The ‘Visible’ Is Not ‘Sensible’

The first, a traditional one, is that the researcher ‘still believes he is researching the “laws of nature” whilst in practice he is first of all contributing to dispersing this kind of representation’;18 the other, specifically linked to the arrival of information technology and its intrinsic possibilities for repetitions identical to virtual experiences, is that the latter are often preferable to any ‘real’ experience. It is then that the Postmodern paradox appears; at each new attempt to perceptively approach a thing, the result is invariably the distancing from this thing. Just as the latter’s relational graphs were influenced at the time by progress in topology and their applications in the form of operational research, the frenzied mathematical idealisms and biomimicry tendencies of today’s architecture are nothing less than a new Zeitgeist. This goes against the new stylistic unity of algorithmic, parametric or biomimetic architecture, or calls for this unity, the new ‘recognisable formal code’ which retains the ‘trace of the old search for modern certainties’. As such, we cannot be anything other than surprised today to still see in the many works broadly using algorithms and mathematics – and which works can really do without them? From Uber eine Maschine zur Auflosung hoherer Gleichungen (About a machine for the resolution of high-order equations), Vienna, 1881. more complete than that of the four fundamental forces in physics, if it can be or if it is desirable. Figure 4. Karl Exner, Balance for Equation, undated
During the 19th century and until the advent of digital computers, scientists searched for mechanical techniques to facilitate complex calculations. These considerations are troublesome because it sounds as if nature was not a good model of itself and had to be replaced and simulated to be properly questioned and tested!19
This observation of the change in current scientific practices throws precious light on that which is known today as the mathematics of sensible things. … Although stylistic Postmodernism had perceived the cultural nature of this figuration, recognising that that which separated it from the void was nothing but its state of ‘capitalism transformed into image’, it had not really understood the computational logic leading to our logical replication of the world, the latter inheriting as much from Carnap as from the history of scientific notation and symbolism, programming languages or the development of material technologies20 as from Guy Debord or Jameson. We should point out an amazing opinion among engineers about the use of computer simulation in industry – especially in aeronautics: they are more and more convinced that in many cases, real experiments are superfluous. While being more or less opposed to any kind of Zeitgeist, Peter Eisenman’s work is in fact highly related to its surrounding visual and epistemological culture – the sign of a rationalist mind. As for the less complex approaches, more coolly and visibly logical, although the best remind us by their very radicalism that ‘logic is not necessarily as logical as all that’, that we ‘use it exactly as we wish’ and that what is important ‘is that things are logical, “in a certain way”’,15 the
majority of them come down to an opportunistic Postmodern inclusion of an additional variable: a dose of easy spectacular computation and additional effectiveness. Figure 7. To complete it we should add to Venturi’s irony the complete disillusions of Stanley Tigerman,21 but we most of all should add to the work of the Austrian and Italian radicals, to the deconstructions of the 1980s and to the digital research of the 1990s or the urban and cultural theorisations of Koolhaas, a veritable investigation of the ‘computational logic of late capitalism’. Following this argument, if you consider a prototype, or a real experiment in natural sciences, is it anything else than an analogue model of itself? Although this paradox is not, by essence, Postmodern, it has reached a degree previously unknown thanks to information technology, which has allowed our relationship with the world to enter a new era; and as Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore point out, not without humour: ‘Beside it, the wheel is a mere hula hoop, even though the latter should not be entirely neglected.’17
The wheel was just a hoop insofar as even in the boldest projections it was still only a representation of the world through the image of a perpetual movement, a representation broadly surpassed today in computer simulations. Such is the Postmodern reality which, on the one hand by the exponential rise in the number of images in circulation and their importance in scientific research submerges us in the field of the apparently sensible, and on the other by the inflation in digital data and the not less exponential growth in algorithmics of IT programming and mathematical methods, freezes all of our immediate perceptions. So the possibilities to make sophisticated and accurate measures on this model – ie to make sophisticated real experiments – rapidly are decreasing, while your knowledge is increasing. Alessandro Mendini, Straw Chair, 1975
A temporary and self-destroying natural chair. Indeed, when you read Von Neumann, you see that analogue models are inferior to digital models because of the accuracy control limitations in the first ones.

Updated: 31.10.2014 — 15:56