Imagination of Engagement
Meta Haven




Imagination of Engagement
- Meta Haven

This text was first published as part of a newspaper to announce the conference Regimes of Representation: Art & Politics Beyond the House of People, Bucharest, January 11, 2007

Can artistic engagement and creative imagination take possession of a ‘totalitarian’ building? From a critical reading of such an attempt – the transformation a North Korean power pyramid into an ‘antenna for ideas’ – designers Daniel van der Velden and Vinca Kruk (Meta Haven) try to find out how politically charged, former ‘totalitarian’ buildings may acquire new symbolic meanings. The premises of such potential are demonstrated by the capacity of contemporary ‘starchitectures’ to become symbols not only for their host cities but also for the globalized neoliberal rule that is underpinning them.
A related strategy might be applied – but then in the opposite direction: of a re-politization. Van der Velden and Kruk argue that the defunct power symbols of the ‘people-as-one’ might become repossessed as symbols for the ‘multitude’.
This text is an edited and extended version of the lecture ‘Imagination of Engagement’, presented on September 12, 2006 in Maastricht.


‘Directly linked to the world of western science fiction and fantastic literature (...), the pyramid is thus truly an antenna of the world’s imaginary urban future. A concrete and symbolic counterpoint to the policy of political, economic and cultural isolation that has characterised North Korea over the past decade.’
And:
‘Despite its explicit symbolic debt to western imagination (...), the pyramid is today looked upon as one of the principal symbols of North Korea’s nuclear arms policy. The genuine ruin of an unrealised future, the pyramid has today become a potential military target.’
And:
Domus believes that the Ryugyong Hotel concrete pyramid – a constructional utopia, symbolic breach and urban landmark rolled into one – can today become a catalyst of ideas and visions for the future of Pyongyang. But it could also be the hub of new exchanges between contemporary imagination in the visual arts and architecture. Aside from all geopolitical, ideological and military obstacles.’ (1)
These are quotes from a call for submissions that Italian architecture and design magazine Domus launched in 2005. Editor Stefano Boeri invited the readership of Domus to transform the unfinished skeleton of the Ryugyong Hotel – a staggering concrete pyramid in the centre of the North-Korean capital – into an ‘antenna for ideas’. The competition did not go unnoticed. More than 200 responses to the call were received, presented at the Domus web site and exhibited at the Milan Triennial. A selection from the proposals was finally published in Domus. Among the proposals were many by young architects and only a few by established firms.
What political and ideological position does this competition entail? What does it mean to transform – on a distance – the iconic and ‘totalitarian’ pyramid that is Ryugyong, into an ‘antenna for ideas’? And especially: can we effectively say that this transformation is an act of political engagement, when a ‘contemporary imagination’ is proposed ‘(...) aside from ideological and geopolitical obstacles’?
The 330 metres high Ryugyong Hotel presents, with its 105 floors and 3000 rooms, an instant enigma to everyone who looks at it. It is architecture in its most primordial state – clearly frightening, and in that sense an architecture granted free access to premodern sensations no longer available to ‘civilized’ buildings. But also, a strangely unfinished and imperfect architecture – a ‘ruin’, as Boeri calls it. The original design, by the Pyongyang-based firm Baikdoosan, intended to wrap the entire structure in mirrored glass. Yet, construction had come to a halt in 1992, ten years after its design, due to a lack of resources.
It is less than certain whether the image of the Ryugyong Hotel owes its ‘explicit symbolic debt to western imagination’, as Stefano Boeri thinks. The magazine offers supporting images from the film Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), and from the computer game Mercenaries (2005), which – set in Pyongyang – actually features a 3D model of the hotel. In any case, Ryugyong inspired the west, too. It seems as if Boeri, in search for a justification of his magazine virtually ‘squatting’ the hotel, first needs to accuse it of theft.

