Renato Bocchi / Space, Body, Architecture

Space, Body, Architecture

Towards a Difficult Balance

Renato Bocchi

1. Contrapposto

It is well known that in clas­si­cal art, lat­er tak­en up by Renais­sance and neo­clas­si­cal art—and espe­cial­ly in sculp­ture, from Polyk­leitos and Lysip­pus to Donatel­lo and Michelan­ge­lo and lat­er on Rodin—the reflec­tion on the so-called con­trap­pos­to or chi­as­mus had a large impor­tance in out­lin­ing the pos­ture of the human body and the pro­por­tion­al rules of its representation.

That reflec­tion arose from the desire to over­come the sta­t­ic and hier­at­ic vision of the pre­vi­ous Greek sculp­ture (that of the koùroi), deci­sive­ly intro­duc­ing the sen­sa­tion of move­ment and action in the human body’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion, thus deter­min­ing an evi­dent empath­ic flow on the part of the observ­er in contemplating—or rather experiencing—the work.

In the con­tem­po­rary world the same reflec­tion is revived in a sur­pris­ing and inno­v­a­tive way by the research of an artist-per­former like Bruce Nauman.

In the cat­a­logue of the recent exhi­bi­tion Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies, orga­nized by the Pin­ault Foun­da­tion at Pun­ta del­la Dogana in Venice, curat­ed by Car­los Basu­al­do, Eri­ca Batlle explains: 

Con­trap­pos­to exem­pli­fied a new­found nat­u­ral­ism. Sin­u­ous, sen­su­ous bronze fig­ures of the high clas­si­cal peri­od stood with one foot plant­ed firm­ly bear­ing weight, the oth­er slight­ly lift­ed and relaxed. This coun­ter­bal­anc­ing stance, giv­en its Ital­ian name con­trap­pos­to (or coun­ter­pose) cen­turies lat­er, was exem­pli­fied most famous­ly by the sculp­tor Polykleitos’s bronze Doryphoros (or spear bear­er), cast around 450–440 BCE. The sculp­ture was remark­able not only for its exem­plary contrapposto—the fig­ure stands on the right leg with the left leg relaxed, while the left arm is flexed and the right arm at his side—but also for the sophis­ti­cat­ed math­e­mat­ics Polyk­leitos employed to arrive at an ide­al rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the body ".[1]

Polyk­leitos elab­o­rat­ed his pro­por­tion­al cal­cu­la­tions on the mea­sure­ments of the human body in a text known as Canon, in which he doc­u­ment­ed his "dis­cov­er­ies", accord­ing to which the height of the ide­al fig­ure should have cor­re­spond­ed to sev­en times that of the head. These ideas and ideals were then tak­en up, as is well known, in the human­is­tic prin­ci­ples explored by artists, sci­en­tists and philoso­phers in the Renaissance.

"Their renditions—emphasizes Batlle—mark the his­toric moment with which Nau­man most read­i­ly aligns his numer­i­cal ref­er­ents in the Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies, which con­sist of sev­en pro­jec­tions and, at their most com­plex, par­ti­tion Nauman's body into sev­en parts".[2]

In the video Walk with Con­trap­pos­to, dat­ing back to 1968, the artist is seen walk­ing back and forth along a nar­row cor­ri­dor, which he him­self built in his stu­dio, with his hands crossed behind his head and his body sway­ing as he tries to walk straight in line while main­tain­ing a pose in con­trap­pos­to.

Damon Krukows­ki com­ments: "Nauman's painstak­ing (and prob­a­bly painful) walk down a cor­ri­dor defined by the swing of his hips from con­trap­pos­to to con­trap­pos­to is high­ly awk­ward, to the point of near immo­bil­i­ty. […] That ten­sion is what Nau­man is enact­ing for us, step by excru­ci­at­ing step […] The one we feel with our ears. The sound of Nauman’s delib­er­ate awk­ward steps in this nar­row cor­ri­dor is preter­nat­u­ral­ly loud […]. Once again, Nau­man has dis­ori­ent­ed us by skew­ing sound and image".[3]

This work is revis­it­ed years lat­er by Nau­man in his most recent Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies. [4]

The log­ic of the new works is based on three steps: rep­e­ti­tion, divi­sion and over­turn­ing of the image. These oper­a­tions take place in the con­text of a gen­er­al rever­sal of the rela­tion­ship between fig­ure and ground, as the adjust­ed focus of the video cam­era cre­ates a par­al­lax effect. […] The over­all effect is that of being con­front­ed with the appar­ent dis­in­te­gra­tion and com­ing togeth­er of the artist's body".[5]

By invert­ing the dynam­ics between the body and the sur­round­ing space in his Walk with Con­trap­pos­to, 1968, Nauman's walk now seems to make the space around him move.

