THE STRATEGY OF THE FORM
You go to a mosquito at midnight and give him a certain number of photons,and that particularly well-timed jolt turns off the mosquito's clock. He'san insomniac after that - he'll doze, buzz for a while, all at random, andhe'll continue doing that foras long as you care to watch, or until you come along with another jolt.You've given him perpetual jet lag.
Jet lag and insomnia are problems which remain unsolved in biologicalterms. It is not simply a question of the body's internal clock, life'sdaily rhythm, being no longer synchronized with the clock of daylight, thesun. Your natural rhythm has become completely confused. Anxiously you attempt to reimpose some order on the dailyschedule of eating, making love, vacuum-cleaning and washing. But it soonbecomes all too much. You try to make a conscious effort but nothing seemsto get done. It's simply exhausting to have to perform certain actions without those actions beingdictated by a greater rhythm. You are jet-lagged and, once cast out oftime, you will lag hopelessly behind.
25 June, 1988. Mhren approaches from the left-hand side and kicks the ball diagonally atleast thirty metres towards the right-hand side of the field. Van Basten isright at the gap and, if wielding a baseball bat, he shoots the ball from anearly impossible position in a curve over Dassajev. This Russian keeper probably stillwakes up at night in a pool of sweat.
The coincidence of the ball and the attacker in the Gap is even moremiraculous then the goal itself. The feeder and the attacker simultaneouslyhad the same idea; otherwise the attacker would never have been at the backline on time - which all too often happens with off form sides where the ball goes out for the umpteenthtime. But what is a side which is 'in form'? A side that 'runs smoothly' isa fluid system where players are never offside the game or isolated, where eleven players perform with a single consciousness, where the movementsof each individual are synchronized with those of all the other players. It'runs' as smoothly as Christian Huygens' clocks. Huygens noticed one daythat a set of pendulum clocks placed against a wall happened to be swinging in perfect chorus-linesynchronization. He knew that the clocks could not be that accurate.Nothing in the mathematical description then available for a pendulum couldexplain this mysterious propagation of orderfrom one pendulum to another. In the same way, the players' movements areperfectly synchronized and they perform like a clock that dictates therhythm of attack and defence. They are transported by that rhythm so thatevery movement is made simple and obvious. Wim Jonk: 'It all went like clockwork and I felt as if I was floatingacross the field.'
What is the form of a football team? The players no longer functionseparately in space, rather they form a fluid system: a field, or even amagnetic field, so that attack and defence are constantly alternated. For that reason, itsform is soft but not weak because the stability of the team is rooted inits dynamics, in hair-trigger reactions to the flux of circumstance. Theside's shared consciousness gives the game power and direction, and the ball automatically follows this vector.Hence, the players (of both sides) are in fact curves in the turf so thatthey are transformed into a landscape, into something between surface andspace, with a dimension that fluctuates between 2.0 and 3.0.
Themystery of mercury
Everything that is static, is condemned to death. Nothing that lives, canexist without transformation. This is what Sanford Kwinter calls a softsystem: a system driven by its very 'softness', its capacity to move, todifferentiate internally, to absorb, transform, and exchange information with its surroundings. What is Life?:a living organism has the astonishing gift of concentrating a 'stream oforder' on itself and thus escaping the decay into atomic chaos.(Schrdinger)
A fluid system's ability to maintain order is due to its ability to alterits structure. This means that order does not exist as form in space but asmovement in time: a direction. And if a form is to continue, it must beable to transform itself. This does not concern a form that can move, but rather a movement that passesthrough the form. By changing form, soft systems or living entities try toremain intact and strong. Anything that goes from the same state to thesame state will become extinct, such as the Hawaiian geese which are now genetically sosimilar that the females have became infertile.
Softshapes. Soft systems. Soft City.
Imagine an object offering no resistance to other objects, effortlesslychanging form as if it were super-conductive. Its material would have tohave a fluid structure so that it would be instantly capable of processingthe information it receives. A molecular structure built like a computer programe, a form entirely made ofsoftware. Imagine an object made of grey matter of which the form is thought. Pureintelligence. The other forms that surround it are not reflected, they areabsorbed as information. They fall as if through a fluid mirror so as to becompletely and arithmetically processed by the memory metal. This object has no self-image, it has no consciousnessand will not pass the mirror phase.
What does it mean if a form can absorb movement or, to put it morestrongly, if it is made of movement instead of being a form that moves? In any case, it is no longer possible to discuss form in terms of somethingthat is imposed from outside. It would be just as ridiculous to talk of theform of a flock of birds - a flock has no form but is in a constant processof formation through a wave-like motion. Nothing is so fluid, so intelligent and yet so purposeful. Thereare moments when you can observe more fixed structures and patterns withinthe flock, but they will instantly disintegrate. You could describe thisformation as a mixture of the fixed and the fluid, the crystalline and the amorphous, as something betweenobject and process. It could also be called mesomorphous but this does notmake it simpler to understand. This is the term for a phenomenon, the mostshocking aspect of which is the fact that it does not exist; rather each time it is brought about. Youcannot create a flock but you can 'breed' it. You can make a large numberof black dots move in a certain direction (towards the south) on acomputer. You can provide each of these dotswith a couple of simple algorithmic rules: don't bump into any other dots,keep up with the dot next to you and don't stray. Then you set the programin motion and suddenly a flock has come about out of nothing - you haven'tdesigned it, you've generated it.
