Strange Gods: Liberated Artifacts of the Endless Present

Masters Thesis, 2016


“Certainly the metropolis still offers the additional charm of enabling one to dwell with nostalgia on what it once was by contemplating what it is now. Take care not to let them know that city after city may follow one upon the other on the same spot, with the same name, rising and falling with nothing to say to each other. Sometimes the names of the inhabitants, the sound of their voices, indeed even their faces may remain the same, but the gods who reign under names and over places have gone without a word and in their places strange gods have settled. Useless to ask whether they are better or worse than the old gods; there is no relation between them, just as the old picture postcards do not show Maurilia as it was, they show a different city which just happened to be called Maurilia, as this one is.”

- Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities


From the time of cave painting to the age of androids, mankind has been preoccupied with copying, increasingly with near-perfect accuracy. The project aims to create a space for the construction of new futures for endangered and disputed artifacts in the face of rapid technological progress. It serves a global population and rejects the position of absolute preservation, rather embracing the notion of a fluid narrative augmented by the production of replicas. As society inevitably shifts to an emphasis on the digital and immaterial, the replica becomes a paradigm in and of itself. This phenomenon, enabled by contemporary technologies, liberates the object from its physical confines, and enriches the relationship between object and narrative. It also brings into question notions of context, materiality, and scale - three properties with cultural baggage of their own. The project serves as an enabler of these new exchanges and confrontations, operating out of a relatively neutral location and programmed as a repository for information and a facility for reproduction. These productive frictions allow us to reconsider complex object histories. The architectural environment must acknowledge the fact that artifacts are never frozen in time, and instead are evolving representations of larger cultural narratives. The project presents a series of mutable parafictions and strange familiarities that extend from the architecture to the objects housed within it. If it is conceivable that the perfect copy can be made, or that the physical artifacts of the most polemic conflicts on the planet could suddenly proliferate, what would become of this destabilization? If the replication of objects enables some degree of autonomy, it would perhaps undermine the constructed narratives taken to be truth as presented by museums, critics, and elite establishments, and allow for a broader and more nuanced interpretation of what material culture looks and will look like in centuries to come. 




“In a poorly regulated, cosmopolitan society like our own, the discourse surrounding cultural objects is at once freely contingent and counter-entropic. It neither hardens into dogma nor decays into chaos as it disperses. It creates new images and makes new images out of old ones, with new constituencies around them. It is a discourse of experiential consequences, not disembodied causes. Thus, the sheer magnitude of social experience and organizational energy generated in the wake of a single painting by Velásquez so far outweighs and overrides the effort and intention that went into its creation as to make nature pale and angels weep.”

- Dave Hickey, Air Guitar