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Architecture film as a form of resistance

Federico Giacomarra

31:09 min

M4 (MINDMACHINEMAKINGMYTHS) IS THE IDENTITY started by François Roche and Camille Lacadee, as part of the New Territories architecture studio that uses architecture and film to develop stories and experiments. M4 has an operative counterpart, a manufacturing and prototyping lab experimenting with digital fabrication technologies such as 3D printers, 3D scanners, 6-axis CNC machines, etc. It is there that many of the props and "fragments" as true theatrical sets for M4 are created.

Each M4 video has a precise intellectual framework that the authors recently described in a book titled Mythomania, a catalogue of case studies used as tools to unfold the relationship between realism and myth, psyche and environment, body and mind. The funding process of the production is shared between New Territories and other realities such as the Dicream (Dispositif pour la Création Artistique Multimédia et Numérique of the Centre national du cinéma et de l'image animée in Paris) and various educational institutions such as University of Michigan, RMIT, Upenn, Inda and Columbia GSAPP. Students are an important part of each realization process, in fact every Scenario/Video was realized through a workshop where students taking part in the process of fabrication (from the Latin "fabrica") have the opportunity to experience a different approach to technology and tooling process. Fabrication as the process of making in a broader sense: the making of a physical structure but also the making of a story ("fiction" from the Latin "fingere" as "to give form, to shape", but also with the meaning of "to dissimulate, to feign"). The whole process of this practice of Fabrication/Narration can be seen as an escape from those stagnant landscapes of architectural academia unable to deeply understand and negotiate the role of the architect in our society.

An escape but also a form of resistance, M4 with the students and most of the times with non professional actors (people taken from the street) explores the dirty borders of academia in the pursuit of an osmosis, an exchange of matter with surrounding disciplines.

THE SET OF WORKS THE M4 LAB IS BUILDING-UP, mainly documented through videos, photos and text, has an almost magical imaginative quality. Props, actors, building modules, settings, algorithms are the components of this narrative body M4 has woven for some years now. We can get only fragments of this activity, from far off places, sometimes unknown. These are spores, forms of adaption to extreme conditions, dispersed in the environment to survive. Alternatively, it would be more right to speak about echoes, unpredictable phenomena of sound reflection where the initial message changed to recombine randomly. They are much more than simple narrations; not stories, but scenarios whose apparatus can be defined as theatrical, using narrative tools such as backstories and props to create environments capable of symptomatic behaviors, to nourish inner conditions. Echoing the words of New Territories on the website:

"Environments and paranoia as symptoms of an inner condition, in a constant exchange between narrative and emergence in a stuttering process: a storytelling manifested in the creation of a fiction which uses a fragment as a by-product and where the material structure with its physical characteristics takes shape and instructs the story.”

A narrative where the scene is not just a setting for the characters to unravel the different stories, but a basic element describing pathological behaviors as symptoms of an inward condition. The conceived "fragments" as a symptomatic by-product interact with the characters through their material structures, driving the narration. It is a constant exchange, a loop, a closed cycle, one of the main elements of any machine, between story, characters, props, settings and physical structure. It is the ultimate reproductive machine mentioned by Lyotard, by putting two mirrors one in the front of each other indefinitely reflecting any objects in between revealing inconsistencies in the folds of what is real.

It is the front and back, it is the coexistence of contradictory realities, is the rhetorical device adopted by the sophists as descriptive method to achieve the unity of conflicting points of view. The same function, if we can see a purpose in this game of infinite cross-references, we can ascribe to the M4 videos; suspending the viewer between the inconsistencies of what is not rationally fully comprehensible.

THE VIDEO IS NOT JUST A SIMPLE NARRATIVE OR A DOCUMENTATION TOOL but it is a real reproductive machine that drags or swallows the unaware users into this theatre of the elusive. It is part of the mechanism of amplification and multiplication of the intensities (emotions), the video image as a reflection of this double and disturbing inner world which apparently no longer has a corresponding reality outside, a point of catharsis, a zero. "The architecture fragment – as we read in the New Territories website – is becoming the cartography of their mind from where they could accept the shifting, the drifting... as a receptacle of their paranoia, but simultaneously as a vector, a shelter of their emotions.”

Stories and Scenarios, tightly bound, feeding paranoid conditions give rise to isolation. Solitude, like a real building material, causes the 'isolation of the characters, their paranoia, but at the same time it is a symptom of their inner condition.

Architecture excludes and isolates, traps, protects, and finally condemns expressing intimate emotions. Architectures or symptoms that go beyond the dimension of meaning, of an encrypted message. It is a silent body (expressed through the language of the symptom.) It is the perfect condition, pure headlessness, "time of the unconscious”.

