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  4) Childhood Memory: Renzo Piano.Hal Foster was in Gainesville to give a lecture for the Architecture School.  The theme was Neomodernism, focusing on Norman Foster and Renzo Piano.  I had not heard the story before about the role that childhood memories played in Piano’s aesthetic.  It is another example of an image of wide scope, the formatting of an imagination in specific childhood experiences.  There are two memories that reinforce one another in Piano’s case:  one of watching sailing ships in the port city of Genoa, his hometown; the other of laundry blowing in the wind on the roofs of the city.

The notion of a ‘light modernity’ is suggestive. ‘There is one theme that is very important for me,’ Piano remarks: ‘Lightness (and obviously not in reference only to the physical mass of objects).’ He traces this preoccupation from his early experiments with ‘weightless structures’ to his continued investigations of ‘immaterial elements’ like wind and light. Lightness is also the message of his primal scene as a designer, a childhood memory of sheets billowing in the breeze on a Genoese rooftop, a vision that conjures up the shapely beauty of classical drapery as well as contemporary sailing boats as architectural ideals. For Piano lightness is thus a value that bears on the human as well as on the architectural – it concerns graceful comportment in both realms.

The talk of not struggling is all very well, but in order to be where he is today, Piano has had to work very hard, with great purpose and commercial nous. (His point is that it is a question of balance.) Piano’s outlook is heavily influenced by two things: having been a child in postwar Italy, and growing up near a port. “A harbour,” he says, “is like an imaginary city where everything keeps moving.”

Every Sunday his father would take him to Genoa’s harbour and Piano would watch the ships, which he thought of as “immense buildings that move”. When they sailed, he watched them cross the water and imagined that they were flying. These notions converged in his mind to form an idea of buildings as structures that “fought against gravity”, as “miracles”.

  The 95-story skyscraper Piano designed for the Shard Quarter in London expresses the sail as its Idea or parti. Architects are good relays for this translation of wide image into hypothesis since their Idea (parti pris) is precisely a materialized gesture unifying a complex program. Every wide image is a “compass,” we could say, generalizing from Einstein’s case, in that the idenification of true north allows one to go in any direction. Similarly we may generalize from architecture to say that any wide image provides the parti pris of Konsult.

” This thing came very quickly,” architect Renzo Piano has recalled of his first thoughts about the building that would become the Shard, in central London. Piano apparently sketched his idea on a restaurant napkin while meeting property developer Irvine Sellar in March 2000. According to Piano’s architectural firm, RPBW, Sellar keeps the famous napkin in his offices. “He saw the beauty of the river and the railways and the way their energy blended and began to sketch in green felt pen on a napkin what he saw as a giant sail or an iceberg,” Sellar recalled in a recent interview. Piano, for his part, has sometimes sounded squeamish about the legend that has built up around his off-the-cuff sketch. “I don’t want to create a mythology,” he has said.

2018-07-18T14:19:03+00:00 July 16th, 2018|Categories: Memory, Mystory, Wide Image|Tags: , , , |


  3) Memory: Frank Gehry.In their book about the architect, Frank Gehry (best known for his design of the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain), Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan (Frank O. Gehry: Outside In) describe the connection between Gehry’s childhood memories and his career in a way that resonates with the principle of the wide image.

    • Gehry’s grandmother was his best friend. He says she believed in strange, magical powers and superstitions. “When somebody would look at me funny, she would lick my face! I hated that, but I loved her a lot.”

Young Frank often spent the night at his grandparent’s house. They had emigrated to Canada from Poland, and although they slowly adopted the ways of their new country, they observed their Jewish traditions. On Thursdays, Frank went to the market with his grandmother. Each week she bought a live carp to be made into gefilte fish for Sabbath supper. They carried it home in a heavy white paper bag filled with water.

“We’d put it in the bathtub, and I would watch this fish for a day, this beautiful object swimming around. Then the next day it would be gone,” he says. Those beautiful disappearing fish, still vivid in his memories, appear over and over in Gehry’s architecture. . . .

In Timmins, Frank ran into his first experience with anti-Semitism. A group of bullies tormented him at school, beating him up and calling him Fish, an insult suggesting that he smelled. it was humiliating to be punched and taunted because he was Jewish. During this painful time he pulled back from his family’s religious beliefs. . . .

Many artists use autobiographical images to work through their conflicts. For Gehry, the shape of a fish repeated over and over in his designs represents his mixed feelings. On one hand, the fish echoes the anti-Semitic slurs of his childhood. On the other, it symbolizes the comforting religious rituals observed by his grandmother. The giant fish sculptures elevate memory into art.

2018-07-16T21:59:16+00:00 July 16th, 2018|Categories: Memory, Mystory, Wide Image|Tags: , |


 2) Childhood Memory: Einstein’s Themata.

A heuristic rule is: any hermeneutics may become heuretics. Holton developed the Image of Wide Scope as hermeneutic, a mode of analysis and interpretation of the completed careers of productive people. The gambit of mystory shifts focus to the thematic, to discovery, as a rhetoric to generate a hypothetical wide image. Since the wide image is fully formed by the time students reach college, the mystory assumes that it may be composed and designed speculatively. One feature that recurs through these biographical studies of creative people is the importance of a scene of memory from childhood. Prototype is Albert Einstein, studied in depth by Holton, and we will refer to his history as a template to test for ourselves. It is possible with completed careers to observe the correspondence between the childhood scene and the disciplinary invention (between the compass and the physics of electromagnetism).

