Saturday, April 05, 2008

First? Theory Is Just Theory.

There seems to be an obsession of "first(s)" both in design and in our conversation last night: Frank Gehry was the first to build curvilinear structures, Robert Morris was the first to focus on process in 1961 with his Box with the Sound of its Own Making, et cetera. But to me there is no blank slate, we are all designing in a designed environment. There is nothing new to be done.

Don’t misunderstand me: I still believe innovation happens and will continue to happen, but I am saying Frank did not spring forth out of primordial soup one day, holding in his hand sketches that were completely new. His spectacular designs have predecessors in Gaudí, in Hundertwasser, in artists and designers all the way back to the cave, our first curvilinear dwelling. So Frank Gehry is not new: the forms he is using for dwelling is not new. However, he did apply technology to figuring out how to do those forms most efficiently. For instance, Gaudí’s Church is in its 126th year of construction, and it’s still not done. Frank figured out how to do that in a couple of years, in a different material, and much cheaper. To me, that is important and innovative, but nobody was first. These forms are simply adapted, like everything, from the latent world.

Architects furiously masturbate over the word process today, saying that nothing adds as much meaning to a project as a "good" process. But that is not a new idea. Vitruvius discussed process. The Haida, and nearly every other First Nation or Native American Tribe have tales of the process of their first houses dating thousands of years back. The Haida house is designed specifically, but the process of constructing and designing one is incredibly specific as well. To me, saying that some dude in the 60s, or Koolhaas today, invented process, or a process, or was the first to focus on process, is bullshit. Process has been around in art and architecture forever. They are inseparable, is a point I think Dillon was getting at that last night.

Yes, architecture steals terms to talk about itself, but so does Computer Science, so does Philosophy (As Derrida so aptly points out on pages 144-149 of the Kate Nesbitt anthology), so does everything. Everything is everything, or, as Vitruvius puts it, "all studies have a common bond of union and intercourse with each other." Architecture screws philosophy screws mathematics screws everything else. Therefore, I do not see a separation between art theory and architecture theory, between semiotics and music, between mathematics and medicine. It's all the same. I want to talk about the culinary arts and processes in this group. I want to talk about various types of bunch grasses. I want to talk about everything because everything is everything.

There is no blank slate. There is nothing new. Nobody was or is first. Everything is everything. That’s what I think.

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That Vitruvius quote if from paragraph 12 of chapter 1 of book 1.

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