SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE? [1]

     Enter the Void (France) 2009, written and directed by Gaspar Noé, starring Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, and Cyril Roy

 

Enter the Void (France) 2009, written and directed by Gaspar Noé, starring Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, and Cyril Roy

Living in a vapid society. While writing this text a sibling is looking at ‘Exposé’ on TV3 [2]. The presenter and the professional stylist are describing clothes for the coming months. The adjectives used to describe the clothes are exclusively periods from the twentieth century, “very fifties”, “sixties inspired with elements of forties” etc. There is no dialogue as to why these new clothes echo time periods, there no self-awareness or meaning behind what they say beyond the fleeting moments of the time in which they are said. Given this is an entertainment program, however, society is full of this type of consumerism, which avoids delving into the reasoning or procedure for new things. I believe these values projected from media and entertainment shows do penetrate the psyche. My mother chastised the same sibling in the weeks previous for taking a side table from the living room as it was ‘a period piece’. I interjected and asked her (admittedly with a tone of condescension) ‘what period?’ She did not reply. This table although made of decent materials, was made not more than two years ago, and harks of no particular period, being a mix of several to combine to form something with genuinely bad proportion. Our house contains a continuous stream of similar items, inkjet printed canvas ‘paintings’, curtains of sufficient width to look good when hung but not wide enough to be able to fully close, kitsch ornamented objects chosen to match the colour of the room, etc. It is a place entirely manufactured, devoid of meaning, understanding, need or interest.

Is it time that we designers projected meaning as aggressively as media projects consumerism?

Linenhall is very soon poised to become the center for architectural learning and research in the capital and with this opportunity to occupy a single building, brings new found autonomy and freedom to occupy a place and have greater freedom to experiment and exchange ideas than ever before. The danger however, is the potential for the school to become insular and isolated from the college, the institution and perhaps from society at large. A concentrated effort must be made from the beginning to provide the infrastructure and mechanisms to facilitate the meaningful projection of the ideas and the values that gestate within the walls to society at large. It will be very easy to become engrossed in the singular design process and the academic structures which support the course and not engage with the wider city on a continuous basis. It will be essential if our culture is to gain any traction in the mind-set of the people.

This brief for this project was to make a mark on the building and occupy it in some way that has a positive impact on the place. I have occupied the building for an entire year and feel that anything other than the altering of the organization of the building is secondary and plainly cosmetic. Although small interventions can be stimulating for a day or so, architecture is primarily about the quality of the space and its ability to provide for comfortable operation of one’s day to day tasks in the building and facilitate their objectives.

This project is an opportunity to create an ideal school. Documented in a series of images, drawings and models. Used as inspiration for contemporary planning and historically as a vision of the future of architecture in our city. Architecture is a primary tool to affect quality of life and is done through the dissemination of acquired knowledge to a person seeking to build something. It uses drawings to communicate the final outcome, but in that outcome are a host of creative mediums which inform and effect the architecture. Writing, painting, industrial design, film, sculpture, theatre, political debate, science, poetry, language, photography, packaging, invention, the economy form the zeitgeist. The school of architecture as it stands produces good professionals, but could be a source of redistribution of the very influences which it accumulates and somehow expand and accept a developed role in sharing cultural values and perspective with society.

‘Enter the Void’ [Gaspar Noé, 2009], is a film which takes the chaos and depravity of underground Toyko, and manipulates the city into a fictionalized setpiece of intense light and imagery. The cinematic experience itself is the main focus of the film, but explores the tragedgy of emptiness. It is a fantastical distopia, a world of superficialiality and gratification perceived by a lost soul after death. Noé describes the film’s subject matter as “the sentimentality of mammals and the shimmering vacuity of the human experience”[3]. It follows the death of its central character early on and follows through the first person, the spirit’s search for a way to reincarnate [4]. This is perhaps one film which overlaps with art, in that it has a pertinent message about contemporary human existence in the abstract. The films imagery and indeed its experience are powerful means of communication by the writer/director. Linenhall is similarly complex. It is architecturally disjointed and severe. But through imagery and light could its internal activities be extroverted and shared? Through light could the fear of the unknown be overcome?

An experiential vision adopted by the school of architecture at Linenhall.

[1] The Society of the Spectacle (La Société du Spectacle) is a work of philosophy and critical theory by Guy Debord. It was first published in 1967 in France and largely discusses consumerism in society.

[2] Exposé (TV3 Ireland) Series[tbd] Episode[tbd]. Retrieved from: www.tv3.ie/expose/watch/etc 9:41 24.11.2011

[3] “Interview Gaspar Noé” - Enter the Void Press Kit, Wild Bunch (Distributors). http://www.festival-cannes.com/assets/Image/Direct/029848.pdf    22:20 29.10.2011

[4] As described in the ‘Tibetan Book of the Dead’ and mentioned in the dialogue at the begining of the film.

[5] Enter the Void (France) 2009, written and directed by Gaspar Noé, starring Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, and Cyril Roy

[6] ‘Bardo Thodol’ / ‘Liberation Through Hearing During The Intermediate State’ also known as ‘Tibetan Book of the Dead’

The excellent Enter the Void credit sequence. Video is posted under fair use as an example of film technique - Intro or Title Sequence. Thanks to everyone involved in the making of the film. The track in the second half is LFO - Freak.