• Chaahk

    calgary CANADA

    suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.

    josh TARON, adam ONULOV, & michael McGIE: In her essay, “The Natural in Architecture and Culture,” Elizabeth Grosz cites Plato’s chora as a “receptacle or nurse that brings matter into being, without being material; it nurtures the idea into material form, without being ideal.” The positioning of architecture as an indeterminate attendant[1] is a mode that had been addressed only a few years prior to the Blur Building in the Chora L Works.[2] This is not a point to be dismissed as the Blur Building should be understood as an achievement of architecture that for one reason or another could not be resolved previously between Eisenman and Derrida. Furthermore, it concurrently enables Architecture to operate without ideal meaning while opening up infinite possibilities for complex material affects.

    Perhaps the most precise aspect of Diller + Scofidio’s Blur Building is that it demonstrates that nothing itself is a material effect—or rather that there is nothing outside of material affects. The premise that architecture could actually generate nothingness—without program, without form, without place—is not just reified as a Perfect Act[3] but (and perhaps more importantly) also as a difficult one. The displacement of architecture away from being a thing toward a set of affects is an explicit tactic that attempts to resolve the impossibility of knowledge amidst an oversaturation of things in communication with one another. As such the Blur Building functions as a paradox whereby architectural precision becomes subsumed and even obfuscated by its own sensational affects.

    If Blur as a material effect has a place, it is at the edges—dissipating them into a manifold continuum. This is as much a problem of geometry—of borders and boundaries, geographical orientation and alignment—as much as it is a problem of cultural norms, political affiliations and ideological positions. It is no wonder then that fog becomes the significant substance of Blur. Blur is complicit with a new mode of consuming, occupying and participating with(in) a site. Material anonymity and material specificity become mobilized against one another producing a brave new state of openness. One might think of Anaximenes’ Aer, an impure mixture of particles that produces a radical blindness enabling war machines to run hotter, see less and sense more amidst its cooling fog of war.[4]

    Since Blur, the production of nothingness has become both a disciplinary architectural challenge as well as an increasingly recognized geopolitical objective. Prior to 1999, the production of nothingness could be framed as technique without application followed by something of a lost decade due to war, financial collapse and investment into the ether of derivatives. We now find ourselves immersed within avalanches of data with the ability to [im]properly embrace them. Architecture is not exempt from this critique as many virtual projects[5] during that lost decade never made it to materialized application. However, techniques developed during that time have advanced in terms of scale and intensity thus allowing us to reconsider Blur projected at a global scale with precise application and even more intense sensations of nothingness.

    Chaahk is an effective tool that enables the systemic augmentation of weather patterns by injecting evaporated sea water into the atmosphere at a massive scale in order to deliver it to targeted on-shore destinations. This is done in partnership with on-shore infrastructure that captures the moisture delivered via weather systems; then distributing it through an otherwise conventional aqueduct system—reclaiming and distributing water gained through melting polar ice caps.

    The process begins by accessing and reanimating dormant off-shore oil wells. Geothermal heat travels through very large arrays of umbilical tubes (many thousands at the least) filled with pressurized ocean water running up to the surface. On its way up the cord water evaporates into steam that then travels up through a second aerial umbilical cord whose height is determined by GPS located weather balloons. Their altitude and position are determined in relation to ‘natural’ weather systems and calculated relative to where the water is to be sent. Each of these arrays would have a surface command center resembling the original Blur Building as they are particularly conducive to monitoring water quality, housing staff, and experiencing the first hand sensations of existing within the Aer.

    The second part of the system focuses on harvesting the delivered moisture from the air. In order to do this in areas that are not otherwise geographically conducive to rain, massive (1-5km high) foils are arrayed across the landscape producing turbulence that knocks the moisture out of the air (much the same way that mountains function in relation to weather systems). These foils then channel the water into a local aqueduct that sends the water to nearby crops or municipalities.

    SCENARIO ///
    Weather is no longer a viable system for humanity in its present form. The behavior of weather has been modified to such a degree by industrial forces that our best recourse is an attempt to blur/invert this relationship by using weather to augment the behavior of global Empire. Left unchecked, weather’s mythical violence[6] long correlated with the mere manifestation of the gods threatens global stability and the possibility to sustain ethical standards of living for individuals. Additionally, its intensifying unpredictability poses unacceptable and unsustainable risks to global markets, nation states and multinational corporations. Rising sea levels threaten coastlines while drought rages through once fertile farmlands. Resource scarcity ceases to differentiate between developed and undeveloped countries. Basic Needs becomes the dominant political mantra throughout all social and economic spheres. It becomes evident that if a multi-national regime is to exert any authority within this milieu, it must be able to first and foremost provide access to controlling the weather.

    Climate radicalization is simply too great a threat to go unclaimed. And with widespread, scientifically supported and cultural acknowledgment of climate change, the population has already attributed this violence to the abject chimera of industrialized multinational weather and the Anthropocene. All that is left is for one (many) to claim sovereign authority over the weather.