Bvlgari
Meanwhile, we are stuck with the question of engagement. Reading the hotel on a purely material level, it is indeed grotesque. But is it so much more grotesque than other buildings and monuments designed as symbols? This similarity is not restricted to communist regimes; a building like the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, housing the us Defense Ministry, is nightmarish and totalitarian as well. The Pentagon, after all, is also a pentagram, and it is the site from which a military system of global violence and domination is carried out.
The question is whether one is able to engage with a building like the Ryugyong Hotel, when one does not, at first, consider one’s own ideological bias for mustering this engagement.
Directly following the story on the looming pyramid, the magazine features an advertisement for a necklace by bvlgari, a jewelry and watch-making company that spells, in its logo, the ‘U’ as a ‘V’. The placement of this advertisement seems strangely connected to the preceding editorial. Both the Bvlgari ‘V’, as well as the 69 carats sapphire necklace, can be read as inversions of the Ryugyong pyramid. The juxtaposition of ruin versus luxury brand, poverty versus wealth, concrete versus gemstone, editorial versus advertisement, offers a glimpse of the ideological manoeuvre that Domus is performing here, precisely by claiming that it sets aside the political and ideological baggage that would block real artistic creativity.
What does it mean to artistically engage with a totalitarian symbol? Should not such an engagement at all times include the political and ideological obstacles Domus wishes to cancel out? London-based, Czech-born architect Jan Kaplicky criticizes Stefano Boeri in a furious letter to Domus. For Kaplicky, the call for ideas provides not only a kind of ‘justification’ to the regime that created Ryugyong, but also, it justifies the forbidden aesthetic pleasures that the hotel somehow induces. Kaplicky: ‘This cannot and should not be of any inspiration to anybody. Please think new, beautiful, useful and particularly progressive. Think of the human cost of these projects whilst having another coffee in Bar Magenta.’(2)
Stefano Boeri’s reply to Kaplicky acknowledges, to a more profound degree, the humanitarian disaster of North Korean governance, but nevertheless sustains the earlier reading of Pyongyang as a larger-than-life adaptation of western science fiction. Boeri: ‘(…) a horrific city delineated by oversized, shopless roads in which citizens take on the appearance of extras on a movie set. Citizens who inhabit decrepit high-rises and move on foot because public transportation is virtually nonexistent. (…) A city punctuated by immense, semi-abandoned monuments that revolve around Ryugyong Hotel, a gigantic ruin, symbol and consequence of the failure of a regime that is perhaps trying to escape from its suicidal isolation.’ And: ‘It is impossible to remain indifferent to the bizarre collection of architectural caricatures built by the North Korean nomenklatura. They created a city populated by automata unable to exercise their free will, the incarnation of an absolute regime isolated from the world, nevertheless capable of unscrupulous recourse to the symbolic language of western democracies.’(3)
Please note Boeri’s double accusation, not only with regard to the ethics of the North Korean regime but also with regard to is visual inspirations: they stole everything from us! But, if this horrifying building is a copy, how terrible then would its original be?
While Kaplicky rejects North Korea’s architecture as bad, Boeri is much more conscious of the position of the hotel as a ‘flat’ object, a symbol devoid of material qualities and disembedded from context; hence the call for ideas. He addresses not so much the bad but the evil in Ryugyong. Once set afloat into visual culture, Ryugyong functions much like a logo. Perhaps Boeri does not directly qualify Ryugyong as such, but he does so indirectly, by asking for commitment at a distance; he is inviting a worldwide creative elite to engage with the flat image of the building through digital manipulations. The result of the competition is indeed a stream of Photoshop-ridden projects altering the hotel’s appearance. Ryugyong is transformed into an eye-catching Steven Holl, an austere Herzog & De Meuron, or the building is sharing a bed with another skyscraper just like the cover drawing from the original edition of Rem Koolhaas’ Delirious New York by Madelon Vriesendorp.
