Synopsis – The Mississippi river was coerced in place, the same way the leaders of today implement their worlds. Through hard, material means. My aim is to introduce elements to soften the process, to ultimately create a labyrinth of simultaneous conditions. Just like that of a swamp: a condition of land and water, at the same time. To do that, I will intervene at the level of the institutions which are constantly creating our past, present and future and soften their existence and their functioning.
This is a segment of the Mississippi river, and all the courses it took since the Paleozoic Era. An great study accomplished in just three years by Harold Fisk in 1944. By then, the river had been fixed to one single course, and that because after the 1927 flood – the biggest flood of that river to date- the US army corp of engineers implemented an extensive levee system to keep the river in place. That was also done to straighten out all the kinks and make it easier for timber rafts, and oil and gas barges to navigate.
The result of that was the dramatic disappearance of the Louisiana shoreline, due to the disappearance of sediments that the river used to provide.
The river was constrained in place and time through a hard, mechanical and permanent intervention.
2. PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS
This setting in stone isn’t something we’ve left in the past. In fact it’s something that’s reemerging in the world today.
Leaders like Erdogan want to restore the glory of the Ottoman Empire, Moguls like Elon musk want to colonize new planets and people like Trump want to build 30 foot long border walls.
These individuals are constantly creating the past, present and future. Their hard ends are being pushed forward through a variety of types of means. Hard ones: like building gigantic tools, and monuments. and Softer ones, like communicating via twitter and promoting artificial intelligence.
I’m interested in this duality of conditions that are constantly negotiating with each other, and that, in my opinion need to always exist at the same time.
What do I mean by hard and by soft?
Hard is everything that is material and physical transformation, that consumes or exudes energy, that involves a thermodynamic reaction. Everything that is allocating possessions and definitively occupying space.
Whereas soft is everything that is informational, conceptual, and communicatory. Everything that is about malleability in form, existence or material. Everything that is indefinite.
If hard is about demarcating, soft is about bridging.
However, I’m not interested in a Hegemony of the soft, like that of the movement of the 60’s. Because a hegemony is a singular world, not a multiple or simultaneous one.
I’m interested in having both these qualities create a labyrinth.
A landscape, constant folding between hard and soft, solid liquid and gaseous, past present and future.
A clear analogy to that idea is the swamp the simultaneous and symbiotic liquid and solid environment-. If pantopia is a swamp, its edges would be the constant ‘coming soon’ cliff hanger before we step on the dry land or water surrounding.
This is the pantopian condition, a condition of blurred edges and of of fuzziness.
Similarly to the physical conditions that allows for any material to be solid, liquid and gaseous at the same time.
So what are the mechanisms that could be manipulated to reach this swampy condition?
I’m interested in this notion of creating the past, present and future, and how entire institutions (which sometimes means a single individual) use multiple dispositifs to do so.
Namely, building monuments, selling promises, and imagining tools.
Monuments that could take the form of a masterplan or a building, constantly thinking about the legacy to be left.
Promises that feed our need for instant gratification.
And Tools that turn us into pioneers.
The idea is that by softening these institutions, softening their mechanisms and what they produce, we can speculate on how to transform them, to investigate their conditions and practices beyond their factual situation in urban space and their, in my opinion, hard contributions to culture.
Conceptually, to soften something is to endow it with the property to lose memory of its form. To make it malleable.
Softer institutions will produce and utilize softer dispositifs, to make the land of Pantopia.
What if there was a softening agent, behaving differently on different institutional headquarters?
This series of provocations tries to imagine what that could mean for architecture.
First action is Archaeologizing: carefully dismantling St Paul’s, which dictates so much of the city’s development, and laying out the pieces as if they were an archaeological find.
The idea here is what if the religious institution doesn’t need to be about the crucifix floor plan as much as it needs to be about about singular introspective moments on an open collective platform?
What if perforating the bank of england allowed it to get more rooted , as a financial institution, in the workings of the city.
What if displacing the tate modern unpinned the art institution from its singular point in place, both locally and globally. What if It wasn’t london that was know for its art scene, but the thames instead. How could that affect other areas?
What if abstracting the materiality of the British museum allowed us to view history as engaging rather than crystalized?