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Virtuality

&
Authenticity

Ella Fleri Soler


M.Arch Year 1 / Semester 1
2015 - 2016
Contemporary Architectural Discourse
University of Malta

Considering the Deleuzian concept of the


virtual as that which is in dynamic tension
with the actual, and allowing for the
hypothesis that all architecture, built or
unbuilt, is virtual in the Deleuzian sense.
Architecture, we propose, is not building,
nor is it some privileged subset of
building. Rather, we posit architecture as
an emergent property of a range of media,
buildings among them. Discussing this in
the context of conservation, where does
the notion of Authenticity take place?

Architecture is information. Architecture is communication.


Architecture is experience. (Jacob, 2012)

Architecture is a range of media. Media is not architecture solely in


built form but architecture beyond its practice, architecture in its
dissemination and in its formation.
Architecture is that which makes building meaningful to an ongoing tradition. As Reyner Banham puts it, what distinguishes
architecture is not what is done but how it is done. (Hayles &
Gannon, 2012). In speaking of how things are done we speak of
transformations, changes, events. If architecture is then, an event in
constant flux, it is then a present reality, with a constant potential
for the emergence of new realities. This reality with the potential
for an emergence of further realities is exactly what gives birth to
the notion of virtuality.
Typical notions of the virtual often centred on an entity which is
unreal or artificial. However, Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari
introduce a current which stirs the virtual towards its most
elaborated contemporary expression. This has led the virtual
to be introduced into architectural discourse by theorists and
practitioners cognizant of the impasse of previous appropriations
of the concept, opening the discussion of architecture to be seen
in light of the Deleuzian concept - of the virtual being in dynamic
tension with the actual (Deleuze, 2005).
Looking at architecture from this point of view can at first seem to
set up some form of paradox. If the virtual is the state of flux, then
in any actually given circumstance it can only figure as a mode of
abstraction. In architecture, what is concretely given is that which
is which is not what it will be when it changes. The potential of
a situation exceeds its actuality (Massumi, 1998). This means that
the virtual cannot be contained in any actual form but must run
from one form to another. This confirms the need to move away
from categorising architecture purely into its built form and to
accept it as an emergent property of a range of media, buildings
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among them (Hayles & Gannon, 2012).


Architecture is a function of embodied discourse, which is both
building and document (collectively media), not merely text or
work, but existent physically or digitally, as object. The object
is actual, location specific, but the architecture is virtual, never
reduced to merely the tangible. Both architecture and object are
real, but architecture is in constant flux and in dynamic interaction
with the actuality of the object which only comprises of myriad
individual instances. In order for architecture to maintain its
Deleuzian virtuality it must be thought of as ineffable, as to give
concrete form to architecture would be to shift from the virtual to
the actual. (Hayles & Gannon, 2012). The greater challenge of the
practice is therefore to allow architectures virtuality to emerge from
actual media into actual things tangible and readable by man. In
speaking of media we speak of metereo-semiotic systems that enact
the circulation of signs (Hayles & Gannon, 2012). This circulation
is twofold firstly in circulation of signs through people i.e.
documents, and secondly in circulating people through signs i.e.
buildings. The media emergent of such buildings and documents
links the semiotic to the actual so that neither are reduced to merely
material objects nor discursive entities.
The recipe for a discipline capable of renewal and innovation is
therefore a virtual architecture interacting with an actual media to
infuse infinite potential in a physicality.

