophy.Thetraceis fundamental tothethought ofdeconstruction and,as such,
impliedmovements (cuts,displacements, gridshifts,shears,inversions, rotations, resistsreduction orexemplification. Derridaproposesunderstanding thetraceas
and folds)carriedoutwithin theabstractmaterialsofdrawingitself.Drawingmay difference,neverto be resolvedintopresence,alwaysproducedoutofan elusive
function as an indexofa complexand sometimesdynamicprocess,butthebuilding movement fromtexttotext. Derridahas madeitveryclearthatthelinear,thebodily,
is an indexofthefixedformofthedrawing(whichis necessarilycomplete- frozen theindexical,and thegeometric have littleto do withhis notionoftrace:"I havethe
- beforetheprocessofconstruction begins). Eventhemoreradicaloperationsof impression nowthatthebestparadigmforthetrace. . . is not. . . thetrailofthehunt,
process(invoking chance,nonlineargeometries,orthereadymade)are forcedat a thefraying, thefurrow inthesand, thewakeinthesea, thelove ofthestepforits
certainmoment to hypostasizethecomplexities ofprocessintoa "snapshot"to imprint,but thecinder (whatremainswithout remaining fromtheholocaust,from the
whichthebuildingthenstandsinmimeticrelation:a conventional representation of all-burning,from the incineration
ofthe incense)." in Derrida'smodernist theology
perhapsunconventional materials.The readingofsucha workinevitably evokesthe ofform, thetraceis alwaysthetraceofabsence, manifest through erasure:"The
deductive/divinatory paradigmoftheindexas a series ofclues pointing backto the traceis producedas itsownerasure. Anditbelongstothetraceto erase itself,to
eventofdesignand thehandoftheauthor.Thisis a fundamentally modernist eludethatwhichmightmaintainitinpresence. Thetraceis neitherperceptiblenor
practice,reflecting a beliefinthe to
object'scapacity carry traces of itsoriginand imperceptible."Thusonlythefragileformofashes is an adequateimageforthe
makingand a corresponding beliefin interpretation
as unmasking a self-referential radicalspace ofdisembodiment requiredbysucha concept.Yetthetrace,even in
playofmeaning.Butjustas thestrategy ofthereadymadehas exhausteditself itsmostformlessform,is caughtup inan evidentialparadigm.Itstillpointsbackto
within artisticpractice,mightwe notbeginto questionthepersistenceofan an origin:"Do youknowhowmanytypesofcindersthenaturalists distinguish?And
indexicalidea ofthetrace,theprivilegeofprocess- and concomitant deductive forwhat'woods' suchcinderssometimesrecalla desire?" Thetracemaypoint
-
paradigmofinterpretation inarchitectural practice?Anycritiqueoftheidea of endlesslywithout hopeofarrivingat thatoriginor,moreprecisely,mayrevealthat
thetraceinarchitecture mustnecessarilyinterrogate itscapacityto carrymeaning theoriginis a place ofemptinessand loss, thoughthedirection is clear. Glasstoo is
overtimeand examinehowthatmeaningis conditioned bytheinterplay betweenthe theproduct ofan incineration.
traceas drawnandthetraceas built.
3. Deconstruction'sneedto inscribeitselfintheformlessformofthecinder- and to
Trace recoverthemomentofabsoluteloss - is symptomatic ofa desireto holditselfapart
Don'tyouknowthestory?... Itwas all anyonetalkedaboutlastyear. fromall oftheabstractand idealizingdiscourseswithwhicharchitecture is inevitably
- AlainRobbe-Grillet,Last Yearat Marienbad compromised.Necessarilymediating thisformlessform,however,are all ofthe
linearincarnationsofthetracepresentifonlyintheirrefusal:architecture's
1. Tracesare indexicalsigns. In "Paris,CapitaloftheNineteenth Century," Walter "burdensoflinearity."Thetraceis a privileged currency inthearchitecture/
Benjamin notes thesimultaneous appearance of the detectivestory, which deconstruction in of in
exchange(and anytheory writing architecture) precisely
investigatesthesetraces,and thefullyrealizedbourgeoisinterior: "Theinterior was because itis a conceptalreadyavailable inarchitecture.Derridaappeals notonlyto
notjusttheuniverse,itwas also theprotective casingoftheprivatecitizen.Living architectureas examplebutto architecture's proceduresas well. Inarchitecturethe
meansleavingtraces. Intheinterior, thesewerestressed. Coverings and traceis producedoutofthemovement ofprocessand theheterogeneity ofits
antimacassars, boxes and casings, were devised in abundance, inwhich thetraces procedures.Translation is alwaysalreadyat workwithin thediscontinuity
of
ofeveryday objectswere molded. The resident's own tracingswerealso moldedin architecture'soperations.Buildingsdo notsimplyembodytheabstractconceptsthat
theinterior."ForBenjamin,to lose thetraceis to lose theopacityofthesecret,the enablethembuterase thoseconcepts- incompletely - intheassertivephysicality
narrativetimeofhistory; itis tiedto therefusalofthemarksofpossession. In ofconstruction. Thetrace,ifitremains,persistsas an excess unaccountable
"Erfahrung und Armut" Benjaminwrites:"A beautiful wordfromBrechthelpsus go according to thesimplelogicofthetectonic.
