We are encouraged by the cheerleaders of consumer culture to see technology as a seamless whole that embraces everything we do and that is on a hockey-stick rate of accelerated change that will eventually meet every need and fulfill every desire. In this conception of our history and development from bowed Ape-Man to buff Super-Man technology swallowed up Craft and this is what has made our ascent so rapid and miraculous.
There is no longer a separate natural world. This is true conceptually and physically. Conceptually there is no longer any excuse for making such a distinction. Physically, human intervention and human-forced destruction, have spread throughout the non-human world and become so pervasive as to have nullified any distinction.
We are all natural. There is no more nature.
This equation has a result. Multiplying by zero leads us to a null result.
A Technique can be written down and replicated from directions, a Craft cannot.
Unless we can learn to appreciate the difference we continue to do damage to ourselves and destroying our world.
Craft, like Art, has been in exile for a long time, put in a ghetto where it’s been held at the mercy of wealth. In a way I suppose we should be grateful, they might have disappeared entirely without patronage; but on the other hand, if it hadn’t been for the creation of poverty and its spread due to the predations of “wealth generation,” Art and Craft might have remained vibrant, integrated aspects of life.
One of the most dispiriting concerns I have – in a time of plenty in this regard! – has been the way so many who should know better continue to confound Craft and Technology. The epitome of this might just be the halleluiahs surrounding the advent of the 3-d printer. I don’t share in this enthusiasm.
Let’s get one thing clear. Wind Turbines are not an alternative, appropriate technology. They are the last gasp of all the arrogance behind business-as-usual. They take the violence hidden in the mine, the oil well, behind power plant walls; and set it defiantly against the sky. They present the form of whirling knife blades, or scissors, ready to cut-down anything that resists their demand that post-industrial Narcissism must flourish at any cost.
They attempt to appropriate the imagery of the windmill – only made “efficient.”
There is the key! They are fully immersed in, and may mercifully be the last gasp of, efficiency as an organizing principle. They have nothing in common with windmills except for sharing the driving force of the wind. In every significant way they are something else.
For those of us who don’t get around much it is a bitter pill, though there is no truer physick for what ails an art I love, than to periodically take a stroll through Kunstler’s Eye Sore of the Month Gallery of Shame. As he so aptly puts it, “People get what they deserve, not what they expect.”
Some are the result of bureaucracy run-amok, regulatory micro-managing, as if to insist that this is a horrible way to organize our endeavors while it crushes all endeavor to fit its cretinous mold. This is a “civic” problem. In this we are all complicit.
I’m sparked to write this after seeing this headline: Guggenheim Abu Dhabi on hold. The latest in Frank Ghery’s franchise of build-it-and-they-will-come seems to be hanging fire. Interesting how this is happening at the center of the Neo-Liberal Utopia of consumer delights that is Abu Dhabi. Funny how chimeras and mirages are always connected with deserts, look at Las Vegas, the closest thing we have, equally built on the back of unfiltered yearning and naked wish-fulfillment. On the Arabian Peninsula this is literally fueled by oil. In Vegas it’s indirectly fueled by oil underneath another form of mining, the strip mining of anyone they can lure into their caverns and seduce into giving up their lives, measured both in their time and their dreams, as well as in taking their money.
That architecture as the public expenditure of great sums to build monuments to an individual’s fancy celebrated as the pinnacle of freedom and expected to pay for itself by being packaged as a commodified experience would falter in this place is telling. On the heels of the stagnation of other monuments to sheer hubris that have faltered in the Gulf States and elsewhere, this notes a watershed moment. Let’s hope.
But if architecture isn’t about “self-expression” drummed up to a fever pitch and marketed as a form of spectacle, then what is it? This question spreads out to cover all aspects of design.