Saturday, March 27, 2010

Thoughts on Bernard Cache's EARTH MOVES

Beginning his text announcing that "architectural images seem to be a good starting point" (2) for distinguishing between and navigating around the myriad visual elements that are present in our daily lives, Bernard Cache continues his text with an exploration of the philosophical and formal nature of architecture. But delegating the text to this definition - assigning Earth Moves the category of a "formal and philosophical study of architecture" - would be far too limiting, for he indeed discusses a great deal more than just forms and thought. Architecture is indeed inherently about forms and shapes, and is therefore also about geometry and mathematical interests. Cache discusses the city of Lausanne, a Swiss city located near the shores of Lake Geneva. The topography of the city has been profiled by filmmakers like Godard, who in a short film about Lausanne describes the city to have a visual problem or inconsistency that is to him Cezannian in nature - broad, disconnected spaces that make navigating the terrain problematic.

Cache chooses to profile the city of Lausanne due to its unique topography and geography that somehow dictated the construction of roads, buildings, works of art, and so on. However, Cache goes on to remind us that "in no case does the identity of a site preexist, for it is always the outcome of a construction" (15). For Cache, no destination has a predetermined future or path along which it necessarily will or must follow, an assertion that should strike a familiar chord with readers of Deleuze: one of the French philosopher's key concepts is a subscription to process ontology, which privileges being as becoming, as transformation, as constant change. Gilles Deleuze tends to prioritize difference over identity, a concept that is almost directly paraphrased in Cache's affirmation that once a being is defined or once a place has a definition, it is no longer capable of evolution. Remembering Todd May's definition of Deleuze's main question "how might one live?", Cache's own question regarding the development of architectural projects on a topographic space could possibly be summed up as "how might this space be altered?"

After attending class and discussing, albeit briefly, Cache's text and its significance to the world of critical architectural theory and Cache's relationship to Deleuze (they were contemporaries, even though Cache's text was not published until almost 12 years after it was written and only because Deleuze cross-referenced Cache's ideas in his own work, thus giving him notoriety), I found myself developing a new appreciation for Cache's approach to architecture and the interrelated realms of science, mathematics, and representational art. It was interesting to learn that not just Deleuze's ideas on the individual - or what he would call the becoming-human (so in this case, the becoming-site?) - are what influenced Cache, but also Simondon's embrace of individuation and his subsequent rejection of preformism, a rejection that he came to after his studies of physical matter led him to dismiss this idea of substance. A rejection of preformism can also be said to be a rejection of the preexisting identity of a geological site, something that Cache adamantly repeats throughout his text and his argument. I must say that this idea is quite appealing to me, especially because it expresses the possibility of unlimited potential, a potential that one would not normally assign to an inanimate object. In some ways, a rejection of preformism and an embrace of individuation opens the door for so much creativity, even if the site is already altered to a certain specification or a temporary definition of what it is at that moment; once a concrete structure is formed on a specific site, this does not mean that the structure is permanent or the only way to define the site. Instead, defining a site as capable of endless possibilities allows for impermanence, creativity, and growth in the eternal becoming-site.

You can also find this post on Immanent Terrain, the class blog for Art After Deleuze.

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