Architecture of Endless Folds

Sean Dawson & Jo Mitchell

'....."baroque" had, as we have seen, a powerful influence on the spatial imagery of modernism, and it is not surprising that a digital decade has seen in Deleuze a prophet of the morphing, warping, and complicated curvatures of virtual space.'1

There's a scene in Cameron's and Soderbergh's Solaris when the facsimile Rheya (Natascha McElhone) finally understands and accepts that she is a memory construct made manifest by her ex, Chris' (George Clooney) 'altered states' due to the proximity of the other-worldly ocean Solaris. At this point in the film, almost an inversion of perceived reality takes place when he (Chris), against his rational thought and logic believes her existence to be (necessarily) real (for him) and when she (Rheya) accepts her fate as that of a second or third dematerialisation. The scene is set in a room on the floating spaceship - his bedroom, which up till now has existed as a container for their newly memory-constructed, virtual relationship and which now in his fevered, delusional state is the almost Deleuzian 'soul-space' from his maison baroque whose attachment to the grounded body is ruptured by the evidence of the multi-diversified folds. This metaphorical rupture in his perception and logic may be seen to be visualised when Chris scans the room and notices that the door which would usually screen their reality from the body of the ship, is now a punctured, melted and torn membrane. In the metallic blue inner glow of the spaceship, this screen which has given way under phenomenological tension, now becomes the surface for the un, non or partially representational. It is symbolic of the active schism between one world and another and can be seen to be the raison-d'etre, the stuff of science-fiction where a literal, metaphorical, psychological and visual warping occurs. In many ways it is similar to the idea and description of Leibniz's modification of John Locke's image of the brain as a camera obscura:

'Leibniz has, in many ways, considerably complicated the picture space. Rather than accepting the back surface of the camera as a receiving surface, standing in, so to speak, for the painter's canvas, he has himself stretched a canvas in the space, as a receptor of the images. This screen, moreover, is not the flat picture plane of classical representation; it is from the start ridged and folded, in ways that depict already innate ideas. Locke's tabula rasa, or white sheet of paper, has no place in this box of miracles. Further, this canvas is in no way a passive instrument of the "real"; rather it moves or "oscillates" like a plucked string, according to the nature of the images coming in from outside. These movements in turn create new folds in the surface of the screen, turning it into something like a diaphragm, elastic and mobile, a two-dimensional oscilloscope responding to the activity of the brain.'2

This warping or distortion in science-fiction, as with the inversion or subversion of the classical, perspectival picture-plane can be seen as a challenge and alternative to the formal order and logic of an over-idealised existence leading to an experimental potentiality in imaging transformations. Yet these transformations are not concerned with a linear trajectory; not from one world to another (science-fiction knows only too well the impossibility of positing distinct and opposing realms), not past and future, not self and other. The architectural spaces are always a reminder and an extension of the lack of clear psychological and physiological distinctions; spaces and forms that do not adhere to strict laws of logic that govern and police the borders of polarities such as inside and outside. Vidler once again draws attention to these concerns of spatiality (form & philosophy) when he considers the architectural discourse around Deleuze's theory of the "fold" and in citing Greg Lynn writes:

'Forms now "proto-geometric," "an-exact", "bloblike," "pliable," "viscous." Form is no longer conceived of as a geometric "original" distorted or broken to incorporate complexity or represent conflict, but rather as seamlessly countercontradictory, a topological surface the movements of which register the synthetic result of forces applied by computer models, as if organically generating new species in a speedup of Darwinian evolution."3

a space for generative possibilities.........

References for visuals:

Sean Dawson - Calatrava I, green, 2007, photostudy

Sean Dawson -- _Calatrava II, pink, _2007, photostudy

Sean Dawson -- Gehry I, 2007, photostudy

Sean Dawson -- Konig Stahl I, 2007, photostudy

Sean Dawson -- Konig Stahl II, 2007, photostudy

Sean Dawson -- Molino, green, 2007, photostudy

Sean Dawson -- Tugendhat, 2004, oil on canvas, 213x315cm


  1. Anthony Vidler, Warped Space: Art, Architecture & Anxiety in Modern Culture, (M.I.T. Press 2001), p.__221.

  2. Ibid., p. 223.

  3. Ibid., p. 227.

© Jo Mitchell 2007