far,farther:Eraseyourtraces,'so says therefrain ofthefirstpoemintheReaderfor
Thosewholivein Cities.. . . Scheerbart and hisglass andtheBauhausand itssteel 4. Architectural
drawingencodesthearchitect'sdisplacement from thematerial
haveopenedtheway:theyhavecreatedspaces inwhichitis difficult to leave objectofthe discipline.Classical theory conceived drawing as therealm of
traces." Benjaminlinksmodernity's to in
Utopianproject reception stateofa idealized,abstractspeculation:"Since thatis thecase, let lineaments be theprecise
distractionand theloss oftheaura: "It is notfornothing thatglass is sucha hard and correctoutline,conceivedinthemind,made up oflinesand angles,and
materialuponwhichnothing attachesitself.. . . Thingsofglass haveno aura." perfectedinthelearnedintellect and imagination," writesAlberti.Thecodification
Themodernist projectsoughtto effacethetrace,displacingitto thedisembodied, oftheoperationsofarchitectural drawing coincides withtheseparationofthe
geometric form ofthetracsrgulateurs.Therecovery ofthetracetodayinthe of
procedures design and construction inthe early Renaissance. Theneedfor
formofa theoryofwriting inarchitecture needsto be seen againstthisshift. accuratesystemsofprojection arises outoftherequirement fora legiblecode to
Contemplating theruinofthemodernist project,thetraceis reinscribed in transmitthedesireofthearchitect froma distance. The drawingsmarkthatdistance
architectureas process,collapsingthebodilyand thedisembodiedunderthesign and are markedbyit. Orthographic projection consistsintracingout,orcutting
ofbabble. JacquesLacanwrites:"Writing is a traceinwhichis readan effectof the
through, imagined contours ofan absent body. Unlikethebodyofclassical
language. Itis whathappenswhenyouscribblesomething." theoriesofmimesis,itis notgiveninnaturebutproposedas construction.

Thefirstand lastimagesare ofMiesvan David Hemmings(thephotographer)


derRohe'sNationalGalleryin Berlin, shootsa seriesofphotographs ofan
1962-8.In between are six stills,in unknowncouplein a park. As he
narrativesequence,fromMichelangelo developsthephotos,an inexplicable
Antonioni's Blow-Up,1967. Thefilm,is "stain"appearsthat,uponbeing
structuredarounda centrallack: enlarged,provestobethecontours ofa
Antonioniacknowledges, through his body.A nighttime triptothepark
character,that"thegameworkswithout confirms theimplacablepresenceofa f
a body."Drivenbyan interpretive corpse.Thephotographer is suddenly '
desireinitiatedbyan absentbody,the placedwithina doubledilemma:on the
filmpresentsa puzzlewhosesolutionis onehandinterpretive (whodidit?,why
nevertoberevealed.Thenarrativeline was itdone?);and on theotherhand,
ofthefilm- a formofdetective story- ethical- possessingtheproof, what
functionsparalleltoa cinematictrucage shouldhedo? Uponreturning tothe
thatmakesexplicita thematic ofthe parkin themorning, hefindsthebody
image,thedeciphering ofclues,and,the has disappeared.He is restored tohis
differencebetweencinemaand positionas an outsider,hisdilemma
photography. In BlowUp,thespecific evaporates,buttheuneasycrisis
ofcinemais toundermine
effect the initiatedbytheabsentbodypersists.By
truthvalueofthephotographic image. enfoldingand undermining the
photograph's relationtoitsoriginal
thefluidtimeofcinema
referent,
supplantsthefixedtimeofthe
photograph. Theeffect is ambiguousin
theextreme, thelossofthe"evidence "
theinterpretive
short-circuiting desireof
theheroand theviewer, leavingbothin a
conditionofsuspension.

