CULTURE: GRADUATE THESIS PART 2
This thesis questions the reality of space by exposing truth in process and surface. This architectural criticism, rather a critique from within, delves into the conventions of architecture’s collusion with mechanisms of power.
American culture speaks a visual language. In our society of simulation and sensory overstimulation, imagery begins to lack reference and cultural meaning. The function of imagery shifts from reflecting reality to masking and perverting that reality. Once removed, we are left with a world of images—a simulacra. This detachment of imagery from their original culture decontextualizes the images. They become fetishized and judged by their surface appearance at the expense of any deeper reading. People, places and events create a fetishized series of objectified images, a visual fiction. (Anesthetics of Architecture)
Denotative refers to a literal and descriptive meaning
Connotative refers to culturally specific meaning in history
The meaning of an image lies not within the image alone, but how it is interpreted. (Practices of Looking)
Consumers respond to the imagery they are fed. Imagery describes the medium of exchange in contemporary society. Depiction of reality merely demonstrates skill; we learn nothing from this. Interpretation of reality questions or examines an aspect of the material world in cultural context, creating value. Interpretive art using bright unnatural colors for realistic subjects presents a provocative visual commentary specific to time and place within the broader cultural context. This “Pop Art” perfectly illustrates the capacity to reproduce an image in different contexts changing the meaning and establishes its’ value. Andy Warhol’s iconic painting of soup cans induces an epic narrative about modernization, mass production, reproduction and the homogenization of society as a whole.
Despite its initial well-intentioned purpose as a deterrent from sinful places, technology literally creates a new brand of sexually organized space. Digital surfaces transpose nonbinary space onto another. In postwar era, the fantasy of antiseptic electrical space eclipses what was once regarded as private, the home—prompting a societal shift towards sterilization. Is it possible to simply display a cultural purity while concealing what’s beneath the surface? Or rather is there beauty to be found in imperfection? (Flesh)
The exclusion of sexuality is itself sexual. Television’s antiseptic spaces themselves are subject to social disease, dialed directly into the home where the ideal housewife is relentlessly disinfecting germs. It is here that dirt becomes a moral construct of culture, the fetishization of hygiene blurring cleanliness, chastity, beauty, piety and modernity. Place is not simply a mechanism for controlling sexuality. Rather, it is the control of sexuality by systems of representation that produces place. The material wall is no more than a prop to support the role play within. (Sexuality & Space)
We reveal immense possibility beyond the surface by questioning the given.
The human body is material organized through physical and social inscription—a cohesive totality of raw materials. We are able to disassemble and reassemble the body, reshapeable through chemistry, surgery and Spandex. In this sense, the body itself has developed plasticity. This relation draws attention to the distinction between biology versus culture. When we transform our bodies to conform to societal standards, the quest for individuality becomes a medium for conformity. Newness becomes a fetish. History itself becomes a commodity. (Flesh)
According to property law, your human body is not your own private property. Sound surprising? For example, “Indecent Exposure”, or exposing the body in public, falls under State Jurisdiction. If you don’t completely possess your body, do you own your organs? What about your gender association? Troops at war? An unborn fetus? The dead? So, who’s body is it? The ideological body is perpetually subject to political, economic and technological debate. We may manipulate, disassemble and reassemble; however, we may never exert absolute power over our body.
Everybody wants to walk through a door marked ‘Private’. Everybody craves knowledge of and visual access to other people. As we view others, we not only become more aware of social standards, but more aware of ourselves. In a self-imposed Panopticon, we imprison ourselves within a construct of body-awareness, monitoring every calorie, inch, step or heartbeat. In this eternal prison of surveillance, we are both the prisoner and the guard.
The interest in view and sight lines are first seen in the work of the Ancient Egyptians. Their success in communicating perception depended upon the use of visual and other clues to convey different degrees of closeness. When Westerners perceive space, they are perceiving the distance between objects. In the United States, it is customary to conceive an invisible boundary around groups of people, as well as personal boundaries within a grouping. Distance alone serves to isolate groups, endowing it with a protective wall of privacy. (Hidden Dimension)
The symbiotic relationship within voyeurism activates the boundary between public and private. Interior merges with exterior; the voyeur becomes the exhibitionist. As such, surveillance technology creates pliable time and place within a spatially disconnected voyeurism. Thus, the opposition between the inside looking out and the outside looking in generates an ephemeral architectural experience. Each performer is reciprocally cast as voyeur, actively consuming their own privacy in the public realm.
Surveillance frames a nonconsensual violation of privacy within publicity.
Voyeuristic Hotel: Can Walls Breathe?
PART 3 (coming soon)
Holmes, Alena Voyeuristic Hotel–Can Walls Breathe? University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; 2005. revised 2023.