Through a series of transformations, the image of Ryugyong becomes a prop in an architectural hall of fame, revealing an important feature of the real engagement at work: in principle, Ryugyong in its original state is already halfway to ultimate ‘starchitecture’. The construction has almost been done, and all that is needed is a final touch of genius. The Domus commission seems indeed more founded on the capacity of current architects to make objects, situations, and even complete cities ready for globalization – ‘worldproof’, as Samsonite would have it – than on using the possibility of creativity as a form of politics. The commission is overstepping exactly the question whether art, design and architecture can themselves act politically in the face of complicated, politically charged situations.
Yet, it would be too easy to condemn its procedure merely on the premises of its distanciation from the actual site. In the process of what Jeffrey Inaba – Columbia professor and former partner of AMO – calls ‘broadcasting architecture’, some buildings take on a variety of meanings as their appearances become globally exchanged images.

Building as logo
The physical appearance of an actual building, its photographic image, and its geometrical abstraction, are to some extent interchangeable. In order to be fully eligible for this interchange, however, the building needs to possess not only a recognizable shape, but also a message. So it is not just a matter of creating an abstracted ‘essence’, which will then be a logo. It is a matter of containing – within that shape – also historical and political relevance.
According to Jeffrey Inaba, ‘the logo has many advantages over a building. It can be featured on billboards, letterheads, Internet sites, magazine ads, building signage, even concierge uniforms. Infinitely reproducible and mobile, a logo extends the visible presence of the building far beyond the fixity of the physical site.’(4) When Inaba refers to ‘physical site’, he clearly does not mean urban context, because it is precisely all context that is discarded in the translation process from building to logo. A building that is itself a complicated, detailed response to its urban site and context will not necessarily be eligible for an existence as logo. Instead, isolation and autonomy are best expressed through anti-contextual shapes and forms, and so, it might be that ‘arrogant’ buildings are more fit to become logos than ‘empathic’, ‘responsive’ architectures.
The word ‘arrogant’ is misleading here insofar it would imply a moral judgment, but when Inaba speaks about ‘infinite reproduction’, it appears that he means a process of endless replication, growth and broadcasting. He implies that evolutionary success in the survival of the fittest that is the attention economy, is won by buildings that can become their own logo. If this Darwinian enterprise, with the building-logo at its heart, entails some sort of message – what then is that message, if not the tautology that architecture is omnipresent, because it is omnipresent?
It might be the politics, economies or ideologies that produced it. It is essential that this message be contained and recognized within the building’s shape – which then qualifies for the status of icon, symbol and sign alike. This corresponds to the rule that in the top echelon of trademarks and brands, a mere symbol is enough to denote the name of a firm; there is no need for additional information.
The most common message that a building-logo is telling its audience is – regardless the ideology of the architecture – the city where it can be found. This is the same for the Eiffel Tower, the Sydney Opera, the Twin Towers, or the Ryugyong Hotel.

Pyramid schemes
The ‘great tower’ is a category of building especially designed to geographically position its host city. The genre of the great tower belongs to the era of the Space Race; mere height in terms of ‘world record’ was considered a prime asset. The majority of great towers are united in a ‘World Federation of Great Towers’. Membership criteria for this federation are: ‘They must have the shape of a tower; they must be symbolic of tourism in the town or country where they are situated; they must have an Observation or Viewing Deck, with the purpose of receiving tourists at the Tower; and the construction of the tower must be completed and the tower open and functioning as an observatory/public venue.’(5)
The great tower has, after a brief existence as architectural icon, enshrined itself in archaic categories such as ‘international’, ‘tourism’ and ‘promotion’. To the great tower, a tourist is a numb recipient taking pictures of the great tower itself, and from its observation deck. This could eventually result in the consumption of a shrimp cocktail accompanied by a light alcoholic beverage, in the great tower’s revolving restaurant.
‘Tourism’ here is defined as distinctly non-culturalized, doing without the general prevalence of aesthetics, knowledge and design intensity that, according to Lash and Urry, is key to the post-industrial economy and its global flow of goods and information(6). Many of the great towers – some in variable stages of decay – share the feature of the revolving restaurant with Pyongyang’s Ryugyong Hotel.
