Sunday, January 17, 2010


Kendell Geers, ‘Rack’, 2009
Metal and beer bottles, 71 x 74 cm diameter (28 x 29in)
27 November 2009 - 21 January 2010
Stephen Friedman Gallery

Architecture's Inside

Why is architecture so often represented only from the outside? Do architects just pay more attention to the outside? Or is it perhaps because the external view of a building provides the image of a totality, an image that in its flatness is easier to comprehend than one of the interior? Photographs of the interior can require more attention. They are frequently fragments of a larger entity, like a room, with the added complexities of spatial depth and variations in light and color, materials, and surfaces. Along with the particularities of the occupation of space, they often record the ordinariness of the everyday. To see the interior through the camera is to see it once removed—an artifice that says as much about our attitude towards the conditions surrounding the subject as it does about the subject being depicted.

In contrast to architects’ emphasis on physical description, artists have given more attention to the interior as a situation, a site of events and affects. The filmmaker Chantal Akerman, for example, often focuses on everyday situations of the interior: washing and cleaning, conversations with her mother about their family history, or the unlit, silent corridors of a cheap institutional building like Hotel Monterey in her 1972 film of that title. In her work, the interior is the site of routines. Through the duration and repetition of these routines, the interior assumes an order, albeit one that coexists with chaos, disorder, and trauma. As Maurice Blanchot wrote in “Everyday Speech,” “The everyday is platitude, … but this banality is also what is most important if it brings us back to existence in its very spontaneity and as it is lived—at the moment when, lived, it escapes every speculative formulation, perhaps all coherence and all regularity.”1

The artist’s approach may ironically reveal more about an interior’s physical characteristics than does the architect’s. In 1927, Marcel Duchamp modified the door to his studio in Paris so that it operated between two adjacent openings; when it opened in one direction, it closed in another. Duchamp’s door leads to the condition of the room never being fully enclosed or independent of the adjoining spaces. It constructs a set of alternating and ambiguous relations between the various seen and unseen spaces of the apartment. Manipulating the operation of simple elements of architecture—doors, windows, and corridors—is an important factor in our imagining of new forms of architectural and spatial relationships. Other examples of this can be found in the works of Gordon Matta-Clark, with his revelatory extractions in an almost surgical cutting away of disused buildings and their interiors, or the work of L.A.-based artist Paul McCarthy in such projects as his Bang Bang Room installation (1992), or the pavilions of Dan Graham, where different types of glass are used to explore issues of displacement and delay, transparency and reflection, so that our perceptual bodies entangle with the ephemeral and site-specific performances of his constructions.

A recent installation at London’s Camden Arts Center, That Open Space Within, creates another kind of shift in the visual relation of the viewer to the outside. The artist Anya Gallaccio, whose work often deals with decay, moved a dead horse-chestnut tree from the grounds into one of the galleries. This meticulous displacement of a “natural” element was planned with the help of a tree surgeon, who cut and then re-assembled the tree with steel bolts. The mode of reassembly heightens our sense of the tree’s fragility, in the same way that we would become aware of the fragility of our own body after suffering a fracture.

Extracted from the outside, the dead tree acquires a more factual, immediate, and tactile presence inside. And perhaps as important as this inversion (though it may be unplanned) is how the tree, in the way it occupies the gallery, reveals so much about the space it is filling. The tree becomes a measure of the room, of its width, length, and height, of the recessed window facing the garden, and of the walls and floors that support its weight. The tree helps us see the space and its specific attributes much more precisely, as if with a sharper sensibility.

The importance of the relation between an event and its setting is particularly evident in films. The late Rainer Werner Fassbinder was a master of capturing the mood of an interior and often framed the view of a room where the action was unfolding through an open doorway, presenting the space in its stillness as a denatured setting. More recently, Hong Kong-based director Wong Kar-wai has explored the connections between character, plot, and physical space in films such as the melodrama In the Mood for Love. The action is slowed down, and this heightens the effect. At the same time, every element of the interior, every piece of clothing or furniture, lighting or fabric, seems to be choreographed as part of the mise en scène. (Even on the few occasions when the actors are out in the city, the scenes are shot close up, giving them the intimacy of a large interior.) We can imagine the spaces, understand the proximity of the rooms in these small apartments occupied by multiple families, and almost smell the food being cooked in the communal kitchen—in other words we understand the correspondence between physical space and potential events. The apartment performs spatially in a very different way when used by multiple families than when occupied by a single family. The sense of privacy is highly dependent on the relations between the social and the physical.

In architecture, the combination of different programs or uses is one way the articulation of such relations can be made more explicit. Chareau and Bijvoet’s Maison de Verre, one of the icons of Modern architecture, is a case in point. Combining a doctor’s office and home, the project was both conceived and constructed as a pure inside. The new structure was inserted in place of the lower floors of an existing building, leaving the tenant-occupied attic intact. Continuing the tradition of the hôtel particulier while also offering advanced ideas in handicraft/fabrication and suggesting the future potentials of prefabrication, the house pays unusual attention to the qualities and relations of the spaces and materials of the interior. The staircase is a mechanism of arrival, a hinge point linking the doctor’s rooms on the ground floor with the double-volume living room above. The house’s physical materials, its bookcases, handrails, and floor finishes, as well as its ephemeral characteristics, such as the quality of the light coming through the translucent glass-block exterior, emphasize its haptic and sensual interiority. The Maison de Verre has little visual relationship to the outside, unlike much of the work of Le Corbusier, in which the house is a machine for viewing the outside (as in the famous Petit Maison, with its horizontal window), or Mies’s Farnsworth House, with its simultaneous sense of protection from the elements and dissolution of the boundary between inside and outside. Much has already been written about the Maison de Verre and the correspondence between the clinic on the ground floor and the attention to health and hygiene demonstrated by the arrangement and number of bathrooms in the rest of the building. Yet it is in the attention given to the tension between handicraft and the possibilities for industrial manufacturing—the tension between uniqueness and repetition—that the house achieves its most radical qualities. Because of this, it is hard to make a distinction between the rooms and their furniture; there is continuity and fluidity between its spaces and the design of elements such as staircases, bookshelves, and bathroom fittings, which are more akin to pieces of equipment than furniture. These elements—many of them presumably the work of the metalworker Louis Dalbet—are intertwined with the physical envelope of the building, providing a more complex sense of the interior as a setting. Like Chantal Akerman, Chareau pays attention to the everyday, but here the everyday is the site of innovative speculation about the nature of habitation.

