Hejduk's Chronotope (an introduction)
K. Michael Hays
"It seemed a curious mixture that simply made do with time, weather, and those peoples."1
1. Ray Bradbury, The Machineries of Joy (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964), 53; cited in Gilles Deleuze - Fèlix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 262.1a
1a. We must avoid an oversimplified conciliation, as though there were on the one hand formed subjects, of the thing or person type, and on the other hand spatiotemporal coordinates of the haecceity type. For you will yield nothing to haecceities unless you realize that that is what you are, and that you are nothing but that. When the face becomes a haecceity: "It seemed a curious mixture that simply made do with time, weather and these people." You are longitude and latitude, a set of speeds and slownesses between unformed particles, a set of nonsubjectified affects. You have the individuality of a day, a season, a year, a life (regardless of its duration)—a climate, a wind, a fog, a swarm, a pack (regardless of its regularity). Or at least you can have it, you can reach it. A cloud of locusts carried in by the wind at five in the evening; a vampire who goes out at night, a werewolf at full moon. It should not be thought that a haecceity consists simply of a decor or backdrop that situates subjects, or of appendages that hold things and people to the ground. It is the entire assemblage in its individuated aggregate that is a haecceity; it is this assemblage that is defined by a longitude and a latitude, by speeds and affects, independently of forms and subjects, which belong to another plane. It is the wolf itself, and the horse, and the child, that cease to be subjects to become events, in assemblages that are inseparable from an hour, a season, an atmosphere, an air, a life. The street enters into composition with the horse, just as the dying rat enters into composition with the air, and the beast and the full moon enter into composition with each other. At most, we may distinguish assemblage haecceities (a body considered only as longitude and latitude) and interassemblage haecceities, which also mark the potentialities of becoming within each assemblage (the milieu of intersection of the longitudes and latitudes). But the two are strictly inseparable. Climate, wind, season, hour are not of another nature than the things, animals, or people that populate them, follow them, sleep and awaken within them. This should be read without a pause: the animal-stalks-at-five-o'clock. The becoming-evening, becoming-night of an animal, blood nuptials. Five o'clock is this animal! This animal is this place! "The thin dog is running in the road, this dog is the road," cries Virginia Woolf. That is how we need to feel. Spatiotemporal relations, determinations, are not predicates of the thing but dimensions of multiplicities. The street is as much a part of the omnibus-horse assemblage as the Hans assemblage the becoming-horse of which it initiates. We are all five o'clock in the evening, or another hour, or rather two hours simultaneously, the optimal and the pessimal, noon-midnight, but distributed in a variable fashion. The plane of consistency contains only haecceities, along intersecting lines. Forms and subjects are not of that world. Virginia Woolf s walk through the crowd, among the taxis. Taking a walk is a haecceity; never again will Mrs. Dalloway say to herself, "I am this, I am that, he is this, he is that." And "She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged. She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time was outside, looking on.... She always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day." Haecceity, fog, glare. A haecceity has neither beginning nor end, origin nor destination; it is always in the middle. It is not made of points, only of lines. It is a rhizome.
haecceity (from the Latin haecceitas, which translates as "thisness") is a term from medieval scholastic philosophy, first coined by followers of Duns Scotus to denote a concept that he seems to have originated: the discrete qualities, properties or characteristics of a thing that make it a particular thing. Haecceity is a person's or object's thisness, the individualising difference between the concept "a man" and the concept "Socrates" (i.e., a specific person). Haecceity is a literal translation of the equivalent term in Aristotle's Greek to ti esti or "the what (it) is."
What explains the contradiction that the body of work many contemporary architectural theorists find most illustrative of concepts they would promote—
narrative and representation after formalism,
the swerve, or
(the list goes on)—has as its author
an architect who regards contemporary theory with contempt,
when he regards it at all? What warrants a collection of ruminations on a theoretical practice whose focus is an architecture neither theoretical nor practical in any conventional sense of the terms?
nomadology (social sciences) The study of personal identities that are not rooted in one place or limited to a single fixed worldview.
carnivalesque : 2 marked by an often mocking or satirical challenge to authority and the traditional social hierarchy
swerve to turn aside abruptly from a straight line or course : deviate
détournement : In general it can be defined as a variation on previous work, in which the newly created work has a meaning that is antagonistic or antithetical to the original. The original media work that is détourned must be somewhat familiar to the target audience, so that it can appreciate the opposition of the new message. The artist or commentator making the variation can reuse only some of the characteristic elements of the originating work.