10

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5. "Thearchitect's drawing,"FlixGuattari pointsout,"whichinFrenchis the 2. Infilmstudiesthereexist,notsurprisingly,
varioustheoriesthatmaketheillusion
of
homophone plan,project(dessin/dessein), and impliesgoal, axiologicalfinality, thematic.Christian Metz,forexample,notesthatthe"imagetrack"ofthefilm
sets outinsearchofa partialenunciator thatwillgiveconsistency to thegroupof containsmanyelementsthatare not,properly speaking,images. Theysignalthe
components putintoquestion." Drawing'scompromise withcompetence(authority, intervention
ofthefilmmaker inthemanipulation ofthematerialofthefilmitself.
is clarifiedbya distinction
institutionality) offered inthebeginning ofA Thousand These includeall ofthewritten credits,thewords
materials,subtitles,intertitles,
Plateaus:"Therhizomeis altogether a
different,map and nota tracing.Makea map, TheEnd,butmoreimportantly the"opticaleffectsobtainedbytheappropriate
nota tracing.. . . Whatdistinguishes themapfromthetracingis thatitis entirely manipulations,thesumofwhichconstitute visualbutnotphotographic material."
orientedtowardexperimentation incontactwiththereal. ... Themap is openand InthiscategoryMetzplaces blurredfocus,acceleratedorslow motion,the"wipe"
connectableinall ofitsdimensions;itis detachable,reversible, susceptibleto or "fade"(the"visiblematerialoftransitions"),as wellas colorshiftsand super-
constantmodification." Thearchitect's drawings, on the otherhand,inscribethe positions.To theseeffects,
whichare definedbytheirdivergence fromphotography
authorityoftheprojectand function as tracings. (and byimplication,thetruth-value
oftheindex),Metzassignsthetermtrucage.

6. FromAlberti'slineamentato Le Corbusier'stracsrgulateurs, theauthorityof Usuallytranslatedas "special effects"or "trickphotography," theconnotation of


has
tracing persisted in architectural and
theory practice.Thistracery mightbe trucageis broader.Metzelaboratesand classifiescinematictrucageonthebasis of
understood, intermsfamiliar to ColinRowe,as an idealizedabstractscaffoldthat "profilmic"effects,whichtakeplace beforethecamera(i.e., theuse ofstuntmen),
maintainsformin itsproperplace butdisappearsas presenceinconstruction. and "cinematographic" whichare achievedbymanipulating
effects, thefilmor
("The choiceofa regulating linefixesthefundamental geometry ofthework,"writes camera- blurred focus,slow motion,etc. Cinema's earliest"tricks" already
Le Corbusier.)Thepropriety ofgeometry as underlyingstructure enables Roweto employedbotheffects simultaneously.GeorgesMlis achievedthe"disappearing
proposecontinuity betweentheclassical andthemodern.Alternatively, ifwe assign trick"(1896) bystoppingthecamerawhiletheactorlefttheset: simplya substitute
to geometrya differentstatus,as a contingent markofalwaysshifting systemsof forthetheatricaltrapdoor.Thereadingconventions ofclassic narrative filmfurther
thenthetrace- whichparadoxically
description, needs to be thoughtofas all that categorizetrucage. An"invisible"
trucage(theStuntman) is notintended to be
escapes theauthority ofthe tracing- lies intheincompleteness ofthetranslation noticedbytheaudience;"visible"trucagefunctions to signalpsycho-
rhetorically
and persistsinconstruction:the"errors"ofRenaissanceperspective; Guarini's logicalor narrativeintent:
slow motionto heighten suspense,blurred focusto
"immeasurable"structures producedbytheintersection ofmultiplegeometric indicatea dreamsequence. Yetthereare also effects, as
designated "imper-
systems;thetheatricalityofthebaroque;thecombinatory excesses ofPiranesi; ceptible,"thatare unnoticed,impossibleto localize,yetintrude uponthesenses
IannisXanakis'sexperiments incounterpunctual notationat La Tourette;
Ronchamp's and contributeto theaffective
powerofthefilm(cuts,transitions, colorshifts,
complexcurvatures, simultaneously mathematical and sculptural;Gaudi'sstructural and lighting).
