Posted by Bill Wilson on February 14, 19101 at 18:46:47:
In Reply to: Duchamp & Architecture!!!??? posted by Marco Sanchez on February 13, 19101 at 16:58:05:
Look at ceilings in Modernist buildings and then notice how Duchamp used the vague area above the heads of people at an exhibition. He implies that ascending is not transcending, for the area above our heads is not a passage into the ethereal extraordinary, but a continuation of the ordinary. The use of astrological signs on a ceiling is as misleading as the thought that someone who has died is "up there," as though above our heads like an escaped balloon. The ceiling has mostly been underplayed since the religious ceiling paintings which suggested that an ascent in the physical space would be like an ascent of the spirit into heaven, following the saints and others in their ascensions. But at least Baroque architects were bold in their attention to the ceiling as a focal plane where images could convey ideas. Most ceilings go to waste, but occasionally ceilings have been rethought, as by L. Kahn at Yale in his museum, but slack imitations have depleted the force of his work: however using that museum was and maybe still is a liberal education. Otherwise look for biographical and philosophic links between Friedrich Kiesler and Duchamp, with witty critiques of the standard flat walls which are unfeelingly objective and which blunt feelings: righteous people in rectilinear rooms. Duchamp nails to the floor an object which usually is nailed to a wall (a coat and/or hatrack), and he mounts on a stand an object which usually is mounted on the wall of a toilet. He hangs objects from ceilings, using that which is above as a practical structure, not as a metaphysical realm. That is, he is urging a critical rethinking of ceilings, of walls and of floors, like Picasso, who said: "I would like to make houses from inside--like the human body, not just walls with no thought of what they enclose" (quoted in Dore Ashton, Picasso on Art). Picasso sandwiched two negatives to make a photograph of himself walking through a wall: "Los muros mas fuertes se abrena mi paso. Mira"[sic]. The point is to catch one's feelings about ceilings, walls and floors, and then to find out what those feelings are, and if the surfaces of a room should be changed (as tenants manipulated into standard rectilinear rooms break up the surfaces with patterned papers and fabrics). What happens to a room when a door is open when closed and closed when open? A link might be made between the work of Buckminster Fuller and Duchamp through foundationlessness (with Kurt Goedel in the background). A Fuller dome is the stronger the larger that it is, and does not require a substantial foundation of the sort Goethe describes in Elective Affinities. Notice the timidity with which sculptors and installation artists approach the ceiling, with Artschwager one of the honorable exceptions, and Sol Lewitt another.
A building as one approaches it summons one to become a person fitting the stylizations of the building, where style is a farther elaboration of meanings ethical and aesthetic. The question then is about the idea of the human, and just which images and ideas of the human the architecture calls upon a person to become. Approaching Duchamp's ideas and images, one might think with John Ashbery's line: "Our habits ask us for instructions." What kind of person do you want the architecture to call upon people using the building to become? Wallace Stevens write that "a black vestibule" is a portrait of a person. Recall the complaints of Native Americans abducted from roundish teepees and forced into rectangular rooms (the film The Searchers inadvertently makes the point). Which shape calls forth the persons you want to meet half-way? As someone walks the path toward your door,what summons does the visitor receive?