Just a few years before the Maison de Verre was built in Paris, the artist and craftsman Wharton Esherick began the construction of his own studio in Paoli, Pennsylvania. For Esherick this was an opportunity to celebrate the sculptural qualities of his craft. The studio’s key feature is a solid wood staircase that twists through the center of the space. Carved by hand, as were other elements of the interior, it makes the studio a singular artifact, unsuited, indeed averse, to technological repetition or replication. Climbing the staircase, which has no real handrail or protection, one succumbs to a sense of danger that ironically makes it even safer than a conventional one. The juxtaposing of the colors and textures of the wooden elements with the solidity of the bare walls creates a rich intimacy.

The idea of the interior as a form of conceptual carving is perhaps best demonstrated by Francesco Borromini’s little church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane in Rome. This 17th-century masterpiece has an intricate plan with a complex geometrical arrangement of intersecting ovals. Yet the overall effect of the plan, with the resultant thick poché walls, suggests more a collection of spaces carved from a solid than a building constructed according to geometrical principles. This is especially the case with the spaces adjacent to the cross-shaped plan, where the sense of the hollowing out of space, like excavations for mining, is most prominent. The diversity of spaces and geometries on such a small corner site produces a highly ornamental interior that is also consistent with the plasticity of the concave and convex treatment of the building’s facade.

Historically, the rationale for the arrangement of architectural spaces has been made manifest through the structuring of the plan. But the thick walls of Borromini’s church create an experiential disjunction between the adjacent spaces of the building, partly because of the way the interior is planned in response to the site’s boundary conditions. Borromini’s plan bears attributes similar to those of a building’s section: a description of a set of relations that the building performs through the user’s experience of the space, relations that are not made visible as a whole. The section as a drawing is a key device for the organization and description of a building’s inside: both a tool for seeing the hidden, like an X-ray, and a blueprint for construction.

In projects from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim to Le Corbusier’s Carpenter Center (or, more recently, OMA’s Dutch Embassy in Berlin and Casa da Musica in Porto, UN Studio’s Möbius House and Mercedes-Benz Museum, or Zaha Hadid’s Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, among many others), the section is used as both a concept and a drawing tool for choreographing the building’s internal and even external vertical trajectories. In the process, the section becomes a means of incorporating the experiential movement of the user within the architecture’s inside.

These examples demonstrate that architecture’s engagement with the interior has been varied, experimental, and productive. However, this important issue has not received much focused intellectual attention within the academy, in contrast to the enormous popular interest demonstrated by the global success of television programs focusing on lifestyle. Today, many architects, along with interior and industrial designers, deal with projects broadly called “interior architecture,” but even this title cannot be legitimately used by academic institutions and practitioners in parts of the world where the word architect is protected. Despite these hurdles, designers such as Antonio Citterio, Jürgen Bey, Philippe Starck, Jasper Morrison, the Bouroullec brothers, Tokujin Yoshioka, Ron Arad, Konstantin Grcic, Masamichi Katayama, Ross Lovegrove, and Droog Design, to name but a few, have created objects and interiors that consider our everyday environments with fresh eyes. New materials and new techniques of production have led to exciting and innovative products, especially in industrial design and furniture manufacturing, as well as projects for fashion companies. But much of the work being done under the heading of “interior” has little or no connection to the outside—“the architecture.”

The current proliferation of large-scale projects, from airports to office buildings, calls for interiors that can undergo a succession of rapid transformations. In these buildings, where architecture merely defines the organizing structure and the envelope, the temporal conditions and needs of the interior cannot be too rigidly fixed. However, rather than understanding these contingencies as the basis for a different type of app-roach towards the interior, the majority of contemporary large-scale projects continue to rely on conventional and formulaic solutions. This has not always been the case. The 19th-century arcades of Paris, for example, were a manifestation of the internalization of public life. Louis Aragon’s surrealist novel Paris Peasant contains a beautiful description of the Passage de l’Opéra—long since demolished—as “a human aquarium.” But such places, unlike contemporary malls, were also the sites of unexpected discoveries and encounters.

Computation and technology more generally have made it easier for us to imagine the interior of buildings through dynamic renderings that simulate the characteristics of interactive and ambient environments. From kinematics to atmospheres, the future of the interior is bound to rely more and more on the development of new forms of responsive environments attuned to the nuances of our sensory pleasures. The works of artists such as Olafur Eliasson or James Turrell (still constructing the Roden Crater in the Painted Desert of Arizona) are manifestations of this tendency. But how can the everyday benefit from this research, the amalgam of the past and the present? It is no coincidence that some of the most exciting discoveries related to sensory qualities have occurred at the intersection of architecture, art, and design. According to Jürgen Bey, the Dutch designer known for his unorthodox settings and furniture, we need to create “a symbiosis between intuition and intellect.” For Bey, “good art is like scientific research. Investigating the world in search of new answers without the question of direct use. An unrestrained research that makes us experience reality differently over and over again. And in design you sometimes find art.”2 Perhaps it is irresponsible of us to think of the inside without the functional realities of the everyday. But it is precisely in the provisional postponement of the routine, and in questioning whether it should be otherwise, that we may find answers. It is time once again for architecture, in collaboration with other disciplines, to consider the inside with the wit, seriousness, and curiosity it deserves.

Text by Mohsen Mostafavi

1. "Everyday Speach," Yale French Studies 73 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987), 13.

Source: Harvard Design Magazine, Number 29, Fall/Winter 2008—09

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Autoconstruction, Bridges and Dams: Extension

Damian Ortega
"Autoconstruction, Bridges and Dams: Extension," 1997.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Toward an Incomplete Manifesto of Decade

The Return of the Politics in Art and Architecture
Yorgos Tzirtzilakis

No Absolute Individualism, no Supremacy of Mobility, no Sprawl, no Metapolis, no Junkspace, no Figurative Architecture, no Dematerialization, no Cyberspace, no Cyberplatonism, no Neoliberal Urbanisation, no Corporate City, no Spectacular City, no Hidden City, no at Hysteria of Continuous Joyful Life, no Overexcited Situationist City, no Boring Green Cities, no Sentimental Common Planting of Trees the Sundays, no Technocratic Sustainability Consensus, no Political Cities -but only making Cities Politically, no Political Art -but only making Art Politically.