These new works have an evi­dent mon­u­men­tal­i­ty, pro­ject­ed as they are in large dimen­sions in the vast halls of the Dogana, that fur­ther under­line the clas­sic ref­er­ences of the afore­men­tioned works.

"Nau­man intends to rein­state and to mind the con­cep­tu­al scaf­fold­ing that sup­ports the very def­i­n­i­tion of sculp­ture and pos­si­bly, by exten­sion, of art itself".[6]

Already in the clas­si­cal expe­ri­ence, the con­trap­pos­to intro­duced the sense of dynam­ic action in an artis­tic expres­sion such as that of sculp­ture — born of neces­si­ty as a sta­t­ic, objec­tu­al, stat­u­ary rep­re­sen­ta­tion. This fact involved the space around it and aroused an emo­tion­al and empath­ic reac­tion in the observer.

The per­cep­tion of the work already tends to immerse the observ­er in a phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cal "flow" of inter­ac­tions among his own body, the body of the work and the sur­round­ing space.

This process is enor­mous­ly ampli­fied when the "sculp­ture in the expand­ed field" of con­tem­po­rary art—as Ros­alind Krauss[7] defined it—merges with the spa­tial­i­ty of archi­tec­ture and the per­for­ma­tiv­i­ty of dance or the­atre, rec­i­p­ro­cal and estab­lish­es intense rela­tion­ship with all those enti­ties, i.e. either the bod­ies of the work and the view­er or the space that sur­rounds them, intro­duc­ing force­ful­ly also the time fac­tor and there­fore the process of the artis­tic action. The work is no longer an object but an event. 

Nauman's work thus trans­lates the clas­si­cal con­trap­pos­to into a com­plex reflec­tion on knowl­edge and art, but also nec­es­sar­i­ly ques­tions the spa­tial dimen­sion of the scene or archi­tec­ture in which the event takes place.[8]

The nar­row cor­ri­dor in which Nau­man forced him­self to walk in 1968 was already part of the work, as well as his sway­ing body. And the stu­dio where he cre­at­ed and still car­ries out his per­for­mances (and which in the lat­est expe­ri­ences lit­er­al­ly becomes the the­atre of a "3D vir­tu­al vis­it")[9] is an inte­gral part of the work. Just as impor­tant is the aur­al dimen­sion that accom­pa­nies the action and in some way reads the space of the work.

There­fore, in his work there is a close involve­ment of the archi­tec­tur­al space in the artis­tic event: an archi­tec­tur­al space, lit­er­al­ly mea­sured and shaped by the artist's body movements.

Bruce Nauman, Walk with Contrapposto, 1968
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Bruce Nauman, Walk with Contrapposto, 1968

Bruce Nauman, Contrapposto Studies I through VII, 2015-2016
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Bruce Nauman, Contrapposto Studies I through VII, 2015-2016

Bruce Nauman, Diagonal Sound Wall (Acoustic Wall), 1970
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Bruce Nauman, Diagonal Sound Wall (Acoustic Wall), 1970

2. Tadao Ando’s Museum Spaces

I ven­ture here—beyond the spe­cif­ic inten­tions of the artist and of the curator—a pos­si­ble role of affin­i­ty and sup­port, with­in this process, of the muse­um archi­tec­ture itself that hous­es the works’ instal­la­tion, fur­ther empha­sized through the exhi­bi­tion design project.

In the case of the Venet­ian exhi­bi­tion, it seems inter­est­ing to me to inves­ti­gate the rela­tion­ship that implic­it­ly is estab­lished between Nauman's works and the spaces of the Dogana, restored and revis­it­ed some years ago by Tadao Ando.

In fact, Ando's spa­tial con­cep­tion of archi­tec­ture has var­i­ous points of con­tact with the reflec­tion on the dialec­tic between tra­di­tion and inno­va­tion that we have seen in a cer­tain way as the sub­ject of Nauman's work and with the phenomenological/perceptive out­comes that sub­stan­ti­ate his own research.

This seems to be true both in the devices Ando adopt­ed to com­bine the restora­tion of the pre-exist­ing build­ing with his own archi­tec­tur­al-spa­tial inven­tion (see in par­tic­u­lar the incor­po­ra­tion of the cen­tral "cube" in exposed con­crete into the brick body of the ancient ser­i­al "ware­hous­es") and above all in the con­ju­ga­tion of abstrac­tion and fig­u­ra­tion, of West­ern tra­di­tion and ori­en­tal sen­si­bil­i­ty, which is the basis of all his archi­tec­tur­al work, reflect­ed in a rar­efied spa­tial­i­ty of absolute sobri­ety and intense emo­tion­al empathy. 

