Encyclopedia Ichnographica

Bloomer, Jennifer

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Bloomer, Jennifer


introduction
1996.09.03

Bloomer never really "read" the Campo Marzio, at least not beyond her one "reading" of the gate/entrance to the underworld.




excerpts
1996.09.04

from: Jennifer Bloomer, Architecture and the text: the (s)crypts of Joyce and Piranesi (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993).

p.x: When I was a student in Professor Segrest's urban design class in architecture, he flashed up a slide of the Campo Marzio and made remaks about the brilliance of Piranesi and his plan of Rome and then went on to something else. The jerk. I distinctly remember sitting there thinking I was the only person in the large class who didn't understand this Piranesi stuff and who didn't understand that that whatever it was about his work that was so brilliant was so self-evident that it required no professorial explanation whatsoever. As Professor Segrest now knows only too well, things stick in my craw; so I have tortured him with Piranesi for years. As this book nears completion, I consider us almost even.

p.6: Furthermore, the texts approach each other in another way: the narrative structure of Finnegan's Wake is superimposed upon a geometric structure that resembles an architectonic, and the Piranesi etchings approach the literary in their ambiguity and invitation to a kind of narrative interpretation (a "What is going on here?")

p.18: The first construction (Campo Marzio) relies upon its writtenness, and is constructed as an essay that pushes, in Benjaminian fashion, the limits of the essay form.

p.36: Benjamin's treatise is an "exasperated articulation of a theme [allegory] originally taken as an absolute," a critical experimentalism of Tafuri's type "E," the classification of "Piranesi's Iconographia Campi Martii, of many 'critical restorations' by Albini and Scarpa, of Kahn's last work. (Tafuri, Theories and History, 111).

p.43-44: But at this point Benjamin confronts us with a challange to negotiate the clashing rocks of history and nature: "It is by virtue of a strange combination of nature and history that the allegorical mode of expression is born." (Origins, 167). And we track this treacherous itinerary aboard the[HIEROGLYPH]. For in Benjamin the hieroglyph itself marks the emblem of his allegorical journey through knowledge.
It will be important to recall at this point that the maps of Giambattista Piranesi -- the drawings of Il Campo Marzio--are represented as pictures carved into ancient broken tablets of stone and are thus coded as hieroglyphic maps. Hoeroglyphs, those "images of desire that are the non-stuff of which dreams are made" (Taylor, Altarity, 240), are ubiquitous in Piranesi's Vedute di Roma as well, apperaing properly -- tattooed -- on the shafts of obelisks.

p.67-68: In the autumn of 1757, Giovanni Battista Piranesi completed a postscript to his previously published Antichitą Romane. The six contiguous plates depict an arrangement of stone fragments on which are incised the master plan of the Campo Marzio. The fragments appear to be remains of a plan of ancient Rome, the footprints of layer upon layer of antique Roman buildings. A few diagrams leap out in familiarity: here the Pantheon, there the Theater of Marcellus, and the Piazza Navona; the Mausoleum of Hadrian (the Castello Sant' Angelo) sits in its proper place beside the Tiber, which snakes through the drawing in its "tibertine" way. Upon closer inspection, however, the reader of the drawing will find that it bears little resemblence to any factually recorded reality, either of ancient Rome or of eighteenth-century Rome, although it continues to look distinctly Roman and certainly ancient.
Or does it?

p.70: Piranesi looked about and found, to his horror, the impassive cage of the Cartesian-Newtonian universe descending onto his world. The Campo Marzio Ichnograpia is a product of his reaction. The drawing represents the real and the unreal, the past and the future, a place and no place. With it, Piranesi shatters history and geography, time and space. The devise is critical. It is allegorical. Piranesi's construction of architectural bits, the sediment of history, corresponds to the fractured narrative of James Joyce's Ulysses. ...
Il Campo Marzio del' Antica Roma was a polemical weapon in the eighteenth-century battle over the appropriate origin of good architecture. With the forms it represents, it names Etruria, not Greece, as the source of Roman architecture.