Having accepted our discipline to embody both the actual and the
virtual, the consideration of conservation of architecture suddenly
becomes more complicated than previously perceived. With an
infinite amount of theories of conservation focussing on authenticity
in light of object materiality and process of works (Jokilehto, 2009),
perhaps throwing in a Deleuzian spin on the debate would open
the potential for an entirely new discussion.
In the discussion of conservation, irrelevant of the standpoint
being taken, time, and ergo the passage of time - duration, is of the
essence. What we grasp when we think in terms of duration is an
alteration that is one with the essence or substance (materiality) of
the object (Moulard-Leonard, 2008). However this thought also
conveys an uncertainty and unpredictability of the future.
In order to maintain a Deleuzian frame of mind we must take a
stand point of a virtual realist (as opposed to a critical realist).
From this standpoint we can view old depths as a certain folding,
unfolding and refolding of the surface the fold being the potential
to differ from the original (Doel & Clarke, 1999). Therefore we are
not able to say that there is only one world, for this one world is
folded in many ways.
Real Virtuality is not duplicitous, but multiplicitous it is an
immanent manifold, the consistency of which depends, precisely,
upon ones point of view (Doel & Clarke, 1999).
In arriving at the surface, which I understand to be the new (and
possibly the now) we are freed from enslavement of the depths
(the old) and must therefore negotiate another version of virtuality.
This new virtuality still interacts with the actual (the depths), and
does not lack reality or authenticity (as simply a copy). Rather, it is
the actual that lacks virtuality. From this latter viewpoint, we may
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begin to notice the world to be not full, impoverished, as evolution


lags in realising its possibilities (Doel & Clarke, 1999). This said,
it is inherent for our discipline to take on the role of creation and
invention in the form of experiments and mutations. This way
architecture can remain in flux, in movement, in event surviving
virtually. In merely producing and reproducing we risk filling the
world with actualities which lose touch with their virtualities.
As architects we can conserve by allowing every conceivable
possibility to be realised, even if only in thought. To think is to
follow the movement of the real, which is the movement of thought
aswell (Moulard-Leonard, 2008). French philosopher Henri
Bergson claims that duration must coincide with the virtual as that
which redefines substance in terms of self-alteration (MoulardLeonard, 2008). This is where the Deleuzian point of view may
criticize the modernists in filtering out too many possibilities in
their formulae of Form follows Function and Fit for purpose,
resulting in starvation of imagination. Naturally, in engaging in all
manners of transgenic mutations the results may not survive in our
existing environments, but there is yet the potential for creating
special reserves for them (Doel & Clarke, 1999).
The world that is abandoned to us should be multiplied and
mutated to infinity.relief at last for a world of lack, for a world
that lacks the realisation of infinite difference (Doel & Clarke,
1999).
In this image of thought, it is the actual that is partial, flawed and
lacking, and can only be rectified by the virtual. The virtual can
uplift the actual and free it of its constraints and shortcomings,
most particularly its limitations in space time. However, the
virtual is not seen as some added on contingency in effort of reachieving fullness of some original position, rather it complements,
supplements and integrates with the actual. Deleuzian thought
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follows that the actual naturally lacks what the virtual will come to
furnish in what Baudrillard refers to as the virtual realisation of
the world (Doel & Clarke, 1999).
This hyper-realisation however is in no way an ex nihilo gift
of nature, but is rather produced by the priority and privilege
we must give it in creating some special effect resulting in the
full supplement which will fulfil the lack in the original. This is
precisely where the notion of the authentic culminates or rather,
the point of its abandonment. One should forget the quest for the
authentic representation, for there can be no Second Comings in
this world, and only a return of difference. What this means is that
things, rather than varying qualitatively in time, rather only differ in
degrees from other things or from their depths (Moulard-Leonard,
2008). This is the essence of Deleuzes transcendental empiricism.
Perhaps what this shift in thought is directing us towards is not a
conservation in the sense of the actual, authentic and untouched,
but rather in conservation of the interactivity of the actual with its
virtuality. Deleuze speaks of an embodiment of difference, which
is crucial for the survival of the interactivity (or dynamic tension) of
the virtual with the actual (Massumi, 1998). A certain optimism may
emerge from this point that not all is at the mercy of the passage
of time but that duration has the power to ground thoughts
relationship to the world (or the relation between the consciousness
and the unconscious, the actual to the virtual) (Moulard-Leonard,
2008). The survival of the past therefore need not depend on matter
for its conservation in time.