In many of Ando's works, in fact, the abstract/geometric ele­ments of archi­tec­ture rein­ter­pret the forms of nature, delim­it them, enclose them, con­tain them, to the point of extract­ing a ratio­nal order, in a tight dialec­tic between abstrac­tion and corporeality.

The recov­ery of forms and pro­ce­dures typ­i­cal of abstract art, and of Josef Albers in par­tic­u­lar, is strong­ly present in his design imagery and gives shape to an orig­i­nal way of design­ing architecture.

Andō writes: "The result is the tran­si­tion from an abstract archi­tec­ture, devel­oped accord­ing to strict geo­met­ric rules, to anoth­er con­crete one, which cov­ers the appear­ance of the human body. I think the key to this trans­for­ma­tion is the labyrinthine nature of my work. Artic­u­lat­ing sim­ple geo­met­ric shapes in a labyrinth is equiv­a­lent to merg­ing an imag­i­nary Pirane­sian labyrinth with­in an Albers-style paint­ing. My main goal is thus to make pos­si­ble the joint expres­sion of the con­crete and the abstract in archi­tec­ture".[10]

Mind­ful of the art of Japan­ese gar­dens, but not far from Mies van der Rohe’s mod­ern mas­tery, the artic­u­la­tion of space by means of walls cre­at­ed by Andō allows to trace guid­ed paths for the visitor's gaze, to design sequences of spaces and inter­vals (almost sound-silences), thus offer­ing the vis­i­tor the pos­si­bil­i­ty of pro­gres­sive­ly expe­ri­enc­ing the landscape.

The avant-garde abstract geome­tries of art and archi­tec­ture can thus be com­bined with an atten­tion, which again we could say is "phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cal", to the forms of archi­tec­ture and land­scape. The "spa­tial" tra­di­tion of Japan­ese archi­tec­ture inter­venes to "human­ize" the abstract and ratio­nal con­tri­bu­tion of mod­ern West­ern architecture.

Fur­ther­more, in all Tadao Andō’s works, the wall—with an unusu­al thick­ness and body—has a fun­da­men­tal and in some respects autonomous pres­ence: it not only has an envelop­ing, delim­it­ing func­tion, but it is often a free ele­ment with its own auton­o­my and becomes a screen upon which light and shad­ows are pro­ject­ed: a vibrant and vital sur­face.[11]

Geom­e­try is then re-eval­u­at­ed, but no longer as an instru­ment of cold, abstract ratio­nal­iza­tion of forms, rather as a tool capa­ble of mak­ing peo­ple to react pos­i­tive­ly and enhance the expres­sive poten­tial of nat­ur­al spaces and shapes, includ­ing the human bod­ies inter­act­ing with those spaces.

Geom­e­try, despite its non-ran­dom char­ac­ter, con­cen­trates mul­ti­ple mean­ings […] — explains Andō [12] — iso­lates land­scapes, struc­tures them, high­lights them, induces people's move­ments, makes them walk, stop, go up or down. It also manip­u­lates the inten­si­ty of light and, by iso­lat­ing and col­lect­ing the shad­ows in the back­ground, cre­ates light waves in space. The geom­e­try applied to the archi­tec­ture high­lights the speci­fici­ty of the site and, by sub­ject­ing it to a vio­lent dia­logue, sub­li­mates it and gives it a new existence”.

If this is the spir­it with which Ando designs his spaces, in direct rela­tion­ship with the per­cep­tions aroused in the peo­ple who live there and tak­ing into account the needs of the move­ment of such peo­ple the sounds of their steps, the lights and shad­ows that are drawn on the sur­faces, the tem­per­a­ture with which they can touch or lean against the walls …), we under­stand how a per­for­ma­tive art based on body move­ments such that of Nau­man can find inter­est­ing cor­re­spon­dences with the spa­tial­i­ty of Ando's muse­um. This is true either in sit­u­a­tions in which he him­self adds spa­tial and tac­tile devices to the rooms[13] or in the sit­u­a­tions in which he orga­nizes real phys­i­cal per­for­mances or where he orga­nizes pure­ly sound events, as well as where the walls become mon­u­men­tal pro­jec­tion screens of "vir­tu­al" performances. 

The emo­tion­al­ly charged "geome­tries" of Ando's archi­tec­ture can thus pos­i­tive­ly host Nauman's provo­ca­tions; the manip­u­la­tion of the clas­si­cal prin­ci­ples of geom­e­try, pro­por­tion, con­trap­pos­to, in a con­tem­po­rary mode, seems to find a cer­tain cor­re­spon­dence in the work of Ando as in that of Nau­man, albeit act­ing with obvi­ous­ly dif­fer­ing tools and techniques.

