The Future of Architecture and Design

Uploaded by vice on 11.12.2012


VITO ACCONCI: I remember being tremendously jolted the first
time I saw a Jasper Johns painting.
And it seemed like, wow, conventions are important.
It's as if Jasper Johns really wanted to do all these little
abstract brush strokes, but he said, why
would anybody pay attention?
However, if I make a number five, you can't help pay
attention-- if you make a target.
It's a way to draw people in, which made me think in terms
of English.
English language idioms--
can you play with words?
The great thing about words is that they seem so definite,
but they're so hazy and cloudy.
You can pick one word within a word and it starts to
contradict the basic word.
I don't want to do something that refers to
something off the page.
Towards the end of the time I was writing, I started to
think, I can't use words like "tree," "chair." This refers
to a space off the page, whereas I could use, on the
page, words like "there," "then," "at that time," "in
that space," "in that place"--
words that directly referred to my act of writing the page,
words that referred to the reader's act of
going down the page.
They were almost like guides for the reader.
Though, eventually--
one of the last poems I wrote was a poem consisting of a
page on reading speed--
how to improve reading speed.
The title given to it was something like "The Time Taken
For Me to Walk From 14th Street and 6th Avenue to 14th
Street and 5th Avenue"--
so an attempt to make reading time
equivalent to writing time.
By the time I got there, I thought, I can't turn back.
The stuff has taken me out to the street.
And also, I started to question, if I'm so interested
in space and moving over a space, why am I moving over an
8 and 1/2 by 11 piece of paper?
There's a floor out there.
There's a street out there.
There's a world out there.
What can I do on the street?
Follow a person.
What I thought of as activities--
they weren't exactly performances.
There wasn't a viewer.
If anything, I was the viewer.
I used what was available.
I started to use a Super 8 camera--
later, a video camera.
I was very struck by a beautiful Charlie Chaplin
statement when he was asked, why didn't he ever use a close
up in his comedies?
And his answer was, well, there's just nothing funny
about a face 15 feet high, which changed my life.
And then I realized, but video is a place--
a video monitor, a video screen, at least then, was
approximately the size of a person's face.
So the way I did videos was my face on screen, face
to face with you--
I have to assume somebody's going to watch it--
with you offscreen.
What am I doing in relation to you?
First of all, where am I?
Am I face to face with you?
And in this case, I'm on the floor.
I'm either a pet cat or a snake.
No, I don't need your picture.
I don't have to know what you look like.
We haven't even said hello yet.
You can look like anybody.
I'll take anybody.
I'll take anything I can get.
Some of the videos I did before this--
I was really struck by the--
sorry, I can't say I stole this from these movies.
But it was '72, '73, a great Bob Rafelson movie called
"King of Marvin Gardens."
It begins with black and Jack Nicholson's face leaning into
the screen, and direct confrontation.
That was important to me.
Though, I had done stuff before that, I guess.
But actually, I think a lot of the face-to-face video stuff I
did was really not until '73.
So I think I got it from "King of Marvin Gardens."
-People always say about you that, at some point, you
turned your back on the art world.
VITO ACCONCI: To me, the shorthand to the time is the
music of the time.
In the late '60s, early '70s, I was listening to Neil Young,
Van Morrison--
single voice, long song.
There was something else going on in the music.
The introduction of the Velvet Underground was like the
introduction of the city in the middle of what, in effect,
was rural music, country music.
You have all the time in the world to wander.
But Velvet Underground was the city's closing in on you.
So by the mid '70s, I was listening to a
different kind of music.
I was listening to the Ramones, the Sex Pistols.

No longer single voice, no longer long song, because a
scream can't last for six minutes.
It started to become clear to me that my stuff is so
grounded on the '60s.
It's so grounded on a time in which the common language is
finding oneself, as if the self is something that you
separate from the rest of the person and concentrate on and

VITO ACCONCI: I've never loved galleries.
I've never particularly loved museums.
But have I turned my back?
I don't know, it's an interesting--
I think I don't feel a connection to the art world.
But I always had questions about the art
world, even when I started.
I come from a generation who had the illusion that we were
going to do the kind of work that would make galleries go
out of existence.
We were very naive.
And also, in some ways, a lot of us were right.
We didn't make commodities, so we always had a
difficult time surviving.
By '73, '74, '75, I and a lot of other people were starting
to have very different notions of self.
Self wasn't this precious jewel that you found and
focused on.
Self maybe existed only as part of a social system, a
cultural system, a political system.
By the mid '70s, I wanted stuff of mine to be part of
those overall systems.
In other words, I thought, is my stuff inherently
Yes, it was me and you.
But what about we?
Once I did "Seedbed" in '72, I started to realize it's not
the '60s anymore.
I might have masturbated in a gallery in 1972.
People were fucking in the streets in 1965.
Art is a little slow.

