Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Material imposes its form on form

Here's a thought experiment. The following is Richard Serra:
My foundation is industrial process, but so is architecture's, though it is most often masked there. Buildings are always more interesting to me before they're clad. I'm not saying structural integrity is authenticity—that's not my polemic—but people can recognize when surface is not coming from structure: It looks superfluous, frivolous. One of the big problems in contemporary architecture is division between the structure, the more-engineered part, and the skin, the more-architected part. Many architects now focus a little on the layout and a lot on the ornament, whether it's glass, titanium that bends, or scenographic surface, while the structure is handed over to the engineer. (That isn't the case with, say, John Utzon's opera house in Sydney, or Rem Koolhaas's library in Seattle. There you still have the architect and the engineer of one mind, and there's a tectonic clarity to those buildings that takes one's breath away.) The division becomes problematic with postmodern architecture, and more and more architects are limited to the design of the ornament as skin. In my work, on the other hand, the structure and the skin are one and the same. I still believe that material imposes its form on form; that's why it's important for me to stick with a material I understand.
I wonder if it's possible to think of language, and specifically poetry, in the same way, perhaps with reference to Silliman's distinction between form and pattern. I would go further (I think it's further, and I think this has been part of my project for the past while, though I haven't articulated it this way) and follow Serra with his "I still believe that material imposes its form on form" and look at form in terms of grammar, letter forms, strings, lines, etc. Even more interesting would be to ask what form is in these cases, and perhaps think of it as the intersection of various forces. I suspect this is nothing especially new (maybe it's another Zukofskian horsey moment), but still.

So I realize I've fallen down in my promise to deliver boring posts each day this week. What can I say? Life interferes with blogging. I'll try to pick things up a bit.

More on more soon.


Blogger ryan said...

Maybe the most boring post is no post at all?

12:04 AM  
Blogger Steven Moore said...

The most interesting and impressive public sculpture in London at the moment is one of Serra's outside Liverpool Street Station. It is so big and monumental in fact that most people walk past it without noticing it. I think they just assume it's another building. It's scale, and the cramped space in which it finds itself, makes it impossible to see as an object. Is all one can do is experience and enjoy it. Rather like a tree - where does it end? Is that oxygen coming out of its leaves still the tree. Or a poem - is the vibration it induces inside me the poem or me? I guess it's the magic that is our meeting.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

While I'm partial to Serra's earlier, more modest work like this and this (the second type is almost scary to look at, because you always feel the work is going to fall on you), I like the idea of a monumental piece that's difficult to identify as an object because of its context. (I'm no expert on the guy, by the way.)

Ryan: No way, man. Something is far more boring than nothing.

12:19 PM  
Blogger hugh said...

I sometimes feel the same problem Serra is describing, in pieces that use narrative. The sequence of events becomes the engineering, and then the way the story's recounted is the decoration.

I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, though -- what I mean is, I think it can be part of the work, rather than being a failure of the work.

9:22 PM  

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