We can go back even further when searching for the point where the thematic commitment to the continuum was formed. It is well known that as a child of four or five, Einstein experienced what he called a wonder when his father showed him a simple magnetic pocket compass. It was an experience to which Einstein often referred. His friend Moszkowski reported him in 1922 to have said, “Young as I was, the remembrance of this occurrence never left me.” His biographer Seelig wrote in 1954 that the compass to this day is vividly engraved in his memory, because it practically bewitched him. In his autobiography, written at the age of sixty-seven, we read: “I can still remember –or at least I believe I can remember–that this experience made a deep and lasting impression on me. Something deeply hidden had to be behind things.”

This scene is most suggestive. There is the mysterious invariance or constancy of the compass needle, ever returning to the same direction, despite the fact that the needle seems free from any action-by-contact of the kind that is usually unconsciously invoked to explain the behavior of material things; despite the vagaries of motion one may arbitrarily impose on the case of the compass from the outside; and regardless of personal will or external Zwang or chaos. If Einstein remembered it so well and referred to it so often, it may be because the episode is an allegory of the formation of the play-ground of his basic imagination. (Gerald Holton, Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought).

  –Exercise. There is no need to understand all the features of mystory, wide image, heuretics, popcycle, before beginning the discovery and design project. We may begin with a memory exercise, to notice what scene remains in memory. The instructions are just to reflect for a few minutes on one’s early childhood, to observe what may appear, to take note, to save the scene for development later on. Record the memory in anecdote form (300-word flash fiction) illustrated with found images. The exercise may also be applied analytically to biographies of interest. We will inventory a number of cases of such early memories.

2018-07-17T13:12:55+00:00 July 16th, 2018|Categories: Memory, Mystory, Wide Image|Tags: , , |


1) The Writing of the Disaster. In Konsult egents articulate or reoccupy (retrieve) the conventions of microcosm/macrocosm by which pre-modern peoples oriented themselves (determined their EPS): As above, so below (one’s fate was written in the stars, and to read it one consulted oracles and astrologers). A contemporary version shifts from vertical to horizontal dynamics: As without, so within, The historical collective  and the individual person become mutually intelligible when articulated in the proportional analogy of hypotyposis (The Writing of the Disaster/In Me). Such is the conceit of this genre organizing pedagogy in the digital apparatus. The guiding idea of Project #1 (heuretics of Konsult) is an encounter between egents and disaster, in which egents translate their image of wide scope (Wide Image) into a diagram, to function as an original hypothesis addressing the impasse (aporia) of Disaster.

–Mystory. In order to undertake Project #1, egents first must engage the nested Project #2, Mystory. Mystory is a genre for finding/designing an Image of Wide Scope (Wide Image; WI). We will devote considerable attention to this genre, which is the core of electrate pedagogy. The first insight is that electracy does not shift the disciplinary curriculum of literacy but rather the pedagogy. The rationale for this shift comes from Gerald Holton, history of science, argued in such books as Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought: Kepler to Einstein (Harvard, 1988). Holton notes that the practice of science (and all productive knowing) includes three primary dimensions, of which two are routinely taught while third remains latent, implicit. Discipline learning is organized around verification (knowledge after it is discovered or invented): making as techne, which is considered to be teachable. Techne as practice includes empirical facts (materially tested); and analytical tools. The third dimension (not taught or considered not teachable) also operates nonetheless, Holton insists. It is the dimension of discovery, creativity, which Holton calls thematic– making as poiesis. The empirical and analytical are objectively present in the disciplinary institution; the thematic is subjectively personal to the egent. Its origin is one’s disposition, a unique mix of nature and nurture, referring to one’s state of mind or attunement, attitude. Holton approaches the history of science from the side of themata, existing as archetypes in the history of thought and patterns of imagination specific to individuals. They are not provable, but are the source of hypotheses. Here is a key: Disposition generates original hypothesis.

–From Disposition to Hypothesis. The first lesson from Holton is to track this relation between disposition and hypothesis, since it establishes exactly the place of the Arts and Letters archive in electrate pedagogy as creativity. The insight to register for now is that disposition is precisely the concern of much of Philosophy, especially Continental thought, as in Heidegger’s question of how things stand with me, with us, Dasein (there-being) and Ereignis (collective enowning of event). Underlying Existential Positioning Systems is Existential Phenomenology, for example. The import for curriculum is that inquiry into disposition draws upon the traditions of Philosophy. The Image of Wide Scope designed through mystory puts into form and brings to expression egent’s disposition. Similarly, the best resource for learning how to formulate and translate this disposition into hypothesis is through study of literature (transmedia). The authority here is Northrop Frye, who in Anatomy of Criticism stated that literature and fiction as such are hypothetical. In short, this thematic dimension of science (of knowing) opens onto the Humanities (Arts and Letters) disciplines, locating the frontier articulating “the two cultures.”

–Albert Camus, Lyrical Essays. Holton observed in his study of revolutionary science that the work of individual creators manifested a pattern organized around a few (four to five) images (the Wide Image). Albert Camus anticipated this insight in reflecting on his own career, commenting on the reissue of his early collection of essays, The Wrong Side and the Right Side, which serves as an epigraph for mystory.

Nothing prevents one from dreaming, in the very hour of exile, since at least I know this, with sure and certain knowledge: a man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened. This is why, perhaps, after working and producing for twenty years, I still live with the idea that my work has not even begun.  (Albert Camus, Lyrical and Critical Essays, 17).

2018-07-16T20:38:12+00:00 July 16th, 2018|Categories: EPS, Mystory, Wide Image|Tags: , , , |