In response to a reader's request, I have posted my 1999 essay Postmodern Permutations
to the site. It was good to revisit this nearly decade-old work that came at a crucial moment for me. In the essay I am still concerned first and foremost with architecture. I have not yet begun the move into my broader research emphasis on architecture's role in urbanism or into computation and networks. But the essay is consciously framed within the context of dot-com Los Angeles. This is already after the demise of Assemblage and the exhaustion of a certain critical project in architecture, but unlike the purveyors of post-criticism (note: when is the last time that term still seemed current?), who largely formulated their project a few years later, my interest lay in complicating matters not simplifying them.
As my project this year is to continue my work on Network Culture
, looking back at that issue, I can see the importance of periodization to me already. I begin the essay by recounting my students' bafflement at my asking them what period they live in (modern, postmodern or other). To a degree, I misread the signs, arguing that in fact we were postmodern and that stylistic postmodernism could now be dispensed with in favor of a more complex and postmodern relation between architecture and capital. Now, in a sense I was right. The post-critical obsession with capital highlights this. Read in the context of this essay, post-criticism is a last moment of postmodern culture. As readers of my network culture
work know, our
cultural dominant is the network. Post-criticism now seems adrift against the demands of a new culture emerging from the context of the infomatic realm. My students were already telling me that we were not postmodern and that we were in another time altogether.
But there's another dimension to the article.
I don't have the capacity to incorporate the student work that accompanied the piece. For that you will have to go to the issue of Thresholds itself. But I was able to scan and OCR a small section of that text and reproduce it for you here:
The SCI-Arc project "Sampling Linux" represented on the opposite page and throughout this article is Rocio Romero'
s reaction to the impact of post-Fordist capital on design, and her propositions for other, future forms of design methodology and practice. Inspired by the Utopian possibilities inherent in late capital, Romero proposes a new model for architectural practice. This model explores forms of consumption and production on the Internet for which capital has literally become superfluous, even an impediment. If the Internet can be seen as the furthest elaboration of the Post-Fordist service economy, it can also be seen as an anticipation of a future stage of culture in which capital has withered away. This exploration led to the copyright-free Linux, an "Open Source" version of the UNIX operating system hacked together for personal computers. Linux avoids capital to an even greater extent than the academy, the former, self-proclaimed locus of resistance. Proponents of Open Source software make what they need for themselves and share it. When traditional software companies offer to produce software for Linux, they often find the only way to succeed is to make their software free. This might be the beginning of a new, even more pervasive form of capital, but it could also be the beginning of a new Utopian impulse-one in which capital, pushed to its furthest extreme, becomes pure information.
Open source and networks paid off for me. And what of my student? Although she hasn't ventured back into open source, Rocio instead developed her research with prefab. To be sure, prefab is not the same thing as open source, but nevertheless it is a much more advanced way of thinking about architecuture in that it posits object-oriented thinking over the repetitive redesigning necessitated by animation software. While I haven't seen her in a few years, I hope to see Rocio this weekend at one of her LV Homes
in the greater New York area this weekend. Rocio's work has been featured in a lengthy piece in the New Yorker
by Paul Goldberger, in Dwell, and in many other venues and she's one of the most succesful students to ever graduate from SCI_Arc.
It's fascinating to see where things wind up, years later.