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2007 03 01
Angle of Incident #44: Seminar 5, Mementos of the Fall, Part 3
Johnathan Wong looked at:

Memory, the burden of

My word this week comes from the book Kokoro by celebrated Japanese writer and scholar Natsume Soseki (1867-1916), first published in 1914 (Edwin McClellan translation published by Tuttle, 1969). His most famous novel, Kokoro, centers around the life of an unhappy university student and the relationship he builds with a reclusive old man he calls “Sensei”, whom one day confides to him the burden of a tragic memory from his youth. As with Soseki’s other late novels, Kokoro deals with themes of alienation, guilt, loneliness and memory set in the context of Japan’s modernization during the final days of the Meiji era. The character below is Chinese in origin and pronounced xin, for heart. In Japanese it is shin or the more onomatopoetic kokoro, and can also connote mind, spirit, thoughts, feelings, emotions. McClellan explains that the best rendering comes from Lafcadio Hearn, who put it as “the heart of things”.


While Christina Kalt identified the junkspace that also lies close to the hart of things:

Homogeneity, generic architecture, suburbia – ideas raised during a riveting afternoon seminar prompted the discussion of Rem Koolhaas’ “Junkspace.” Junkspace is disposable. It is bland food designed to satisfy unending consumer hunger; Junkspace is the microwave dinner: convenient, unhealthy and unfulfilling. Here is a sample to wet the appetite:

“Rabbit is the new beef… Because we abhor the utilitarian, we have condemned ourselves to a life-long immersion in the arbitrary… LAX: welcoming – possibly flesh-eating – orchids at the check-in counter… ‘Identity’ is the new junk food for the dispossessed, globalization’s fodder for the disenfranchised… If space-junk is the human debris that litters the universe, junk-space is the residue mankind leaves on the planet. The built… product of modernization is not modern architecture but Junkspace. Junkspace is what remains after modernization has run its course or, more precisely, what coagulates while modernization is in progress, its fallout. Modernization had a rational program: to share the blessings of science, universally. Junkspace is its apotheosis, or meltdown… Although its individual parts are the outcome of brilliant interventions, lucidly planned by human intelligence, boosted by infinite computation, their sum spells the end of Enlightenment, its resurrection as farce, a low-grade purgatory… Junkspace is the sum total of our current achievement; we have built more than all previous generations together, but somehow we do not register on the same scales. We do not leave pyramids. According to a new gospel of ugliness, there is already more Junkspace under construction in the 21st century than survived the 20th… It was a mistake to invent modern architecture for the 20th century. Architecture disappeared in the 20th century; we have been reading a footnote under a microscope hoping it would turn into a novel…”


Koolhaas, Rem. “junk-space.” In Content. (Koeln, Germany: Taschen, 2004).

[email this story] Posted by Gary Michael Dault on 03/01 at 06:18 AM

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