Lost in the Line
Graphic Novel by Léopold Lambert
The graphic novel Lost in the Line somehow materializes an allegory of what I could call my architectural manifesto. The line constitutes the medium used by each architect as a tool and representation code. Geometrically speaking, it does not have any thickness, which makes it hard to imagine the idea of somebody getting lost in it. When it is drawn by the architect, however, the line is susceptible to acquire a consequent thickness when it is transposed to reality. In fact, a line that becomes a wall not only acquires a height in the transposition of a piece of paper to a tridimensional milieu but, more importantly, it includes in its oxymoronic thickness, a violence towards the territory that it splits and the bodies that its irresistibly controls. Architecture is therefore inherently violent, and any attempt to diffuse this power on the body is pointless. Perhaps can we, on the contrary, accept this violence and integrate it within our manifestos. Lost in the Line is therefore a narrative allegory of such a position. Within it, the line is both this geometrical figure traced on a piece of paper and that splits the desert into two parts, but also a fractal and quasi-molecular component contained within the dark matter of the pencil’s graphite left on the paper. The bodies in this story are veritably submitted to the violence of the lines that divide space all around them. Nevertheless, they appropriate the interstices triggered by those same lines to move in all directions, build new forms on dwellings and eventually cross the original line (the one that contains all the others) that used to constitute an impenetrable border at the macroscopic level.
This story also questions the control that the architect exercises on his design, and thus exercises on the bodies that are subjected to the design’s materialized version that we commonly call architecture. The notion of labyrinth is interesting here. Indeed, the labyrinth, in its bi-dimensional classical form constitutes the absolute paradigm of the transcendental architecture that exercise control on its “subjects.” The latter are getting lost in it until exhaustion under the mocking supervision of the demiurge architect who observes this game from above. However, the literature of Franz Kafka invented a new form of labyrinth, one in which the author does not escape from the complexity of his production. Let’s recall here that beyond the bureaucratic labyrinths described in The Trial (1925) and The Castle (1926), Kafka did not seem to have determined a chapter order for the former nor an end to the latter. Lost in the Line thus introduces a level of complexity over which the author of the line has no control. The ambiguity between the graphic novel author and the one of the line described here is useful as it reinforces the “lines” of subjectivity that “enjoy” such loss of control. This loss, when it is well thought through, allows the bodies to appropriate, to conquer the built matter.
The character of the funambulist who walks on the line in a refusal to be subject to their splitting effect also has something to do in this allegorical manifesto. Of course, this character is not liberated from the line, but (s)he plays enough with the line’s power to subvert its primary intention. On November 9th 1989, Berliners did not express the nullness of the wall by crossing it in both directions, but rather in climbing up it and set them up on its edge, thus occupying this six-inch wide world that used to surround the West part of the city. The example of the wall has been proclaimed as paradigmatic of political architecture due to the simplicity of its line and its filiation in Palestine, Cyprus and between the United States and Mexico. The power of their line is indeed optimal, but we would be wrong to distinguish a political architecture from one that would not be. All architecture, and therefore all traced line, is a political weapon whether it is thought and drawn as such or not. To attempt to escape from this affirmation constitutes a risk to reinforce the dominant ideology.
Our lines can therefore not be innocent. They carry in each of them the power of subjectivization of the bodies. What we can do is to try to make this subjectivization escaping as much as possible from a transcendental control so that it can allow a potential of appropriation and emancipation, which is the base of any conscious political act.
Part of the book Weaponized Architecture: The Impossibility of Innocence (dpr-barcelona, 2012)
Léopold Lambert is an architect who has been successively a Parisian, a Hong Konger, a Mumbaikar and a New Yorker. In addition of his enthusiasm for design, he is the writer/editor of The Funambulist, an online platform approaching the politics of the build environment through philosophy, legal theory, literature and cinema. He is the author of Weaponized Architecture: The Impossibility of Innocence (dpr-barcelona 2012) that examines (and acts on) the inherent characteristics of architecture that systematically makes it a political weapon. He is currently publishing the twelve first volumes of The Funambulist Pamphlets and the first volume of The Funambulist Papers with Punctum Books through the CTM Documents Initiative. He is also the coordinator/editor of Archipelago, an online archive of inter-disciplinary podcasts that will start in January 2014.
thefunambulist.net | @TheFunambulist_