We prefer abstract and underdesigned architecture, incomplete and infrarealistic installations, empty and void spaces where only life itself is allowed to be fuckin' special, dramatic and “jouissance” –in the lacanian sense.

No Tourist and Idyllic Pictures of the Sea –only Coastal and AgroMegastructuralism


Yorgos Tzirtzilakis, Dimitris Tsakalakis, East urban Center of Heraklion, Crete, 1993

Friday, January 8, 2010


Lewis Baltz, North Wall, Semicoa, 333 McCormick, Costa Mesa, from the series New Industrial Parks, 1974

I Can See Your Ideology Moving

The scene: A windy seaside town in England. An arts festival (entitled, perhaps pretentiously, The Windy Seaside Town Biennale) is in full swing. An audience of skeptical locals, theater-seat-radicals and bloodthirsty performance-art lovers, sated after fish and chips and lashings of warm ale, is watching a man speaking to a picture of Karl Marx. More unusually, the picture speaks back to the man, for this is Ian Saville, socialist magician and ventriloquist, demonstrating his revolutionary art.
At the back of the hall, the art critic Sally O’Reilly watches curiously, almost unable to contain the questions that crowd her mind. The audience is laughing …

Ian Saville holding his talking picture of Karl Marx. Photos Jonathan Allen.

Sally O’Reilly, Ian Savvily

IAN: Hello, Karl Marx.
MARX: Hello.
IAN: How are you?
MARX: Not too bad.
IAN: Are you enjoying the show?
MARX: I’m enjoying it immensely.
IAN: Actually, Karl, I was just wondering ...
MARX: Yes?
IAN: If in your day ...
MARX: In my day, yes?
IAN: . ..whether you ever had anything like this.
MARX: In what way?
IAN: Well, I wondered if you ever had this sort of socialist culture—socialist songs, music, humor, or even socialist conjuring tricks?
MARX: We had socialist culture, of course.
IAN: You did?
MARX: Oh yes. We had socialist songs, music, humor. All that sort of thing. But we didn’t have socialist conjuring tricks.
IAN: You didn’t?
MARX: No, although it’s a little-known fact that originally I wanted my theories done as conjuring tricks.
IAN: Did you really?
MARX: Oh, yes.
IAN: What was it that stopped you from doing your theories as conjuring tricks, then?
MARX: Engels.
IAN: Friedrich Engels, your collaborator.
MARX: Yes.
IAN: In what way did he stop you?
MARX: Well, I used to come home after a hard day at the British Museum ...
IAN: Yes.
MARX: ... and I’d go into my house. Through the door, of course.
IAN: Yes.
MARX: And I’d go into the living room, and I’d say, “Engels.” (Pause. Louder:) “Engels!" (Pause. Louder:) “ENGELS!!" (Pause:) Because he didn’t live at my house.
IAN: Didn’t he?
MARX: No. He lived in Manchester, and I was in London. So I’d write to him, and in the letter I’d say: “Look here Engels, I’ve discovered this important new principle. We’ve got to get it out to the general public somehow. What about this idea—what about bringing it out as a rope trick?
IAN: And what would his reaction be to that suggestion?
MARX: He’d say something like: “No!”
IAN: He was against the idea, was he?
MARX: He’d say, “No! Bring it out as Capital Volume I,or Theories of Surplus Value, or The Grundrisse, or Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts …”
IAN: In other words, bring it out as a book. He was telling you to bring out your theories as a book.
MARX: Yes. Actually, I was trying to avoid that word. For your sake.
IAN: Anyway, I’m glad you didn’t bring out your theories as magic tricks, because I don’t think you could explore the level of complexity in a rope trick that you could in three volumes of Capital ...
MARX: Yes, I’ve noticed that with your tricks.
IAN: Is there anything else you’d like to suggest to help me with my socialist magic tricks?
MARX: I’d like to say that “all previous magicians have only interpreted the world. The point, however, is to change it.”
IAN: And I’m sure these people will change it. Though not immediately, of course. You see, this show is so effective that sometimes, when I say, “Change the world,” people immediately want to get out there and change things. So they leave. Sometimes even before the show is over. But you can wait till the end. Because you probably won’t be able to get much changed this evening. And tomorrow’s the weekend. But anyway. Are there any other constructive criticisms you could offer me, Karl?
MARX: Well, what I’ve noticed is that you’ve only dealt with a small part of the picture. I know you’ve done something about class and solidarity, but there’s a whole world of ideas and emotions to be tackled with this socialist conjuring business. I mean, for example, you haven’t mentioned anything about surplus value.
IAN: No, I haven’t. I’ll get onto that straight away.
SALLY: (from audience): Just a minute!
IAN: Excuse me, I’m trying to get on with a show here.
SALLY: I don’t think so. In fact, this is a reconstruction in written form of something that only properly exists as a piece of live performance.
IAN: That’s one of the most pathetic heckles I’ve come across in a long time.
SALLY: It’s not a heckle. It’s part of a critical commentary.
IAN: Isn’t that the same thing?
SALLY: No, criticality takes a position of reciprocity and exegesis in relation to the artwork, not disruption or negation.
IAN: I’m not sure I understand a word you’re saying.
SALLY: You don’t have to understand. This is for the readers.
IAN: The audience.
SALLY: Never mind. What I want to know is: Why are you using magic tricks in this way? Do you seriously believe that illusions such as these can change the world?
IAN: Pardon?
IAN: Listen, comrade, rather than shouting your remarks from the back of this smoke-filled room, perhaps you could join me up here on the stage.

(Sally steps up. Enthusiastic applause from the now nonexistent audience.)

IAN: Thank you. And your name is …?
SALLY: Sally O’Reilly.
IAN: Do you mind if I call you Rosa Luxemburg, just for the purposes of this next trick?
IAN: What about Emma Goldman?
SALLY: Better, but I’d still prefer to stick to the name I was born with.
IAN: I don’t know whether to interpret this as bourgeois individualism or a commendable refusal to go along with the petty demands of authority.
SALLY: Will you just get on with the trick?

(A muffled voice is heard from a suitcase onstage. It seems to be saying: “I am not actually here, but let me out nevertheless.” Ian opens the suitcase and removes a Bertolt Brecht ventriloquial doll.)