Many questions come to mind with regards to what really exists


or remains after conserving in the Deleuzian way. Is there any
authenticity in this new concoction? Or is the noumena truer
than the phenomena? Is the form more real than the appearance?
(Moulard-Leonard, 2008). Echoing Bergson, Deleuze believes
that the retrograde movement of the true is not merely an illusion
about the true, but belongs to the true itself. (Moulard-Leonard,
2008). The debate could be interestingly tackled from an angle of
technological imagery, something emergent of our era, and the
question of its authenticity.
Following Deleuzes emphasis on the shift from authenticity to
creativity, the production of images is no longer the reproduction
of an original reality, but instead the production of a different
reality (Islami, 2008). What we must learn from this is to see
images to create new realities, authentic in themselves because of
their immanent logic and affective potential. To extend this thought
to our architectural practice, would be to counter any arguments
of the technological image being a fraudulent act or simply a side
effect of a physical building, but to rather view any design, project
or construction of image as a legitimate extension of architectural
design (Islami, 2008). In producing an architectural image, icon
or brand, we are actually extending the life of an entity beyond its
limiting time and location specific boundaries and engaging and
interconnecting it with something beyond most often mass media.
Deleuze cocoons this idea in his theory of the simulacrum, where
he affirms the creation of different realities in contrast to defining
images or architecture by their lack of authenticity. The simulacrum
does not replace reality . . . but rather it appropriates reality in
the operation of despotic overcoding. This is because simulation
carries the real beyond its principle to the point where it is
effectively produced (Deleuze & Guattari, 1984).
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Bringing these ideas to a local context we could begin to see


conservation as having successfully repositioned itself from being
regarded as a barrier to development to being regarded as an active
agent of change (Pendlebury, 2013). In this shift in ideology from
preserving to creating, the controversy caused by the City Gate
project is particularly relevant. In reacting to the project, the nation
quickly divided into in favour and against but it wasnt often
that people could explain why. The general public clearly felt the
area was very sentimental to them, and so they were reluctant to
see change, but perhaps they were not educated enough to fully
understand the values to be considered, in say, replicating a historic
monument such as the Opera House or passing on the opportunity
of rejuvenating a static capital city entrance. Nonetheless, a closer
study of the implemented design reveals Pianos work to respect
the core elements of what Valletta is and what it shall be. Its
complex temporality brings past and future together in order to
reveal an ontology of becoming, unlike conservation processes
that strive to achieve an ontology of stasis (Williams, 2000). Renzo
Piano elaborates on the nature of such projects as being necessary
reassessments of the past and enriching realignments that are,
nevertheless, enduring elements of a collective drive towards
survival and permanence (Buhagiar, 2013).
This thought of a past and future creating an active becoming
echoes Eisenmans claims on time and space, with the gone and
yet to come being manifested in a happening again (Williams,
2000). Underpinning this argument is Deleuzes Difference and
Repetition theories for the opening up of possibilities by widening
the gap between the visible and the articulable. In the creation
of folds, differences, we can move away from a conservation of
representation and move towards the discussed creation.

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If this paper could achieve anything in the understanding of where


authenticity lies may it be in an acceptance for an alternative
approach to the discussion. In the current technological world
where a devotion to interaction with virtualities is quickly picking
up speed, a certain scepticism, reminiscent of Platos allegory of
the cave, for the man-made phenomena of the virtual is still ever
present (Islami, 2009). The fear for distraction from natural reality
and possible obsession with material authenticity could certainly
inhibit creative progress and set us on a path towards nihilism or
nostalgia. In no way suggesting the complete abandonment of
traditional philosophical models, an awareness of the potentials
that could be born of Deleuzes theories could indeed set up
the necessary optimism for an innovative future in the field of
architecture and conservation.

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