Sharing Moments - 100 Reincarnations of Architecture
Architecture is sharing, both in its production and its result. What has taken shape through the contribution of different individuals continues to be subject to a collective process. In fact, many people commonly experience buildings, for example by living in, visiting or just seeing architecture in their everyday life. Architecture can even be perceived in radically different ways. Whereas design is a quest for physical definition, it can be said that a building’s actual life is driven by dissolution into myriads of subjective impressions. Until the 20th century, this has seldom led to traceable records apart from drawings or paintings. In modern times, however, photography introduced a radical change in which buildings are reproduced to infinity on paper and screens. The question arises whether this kind of sharing has an impact on the architecture itself.
"What withers in the age of the technological reproducibility (...) is the…aura.” (1)
It could be argued that sharing affects the aura: a building like St. Paul's Church by Inigo Jones differs significantly experienced in person or displayed on an Instagram feed. Its aura, “bound to here and now” - with the words of Walter Benjamin - “has no replica.” How about the effects of reproduction? Does the aura wear off with digital reproduction or is it rather enhanced? Are we dealing with robbery or enrichment?
In our contribution to Bracket’s newest issue, we would like to challenge Benjamin’s notion of the aura by introducing the idea that sharing dissolves, on the one hand, the assigned value of an object and transfers it to its infinite representations. The artefact, i.e. arte-fatto, becomes an emptied body, depleted by constant cycles of sharing in which the pervasiveness of the copy makes the physical dimension less relevant than the collective impressions. On the other hand, sharing can enhance the aura of a building by reinforcing its presence in the media. In Don Delillo’s novel “White Noise” we find a mindful example of the described phenomenon in which protagonist Jack Gladney is accompanied by his colleague to see the most photographed barn in America. “We’re not here to capture an image, we’re here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies.” (2) Every person that is taking a picture of the barn contributes to its aura that grows with every snapshot. Once you have joined the sharing process you cannot see the barn anymore. You cannot help but see it from a specific mental angle from which a thousand others have shared it with you.
Following these intriguing observations, we are posing the question whether it is possible to build up the aura by means of 100 reproductions of the very same building, turning an unknown piece of architecture into a shared reincarnation. Ultimately, we aim at giving a critical reading to the notion of sharing which has become the shibboleth for our modern generations.
1. Walter Benjamin, “Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility,” 1932
2. Don Delillo “White Noise (London: Picador, 1985), 14.
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