We begin with the heart: a flock of muscle cells through which theelectric signal passes as a co-ordinated wave across the three-dimensionalstructure of the heart. Each cell contracts as the signal occurs. Each cellthen expands in a critical, insensitive period during which it cannot be prematurelyreactivated. So the heart is constantly being formed in the wave-likemotion of contraction and expansion. It has no fixed form in the sense thatthe muscle cells follow a clock; rather they are muscle cells which combine to form a clock. It flocks. Butits mysterious perfection is haunted by something that is equallyenigmatic: disturbance. Order is as unintelligible as chaos. When orderdisintegrates - which is known as fibrillation - the individual muscle cells are still working correctly, but the heartas a whole is no longer functioning properly. Hence, it is not a disease and nothing will be revealed by an autopsy.
Let us progress from the heart to locomotion. Imagine that you mustconsciously place one foot in front of the other, that you are forced toimpose the rhythm of walking as if you are operating your body instead ofyour body operating itself. Its naturalcadence would immediately vanish so that you would walk as stiffly as a robot. When the cadence is right, the body has no central motor;rather it has a motor system of voluntary movements. It is the muscle'srhythm that forms the motor and directs each physical movement. Supplenessalways exists in the (ebb and) flow of consciousness. Try consciously hammering a nail into a wall and you willkeep hitting your thumb. You must not come between the hammer and the nailbeing knocked into the wall.
The movement of the heart, the limbs and the metabolism combine toform the rhythm of the body. This physical clock, the bio-rhythm, maintains aninternal, twenty-five-hour rhythm. We are kept on track by the light of thesun which we experience each day. In fact, our clock is set according tothe clock of daylight. Eating, making love, working and washing - all these activities take place in periods oftwenty-four hours and maintain their own rhythm. In general everyone isdetermined to achieve a bizarre number of actions as effectively aspossible, to create a single rhythm so that everything occurs at the right time without ever having to consult awatch. Each action, from the extraordinary to the ordinary, just falls intoplace. We can train ourselves to perform these actions, as in fact happensfrom earliest childhood. We canendeavour to cultivate good habits but yet this does not mean that we willfunction effectively as a whole. There are people who do everythingaccording to a time-table, promptly and according to a relentless scheduleof activities. Yet they can be completely thrown by even the slightest alteration or disturbance. They may thenexperience severe insomnia.
Since the individual has been programming his life, he haslimited his potential for metamorphosis. (E. Canetti)
We have discussed the fluidity of systems, forms and objects. And wehave discussed the body's fluidity.
At present, there are two distinct trends in architecture. The firstconcentrates on the form's softness and turbulence, the second on theprogram's. The first may sometimes have no program whatsoever while in the second trend the form may becompletely neutral. Our aim is this: that the architectural object beconsidered in such a fluid way, that it is capable of absorbing life (bodyplus program). We want to connect thesuppleness of the object to the suppleness of the body.
The possibilities that present themselves, exist because there are twoother trends functioning within our culture as a whole; two trends whichare diametrically opposed to the instrumentalist ideathat technology mediates between the body and its environment without itessentially influencing or changing either the body or the world. First:the complete fusion of the architectural object with the technologicalobject. And second: the fusion of the body with technology. In the first architectural identity evaporates (whichis not a tragedy). In the second the soul of the natural body haseffortlessly moved into a bio-technical mutation (which is not a tragedyeither). In both trends, technology seeksto calm the body down, to temper it and soothe it, to provide it withconditioned air, to keep it motionless while lifting it up a few floors, tomake it fall asleep in the gentlest possible manner...
But imagine the opposite: imagine a technology which is geared towardsspeeding the body up rather than calming it down. Imagine that architectureis swallowed up by technology so that it becomes completely capable ofabsorbing and enhancing the body's rhythm. That means that the body's rhythm will affect the form. And conversely it means that the form's rhythmicality will in turnactivate the body. This can never be captured in a series of rules. Infact, the program, such as we know it, is purely a mechanisticinterpretation of the body and its activities.We must no longer prescribe functions, we must classify activities in sucha way that they can become events. Prescribed actions are always linked toprescribed spaces (in the typological sense, and as quantified in floorsurface area). We must separate this, so that the action becomes fluid, so that it becomes an event. We mustdiscard the idea that architecture is programmed to divide upactivities.
A form of space which can be analyzed in terms of isolated functions andparts of a program, is effectively indifferent to what actively occurswithin it because it is not affected or transformed by the body's rhythm.Functions do not stimulate the form's transformation, nor are they stimulating in the sense of prodding the bodyinto action. You have to keepmotivating yourself into doing things, so that your actions seem clumsy andlink up like the sequences in a badly edited film. You eat, you sleep, youtake a shower but there is no rhythm; the body's rhythm has not beensynchronized with the form's rhythmicality. We must opt for an architecture which stimulates life's suppleness,that enables, even encourages the subtle flow of events.
