Bruno Latour on Seeing, Arts CAST Symposium, September 26th 2014

In few words, the Bruno Latour lecture during the symposium had a simple message; Art, especially in relation to scientific matters, is a means by which more people can become sensitized to their surroundings. During the lecture Latour adamantly posed the question, “how can one make one-self more sensitive to [phenomenon]?” Here he uses the word Gaia instead of phenomenon, with a specific emphasis on complex interactions between organisms and their inorganic surroundings. Latour explains what he calls the fallacy of “matters of fact” as dulling of the senses. We can go read a book about a certain topic, rather than relying on our senses, intuitions and experiences, after all the age of empiricists has long past and given way to an age marked by rationalist or even a priori thinking.

Latour revels in an example of an image in which Corbusier arranges some objects in a still life, his hand still caught within the frame. Again noting the relationships and assumptions that are necessitated for the act to take place between a subject and an object, he even calls this bizarre, as an object is always in trajectory and in order for it to become a still life, one must interrupt this trajectory. “No one is ever born a subject watching an object.” For this the active, conceptual, subject must rely on staging.

“Matters of concern” have a different insertion within space-time. Here, Latour gives a video example in which a dancer becomes sensitized to an unknown object, she tries to back away from it, but in turn seeing something even more frightening, according to Latour this is Gaia…

Of Thomas Saracenos’ “Inflatable Playground” piece, Latour describes it as sensitizing us to interact with the object in much of the same awareness of 2 year old children rolling around, uninhibited.

My favorite example during the lecture was this large installation show as an example; it represents skin at a microscopic scale on a scale of about a football field… this to me exhibits where art and science can merge. By using such a medium, the medium of “art” we can get quickly involved within the piece, there is something that we instantly get, that would take hours to be described within a book of the scientific order. In this case art renders more people sensitive to the material and overwhelmingly to the knowledge instilled within the material’s form. More people may be able to learn through art what few can learn from science. In essence, art can help us interpret conceptual and abstract knowledge as opposed to detailed or quantitative knowledge.

So… all of this got me thinking about… umm architecture, “towards an architecture of awareness,” at that. That could deal with awareness, attention, noticing, and perhaps even consciousness… We always are in our surroundings. Everything becomes normalized and we become desensitized to our milieu; it becomes “ignored” and may even involve us in a subconscious interaction with it. From this we can propose an architecture of which we are aware, an architecture that makes us to look up at it. Of course, here I cannot be talking about form, because even a building that we see as extravagant, as flashy or formal (these do not always go hand in hand), in time we will become desensitized to it. Which begs the question- do we simply become desensitized to all objects, to all architecture after repeated experiences with it? How can this be? Can we change this? Better yet, should we change this? Isn’t architecture supposed to blend into it’s context? Whether as a piece that belongs or does not, after a while it all belongs, no?…

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