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    Chreods! (Sanford Kwinter Lecture)

    By Sir Arthur Braagadocio
    Oct 6, '06 12:12 AM EST
    Disclaimer: this is my opinion at this moment, I am doing my best to describe the lecture and to develop my own theories from it, so I apologize if I misrepresent something.(especially sections 2 thru 4)

    Chreods! (Sanford Kwinter)intro lecture to the NlSO conference at Penn

    It's great to see someone lecture again 7 years later, after reading many of their works and to be able to intuitively jump right back into their thought. Sanford Kwinter in my opinion is still the biggest brain I've seen and he knows it, and if anyone was paying attention to the lecture, he told everyone this at the UPenn lecture tonight. To make some points without making them too clear ...I will jump right into a (un,in,ir,non)systematic explanation of what I gained from the lecture.

    1. Kwinter knows he has a big brain.

    He was discussing Goethe and Goethe's walks. Side note: according to a guy I studied abroad with; Goethe, Fichte, Schelling, and maybe Hegel all used to get hammered together, well that is at least the way he put it. Either way: imagine the brain power in that bar. According to Kwinter, Goethe used to take these walks looking for the “Chreods” in the plants in the forest. Goethe was looking for the “urpflanze” (ur = prefix for origin, pflanze = plant). The “urpflanze” was not the statically visible form of a plant from which all plants could have evolved from, rather the “urpflanze” was the “virtual form action formula” (my phrasing) that gave direction to a plants growth. For example, a leaf is located on a branch as per this direction, but this direction does not specifically place the leaf but accurately determines the leaf placement via “vector gradients” (my phrasing). Now, Kwinter says Goethe was looking for Chreods, and he noted that Goethe has often been described as one the largest brains in history, and according to Kwinter; Goethe's ability to see the Chreods is the reason for his massive brain superiority. 15-30 minutes before that, Kwinter told us that the one question he always wanted a journalist to ask him was something like, “what makes form?”. So Kwinter asked himself and gave us the answer “Chreods”, because Kwinter has been seeing Chreods for years! Now since he made this comment before the Goethe comment, most people who follow trains of thoughts, a linear dialogue of concepts, probably missed this point, but it's all about non-linearity...the NlSO conference...BRILLIANT!

    2. I smashed my head through a printer drunk once while bar hopping in Carroll Gardens (Brooklyn, NY)

    he mentioned physics and waves less than his last lecture I attended around 7 years ago . Schroedinger this time I believe and Schroedinger's 1944 book on the question “What is Life?”. He noted that the final point of Schroedinger's book was related to eastern religion/philosophy thought on consciousness. wholeness...helpful term here. And this all developed into him discusing the biologist that developed the term I'm vague here since I can not properly represent these moments of the lecture; my memory is a little fuzzy. But I will tell you he mentioned the composer (I forget his name) who decided to begin composing in his own tonal system. This same composer, I believe, even though I forget his name, was mentioned in the 7 year ago lecture i attended. This composer went nutts at the end of his career and started receiving signals from martians or aliens...or was he just more in tune?!? BECAUSE, that is why I smashed my head through the printer, not the voices in my head or the alcohol, but the signal I was receiving via wavelengths in a tonal system outside the mindset of anyone who was present at the time. Who sent the wavelengths though? Let me explain, this composer was trying to create a new tonal system that you could learn to appreciate intuitively. To intuit a new tonal system could mean you used your ability to see Chreods consciously or unconsciously, the Chreods helped form the only possibilities of this tonal system that you intuitively could understand. Now what does it mean to intuitively understand something? For example: you can learn Calculus two ways: 1) remember when and where and how to use a formula via set rules or 2) you intuit the only possible method of calculating the terms and items presented to you...very very few engineers or mathematicians are capable of this and the few that are have trouble explaining it...long story short, in Kurt Vonnegut's “Sirens of Titan”link he dumbs the whole religion, architectural monuments of humanity throughout history, etc... down to this: An alien from Tralfamadore is stranded on moon Titan due to mechanical failure and the only way he can receive messages from Tralfamadore is via certain formations on the planet earth, "The meaning of Stonehenge in Traflamadorian, when viewed from above, is:"Replacement part being rushed with all possible speed." ....The Great Wall of China means in Traflamadorian, when viewed from above:"Be patient. We haven't forgotten about you." The Golden House of the Roman Emperor Nero meant: "We are doing the best we can." The meaning of the Moscow Kremlin when it was first walled was: "You will be on your way before you know it." The meaning of the Palace of the League of Nations in Geneva , Switzerland , is: "Pack up your things and be ready to leave on short notice." get the idea. All of humanity via Chreod signals from Tralfamadore formed grand monuments as information in Traflamoridian language. So understand the Chreods and you will understand formation, and ultimately the answer to the question of “What is Life?”, maybe. So is it insane to believe in Aliens? I would argue it is equally insane as believing in God.