BRECHT: She’s absolutely right. Get on with the trick. Never mind all this theoretical stuff. Doing something in the real world, that’s what’s important. The truth is concrete.
MARX: Yes, you must engage in praxis—the seamless fusion of theoretical and practical activity in order to maximize your effectiveness for change.
BRECHT: And while you’re at it, you could engage in a bit more practice. I can still see your lips move every time you say my name.
IAN: Listen, how am I supposed to engage in anything when I’ve got three ventriloquial figures continuously commenting on what I’m doing.
SALLY: Just a minute, I’m not a ventriloquial figure.
IAN: You could have fooled me.
SALLY: I’m just a writer who is complicit in the contingent construction of this narrative progression.
IAN: Never mind that. Listen here, Marx and Brecht. The reason I’m doing magic tricks …
SALLY: Oh yes, I wanted to know about that too …
IAN: … is precisely because magic is an engagement with real objects in the real world, a sphere of performance in which the audience is constantly invited to ask themselves about what has really happened. They don’t see a symbolic representation of reality, but an actual manipulation of things …
SALLY: Ah, but the things are not, in reality, behaving in the way you lead the audience to think they are …
MARX: That’s right. You are engaged in illusion.
SALLY: Which must tend to weaken your audience’s ability to deal with the problems of power, exploitation, and oppression that you try to expose. And anyway, these objects you manipulate are symbolic representations—they are not the real working class or a factory owner. You are dallying in the idle sport of allegory. Why don’t you demonstrate your intentions instead of merely illustrating them?
BRECHT: Wait a minute. Allow me to jump to the sap’s defense—on your first point, at least. The rest is too incoherent to deal with. There is a big difference between the sort of illusion practiced by the White House or Tony Blair, where the fact of the illusion is itself covered up, and what he is doing, which is an honest display of something we know to be a trick.
IAN: Exactly. We’re dealing here with known unknowns, rather than unknown unknowns, to quote someone or other … And by displaying the trick honestly, the audience’s consciousness of the changeability of the world is reinforced.
BRECHT: I wouldn’t necessarily go that far. Anyway, will you get on with the trick? This contingently complicit writer is getting more anxious about the direction of this narrative progression by the minute.
IAN: OK. I’ll do the trick. This is a daring exposé of the workings of the money system. But in order to do it properly, I’ll need to borrow a certain amount of capital. Do you, by any chance, have a banknote upon your person?
SALLY: A what?
IAN: A twenty pound note, or perhaps a fifty dollar bill …
SALLY: Sorry mate, I’m broke, skint, brassic, stymied, impecunious, strapped, a bit short, subject to the falling rate of profit. The buying power of the proletariat’s gone down, as Bob Dylan has pointed out.
IAN: If you don’t have the money, I can’t do the trick.
SALLY: That’s OK. Given that this is actually a piece of writing, the mere mention of the money serves as a commentary on the role of the writer as producer of an exchangeable commodity, a notion which tends to be overlooked by the reader imagining a disembodied apractic authorial voice …
IAN: Apractic? Is that a real word?
SALLY: No, I just made it up, as you can see from the spell checker. I like making up words that are soundiferous of sense—it keeps language alive, if a little strangulated in the ears of others. Anyway, here is my hard-earned, but in this context merely notional, £20 note.
IAN: Thank you. Could you just sign your name across the Queen’s head there, thus defacing the note and adding some individuality to it.

(She signs the note. Ian puts down the Marx and Brecht figures.)

IAN: Now: what is money?
SALLY: Well, erm …
IAN: That’s all right, it’s a rhetorical question, so you don’t need to answer. But since we have Karl Marx here, let’s have his take on the matter.
MARX: (Now speaking without moving his lips, since Ian’s hands are nowhere near Marx’s mouth controls) Well, as I see it, money is not a thing in itself. It’s a relationship between people.
IAN: As can be seen by the fact that the relationship between me and Sally has gone into steep decline from the moment I asked her for her money.
SALLY: I wouldn’t say that. I am now much more intensely interested in what you are about to do. That can only deepen our relations, so to speak. Depth is not always a decline.
IAN: That may be, but you’ve just talked over a laugh. OK, so money determines the relations between people in capitalist society, and despite the many changes in the world since Karl Marx’s days, despite the growth of the Internet, the advent of modernism, postmodernism, and hair extensions, that fact is as true today as it was in 1844 …
MARX: When I wrote Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts.
IAN: Precisely. But to return to this banknote; it also has a material dimension. Although the money itself is a relationship between people, that relationship is located at this precise moment in the symbolic reality of this piece of paper, an object which can be manipulated and reformed like any other matter. And paper has particular qualities. Did you know that it’s possible to fold paper twelve times, if you’re very careful about the direction of folding; but the point is that there is a limit. And I am going to fold your banknote just four times, since I don’t want to incorporate any element of danger into this act.

(He does so, while saying:) Mass-action-for-a-radical-transformation-of-society-from-a-society-based-primarily-on-profit-to-a-society-based-on-human-need.

SALLY: Blimey, whatever happened to alakazam?
IAN: This is easier to spell. Anyway, the point is that this transformative power of money distorts the relations between people and enables exploitation to flourish unchecked in our society. Money is itself a trick, and if you could see its real nature, it would be something like this:

(He unfolds the note, to find that it is now transformed into a piece of paper with, on one side, the word “MONEY,“ and, on the other, the half equation “= oppression and exploitation.” He hands the transformed note to Sally.)

Now, if I were a bourgeois magician, I’d change that back into a £20 note. But as I’m a socialist magician, I’ll leave you with something much more valuable—a use value where before you had only an exchange value …
SALLY: But I’m well aware that by the end of this trick you are going to find my signed note in a sealed envelope in your zipped-up wallet, because it wouldn’t be acceptable in our money-based society for you really to confiscate the property of a member of the audience.
IAN: True enough.
SALLY: So have you really changed anything with your little allegory?
IAN: I don’t actually expect to be able to bring an end to exploitation with a magic act. I do expect to make people laugh.
SALLY: And is a laughing audience a prefigurement of a potential non-exploitative society?
IAN: No, it’s a roomful of laughing people.

I Can See Your Ideology Moving Sally O’Reilly, Ian Saville
Source:Cabinet Magazine, Issue 26 Summer 2007

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Mikhail Matiushin outlining the experiment in the department of organic culture of Ginkhuk, 1926
Courtesy of the A.Povelikhina Archive


Dimitris Foutris
Be Just (after Kafka) 2009
Glass, wood, rubber

Ileana Tounta Gallery, Athens
03.12.2009 – 23.01.2010

Friday, January 1, 2010

Free-standing sculptures

Felix Bonfils (1831-1885)
Free-standing sculptures of silenoi in the Theater of Dionysos, Athens, formerly known as the Theater of Bacchus.


