Architecture and the Technoaesthetics of the Environment

by ytheory

I’m speaking at a symposium tomorrow, in Bilbao, titled ‘Processing Environments’, organised by the AA Visiting School. My own contribution revisits the notion of the ‘phantasmagoria’ – as addressed not only by Benjamin, but also by Adorno is his critique of the staging of Wagner’s operas – as a means of conceiving contemporary architecture and its ‘technoaesthetics’. I’m also drawing quite heavily, where I go back to Benjamin and Adorno, and to Wagner and Art Nouveau, to a great essay by Susan Buck-Morss titled ‘Aesthetics and Anaesthetics: Walter Benjamin’s Artwork Essay Reconsidered ‘ from 1992. Anyway here’s the abstract of my paper:

Emergent, self-organising, networked, algorithmic, complex…contemporary models of organisational processes have themselves now spread rhizomatically across and between science, politics, economics and technology. The effect has been to make contemporary capitalism appear as something like a mirror of nature; a reflection in which its productive powers are affirmed, and through which ‘our’ environmental concerns are (mis)recognised. Architecture too, of course, has come to embrace these same processual and organisational models. It has also endowed them with an aesthetic or ‘style’. This presentation offers a critique of this aesthetic and its affirmation of a ‘total environment’ in which the processes of capital are rendered indistinguishable from those of life itself.