Editor’s Fore­word

Marina Lathouri

Nothing is more complicated than a line or lines.

Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, Politics, in On The Line, 94

Lines are every­where. Phys­i­cal or imag­i­nary marks, traces – drawn, inscribed, sub­tract­ed, writ­ten, spo­ken, lim­its, thresh­olds and con­nec­tions, modes of think­ing. The issue, how­ev­er, lies in the ways in which they were under­stood,” which depend­ed crit­i­cal­ly on whether the plain sur­face was com­pared to a land­scape to be trav­elled or a space to be col­o­nized, or to the skin of the body or the mir­ror of the mind.”1

For ear­ly builders, the line was the cord (the mason’s line) used for tak­ing mea­sure­ments and for mak­ing things lev­el. Lat­er, in the 16th cen­tu­ry it stood for a crease of the face or palm of the hand’ and for the equa­tor, a line notion­al­ly drawn on the earth. Land bound by lines was trans­formed into prop­er­ty, resource, ter­rain and site of work, con­tem­pla­tion, or battlefield. 

The diverse het­ero­ge­neous arrange­ments, trans­ferred into a whole range of reg­is­ters, are his­tor­i­cal­ly and seman­ti­cal­ly pre­cise, and hence avowed­ly polit­i­cal. Mak­ing the sur­face or inscribed both on a mate­r­i­al soil and with­in forms of dis­course,” lines reveal but also manip­u­late, con­test and alter deep cul­tur­al and polit­i­cal forms.2 Shift­ing bor­ders, zones of occu­pa­tion, net­works of dis­tri­b­u­tion, migra­to­ry pat­terns, prompt the con­flu­ence of a mul­ti­tude of his­to­ries, real and imag­i­nary geo­gra­phies, mul­ti-scalar and mul­ti-dimen­sion­al bod­ies. Bundling and unbundling of ter­ri­to­r­i­al rights, bound­aries stretched thin and over­lap­ping juris­dic­tions, shape an eco­nom­ics of exchange as a form of lived pol­i­tics. Coor­di­nates set on a blank sur­face or words shuf­fled around on a sheet of paper, meld the per­son­al and the polit­i­cal, the mol­e­c­u­lar and the planetary. 

Writing has nothing to do with signifying, but with land surveying and map-making, even of countries yet to come.

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Rhizome

The basic dis­ci­pli­nary and pro­fes­sion­al bound­aries of archi­tec­ture were sig­naled in the ear­ly trea­tis­es (trat­tati). The coa­les­cence of geom­e­try and optics, music, med­i­cine, astron­o­my, phi­los­o­phy, and law on the print­ed pages of the first books about archi­tec­ture defines and delim­its a dis­tinct form of prac­tice, dis­tinct from the man­u­al labor and the actu­al con­struc­tion. Con­ver­gent lines, num­bers and words replace tem­plates and taut threads. The inven­tion and writ­ing of the idea (dis­eg­no) is depict­ed as the object of archi­tec­ture and the sur­face of the draw­ing the site par excel­lence of the archi­tect. New pro­ce­dures, tools, tech­niques, visu­al con­ven­tions and norms of use as well as his­to­ries and epis­te­mo­log­i­cal assump­tions are intro­duced. The same instru­ments are employed to mea­sure the human body, to sur­vey the land and project upon it social visions and civ­il ideals. Alber­ti uses the astro­labe, a nav­i­ga­tion­al instru­ment, to describe the body in De Stat­ua and the cipher wheel to form the words. The trea­tise becomes but a demon­stra­tion (dimon­strazioni) of the process of con­struc­tion of a pic­ture,’ the form of sym­pa­thy, of con­so­nance of the parts.”3 From the scale of the let­ter to the scale of the body and the scale of the build­ing and the city, a men­tal pic­ture and a ter­ri­to­ry are being de-scribed with pre­ci­sion, with the aid of the imag­i­nary lines (linee occulte, vin­culi).4 The dense web of invis­i­ble lines, extend­ed to the van­ish­ing point of human exis­tence to con­strue a tra­di­tion, mark the lim­its of a dis­ci­pli­nary field but also the bound­aries of a field of action.5 They project shift­ing forms of polit­i­cal author­i­ty and juris­dic­tion but also of new ide­al rep­re­sen­ta­tions.”6

Numer­ous trans­ac­tions between the imag­i­nary and the visu­al, the tex­tu­al and the built, the legal, the polit­i­cal and the insti­tu­tion­al, and mul­ti­ple descrip­tions of the object of archi­tec­ture con­stant­ly nego­ti­at­ing its lim­its and pur­pose, have been debat­ed since. It is pre­cise­ly with­in this flu­id (and porous) zone of hid­den geome­tries’ and objects that archi­tec­ture is invent­ed as a cul­tur­al­ly cod­i­fied knowl­edge and set of practices.