Only a form which has mastered the body's motor system, is capable ofactivating. Only a form which has been transformedand affected by the rhythm of life, is capable of motivating. It can onlyprompt the body into motion as a motor, as a vector, as a combination ofpower and direction. This is also the principle of animation: you are only'prompted' if the object or the form has also been prompted. In fact, you no longer need to perform thecomplete action because the form has already partly done that for you. Youno longer need to initiate an activity, because the form has already givenyou the clue. And it is this sharedconsciousness that ensures that these actions are carried out effectively.Or, to put it more strongly: the actions as such are installed so that theybecome a performance. In this way, the actions are performed: intensifiedand made spectacular.
This principle of animating and being animated is perfectly embodied in theform of the installation. We are using this in the double sense of theword: both in terms of installing a technical system and of installing anartwork of which the public formsa component part. An installation gives actions power and direction, and the bodyautomatically follows this vector. As an event already activated it promptsfurther action - an engine in motion which you simply need to connect with.It is never still, it is always on. So, because the program is now vectorial, you can never sit back andconsider what to do next. In an installation all the functions, all thesleeping vectors are assigned a destination and are hence transformed intoevents. Because, as Borges also wondered, what is a knife when it is in a drawer? It is a sleeping knife. Itonly begins to shine once it has been picked up.
An architecture which does not think in terms of pre-programmed functionsbut in terms of events, performances, spectacles and rituals. And becausethese are not pre-programmed, they cannot be fixed into a form. Ergo, it isonly by fusing with the technological that architecture can become so soft that it is capable of actingand of reacting to activities. At its most extreme, this installation would consist of a system that could move completelywith the activities, as a 'soft system' where events are quite simplymutual animations of surroundings and body. But of course the centralquestion is: how soft can an architecture be? Because an important aspect of architecture is matter and matteralways resists transformation.
Can it change from space into field? Sanford Kwinter follows thebiologist Waddington's example by calling this an epigenetic landscape. Theball in the epigenetic landscape represents a cell or cluster of cells in an earlydeveloping embryo. The embryo's directness, or general tendency to developin a given environment rather than to die, is topologically represented bythe downward slope of the epigenetic plane. The ball that rolls down that slope, can take any number ofdifferent pathways which will depend on the way in which the plane and itsperturbations react to the ball. An architecture, fused with technology(only then it can read actions as information), fluid as an epigenetic plane, will ensure, by giving life powerand direction (the slope), that activity will develop although it remainsuncertain about precisely how that activity will take place (the variouspathways downwards). And this is precisely the difference between function and event.
In isolation, without a daily resetting stimulus, the sleep-wake cyclewill become erratic. People who live in 'time isolation' without daylight,temperature changes, clocks or phones, will stay awake for twenty to thirty hours at a time, followed by ten or twenty hours ofsleep. Not only will the subjects remain unaware that their day hadlengthened, they will refuse to believe it when told. Winfree approachedthis systematically and started with an elderly woman who did needlepoint in the evening in front of banks of brightlight. Her cycle changed sharply, and she reported feeling great, as if shewere driving in a car with the top down...
Full Moon - a night resort that opens at 6 pm and closes at 6 am. The Mellow House, Ambient Floors, Seven Ex, Le Boutique Chirurgique, TheFully Automatic and, right at the top, The Moon - six clubs located aroundThe Ray: a beam of artificial moonlight, generated by twelve, movable robotlamps which shine through the floors. Ultimately they also provide energy for the mechanical camera armsso that these can follow the masses dancing on the revolving floors below.This Cyclo will also allow the dancers to watch the sampled images on thelarge monitor; a kind of sparkplug over which sparks will shoot back and forth. When the monitor editsthe images together and connects them with the music, it will stimulate thedancers to follow this rhythm. And, as they dance faster to the'(heart)beats per minute', the cameras will zoom in and the lamps above will shine more brightly.
In short, here is the cold, electronic light that 'gives activitiespower and direction', that stops people sleeping and attempts to slow downtheir bio-rhythms as much as possible. Hence everything, every action, every activity is influenced by the Light; everything isbased on the idea that, during these activities, you will lose all sense ofchronological time. Only this is realized in two different ways. On thedance floor below, the electronic light influences the architecture so thatit melts into the locomotory (where the dancing bodies are followed by the robot cameras' mechanical whirls). Andabove, in the six night clubs, the moonlight affects the architecture insuch a way that the actual matter of the floors begins to melt, that the floors themselves begin to danceand the bodies walking around them will become trapped in the swirls ofeddying floors.
Right at the top, in The Moon, close to the pulsating mega-watts of thetwelve robot lamps, the light has become so white and strong that it canonly be endured by otakus and hackers who spend their days in front ofmonitors. Pale and translucent from their constant bathing in electronic moonlight, they are now standing on thesteepest floor of all the clubs in the Full Moon. Each of them is pressingloosely against the wall, completely oblivious to the possibility ofsleep.
© NOX / Maurice Nio & Lars Spuybroek