Assemblage - Baroque Topographies

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  • Baroque TopographiesAuthor(s): Georges TeyssotSource: Assemblage, No. 41 (Apr., 2000), p. 79Published by: The MIT PressStable URL: 10/09/2009 19:23

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  • Baroque Topographies

    1. Catoptric device placed on rotating platform, from Johannes Zahn, Oculus artificialis Teledioptricus (Wurzburg, 1685).

    There is an interesting parallel between the mirror represented in Diego Velazquez's Las Meniiias (1656) and that in Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's Monadology (1714). The horizon of the absolutism of represen- tation in Las Menifias is confirmed by its later philosophical translation in Leibniz, for whom the monad is a "living and per- petual mirror of the Universe" (S 56). For the baroque philosopher, "nothing can limit itself to represent only part of things," and so "each Monad represents the whole universe" (S 60 & 62). In The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque (1993), Gilles Deleuze observes that baroque space offers not only monads that "have no windows," but also the devices of the camera obscura, or of the catoptric box. Catoptric boxes, the example of an internalized world, employed differ- ent configurations of mirror-lined spaces. Athanasius Kircher's treatise Ars magna lucis et umbrae (1646) and later Johannes Zahn's Oculus artificialis Teledioptricus (1685) described in detail various types of these reflective, "multimedia" machines. Zahn's hexagonal catoptric device was com-

    posed of compartments with mirror-lined dividers that had a peephole in the center front; when looked at through this opening, each scene depicted was multiplied six times and appeared to fill the entire cabi- net. The various scenes contained in this box, largely either gardens or architectural compositions, constituted microcosmic landscapes magically disposed. In the sec- ond edition of the Oculus artificialis (1702), Zahn designed an architectural counterpart to his box, the "Conclave Catoptricum," which was a hexagonal room-within-a-room on top of a base that, once entered, revealed itself to be lined with mirrors on every sur- face, except for a band of semitranslucent material around the top of the walls that al- lowed light to enter indirectly through the outer room. The ceiling was painted with clouds, appearing to give a perfect model of the Leibnizian subject-as-building: divided between the body as base, the ground floor opened to the world through windows rep- resenting the five senses; and the mind or soul, totally enclosed and internalized but providing a gateway to the infinite beyond. The mind, as monad, was represented as an entire world simply because, through mul- tiple reflections, it had the capacity to rep- resent and imagine the whole world within its bounds. In fact, for Deleuze, monadic space is "the architectural idea [of] a room in black marble, in which light enters only through orifices so well bent that nothing on the outside can be seen through them, yet they illuminate in color the decor of a pure inside." Curiously, he illustrates this definition not by the catoptric architecture of Zahn, but by the light canons of Le Corbusier's chapel in the Convent of La Tourette. If the freestanding baroque facade presents itself as "an outside without an in- side," then monadic interiors are "an inside without an outside": this inside is "pure," it is the "closed interiority," "its walls hung with spontaneous folds," of a soul or a mind. In the baroque period, these two spaces of pure exteriority and interiority

    are coexistent; pure interiority and pure exteriority inhabit "a similar house," which is a virtual house. Today, the neo- Leibnizian house is a reference to the fold, articulating the difference. While the ba- roque fold was thus the actualization of the difference between soul and body, inside and outside, what now establishes the differ- entiation is the "twofold," or "the differen- tiation of difference." This is because the fold is always double, and one side cannot be suppressed without suppressing the other. As Samuel Beckett wrote in The Unnamable (1953): "There is an outside and an inside, and myself in the middle, this is perhaps what I am, the thing that di- vides the world in two, on one side the out- side, on the other the inside, it can be thin like a blade, I am neither on one side nor on the other, I am in the middle, I am the wall, I have two faces [surfaces] and no depth." Not only a medium between mind and matter, the fold - as mirror, as wall, as screen - is also traditionally a mediator between the infinite and the finite, the in- terior and the exterior, the virtual and the actual. As such, the fold concretizes the "twinness" of the between, the "twoness" of the twofold, and the "twain" of opposites; the separator, in other words, that falls between the two terms.

    2. "Conclave Catoptricum," from Zahn, Oculus artificialis (Nurnberg, 1702).