    In a desperate act to preserve global order, multiple undisclosed assemblages of nation states, energy and infrastructure companies, agri-business and privatized security forces implement a series of globally scaled, multi-purpose weather generating systems that provide the promise of smarter weather and a brighter future. While its applications are wide-ranging and indeterminate, its primary function is to manage the distribution of weather systems while combating rising sea levels. Weather is primarily delivered as aid to areas that would otherwise experience severe drought in order to enhance crop yields thus guaranteeing food supply to meet global demand. Weather could also be delivered to cities so that their municipal water needs can be met. Wealthy nation states might continue to outsource their farmland[7] and deliver weather to economically accessible land if domestic territory does not suffice. In short, Chaahk secures weather and Chaahkobs (the collection of competing multinational weather entities) securitize their access.

    Mayan society heavily oriented itself to the worship of their rain deity, Chaahk. Like many deities, Chaahk was reified both as a singularity and a multiplicity; both one and manifold—enabling a precise kind of indeterminacy exploited by those who ruled. As such, Chaahk was both an origin of things and a contingent manifestation of will. To illustrate this point, often a Mayan king would assume the image of Chaahk along with the promise of rain and its subsequent harvest while images of the king would express the violence of a storm, his instruments would consist of weaponry and depict imprisonment and bloodshed in his wake. Weather as threat, that which is threatened, and weather as solution.[8] So while it could be argued that this is not the first time in history that the sovereign has made a claim to controlling the weather, it is the first time modern western Empire[9] has produced such an explicit claim. Once the infrastructure becomes operational, Chaahkobs form in rapid succession, realigning political, economic and resource boundaries nearly overnight.

    As is the case when any form of sovereignty manifests, a multitude is produced that exerts its own set of forces throughout the system. With weather no longer as the sole territory of Nature, new less predictable populations begin to surface in the form of geo-political affects. Much the same way the extraction of fossil fuels from below the surface of the earth and their subsequent injection into industrialized systems has facilitated certain environmental effects, so too does the injection of hot water into the atmosphere produce intensifying results. And while the system comes with the promise of hydro-distribution and agri-fertility, so too does it mean that weather becomes a formally politicized object. Chaahkobs form in response to multitudinal effects forming a kind of political feedback spiral moderated only by the material resistance of weather itself.

    The project attempts to produces a series of open-ended questions and images that expose the blurry and yet-to-be-resolved edges of Chaahk both as object and affect.

    On Market Behavior /// While weather markets might produce new material patterns and atmospherics, how might weather augment market atmospherics and behaviors? Does Chaahk actualize the democratization of weather through capital markets—and what ethics might emerge from commodified weather? If weather is historically understood as common property, what are the consequences of privatizing or at least socializing weather itself?

    On Access /// How would access to weather work? Who would be given access and with what kind of cost structure? Could cities design automated weather delivery? Could cities crowd-source their own weather? Could individuals or client states order weather on demand? What recourse would any entity have if denied access to weather?

    On Resistance /// Who becomes the fundamentalist counterforce in this scenario? Where do environmentalist groups stand once “natural” weather is declared a threat to the state? What happens when weather is no longer believed to be a manifestation of the gods, but rather known to be an expression of competing multi-national conglomerates? And who would even be able to tell the difference?

    To be clear, the project makes no claims to utopian accord but rather attempts to internalize these contradictions into a kind of affective and atmospheric ecosystem consumed and sensed at a wide range of scales and orientations. We explicitly see the conventional pavilion to be an absurd and otherwise wasted opportunity to vitally expand on the ideas of the original Blur Building. If Architecture has learned nothing else since 1999, it’s that the value of nothingness is directly proportional to the magnitude and diversity of the populations it can incorporate. Blur as a project[ion] doesn’t need revisitation, it needs proliferation.

    [1] Gilles Deleuze speaks of the attendant perhaps most precisely through athleticism when discussing the movement between material and figure in The Logic of Sensation.
    [2] Jaques Derrida and Peter Eisenman, Chora L Works, Jeffrey Kipnis and Thomas Leeser, eds., Monacelli Press, 1997.
    [3] Perfect Acts of Architecture, curated by J. Kipnis, MoMA, NY, August 15–October 19, 2002.
    [4] Reza Negarestani explores Aer in relation to the wargasm in Cyclonopedia.
    [5] In particular practices such as Ruy Klein, Xefirotarch and R&Sie (amidst many unnamed others) contributed greatly to the advancement of affective architectural explorations (material and otherwise) in addition to those made by Diller and Scofidio/DS+R.
    [6] Walter Benjamin originally makes the differentiation between mythical and divine violence in Critique of Violence.
    [8] This traces Eugene Thacker’s articulation of biological sovereignty where life itself is mobilized as threat, that which is threatened and a means for producing its own security.
    [9] This is the Empire described by Hardt and Negri that emerges from western civilization becoming global capitalism.

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