Max Ernst, Sedona, Arizona, 1946
Photo by Lee muller

Ennui Becomes Us

CONTEMPORARY INTERNATIONAL relations is moving toward a state of entropy. Chaos and randomness abound. Now, the story of world politics unfolds without coherence, unfettered by classic balance-of-power politics, a plotless postmodern work starring a menagerie of wildly incongruent themes and protagonists, as if divinely plucked from different historical ages and placed in a time machine set for the third millennium. We live in an era in which unprecedented globalization and economic interdependence, liberal-democratic hegemony, nanotechnology, robotic warfare, the “infosphere,” nuclear proliferation and geoengineering solutions to climate change coexist with the return of powerful autocratic-capitalist states, of a new Great Game in Central Asia, of imperialism in the Middle East, of piracy on the high seas, of rivalry in the Indian Ocean, of a 1929-like market crash, of 1914-style hypernationalism and ethnic conflict in the Balkans, of warlords and failed states, of genocides in Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur, and of a new holy war waged by radical Islamists complete with caliphates and beheadings reminiscent of medieval times. In short, we live in a Thomas Pynchon novel.
The increasing disorder of our world will lead eventually to a sort of global ennui mixed with a disturbingly large dose of individual extremism and dogmatic posturing by states. It is the result of the unstemmable tide of entropy. A world subsumed by the inexorable forces of randomness, tipped off its axis, swirling in a cloud of information overload. Who would have thought a mere half decade ago we would be turning to physics for the answers to international politics.

ROOTED IN the second law of thermodynamics, entropy measures the disorganization in a system. It is essentially a commonsense law of probability: events with a high frequency occur more often than events with low frequency. Systems proceed from initial states of low probability to end states of highest probability or final equilibrium. Once this equilibrium or maximum state of entropy has been reached, the system stays there forever, never returning to its initial configuration. Imagine for example two separate containers of the colors blue and yellow with a valve connecting the two closed systems. When the valve is opened, molecules of each color advance to the other side. Over time, the two colors blend together to form a uniform green. Once the system reaches an equilibrium of greenness, there is no going back to the initial states of separate yellow and blue.
It is much the same when shuffling a deck of cards. Even with a well-defined initial sequence, this “closed system” quickly becomes disordered and confused. For the sake of simplicity, the act of shuffling consists of removing the top card and placing it back in the deck at random. After one shuffle, the deck has changed to one of fifty-two alternatives, each strongly resembling the original order. After many repetitions, however, the original sequence will have been completely destroyed. In this manner, order is relentlessly replaced by increasing disorder as closed systems degrade to more probable, less informative states. Simply put, entropy is a measure of lost information.

PRESUMABLY, THE second law of thermodynamics is valid always and everywhere. One might suppose, therefore, that it must have been valid at the time of early civilizations; at the time of the Roman Empire and Han dynasty in China; and during the era preceding the First World War, when the British Empire reigned over the globe and competed with other European great powers.
So why should the theory of entropy be invoked now to explain international politics? The reason is that the second law only applies to closed systems (systems where no new information is yet to be discovered, where all actors are known and the space is clearly defined). International politics became a closed system susceptible to increasing entropy when it subsumed the entire earth, such that nothing remained outside of it. This process began roughly one hundred years ago, after the Age of Discovery that witnessed European expansion across the oceans to new lands. It was then that English geographer Sir Halford Mackinder proclaimed the birth of a “closed political system” of “world-wide scope.”
The modern state system became fully defined with the completion of decolonization in the mid-1960s. It was then that the world—every territorial inch of it—was composed of states and nothing but states. The process of increasing entropy in international politics, therefore, commenced a mere forty years ago—a relatively short time period in the larger scheme of things.

IN INTERNATIONAL politics, the fewer the constraints on state behavior, the greater the level of entropy. This is why much of our current state of randomness can be laid at the doorstep of unipolarity, which has shown itself to be an “anything goes” international structure. The United States is king and the world beneath it does not behave in the predictable ways of traditional multipolar or bipolar systems in which classic balance-of-power politics rule the day. Consistent with increasing entropy, unipolar dynamics are random because the structure neither constrains the choices of the unipole nor anyone else. No longer is it a world of the Cold War threat über alles. No longer must states scurry to find patrons and allies for fear of war. And with no great-power rivals, the dominant state makes choices relatively unfettered by the imperatives and constraints of its external environment. The United States enjoys the luxury of choosing with whom to align based on nonpower considerations: ideological affinity; economic wants; or the vagaries of domestic politics. And when it so desires, the United States can simply go it alone, cobbling together ad hoc “coalitions of the willing” when needed. Boundless freedom breeds randomness. The idiosyncratic beliefs and capricious choices of unconstrained American leaders tell us more about recent U.S. foreign policy than does international structure.
Unipolar systems have less glue to hold things together than other international structures. Under unipolarity, capabilities are concentrated; threats and interests, diffused.1 Alliances, the act of choosing friends and enemies that defines not just international politics but all politics, are built on shared interests and threat perceptions, two things in short supply today. World politics matter most to the unipolar power, the sole actor with global reach. For everyone else, all politics are local. It is not surprising, therefore, to find the U.S. National Intelligence Council asserting that “at no time since the formation of the Western alliance system in 1949 have the shape and nature of international alignments been in such a state of flux as they have during the past decade.” Stable and meaningful geographic groupings are the stuff of multipolar and bipolar systems, where a small number of great powers interact with each other in fairly predictable ways, balancing one another through arms and allies, controlling regions through spheres-of-influence arrangements and the rest.
In the new non-balance-of-power politics of unipolarity, traditional geographic groupings have lost salience. There is no East versus West anymore, and it can scarcely be used as an intellectual justification for U.S. engagement in Europe or the creation of a League of Democracies to replace the United Nations.2 The very idea of a like-minded group of states known as the West is little more than a myth—one that gainsays the growing philosophic divisions between the United States and Western Europe over sovereignty, multilateralism and the use of force. Even the traditional concept of a North-South divide is of little utility, as China and India continue to rise. These archaic, Cold War groupings have been replaced by an arc of instability ranging from Southeast Asia, where the possibility exists of growing radical Islam and terrorism, to Central Asia, where the future threat of failed states looms. And as technology turns the world into a “global village,” that globe shrinks. The digital revolution has brought about an entropy in the information world as well.

