- Raiders of the Lost Ark, sequels; Star Wars, sequels
- Upstream Color
- Blade Runner
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- The Manchurian Candidate
- The Shining
- Taxi Driver
- The Birds
- There Will Be Blood
- Black Swan
- The Lives of Others
- Rear Window
- Dr. Strangelove
- A Hard Day’s Night
- My Neighbor Totoro
- Princess Mononoke
- Strangers on a Train
- Dial M for Murder
- Pulp Fiction
- Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid
- Los amores perros
- The Usual Suspects
- The Master
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- Man on Wire
- The Great Escape
- The Fugitive
- The Departed
- Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus
- City of God
- Being John Malkovich
- Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind
- Donnie Darko
- Annie Hall
- Cool Hand Luke
- Monty Python’s Life of Bryan
- Bandé a Part
- The Tree of Life
- All the President’s Men
- Schindler’s List
- Reservoir Dogs
- Winter’s Bone
- Children of Men
- Lars & the Real Girl
- Little Miss Sunshine
- The Squid & the Whale
- Saving Private Ryan
- Michael Clayton
- Fantastic Mr. Fox
- Shawshank Redemption
- Hard Candy
- The Thin Red Line
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail
- Bonnie & Clyde
- Die Hard
- Barton Fink
- Django Unchained
- Requiem for a Dream
- Spring Breakers
- Enemy of the State
- 12 Monkeys
- 28 Days Later
- Fight Club
- Hotel Rwanda
- totally incomplete list subject to revision without notice
“Architecture and war are inseparable. Architecture is war. War is architecture. I am at war with my time, with history, with all authority that resides in fixed and frightened forms.
I am one of millions who do not fit in, who have no home, no family, no doctrine, no firm place to call my own, no known beginning or end, no “sacred and primordial site.”
I declare war on all icons and finalities, on all histories that would chain me with my own falseness, my own pitiful forms.
I know only moments, and lifetimes that are as moments, and moments that are as lifetimes, and forms that appear with infinite strength, then “melt into air.”
I am an architect, a constructor of worlds, a sensualist who worships the flesh, the melody, the silhouette against the darkening sky. I cannot know your name. Nor can you know mine.
Tomorrow, we begin together the construction of a city.”
Last weekend, I spent more time in the beautiful city of San Francisco than I did at home in Danville. I slept there on Friday and Saturday, and ate all but one of my weekend meals in the city. As the year has pressed on, more and more of my friends have saved up enough to move into the city, so I’m never lacking for people to visit or, God forbid, things to do (insert busy San Franciscan joke here). The point really is that, for a bit, the city was on my mind–not just this city particularly, but the idea of a city.
My thoughts were in large part sparked by an exhibition of work by the experimental architect Lebbeus Woods. SFMOMA is closing for renovation, and finished out their time in the old building by holding a free weekend that culminated in a 24-hour celebration extravaganza. One wing of the second floor was currently dedicated to the work of Woods, whose influence stretches far beyond the two or three buildings built to his credit; take one look at his hallucinatory sketches and you’ll understand why. He draws forms that are buildings in theory only, somehow figuring out a way to make right angles seem organic; in the above form, I’m reminded of a wolverine with its hair on end, or perhaps a beaked eagle. In creepier moments it’s easy to call his work insect-like. In other, bleaker sketches, the organic element fades away, but it never seems to really leave; if his sketches seem mathematical, it would be because they suggest the stochastic beauty of kinetic randomness, not the elegant order of the golden mean.
(A slight aside: the most impressive thing about viewing his work is the sheer volume of it, the tactile link to the single draughtsman who begat all of this stuff. In an astounding variety of media, it seems he worked in singleminded pursuit of his architectural vision, which in light of the work seems less important than the sheer fact of his production. I suppose I am saying that, while the content of his work was impressive, the fact of his having done that work was even more impressive. Perhaps especially so for me personally, given my propensity to think of an idea, then drop it before seeing it through to physical manifestation.)
The declaration quoted above was part of a series of collages depicting the relationship between architecture and war–rubble-strewn cities, bombed-out buildings, the aggressive upward explosion of towers and impersonal nature of both modern forms and the bomb. Philosophy or anti-philosophy, it is hard to say, but the bombast grabbed my attention and the content held it. I quickly found echoes of a familiar nature.
To be at war with… all authority that resides in fixed and frightened forms.
Woods begins with rejection. First he rejects the authority of the present, the institutions that would claim their power is intrinsic or permanent. He holds no fixed creed, he has no “sacred and primordial site” (perhaps because for him the potential for such a site is omnipresent). Implicit, though, is a second rejection, one of any teleology at all, a basic remonstration of Platonic forms and the idea that there are fixed uses or ends to things in the world. This he shares nominally with Nietzsche, but Nietzsche–despite rejecting teleology vehemently–did, in a sense, have his own idea of the telos of humankind, which was a natural evolution towards the coming of the Over-Man. I do not think Woods shares such a vision.