Tadao Ando, Museum of Punta della Dogana, Venice
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Tadao Ando, Museum of Punta della Dogana, Venice

3. Kiasma

An inter­est­ing rela­tion­ship with Nauman's reflec­tions on the sub­ject of "con­trap­pos­to" can also be estab­lished inci­sive­ly with anoth­er par­a­dig­mat­ic work of con­tem­po­rary archi­tec­ture: Steven Holl's Kias­ma Muse­um in Helsinki.

The con­cept of con­trap­pos­to in clas­si­cal and Renais­sance art is compared–as pre­vi­ous­ly mentioned—to the anal­o­gous con­cept of "chi­as­mus", a rhetor­i­cal fig­ure which takes its name from the Greek let­ter "chi" (X) and which arranges the words in a cross accord­ing to ABBA scheme.

This con­cept is explic­it­ly used by Holl to set up the project of the muse­um; it is even sug­gest­ed by its epony­mous name.[14]

This approach of "inter­twin­ing dif­fer­ent lines of rela­tion­ship with the con­text", which decides the over­all shape of the build­ing by giv­ing it a tor­sion that can actu­al­ly cor­re­spond to the coun­ter­bal­anced pose of the stat­ues in con­trap­pos­to, is equal­ly and more deci­sive in shap­ing the inte­ri­or spaces of the hall and the exhi­bi­tion rooms accord­ing to a sort of con­trolled defor­ma­tion such to give a dynam­ic sense to museum’s expe­ri­en­tial itin­er­ary. Thus, vis­i­tors are offered a great vari­ety of spa­tial and per­cep­tive expe­ri­ences, albeit accord­ing to a some­what con­trolled posture.

Holl explains that "The gen­er­al char­ac­ter of the rooms, which are almost rec­tan­gu­lar with one wall curved allows for a silent yet dra­mat­ic back­drop for the exhi­bi­tion of con­tem­po­rary art exhi­bi­tion. The slight vari­a­tion in room shape and size is due to the gen­tly curved sec­tion of the build­ing which allows the hor­i­zon­tal nat­ur­al light to enter in sev­er­al dif­fer­ent ways. These rooms are meant to be silent, but not sta­t­ic; they are dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed through their irreg­u­lar­i­ty. […] The con­tin­u­ous unfold­ing of chang­ing per­spec­tives con­nects the inter­nal expe­ri­ence to the over­all con­cept of inter­twin­ing or Kias­ma. […] The geom­e­try has an inte­ri­or mys­tery and an exte­ri­or hori­zon which, like two hands clasp­ing each oth­er, form the archi­tec­tur­al equiv­a­lent of a pub­lic invi­ta­tion".[15]

Hence, even Holl's Kias­ma can be described with some prop­er­ties as a con­trap­pos­to archi­tec­ture, capa­ble of introducing—akin to clas­si­cal systems—those con­trolled vari­a­tions that make it an inno­v­a­tive episode in the field of muse­um archi­tec­ture and, above all, pre­dis­posed to a free and vari­able use and per­cep­tion both in rela­tion to the visitor’s sen­so­ry expe­ri­ence and to the flex­i­bil­i­ty in wel­com­ing the very dif­fer­ent, and often inter­ac­tive, forms of art found in con­tem­po­rary artist production.

Steven Holl, Kiasma Museum, Helsinki; photo Jani-Matti Salo
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Steven Holl, Kiasma Museum, Helsinki; photo Jani-Matti Salo

4. Atlas of Gesture

Explor­ing again the rela­tion­ship between archi­tec­ture and per­form­ing arts in the "tac­tile" or "cor­po­re­al" def­i­n­i­tion of spaces (in par­tic­u­lar those relat­ed to the world of chore­og­ra­phy), I think it is equal­ly inter­est­ing to ana­lyze an expe­ri­ence con­duct­ed in 2015 by Vir­gilio Sieni at the Pra­da Foun­da­tion in Milan in direct con­nec­tion with the open­ing exhi­bi­tion of that cul­tur­al cen­ter, enti­tled Ser­i­al Clas­sic, curat­ed by Sal­va­tore Set­tis, once again focus­ing on clas­si­cal statuary. 

In this case, too, I am intrigued by the pos­si­bil­i­ty of inves­ti­gat­ing how these per­for­ma­tive artis­tic expe­ri­ences have dia­logued, more or less explic­it­ly, with archi­tec­tur­al spaces, designed in this case by a guru of con­tem­po­rary archi­tec­ture such as Rem Koolhaas.