Détournement is similar to satirical parody, but employs more direct reuse or faithful mimicry of the original works rather than constructing a new work which merely alludes strongly to the original. It may be contrasted with recuperation, in which originally subversive works and ideas are themselves appropriated by mainstream media.
One could view détournement as forming the opposite side of the coin to 'recuperation' (where radical ideas and images become safe and commodified), in that images produced by the spectacle get altered and subverted so that rather than supporting the status quo, their meaning becomes changed in order to put across a more radical or oppositional message.
If architectural theory and practice are, in principle, continuous, the actual prevailing situation in academic institutions and professional offices is that they have tended toward a high degree of specialization and a very precise division of intellectual labor, giving rise to a cult of expertise--theorists versus designers--whose effect on the discipline as a whole is pernicious. Of the major modes of knowledge acquisition and dissemination, it has been architectural theory, almost alone among the disciplinary discourses, that has made it part of its vocation to detect and dismantle these established institutional specializations and separate forms of practice and thematize its own situation in relation to other discursive systems. As a result of this shift away from the traditional intellectual foundations and compartments, a host of new critical perspectives on architectural practice has suffused and enlivened the discipline with a vigor and probity rivaling that of any other time. Yet, for all its strength and the significance of its efforts, critical theory has been remiss insofar as it has lost contact with and thus abdicated a direct and formative relationship with the professional practice of architectural design. In its efforts to be critical, it has failed to be propositional.
When, late in 1990, Jeffrey Kipnis and I proposed a working session and debate involving a handful of architectural theorists in an effort to focus what we all believed were increasingly divergent theoretical trajectories being spun off at ever greater distances from the practical concerns of professional designers, Phyllis Lambert and the Canadian Centre for Architecture responded with enthusiasm and generous support for a conference. And we had no trouble agreeing that our first test case of theoretical practices meeting a theoretical practice should be John Hejduk. Hejduk’s pedagogy, his personal convictions, as well as his multimodal architectural production, all seem to be founded on a sympathetic, if not entirely similar, refusal of disciplinary boundaries and unchanging definitions. What is more, prepoststructuralist theory (if one allows that formulation had not been able, it seemed to us, to theorize Hejduk’s work at all, let alone its possible implications for a generalizable architectural practice.2 Architectural theory in its more recent iterations, we thought, should set for itself just that goal.
2. Not that there is a dearth of writing on Hejduk, some of it good, even, though most of it, as Peggy Deamer put it, tends to "supplement the poetics with more of the same." Hélène Lipstadt, in an unpublished review of the Hejduk colloquium, reports that "a recent sampling of the published writing on Hejduk, drawn from the Avery Periodical Index since 1978, confirms that press coverage has been frequent--fifty-six articles in all--and consistently laudatory.” Hélène Lipstadt, "Insiders' John Hejduk", MS 1992.
The fact is that Hejduk’s recent work developed hand-in-hand with
the reformation of architectural theory itself in what might properly be called the linguistic research of the neo-avant-garde in the 1970s: the attempt not only to codify architecture as a language but, further, to collapse the distinction between the object of architecture and the theoretical text.
First, the identification of what counted as
the architectural object was shifted away from a single, purely phenomenological mode of perception toward multiple and differentiated "textual" structures, resonances, and plays of signification
--this had begun as early as Hejduk’s Texas Houses and their
"textualization" of the work of Mies van der Robe and Le Corbusier.
Simultaneously, as the newly constructed object-text’s internal powers of meaning construction and its intertextual plays were stressed, Hejduk’s written text (expositions, interviews, poems, fictions)--formerly an appurtenance to the autonomous architectural object--ceased to be merely a set of project descriptions and took on the status of
an equally important, interwoven object-text, a combination of a wide range of signs and codes.
This is Stan Allen on the emergence of Hejduk’s intertexts: "These distinct practices improperly occupy the same ground. A complex spatiality results : a textual architecture that is the exact counterpart to the compositional tactics of Hejduk’s projects." And Robert Somol observes that, as a result of this cohesive and intensive intertextuality, "it is difficult to tell what does not count in the work of John Hejduk, to distinguish the central focus from the peripheral, the totality from the vignette." Writers of architectural "theory" dedicated to a reformation of design "practice" would naturally be drawn to the work of an architect who has fruitfully ignored those very distinctions.