Apocalypse (but the good kind)

(sorry this is so disjointed)

Gazurmah, Mafarka’s monstrous “parthenogenetic” child, “…the invincible lord of space, the giant with immense, orange-colored wings”, was to Marinetti an expression of a “scorn for women”—to use his own oft-derided line from the Manifesto. In Marinetti’s mind, Gazurmah represents the triumphant construction of the future by the warrior-poets that would seize it: a reproduction “without vulva”, the “spirit of man” itself likened to an “unused ovary” to be fertilized by Mafarka’s futurism.

However, Marinetti himself, blinded by his own Promethean ambitions to construct an art out of war, is entirely unable to grasp what Mafarka means. If, though Benjamin, we “politicize art” (Marinetti’s novel Mafarka the Futurist in this case), Marinetti’s own embedded meaning—the delirious, misogynist fever of Mafarka flips into an emancipatory reproductive politics.

I’m reminded of Greg Egan’s Diaspora here, in which the “orphan”, born a blank slate and (obviously) without parents, embarks on a process of self-discovery and autopoesis that molds the protean original self into a person. The obvious parallels between the orphan and Gazurmah are here. In fact, though one is digital and the other material, they are both essentially the same thing. Despite Gazurmah’s known provenance, he is an orphan too.

But what is more important is to introduce Marcuse’s analysis of the phylogenetic and ontogenetic in Eros and Civilization. The phylogenetic, following Freud, is the personal, the psychoanalytic: this is the space in which the orphan constructs themselves, the same any biologically produced child would. Claire’s critique of Marinetti (to me) hinges around the already terminal state of the orphan at birth. However, the identity of “the orphan” belies the process of autoproduction that comes as the orphan becomes an entity of their own. In Mafarka, the novel ends with apocalypse.

But by politicizing Marinetti’s writing, we can pin his ‘apocalypse’ to the destruction of biological order, of natural necessity, of the supposed distance of man from nature itself. This is the transition, in Marcuse, from the phylogenetic to the ontogenetic, from the individual to civilization as a whole. Gazurmah, a product of love but also of work for Mafarka, is a construct which by its existence points beyond not only biological necessity but capitalistic, bourgeois reproduction altogether: the injection of libido into toil, which to Marcuse spells a dramatic death for our current world, governed as it is by the “performance principle”.

Unwinding the performance principle is the “liberation [they] are compelled to reject”—it’s baked into the brain, composed and enforced in the process of being brought up in a repressive civilization under the aegis of the performance principle. Much less the creation of Gazurmah himself, Mafarka’s construction of his son is this libidinal work, a work “away from genitalia”, and more so, the reintroduction of the aesthetic as interlocutor between the sensual and the rational, two poles that the majority of queer theory has been historically obsessed with. Sexuality becomes sublimated, libido’s “trend towards cultural expression” blooms, and Eros comes to the fore, modifying civilization away from a slavish fixation on reproduction for reproduction’s sake.

Finally, in Marcuse’s view, the libidinization of toil transforms it into play, which then culminates in “display”. Is this not what Mafarka does with his son, showing him off to dominated, dying subjects? Does Mafarka’s “large son”, a totally insane undertaking, not upend reason, and pull sensuality out of the body and into civilizational space?

 

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Occulted architectures; or, a shiver along the planet’s spine

The intention of Laka’s REACT competition is left refreshingly ambiguous: to create an “architecture that reacts”. This ambiguity rehearses intriguing possibilities to go beyond what is typically considered architectural reactions—passive phenomena that are a direct communication between the building and the visitor. Light, space, movement, etc. These reactions are the common pidgin of modernist architecture vernacular and produce a linear sequence of preprogrammed evental and discrete moments that insist on recuperating ecological relations in rarified Euclidean space. Architectural reaction in this vein is a mechanical, strictly curated sequence of events occurring between populations of hominid organics and rigid hylospatial structures, using environmental phenomena as its engine.

Reaction can no longer follow a cybernetic/modernistic paradigm that leaves us pushing buttons and watching lights and claiming to be moved. Modernity’s hackneyed interpretation of the machine as a model for architecture has enforced a shallow bottom. We want to interact deeply with our machines, not stare at them; to dip our hand into the water and watch solitons and saltations cascade around our fingers. Pushing a button is no longer enough; its time to recuperate the architectural machine as an architectural ecology.

The architectural ecology is transcalar and emergent. It can be many pieces, or one structure; it can be newly built or retrofitted to existing structures. Whether planetary or local, the architectural ecology is an infinity of potentially moving parts—a bristling biome of seething possibility and interpretation. The movement I’m describing does not have to actually take place, but will always be implied—constantly moving outward, a rarified explosion, a gordian knot of vector rays and axis mundi offshoots that terminate cloudily in an occupied space. It is an animal, with life pulsing beneath an operable exterior. Architectures of flesh are no longer for demonic cathedrals or parasitical infestation. The bleeding tunnels are our own, and as we recapitulate them, they will lose their alien quality. Their twitches, their shivering, their musculature, their teratology is our own.

Sinking down deep into the loam of the planet, the architectural ecology buries itself—or maybe its a planting?—only to grow forth or be exhumed at the proper moment. This moment is one of pure function, a distinct hinge point, in which the architecture announces itself out of the swarm-void to become of use. Instead of reaction functioning as the mouthpiece for an architecture that sits hollowly and lets environmental and operational use define its tongue, it withers vestigial. The architectural ecology is the environment, is the mouth—allowing hylospatial practice, the planet, the operator, and especially the reaction to go alchemic, to commit autophagy. Reaction and architecture become indistinct, inseparable, twinned.