In the two lev­els of the so-called Podi­um designed by Kool­haas, where the Ser­i­al Classic ancient art exhi­bi­tion had just end­ed, Vir­gilio Sieni's project titled Atlante del gesto (Atlas of Ges­ture) explic­it­ly dia­logued with the traces of that exhi­bi­tion and with the instal­la­tion cre­at­ed by OMA stu­dio. The chore­o­graph­ic project was pro­gram­mat­i­cal­ly planned to replace the sta­t­ic nature of clas­si­cal works with the dynamism and vital­i­ty of the bod­ies of the per­sons involved in the chore­o­graph­ic actions, trans­form­ing the exhi­bi­tion space into a land­scape of ges­tures”. Fur­ther­more, the door in the cen­ter of one of the glass walls of the Podi­um and an inclined plat­form, also designed by OMA, allowed the numer­ous dancers (pro­fes­sion­als and non-pro­fes­sion­als) and even the pub­lic to move freely between the inter­nal and exter­nal spaces.[16]

In his research enti­tled Atlas of Ges­turelySieni works pre­cise­ly on bod­i­ly expres­sion look­ing for a fusion of body and space, or — in his own words — estab­lish­es a "rela­tion­ship of anato­my with the sur­round­ing envi­ron­ment". Pre­cise­ly Sieni declares that "start­ing from this con­di­tion it is pos­si­ble to define a space".[17]

This space mea­sure­ment” through pos­ture and body move­ments seems to me to be a very inter­est­ing tool for the ana­lyt­ic per­cep­tion, and there­fore for the design, of an archi­tec­tur­al space. And it is inter­est­ing to note that even Sieni—as pre­vi­ous­ly not­ed for Nauman—considers bod­i­ly expres­sions in a way—although based on "slowed" and some­times "frozen" dynamics—that ques­tions clas­si­cal statuary’s sta­tic­i­ty by pur­su­ing a phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cal dimen­sion of space which can be assim­i­lat­ed to the themes raised by the prob­lem­at­ic of con­trap­pos­to: it is not a coin­ci­dence that Sieni speaks of the con­cept of arche­ol­o­gy of gesture”.

"Com­pos­ing is the act of orga­niz­ing a space by relat­ing a series of ele­ments to be bro­ken up and then mod­eled, in order to inhab­it "dif­fi­cult" exis­ten­tial regions and thus define an envi­ron­ment of mean­ing. … (Look­ing for) a place that is not sym­met­ri­cal, where the chore­o­graph­ic design actu­al­ly enhances the asym­me­tries, lead­ing the dancers towards the edge of space, […] the move­ment of the bod­ies pro­duces a mass, chan­nels ener­gies, (estab­lish­es) vol­umes that inhab­it bod­ies ".[18]

Sieni explains that "The work of the acad­e­my on the art of ges­ture aims to pos­i­tive­ly inter­vene on the liv­abil­i­ty of places and cities, help­ing to define a sense of belong­ing: a field of action on which to graft a renew­al of the rela­tion­ship between the body of indi­vid­ual cit­i­zens and the con­for­ma­tion of their ter­ri­to­ries to which they belong, the cul­tur­al prac­tices in which they ori­ent their lives. […] Through the cre­ation of vir­tu­ous cir­cles between prac­tices, visions and the redis­cov­ery of places, the var­i­ous projects, which have grad­u­al­ly been cre­at­ed, have led to the devel­op­ment of maps and paths capa­ble of express­ing a new vision of art and the city".[19]

"I always say: the shape must be the con­se­quence of a whole inter­nal dynam­ics, the way in which the organ press­es on the spine and acti­vates the joint sys­tem, thus allow­ing the pro­duc­tion of a vis­i­ble shape out­side. Con­verse­ly, the form is also under­stood in the oppo­site sense, that is to say some­thing that comes from out­side and is ori­ent­ed with respect to the body ".[20]

This research path is often linked to the abil­i­ty to subtract—to "make emptiness"—rather than to the accu­mu­la­tion of ele­ments. Each archi­tec­ture of the body is a rede­f­i­n­i­tion of what is left in space, as a form that man­i­fests itself by degrees, planes and lev­els. […] The body thus becomes a dia­gram, an ele­ment that con­nects all things togeth­er, so con­tem­po­rary that it becomes an inter­me­di­ary with the past”.[21]

As was said for Nau­man, the exer­cise that repeats and trans­mits ges­tures inspired by works of ancient art becomes revealing.

