Encyclopedia Ichnographica

Tafuri, Manfredo


Tafuri, Manfredo

Redrawing History - fertilized architecture

...begin the analysis of the Campo Marzio as fertilized architecture with the Porticus Neronianae. The plan itself is like the proverbial missing link because it has both the traditional and the new geometric state all in one design. There is also the solid/void issue which leads directly to the intercourse building in terms of inside/outside, figure ground, penis/vagina, male/female.

...there are references to fecundity in Tafuri, Wilton-Ely, and Fasolo.

Did Piranesi's own imagination itself reach a new "fertilized" state--a state where creative manifestation began to occur exponentially rather that merely linearly?

genetic 1 a : relating to or determined by the origin, development, prior history, or causal antecedents of some phenomenon : CAUSAL, HISTORICAL, EVOLUTIONARY b : based on or determined by evolution from a common source -- used esp. of relations among languages or among words and grammatical forms of languages c : concerned with or seeking to explain, interpret, or understand (as a literary or psychological phenomenon) in terms of its origin and development or of its causal antecedents 2 : of or relating to genetics : characterized or produced by processes of genetics

genetic 1 a : a branch of biology that deals with the heredity and variation or organisms and with the mechanisms by which these are effected 3 : GENESIS

sex, Mars, reenactment

...the phrase, "back to daddy's balls, architecture halls"... ...a connection between this line and the Ichnographia. ...Mars being the father of Romulus--the founder of Rome, and the connection of sex and conception within plans... ... the "testicles" of the Templum Martis as generators...

...the prominence of Mars... ...Piranesi actively redesigned Imperial Rome as he came to understand it. Piranesi assimilated all the knowledge about this part of the city, and through that assimilation he delineated an optimal synthesis. Piranesi's plan of the Campo Marzio is not an architectural reconstruction, but an archeological redesign. Piranesi's plan is not a rendition of what was, rather a rendition of what could have been. Piranesi's plan is not a reconstruction, but an historical reenactment.

The Ichnographia is a powerful reenactment of the architectural history of the Campo Marzio. The history, moreover, is not limited to Imperial Rome. Although the buildings are named for those primarily of the late Empire, Piranesi also very cleverly and extremely subtlely reenacts the architectural history of the Campo Marzio beyond the Imperial Age, specifically the inversion/conversion of Rome from pagan state to Christian state.

The opening stage for the reenactment is the Scenographia (whose very title has obvious theatrical connotations)...

...regarding the Ichnographia as a stone fragment: a reenactment of the Forma Urbis--a virtual reenactment of discovering the great missing piece of the "puzzle" that will bring all the other piece to a grand cohesion. (...here reminded of Tafuri's opening comments to The Sphere and the Labyrinth: "There comes a moment (though not always) in research when all the pieces begin to fall into place, as in a jig-saw puzzle, where all the pieces are near at hand and only one figure can be assembled (and thus the correctness of each move be determined immediately)..."

Campo Marzio/Tafuri 1

Tafuri gives Piranesi's Ichnographia of the Campo Marzio a number of descriptions: a. an ambitious evocation [ 2 : the act or an instance of artistic imaginative re-creation or portrayal (as of a mood, time, place ,or personality) especially in such a manner as to produce a compelling expression of reality or authenticity ] -- the graphic monument of that tentative opening of late baroque culture to revolutionary ideas.

b. Roman antiquity is a recollection imbued with nostalgic ideologies and revolutionary expectations.

c. Roman antiquity is also a myth to be contested.

d. the Campo Marzio's classical derivations are mere fragments.

e. the Campo Marzio's classical derivations are deformed symbols.

f. the Campo Marzio's classical derivations are organisms of an order in a state of decay.

g. the order in the details creates a monstrous pullulation of symbols devoid of significance.

h. "forest"

i. am epic representation of the battle of architecture waged against itself.

j. [a] paradoxical rejection of historical, archeological reality [that]makes the civic potential of the total image very doubtful.

k. a sort of gigantic useless machine.

l. it is an experimental design and the city, therefore, remains an unknown.

m. a colossal piece of bricolage.

n. conveys nothing but a self evident truth: irrational and rational are no longer to be mutually exclusive.

o. [the Campo Marzio demonstrates] the struggle between architecture and the city, between the demand for order and the will to formlessness.

