ONCE UPON A TIME…IN THE AGE OF METABOLISM Review

by Chris Doray, MA History & Critical Thinking student

08 February 2016
Architectural Association, London

 

cover-page

in the dim hollows

of thirty-six bedford square

at nineteen hundred hours

on the twenty-first day

of the tenth month

in the year, twenty sixteen

 

pierre-jean giloux

graced us with his presence

but telepathically

unleashed us to a state

of buoyant capitulation

drifting over tokyo bay

 

in a sea of perpetual petals

in a galactic snow-globe

in precise manoeuvres

 

un-restrained

un-bounded

 

gravity-free

guilt-free

 

as silent

voyeurs

 

 

[zipping past…]

stacked pods

transparent capsules

derelict cocoons

cantilevered clusters

 

[whisking through…]

hollow airshafts

gearless automobiles

moving walkways

spiralling transporters

 

departures going nowhere

time suspended

spaces deserted

arrivals none

 

[sensibilities revisited…]

optics seduced

longings betrayed

desires numbed

 

day and night continuous

inside and outside seamless

high and low driverless

 

then and now forever

here and now the future

 

all change foregone

all noise silenced

all bodies disappeared

 

only the lights

before us

remain

 

…in ruins

Once a upon time…

 

PJGiloux-Image-1

Arata Isozaki, Re-ruined Hiroshima – photomontage, 1968. Photo source: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/816

“It is neither nature nor art– traditionally, ruins have not only collapsed, they have been overrun by a nature they can no longer exclude. It is neither past nor present: it is a past that has never been present, a presence that is not of the present it inhabits. A ruin is a distempering of times, that puts time out of joint. Ruins are persistent and insistent for its survival. The word suggests more than a continuance of existence. Sur-vive­ names a kind of ‘over-living’ – living on, living beyond one’s time – and thus it in itself is also a kind of anomaly or scandal. A ruin has always gone beyond or retreated from the death and decay to which it bears witness. Ruins in fact hold death at bay: having undergone a first, pseudo-death, the process of decay seems now to have been arrested in them. Ruins are a kind of annealing of the mutability to which they testify. There is nothing but mortality in ruins, but it is too late for them to die, they are too old, too ruinous.”
Steven Connor

 

In his quote, Steven Connor suggests ‘all ruins are in a sense already superimpositions of the past onto the present’, showing Isozaki was not the first to build on this temporal paradox by imagining future ruins when he composed his photomontage ‘Re-Ruined Hiroshima’. There was no intent on his part to colonise the future with his proposal; instead, his ruination was a form of pessimism towards his contemporaries’ futurist utopia that the notorious metabolism group were envisioning.

PJGiloux-Image-2

Pierre-Jean Giloux, Invisible Cities I, Metabolism, 2015. Photo source: http://www.damnmagazine.net/2016/01/06/artists-architects/

Pierre-Jean Giloux’s point of departure here was to integrate Kurakawa’s; ‘Helix City’ and Isozaki’s ‘Clusters In The Air’, and have them immaculately digitized into a present-day cityscape composed of hybridized urban-portraits of Tokyo, Yokohama, Osakam, and Kyoto. What we witnessed in the first video of his Invisible Cities tetralogy was the last utopian architectural movement of the twentieth century, Metabolism. The movement, if it had been realized when it was conceived, would today in its present day Tokyo be in ruins. As in one of Vladimir Nabokov’s famous statements: “the future is but the obsolete in reverse.” This of course reconfirms what Robert Smithson stated in his article A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic (published in Art Forum in 1967): “This is the opposite of the ‘romantic ruin’ because the buildings don’t fall into ruins after they were built but rather rise into ruins before they are built.”

 

Astonishingly enough this, not apparent in Pierre-Jean’s presentation, bears an alarming commonality to Albert Speer’s ‘Ruinenwerttheorie’ or ‘A Theory of Ruin Value’!

PJGiloux-Image-3

Pierre-Jean Giloux, Future Ruins onto the Present based on the Theory of Ruin Value, 2015. Photo source: https://vimeo.com/150170408

But in hindsight, what Pierre-Jean appears to recall here is the re-representation of ruins in a manner of the unbuilt projects proposed in the 60s– now pretending to have been realised. Demarcating a deep temporal dimension that lends itself to the obvious shifts in architectural styles where we are now able to contemplate the coexistence and connectedness between eras that have converged as one urban entity through a hierarchy of various modernised transportation modes, from high-speed trains to drones. Technology, nature, and science is again brought to the foreground as the cause of our uprooted-ness- our mission to become airborne and liberate ourselves from the earth, from the human domain, from the rural, from our myths, from the traditions, and from our national identities.

PJGiloux-Image-4

Pierre-Jean Giloux, Invisible Cities II, 2015. Photo source: http://www.ouest-france.fr/pays-de-la-loire/chateau-gontier-53200/chateau-gontier-pierre-jean-giloux-investit-la-chapelle-du-geneteil-4471601

This symbiosis between people, environment, and systems forms a continuous cycle of production and destruction entering a new ‘life’ age– a humanitarian period that enriches society to strive for their own spiritual awareness and values for ‘living things’ rather than ‘mechanical things’ through the idea of exile. Pierre-Jean could perhaps be visually suggesting the unescapable spread of a ‘transitory civilisation’ as the result of mass migrations currently being staged globally towards city-centres.

 

In the face of our ever-accelerating ‘invisible’ information technologies, his second video is constructed around the lucidity of dense urbanisation and the ever more extreme but cathartic polarisation of our society, where we feel obliged to return to our habitable capsules, nesting cocoons, and urbanistic enclaves. Pierre-Jean then states that his representation contextualises the persuasive influences of capitalism in the built-environment, into a modified ‘future-present’ demographics along with its associated political, social, and ecological catastrophes– “We are now witnesses to a ‘robotic snapshot’ of a society dominated by silence, exclusion and simulation.”

PJGiloux-Image-5

Pierra-Jean Giloux, Shrinking Cities, 2015. Photo source: http://www.champrojects.com/Pierre-Jean-Giloux

In his concluding video, Pierre-Jean takes us onboard a bullet train ride through an urbanistic spatial reconstruction that has an aesthetic sensibility often referred to in the virtual realm as ‘augmented reality’. It is now nightfall in Tokyo. We can no longer cognitively negotiate the dual symbolisms between the inside and outside. The clear glass pane animates a fluidity and ambiguity that is menacingly bodacious to the optics. Pierre-Jean has cleverly crafted a moving montage. Visions of this hallucinating nightscape are often half-fantasised reflections of the city behind the viewer, all shifting in varied velocities depending on the depth of field. We were held captive for a full 300 seconds to a stream of visual bombardments of moving images whose edges have voluntarily dissolved into the night-sky just as we humans had subconsciously surrendered our intellect to the realm of the cyborg some fifty years ago!

 

For more information:
Pierre-Jean Giloux’s Site

Pierre-Jean Giloux’s Machinami, Japanese Urban Landscapes Lecture

History and Critical Thinking MA

HCT Microsite

Homepage image: Design and Typesetting by E Sroczynska and P Pasierbinski