Hannes Meyer’s New World

In the years after the war, Germany and Austria were boycotted by both the League of Nations and more importantly by the international scientific and humanities institutions formed in the wake of the League and affiliated to it, hence, questioning the apparent neutrality projected by these institutions. The ‘boycott’ was rooted in a stand against the German scientific communities’ sanction of its study for unmeasured brutality during the Great War. While, it is unclear if the boycott debilitated scientific development in Germany, it is however, clear that it fractured relations between the central powers and the allied powers. Till 1924, it appeared absolute – German and Austrians scientists were rarely published in international papers, were rarely invited to international congresses, and Germany lost its position as a leading host of scientific conferences. It included a rejection of the German language, which was the preeminent scientific language of the day, in an effort to reduce the country’s influence in the sciences. The ‘Boycott’ was reciprocated by a ‘Reaction’ enacted by the German scientists, supported by the public, who felt that they were being unjustly ostracised. In the years of the thaw, from 1924, they were reluctant to resume active participation in the international scientific community, despite the pressure exerted by German foreign policy which, by this time, was keen on resuming international relations. [1] Germany joined the League of Nations in 1926; Hannes Meyer’s manifesto calling for a ‘New World’ was published in 1926 and within this context his urge – ‘a ruthless denial of the past’ – acquires a poignancy that was not limited to the architectural orders. Continue reading “Hannes Meyer’s New World”

Glasarkitektur reflected in War

“German Expressionist writer Paul Scheerbart (1863–1914) articulated his convictions on the power of architectural construction and its relationship to the modern world in his final fictional narrative of 1914 entitled Das graue Tuch und zehn Prozent Weiß. Ein Damenroman [The GrayCloth and Ten Percent White. A Ladies Novel].” ([1])

In September 1909 spectators at the first International Aviation Exhibition (ILA) in Frankfurt, were enraptured by a display of the German version of an aircraft by the Wright brothers, the rights of which were bought by the German Flugmaschine Wright GMBH.[2] This event roused Paul Scheerbart and it resulted in his ‘pacifist tract’: The Development of Aerial Militarism and the Demobilisation of European Ground Forces, Fortresses and Naval Fleets.[3] Scheerbart’s disposition was hardly surprising in light of the umpteen peace conferences hosted in the first half of nineteenth century, which temporarily revved public passions.[4] Rosemarie Haag Bletter underlines Scheerbart’s concerns about war[5] as discernible in his  short stories, for example, ‘Transportable Cities’, and ‘Dynamite War’, writing: Continue reading “Glasarkitektur reflected in War”

Seeing Through Light

Summarising: Alice Barnaby, Light Touches: Cultural Practices of Illumination, 1800-1900

Barnaby departs from Jonathan Crary’s ‘landmark study’ Techniques of the Observer: On Visions and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century. She states that Crary’s description of the changes in techniques of viewing from the Renaissance to the nineteenth-century propounds that as optics developed, it constructed and rationalised vision as something that was ‘calculable and exchangeable’ and that ‘from these practices the modern, fragmented, alien subject is born’. While she finds his argument persuasive, she disagrees with it: she argues that the instruments of optics, with their focus on light did not construct a passive observer who was controlled by predetermined visual effects. On the contrary, she argues, that light, embodied vision. She faults Cracy’s singularly-focused Foucauldian method that views all objects and systems as an interconnected network of power relations that negates the role and agency of the subject and instead, she studies optical devices for the pleasure and the playfulness they elicited, to augment an understanding of the nature of subjection and the role and agency of the subject in it.

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Imaginary Wars: Benjamin and Scheerbart

“It will surely appear self-evident that the furniture in the glass house may not be placed against the precious, ornamentally-coloured glass walls. Pictures on the walls are, of course, totally impossible. Given the highest intentions, this revolution in the environment is inevitable. Glass architecture will have a tough fight on its hands, but force of habit must be overcome.” – Paul Scheerbart, Chapter 8, Glasarkitektur

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The Areopagus and the International Criminal Court

I. Law as a performative mode of practice

 In July, I went to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. After a series of security, passport and baggage checks, I seated myself on the audience balcony in courtroom 1. At 12.30 the judge called for recess and we rose to mark respect. As the judges left the room, I too turned to leave, but just then, curtains snaked across the glass fronted balcony. Heavy pale green velvet, slowly cloaked the courtroom and it was then that realised that sometime in the last few hours the line between reality and play, trial and performance was not so crisp anymore.

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