IN SPITE of information’s increased quantity and speed of transmission, modern people may feel as psychologist and philosopher William James did in 1899 that an “irremediable flatness is coming over the world.” Here, I do not mean to suggest that the world is becoming flat in Thomas Friedman’s sense of greater connectivity and a leveling of the global competitive playing field. Rather, flatness refers to an increasing banality and loss of meaning in life. Surprisingly, information overload produces not a heightened sense of stimulation and awareness but rather boredom and alienation. A creeping sameness or, at the other extreme, variation that approaches randomness causes the brain to shut down. This is what is known as information entropy: the degradation of information through monotonous repetition and meaningless variety. To illustrate how these opposites produce the same result, consider the average listener’s response to the minimalism of Philip Glass and the random dissonance of Arnold Schoenberg. Most people are put to sleep by the music of both composers but that is because in the case of Glass the repetition and slow pace of new information loses our attention, whereas the endless atonal variety in Schoenberg’s compositions comes across as simply random noise. What we find missing in both Glass and Schoenberg is significant variation or surprise. Monotony and boredom set in from too little or too much variety. Entropy, as loss of meaning and communication, always lurks at both ends of the continuum.
Just as energy and matter degrade over time to more probable and less informative states, the greater the flow and amount of information, the more likely it will degrade toward noise or sterile uniformity. People deluged by a flood of meaningless variety quickly reach a saturation point where, as a means of self-defense, they develop the capacity to tune most everything out and become extremely selective, jaded, blasé and callous. And people bombarded by redundant information come to view life as banal, colorless, insipid, boring and characterless.
On an oddly positive side, increasing information entropy demands our attention and distracts us from engaging in social and political activities. Americans watch an average of six hours of television a day—a habit that drains both their time and energy to respond to what they see. Plugged into the infosphere, they have become an atomized mass of self-conscious watchers who, statistics show, mostly watch alone. As voyeurism becomes an addiction, the infosphere’s power to disconnect and deactivate increases. When everything and its opposite are claimed to be true, most people stop trusting what they hear and the people from whom they hear it. They either tune it all out or heavily discount the information. This produces disinterested, cynical and solipsistic citizens—people who scarcely fit the mold of potential warriors for various political causes. Inasmuch as increasing information entropy generates ambivalent paralysis, the main political effect of the infosphere will be a joyless peace rooted in apathy. But dangers lurk in this sea of ennui, for increasing information creates not only boredom but the possibility of extremism.

INFORMATION ENTROPY will polarize our politics and decrease our ability to reconcile our differing world views. Even as it bores some, it will energetically and dangerously radicalize others. Wisdom does not simply come from more and more information at our fingertips. Thus, as sociologist Orrin Klapp explains in Overload and Boredom:
The more information is repeated and duplicated, the larger the scale of diffusion, the greater the speed of processing, the more opinion leaders and gatekeepers and networks, the more filtering of messages, the more kinds of media through which information is passed, the more decoding and encoding, and so on—the more degraded information might be.
Consider the effects of the new “million-channel media universe.” Talk radio, cable television and the Internet (YouTube and the blogosphere) offer so many contradictory “facts,” “truths” and “informed opinions” that people everywhere can essentially select and interpret facts in a way that accords with their own personal, idiosyncratic and often flat-wrong versions of reality. In this modern “infosphere,” knowledge no longer rests on objective facts but instead on “true enough” facts and arguments (Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness”). A truth pocked with holes but one that is “true enough” will nonetheless hold sway over those who choose to believe it for reasons political, religious or otherwise because it feels right. Think of the claims that the U.S. government carried out the 9/11 attacks, Republicans rigged the 2004 election and HIV does not cause AIDS. With so many competing news outlets and opinions, we can now seek out and find the kind of political views, no matter how absurd, that please us; news that tells us what we want to hear, that indulges our political preconceptions and belief systems and that is told by people who think exactly the same way we do.3 The result is an increase in extremist views based on irrational beliefs and sometimes utterly insane and delusional thinking.
By producing various extremist groups with rigidly held competing beliefs, information entropy increases the likelihood of societal conflict and polarization that cannot be adjudicated through reasoned public debate. This is because dogmatic beliefs are little different than no beliefs. As Thomas Jefferson warned: “It is always better to have no ideas than false ones; to believe nothing, than to believe what is wrong.” Worse still is to dogmatically believe that which is wrong.
Added to this polarization within national societies, individuals will now be more disposed than in the past to hold cross-national, supranational and subnational loyalties, identities and attachments. People will think of themselves as businessmen, liberals or Muslims. Yet, while the proliferation of these new identities might facilitate bridge building across some groups, there is little reason to suspect that conflict-dampening links will arise among highly polarized, fact-resistant people like members of the radicalized Green movement, the global Salafi jihad, or the greedy and detached corporate-executive class, whose financial terrorism in the form of credit-default swaps and other reckless practices brought the world to the brink.
It is as if we are entering a new social landscape composed of personal worlds, where each individual can construct his or her own unique intersubjective space. The mystery of entropy—what makes the concept so difficult to get one’s head around—is that it divides us while making us more the same; it is a process of disorder and homogenization. Because it drives systems to their least informative but most probable states, entropy manufactures an acute sense of chaos, randomness and uncertainty, while, at the same time, the system moves from differentiation to sameness. In this regard, what is important about the digital revolution is not only that it has empowered desktop freelancers and innovative startups all over the world, especially in India and China, to compete and win, but that we are all playing the same game. Can we be far from the long-dreaded “global monoculture”—that final state of sameness captured by the neologism “Westoxification” peppered with violent extremism as a reaction to the unipole’s dominance?

BUT THIS increase in cross-national and subnational loyalties associated with entropy has effects beyond the world of an individual’s mixed-up mind. Entropy will result in the breakdown of clear geographical patterns demarcating friends and enemies. One important consequence of this geographic disorder from a state-level military standpoint is that selective targeting of individuals becomes more important than the firepower of a given weapon or even of one’s entire arsenal. The problem is that, when ideas define the enemy rather than the territory on which it lives, it becomes extremely difficult to avoid excessive collateral damage while still fighting to win.
Originating as a euphemism for the killing of noncombatants during the Vietnam War, collateral damage relies for its moral justification on the Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE), which was introduced by Thomas Aquinas and has been used to show that agents may permissibly bring about harmful effects provided that they are merely foreseen side effects of promoting a good end (hence, the double effect). With the civilian death toll in Iraq estimated at over six hundred thousand, the DDE has become an important justification for U.S. war fighting. Much of the world, however, views collateral damage as nothing more than a rhetorical contrivance for murder and, in this respect, no different than terrorism. This creates a political problem for any state combating terrorism (whether Israeli reprisals against Hamas in Gaza, Russian military strikes against Chechens in Georgia or U.S. operations in Iraq). Greater selectivity in targeting can only provide a partial solution to the problem. The bottom line is that the decreased importance of geographic space under conditions of high entropy neutralizes usable firepower while favoring guerrilla tactics, sabotage, terrorism and, more generally, a movement from interstate to intrastate wars. So in the end we are left with a more level military playing field (but with its own hidden dangers) consistent with the process of increasing entropy.