Serial Classic exhibition, Prada Foundation, Milan, 2015
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Serial Classic exhibition, Prada Foundation, Milan, 2015

Virgilio Sieni, Atlante del gesto, Prada Foundation, Milan, 2015
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Virgilio Sieni, Atlante del gesto, Prada Foundation, Milan, 2015

Virgilio Sieni, Atlante del gesto, Annuncio, Prada Foundation, Milan, 2015
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Virgilio Sieni, Atlante del gesto, Annuncio, Prada Foundation, Milan, 2015

Virgilio Sieni, Atlante del gesto, Rituale, Prada Foundation, Milan, 2015
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Virgilio Sieni, Atlante del gesto, Rituale, Prada Foundation, Milan, 2015

5. The Podium

It is not easy to estab­lish an imme­di­ate rela­tion­ship of these per­for­mances with Kool­haas' spa­tial work as design­er of the Pra­da Foun­da­tion. What is cer­tain is that the spe­cif­ic build­ing involved (the Podi­um) is a sort of glass case—a flu­id space of evi­dent Miesian tra­di­tion, pro­ject­ed towards the vision of the out­side yet char­ac­ter­ized by move­ments of the deck that enhance its func­tion as a podi­um and atten­u­ates its pos­si­ble sta­t­ic nature, instead encour­ag­ing flu­id dynam­ics, which are absolute­ly not sym­met­ri­cal. It there­fore lends itself to being defined as a plat­form-stage or an open log­gia that pre­pares itself to accom­mo­date the stat­ue-objects as well as the mov­ing bod­ies and that 

induces and favors direct rela­tion­ships with the exter­nal space. Japan­ese lan­guage would define in this regard of a space ma or an engawa, that is, in fact, an emp­ty space of tran­si­tion between inside and outside.

In these types of flu­id spaces, as well as in urban open spaces, the space-body rela­tion­ship is nec­es­sar­i­ly defined by a dimen­sion­al flow with­in which it is the very move­ment of the bod­ies. Those move­ments direct­ly gov­ern spa­tial­i­ty, much more than the envelop­ing walls, and almost as in a the­atre stage, the parterre—the deck­ing sur­face and its modulations—as well as the wings, the free walls that divide the space into dif­fer­ent but not com­plet­ed fields, play a fun­da­men­tal role. Again, in this sense, the mas­tery of Mies van der Rohe appears to be the piv­otal point of reference. 

More­over, the whole work by Kool­haas at the Pra­da Foun­da­tion large­ly focus­es on the preva­lence of urban open space as the main ele­ment in the com­po­si­tion of a series of sep­a­rate and dif­fer­ent build­ing frag­ments, some pre-exist­ing and some new.[22]

This will­ing­ness to cre­ate a col­lec­tive open space, not strict­ly for­mal­ized, like an ancient ago­ra, obvi­ous­ly favors the pro­tag­o­nism of the move­ment of bod­ies in space and there­fore the appro­pri­a­tion of space by users, in a per­for­ma­tive dimension.

For this rea­son, the com­po­si­tion­al phi­los­o­phy adopt­ed by Kool­haas finds a cer­tain affin­i­ty with the ways of mea­sur­ing and dom­i­nat­ing the space typ­i­cal of chore­o­graph­ic or the­atre per­for­mances rep­re­sent­ed, in this case, by the expe­ri­ence of Vir­gilio Sieni.

6. Forms of Resistance

In con­clu­sion, these two exam­ples of the rela­tion­ship between artis­tic per­for­mance and the con­for­ma­tion of archi­tec­tur­al space con­vinc­ing­ly illus­trate the con­tri­bu­tion that an interaction/ inter­fer­ence between the art of the body and the art of space can pro­vide to an archi­tec­tur­al design approach in the con­fig­u­ra­tion of hap­tic space. This also pro­vides mate­r­i­al for a phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cal­ly per­cep­tive and immer­sive evo­lu­tion of design process­es, capa­ble of estab­lish­ing an impor­tant empath­ic rela­tion­ship between the user and the archi­tec­tur­al space itself.

How­ev­er, I find it sig­nif­i­cant that this type of sen­si­tiv­i­ty can be traced back to an inno­v­a­tive reflec­tion on artis­tic prin­ci­ples root­ed in the clas­si­cal artis­tic tra­di­tion such as chi­as­mus or con­trap­pos­to, in the con­text of an intense rela­tion­ship between tra­di­tion and innovation.

I won­der, then, how such research can be placed in the con­text of those "forms of resis­tance" to what this issue of AR is con­cerned, also recall­ing the famous appeal that Ken­neth Framp­ton addressed to archi­tects in 1983 by trac­ing his Six Points for an Archi­tec­ture of Resis­tance, recent­ly cel­e­brat­ed and com­ment­ed on in Ljubl­jana, forty years lat­er.[23]

  1. 1

    Eri­ca F. Batlle, Bruce Nau­man: bod­ies at work,” in Bruce Nau­man. Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies, ed. Car­los Basu­al­do (Venice: Mar­silio, 2021), 135.