experiments; Mies van derRohe's "paradoxicalsymmetries"; CarloMollino's
anthropomorphisms; and Eisenman's axonometric distortionsin theHouseX model. Trucagedoes notfunction primarily as syntactic
marking (i.e., as punctuationor
Ineach oftheseworks,thetracefunctions outofthedifference betweendelineation, structuringofthecinematicnarrative), althoughitcan do so. Rather,thesumof
and construction.
projection, Itopensthepossibilityofunderstanding thetracenot theseeffectsoperatesspecifically inthecinematicrealmand outsideconventional
simplyas absence reifiedbutas a condition made possiblepreciselyby codes. "Trucage,"Metzwrites,is "avowedmachination";
linguistic "Thereis
architecture's
promiscuous presentness. always a certain attached
duplicity to the verynotion oftrucages. Thereis always
something hiddeninsideit(since itremainstrucageonlyto theextentto whichthe
Tricks perceptionofthespectatoris takenbysurprise),and at thesame time,something
Notjustan image,justan image. whichflauntsitself,since itis important thatthepowersofthecinemabe creditedfor
-Jean-Luc Godard thisastonishingofthesenses." Metzgoes further: "Itis infactessentialto know
thatthecinemain itsentirety is, ina sense, a vast trucage,andthatthepositionof
1. Architecturehas alwaysbeen afraidofthetrick.Whatis surprising is thewayin thetrucagewithrespectto thewholeofthetext,is verydifferent incinemathanitis
which,underconditions ofpostmodernity,thisdebatecontinues,persisting in inphotography."
attempting to unmask a behind
logic-in-depth theplay of forms and surfaces.
Postmodernism soughta recovery ofmeaninginform;ina modernist counter-turn, 3. Inwhatwoulda theory ofarchitectural
trucageconsist? To beginwith,itwould
itwas criticizedforthe"depthless"playofillusionand surface.Architecture's necessarilyabandontheoppositionbetween(authentic)modernity and (inauthentic)
meaningfulness is seen as somethingto be regulatedas itapproachesthe It
postmodernity.mightbeginbyexamining architecture's
specificpowerto
slipperinessand trickinessof meaninginplay:an architecture thatturnstricks.Is it constructillusionthrough It
images. might lead to a theoryofconstructionthatdoes
possibleto suggesta paradigmofthepostmodern inarchitecture thatcouldescape notsimplyopposetherationality oftectonics(presence,materiality)to the
thisdoublebind? To do so wouldnotrepresent an attempt to recuperatea more slipperinessofillusion(absence, immateriality).
Itwouldlocateitspowernotinthe
perfectmodernist transparency, inwhichnothing is hidden,butrather to acceptthe of
ability the to
building operate as an indexof processbutinthespecificity - and
- and more - ofthe Put another way,is the - in
partial complex opacities present. unpredictabilityofarchitectural effects therealmoftheconstructed.
appeal to thelogicofthetracea disguisedattempt to reinscribe architecture ina
metaphysics ofdepth? Riskinga definition,
I proposethatan architectural
trucagemightbe all oftheeffects

il

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(visual,aural,and tactile)obtainedbytheappropriate manipulations, thesumof mentiontheredeploymentofvisualityunderconditions
ofspectacleintheearly-20th
whichconstitute spatialbutnotarchitectonic material.Itwouldconsistneitherina in
andtherevisionofthebodyand sight thelate-20thcentury
century under
denialofarchitecture's norinthesimpleembodiment
enablingfictions ofthose advancedsimulation
technologies.
fictions.Because itwouldnothaveto believeintherealityofthecategoriesit
erects,itsspace wouldnecessarilysupporta multiplicity ofprograms and events Amongtheopticaldevicesofmass visualculturethatCrarystudies(thestereoscope,
without resortingto obsoletehierarchies
or Utopianattempts at thedissolutionof kaleidoscope,phenakistiscope, zoetrope,anddiorama)is thepanorama.Panoramas
hierarchy.Byunhinging fromits(modernist)
architecture appeal to origins,process, wereconstructed as popularentertainment inlargenumbersin Europeanand
and unmasking, trucageredirectsattentiontowardthearchitectural artifact
itself,a American citiesbeginning inthe1790s. Therewereseveralin Berlin,and K. F.
