Experiencing absence: Eisenman and Derrida, Benjamin and Schwitters

Macarthur, John (1993). Experiencing absence: Eisenman and Derrida, Benjamin and Schwitters. In John Macarthur (Ed.), Knowledge and/or/of experience (pp. 99-123) Brisbane, QLD, Australia: Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Queensland.

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Author Macarthur, John
Title of chapter Experiencing absence: Eisenman and Derrida, Benjamin and Schwitters
Title of book Knowledge and/or/of experience
Place of Publication Brisbane, QLD, Australia
Publisher Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Queensland
Publication Year 1993
Sub-type Other
Editor John Macarthur
Start page 99
End page 123
Total pages 25
Subjects 310105 History of the Built Environment
310000 Architecture, Urban Environment and Building
Abstract/Summary Deconstruction in architecture has made great claims to decentre the human subject. Architects such as Peter Eisenman claim to work with the concepts and history of architecture in a way which is free of any false hopes for a final return to an apprehension by a human subject whose needs are the origin of the discipline. However, much of the architecture of deconstruction is not consistent in this aim and, as Jacques Derrida has pointed out, indulges itself instead in constructing an experience of absence. In the politics of the discipline 'deconstruction' plays the role of a rationalist, knowledge-centred architecture, which stands in opposition to a humanist, phenomenological approach which valorizes experience. The non-sequitur 'experience of absence' forms a circuit in this pattern of oppositions and thus deconstruction in architecture tends towards being a mere negative theology, a reversed humanism. Moreover, the architectural project of constructing experiences of otherness or the absence of a privileged subject position is not unfamiliar. Kurt Schwitters' Merzbau can be shown to take mental constructs, such as the history and politics of the avant-garde, and to play them against devices which have the aim of bringing to consciousness an apprehension of the body as a perceptual apparatus. Walter Benjamin's contemporary texts on the conceptualization of experience in relation to art, technology and the city can be used to provide terms for an description of the Merzbau. The point is not to further the analysis of the Merzbau nor to exemplify Benjamin's theory but rather to remember the breadth and sophistication of these early twentieth century inquiries into experience, when compared to the present architectural deconstruction both of 'experience' and 'constructivism'. The purpose of the comparison is not to admonish Eisenman for lack of originality but rather to make a point about the hubris of 'deconstructing' categories which have already been destroyed by history.
Keyword deconstruction
Q-Index Code BX
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status Unknown

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Created: Fri, 03 Jun 2005, 10:00:00 EST by John Macarthur on behalf of The University of Queensland Library