The journey of M4 starts here. Much more than a collection of experimental videos or a manufacturing laboratory, it is the pursuit of the prime principle of architecture, or perhaps "the ultimate". Take a break, take a breath and forget what you know. Take architecture and make it live again in another discipline (filmmaking) as an artifact. For a moment accept the conditions of this fiction, let us pretend that you are doing what you have always been doing. What resists this etching process is what matters. "You don't need to do anything at all – you don't even need to try or not try too hard." Stay there and when you are ready start the machine.

THE THEME OF KNOWLEDGE TAKES FORM IN THE VIDEO "…Would Have Been My Last Complaint", the story of a self-taught old man, isolated from society who finds refuge in a structure he designed as part of his path towards knowledge, or rather delirium. This scenario was produced by Camille Lacadee (movie) and François Roche (shelter), with the collaboration of Ezio Blasetti (computation), Stephan Henrich (robotic design) and many others (students and civil engineers). This project generated another video, “The Sign”, as the background story behind the shelter construction and an event at Studio X-mumbai.

Inspired by a true story, an elderly person is kicked out of community life and builds a shelter (the "Devil Trap"), made of lachrymatories to contain his tears. The elder engaged in the reading of sacred texts reveals the reality behind the world through the interpretation of signs, puzzles and position of the stars. The video tells how illusion is able to create "things, signs, investigations and fragments and patterns and in the end a shape, an object", and "how a line of subjectivation is used as a strategy materializing the physical world, in the tangible, touchable zone of our environment.”

Experiencing hallucinations, the elder explores the sacred texts and interprets the movements of the stars, builds a scale model of the Devil Trap and at night a mysterious technology physically builds the vision of the old, who finally finds shelter inside it.

Interestingly, the basic concept of technology has come to its logical conclusion: the idea of technology as an extension of strength and human intelligence, as expansion of rational faculties to utilitarian purposes is somehow overturned. Refusing the positivist attitude of technology at the service of men, as fruit of the best thoughts and fueled by the greatest human virtues, a more irrational/rational idea of technology emerges by contract. As extension of the human being, technology gives substance and shape to each side and human attitude, even to their own hallucinations.

IN THE MYTHOMANIA BOOK THE TWO AUTHORS make the reader aware of the materials used in the "fragment" appearing in the video: 250 stones of laterite, 250 parts of blown glass and Verrucaria nigrescens (a very dark lichen).

Similar theme is the relationship between identity and desire in the short film "Σ days". This video, made with the support of Gwyllim Jahn (RMIT University in Melbourne) was part of the Master of Architecture Design Studio. Many students, within the In-Side traveling design studio program, took part in the making of the film. The authors describe it as a work "about the compulsion that moves the body towards animality." A rat caught and imprisoned by an ascetic living in a shelter / cave, whose walls covered with a tangle of blades are both armor and virgin of Nuremberg. A sharp shell composed of 500 sheets of laser-cut aluminum, with 5 different sizes, prototyped in three weeks.

The loneliness of the Diogenes turned the trap into a comfortable retreat. Protected from the outside world he starts to wander: "From my trap," recites the man, "far away from everything... anywhere... then I'm nobody... I play all the others." The theme of loneliness and identity here is particularly explicit.

The rat, as a manifestation of the most intense and hidden desires, is the condition of animality, the "variable irrational" that lurks and emerges in the solitude of the solitary. It does not matter if the rat is caught by the recluse/excluded or joins him by its own free will; what is important is the contact between the two, able to trigger the identification of man in the animal. A shelter, as the result of the paranoid delirium of identification keeping them together and trapped. A segregated and impenetrable place in which the most intense desires can be expressed with violence. "I want you wild to spit on my face... in a daily routine of obscene illogic." The lure of desire is irresistible but soon being trapped it will not express and release any intensity, "your spit is dry." The word, as concept and rationality captures the desire and resets it. The only salvation is to repeat the sacrifice, a new desire captured, ripped apart to feed the animal repeatedly, in an "obscene illogic.”

As well as through the key of the metaphorical relationship between man and animal, the story can be seen in from an ecological standpoint: a mutualistic relationship between species, feeding each other as they negotiate their coexistence. A similar theme developed in the project Mmyst, an experiment of coexistence between humans and birds in mutual exchange and benefit.

IN "ALTHOUGH (IN) HAPNEA", WE CAN FIND A MORE EXPLICIT CRITIQUE to the conception of a reductionist science, blind and unable to see beyond what reason and scientific progress suggests. The scenario created with the co-production of the Graham Foundation Chicago, Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, and the Centre national du cinéma et de l'image animée, involved also The FabLab of Thammasat University in Bangkok in the fabrication of the set with few others.