Stefano Boeri’s analysis suggests that Ryugyong is not just an archaic pyramid, but rather a deeply reflexive, postmodern, self-aware incorporation of ‘western imagination’ into North-Korean power architecture. This makes him sidestep a more primitive and perhaps more likely reading of the hotel as the – no less frightening – physical manifestation of ‘pure progress’. Yet, Boeri’s postmodern reading, and his own postmodern treatment of Ryugyong hint at some of the essential features of buildings that are indeed eligible to become reflexive logos for their age.
If a single building is emblematic of that condition, it is the Guggenheim Bilbao museum by architect Frank Gehry. Gehry’s name is mentioned frequently when speaking of ‘broadcasting architecture’. Inaba: ‘A look at his work in this regard might warrant a re-coining of the term, “The Bilbao Effect”, to something that refers to the imagery of his architecture in the realm of media, like simply, “The Gehry Effect”. “The Bilbao Effect” profits a city that commissions a building, whereas “The Gehry Effect”is the benefit any authorized or unauthorized broadcaster receives from the use of an image of a Gehry building or its design facsimile. His buildings frequently appear in ads and music videos – almost always without a licensing fee to the architect. (...) As architecture gets broadcast, how can we influence, inspire and program broadcasting?’(7)
Inaba suggests a chain of profit where the museum-building-logo is the aesthetic-economic catalyst at the origin of financial benefits, like a chain letter, or, indeed, a pyramid scheme. Guggenheim Bilbao is a typical ‘public-private partnership’, one that economic geographer Erik Swyngedouw connects with an erosion or ‘cancelling out’ of the nation state. Instead, Swyngedouw describes the entity that initiated Guggenheim Bilbao as ‘governance beyond the state’.(8)
Rather than realizing the museum completely by themselves, the Basque authorities contacted the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in search of a joint venture. Thus, Guggenheim Bilbao is part and parcel of a development that fundamentally exceeds ‘a city that commissions a building’(9), as Inaba still calls it. Guggenheim Bilbao does substantially more than geographically locating its host city; it symbolizes the neoliberal political economy at its origins.
Art spaces and museums, as institutions, during the 1990s and afterwards, in general have shown a certain appetite to comply with the codes and philosophies of the market, by developing aesthetic and symbolic translations of its logic. Not by a straightforward application of market rules but rather by developing imperatives to stay open and flexible. As Matthew Jesse Jackson notes: ‘In their enthusiasm for institutional flexibility, the Palais (de Tokyo) and the Kokerei (Zollverein) reproduce in the very microstructures of art’s reception the instability and unpredictability celebrated in the pages of the management literature of global capitalism.’(10) He continues: ‘The present generation of art-world professionals has developed an eye for “institutional branding” on a par with that of the management seminar. The museum’s infatuation with superstar architectural design, as well as the growing prominence of curators and administrators (...) are hallmarks of this phenomenon.’(11)
We would like to argue that Guggenheim Bilbao’s message is also significantly more complicated than just that of a ‘famous building’. It signifies not just Bilbao, but rather a globalized, culturalized and aestheticized partnership.
The role of Guggenheim Bilbao in its built environment is autonomous, sculptural, to the extent that cleansing its urban surroundings is not even necessary to make it stand out as a trademark. The great towers that once were to put cities on the world map, have been replaced by reflexive, culturalized icons, permeated with aesthetics. Guggenheim Bilbao, for Erik Swyngedouw, is about a vision of the city as a ‘playing field for the elite’, and it stands for a shift from ‘social’ to ‘spatial policies’ targeting ‘places rather than people’.

Guggenheim Tora Bora
The implications for the building-logo are enormous. The Gehry Guggenheim as a logo abbreviates all of the above, and while it is to Bilbao what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, at the same time it is to globalization what Tora Bora is to terrorism. Local and global alike – glocal as Swyngedouw would say – Gehry’s museum is both rooted in, and disembedded from context.