p.71: The Campo Marzio Ichnographia is, in a sense, surreal. It anticipates the poem-objects of Andrč Breton, which juxtopose the real and the unreal, remembered known and imagined unknown, in an irritating, provocative manner. Like the surrealist object, the collision is born in the brain of the maker, a collision that the reader seeks and makes again; for collisions constitute the language. But, regarded again, both Piranesi and Joyce depart radically from surrealism, and their work represents in fact exactly that from which Breton and his colleagues recoiled. Although much of the communicating mechanism operates from the unconscious (in a kind of reverse automatism), a reading of the texts of Piranesi and Joyce requires associations -- switching mechanisms -- based upon a knowledge of the conscious, national world of ideas.

p.72: Piranesi's drawing maps a city, both a real city (Rome) and a city located in a geography of the imagination,2 a city that represents something other. Like Freud's use of "The Eternal City" as a metaphor for the human brain, Piranesi's Rome points to the presence of (hidden, secreted, [CRYPT]ic) elements of prehistory -- the primative, the mythical -- in the Rome of any moment.
But Piranesi's city is not only marked; it is also marker. It marks the labyrinth of the underworld, which is the lower most layer of its palimpsest, as well as that of the overworld, the universe.

p.75: In the geography of the imagination, the world of ideas is a labyrinth in which the imagination is a kind of reverse Ariadne's thread, by which one is lead into the labyrinth. The realnm of ideas is analogous to what for the ancients was the Aegean Sea and to what for Vico was history; a labyrinth. When that realm has been charted, however, it can no longer be represented by a labyrinth; the labyrinth must slide into another place. We can wander here; we often return to familiar points, familiar intersections, which give pleasure. This is the mythical labyrinth, which we enter and from which, we discover, we have no desire to emerge.

p.77-78: The generating structure of the Campo Marzio, Ulysses, and Finnegan's Wake is a labyrinth, and, with its concentric walls, it resemples the concentric spheres of universe, the circles of the lower world, and the mediating microcosm, the city, which in its archtypal form--Troy or Jerich--consists of encircling walls. ... "What we see when we look at the Campo Marzio Ichnographia are representations of the vestiges of wall--ancient city walls, walls of buildings, garden walls--the structure of the city. What we see when we look at a labyrinth are its walls. In the labyrinth, the walls are the presence, but the walls are not the substance. Only the space captured by the walls, the way, occupies the wanderer.

p.80: Across the broken slab flows the Tiber, backbone of the city, and backbone of the drawing. It is an element represented and representing, a river and a model of narrative., looping through the fiction of space, its lace apron of tributaries and canals bound into the tapestry of the city. ... The river marks the point of transition from the world of the underworld. It is passage, both in the spatial sense of a medium of passage from one realm to another and in the temporal sense of flow.6 The river (of time, of history) denotes the boundry between the labyrinth of life and the labyrinth of death.

p.82: On the riverbank, just across the Tiber from the Mausoleum of Hadrian, there is in Piranesi's drawing a depiction of a structure enclosing a crater in the land. It is labeled Terentus occulens aram Ditis et Proserpinae, "the Terentus covering/hiding the alter of Dis and Proserpina." The Terentus was the site of the ludi saeculares, the secular games," held approximately every hundred years. The site of the [GAME]s occludes a means of access to the dark void beneath it. This form a point of connection in "The Eternal City" to a subterranean labyrinth of which the overlying city is an iteration. The en[CRYPT]ed underworld, the world beyond the real, with its sevenfold, labyrinthine geography, is the unknown that can be reached through the known, the city labyrinth above. Piranesi's crater is a Viconian keyhole, a Freudian screen.
In his flight into the unknown of the labyrinth, Piranesi displays his terror of the all-inclusivity of the all-inclusive unknown. The Campo Marzio Ichnograpia and the Scienza Nuova cry out for a halt of the lowering of the rationalist cage. No order form the outside, no structural order, they plead, is necessary in a system that is, in a large sense, chaotic, but that has internal ordering threads.

