Tuesday, May 08, 2007

roboats rowbots

I just returned from the BLDGBLOG filmfest, and things are probably still too close to really make a salient comment, but here's a first shot before I collapse.

Watching these (fairly fast-paced) slideshow presentations was watching architectural expressionism brought to an extreme (and often ludicrous) end, over and over and over again. A general formal concept or analogy was adopted, adapted, transformed, and repeated until it formed a unified backdrop for cinematic action. It made me feel like I had two options: scoff or accept. Either these people were ridiculous and their work has no real effect on the built environment, or I would have to realize that these people are condensing the stuff of our present futurity, registering how our society thinks we should be building, today, for tomorrow. There did not seem to be a middle ground; how can you mediate between those two poles? From my phrasing you can probably tell which side I landed on. Yes, a lot of the work was based upon previous ideas of futurity, whether HG Wells or Star Wars. Yes, these projects are (as professed by the artists) a flimsy shell around a few salient angles and overall ideas, only meant to stand up for a few seconds, from a few angles. The images are created at incredible speed, populated and then filtered by committee until something approximating the right tone is reached. In other words, these are not bold singular visions or demands; they are collaged approximations of a conjectural moment. And, as such, they are actually more powerful, because this makes them thin and nimble enough to cut holes in our accepted reality.

Some of this work was so similar to the current glossy techno-expressionism as to seem almost a parody; but honestly, if this stuff is a valid way of approaching architecture, how would these guys do if given a thousand percent more time, and the constraints of reality? It's been acceptable for the last thirty-odd years to profess admiration for previous incarnations of stage-set architecture, from Versailles to Las Vegas. So why does Disneyland have a current monopoly on obsessively detailed falsity? Why aren't these guys doing casinos? Why can I go to any high-end shopping center and get rigorously approximated pasts, but no futures? There is room for some biomorphic aggregation in my local strip mall. I can feel it.

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