constructthatmustbe capable ofgenerating itsowntermsofinterpretation beyond Schinkel,amonghisavocations,was activeas a painterofpanoramas. The
theprotection oftheauthorand thecontroloftheinstitution. Byshifting attention panoramais constructed accordingto conventionalized codes ofvisionthatdictate
fromartifactto effect,trucageundermines thefinality
ofthearchitectural. itsideal circularformand complexsectionalconfiguration. Unlikethefixed
viewpoint ofAlbertian perspective,thepanoramaallows- infactnecessitates-
4. "Butwhatmeansdoes thearchitect haveat his disposalto grasp/seize and plot themovement oftheobserver.Thecontinuous bandofpaintedscenerycannotbe
theproductions whichwouldbe inherent
ofsubjectivity to his objectand activity? scannedfroma singlestationpoint;theviewer's"ambulatory ubiquity"is the
We couldspeak hereofan architectural transfer
which,evidently, wouldnotmanifest necessarycounterpart to theencompassingspectacle. Thepanoramaalwayslooks
itselfthrough an objectiveknowledgeofa scientific naturebutthrough theangle of backat theobserver,butnotwiththeideal gaze ofthepanopticon withwhichit
complex aestheticaffects,"suggests Guattari.An example of an "architectural sharescertainformalcharacteristics. Thepanoramais constructed to sustainan
transfer" operatingthrough the"angle ofcomplexaestheticaffects"are themultiple illusionaroundthecomplexrealityofspectatorsin motion;thepanopticon models
practicesofRemKoolhaas. Despitetheconstantseductivenessofhissurfacesand theall-seeinggaze froman abstractlocus ofpower,directedat fixedbodies. Inthe
forms,Koolhaasoperatesina kindofstylistic vacuum,indifferently appropriating panopticon bothgaze and bodyare abstractand incorporeal.Insistently spatialand
froman opencatalogueofmodernist, technological,and popularvernaculars.His the
three-dimensional, paintedpanorama cannot be accuratelyreproduced intwo
practicesaffirm thatthereis no intrinsicdepthcontent(no objectiveorscientific dimensions.Eitherthecontinuous surfaceis arbitrarily cutand flattened,orthe
basis) behinda formalchoice,thattheeffect oftheamalgamationmattersabove all. circularcontinuity is maintainedandtheviewis represented anamorphically, the
Alternatively,inJohn Hejduk's architecturalworks an assemblyofknownpartsyields upperboundary beingelongatedalong itsentire perimeter.
astonishingly complex wholes - an "avowed machination" wherelayingbarethe
deviceofconstruction innowayexplainsor exhauststheassociativecapacityofthe Iftheplanmapsthelaws ofvisionandthecompassofthespectator,thesection
objectitself. revealsmosteffectively theapparatusoftheillusion.Spectatorsenterfrombelow,
occupying an artificial
horizon (in moreelaborateversions,thesetoo werefitted out
Itmightbe moreeffective, inthecontextofthepresentargument, to drawan one
including example
illusionistically, built
in Englandwhere visitors
occupiedthe
examplefromthemodernist canonitself,readingMies van derRohe's Berlin deckofa shipthatswayedgentlyon a concealedmechanism).Bymeansofa
NationalGalleryas panorama.The panoramais a duplicitous deviceforreframing suspendedcurtainordome,theillusionoftheskywas maintained, usuallypulled
thecity,constructing,on artificial
ground,a double ofthe city.To read
19th-century away from the perimeter, to cut thegaze oftheviewerand to allow thepainted
theNationalGalleryas panoramais to proposethatMies's architecture, often scenes to be litfromabove. The illusionwas madeas completeas possible,butthe
understood as a paradigmofconstructed, materialpresence(a synthesisofromantic spectaclewas concentrated inthehorizontal extensionofthegaze, dissolvingthe
classicismand technological expressedindetailsand inabsolute
rationality, architecturalfixityoftheperimeter and grafting
a newspatialityontothecity.
