Brief Encounter / TRAUMNOVELLE
responding to Parasite 2.0
Can we exhibit architecture?
To answer this question, let’s first try to understand what it means to exhibit. The Cambridge Dictionary provides three possible interpretations.
example: Most zoos try to exhibit animals in naturalistic settings.
“To show something publicly.”
The question then becomes: can architecture be shown publicly? In that case: yes, architecture is always a public act even when it’s made to hide our undesirable secrets. If we compare architecture events or exhibitions to zoos, the aim to show architecture in its natural setting is far from being attained. Architecture is shown outside of its “natural context”, and the process of extraction is precisely that which allows to create the exhibition narration. The absence of “parasitic” elements linked to context which don’t adhere to the curatorial vision creates a de facto diorama. An idealized framework which has the pretence of showing archetypical – and as thus ideal – architecture, giving the public a reassuring sense of the social utility of architecture.
“To show something in public for competition, sale, or amusement”
The relationship between the zoo and the exhibition appears to be relevant again. Of course, they are educational spaces. We go there to learn things about how other beings behave, how they live, where they come from, what their primitive habits are. They are also moments of leisure and entertainment, bonding opportunities. Just like the zoo capitalizes on the apex predator’s enslaved creatures, the architectural exhibition is part of a devilish flight forward in the fight for visibility which immediately translates the competitive nature of the architectural profession. To whom does this competitiveness benefit? “Divide and rule”, as they say, forbidding any form of collective action through architecture.
“(in Law) a thing used as evidence (= proof that something is true) in a trial”
The zoo is based on the understanding that the signs of animal misery – the repetitive movements, the circular trails – are to be ignored and that the purpose of the institution remains unchallenged by them. The zoo is proof of the grandeur of the human race and the extent of its domination on the animal kingdom. Can architecture also be used as a proof that something is true? Architecture thus becomes a political tool articulating spaces of representation with specific values – generally related to the possession of a certain form of power. The architecture exhibition is another medium articulating architecture with a system of values. Architecture has, time and again, been used as an instrument of oppression specifically by taking up the pretense of objectivity.
In this framework, perhaps the question is in fact: “Should we exhibit architecture?”