  2. 2

    Ibid.

  3. 3

    Damon Krukows­ki, Fol­low­ing the Sound”, in Bruce Nau­man. Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies, ed. Car­los Basu­al­do (Venice: Mar­silio, 2021), 105.

  4. 4

    See: Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies I through VII, 2015–2016; Con­trap­pos­to Split, 2017; Walk­ing a Line, 2019; Nature Morte, 2020.

  5. 5

    Car­los Basu­al­do, Volver sobre sus pas­sos”, in Bruce Nau­man. Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies, ed. Car­los Basu­al­do (Venice: Mar­silio, 2021), 96.

  6. 6

    Ibid.

  7. 7

    See: Ros­alind Krauss, Sculp­ture in the Expand­ed Field”, Octo­ber 8 (1979), 30–44.

  8. 8

    "Reflex­ive action is very dif­fer­ent from reflex­ive thought […]. To quote Nau­man, "an aware­ness of your­self comes from a cer­tain amount of activ­i­ty and you can’t get it from just think­ing about your­self "[…] Nau­man thus exper­i­ments with the way in which a pure­ly men­tal act can affect the cor­po­re­al expe­ri­ence. […] This mobi­liza­tion of con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion in rela­tion to expe­ri­ence revers­es the usu­al hier­ar­chy between thought and expe­ri­ence, which is no longer addressed as a way of under­stand­ing, but as a way of feel­ing, at the ser­vice of a per­son­al expe­ri­ence. The hier­ar­chy that tra­di­tion­al­ly places thought above sen­so­ry expe­ri­ence is reversed, and the process is ori­ent­ed towards the sen­so­ry and affec­tive expe­ri­ence of the sit­u­a­tion ". See: Noè Souli­er, Action as a work”, in Bruce Nau­man. Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies, ed. Car­los Basu­al­do (Venice: Mar­silio, 2021), 109–114.

  9. 9

    See Nature Morte, 2020.

  10. 10

    Tadao Ando, “​Une super­po­si­tion de couch­es abstraites et con­crétes”, in Tadao Ando, Pen­sées sur l’architecture et le paysage, ed. Yann Nus­saume (Paris: Arlea, 1999), 93–95.

  11. 11

    I like to imag­ine — remarks Tadao Andō, Lumière, ombre et forme” in Tadao Ando, Pen­sées sur l’architecture et le paysage, ed. Yann Nus­saume (Paris: Arlea, 1999), 132 — puri­fied spaces, delim­it­ed by attics, walls and ceil­ings (often of a sin­gle mate­r­i­al) […]. When man comes into con­tact with this type of space, the lat­ter — an impris­oned sol­id vol­ume — is enhanced under the effect of the rays of light and nat­ur­al ele­ments such as the wind, trans­form­ing into a liv­ing, more flu­id space which it forms a body with man him­self”. See: Tadao Andō, D'une archi­tec­ture mod­erne …”, in Tadao Ando, Pen­sées sur l’architecture et le paysage, ed. Yann Nus­saume (Paris: Arlea, 1999), 52.

  12. 12

    Ibid, 163.

  13. 13

    See Diag­o­nal Sound Wall, 1970, installed into one of the halls at Pun­ta del­la Dogana.

  14. 14

    "The con­cept of Kias­ma , explains Holl, involves the building’s mass inter­twin­ing with the geom­e­try of the city and land­scape, which are reflect­ed in the shape of the build­ing. An implic­it cul­tur­al line curves to link the build­ing to Fin­lan­dia Hall while it also engages a "nat­ur­al line" con­nect­ing to the back land­scape in the back­ground and to Too­lo Bay". See: Steven Holl, Kias­ma, (Muse­um of Con­tem­po­rary Art: Helsin­ki, 1998), 16.

  15. 15

    Holl, Kias­ma, 16–19.