    3. a very Gainful Epiphany

    I titled this section as if I had something to say didn't I, so linear...if you remember (because I know everyone is reading my blog) I mentioned Edmund Husserl and the question of whether magnitude and geometry were enough to help human beings define their reality. In direct relation I also mentioned the question of whether form is more than just shape. Now I have not made any progress in Husserl's book due to UPenn and work so I do not know how Husserl's answers the questions of how one could measure color or even sound via geometry. And these questions are too obvious...this is not what I am getting at. In Kwinter's lecture he mentions the architecture of the 90's of surface architecture morphing through time; graphically presented in static frames. He mentions the overly literal translation of this form (growth) representing in architecture. This continual aim at Repetition and Differnece via modules and components, etc.... YOU CANNOT BUILD THE TRACE (my words). He also noted that two generations of students were sucked into this trend and lost in a fad of image and logo making...anyway; and to reference Henri Bergson, human beings can not see the world as it is in its continuous evolution, rather we see it in frames per second. (see around the 300 pages in Creative Evolution (Dover Publication))And this is my epiphany... Forget 5-10 dimensions, forget all that and tell me you really understand the 4th dimension: time. Define the 4th dimension for me. Did you describe time as an object? Is time a noun in the dictionary? How is it you can talk about time the way you talk about space and objects? Now, the reason for physics to add dimensions is some physicists guess that our geometric understanding of the world is not adequate enough to unify all forces we know of (GUT). We see gravity act, we describe its actions, but we do not know what it is in the realm of itself, so we make it a constant (in Newtonian finite spatial frameworks). Can you visualize gravity? NO. You are visualizing its actions on geometrically defined objects. Time is helping you see this. So is time a constant? What about special and general relativity? Well, one deals with space and time and another with gravities effects on time, which you can tie back to space of course. When we talk about relativity we use terms like “bending”, “warping”, etc...these are terms for geometrical objects, which we can define by magnitudes (numerical measurements). We then describe gravities effects on time via numerical calculations of conceptual geometrical objects claming to “be” time. In short, the only dimensions we know are XYZ, all the others we see manifest themselves to us in snapshots of formations in XYZ. Kwinter points out that we can talk about the Chreods and its (I forgot) but something skeleton that helps “form” the Chreods, but we can not imagine them. You can not imagine time and if you do you are creating an illusion. A geometrical concept of anything not geometrical in is an illusion. ANY CONCEPT DEFINED BY GEOMETRICAL SHAPES AND NUMERICAL MAGNITUDES NOT DESCRIBING STATIC GEOMETRICAL SHAPES IS AN I(a)LLUSION. Time is basically beyond the scope of “MATHEMATIZATION” (Husserl's description of Galileo's methods to science, basically the way we know we do science). There are many things beyond this scope. My brother who is a hell of lot smarter than I told me that the existence of God is highly probably because all one needs to state is: God is in another dimension. Another dimension like Time and maybe Gravity, and if you go along with some physicists: weak nuclear, strong nuclear, and electromagnetism. Remember the Ether concept, what is an Ether? I bet you described it geometrically.

    So Chreods are “objects” of time, but as time and its “elements” can never be described as “objects” without admitting one is creating an i(a)llusion, Chreods can not be understood geometrically, but ahhh....Virtually. Virtual form, but what does that really mean?

    4. Gödel is back

    So what is the NlSO dealing with? (my opinion) We are using number crunching machines to further study something that is essentially outside of the realm of numbers, we are modeling snapshots of something that is allusive to our methods. What is an algorithm again?

    So like Eisenman we are getting so deep, so just find out we can't get deep enough. I would like to think Peter Eisenman intentionally created an autonomous architecture like Russel and Whitehead created Principia Mathematica, so that Peter Eisenman could be his own Gödel via Deconstruction. Genius actually.

    The direction of NlSO is the final push at presenting Kwinter's concept of an architectural Chreod, it is the final push before we finally give up defining everything mathematically via geometry and magnitudes. It will finally “bring forth” (to borrow from Wittgenstein) what a Chreod clearly is and how clear it is that we can not clearly understand it via “MATHEMATIZATION”. Husserl already kind of said this, but science is a machine and still works. What if we understood Chreod's the way we understand the box but with different intuitions (not visual or numeric)?

    5. dude I got the science but I didn't get the architecture part

    somebody sitting behind me said that after the lecture. Ok, maybe they didn't say Dude, this is UPenn. Of course you didn't get the part dealing with architecture, because you think architecture is about form. Even if you believe architecture is about process you are still obsessing over the snapshots of evolution of form. This isn't about presenting anything, this is about understanding. Process architecture always falls back on images and connecting the dots of actions. This is about attenuation to an intuition you have blindly ignored, because you have always looked for a static answer, an answer you could geometrically and numerically define, an answer you could visualize. This is about visualizing and you can't visualize that.


    • switters

      are you talking about Chreods?

