One understands the present condition by a vocabulary constructed by memory. The perception of the present moment is distorted through a translation of the present space and time built with a fragmented lexicon - in addition, memories are inherently distorted due to the distance between the past and present.
The materialization of the collapsed two-dimensional plane, becomes an archive for socially and economically defined aesthetics. The two-dimensional plane serves as an analogy to the perception of the present state. The plane becomes a conduit of traces along one’s origin.
The semiotics, or, the manifestations of imago, become signifiers in which one can navigate to his or her origin. Semiotics are individually defined through one’s perception and/or through one’s culture. The system that structurally holds the semiotics could also become an image onto itself, a manifestation, or man-made construct to understand the phenomena of relationships between the culturally and socially defined . It is the architect’s responsibility to archive the signs, language, and script in a shadowy resistance; to manifest the conduit that captures the language with the intention of telling the history of a city. The collapse of the past, the present, and the future creates a net that seizes everything along the pathway to the origin leading to a constructed narrative of the immediate past.
By meditating on the rotation of Mondrian’s canvas, John Hejduk developed the ability to capture the flight of the bird. Hedjuk utilized the shadowy-resistance of the two dimensional drawing plane, the piece of paper and its constraints, to build and create places of inhabitation. The two-dimensional plane collapses the three dimensions of the space in which it represents — the future, the past, and the present.
Within the construction documents for the renovation of the Cooper Union Foundation Building are east-west Hejdukian obliques perpendicular to the Foundation Building’s preserved façade that, in actuality, faces north south. The oblique proposes the collapse of space into a linear space, that of the yellowed paper, now saturated with light and time. The collapsed space expresses a relationship, perhaps even a critique, of the faciality inherent within the preservation of the Foundation Building’s façade.
The two-dimensional space becomes inhabitable in the Wall House Series (1967-73). As one approaches the two dimensional frame of the wall, one anticipates inhabiting the moment of piercing through the artifice. The pierce of the artifice are what surrealists call the state of “awakening.” The inhabitant studies and meditates the volumes and architectural forms in which lead the inhabitant to the penetration of the two-dimensional frame of the wall. It is in this moment, where the juxtaposition between the formation of the present condition and the inhabitation of the present moment collapses onto itself.
The reappearance of the Wall House theme culminates in the project Cathedral (1996). The project intended as a summation of Hejduk’s investigation with the architectural ‘still-life’ the collapsed two-dimensional plane and wall condition is amplified in the repeated penetrations constructed between the formal elements and the vertical wall of the cathedral. Here, the vertical wall becomes a net for the culturally defined aesthetics that are traces to one’s origin.
“To be within the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art is to be within a spiritual place, an authentic place. An institution that is lovingly held in trust. A place that believes one of society’s prime social responsibilities is towards learning and education in the deepest sense. It’s a place that contributes to thought, free thought, thought that is exploratory thought, founded by Peter Cooper, a man with a vision that still sustains and maintains the spirit of place and cares for enlightenment.
I don’t think there are many things more important than being a student. That, to me, is the deepest social contract, to understand the idea that individual creativity within a willing community is a profound social act. The privilege of being teachers and students within this remarkable place- to be teachers in a place of spirit, to be teachers of spirit, and to be spirited students.
All one can do is celebrate one’s discipline.”
Schizophrenic Memory of Chinatown, Manhattan
B. Arch Thesis 2013
Current historic preservation emphasizes faciality, lending itself to construct national memory built by fragments. Schizophrenia, used as an analogy, describes the postmodern society — one that maintains a culture that lacks historical continuity and is increasingly saturated with signs that represent the immediate past. The semiotics of preserved urban space become socio/political instruments to establish a fabricated memory for the collective consciousness.
Schizophrenia is a socially and economically defined diagnosis of a mental illness with the inherent operation to treat a victim of a fragmented perception. The treatment of the schizophrenic is to emphasize the fragmented mind and thus be able to commercialize a state of wholeness.
Deleuze and Guttari criticize the rhetorical treatment of the schizophrenic. The treatment utilizes a system for ego formation. Inherently within the schizophrenic diagnosis, the schizophrenic has the inability to separate oneself from his or her present environment due to a lack of historical continuity. The schizophrenic treatment has often meant violently imposing the Oedipal cycle, which is defined characteristic of the normal psychic development.
Reactionary, the schizophrenic scrambles, codes, and reconfigures the psychoanalytic dialogue. Ultimately, the schizophrenic builds a revolutionary perception and thus, he or she refuses to be Oedipalized. The revolutionary perception, through the process of reification, becomes something unto itself. No longer does it represent the trace to one’s origin, but rather, it is a materialization of the erasure and tracing process.
Schizophrenics are: orphans (no daddy-mommy-me), athiests (no beliefs), and nomads (no habits, no territories). It is the schizophrenic’s ability to scramble and decode that Deleuze and Guattari associate with contemporary capitalism as an economic structure.
