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Place: A Deformation
Grad Seminar, Fall/Winter 2017-18
Mondays 6:00 - 8:15 pm, biweekly

A major tension in the development of modernist form is folded into the urban fabric of the capitalist lifeworld: a tension between the communist politics of suprematist and constructivist forms and the seamless integration of the geometrically similar International Style of architecture into capitalist city planning. Taking this tension as a starting point, we will consider its stakes through a case study of the cruciform Place Ville-Marie complex in downtown Montreal. This case study will involve two closely related phases: 1) We will investigate the social history of the development of Place Ville-Marie, the politics of its role within and impact on the city, and the relation of these questions to the architectural form of the complex. 2) Having considered the historical and formal characteristics of the building, we will pursue the possibility of subjecting it to poetic investigation and critique: of taking its formal parameters and historical context as a basis for poetic transformations.

During the second of these two phases, we will make use of the technological resources of the Centre for Expanded Poetics and affiliated labs in Fine Arts, pursuing historically informed and politically critical transformations of the building’s formal parameters through 3D printing, laser cutting, textiles, digital textuality, or risograph printing. Thus, part of our course will involve a workshop format, through which we will learn how to deploy such equipment toward a practice of “critical poetics.” This will also require us to look at related practices in contemporary poetry.

Final projects may take the form of critical essays, text based poetic works, or three dimensional art objects. Our goal is to work at the juncture of critical theory and poetic practice toward a creative relation to modernist history immersed in the politics of form. Students in both critical and creative streams of the MA or Ph.D. program will be encouraged to experiment with new approaches to theoretical reflection and poetic making. Projects will be presented and exhibited at the end of the winter semester.


Project Archives


September 11, Introduction
September 25, Place Ville-Marie: History and Form

Place Ville-Marie: Montreal's Shining Landmark
Don Nerbas, "William Zeckendorf, Place Ville-Marie, and the Making of Modern Montreal"
October 2, Russian Suprematism & Constructivism: The Politics of Geometrical Abstraction
Kasimir Malevich: https://monoskop.org/Kazimir_Malevich
El Lissitzky: https://monoskop.org/Lissitzky
Malevich, From Cubism and Futurism to Suprematism: The New Painterly Realism, 1915
T.J. Clark, "God is Not Cast Down," from Farewell to an Idea
Éva Forgács, "Definitive Space: The Many Utopias of El Lissitzky's Proun Room", pp 47-75.
William J.R. Curtis, Modern Architecture Since 1900, (Chapter 12)
October 23, Modernist Architecture & "The International Style"
William J.R. Curtis, Modern Architecture Since 1900 (Chapters 2, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15, 18, 22, 35)
November 6, Organism and Bureaucracy: The Organizational Complex
Reinhold Martin, The Organizational Complex
November 20, Curtain Wall and Cold War: North By Northwest
Alfred Hitchcock, North By Northwest, The Wrong Man, Shadow of a Doubt, Vertigo
Sophocles, Oedipus Rex
Fredrick Jameson, "Spatial Systems in North By Northwest" 
December 4, Postmodernity, Not Yet: Toward a New Periodization
Fredrick Jameson, Postmodernism, Or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Introduction & Chapter 1)
Nathan Brown, "Postmodernity, Not Yet: Toward a New Periodization" 
Aaron Benanav & Endnotes, "Misery and Debt"
Gopal Balakrishnan, "The Stationary State" 

January 8, Discussion of Project Ideas & Equipment
January 22, Architecture, Philosophy, Poetics

Indra Kagis McEwan, Socrates' Ancestor: An Essay on Architectural Beginnings
February 5, Soft Architecture
Lisa Robertson, Office for Soft Architecture
February 26, Architectural Body
Arakawa & Madeleine Gins, Architectural Body; We Have Decided Not to Die (available in CEP)
March 12, The Perfection of Reminiscence
David K. Ross, Le Phare (password: LePhare); project page 
Nicolas Baier, Self Portrait (2012)
*compare Baier's Place Ville-Marie piece with "Transmission" (Montreal 2012) and the process shots in Vanitas Project (a similar reproduction of his own studio desk)
March 26, Narrative Architecture
Kate Marshall, Corridor: Media Architectures in American Fiction
April 2, Imperial City
Shanxing Wang, Mad Science in Imperial City
April 16, Presentations