Liam Young, 20 10 08

Invisible Man by Jeff Wall

“Going mad is the only way of staying sane.”  J.G.Ballard

In addition to the design studio I am running at the Architectural Association I am also running a studio with Paolo Zaide at the Bartlett school of Architecture.

 The Studio is titled Altered States. The studio outline follows.

Lost on strange islands suspended within the familiar spaces of the everyday is the vagabond troupe of DIY eccentrics, adventurers and malcontents who conjure their own atlas of Micronations. These fictional states vary in physical scale from the islands of 17th century pirate utopias, to an abandoned anti air craft tower in the middle of the North Sea or the sitting room of an anonymous flat in east London. ‘They merge fact, myth and speculation in their embrace of a parallel world, motivated by political subterfuge, legal loopholes, an immoderate love of royal titles, or a disenchantment with the commonplace.’*

This year Unit 6 will author our own archipelago of fictional states. We will navigate this critical space between the actual and the imagined, a space where architecture can enter into new relations with the territories of science and fiction. We will wander off the map, through the speculative landscapes of dreams and desires, on a future safari into brave new worlds that have mutated from our own. These projective states will actually be readings of the world we are now in, an experience of the present as a site of possible futures. Projects will slip suggestively between mistakes, myths and lies – a ‘combinatory capacity’ of infinite and unsettling possibilities.

We will begin by exploring a geography of nowhere hidden within the familiar landscapes of the UK. By land and sea we will journey to local Micronations, dine with unconvincing royalty, investigate false histories and uncover lost truths. Through 1:1 investigations you will be searching for your own territory, mapping anomalies and distrupting borders.  Reveling in mistakes, misfits and shortcomings you will render the invisible visible through forensic reconstructions, cinematic drawings, and assembled atmospheres. These experiments will examine the border conditions, boundaries and passage ways of your fictional states.

Our travels through altered states will take us to the Princes islands off the coastline of Istanbul.  Under Byzanntine rule it has been an enclave of exile for troublesome princes and a cavenous site of refuge for rouge pirates. We will become ‘archaeologists of the future traveling through archipelagos of both the verifiable and illusory. Here we will develop alternative mythologies of place, lost encyclopedic entries, misinterpreted archaeological finds and a collection of heroic protagonists. This will refine a state charter that will become an atlas for your Micronation.

The musings and conjecture you develop across the year will condense around the architectural accoutrements of your own altered state. Your mistakes and myths will define the nature of your building and host a set of curious confrontations between the fields of the real and the dark corners of the imaginary.

Jorge Luis Borges’s short story “Tlön, Uqbar Orbis Tertius,” begins with the discovery of a strange encyclopedic entry for an unknown country. By foraging for clues the author uncovers a conspiracy by intellectuals to imagine and create a new world called Tlön. Over time more and more references find their way into books, actual artifacts are uncovered and slowly Tlön seeps into existence until the real world becomes the imaginary place itself.

*Peter Coffin, ‘Grow Your Own’ Exhibition Catalogue.

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