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On ‘Enduring Innocence’

I have never read Keller Easterling's books. But I think it would be interesting to. This is a ‘cut and paste’ blog. Excuse me. My bold italics throughout though.

Enduring Innocence: Global Architecture and its Masquerades (recently published)

"In Enduring Innocence, Keller Easterling tells the stories of outlaw "spatial products" -- resorts, information technology campuses, retail chains, golf courses, ports, and other hybrid spaces that exist outside normal constituencies and jurisdictions -- in difficult political situations around the world. Jurisdictionally ambiguous, they are imbued with myths, desires, and symbolic capital. Their hilarious and dangerous masquerades often mix quite easily with the cunning of political platforms. Easterling argues that the study of such "real estate cocktails" provides vivid evidence of the market's weakness, resilience, or violence.

Enduring Innocence collects six stories of spatial products and their political predicaments: cruise ship tourism in North Korea; high-tech agricultural formations in Spain (which have reignited labor wars and piracy in the Mediterranean); hyperbolic forms of sovereignty in commercial and spiritual organizations shared by gurus and golf celebrities; automated global ports; microwave urbanism in South Asian IT enclaves; and a global industry of building demolition that suggests urban warfare. Enduring Innocence resists the dream of one globally legible world found in many architectural discourses on globalization. Instead, Easterling's consideration of these segregated worlds provides new tools for practitioners sensitive to the political composition of urban landscapes"

Her other book is called Organization Space: Landscapes, Highways, and Houses in America (2001).

"The dominant architectures in our culture of development consist of generic protocols for building offices, airports, houses, and highways. For Keller Easterling these organizational formats are not merely the context of design efforts--they are the design. Bridging the gap between architecture and infrastructure, Easterling views architecture as part of an ecology of interrelationships and linkages, and she treats the expression of organizational character as part of the architectural endeavor.

Easterling also makes the case that these organizational formats are improvisational and responsive to circumstantial change, to mistakes, anomalies, and seemingly illogical market forces. By treating these irregularities opportunistically, she offers architects working within the customary development protocols new sites for making and altering space."

Enduring Innocence

On Archinect there is a really fantastic interview with her. You can read the whole thing here, but here are some specially selected segments:

Urban Slot Machine : A conversation with Keller Easterling

MW: Your previous book, Organization Space, centers on landscapes of physical and direct connectivity. while Enduring Innocence focuses on the encoding of the system of a network and its dispersed points – ports, Wal-Mart, and megachurches. In the interim between the two books, what factors or observations led you from Organization Space (1999) to Enduring Innocence (2005)?

KE: In the interim between the two books I worked on a project called Wild Cards: A game of Orgman that tracked a suite of companies that exported spatial products. It was a moment when there remained in the globalism discourse some remnants of globalization as "Americanization." This study was a web installation that appeared to be a slot machine in the global gambles over space-making, a game where everyone was both importing and exporting. .....The Wildcards study gradually revealed an entire pantheon of characters, myths, costumes, rituals and bizarre fictions that attached themselves to different products. It was not just the old story of the sentimentality that often accompanies power, but an assortment of fictions and stories that were able to float over a logistical revenue stream. The ways in which this naturalized, instrumentalized fiction mixed perfectly with the techniques of political programs all around the world should also not have been surprising.

Architects have more to learn than to teach about global studies, but these formats proved to be good indicators of market aggression and political disposition. Their bid to remain intact and exempt from political responsibilities is itself a special form of violence. So the behavior of these formats led me to speculate that we have something valuable to contribute to discussions of globalization.

More than any other profession I can think of, the work of architecture engages multiple realms from finance to logistics to the heights and depths of frivolity and fiction that ultimately rule the world. Some think that work in the communication stratosphere is the truly powerful position. But with architecture one also engages the heavy material of global economies, moving from communication and branding to shipping to the physical/financial shape of a golf course to the designing of functional expressions between layovers and shopping to the indexing of global labor and materials. Would it not make us powerful political animals to simply be aware of this nexus of movements and begin to index and make ethical choices within it?

MW: Absolutely, even if only to participate ourselves in the pirating and trickery … and this sits well with the book's "masquerade" subtitling. In coming back to the Wildcards project, how do you position your work and research alongside the historical trajectory of game, chance, and play in architecture and urbanism?

KE: Urban design hails the power of the circumstantial, but it seems as if we still have very few techniques for designing within it. Urban design still often prefers control and even prefers the specification of building envelope as a means to that end. Game theory and political theory are not very different. They develop logics that are not designed to deal with deception and folly. Strange, since urban design and planning as they are accomplished every day, must dig their way out of a pile of circumstantial detail that is most sturdily arranged by bureaucracy. One wonders what opportunities or epidemics might appear if its administration was arranged in a more entrepreneurial fashion. The orgmen of the world are certainly operating within a gaming environment. Urbanism is a slot machine.

In the book, the character who delivers is probably Gregory Bateson. His theory of laughter as the result of errors in logic allowed some point of translation between theories of laughter (e.g. Gilbert Ryle, Henri Bergson) and the logical formats for spatial products. The pirate and the comedian do the same thing: they upset the accustomed construct with extrinsic information or an incompatible logic or inversion. Spatial products are in constant battles with each other, killing each other or altering each other with an incompatible logic. A new marketing wrinkle or a tiny shift in desires can bring down an enormous organization. The book asks a question about whether we as architects are capable of making these "jokes." It seems like an opening worth pursuing in a myriad of different ways. To offer one example of an approach, I wrote a bit about a germ, a detail in the world that is designed but that propagates without complete control. The germ was offered as a joke to upset spatial logics.


(Postscript: does all work and no play in fact make Keller a dull girl?
"I don't understand the concept of leisure and don't know how to comment on it as a result.")
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