Preceding Deleuze and Guttari, Fredrich Jameson associates the postmodern aesthetic and current cultural movements with the psychoanalytic category of schizophrenia. The schizophrenic fails to fully acquire language, and as a result cannot individuate, because the schizophrenic must enter into a social and linguistic field to develop an identity. In comparison to Deleuze and Guattari, Jameson’s reading of Lacan states that the schizophrenic culture fails “to accede fully into the realm of speech and language.” Jameson writes that:
The schizophrenic experience is an experience of isolated, disconnected, discontinuous material signifiers which fail to link up into a coherent sequence. The schizophrenic thus does not know personal identity in our sense, since our feeling of identity depends on our sense of the persistence of the “I” and the “me” over time.
The experience of historical continuity is therefore dependent upon language acquisition. It is dependent upon the acceptance of in the name-of-the-Father, paternal authority conceived as a linguistic function. The schizophrenic is denied a personal identity, since they cannot name their “I” as an existence over time. Like the schizophrenic, a postmodern culture is rootless and lacks historical continuity.
Like the Oedipus treatment of the schizophrenic, the commercialization of heritage is a direct affect of fragmented cultural memory. A relationship to the past, both individually and collectively, is not a given, and rather, needs to be constructed - shaped by social forces, politics, traditions, and the market. In order words, a “usable past” needs to be constructed out of various remnants, stories, and fragments.
Current historic preservation gives general guidelines to the preservation of national heritage. National heritage and identity are preserved through the conservation of faciality. For example, when a buiding is designated as a historical landmark, the memory of the building is not preserved, rather, the façade of the building is preserved. The thesis lends itself as a criticism of the state of faciality emphasized within The Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Preservation.
The schizophrenic no longer recognizes faces due to the inherent property of representation. The image is a secondary manifestation to its origin. The schizophrenic would argue that the image cannot describe the totality of the memory and will emphasize the social implications of the image as a tool to describe an implicit authority. Thus, to accurately describe the trace to one’s origin, the schizophrenic manifests and designs a state of perception to understand the signifiers inherit in the process of Oedipus. Ultimately, within the system of perception is a lack of historical continuity - thus lending the system to be an image (a trace) of the fabricated memory rather than to deny the image that mimics the memory. The process of reification justifies the system’s actuality - it’s presence and implications when constructed in the common space of reality.
The system in which the schizophrenic creates is a materialization of a conduit that collects the variety of codes and signifiers — a system in which to precieve [and is created in] the present state. Thus, the schizophrenic materializes his or her trace to the origin, the “I” and “me” in a given space and time is difficult to decipher between the present moment and environment.
If in fact we take into consideration the schizophrenic association of the economic and cultural properties within current historic preservation, the thesis is to propose the conservation of the Oedipus system in which the city recalls memory rather than rely on the immediate and autonomous image that mimics the totality of historical continuity .
Although the schizophrenic only recalls his mother’s face only by association, here lies the art of the individual’s perception. To conclude, here lies the implicit struggle for the schizophrenic, the drunken poet, and the revolutionary artist.
The Forward Building is located on East Canal and Broadway in the Lower East Side of Manahattan. In 1912, the building was erected by the first Yiddish newspaper in New York City. In the 1980s, in correspondence with rampant Hong Kong investments within the Lower East Side, the Forward Building was converted into a sacred house of worship for a Chinese Christian church. A decade later, the building was renovated to be multi-million dollar condominiums. Today, the building stands as a semiotic study of the history and current standing of Chinatown, Manhattan.
The façade of the building acts as a wax tablet, whose wax retains the logical sequence, or a system erased immediate-images. The form and function of the written language, transcribed in wax, becomes obsolete with the passing of a specific memory. Embedded in the façade of the building are the emblems of social reformation leaders, such as Karl Marx and Engels. The text transcribed onto the façade are collectively constructed memories of labor and social equality — two ideals within the vocabulary of the immigrant Jewish neighborhood.
The emblems thus act as multimodal objects, whose duality in function no longer suffices due to the disappearance of the Yiddish newspaper, of present day Chinatown and manufacturing jobs, and through applied federal and state regulation in the ethnic and economic enclave.
The schizophrenic association of Chinatown, Manhattan is a result of the fluctuation of the inhabitants’ memories throughout the history of the Lower East Side. Due to a lack of origin inherit in the immigrant enclave, the awareness of historical continuity preserved through faciality, the process of carving multimodal memories into the constructed urban space, the erasure of built lexicon and syntax, and the fragmented narrative of authority within the built environment, the “schizophrenic memory” of Chinatown will be examined throughout the book. Ultimately, the schizophrenic properties applied to Chinatown can also be understood within the schizophrenic properties of the postmodern culture and economy.