  16. 16

    The project con­sist­ed of five actions — Ori­gin, Rit­u­al, Announce­ment, Grav­i­ty and Nudi­ty — which, in the inten­tion of Vir­gilio Sieni, "always gen­er­ate new res­o­nances between the tables of the Atlas, where the study of the frag­ment and the details of the body unfolds an archae­o­log­i­cal inves­ti­ga­tion that faces the present. At the heart of Ori­gin, there is the ges­ture that unites a moth­er to her child in a spe­cif­ic form of inti­ma­cy, emo­tion and beau­ty. In Rit­u­al the bod­ies cre­at­ed an unfold­ed chore­og­ra­phy accord­ing to the pas­sage and trans­mis­sion of ges­tures and dynam­ics in con­tin­u­ous vari­a­tion. Announce­ment pre­sent­ed a hor­i­zon­tal chore­og­ra­phy in which very slow migra­tions of "angels" com­bined imper­fec­tion and sus­pen­sion through the ges­tures of non-pro­fes­sion­al per­form­ers and dancers. At the cen­ter of Grav­i­ty was the body act­ed upon by oth­er bod­ies and which in turn infus­es move­ment in the oth­er bod­ies. Dance embod­ies the bal­ance between forces, devel­op­ing a dic­tio­nary of exer­cis­es on grav­i­ty. In Nudi­ty com­mon pos­tures and ges­tures, such as kneel­ing, sit­ting or stand­ing up, made up an archive of the sim­plest move­ments, of the infi­nite chore­o­gra­phies inscribed in the shapes and artic­u­la­tions of naked bodies”.

  17. 17

    Enri­co Pitozzi Anato­mia del gesto. Con­ver­sazione con Vir­gilio Sieni”, in Mate­ria cor­po. Anatomie, scon­fi­na­men­ti, visioni, ed. Malv­ina Borgheri­ni, (Mac­er­a­ta: Quodli­bet, 2019), 19.

  18. 18

    Ibid.

  19. 19

    Ibid., 28. Sieni then adds: "The start­ing point — he notes, explain­ing his exper­i­men­ta­tion — is gen­er­al­ly linked to the knowl­edge of some tech­ni­cal-com­po­si­tion­al aspects: it is nec­es­sary to bring the body to mar­gin­al­ize thanks to a knowl­edge linked to the exer­cise and its qual­i­ty of exe­cu­tion. All that is sought-after move­ment, sequence, chore­o­graph­ic phrase, is mate­r­i­al that it becomes essen­tial to know for pro­fes­sion­al and non-pro­fes­sion­al dancers" (Ibid., 32).

  20. 20

    Ibid., 34.

  21. 21

    Ibid., 38–39.

  22. 22

    Kool­haas does not seek a uni­tary image for his project but prefers to think about the idea of​a piece of city com­posed of dif­fer­ent units and aggre­gat­ed pre­cise­ly by inter­sti­tial space. "The new, the old, the hor­i­zon­tal, the ver­ti­cal, the wide, the nar­row, the white, the black, the open, the enclosed — all these con­trasts estab­lish the range of oppo­sites that define the project" (Rem Kool­haas, OMA Office Work Search, Sep­tem­ber 21, 2022).

  23. 23

    See the sem­i­nar curat­ed by Janko Roz­ic, Insight in Site. Glob­al­iza­tion, cri­sis and crit­i­cal region­al­ism, Ljubl­jana, May 26th 2022, with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Juhani Pallasmaa. 

Bibliography

Andō, Tadao, “​Une super­po­si­tion de couch­es abstraites et con­crétes”. In Tadao Ando, Pen­sées sur l’architecture et le paysage, ed. Yann Nus­saume, 93–96. Paris: Arlea, 1999. 

Andō, Tadao, D'une archi­tec­ture mod­erne fer­mée sur elle-même à l’universalité”. In Tadao Ando, Pen­sées sur l’architecture et le paysage, ed. Yann Nus­saume, 52–66. Paris: Arlea, 1999.

Basu­al­do, Car­los, Volver sobre sus pas­sos”. In Bruce Nau­man. Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies, ed. Car­los Basu­al­do, 95–99. Venice: Mar­silio, 2021.

Batlle, Eri­ca F., Bruce Nau­man: bod­ies at work”. In Bruce Nau­man. Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies, ed. Car­los Basu­al­do, 132–142. Venice: Mar­silio, 2021.

Holl, Steven, Kias­ma, Muse­um of Con­tem­po­rary Art: Helsin­ki, 1998.

Krauss, Ros­alind, Sculp­ture in the Expand­ed Field”, Octo­ber 8 (1979): 30–44.

Krukows­ki, Damon, Fol­low­ing the Sound”. In Bruce Nau­man. Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies, ed. Car­los Basu­al­do, 101–106. Venice: Mar­silio, 2021.

OMA Office Work Search, Sep­tem­ber 21, 2022. https://www.oma.com/projects/f…

Pitozzi, Enri­co, Anato­mia del gesto. Con­ver­sazione con Vir­gilio Sieni”. In Mate­ria cor­po. Anatomie, scon­fi­na­men­ti, visioni, ed. Malv­ina Borgheri­ni, 19–39. Mac­er­a­ta: Quodli­bet, 2019.

Souli­er, Noè, Action as a work”. In Bruce Nau­man. Con­trap­pos­to Stud­ies, ed. Car­los Basu­al­do, 107–116. Venice: Mar­silio, 2021.