TAKEN FURTHER still, information overload and entropy suggest increased fragmentation, policies and inferences of states driven by hard-core ideological and religious beliefs, and rigid and uncompromising political views that are fact resistant. National and international narratives now become more fractured and incoherent, making purposeful national action, especially policies calling for costly and intrusive international cooperation, far more difficult to achieve.
Just as individuals are freer than ever before to pick and choose “facts” to fit their personal beliefs, states are now able to engage in what is known as forum shopping, selecting from among countless international institutions the specific venues most likely to elicit decisions that favor their particular interests. Like the choice-enabling infosphere with its unlimited facts, the number and density of international organizations has grown exponentially over the past few decades, creating a sea of nested, partially overlapping, parallel bodies and agreements.
What some call global governance is little more than a spaghetti bowl of clashing agreements brokered within and among thirty thousand or so international organizations of varying significance, from the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission to the United Nations. One wonders how states make decisions and forge long-run strategies these days when it is virtually impossible for them to figure out where international authority over any issue resides, and which agreements, interpretations and implementations of rules and laws have salience and should come to dominate.
The downside is that nobody wins and nothing gets done. The upside is that no one loses either. Once a state or group of states has been outmaneuvered in one venue, the “loser” merely shifts the negotiations to other parallel regimes with contradictory rules and alternative priorities. Thus, when developing countries lost at the WTO and World Intellectual Property Organization on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement, they “regime-shifted” to the friendlier WHO, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), where they won. They then went back to the WTO invoking these victories and renegotiated the TRIPs agreement to have the revisions drafted in parallel regimes written into the global rules.
The messiness of this state of affairs contradicts a rare consensus in the field of international relations that concentrated power in the hands of one dominant state is essential to the establishment and maintenance of international order. According to the theory, the demand for international regimes is high but their supply is low because only the leadership of a hegemonic state can overcome the collective-action problems—mainly the huge start-up costs—associated with the creation of order-producing global institutions. The current world has turned this logic on its head. The problem is the virtual absence of barriers to entry. Most new treaty-making and global-governance institutions are being spearheaded not by an elite club of great powers but rather by civil-society actors and nongovernmental organizations working with midlevel states. Far from creating more order and predictability, this explosion of so-called global-governance institutions has increased the chaos, randomness, fragmentation, ambiguity and impenetrable complexity of international politics. Indeed, the labyrinthine structure of global governance is more complex than most of the problems it is supposed to be solving. And countries’ views are more rigidly held than ever before.
ALAS, AS entropy increases within a closed system, available or “useful” energy dissipates and diffuses to a state of equal energy among particles. The days of unipolarity are numbered. We will witness instead a deconcentration of power that eventually moves the system to multipolarity and a restored balance. It will not, however, be a normal global transition. Great powers will not build up arms and form alliances. They will not use war to improve their positions in the international pecking order. They will not seek relative-power advantages. That is because they no longer have to obsess over how others are doing—much less over their own survival, which is essentially assured in today’s world of unprecedented peace. States will instead be primarily concerned with doing well for themselves. What they will do is engage in economic competition.
The law of uneven economic growth among states and the diffusion of technology will cause a deconcentration of global power. Global equilibrium in this new environment is a spontaneously generated outcome among states seeking to maximize their absolute wealth, not military power or political influence over others. The pace of these diffusion processes has increased during the digital age because what distinguishes economies today is no longer capital and labor—now mere commodities—but rather ideas and energy.
Information entropy is creating fierce corporate competition. Our creeping sameness hasn’t led us to the mythical natural harmony of interests in the world that international liberalism seems to take for granted. To the contrary, it’s a jungle out there. Global communication networks and rapid technological innovation have forced competitive firms to abandon the end-to-end vertical business model and adopt strategies of dynamic specialization, connectivity through outsourcing and process networks, and leveraged capability building across institutional boundaries. They have also caused public policies to converge in the areas of deregulation, trade liberalization and market liberalization. All of these trends have combined to create relentlessly intensifying competition on a global scale.4 So while we may indeed be looking more alike, what precisely are the traits that we share? Sameness in the “flat” world, where the main business challenge is not profitability but mere survival, breeds cutthroat competitors no more likely to live in harmony with each other than the unfortunate inhabitants of Hobbes’s state of nature. So, instead of shooting wars and arms buildups, we will see intense corporate competition with firms engaging in espionage, information warfare (such as the hiring of “big gun” hackers) and guerilla marketing strategies.

IN TERMS of the global balance of power, the rapid diffusion of knowledge and technology is driving down America’s edge in productive capacity and, as a consequence, its overall power position. Indeed, the transfer of global wealth and economic power now under way—roughly from West to East—is without precedent in modern history in terms of size, speed and directional flow. If these were the only processes at work, then the future of international politics might well conform to the benign, orthodox liberal vision of a cooperative, positive-sum game among states operating within a system that places strict limits on the returns to power. But this is not to be because, in a break from old-world great-power politics, there will be no hegemonic war to wipe the international slate clean. We will therefore be stuck with the bizarre mishmash of global-governance institutions that now creates an ineffectual foreign-policy space. Trying to overhaul existing institutions to accommodate rising powers and address today’s complex issues is an impossible task. So while liberals are correct to point out that the boom in global economic growth over the past two decades has allowed countries to move up the ladder of growth and prosperity, this movement, combined with a moribund institutional superstructure, creates a destabilizing disjuncture between power and prestige that will eventually make the world more confrontational. The question arises, with hegemonic war no longer in the cards, how can a new international order that reflects these tectonic shifts be forged? Aside from a natural disaster of massive proportions (a cure most likely worse than the disease itself), there is no known force that can fix the problem.

