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Seminars in Social Aesthetics

2011 Seminars

June 9

Cartography and creativity: working the image – acting out socio-aesthetics

Anders Michelsen

The presentation introduces a novel conception of architecture developed in the past decade by The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture, Study Department 6 in Copenhagen, under the direction of Cort Ross Dinesen. The department has been dealing with architectural drawing as the aesthetic means to practice an appropriate architecture for an ‘already-always’ built environment. This is an architecture that does not depart from the conception of a well-defined, enclosed built structure, but rather researches the topographies of existing spaces in order to articulate an aesthetic for the ‘already-always’ built, beyond the classic modern distinction between building, zone and urbanism, or, nature/culture. Over the past decade, the department has developed a number of approaches in intense seminars and summer schools to what is termed diagrammatical drawing (computer rendering) that grows out of the cutting up, abstraction, and generative topological development of figures and formal elements which are composed by the search for aesthetic intensity and relevance. One may consider these as diagrammatic machines that operate in an artificial continuum and its probable topologies. This is a space which in certain places may be deformed and changed by pursuing aesthetic intensity, ‘flattened’ out as intense drawing.

In recent projects the point of departure has been urban fields—derived from anonymous segments of Berlin, Paris and Tokyo, suburban areas, areas without clear demarcations, partly ruined, which open up the artifice of a fully exhausted space, within which there is no pristine or essential basis for architecture. These segments are represented by aerial photography, which is used as the “matter” – stuff, for “architectural events” – or ‘cuts’ by diagrammatic drawing.

In the most recent project-seminar, cartographic approaches have been applied by developing aerial photography from Berlin, Paris and Tokyo. The photographies are explored by using digital Google Earth imagery which can ‘enter’ into the aerial view and investigate the details of the image by focusing on specific topographical features. By interacting with the Google Earth imagery, the topography in question can be manipulated and radicalised by singling out anamorphic, somewhat diffuse results of the transformation, which become the point of departure for further abstractions of the aerial representations. If the anamorphs are interesting enough from the aesthetic viewpoint they are chosen for “architectural events”—or ‘cuts’—and an aesthetical process ensues. The presentation will show a number of examples from the department’s projects, from outlines and students' assignment to finished Masters’ thesis work.

In terms of reflective theory the presentation will stress four issues:

  1. The issue of the always-already built artificial environment, with point of departure in Paul Virilio’s Bunker Archeology;
  2. The issue of en-cultured ‘third spacing’ (Soja) beyond “perceptive” first space or a “conceptive” second space, producing thereby new framework for architecture indicated by the diagrammatic drawing;
  3. Critical reflection on the relation between the “visibility” and “say-ability” (Deleuze) in historical formations and strata, as a measure of the ensuing aesthetic;
  4. The prospect of a socio-aesthetics by way of such an artificial environment and in relation to Castoriadis’s idea of “humanity’s self- creation”.

Anders Michelsen is Associate Professor and Director of Studies at the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen. In the 1990s Michelsen worked as an art critic and curator of art and design exhibitions, including the art exhibitions Welfare. 5 Pieces (with Morten Salling) Paris 1995 and Interzones (with Octavio Zaya), Copenhagen and Uppsala 1996, and Inspiration or Plagiary? on creativity in design (with Martin Christiansen) Copenhagen, 2001-2002. Michelsen coordinated the first Master’s program in Visual Culture Studies in Denmark. He is the author of many catalogue texts, newspaper articles, contributions to surveys and reports, reviews, the co-author of two books, Art in the Age of Media and The Design Machine: Design of the Modern World, and the co-editor of the collections Art Theory: Positions in Contemporary Art Discourse, Images From Afar: Scientific Visualization, and Space and Phenomenology: philosophy, aesthetics, architecture, history as well as the forthcoming three volume collection on the notion of visuality, Trans-visuality: Dimensioning the visual in a visual culture, and a volume on design thought, Designfilosofi. Forskning og kreativitet.

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