The question is then: could (former) ‘totalitarian’ buildings – as incredibly powerful shapes – perhaps also qualify for a similar status of globalized icons? Is such a status wished for either by their current owners or by cultural entrepreneurs like Stefano Boeri? And – most importantly – could artistic engagement be enacted on the sign value of such a structure?
Graphic designer Paul Rand, in his time, was thinking from clear-cut definitions between state, commercial enterprise, political party, and religious movement, when he wrote:
‘A trademark
is a picture.
It is a symbol
a sign
an emblem
an escutcheon
... an image.
(...)
Symbols
are a duality.
They take on
meaning
from causes
...good or bad.
And they give
meaning
to causes
...good or bad.
(...)
The flag
is a symbol
of a country.
The cross
is a symbol
of a religion.
(...)
The vitality
of a symbol
comes
from effective
dissemination...
by the state
by the community
by the church
by the corporation.
(...)
Trademarks
are animate
inanimate
organic
geometric.
(...)
Ideally
they do not
illustrate
they indicate
...not
represent
but suggest...’(12)
Could new meanings in totalitarian buildings be indicated – not illustrated – and could they be suggested – not represented? And could this be done while politicizing the given context, that is, through an act of engagement?

The House of People
Jacques Rancière sees the domain of aesthetics as deeply connected with the political, because aesthetics, or the sensibility that belongs to them, can turn around existing relations and hierarchies: ‘The aesthetic regime of the arts stands in contrast with the representative regime. I call this regime aesthetic because the identification of art no longer occurs via a division within ways of doing and making, but it is based on distinguishing a sensible mode of being specific to artistic products. (...) The word “aesthetic” refers to the specific mode of being of whatever falls within the domain of art, to the mode of being the objects of art. In the aesthetic regime (...) a product is identical with something not produced, knowledge transformed into non-knowledge, logos identical with pathos, the intention of the unintentional.’(13)
While Rancière mandates aesthetics to act politically, he withholds representation from it. This distinction seems important as we go further into the possibility of changing the meaning of a ‘totalitarian’ icon, because such a building/icon coincides with the (former) site of power while at the same time being a symbol of it – as is any logo. Can the place of power, as a symbol, be altered so that its symbolic message contests its physical, intellectual and political ownership, and therewith, its representative bond towards a (former) political regime? Can the sign, the building-logo, the site of power, be re-occupied?
The French political philosopher Claude Lefort claims that the site of power, in a democracy, is conceived as a void. Modernity, according to Lefort, is about a ‘disincarnation’ of society. No single figure or leader can embody society’s unity, symbolically linking it to a higher order. Then, although the sovereign may have disappeared, his place still remains as empty. Slavoj Zizek notes that ‘Lefort conceptualised democratic space as sustained by the Real and the Symbolic; in a democracy, the place of power is structurally empty; nobody has the “natural right” to occupy it, those who exert power can do so only temporarily and should not ever coalesce with its place.’(14) The empty place of power is used by Lefort to analyze how totalitarian regimes operate and manifest themselves symbolically. He sees these regimes attempting to fill the empty place of power with a ‘materialization of the people’ – a ‘people-as-one’.
Former Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu did the same, when he called the Bucharest governmental building, conceived during his dictatorship, the ‘House of People’, or Casa Poporului.
The House is usually read as the symbol of Ceausescu’s regime. To a large extent, it is even universally symbolic for megalomania proper. And it is, involuntarily, the prime urban landmark of Bucharest, amassing what Romania was capable of industrially, technically, and logistically. By calling the palace, contradictory to all that it was and is, a ‘House of People’, Ceausescu seems conscious of the issue of ownership and occupation of the place of power. This was addressed during the curious speed trial that he and his wife Elena underwent at a military base northwest of Bucharest, on December 25, 1989, just before both of them were executed:
Prosecutor: In the same way he refused to hold a dialogue with the people, now he also refuses to speak with us. He always claimed to act and speak on behalf of the people, to be a beloved son of the people, but he only tyrannized the people all the time.
