1993

Minor Architecture


The concept of minor architecture is both properly deduced from Manfredo Tafuri's concept of "major architecture" and illegitimately appropriated from Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's concept of minor literature. Minor literature is writing that takes on the conventions of a major language in order to subvert it from the inside. Deleuze and Guattari study the work of Franz Kafka, a Jew writing in German in Prague during the early part of this century. Minor literature possesses three dominant characteristics:

It is what a minority constructs within a major language, deterritorializing that language. Deleuze and Guattari compare Prague German to Black American English.
It is intensely political: "Its cramped space forces each individual intrigue to connect immediately to politics. The individual concern thus becomes all the more necessary, indispensable, magnified because a whole other story is vibrating within it." In other words, in minor literature the distinction between personal and political dissolves.
It is a collective assemblage; everything in it takes on a collective value.

Deleuze and Guattari describe two paths of deterritorialization. One is to "artificially enrich [the language], to swell it up through all the resources of symbolism, of oneirism, of esoteric sense, of a hidden signifier." This is a Joycean approach. The other is to take on the poverty of a language and take it farther, "to the point of sobriety." This is Kafka's way. Deleuze and Guattari then reject the Joycean as a kind of closet reterritorialization that breaks from the people, and they go all the way with Kafka.

In transferring such a concept to architecture, already more intensely simple materially, and with more complex connections to "the people" and to pragmatics, I believe it necessary to hang onto both possibilities, shuttling between them. This may begin to delineate a line of scrimmage between making architectural objects and writing architectonic texts.

A minor architecture should embrace a collection of practices that follow these conditions. One of the tasks of minor architecture is to operate critically upon the dominance of the visual--the image--as a mode of perceiving and understanding architecture. Thus, what a work of minor architecture looks like is irrelevant outside of the condition of its "looking like" architecture. I do not, therefore, propose a style or an architecture parlante but a revolutionary architectural criticism, a "criticism from within" that goes deeply into the within, into the conventions of architecture's collusion with mechanisms of power. (These may possibly include every architectural convention.)

John Hejduk was making these kinds of moves over a decade ago. "Bye, House" (to misread) connotes not simply the house and its owner, but a farewell to the object as traditionally constituted, an involution, a [HOUSE] turned inside out, one in which the [CRYPT]s within the wall explode, protrude, seep, bleed out from within to become without. And in which the skin, which was without, which named the image House, has shriveled and become compacted into a dense, Euclidean plane from which the partial objects protrude and against which they are projected. Here, Hejduk has consumed Le Corbusier and Colin Rowe (his fathers) in a singular gulp, and has excreted (evacuated, voided) them as the assemblage named Bye House.

In 1988, Hejduk's House of the Suicide and House of the Mother of the Suicide were encrypted in the architecture building at the Georgia Institute of Technology, crippled by indecisive (unfunded) incompleteness for years. This condition of incompletion was testimony to the ability of the profession to lock up the house and swallow the key. But these incomplete objects were further marginalized: they remained to stick in the craw, consumed but not digested, irritating the system. They were always there, partial and worrisome. Mute and flayed, and without their overtly threatening frozen Medusan fright wigs, they were perhaps more prickly and threatening to the Big House than they are now that they are complete, finished, and beautifully detailed. There they continue to sit, however, and in 1992 the taste of systemic irritation remains.

The incomplete project defies authority. The House of my Fathers is a valid (repeatable, contained, complete) project. The incomplete house is invalid, a sick body in the system, an uncomfortable blockage of the system's ability to consume what threatens.
Jennifer Bloomer, Architecture and the Text: (S)crypts of Joyce and Piranesi (1993), pp. 173-5.


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