BETWEEN MATERIAL AND CULTURE
Nicolas Bourriaud proposes the term ‘Altermodernism’ announcing a new era following Postmodernism to describe aesthetic proposals critically engaging with an increasingly global context. According to Bourriaud, Altermodernism “is characterized by translation and specificity, unlike modernism of the twentieth century, which spoke the abstract language of the colonial west”(TATE ETC. – Issue 15/Spring 2009, p72, article by Andrew Hunt)
The world we experience today is entrenched by an infiltrating and ever extending communication apparatus, surpassing travel and physical migration, giving birth to simultaneous attendance in this ‘fractured dessert plateau’ of multiple localities. Altermodernism, as described by Bourriaud, is deployed as an exploratory platform in search of a 21st century modernism, very different from Postmodernism for example, which is setting us after or outside the historic period of modernism. As such, Altermodernism does not exist in linear reference to a previous time-frame yet acknowledges history as a network of intersecting timelines where it becomes increasingly more difficult to think and thus design outside or after history yet much more appealing to sustain within its mesh of time.
As practitioners we identify with ideas acknowledging aspects of migration, notions of detachment and dispossession as implications of a transient society. In line with what Bourriaud unpacks through his argument on the end of postmodernism, we aim for a critical positioning, a ‘relative attitude towards history’ by escaping a historical periphery, in order to re-enter a mesh of time in search for relevant points of intersection and overlap, particular to the site and the project at hand. Trough our work we aim to design place, in search for authenticity, as inevitably relational to a surrounding. We address environments of ‘connective-ness’, where a multitude of indigenous elements start to overlap and intersect through the drawing of diagrams.
The diagram, as a reflective instrument, is deployed in our design process as a conscious act to resist any notion of drawing as subordinate to the mental image. As much as the diagram is aimed at the ‘organisation’ of a design process, it is thus used as a tool to derail thought and setting up lateral routes of reflection. As such, the diagram is negated as a scientific tool and looked at as a contemplative design tool, eroding any attempt to materialise preconceived imagery, as often present in the designers mind. This conscious act of ‘avoidance’ is induced to negate the possibility of a nostalgic liaison with the historical sites we design for. A nostalgia driven by the sites material representation, such as the 18th century Valetta bastion walls, adorned with years of erosion and deterioration. A nostalgia that when pursued hinders a critical attitude towards its current socio-cultural condition.
As such any iconic linkage is avoided through this diagrammatic pursue, supporting the driving principle of dislocating form from its conventionally associated meaning or symbolic value, without denying the presence of such values. Our drawings are instruments of internal dialogue as described by Goldschmidt. They guide a process of discovery through a process of drawing and redrawing setting up a continual recording of boundaries as a graphical manipulation of a site or volume. These recordings, subject to site-specific parameters, set up a multifaceted interchange between diagram and context and repress any passive recording of nostalgic clichés.
The outcome negates the creation of an architectural metaphorical mark (buildings as symbols or icons) and instead aims for the description of a new and highly contextual object/landscape, distinct from its surrounding yet indicative of an intersection of current socio-cultural and historical parameters. Spaces exist as highly integrated yet aesthetically distant; reciprocating an active looking towards history interweaving multiple pasts with a present.