(…)
Elena Ceausescu: Incredible. We live in a normal apartment, just like every other citizen. We have ensured an apartment for every citizen through corresponding laws.(…)
Prosecutor: You had palaces.
Ceausescu: No, we had no palaces. The palaces belong to the people.’(15)
After the establishment of democracy in Romania, in 1994, parliament moved in, by which the House once again became the seat of power. Its name, subsequently, became Palatul Parlamentului. Romanian architect and critic Mariana Celac notes that the palace is ‘haunted by ambiguity’ (16), implying that in it and through it, a series of different meanings coexist.
Through ethically and aesthetically predetermined eyes, the building is simultaneously overwhelming, fascinating and disgusting.
Overwhelming through its massive physicality. Such a purely physical reading of the palace conceals its ideological pretext, though. Insisting on how the palace is objectively big de-politicizes its reading; one then compares it to the great towers, the Egyptian pyramids, the Louvre, or even the Great Barrier Reef.
The building is fascinating, in its isolation and loneliness, if only because its unadorned silhouette is the prime logo of what is looked upon as ‘totalitarian rule’ in Europe.
And then, it is also disgusting, thinking of the urban destruction and physical labour involved to realize it. All sacrifice made, razing one fifth of Romania’s capital, has merely resulted in a grotesquely enlarged birthday cake. The palace has been constructed of ‘grand’ forms, but the historical context and reference points for the myth and glory the architecture implies are missing, resulting in a freefall into non-reference.
Classicist forms, disembedded from history or context, here create a non-place as defined by Marc Augé. A disconnection from time and history, and an absence of relations, are enforced through the endless repetition of arcades and ballrooms that remind artists Mona Vatamanu and Florin Tudor of the digitized setting for the computer game Lara Croft Tomb Raider.(17)
Sociologist Renata Salecl supports such readings of the palace: ‘Even in the most admired American contemporary architectural inventions – the shopping malls and Disneyland – one can find points of comparison with Ceausescu’s project. What Ceausescu’s project and the mall also have in common is surveillance. The palace thus functions like the surveillance tower in Bentham’s Panopticon, where the observer remains hidden but his all-penetrating gaze is (...) always present.’(18)
Since 2004, the Palace of Parliament houses the National Museum of Contemporary Art, or MNAC. The museum constitutes a glass and concrete geometrical volume inserted in the rear façade of the palace. It is here, that a museum is realized not at a distance but at the place of power itself, literally opening up the walls of the building. MNAC in theory would seem to have an enormous capability of changing the meaning of the totalitarian icon, yet, it being located in the House of People is of an even greater impact to the museum.

Symbols of the multitude
According to Lefort, totalitarian regimes aim at materializing the ‘peope-as-one’at the empty place of power. These materializations of ‘the people’, in reverse, are from a democratic viewpoint ‘totalitarian architectures’, if only because the diversity and vibrancy of an actual people are not represented through these sites. There is nothing about these sites that recognizes difference. It is here, that the very idea of ‘the people’ should be called into question. Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt argue consequently that ‘the people often serves as a middle term between the consent given by the population and the command exerted by the sovereign power, but generally the phrase serves merely as a pretense to validate a ruling authority.’(19)
They claim that ‘political action aimed at transformation and liberation today can only be conducted on the basis of the multitude. To understand the concept of the multitude in its most general and abstract form, let us contrast it first with that of the people. The people is one. The population, of course, is composed of numerous different individuals and classes, but the people synthesizes or reduces these social differences into one identity. The multitude, by contrast, is not unified but remains plural and multiple. This is why, according to the dominant tradition of political philosophy, the people can rule as a sovereign power and the multitude cannot. The multitude is conceived of a set of singularities – and by singularity here we mean a social subject whose difference cannot be reduced to sameness (...)’(20)
In their effort to substantialize and unify what is not one – the multitude – Negri and Hardt call into question any singular understanding of ‘the people’ as a national, geographical or physical unity. We would argue that, in search for symbols, the defunct symbols of totalitarian rule qualify to be re-occupied as symbols for the multitude – precisely on the basis of their failure to represent ‘the people’. Such a re-possession would do justice to their globalized impact, to their growing status as negative instances of ‘starchitecture’ .