THE PRIMARY cause of these tectonic shifts is American decline. Hegemonic decline is inevitable because unchecked power tends to overextend itself and succumb to the vice of imperial overstretch; because the hegemon overpays for international public goods, such as security, while its free-riding competitors underpay for them; and because its once-hungry society becomes soft and decadent, engaging in self-destructive hedonism and overconsumption. In recent years, the America-in-decline debate of the 1980s and early 1990s has reemerged with a vengeance. Despite the fact that the United States is the lone superpower with unrivaled command of air, sea and space, there is a growing chorus of observers proclaiming the end of American primacy. Joining the ranks of these “declinists,” Robert Pape forcefully argued in these pages that “America is in unprecedented decline,” having lost 30 percent of its relative economic power since 2000.5 To be sure, the macrostatistical picture of the United States is a bleak one. Its savings rate is zero; its currency is sliding to new depths; it runs huge current-account, trade and budget deficits; its medium income is flat; its entitlement commitments are unsustainable; and its once-unrivaled capital markets are now struggling to compete with Hong Kong and London. The staggering costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, combined with the financial bailout and stimulus packages doled out in response to the subprime-mortgage and financial-credit crises, have battered the U.S. economy, opening the door for peer competitors to make substantial relative gains. The current bear market ranks among the worst in history, with the Dow and S&P down almost 50 percent from their 2007 peaks. The major cause of our troubles, both in the short and long term, is debt: the United States is borrowing massively to finance current consumption. America continues to run unprecedented trade deficits with its only burgeoning peer competitor, China, which, based on current trajectories, is predicted to surpass the United States as the world’s leading economic power by 2040. As of July 2009, Washington owed Beijing over $800 billion, meaning that every person in the “rich” United States has, in effect, borrowed about $3,000 from someone in the “poor” People’s Republic of China over the past decade.6 But this devolution of America’s status is truly inevitable because of the forces of entropy. No action by U.S. leaders can prove a viable counterweight.

AND AS power devolves throughout the international system, new actors will emerge and develop to compete with states as power centers. Along these lines, Richard Haass claims that we have entered an “age of nonpolarity,” in which states “are being challenged from above, by regional and global organizations; from below, by militias; and from the side, by a variety of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and corporations.” Of course, there is nothing especially new about this observation; cosmopolitan liberals have been pronouncing (prematurely, in my view) the demise of the nation-state—the so-called “hollow state” and a crisis of state power—and the rise of nonstate actors for many decades. What is new is that even state-centric realists like Fareed Zakaria are now predicting a post-American world, in which international order is no longer a matter decided solely by the political and military power held by a single hegemon or even a group of leading states. Instead, the coming world will be governed by messy ad hoc arrangements composed of à la carte multilateralism and networked interactions among state and nonstate actors. One wonders what order and concerted action mean in a world that lacks fixed and predictable structures and relationships. Given the haphazard and incomplete manner by which the vacuum of lost state power is being filled, why expect order at all?

THE MACROPICTURE that emerges from these global trends is one of historically unprecedented change in a direction consistent with increasing entropy: unprecedented hegemonic decline; an unprecedented transfer of wealth, knowledge and economic power from West to East; unprecedented information flows; and an unprecedented rise in the number and kinds of important actors. Thus, the onset of this extreme multipolarity or multi-multipolarity will not herald, as some observers believe, a return to the past. To the contrary, it will signal that maximum entropy is setting in, that the ultimate state of inert uniformity and unavailable energy is coming, that time does have a direction in international politics and that there is no going back because the initial conditions of the system have been lost forever. If and when we reach such a point in time, much of international politics as we know it will have ended. Its deep structure of anarchy—the lack of a sovereign arbiter to make and enforce agreements among states—will remain. But increasing entropy will result in a world full of fierce international competition and corporate warfare; continued extremism; low levels of trust; the formation of nonstate identities that frustrate purposeful and concerted national actions; and new nongeographic political spaces that bypass the state, favor low-intensity-warfare strategies and undermine traditional alliance groupings.
Most important, entropy will reduce and diffuse usable power in the system, dramatically reshaping the landscape of international politics. The United States will see its relative power diminish, while others will see their power rise. To avoid crises and confrontation, these ongoing tectonic changes must be reflected in the superstructure of international authority. Increasing entropy, however, means that the antiquated global architecture will only grow more and more creaky and resistant to overhaul. No one will know where authority resides because it will not reside anywhere; and without authority, there can be no governance of any kind. The already-overcrowded and chaotic landscape will continue to be filled with more meaningless stuff; and the specter of international cooperation, if it was ever anything more than an apparition, will die a slow but sure death.

Text by Randall L. Schweller

1 Under bipolarity, in contrast, powerful threats were concentrated in the two poles, whereas damage was diffused throughout the system. Because bipolarity encouraged the superpowers to view the world in zero-sum terms and compete fiercely on a global scale, roughly 20 million people were killed on the periphery (damage was diffused) in a titanic geostrategic and ideological struggle among two poles over world supremacy.
2 Notwithstanding the fallacy of a natural harmony of interests among democracies, we hear calls from John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and senior foreign-policy advisers to President Obama Ivo Daalder and Anne-Marie Slaughter for the United States to create a League of Democracies to replace the United Nations. Not only is this liberal-internationalist concept built on an idealistic myth that democracies share important foreign-policy preferences, it would also result in an irresponsible self-binding of U.S. power. By very publicly bestowing the League of Democracies with a stamp of legitimacy, America would be foolishly creating the only international institution that could actually constrain its foreign-policy autonomy and the free exercise of its military power.
3 Farhad Manjoo, True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2008).
4 John Hagel III and John Seely Brown, The Only Sustainable Edge: Why Business Strategy Depends on Productive Friction and Dynamic Specialization (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2005).
5 Robert A. Pape, “Empire Falls,” The National Interest (January/February 2009), p. 21.
6 James Fallows, “The $1.4 Trillion Question,” The Atlantic (January/February 2008).

Source : The National Interest Magazine , 12.16.2009

To Sit Sitting Seated

A line of three chairs, all done in birch.

the first: almost supernormal.
the second: with a tall, oval cushion waiting to be formed.
the third: with a cushion formed to fit and stay in the chair, but also formed to welcome new, imaginative and dynamic ways of using the chair.

the chairs have a super nordic expression, and i love the way the colours of the cushions range from sand, through flesh to dark beige.

Made by Hilde Aagaard.