p.84-85: To the east of the crater in the drawing lies an enormous configuration of lines shaped like a concave lens. These denote the paths of the sun across the earth at various times of the year, forming, with the sun, a timepiece.
Piranesi's reaction of shock looks backward to prehistory in its invocation of myth and its orientation toward source and forward to modernism in its fragmentation and abstraction, and in its distant viewpoint. Like a shattered narrative, the drawing's temporal orientation is discontinuous and tends to return to familiar points by means of fragments in two ways here. The drawing both represents a shattering and operates as a shatterer, It is, like the fractured narrative of Joyce, "the future Presentation of the Past.

Points of Departure
1998.01.07

I have decided to put together a critical essay regarding my interpretations and disputations of the contemporary existing texts on the Ichnographia. It will be called "Points of Departure"...

...this combined presentation technique may also follow Piranesi's methodology, thus offering the possibility of a further "re-enactment".

In thinking of the typologies... ...regard to Tafuri's comments of the Ichnographia being a sample book and something unknowable. ...the [scale] comparison between St. Peter's and the Bustum Hadriani is a perfect place to start, although I could also compare the Ichnographia plans to other ancient Roman plans, particularly the large baths. Such drawings would refute Tafuri's and Bloomer's statements regarding the smallness (and seemingly insignificantly treated Pantheon and tomb of Hadrian).

...Piranesi's cribbing of the Porticus Aemilia for the Septa Julia may actually represent Piranesi's scale for the entire Ichnographia. It could be that Piranesi very purposefully installed the Forma Urbis fragment of the Porticus Aemilia into the Ichnographia for the precise purpose of demonstrating more of the actual scale (and gigantism) of ancient Rome (--it is as if Piranesi is here illustrating his own quote about how one just has to look around at Rome and Hadrian's Villa to see the examples he emulates.) Piranesi was not being deceptive or misleading, nor was he acting out of ignorance of the fragment's true identity. Piranesi used the Porticus Aemilia as evidence and example.




Mistakes and Inversions
1998.02.19

...address Piranesi's own mistakes and inversions, particularly the inversion of the Circus Flaminius (which I now know to be also exchanged in location with the theater of Balba, which further shows Piranesi's intentional "mistakes" to make a specific point). [Perhaps,] Piranesi makes the mistakes, first to call attention to specific points, and second to highlight the notion of inversion. Piranesi is indeed being theatrical, which is only natural because of the whole notion of reenactment. ...discuss the Ichnographia's Triumphal Way and how Piranesi redesigns (reenacts) the Way making it more ideal to its purpose (marching through the theater district). The Way (within Ichnographia at least) ends at the Temple of Janus--a perfect example of inversion. Then following the Triumphal Way in reverse manifests the Christian theme of salvation and redemption, ending at the inverted "basilica"--the upside-down "inverted" crucifixion of St. Peter. ...the Ichnographia not only represents the history of ancient pagan city of Rome, but also the Christian city of Rome. This evokes Augustine's The City of God and also Bloomer's notion of the Ichnographia transcending time.

...the Scenographia as the stage upon which Piranesi reenacts--this is the first scene and the "play" is about to begin. In the course of the "play" the most egregious "mistake/inversion" is the misplacement and disorientation of the Circus Flaminius and its actual exchange with the Theater of Balba. This "mistake" manifests a composition of inverted theaters--essentially a double inverted theater. This configuration becomes one of the Il Campo Marzio's final scenes and thus represents the double inverted "theater" of Rome's own history--the narrative of pagan Rome and the narrative of Christian Rome, and in the Ichnographia the one story is indeed a reflection of the other.






"The Key Plan"
1998.02.19

"The Key Plan"... ...about the tiny unnamed intercourse building at the end of the axis of life.

...unlocking secrets, gaining access to knowledge.

...the plan as depicting conception, and therefore the intentional starting point for meaning (and hence interpretation as well).