For one, it is clear that, while defiance must come from the individual, creation must arise between individuals. Stealing a term from a friend, we might call this co-creationism: the idea that we construct our universe in dialogue with one another. This stands in slight opposition to the tradition that one might expect, given the individual-centric vision that dominates the beginning of the statement. In Camus’ rebellion-tinged existentialism, it is Sisyphus himself who decides to love the boulder, or not; in other words, the decisions of existence are in the minds of the singular. Woods takes a step away from this, retaining the element of individual rebellion while insisting that creation–the construction of a city—takes place in social intercourse, not the mind. Indeed, the individual remains unknowable–I cannot know your name, nor can you know mine–and it is only through cooperative construction that the facts of the world come into play. It’s a little fuzzy on how exactly this happens if each of us is individually unknowable, but it’s still an energizing, inspiring idea, the thought that it’s only in interaction, transfer, alterity, that we can be productive, be alive.
The metaphor of the city holds rich resonance in Western culture, signifying the ongoing project of human civilization and its quest for harmonious integration. At the beginning of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, I think, it is agreed that politics is the highest art; politics being the science (it is called a science in my translation, anyway) of ruling a city. And of course Aristotle’s teacher Plato wrote the Republic, which seeks to define the ideal city. In time, Christian rewrites–Augustine’s City of God–emerged, changing the inflection of the work but retaining the metaphor of the city as symbolic of human civilization. The Enlightenment can even be charted by examining the effects upon urban planning, which gave us regular, gridded streets with logical names, inscribing the rational values of the time onto the built environment (cf Washington, DC’s ABC-123 system).
All of this is to say that, when Woods says, Tomorrow, we begin together the construction of a city, I believe we should read the declaration on at least two levels, that of his job as a literal architect but also in terms of his position as a constant co-creator of human civilization.
I’ll end by noting that, while I think Woods diverges from Nietzsche quite severely (despite surface-level similarities), his commitment to co-creation and the human project puts him squarely in line with Isaiah Berlin, the great philosopher of the twentieth century. Like Woods, Berlin believed deeply both in the inscrutability of the individual and the necessity of working together on the project of humanity. The city is a great proving ground for such an idea, especially one as busy and diverse as San Francisco, where we are everyday confronted with difference and challenged to constantly revise our own ideas of the world. Woods’ philosophy, like his architecture, reflects a belief that we must be always in motion, mentally as well as physically.
Woods, Berlin, and I agree–no value system is absolute, and it is the challenge of our time to work to understand one another despite these differences. It is only through mutual negotiation that progress can be made. It is a message our times sorely need.
I got a job in Washington, DC. I’m sure it’s a nice place, but it’s not the Bay. I’ve got until July 4 to cram in as much Cali as possible and be a tourist in my own town. Suggestions are welcome. I hope you all can help make these happen!
- Sunday brunch at Wat Mongkolratanaram in Berkeley
- Alcatraz (I’ve never been, and this whole reservations-in-advance thing is really annoying)
- Yosemite una vez más
- Running the gauntlet of SF museums once more–I’ve been to Cal-Sci and the de Young already this year, so how about hitting up one of the free days at the SFMOMA or Legion of Honor?
- Lands’ End
- Either Great America OR Six Flags
- 1015 Folsom, perhaps for Actress? Or else FlyLo at the Fox, this Saturday
- Coit Tower
- As many restaurants from this list as my pocketbook allows: State Bird Provisions, Zazie, Bar Joules, NoJo, etc
- A RiverCats game, maybe? Or even the Stockton Ports? Or both?
- Finally go to the Eugene O’Neill house in Danville (I refuse to do this, however, until I’ve read the copy of Long Day’s Journey Into Night that’s been on my shelf for three years)
- Bolinas Bay
- Monterey/Carmel/Pfeiffer State Park
- Climbing Mission Peak, Mt. Diablo, and Mt. Tamalpais
- Shoot & develop all my remaining film
- BAM/PFA for a film screening–particularly interested in going for either one of the Miyazaki screenings and/or the June 20th screening of The Man Who Fell To Earth
- plenty of A’s games!
2nd Edition–suggestions from my dear readers and things I forgot the first time through that, yes, should definitely be added to the list:
Brown on brown the walls around,
And high mountains rise behind them;
This is the leaving-place, which I will
fasten myself to from across a hundred years.
Passing over the present tense,
The streetlights watch our parting.
Lords of circumstance, they
Bow to the rising and eternal sun.
A dream, and better than
a thing that happened.
Thank you so much for applying for the Presidency of Davidson College. This year we received a record number of applications, and there were a number of highly qualified individuals we were forced to turn down this year. Unfortunately, we cannot offer you the Presidency of Davidson College.
Should you decide to apply again, we believe your extensive track record of deeply ethical, impressively intellectual, and honor-driven behavior would be strengthened by membership in the Presbyterian Church-USA. Rigorous scientific studies have shown that uniquely Presbyterian behaviors–such as believing that certain people are predestined for eternal damnation, entirely absent of their own free choices–are directly correlated with Presidential efficacy. Until then, we will regard your highly moral behavior as suspiciously motivated and somehow half-rate, and will be forced to disregard any of your numerous meritorious accomplishments that may make you the best candidate for this entirely non-religious job.
Irish may apply. Catholics, Methodists, Buddhists and other sorts of heathens need not.
Should you be disappointed in our decision, please remember that we are only instruments of God’s will, so therefore take up your petition with Him in your chosen manner.
The Trustees of Davidson College
I want to learn a language using Duolingo.
I already know Spanish and English. My options are French, Italian, Portuguese, and German. I am leaning towards French or German. Thoughts? Feel free to comment away!