Last year I was invited by the European Cultural Centre to exhibit in the TIME SPACE EXISTENCE exhibition at the 2021 Venice Biennale Architettura. An invitational that is sometimes referred to as the “Olympics” for artists and architects, it was a bittersweet moment for me being invited, only to realize I would be unable to attend due to the global disruptions for travel and business since 2020. Nevertheless, I decided to create a design for the event and to also write a statement, which follows:
From Earth to Air by Max Eternity
Like young trees that burst into the sky, architecture connects earth to air – enfolding space to create place – and in death and decay, old trees create fertile ground for new seedlings. It is a cycle – an intelligent system supported by genetic design, bringing order to everything in our ever expanding world. The individual and personal is limited and fleeting, yet underlying structures remain. And architecture is the structure whose firmness defines place, space and location through beauty and protection, where within our shared memories of the body architecture reality exists in a timeless state. If time is the measure of experience, is experience the measure of time?
Like species and genus, the identity of a mature body of artwork – an oeuvre – should have the look and feel of an extended family. This does not mean that all the individuals in that family require a hard genetic physicality, but that essential patterns and expressions should be evident with calibrated uniqueness. Science reveals we cannot exist without the architectural structure of DNA, and the arts and humanities inform that without beauty and protection, life becomes a spiritually void state of misery and morbid survival. This was certainly the message when in protest against COVID global quarantines and home incarcerations French actress Corinne Masiero stripped naked on stage during the 2021 Cesar Awards to reveal body paint that read “No culture, no future” and “Give us back art, Jean.” Art and culture equal life, and must not live in a vacuum existing simply as self-affirming testaments to themselves. Instead art and design must provide and affirm liberty and well-being, without exception.
In his 2001 appearance in Berkeley, California, the Dalai Lama talked about creating world peace through inner peace. This speaks to a shift away from mindlessness to mindfulness, and to the realization that unresolved grief and conflict destroy not only our physical selves, but also bring ruin to the bodies of work we create. So, preservation should never be dismissed or forgotten. In fact, what is peace without preservation?
It is this which signals a greater responsibility, thus bringing into question the desirability of city structures and civic life, because living in the built environment is not only physical it is very much spiritual and psychological. We must not build cities that are segregated, callous or over-built, and we must not be at war with the natural. A healthy city recognizes and nurtures our inner Paleolithic selves, says Peter Kahn, a professor and naturalist who teaches ecology and psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle. Otherwise, Kahn says, we’ll find ourselves building cities that feel more and more like prisons. Cities must nurture and support, while providing space for a direct connection to the wild and unmolested, to which commodity, hyper-individuality and big capital must yield.
Like the X and Y chromosomes all living things inherit from bodies past, every new building that thrust itself into the now owes its existence to the Paleolithic, chromosomal blueprint from which it has arisen. In this way, the new sees itself in the old while dreaming of the unknown.