In the ear­ly text­books, the line of writ­ing, the line in a draw­ing, and the pulling of a line on a con­struc­tion site become ana­log­i­cal pro­ce­dures. Mar­co Fras­cari, in his essay The Draft­ing Knife and Pen, sug­gests archi­tec­tur­al draw­ing and writ­ing as an act of cut­ting. Hav­ing recourse to the tex­tu­al and visu­al descrip­tions of the anato­my of the body by the Roman physi­cian Galenus and the latter’s homol­o­gy between dis­sec­tion and writ­ing,” Fras­cari writes: The knife sec­tions the body and also orga­nizes the knowl­edge which is then writ­ten in trea­tis­es by the pen. The pen is a knife, or stilet­to-that is the sty­lus (grapheion) which can pierce both a body and a trea­tise.”7 The oper­a­tion of cut­ting is con­so­nant with the func­tion of line as a break in a sur­face, a fis­sure; a rift that mobilis­es dis­tinc­tions, that trans­forms and demon­strates. Cut­ting the body, cut­ting the build­ing, cut­ting the city, cut­ting the earth, cut­ting his­to­ry, lines recon­sti­tute the human, the visu­al, the social, the geo­graph­i­cal, and the historical. 

Those who first invented and then named the constellations were storytellers. Tracing an imaginary line between a cluster of stars gave them an image and an identity. The stars threaded on that line were like events threaded on a narrative. Imagining the constellations did not of course change the stars, nor did it change the black emptiness that surrounds them. What it changed was the way people read the night sky.

John Berger, And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief As Photos

No longer objec­tive and mea­sur­able but vari­able and ambigu­ous, plot­lines con­nect and pro­duce mean­ings, a man­i­fold woven from the count­less threads spun by beings of all sorts, both human and non-human.”8 What is at stake is the way in which a plu­ral­i­ty of sto­ries comes to exist, objects to be con­struct­ed and dis­solved, topoi to be debated—a frag­ile, yet infi­nite­ly real, knowl­edge that might blow right away leav­ing no trace. Col­lec­tive arrange­ments of enun­ci­a­tion”9 that make us respon­si­ble for new rela­tion­ships, and which inten­si­ty and dif­fu­sion attrib­ut­es a spe­cial role to the encounter with the resid­ual and the untranslatable.

History is viewed as a ‘production’, in all senses of the term: the production of meanings, beginning with the ‘signifying traces’ of events; an analytical construction that is never definite and always provisional; an instrument of deconstruction of ascertainable realities.

Manfredo Tafuri, “The Historical Project,” in The Sphere and the Labyrinth

The var­i­ous ways of link­ing what can be said, what can be seen, what can be occu­pied, what can be inhab­it­ed, pro­duce a his­tor­i­cal and polit­i­cal space. This nexus local­izes and express­es in it objects and stand­points, words and things—an anthro­po­log­i­cal con­sti­tu­tion of the collective.

In the light of press­ing issues, grow­ing ten­sions and the exhaus­tion of the polit­i­cal will, lines—physical, imag­i­nary, ide­o­log­i­cal, may allow us to re-organ­ise the lan­guage of his­to­ry in dif­fer­ent ways and pro­vide views of ter­ri­to­ry artic­u­lat­ed beyond nation­al, and indeed, admin­is­tra­tive bound­aries. Today’s encoun­ters with the plan­et have brought the world scale in our dai­ly expe­ri­ences, and at the core of press­ing social con­cerns. In fact, the com­pli­ca­tions of what con­sti­tutes the very con­di­tion of the human in the midst of emerg­ing notions of post-humans, non-humans, a plu­ral­i­ty of medi­at­ed and vir­tu­al expe­ri­ences, as well as humans whose bod­ies are per­haps all they have, expand beyond the acknowl­edg­ment of the oth­er’ and forms of sub­jec­tiv­i­ty. Even lan­guage often proves inad­e­quate to describe the scalar com­plex­i­ties of envi­ron­men­tal and social phe­nom­e­na. The con­fu­sion between the pro­duc­tion of the Oth­er and the expe­ri­ence of those who live in its vague bor­ders, between colo­nial and glob­al con­di­tions has also marked archi­tec­tur­al his­to­ri­og­ra­phy, which has best worked to delin­eate its own dis­tinct cat­e­gories. Recent the­o­ries have tend­ed to expose the sev­er­al lay­ers of exclu­sion from the his­to­ri­og­ra­phy and from the pro­fes­sion of archi­tec­ture. Architecture’s respon­si­bil­i­ty and social com­mit­ment might be lying in the recog­ni­tion and for­mu­la­tion of dif­fer­ent assump­tions about fun­da­men­tal issues of human exis­tence on Earth. To invent and name’ new con­stel­la­tions may allow a lin­ger­ing over the idea of (com­mon) humanity.