clarity),can be seen as an architecture
structural oftheephemeralandtheatectonic,
operatingintherealmoftheeffect and thetrick. 6. The base oftheNationalGalleryis usuallyunderstood inclassicaltermsas a
plinthfunctioning to isolatethebuildingfromitssurroundings. As a deviceto detach
5. In TechniquesoftheObserver, Jonathan Craryproposes- incontradistinction thestructure froman otherwiseall too haphazardsite,theplinthconstructs an
to theprevailing historicalmodel,whichdescribesa hegemonicAlbertian/Cartesian idealizedgroundfreefromcontingency. However,thisreadingis contradicted by
traditionofperspectivaivisionoverturned bydevelopments withinthevisualarts anotherwell-known observation: thatMies placedall oftheservicesand functional
duringthelate-19thand early-20th centuries- a progressive modernization of accommodations intothebase to maintaintheseverity ofthevisiblepavilionofthe
visionconcentrated intheearlyhalfofthe19thcentury.Drawingfromscientific building.The base's soliditydissolvesintoa floating plane at thebackofthe
studiesofvision,technology, popularculture,and onlysecondarily fromvisualand building.Therefore, theblindsocle, whichwantsto be understood as artificial
artisticpractice,Crarychartstheemergenceofthebodyas a "productive ground, solid and resistant, is insteada hollow,occupiablespace thatconcealsthe
psychological apparatus"at thecenterofthevisualexperience.A paradigmof apparatusnecessaryto preservetheideal form.Thisinsightdirectsattention to the
visionas nonveridical - lodgedinthebody- and a corresponding epistemologica! stagelikeformoftheplaza itselfas an integralpartofthebuilding.Miestakesgreat
shiftproducean "observereffect"distinct fromclassical modelsofvisionas well as painsto place theinterior incontinuity withtheplaza, minimizing and multiplying the
from20th-century abstraction.Crarysuggeststhattheradicalabstraction and architectural -
separation notethesuppressionoftherailing,which would mark the
reconstruction ofopticalexperienceinthe19thcentury is a necessary"fore-history," edge oftheplaza, andthemultiple demarcations theoverhangoftheroof,
ofinterior:
allowing certainnotions of autonomous visionto emerge in the20th century- notto the glass wall,the railings and barrierswithin.
Far from isolatingtheexperienceof

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oftheplaza places theNationalGalleryin
thebuildingfromthecity,thearchitecture experienceoftheNationalGalleryis an experienceofaffectsthatare undeniably
withthenowdisjointedcity.The buildingand itssurround
continuity are always and achievedbya subtlechoreography
spatial,doubtlessspecificto architecture, of
seen injuxtaposition.Theforegroundoftheplaza interrupts
thepreviously perceived architectural
elementsbutthatare themselvesotherthanarchitecture itself.To read
and the
ground,fragmenting reframing city. The real eventis to put cityon
the Mies inthiswayis to appreciatetheexquisitemeasurewithwhichhe has calibrated
but
display, by means ofa devicethatconstructs
a defamiliarizingdistancebetween theplayoffixityand freedom, absence and presence.
theviewingsubjectandtherealityofthesurrounding context.
ThiswouldnecessitatereadingMies's architecture notintermsofits"timeless"
The plan,farfromexhibiting theaxial symmetry characteristicofMies's supposed presence, aloof from thecontingenciesofhistory and experience,butratheras
neoclassicism, is dominated byubiquity and directional
equivalence. The eight foregrounding the actualexperienceof realvisitorsin realtime. Hencea
structuralcolumnsare deployedwithabsoluteneutrality - inbothconfiguration and characteristicdescriptionwouldhaveto includetheexperienceofclimbingupfrom
placementtheyare identicalfromall sides. The placementofthecolumnsat mid- thelowergalleriesbytheausterestairs,thespectatorcarrying withhimself/herself
quarterpointsdoes notpinthecornerswitha verticalmarkbutreinforces the thememory oftherepresentations ofthecity(fragmented and disjointed)fromthe
and
horizontality floating effect,
freeing thecantilevered cornersto directthegaze to canvases displayedbelow,to testand comparethatrealityagainsttheimageofthe
thedistancebeyond.Thepavinggridand theegg-crateeffect ofthespace frame cityflattenedontotheplateglass, detachedfromitsowngroundbytheartificial
ceilingexhibita similarindifferenceto axiality.Theycreatea universalfieldopento horizonoftheplaza; a cityconverted intoa representation ofitself,as contingent
as
multipledirectional and functional
accommodations.The inversesymmetries ofthe any ofthe representationsdisplayedwithin. The reframing is double: notonlyspatial
access stairsreinforcea circularmovement as an effectivecounterto thefrontality
of and architectural,butconceptual,experiential,and ultimately political.Whatis
themainstairalongPotsdamerstrasse. The perimeter is shearedand does notclose contingent and constructedmayitselfbe alteredand reconstructed.
