The Name of the Zero : Variations on a Theme

Canclini, Andrea (2022) The Name of the Zero : Variations on a Theme. In: The Zero Degree of Architectural Writing : Theorizing, Drawing, and Debating the ‘Third Term’. UNSPECIFIED, BEL.

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The first US edition of' Writing Degree Zero' includes an introduction written by Susan Sontag; in her text, she points out that the reception of this revolutionary text by the American audience would encounter critical cultural difficulties, linked to the very nature of American writing. A very important part of what concerns her is the American unfamiliarity with French literary criticism, also due to the well-known mutual France/US distrust, a long history from Tocqueville to Celine, and up to Sartre. When Barthes writes literature, he refers to the French tradition of classical literature dating back to the 17th century; he argues that it always provides specific knowledge and education, since its nature is never neutral. This relationship between text and culture is essentially interdependent to the extent that it is traditionally claimed that the Enlightenment produced the French Revolution, although some argue the opposite: In affirming that it was the Enlightenment that produced the Revolution, the classical interpretation perhaps inverses logical order: should we not consider instead that it was the Revolution that invented the Enlightenment by attempting to root its legitimacy in a corpus of texts and founding authors reconciled and united. (Chartier, 1991) In the architectural discourse this reversal has culminated in the anthologisation of theoretical texts that have had effects on the discipline: [The anthologies curators] suggest an engagement with an increasingly historical or at least genealogical project. […] The symptoms of the French revolutionaries went undiagnosed for centuries, when wishes were mistaken for facts. (Lavin, 1999) Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus (the primal rose exists only in the name, we only possess bare names). As in Eco’s The Name of the Rose, the controversy over the nature of language is the key to interpreting reality: starting with Barthes’ fundamental effort to determine an objective degree zero of writing, many have resulted in defining their own subjective degree zero: Eisenman used it to found his Conceptual Architecture, a rational theory of the discipline’s autonomy; Tschumi criticised the recent past as an attempt to extend the deterministic relationship between form and function as a relationship between function and sign (“the endlessly repeated grids of skyscrapers were associated with a new degree zero of meaning”); Pietilä used it in his 1968 exhibition “Vyöhyke”; Kuma (2008), without naming it, made it the opponent of the architect’s authorship, a form of human arrogance against nature and context as a consequence of the Modern Movement; Jameson (1985) directly compared Tafuri’s 'Progetto e Utopia' to Barthes’ text, and it can be argued, with Ockman (1988), that even the name of the IAUS main periodical “recalls […] Roland Barthes’ project.” Like a true disciplinary object, architects have also created their own degree zero as a critical tool of signification and representation: this text discusses how, despite the fact that the results of this translation were closer to Borges’ 'The Library of Babel' than to Camus’ 'The Stranger', it is nevertheless possible to reconstruct the objectivity of the theoretical value of the very idea of degree zero through the mapping of variations in its semantic field.

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?? theory of architecturehistory of architecturebarthesdegree zerono - not funded ??
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26 Jan 2023 10:35
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25 Mar 2024 00:11