...themes to come out of Tafuri's descriptions of the Campo Marzio are the notion of unknowability, insignificance, and the "archeological mask". I can speculate that Tafuri believed the "archeological mask" covered a historical-polemical agenda on Piranesi's part, and, if so, Tafuri disclosed his own prejudices. Had he immersed himself more fully into the Ichnographia by "re-enacting" Piranesi's work (and perhaps also imaginative process), Tafuri may have reached less negative conclusions. I suspect that Tafuri's own historicist-polemical agenda got in the way of an objective analysis-disclosure of Piranesi's true intentions as portrayed by the Campo Marzio. (This reinforces the case for "re-enactment" as a potentially more correct means of understanding history.)

Campo Marzio/Tafuri 2

Here are more Tafuri descriptions of the Ichnographiam of the Campo Marzio as found in The Sphere and the Labyrinth:

a. a fully developed and articulated metaphor of the machine-universe.

b. polemical and self-critical.

c. a formless heap of fragments colliding one against another.

d. a formless tangle of spurious organism.

e. a homogeneous magnetic field jammed with objects having nothing to do with each other.

f. a kind of typological negation.

g. an "architectural banquet of nausea."

h. a semantic void created by an excess of visual noise.

i. a virtual catalogue.

j. a typological sample book.

Points of Departure

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.

Campo Marzio/Tafuri 2

More texts from Tafuri, The Sphere and the Labyrinth:

p.1: There comes a moment (though not always) in research when all the pieces begin to fall into place, as in a jig-saw puzzle, where all the pieces are near at hand and only one figure can be assembled (and thus the correctness of each move be determined immediately), in research only some of the piece are available, and theoretically more than one figure can be made from them, In fact, there is always the risk of using, more or less consciously, the pieces of he jig-saw puzzle as blocks in a construction game. For this reason, the fact that everything falls into place is an ambiguous sign: either one is completely right or completely wrong. When wrong, we mistake for objective verification the selection and solicitation (more or less deliberate) of the evidence, which is forced to confirm the presuppositions (more or less explicit) of the research itself. The dog thinks it is biting the bone and is instead biting its own tail.
from: Carlo Ginzburg and Adriano Prosperi, Giochi di pazienza: Un seminario sul "Beneficio di Cristo" (Turin: Einuadi, 1975), p. 84.

This is the opening quotation of Part I of The Sphere and the Labyrinth and I think Tafuri himself is sometimes also biting his own tail when he makes sweeping conclusions regarding the Ichnographia of the Campo Marzio. I am not unaware, however, as to fitfulness of this quotation especially with the "puzzling" aspect of the Ichnographia. In the paragraphs that follow, Tafuri speaks of the "language of architecture" and it is here that I can instead introduce my own theory of plans themselves being the texts that architects most know how to read and write.

p. 2-3: The questions that we are posing arise from a precise assumption. History is viewed as a "production," in all senses of the term: the production of meanings, beginnings with the "signifying traces" of events; an analytical construction that is never definite and always provisional; an instrument of deconstruction of ascertainable realities. As such, history is both determined and determining: it is determined by its own traditions, by the objects that it analyzes, by the methods that it adopts; it determines its own transformations and those of the reality that it deconstructs. The language of history therefore implies and assumes the languages and the techniques that act and produce the real: it "contaminates" those languages that those techniques and, in turn, is "contaminated" by them. With the fading away of the dream of knowledge as a means to power, the constant struggle between the analysis and its objects--their irreducible tension--remains. Precisely this tension is "productive": the historical "project" is always the "project of a crisis." Franco Rella writes:

Interpretive knowledge has a conventional character and is a production, a positing of a meaning-in-relation and not an uncovering of the meaning. But what is the limit of this operandi, of this activity? What is the locus of this relationship? What lies behind the Fiktion of the subject, of the thing, of the cause, of the being? What, then, can bear this 'aweful plurality'? The body. 'The phenomenon of the body is the richest, the most significant [deutlichere] , the most tangible phenomenon: to be discussed first [voranzustellen] methodologically, without coming to any decision about its ultimate meaning' This, then, is the limit of interpretation, that is to say the locus of the description. . . . In fact, through criticism and the 'plurality of interpretation' we have acquired the strength 'not to want to contest the world's restless and enigmatic character,' and in this way genealogy has proved itself to be a critique of values, for it has discovered the material origin of them, the body.

p. 36: The overall result is this sample book of typological invertions ecludes--the choice is deliberate--the characterization of the city as a completed formal structure. The clash of the organisms, immersed in a sea of formal fragments, dissolves even the remotest memory of the city as a place of Form. The "city as forest," theorized by Robert Castell, followed by Laugier, and picked up again by Milizia, has a specific value for the culture of the Enlightenment. It is in fact called upon to supply a formal justification for the doctrine of natural law and for physiocratic ideology.

p. 36-7: Exactly this equivalence of form and content is negated in the Campo Marzio. The only "natural" element which appears in it--the Tiber, with its sinuosity--contributes to the dissolution of every residue of order. As in all of Piranesi's work, Nature is not longer identified with the origin of the "beautÚ positive et convainquante," which Claude Perrault had already excluded from the sphere of the naturalistic mimesis.

p. 37: That the subject here is a city indicates that in the Campo Marzio--as in the Carceri--form brought to the point of self-consumption is an absolute. What was safeguarded in the Pianti di ampio magnifico Collegio--a formal arrangement criticized but not negated--deos not survive in the Campo Marzio. Here, moreover, it is no longer a question of a criticism; it is the question of the representation of an active decomposition. The ordo whose dissolution is presented is none other than the totality of Form. The theme hinted at in the Capricci is here brought to full development.

p. 38: And thus the cause of the "decline and fall" is one alone--the loss of republican freedoms and the advent of a laxist aristocracy. The Piranesian "labyrinth" begins to give itself a political significance, cleverly disguised.

The ambiquity of the Campo Marzio now becomes evident; it is at once a "project" and a denunciation. As a disenchanted documentation of the impossibility of an unambiguous definition of language, it--projecting this situation into the past--sounds like a merciless satire of the infinite capacity of late-baroque typology to reproduce itself metamorphically. (The fact that in the Campo Marzio the allusion to baroque typologies is filtered through a classicist geometrism fools no one; it is simply a means of rendering metahistorical and universal the polemic already begun.) Inasmuch as it is--despite everything--an affirmation of a world of forms, the Campo Marzio, precisely because of the absurdity of its horror vacui, becomes a demand for language, a paradoxical revelation of its absence.

Negation and affirmation cannot split apart. The a´ve dialectic" of the Enlightenment is already superseded.

The "great absentee" from the Campo Marzio, then, is language.