Coen Stork, former Dutch ambassador in Bucharest, describes how the House of People was opened to the public after Ceausescu’s fall. Visitors were handed out forms with suggestive questions such as: Do you like it? Are you proud of it? Should it be finished? The greater part of answers was positive – accounting of, as Stork calls it, a ‘confusion’(21) among the Romanian people about how to relate to the palace, what to think of it – lacking the foundation to unambiguously reject it as the palace itself, simultaneously, was a foundation. Romanian poet Ana Blandiana had called the building the ‘copy of a nightmare’ – in other words, now that the building is openly frightening, it is not even authentic at that. A powerful vision that nevertheless brings to mind Stefano Boeri’s verdict of the Ryugyong Hotel.
In order to influence the meaning of the House of People, its underlying traumas, but also its undeniable quality in being ‘uncivilized’ architecture, it might have to be ‘squatted’ or re-possessed as a symbol. Strangely enough, this is now already happening with the way in which the House and the museum are internationally marketed. Like the great towers, also the House of People is able to exclusively pinpoint its host city – but like the Guggenheim Bilbao, other stories are told simultaneously, with contradictory outcomes. It is this simultaneous existence of many narratives and dilemmas in the building – the ‘puzzling’ effect – that makes it an outstanding symbol. Perhaps we could re-occupy the House as the involuntary symbol for the multitude, the potential entity of global resistance that critically shows how the ‘people-as-one’ never existed as such.
MNAC’s artistic director Ruxandra Balaci states that the palace is ‘a challenge – huge, ironic, grotesque, everything’, while ‘the younger generation is disposed to forget the past,’ she says, ‘to look to the future.’(22) But especially when looking at the future, the issues of artistic engagement and the capability of imagination to think and act politically, seem crucial. Buildings become symbols, precisely because as different meanings co-exist in them, we can never completely forget about one meaning when addressing the other.
Importantly though: imagination should not wait for an outside legitimation to repossess the sign that is the building. The people, the multitude and artistic engagement are, in that sense, the same: their political moment is not in being given power, but in taking it.

Notes
1 Domus issue 882, June 2005
2 See www.domusweb.it
3 ibid.
4 ‘C-Lab: Broadcasting Architecture’, in: Volume, issue 3, September 2005
5 See www.greattowers.com
6 Scott Lash and John Urry, Economies of Signs & Space, London: Sage Publications, 1994
7 ‘C-Lab: Broadcasting Architecture’, in: Volume, issue 3, September 2005
8 Erik Swyngedouw, lecture, Jan van Eyck Academie, Maastricht, November 3 2006
9 ‘C-Lab: Broadcasting Architecture’, in: Volume, issue 3, September 2005
10 Matthew Jesse Jackson, ‘Managing the Avant-Garde’, in: New Left Review, March-April 2005
11 ibid.
12 Paul Rand, A Designer’s Art, New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1985
13 Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics, London: Continuum, 2004
14 ibid.
15 See www.timisoara.com/timisoara/rev/trialscript.html
16 Mariana Celac, conversation, April 2005
17 MNAC inaugural catalogue, 2004
18 Renata Salecl, ‘For love of the nation: Ceausescu’s Disneyland’, in: Archis, issue 3, 2000
19 Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Multitude, London: Penguin, 2006
20 ibid.
21 Coen Stork, conversation, November 2006
22 See arts.guardian.co.uk/features/story/0,11710,1380212,00.html

© Meta Haven: Design Research 2006
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