    Georges Teyssot 79

    Article Contentsp. 79

    Issue Table of ContentsAssemblage, No. 41 (Apr., 2000), pp. 1-99Front Matter [pp. 1 - 5][Introduction] [p. 3]After All, or the End of "The End of" [pp. 6 - 7][Article by Stan Allen] [p. 8]Mundane Constraints [p. 9]FluxSpace 2.0 [p. 10]A Reflection on the End of "Assemblage" [p. 11][Article by Ann Bergren] [p. 12][Article by John Biln] [p. 13][Article by Jennifer Bloomer and Robert Segrest] [p. 14]Assemblages, or Black Boxes and Urban Theories: Then and Now [p. 15]The Mutable Life of Architecture [p. 16]La Belle Fathma, c'est moi . . . [p. 17]Bona Fide Modernity [p. 18]Farewell to "Assemblage" [p. 19][Article by Julia Czerniak] [p. 20]Letter from Pierre-Joseph Proudhon to Karl Marx [p. 21][Article by Peggy Deamer] [p. 22]Make Architecture Sound [p. 23]Response [p. 24]Blur: Swiss EXPO 2002 Diller + Scofidio, Ear Studio, MIT Media Lab [p. 25]The Burdens of Autobiography [p. 26]The Winking Eye: Contested Occularcentrism in Postcolonial Queer Space [p. 27]The Materia Prima of Architecture [p. 28][Article by Douglas Garofalo] [p. 29][Article by James D. Herbert] [p. 30]Warchitecture [p. 31]What about Kevin Roche? [p. 32]The Course of the Discourse [p. 33]The M.Arch. Program: A King with No Clothes [p. 34]Between Words and Form [p. 35]The Cambridge Editors Who Now "Assemblage" Fold [p. 36]Trying Not to Avoid Propositions, Altogether [p. 37]With Prejudice, without Polemic [p. 38]I [p. 39]The New Mood or Affective Disorder [p. 40][Article by Pamela M. Lee] [p. 41]"Architecture and . . ." [p. 42]Hotel for Aesthetic Interference, restad, Denmark [p. 43]Five Lines (There Are No Points.) [p. 44]Memoryware [p. 45][Article by LIQUID Incorporated] [p. 46]A New Style of Life [p. 47]The Look of the Object [p. 48]Double Agency [p. 49][Article by Robert McAnulty] [p. 50]Theory and Practice [p. 51]Architecture Dissolving? [p. 52]In Memoriam [p. 53]Re-Assemblage [p. 54][Article by Rafael Moneo] [p. 55]The Ends of Theory: From the Editor's Forward to the "Assemblage" Reader [p. 56][Article by MVRDV] [p. 57]Project(ion)s [p. 58]A Resonance Chamber [p. 59]Dumppit: Dump It Here & Dump It Now [p. 60][Article by Joan Ockman] [p. 61]Aut Caesar, Aut Nihil: De Appetitu Materiae [p. 62]Testing Homes for America [p. 63]Speaking in Syllables [p. 64][Article by Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto] [p. 65]P.S. (Overcoding) [p. 66][Article by Mark Robbins] [p. 67][Article by Joseph Rosa] [p. 68][Article by Martha Rosler] [p. 69][Article by Lindy Roy] [p. 70]Project for Dark Matter [p. 71][Article by Mark Scogin and Merrill Elam] [p. 72]War on the Archive [p. 73]The Plan as a Tool [p. 74]Colloidal Suspension: "The New Image of the World" [p. 75][Article by Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects] [p. 76]A Master Plan for East Jerusalem, 1999 [p. 77]Which Way Avant-Garde? [p. 78]Baroque Topographies [p. 79][Article by Bernard Tschumi] [p. 80]Agitate for Architecture [p. 81]Genericity, Perhaps [p. 82][Article by Mark Wigley] [p. 83]A Narrative of Domestic Space and Urban Migration [p. 84]Hand-Me-Downs: "Assemblage"'s New Clothes [p. 85]Dis-Armor [pp. 86 - 87]Re:viewCritical Reflections [pp. 88 - 89]Autonomy and the Will to the Critical [pp. 90 - 91]In the Wake of "Assemblage" [pp. 92 - 93]

    Back Matter [pp. 94 - 99]