The absolute disintegration of formal order, of what remained of the humanist Stimmung, of its sacred and symbolic values--and, above all, of perspective as a symbolic instrument for the quantitative control of space--logically also affects the subject of Piranesi's work: the relationship between history and the present. On one side, there is painstaking , scientific study of archeological findings; on the other, the most absolute arbitrariness in their resolution. (In this respect, after all, the Campo Marzio is anything but an exception in Piranesi's work.) History no longer offers values as such. Subjected to a merciless inspection, it is revealed as a new principle of authority, which as such must be disputed. It is the experience of the subject that establishes values; in this, already lies all the aspiration to the negative polemic of romanticism. Is Piranesi the "archeologist" interested in caves, underground passages, and substructures purely by chance, then? Rather, cannot this interest in "what is hidden" in ancient architecture be interpreted as a metaphor for the search for a place in which the exploration of the "roots" of the monuments meets with the exploration of the depths of the subject? In the AntichitÓ di Albano e di Castel Gandolfo (1764), the methodical reconstruction of the hydraulic and building techniques of the Romans is accompanied in a significant way--as Scott has noted--by views of mysterious underground passages. In both the Carceri and the Campo Marzio History and Nature become detached from the subject, not to open up a new universe of values, but rather to present this radical divergence as the only possible value.

p.39: Let us try to link up the perspective restoration of the Carceri with the goemetric confusion of the Campo Marzio. The shattering of the organisms, the violence wrought upon the laws of perspective, the intuition of the possibilities offered by an indefinite "opening up of form"--the constant metamorphosis of the spaces in the Carceri, the gemmation, which theoretically could be continued ad infinitium, of the geometrical bodies in the Campo Marzio--mark, without any doubt, the end of Alberti's theoretical precepts of concinnitas and of finito. But they also sanction the definitive divorce of architectural signs from their signifieds.

We have already seen how it is precisely the hermetic emphasis on the content [contenutismo] of the Carceri which indicates that in this work the true meaning is entirely in the disorganization of the formal fragments. The list of the geometric variations contained in the Campo Marzio leads to the same conclusion.

The obsessive articulation and deformation of the compositions no longer correspond to an ars combinatoria. The clash of the geometric "monads" is no longer regulated by any "preestablished harmony"; and, most important, it demonstrates that the only meaning this paradoxical casuistry can refer back to is pure geometry, in the absolute semantic void that characterizes it.

Piranesi's constellation attacks not only perspective as a symbolic form, but also the utopia of the inventions of 1743 and of the Collegio. The swarm of theoretically equivalnt forms--theorems constructed around a single thesis--makes it clear that Piranesi's intent in the Campo Marzio is to draw attention to the birth--necessary and terrifying--of an architecture berift of the signified, split off from any symbolic system, from any "value" other than architecture itself.

p.40: It is significant that Piranesi had this "freedom" coincide with a discontinuous montage of forms, citations, and memories (and not only in the Campo Marzio or in the plates of the Parere, but also in the dedicatory plates of the AntichitÓ romane).

p. 41: And it is certain that Canaletto's Capricci as well as Piranesi's Vedute, Carceri, and Campo Marzio are, in their way, "invitations to a voyage," publicity material: as we know, the economic value of his etchings is quite clear to Piranesi, who adopts a clever strategy to attract his public.

p. 44: Baroque arbitrariness thus appears in two facets: exalted in the Parere as an emblem of freedom, it is concemmed in the Campo Marzio and the Ragionamento apologetico, in terms of a revelation of its dangerous ambiguousness, not to speak of its impotence.

p. 44: But the crowding of objects around the multiple centers in the Campo Marzio, in many of the designs of the inventions, in the very plates that accompany the text of the Parere, and the annulling of the concept of space itself lead exactly to the same result.

p. 46: In the combinatory paroxysm of the Campo Marzio, the reduction of architecture to geometric signs merges, not by chance, with the proliferation of variations.

p. 49: . . . in the Campo Marzio we have already glimpsed the demonstration ad absurdium of this necessary "nullification of the signified."

p. 50: And, after all, the sadistic destruction of the organicity of space that takes place in the Campo Marzio and in the plates of the Parere leads directly to architecture as hermetic decoration.

p.51-2: In certain ways, however, the etchings of the Diverse maniere mark a step backward with respect to the Campo Marzio and the altar of San Basilio.

p. 54: The Carceri, the Campo Marzio, and the Cammini thus reveal his recognition--dramatic but for this very reason "virilely accepted--of the inherence of the aberrant within the real.



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