This video, shot in Bangkok, narrates the desire or compulsion of the loss of identity of the main character, a scientist who is in town for a conference. The authors write: "elements are raging and the gods, always ready to forgive human madness, suddenly seem powerless in front of Gaia's infernal rebellion.”

The scientist wakes up in a taxi, a long journey awaits him, his wandering is led by an enigmatic cab driver who drags him into a labyrinthine slum... he begins to wander observing the slum dwellers' life. He is lost in people's smiles and looks, suddenly captured by a demon and dragged into the depths of the river. There is no escape, the rational mind leaves space to the divine, and the spirit of the place ("genius loci") confuses the identity of the scientist who is reborn as a ruthless Venus. It is the triumph of spirit over matter, of the irrational over rationality. The scientist jumps from body to body. Liquefied in the river he is reborn as a goddess, and finally as a fish, awakening helpless in an aquarium of blown glass ampoules (300 manufactured for the installation.) Everything is suspended and nothing is real. Perpetually changing, nothing makes sense anymore; even the narrative loses its linearity to become circular.

SCIENCE AND SCIENTIST SOMEHOW NOW CANCELED all the intensity believing they can control even the natural elements. "Anthropocene is the name given to the current geological era in which man and his activities are attributed the major causes of territorial, structural and climate changes." The only way to restore order is perhaps to rediscover the myth. Rebuild a new and dynamic relationship with the environment. Build narrative devices capable of triggering intensity and passions to act like demons (gods) on the soul. In the end it is exactly what happens to the poor scientist: lost in the maze of what humanity has been able to build in a lucid madness and finally reborn as an animal, again part of the game he thought he could sidestep.

...Would Have Been My Last Complaint

MindMachineMakingMyths (François Roche Camille Lacadee)

A story about rejection.

"Would Have Been My Last Complaint" is a story about rejection. In a sacred Hindu village, a self-made erudite brahman dedicates his life to the creation of a unique library on philosophy, theology, psychology, poetry, pornography, but finally finds himself being violently expelled by the villagers (believers).

The film is inspired by a true local story from Gokarna (Karnataka, India). The first scene announces the core of the fiction by means of a poetic text and visual suggestions. Then the old man appears on the scene in search of signs, material at first and then intellectual. He knows the Baghavadgita sacred text very well and is carrying out his personal research. He gradually conceives and gives shape to his shelter which, out of the fiction, is called Devil Trap. In such a place he is going to be confined due to the aversion of his community. This indeterminate structure has the power to help him to renegotiate with the believers through his own complaint.

How do we approach the signs of an enlightenment? How do we reconcile singularity and collectiveness? How do we imagine and materialize our physical world? These are some of the questions raised by this fiction.

The prop and short film were realized on the occasion of the Zshell-ter workshop (see credits at the end of the film).


Shell-ter title: "Devil Trap"
Scenario, production: Camille Lacadee (movie), Francois Roche (shelter) / [eIf/bʌt/c]
Design process, Computation: Ezio Blasetti
Robotic Design, Special effects: Stephan Henrich
Sound design: Myrtille Fakhreddine (braïbraï), Devin Jernigan
Computation, fabrication, construction: Mark-Henry Jean Decrausaz, Cameron David Newnham, Mark Kowalyov, Peeraya Suphasidh Camera: Suthiwat Yanawiboot
Storyboard: Pim Jular
Model & props: Pajareeya Suriwong, Nichapatara Swangdecharux
Machinism special design: Cheng Yu Ling
Shooting schedule & organization: Wachira Leangtanom
Making-of: Danielle Willems, Pantira Unarat
Historical research assistant: Natreeya Kraichitti
Community negotiation assistant: Lila Tedesco
Production assistants: Arisa Juengsophonvitavas, Papat Jinaphun, Javed Godkin Paul de Costa, Nicha Laptaveepanya, Nuthapong Jiratiticharoen, Benjawan Lamsa-ard, Tachapol Danaboonchai, Suthata Jiranuntarat, Yanisa Chumpolphaisal, Jenwit Narukatphichai, Permpoon Rojanasakul
Acknowledgements: Sri Ganapati Vedeshwar (Study Circle Library), Elias Tabet (Pandrata Circle), Sanjeen SingPawat, Gwyl Jahn
Construction: Manjunath & Co, Engineer, Ravi N.Pattegar, Civil Engineer Contractor

India 2012
Duration: 11'47''