      Oct 6, 06 7:04 am

      kwinter must be reaching the outer limits of our language, where it starts to fail. i never know what he's on about.

      good summary, meta. almost starts to make sense, but the fact that new terms have to be introduced and then definitions have to be created for them, and then the audience has to learn both in order for kwinter to attempt to describe something indescribable...well, i just prefer to call him a poet and accept that i'll never understand and that maybe it's not impt.

      if it's not about form, then it's about moving through [what?] over time? how will we recognize this invisible structure if it's not cloaked in form? is architecture just the process (for you) or is it also, eventually, an experience (for everybody)?

      you say it's not about form or process but understanding. cool. is it too pedantic to ask 'to what end?'?

      i'm interested in knowing, for you personally, is there a way that you see this as informing a way of working? 'cause that would be what makes it worthwhile.

      Oct 6, 06 7:32 am

      architecture is nothing but form, but not that 'form' kids. never confuse the poverties of shape for form.

      Oct 6, 06 8:21 am
      Sir Arthur Braagadocio

      its funny you mention the new term issue Steven, since as switters pointed out and I corrected since...i spelled the main conept incorrectly throughout this long essay...

      i do not think i can answer your questions Steven, but I will try (this is why archinect exists right?)

      1. how will we recognize this invisible structure if it's not cloaked in form?

      -we will not recognize the invisible structure geometrically is the point. so we must recognize it via its "virtual form action formula", the algorithm perhaps. the equation as a whole, not its assembly of parts, but the action of the equation as a whole.

      2. is architecture just the process (for you) or is it also, eventually, an experience (for everybody)?

      - at this moment i do not know...

      3. you say it's not about form or process but understanding. cool. is it too pedantic to ask 'to what end?

      - well...'to what end' that is geometrical or too linear isn't it...if i were to answer 'to what end', i would be logically concluding this new system of thought, giving it structure, a structure that will eventually collapse on itself because by giving it structure i have brought this understanding into the world of geometrical thinking, and the point is geometrical thinking does not suffice....i will admit this is incredibly hard to grasp without wanting to shape it in my mind.

      4. i'm interested in knowing, for you personally, is there a way that you see this as informing a way of working?

      - NO. this is method to inform a 'way of experimenting'. work is linear and involves efficient processes. currently in studio we are discussing networking and the non-linear process of construction these days. i can not agree with this use of non-linear here. i would describe the new process of multiple networks splitting up and converging again - just zillions of linear processes at once, a complex of linearity, but not non-linear for the shear fact that the process begins and ends. point A to point B. work requires always two points: a beginning and an end. expirement requires one point: a beginning...i say this because, having been an extremely efficient project manager and warehouse manager in high school, and this is talent of mine, no matter how complex or how many curve balls are thrown at me i will make the process linear and efficient. chaos does not exist, it is just something beyond your perception and all things can be organized (i almost said mathematized)

      Oct 6, 06 10:03 am
      vado retro

      i do hope this guy aint comparin himself to goethe. walt whitman had a big brain, but before it could be measured it was drop on the cutting room floor. "the process of artistic creativity differs completely from that of scentific discovery, the procedures of which can be explained, reconstructed and repeated. unlike the scientific genius, the artistic genius is different in kind, not just in degree, from his imitator."-some harness makers son.

      Oct 6, 06 10:23 am

      Back in the early 90s at OSU, eisenman had a grad studio that kwinter visited every few weeks- then they'd have a pinup of all the students work. E would then lecture to K about architecture for 3 or 4 hours... all the students had to sit behind them and never had a chance to speak... might have photos somewhere of this- was very funny at the time.

      Oct 6, 06 11:01 am
      Sir Arthur Braagadocio

      that's hilarious treekiller. so who do you think had the intellectual edge? were you guys making snapshots of morphing forms?

      Oct 6, 06 11:06 am
      vado retro

      sounds like some great times did you suppress the yawns.

      Oct 6, 06 11:34 am
      Sir Arthur Braagadocio

      vado, i think the question should be, how did you not slice your wrist in class?

      Oct 6, 06 12:05 pm

      your last passage is what i'll be interested in, meta. cuz as much stuff as kwinter throws at you, and other lecturers, and your instructor(s), at some point you have to produce. your parsing of the word 'work' is good, as is changing it to 'experimenting' (though that's still work to me). at some later time we'll maybe get you talking about a still point: the time with the experimenting gets frozen in place and becomes the result of a semester of work - without being an end.

      had a class in undergrad that the instructor coyly called 'working drawings', punning on a common name for construction drawings. the class wasn't about constr drwgs exactly but it wasn't not about them either. it was about developing a way of drawing that became illustrative of both the design process and the intended result, i.e., it would both describe the intentions of the project in the way a typical presentation drawing set might AND it would describe the design process AND a path toward implementation of the project was also described in the drawings.

      turned my head inside out, but was also an amazing exercise.

      Oct 6, 06 2:07 pm

      penn is using the same brain-washing tactics that columbia did 10 years ago. this non-linear crap is just a re-packaging of shit that has already been done. and meta, as you willfully swallow every last drop of it, you too can become a non-linear fashion victim in less than 10 years as the winds of change move from non-linear to non-circular to de-linear to post-linear or whatever. which would be a shame, because you seem like a bright person. all this algorythmic architecture is truly dull and for the easily brain-washed student and seduced academic.

      Oct 6, 06 11:40 pm

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