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Re: <nettime> Biotech + Architecture + Politics + the English
Danny Butt on Thu, 10 Apr 2003 03:02:42 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> Biotech + Architecture + Politics + the English


Shaun wrote: 

> So I delight in the philistinism of being able to say, 'Show me the bricks
> and mortar'.


Or more concretely - and, um foundationally - than the missing "bricks and
mortar", perhaps, is the lack of reflexivity around the cultural framework
of the biotechnological and architectural theories employed in Benjamin's
initial piece.

More to the point, while it's nice to see Haraway show up in the footnotes
(as she usually does as "someone who needs to be cited" in anything to do
with biotechnology) her *arguments* about the constitutive role of gender in
these technologies are conspicuously absent. While I respect the erudition
Benjamin employs here, in an article which purports to cover the "deep
cultural impact of biotechnologies" I am concerned about the lack of irony
employed in grand historical sweeps such as:

"the horizon of design from Vitrivius to Virilio"
"From Prometheus to Rabbi Loew and from Victor Frankenstein to Stan Lee"

These rhetorical sweeps, unselfconsciously extending the subject of
discussion through all of time, displace any sense of the *author's*
particular perspective. This is a classic move of technoscience culture,
specifically addressed by Sharon Traweek and Haraway at length in their
various publications. As Traweek might put it, Benjamin is here taking the
voice of the "culture of no culture", and not really acknowledging the
limits of his particular perspective.

(I've just googled Faith Wilding about Synworld making a related argument
better than I am here:
http://synworld.t0.or.at/level3/symposium_neu/faith.htm)

What strikes me most particularly about Benjamin's piece is the lack of
recognition of any feminist work on architectural theory and spatial
culture, which has only been substantively dealing with issues of the body
and space for a couple of decades now. Ironically, much of this work was
produced against great resistance from an institutionalised male culture
which now finds the cyborg body a sexy topic of theoretical interest. Now
I'm outside my area of expertise in architectural theory in particular -
with only a passing knowledge of work by Grosz, and other spatial theorists
like Doreen Massey who are not really architects - so feel free to take
issue with this characterisation. But in 2003 I think to not mention
feminist work in any theoretical survey piece on bodies (in just about any
discipline) verges on the unprofessional.

I don't want to suggest that Benjamin's issues are unimportant, because they
are obviously very topical and politically charged - and the piece
highlights a range of interesting issues. But I couldn't help feeling that
it felt strangely like a piece of biotech marketing material in its imperial
scope and through-going suppression of feminist and racial critiques of this
kind of discourse. 

Regards

Danny

-- 
http://www.dannybutt.net

Benjamin Bratton wrote on 9/4/03 6:58 PM:

> Karl is precisely interested in the architectonics of information itself. He
> employs genetic/ algorithmic systems to produce forms in mathematical space.
> 
> His interest is toward the definition of this space as a quasi-autonomous
> realm of speculation and production. He calls this an "Hyperzoic Paradigm."
> 
> The forms themselves are quite beautiful.

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