uponitself.Inthiscentripetal space, theeye movesquicklypastthesymmetrically
placedservicestacks,whichinturnare dissolvedand multiplied intheplayof Itmightbe notedthatthereis (at least) one significant
differencebetweenMies and
andtransparency.
reflection Thecorniceand roofare immaculately neutral. theanonymous 19th-centuryarchitectsof thepanoramas. The panoramaconceals
all ofthemechanismsnecessaryto construct theillusion.Thecodes ofpopular
As inthepanorama,theidealityoftheplancontrasts withthepragmatism ofthe entertainment then(as today)requiredthattheillusionbe sustainedbyevery
section, which reveals the apparatusoftheillusion. Note,for example, the possibletrick.Mies,ontheotherhand,stripsawaythemask. Anyvisitorcan
dimensionofthecolumnsthatcarrythecruciform columnsoftheplaza: theyare examinehowtheillusionis constructed, can understand thesourceofa reflection,
actuallysmallerinprofilethanthecruciform columnsabove. Thehollownessofthe can reoccupy thegroundofthecity. Exhibited indetailslikethehingedroller-
base is manifest, as is theindifference
oftheplatform, whichsometimesrestson bearingjointseparatingthespace framefromthecolumnhead,theconstruction
filledgroundand at othertimesroofsoccupiablespace. Thecontinuity ofthis declaresitsownself-evidence (thisdespiteminordeviationsand inconsistencies,
primary datum is underscored bytheminimal representation ofthewindow wall. whichhaveoftenbeen notedbutwhichin nowaydetractfromtheoverallclarity).
Thegreatfloating horizontal roofplanefunctions,liketheplaza, to slice thegaze of Is thistheoppositeofthe19th-century strategy ofillusionproduction,or itsinverted
theviewerand reframe thecitybeyond.Together thesetwohorizontal planes double? Mies "covershistracksmasterfully." Unlikethemodernist impulseto "lay
reproduce theeffect of the the
panorama,turning city intoa continuousband, barethedevice,"Mies's architecture declaresthefutility oftheunveiling operation.
detachedfromthegroundofthecity,horizontally wrapping space theviewer.
the of Mies realizesthatitis neithernecessarynoreffective.Itis notnecessaryunder
HansScharoun'sPhilharmonic and the19th-centurySt. Matthaus-Kirche float,like conditionsofreceptionina stateofdistraction and noteffectivebecause ofthe
collage elements,on an artificialground.As inthepanorama,theeye movesto the impossibilityoftheperceiving subjecteverstandingoutsidetheweb ofillusions
perimeter, tracingouta horizontal extensionofthegaze. Heretoothepanorama constructedbythearchitectural.
cannotbe takeninall at once, andthespectatoris forcedintomotion.Thecitythat
looksbackat thespectatoris a cityofdisjointedfragments, uponwhicha newunity 1. vestigium ii n. I. Act.= thepartofthefootthattreads,thesole ofthefoot,[. . .] B.
has been conferred bythearchitecturalframe. Meton.,1, a foot-step, track,foot-mark;[. . .] b, a trace,mark,asigir,[. . .] II. Pass.,
thatwhichis trodden upon, position,post,station;[. . .] b, thepositionofa
a
To see theNationalGalleryinthislightis also to call attention
to theexperiential destroyedtown,ruins;[. . .] ( Casseil's LatinDictionary [NewYork:Funkand
aspectsofMies's architecture:theephemeralplayofreflection and transparency on Wagnalls,1955]).
themassiveplateglass walls,whichalwaysopposestheassertivemateriality ofthe
tectonicelements.The playofreflections doublesthecityand superimposesitonto Stan Allen is assistant professorofarchitectureat Columbia Universityand
theblankscreenofthearchitecture. Incontrast to thebronzefinishoftheSeagram projectseditorofthejournal Assemblage.
Building,thematteblackfinishoftheNationalGallery'ssteelwork enforcesthe
lingeringsuggestionofimmateriality. Thisis notto proposethatMies's architecture
be seen entirely
as illusionand ephemerality butratherto underlinehowthevery
definitenessofthearchitecturalsupport,insteadofbeingsufficient inand ofitself,is
necessaryto frameand set in motiona playofillusionand representation thatis its
dialecticalcounterpart.Mies deploys,without apology,thelogicofthetrick:the

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