Luckily, life is faster.

Our first goal is really not to build.
Our first goal is, can we come up with a design, can we
design a space, can we design a condition that
will surprise us?
An attempt we made a few years ago to propose a new light
system for New York--
the competition brief said that the new light system
should have a very thick post, because the post would have to
hold different kinds of lights,
different kinds of signs.
We thought this was probably misguided since you wouldn't
need all those different kinds of lights, all those different
kinds of signs, all the time.
Let's take the opposite approach.
Let's use the thinnest pole possible.
Then, each pole would hold one kind of
light, one kind of sign.
The more you needed then, you would braid them together.
You would braid each one sign, one light post together so you
could have multiple lights at posts.
Needless to say, the new light system is exactly the same as
the old one.
We, like a lot of people, made a kind of attempt at a
possible new World Trade Center.
We proposed a World Trade Center full of holes.
Our starting point was that if a building nowadays is going
to be exploded anyway, maybe a building nowadays should come
already exploded.
It should come pre-exploded.
So we take the original site of the World Trade Center,
extrude it to a height of 110 stories high--
more of a mass, more of a volume than the original World
Trade Center ever was, more private office space than
anybody could possibly need so we could shoot cones into it.
Now that the building is riddled with holes, it can
possibly act as a kind of urban camouflage.
A terrorist flying by above looks down and says, we don't
have to bother about this building.
It's already been dealt with.
Now that the building is riddled with holes, there are
now tunnels from one side to another, tunnels
from bottom to top.
Now that there are tunnels through the building, the rest
of the building can come inside.
Parks can come inside the building.
Street vendors can come inside the building.
In other words, instead of trying to observe the
convention of private office building with so-called public
space outside, can we mix public and private?
Which, I think, our projects, at least when they work,
always try to do.
This is paradoxical maybe, but even though we build far from
everything we do, we do think it's necessary to build,
because you have to build in order to test the theory.
And the only way you can test the theory is what happens
when other people come in.

I got a lot of my ideas of architecture from "Blade
Runner." "Blade Runner" was so startling to me.
This contradicted the 2001 notion of architecture.
The future is abstract and all white.
The "Blade Runner" notion shrugged its shoulders and
said, we're never going to have enough money to build
from the beginning.
Let's just tack on to what's already there.
And again, it made a kind of sense.
So our first goal is to do something that surprises us.
And hopefully, if it surprises us, maybe it can surprise and
excite at least one other person.
Graz, for example--
we always made the assumption that probably there's a chance
that younger people like our work.
I don't think we have much of a chance with older people.
But that's OK.
It's a way that I can maybe pretend that
I'm not getting older.
When the Graz island was finished, people in Graz
started to use the island as a place for walks.
And a lot of old people were walking on the island.
I was really surprised.
The interesting thing, when somebody was in the theater--
and especially, I remember, this happened a
lot with older people.
They're in the theater.
They're walking.
Suddenly, they look up and around, and
they started to laugh.
It seemed like, well, maybe they kind of got
the feeling of it.
They were in this open space.
Now, without realizing it, without going through an
entrance, it became a more closed space.
And even though we couldn't use the same language, people
came up to us and thanked us.
There was a peace tree named after us.
Now, I don't know if I can say that's totally a sign, but it
seemed like--
What we were asked to do was this person-made island that
would have three functions-- a theater, a cafe, and a
So we started with the
conventional idea of a theater--
a bowl.
What if we twist the bowl?
What if we turn it upside down?
Bowl becomes dome.
Dome becomes the cafe.
The twisting, warping space in between becomes the
You walk in under a canopy that twists down to make
lounge seating around the cafe.
Our bar twists down to make a number of bar counters.
The reason for the number of bar counters is that when we
design a project, we try to envision what can happen here.
This is a bar.
Somebody's drunk.
Whenever this person extends his or her hand, they might
hit a bar counter, at least they have some chance.
I always say, yes, we give people a place to use.
If we put a couple of folding chairs there, would it have
done the same thing?
I hope we provide more than a folding chair.
We provide a folding chair with a twist.
Does everybody want that?
I hope--
maybe everybody doesn't want it.
Do we want something that everybody wants?
I guess we want to appeal to people who think that, wow, I
didn't know space didn't have to be implacable and fixed.
Now that I've been in this space, maybe I can turn my
space upside down.
Maybe I can twist my space.
I admit, do we want to appeal to everybody?
We want to appeal to people who want a second
chance, want a future.

