Biotopology in the Here and Now
My lecture 'Biotopological Craftsmanship in the Here and Now', presented at the AGxKANSAI 2022 Conference in Kyoto, Japan, is now available through the AGxKANSAI 2022 YouTube channel. I express my gratitude to the AGxKANSAI organizing committee, and artist JiaJia Qi who helped me performing this lecture.
Courtesy of AGxKANSAI 2022
Biotopological Craftsmanship in the Here and Now
In this lecture, I explore the future potentials of biotopological craftsmanship. As artist and poet-philosopher of reversible destinies, Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins construct an architectural life in which dying is illegal. By turning their focus to the built environment, they not only overturn the concept of Modern architecture, but more specifically they introduce an architectural turn in the philosophy of life. With biotopology they introduce a philosophy-cum-architecture in which the one-directional arrow of progress is spatialized across 360 degrees to emphasize the energetic life of ubiquitous meaning.
Departing from initial findings on Japan-ness in Arakawa and Gins, and iterating upon the concept of biotopology, biotopological craftsmanship is introduced as an approach to architecture after the procedural architecture of Arakawa and Gins. Whereas biotopology is foremost a science—a field of knowing as sited awareness—in the architectural appropriation of the concept it becomes the craft of an attuned, vitalized and situated coordination of social and environmental bodies in movement by means of architectural interventions. Like biotopology, this spatial habitus does away with the discrete object and shifts focus to particular instances of reciprocity. It is a craftsmanship not of wood, but of bio-topo-logical entrainment. In a world in which social-environmental degradation is our main concern, biotopological craftsmanship promotes a life-affirmative, animistic and empathic approach to architectural practice, research and pedagogy. Put differently, it introduces a vital after-life in the here and now.
AGxKANSAI 2022: Art and Philosophy in the 22nd Century After ARAKAWA+GINS, an international conference, is organized jointly by Studies of the Architectural Body Research Group at the Institute of Oriental and Occidental Studies, Kansai University and Kyoto University of the Art. Having suffered much pain and endured much hardship during the COVID-19 crisis, now at the end of 2021, we humankind are slowly beginning the process toward regaining what we are forced to abandon. However, as many insist, we won't come back to the same world we used to live in, thus new values and life styles are needed. The contemporary artist Shusaku Arakawa and the poet Madeline Gins, from the 1990s onward, sought the creation of a new "environment" in which the senses of our living bodies are transformed. Based on this new sense of the body and on a critique of existing values, they sought to envision a truly livable society. The art and philosophy of Arakawa and Gins, therefore, provides valuable clues in a search for a new way of life required in the post-COVID-19 era.
Who are we and where are we going?—"puzzle creatures to ourselves, we are visitations of inexplicability." Arakawa and Gins posed these questions via multiple modes in the most profound manner, proposing concrete (albeit tentative) visions for the coming century. Recall that Arakawa always urged us: "do it, now!" Need we be reminded that the 22nd century is coming soon, now!