...the symbolism regarding the conception of Romulus and Remus--Mars and the royal Vestal Virgin as the parents.

...the tiny plan as the generator of all the subsequent plans; the beginning of the "embryonic development" of all the other plan formations.

...the signifying effect of inside vs. outside and of solid vs. void.

...the irony that Bloomer's key plan is just across the river and the unfortunate non-starter nature of her interpretation and underworld scenario.

...the connection to the The City of God regarding the fratricide of Romulus towards Remus and its parallel to Cain and Abel.




Tafuri, Manfredo
1998.11.16

After an extended independent analysis of the Ichnographia Campus Martius, it becomes evident that Tafuri misreads Piranesi's large plan in most cases. Tafuri's text indicates no research of the plan beyond simply looking at it and subsequently offering a description of what Tafuri thinks he sees. (In fact, a careful reading of both Tafuri's texts and the text of Fasolo from 1956, clearly shows that Fasolo's text greatly influenced Tafuri's observations.) For example, in calling out the various axes of the Campo Marzio, Tafuri notes the axis running through Hadrian's Tomb, but he fails to recognize it's symbolic function as the Axis of Death; nor does he identify the Axis of Life that runs perpendicular to the Axis of Death. Moreover, Tafuri marginally notes the semblance of an axis within the northeast sector of the plan, yet he never mentions that Piranesi labeled this axis the Equiria, place of the annual horse races instituted by Romulus in honor of Mars.

These are just two examples which plainly demonstrate that Piranesi's plan holds significant and coherent symbolic content, however, recognition of Piranesi's "carved in stone" symbolism necessarily negates Tafuri's primary thesis that the Ichnographiam Campi Martii is utterly fragmented and devoid of "language." Ironically, had Tafuri not discounted the presence of language and instead actually translated the hundreds of Latin labels Piranesi applies throughout the plan, he would have concluded with a more accurate, if not also a more honest reading.

It is truly unfortunate that the subsequent 20th century Campo Marzio analyses of Allen, Bloomer, and Eisenman, build upon Tafuri's mistakes rather than correct them.




eros et thanatos
2683a
1999.01.29




crypto-architecture
1999.07.29 14:28

Generally, Bloomer's treatment of Piranesi's Campo Marzio follows that of Tafuri's, but she investigates some of Piranesi's other work with some originality. She is much better at finding symbolism/hidden meaning in Joyce, however, than she is in finding the same in Piranesi. For her, the (s)crypt(s) signifies a labyrinth (one she often seems lost in herself, even though it is a labyrinth of her own making!). For example, she sees the Campo Marzio plan as representing the labyrinth of the underworld, that place where the [Cartesian] grid/cage of rationality does not apply. Her [s]cryptic efforts getting into this underworld are especially worth reading because it is a thorough aggregate of good research mixed (unfortunately?) with the Tafurian and Derridian agendas (see her treatment of the CM's Terentus occulens aram Ditis et Proserpinae). Inadvertently, however, by going 'underneath' the large plan, she puts all her effort into seeking something that is not there. Essentially, she avoids the real plan itself.

It rocked Eisenman in his chair...
2005.11.10 10:38

My opinion of Bloomer's book, as far as it relates specifically to reading Piranesi's Ichnographia of the Campo Marzio, is that it is indeed wrong and [somewhat] trite--almost all of what Bloomer writes about the Ichnographia is taken virtually verbatim from Tafuri; she does, however, include some original material relative to the "pit of the underworld" citing it as the entry way into understanding the Ichnographia as a labyrinth, but she misses the real key to the large plan (the tiny intercourse building) which is directly across the Tiber from the pit. Bloomer's book may be fun, but it is not good scholarship in that she really did not come to read and understand the whole plan at all--she went on to seek meaning "underneath" the plan while what she really did was avoid the actual plan itself. Can you honestly say that you now know what the Ichnographia is about after reading Bloomer's book?




