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Sep '06 - Aug '08

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    digital pleistocene: sanford kwinter at SCI-Arc

    Tim Do
    By Tim Do
    Jun 5, '08 3:41 AM EST

    there is yet to be any mention of chreods (i feel it's coming soon), but i found the introduction to this seminar course no less interesting. pleistocene describes the period during which humans evolved into their current form, and kwinter suggests that a return to understanding this primal existence or 'archaic endowment' is necessary to understanding current modes of media and communication. you are probably asking how, if at all, this could be related to architecture, but i think it has a strong basis as it relates to ecology, or plainly, an organisms relationship to the environment.

    an example he gave was the bower bird, an animal that builds intricate bowers as a means to attract mates i.e. the bird that builds the most elaborate structure gets the most play (let this be motivation to you aspiring young architects). drawing from george schaller, who stated that the bird cannot be understood without its association to the nest, kwinter believes that humans are likewise understood as unique creatures with an exponential ability to organize the environment. he stresses the physiological component of human relationship to the environment, specifically as it relates to our instincts as predators. given that most actions are communicational, predators have the most evolved means for communication, and these means of communication are 90% territorial.

    it is within this territorial understanding that we begin to reveal new spatial understandings.

    should be an interesting class...

    *i also learned that bonobo monkeys are the only other mammal besides humans that 'do it' face to face. for you romantics out there, you should know that you are in the extremely small minority.


    • nsproductions

      Have you ever seen bonobos do it? They go at it wild. I heard if we had evolved from those instead of run of the mill apes we'd have a lot less social conflict, or at least a different, less violent kind.

      Jun 6, 08 1:30 am  · 

      bonobo's are into lots of kinky things (really!).

      they also are very cool cuz, unlike chimps, do not beat the hell out off their women-folk. they're like hippies.

      Jun 6, 08 1:31 am  · 

      they are far more sexually active than chimps and have zero aggression.

      they're also vegan...i'm not kidding.

      Jun 6, 08 2:05 am  · 

      ...and they're huge fans of phish

      Jun 6, 08 2:10 am  · 


      Jun 6, 08 8:19 am  · 

      i've never heard kwinter put so succinctly!

      Jun 6, 08 9:45 am  · 

      or legibly.

      Jun 7, 08 11:14 am  · 

      don't bonobos have an abnormally large nose? i'm afraid of what happens with THAT....

      Jun 9, 08 3:36 pm  · 

      Bonobonos aside (I actually read somewhere that they could be cruel bastards - a new yorker article - I think.) - the class sounds fascinating - at least if the focus is on spatial aspects of society and communication.

      Using the pleistocene-period as an example sounds a bit far-fetched, though - maybe just a bright, wiggly word as a lure for students (as if Kwinter's name wouldn't be enough...) What can possibly a modern interpretation of an evolutionary "event" (probably not very well known to begin with) - bring into the discussion? Or is it a way of showing that the study of spatial communication has value, as it is an integral part of being of the species homo sapiens?

      Jun 11, 08 7:28 am  · 

      i don't think it matters whether he introduces it with bonobos, paperclips, or strawberry shortcake. it's just a starting point for his explanation of a unified design theory of the universe.

      Jun 11, 08 9:29 pm  · 

      hah. yeah - that's true - while explaining the design logic of everything concerning society and communication (+maybe the universe, if there is time after class) he will eventually have to cover the pleistocene epoch (not to speak of virile apes and strawberry shortcake), so I guess it's good to start there and get through it quickly. Anyway - maybe a starting point could be found just a little bit closer, to us as species, at least. Would be good to hear how the class continues.

      Jun 12, 08 2:00 am  · 

      I think the relationship between architecture and humans is naturally symbiotic as humans use their dwelling places to express themselves and attract mates.


      Jul 16, 08 1:22 pm  · 

      It is my contention that Kwinter's fascination with epigenesis, morphology, chreods, etc, is that it is simply a more satiable explanation (in that it's irrefutably scientific). If you boil down what he's after, as a so called "chreod chaser," he's not really doing anything that hasn't previously been established in theoretical discourse...he's simply changing the terms...finding the same thought in a new translation. And this is important in that a large-scale neural integration of science, art, philosophy, etc, is a highly evolved organizational model, but Waddington's epigenesis as a new agency or institution? No. Chora in Urban Flotsam speaks of the same Epigenetic Landscape but calls it the proto-urban condition, for their preferred translation is sociological, rather than scientific... and there are others as well. But when it comes down to the implimentation of these theories, they are all unscrupulously interpretive... Rendering a scientific approach to this translative architecture is validation, job security, and obfuscation....

      "A lot of mystery in the science practice, which I know best, comes because we render things more obscure. And intellectuals should not render things more obscure than they are. It is a mystery we like to have in order to debunk it. I do not know how sausages are made. Sausages are obtained through a lot of transformations as well. "
      Bruno Latour

      Feb 12, 09 2:18 pm  · 

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