Excerpt from “Far From Equilibrium” by Sanford Kwinter:
It is arguable that no fantasy marked twentieth century aesthetics – or cultural Modernism itself – more powerfully than that of the Bachelor Machine. Although the term was coined by Marcel Duchamp to describe the web of forces brought together to animate his seminal “Large Glass,” the phenomenon of automated desire – the desire, that is, whose origin is to be found in the social field rather than in the individual person – began to emerge in the late 19th century and has mushroomed ever since. The idea that the technical realm of (social, political) desire was taken up from the the beginning by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in a sustained set of enactments and developments of the ideas of Duchamp that were manifested in performances, installations, videos, objects, and texts. The logic that determines our routines of inhabiting the world were seen to exist at the level of buildings only in the most secondary of ways, and so for long their practice explicitly eschewed “Architecture” in every classical sense of the word. In time, their researches transformed architectural thought by providing a more sophisticated understanding of the how the design of the environment in general determines who and what we are. Primary among their interests, as for Duchamp and McLuhan before them, is the role of the eye as the shaper o space and of social and psychic organization. With the historical rise of the cinema and its constitutive role in training modern perception and assigning a new interrelationship of the other senses, the meaning and uses of “space” were transformed in turn.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro, perhaps more than any other practice, have shown the primordial importance of the concept of the “program” as the determining factor in the lived ennvironment. Adopting what one could call the “paranoid-optical” model of modern civilization. Diller Scofidio + Renfro relentlessly invent – or extract – vision machines within and out of every culutral nexus or material locale: every room, building, city, or site is revealed as a machine that distributes electromechanical stripteases in which humans are the invariable prey caught in an ecstasy of self-watching (television unsurprisingly serves as their princeiple rhetorical “device”).
The Blur Building depicted below is naturally no building at all, but a desiring device of architectural scale and scope. The mist produced by the 31,000 nozzles that artificially atomize the natural lake beneath it generates a veritable Ganzfeld in which the body, for lack of a perceivable fixed point in the sensible environment, is unable to orient itself in space (or time). The vertigo and disorientation that ensues is intended to o beyond mere physiological effects, leaving he spectator-inhabitants trapped in a state, not of blindness, but of total self-perception, seeing sight itself unencumbered by any object. The total immanence of the experience becomes on the one hand a type of routinized Enlightenment (the oneness of the perceiving self and the world perceived), and a wicked revealing of he invisible “apparatus” from which we can already no longer escape.