It rocked Eisenman in his chair...
2005.11.10 13:30

When I went to the Fine Arts Library of the University of Pennsylvania on 14 May 1999 it was to see an actual etching of the Ichnographia of the Campo Marzio for the first time. I felt sure I would see the Ichnographia at the Penn library because within the "Illustration Credits" of Jennifer Bloomer's Architecture and the Text (p. 215) it states:

"Giovanni Battista Piranesi, details from Il Campo Marzio dell'Antica Roma: Ichnographia. Etching, six plates. Used by permission of the Fine Arts Library of the University of Pennsylvania."

I asked at the reference desk about Il Campo Marzio..., and I was told there was no such holding in the catalogue. I mentioned the citing in Bloomer's book, and I even went into the book stacks and got Bloomer's book itself to show the librarian. The head librarian was called and he thought to look in the old card catalogue of the Rare Book Room--Penn was then still in the midst of filling data onto it's fairly new online book catalogue and the Rare Book Room holdings were not yet in the electronic catalogue. Sure enough, Penn does possess a 1762 edition of Il Campo Marzio..., but even that was hard to find because the call number on the card was a typographic error. Alas, I finally had an actual Ichnographia unfolded in front of me and within minutes I discovered that the plan I was now looking at was not entirely the same as the plan reproduction that I had up till then been used to looking at. And architectural history changed a little bit that day.

Then knowing that the Ichnographia exists in two versions, I went back to Bloomer's Architecture and the Text to see which version of the Ichnographia are reproduced in detail there. Strangely enough, the details of the Ichnographia reproduced in Architecture and the Text DO NOT match the 1762 Ichnographia at the Fine Arts Library of the University of Pennsylvania.




Lost's ending
2009.01.29

I now suspect, after seeing the third episode of Lost season 5 last night, that Lost will end with all of its original cast alive and together. This is how I see the current time traveling coming to a conclusion. It will be like Finnegans Wake and like Il Campo Marzio. Too bad Bloomer didn't make this vital connection.

So now it's exploration of the possibilities of the space-time continuum. Like Proust was a neuroscientist, was Piranesi, with the Ichnographia Campus Martius, a scientist of the fourth dimension? (Here is where I have to review Dixon's "Ichnographia as Uchronia".) Is Ichnographia Quondam also a study/experiment of architecture (and urbanism) in the fourth dimension? For IQ the time continuum connection is the Axis of Life/Parkway connection, which comes after Piranesi's own Porticus Neronianus/St. Peter's connection.




It rocked Eisenman in his chair...
2005.11.10 15:03

To be honest, I care very little about what Bloomer wrote or how she intellectually operates. What I do care about is what Piranesi delineated via the two versions of the Ichnographia of Il Campo Marzio.... All I have ever done is analyze the Ichnographia itself, which is exactly what virtually all other contemporary writers on the Ichnographia have not done! I have never been interested in spreading some current/trendy intellectual "thought" by troping Piranesi and the Ichnographia, a course of action begun by Tafuri. What I am interested in is to find out what Piranesi did himself.




anybody know where I can find classical/renaissance blueprints?
2009.10.19 11:35

Sometime late 2007 I came in possession of the Spring 1980 edition of Penn In Ink, the newsletter of the Graduate School of Fine Arts University of Pennsylvania. On the inside back cover is offered "An Original Peranesi [sic] Offering -- The Graduate School of Fine Arts is pleased to offer from its Rare Book Room collection to its alumni, students, and friends a limited edition reproduction of an original Giovanni Battista Peranesi [sic] engraving, the 1762 composite plan of Ancient Rome dedicated to Robert Adam, as shown above."

There may indeed be a second (state) original engraving of the "composite plan of Ancient Rome" (i.e., the Ichnographia Campus Martius) within the Rare Book Room collection of the Graduate School of Fine Arts, but, nonetheless, the reproduction offered does not match the (first state) Ichnographia engraving within the Il Campo Marzio publication within the Graduate School of Fine Arts Rare Book Room.



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