I got so excited with the notion of a computer-oriented
time, because it seems like everybody has things
in their own hands.
So it seems this should be the most optimistic time ever.
Ideally, we want to do stuff that couldn't have been built,
couldn't have been designed, ideally, couldn't even have
been dreamt of before the 21st century.
We don't do that.
But we wish could.
We try.
We wanted to make a system that possibly
could adapt to people.
Could people change the system they're in?
This is a project we're doing in Indianapolis.
The street goes through a building.
When people go through it, there's a structure of LED
lights that follow you and swarm around you.
They're not exactly swarming around you.
It's an on and off system.
But we wanted to make this system that would be almost
like fire flies.
So fire flies would follow you.
If another one person comes, the fire
flies start to mingle.
Can it be done?
Can it be done for a $600,000 budget?
We're not sure yet, but we think it can.
But we've been working on a number of projects
that adjust to people.
This is a proposal that won this competition for a
sculpture park in Bernau in the Czech Republic.
But whether it'll actually happen is another matter.
We wanted to fill the space with these almost fake grass,
fake bamboo.
It would be fibers.
As soon as a person walks, when a person comes close, the
fibers start to part.
The fibers part to let you through.
This notion of things parting, adjusting to people, is
something we've tried a number of versions.
We did a tattoo based on this system that--
actually, one or two actual tattoos exist.
A person would pick out the imperfections
on his or her body.
And then we would make a kind of magnetic field system.
One mole calls to the other.
And we're wondering if we can make a clothing
system out of this.
You pick five points on the body--
two nipples, a belly button, and a vagina.
Can one draw the other and you make this
kind of field system?
Ideally, you can build a city on this magnetic field system.
But I don't know how far we've gotten.
There are a number of architects, certainly not just
us, who are trying to do things according to principles
of biology.
Right now, it seems to be only a metaphor.
Yes, I can say, here's a magnetic field system.
Yeah, maybe you can use that as a system of design, but
it's not going to move in the future.
Maybe it will.
But certainly not as we've done.
It's more of a design method, where it should be a real
growth method.
We haven't figured out how to do it yet.
But at the same time, I don't want to say that this isn't
possible in the future.
It's certainly not possible now.
Or maybe I even have to say more validly that we haven't
found a way to make what we really want happen.
But I can't say that, amongst some of those architects that
we admire, somebody might have discovered it.
We don't know about it yet.

Right now, we listen to electronic music, Japanese
noise music--
no voice.
We want music to be as--
I think music and architecture are exactly the same.
Not exactly the same, but they're at least analagous.
Both music and architecture make a surrounding.
They make an ambiance.
But also, both music and architecture allow you to do
something else-- something else while listening to music,
something else while in the middle of architecture.
To me, that's probably the keynote of the 21st century.
Like, I think, a lot of architects now, I think what
we really want is, can we make a place you take with you?
A little fashion magazine called "The Black Book" a few
years ago proposed to us that the umbrella hasn't been
redesigned in years.
Could we try our hand at an alternate umbrella?
We started with the idea of ruffles in clothing.
So what we did was make a kind of "umbruffla," combining
umbrella and ruffles.
It's made of two-way mirrored mylar, so when you're wearing
it, because of the change of light, you can see out.
But from outside, you just see the reflections of city.
So it acts as a camouflage system.
Our umbrella has some advantages over the
conventional umbrella.
You can tie one end to your waist, one end to your wrist
so your hands are free.
You can wrap it around you like a kind of cloak.
If another umbrella is coming towards you, you don't have to
bump umbrellas.
You can wrap it around yourself.
It's an umbrella that two people can use, so you can
wrap another person up with you.
Then, the ruffles system, if we do it well enough, will
allow it to fold down.
Ideally, it should fold into the size of a wrist.
I've always been told I'm a kind of incurable optimist.
I'm a curable optimist at the same time, being an amazing
Yes, computer has all these kinds of possibilities.
Religion and belief is the opposite.
I can't necessarily say that religion and belief isn't
going to win.
I would be very optimistic if I could be convinced that
everybody wanted to leave home, but I'm afraid a lot of
people want to go back home.
And going back home, I think, is wanting something that you
can be sure of, something that you can believe, and also
something that you can keep other people out of.
And that's scary.
not just an instrument, but the computer is a network of
With a network of instruments so vast, it seems like, can
Homeland Security ultimately win?
I really don't think it can.
I might not be around to see it.
What I want to believe, or believe, is that-- and this
has something to do with what I was saying about the kind of
stuff we really want to do is the kind of place
you carry with you.
Maybe the future is a world where people carry their own
homes with them, where they never have to go home.
There are no boundaries to cross.
It's a world of nomads.
A world of nomads can be an incredibly exciting world, but
it's the opposite of home.