The idea behind this pub­li­ca­tion is to bring togeth­er a host of voic­es, to cre­ate a zone of dia­logue and prox­im­i­ty. Flu­id zones and thresh­olds tra­verse places and times, groups and soci­eties as well as indi­vid­u­als. Entan­gled sto­ries of song lines, trans-Saha­ran lines, sur­vey lines, lines of col­o­niza­tion of land and most per­va­sive col­o­niza­tion of knowl­edge, alter­na­tive ped­a­go­gies and insti­tu­tion­al activism, lines of trans­mis­sion, cog­ni­tive process­es and land­scapes of mem­o­ry, con­ti­nu­ity of becom­ing, lines of fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent kinds describe phys­i­cal and con­cep­tu­al dis­po­si­tions, invoke modes of think­ing, micro-geo­gra­phies, and mal­leable bound­aries with unex­pect­ed res­o­nances. Dis­tinct, yet inter­twined, themes move beyond the con­text of a spe­cif­ic field pre­sent­ing method­olo­gies and approach­es to the ways in which the writ­ing of his­to­ry, a more imper­ma­nent field than we think, might be fos­tered and might sug­gest the con­nec­tive tis­sue to polit­i­cal sub­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion. Its sub­ject of inquiry,” Ingold fore­tells, must con­sist not of the rela­tions between organ­isms and their exter­nal envi­ron­ments but of the rela­tions along their sev­er­al­ly enmeshed ways of life. Ecol­o­gy, in short, is the study of the life of lines.”10

  1. 1

    Tim Ingold, Lines: A Brief His­to­ry (Lon­don and New York: Rout­ledge, 2007), 52.

  2. 2

    Michel Fou­cault, Power/Knowledge: Select­ed Inter­views and Oth­er Writ­ings, 1972–1977, ed. Col­in Gor­don, trans. C. Gor­don, L. Mar­shall, J. Mepham, and K. Sop­er (New York: Pan­theon Books, 1972), 69.

  3. 3

    Leon Bat­tista Alber­ti, On the Art of Build­ing in Ten Books, Book IX, trans. Joseph Ryk­w­ert, Neil Leach, and Robert Tav­er­nor (Cam­bridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1988), 5.

  4. 4

    Sebas­tiano Ser­lio uses the linee occulte as a tool in his Book II On Per­spec­tive for the con­struc­tion of the per­spec­ti­val draw­ing and an imag­i­nary, or bet­ter, hid­den’ geom­e­try fun­da­men­tal for archi­tects. And he demon­strates its impor­tance by asso­ci­at­ing it with the human body: we know we have skele­ton but we can­not see it”. It also recalls Gior­dano Bruno’s con­cep­tion of linne occulte, which are implic­it in a line of text, the func­tion of which is to con­nect words to ideas and meaning.”

  5. 5

    Here it is the con­ver­gence of lines that con­sti­tutes the plane as a pic­ture plane, that is, as a pro­jec­tive sur­face upon which con­struc­tions are not so much assembled—as they would be on a real pavement—as rep­re­sent­ed.” Ingold, Lines: A Brief His­to­ry, 157.

  6. 6

    Man­fre­do Tafu­ri, Inter­pret­ing the Renais­sance: Princes, Cities, Archi­tects, trans Daniel Sher­er (New Haven and Lon­don: Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2006), 25.

  7. 7

    Mar­co Fras­cari, The Draft­ing Knife and Pen, in Imple­ment­ing Archi­tec­ture. Expos­ing the Par­a­digm Sur­round­ing the Imple­ments and the Imple­men­ta­tion of Archi­tec­ture, ed. Rob Miller (Nexus Press, 1988).

  8. 8

    Ingold, Lines: A Brief His­to­ry, 3.

  9. 9

    Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guat­tari, On the Line, trans. John John­ston (Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty: Semiotext(e), 1983), 11.

  10. 10

    Ingold, Lines: A Brief His­to­ry, 103.