Open online lecture “Confronting the Blank Sheet” by Neil Spiller
“Let us not mince words: the marvellous is always beautiful, anything marvellous is beautiful, in fact only the marvellous is beautiful.”
– André Breton, ‘Manifesto of Surrealism’, 1924
My conception of the world is one of exceptions not equivalents. So naturally I’m drawn to Surrealism and proto Surrealists such as Alfred Jarry and Raymond Roussel. My drawn work methodology echoes the surrealist practice of the Exquisite Corpse.
Exquisite Corpse is a surrealist game that named itself; it is a game of folded paper, which consists in having several people, compose a phrase or drawing collectively, none of the participants having any idea of the nature of the preceding contribution or contributions. The classic example, which gave its name to the game, is the first phrase obtained in this manner: THE EXQUISITE CORPSE SHALL DRINK THE YOUNG WINE.
My work seeks to find astounding new combinations of forms and ideas by layering and juxtaposition, in effect the choreography of chance..
These protocols of chance, disturbed context, hybrid formal juxtapositions and variable meanings are writ large in the contemporary City. Many hands, with many disparate aspirations, make our cities with many scales of operations, perceived and acted within by a myriad of consciousnesses. Some of these actors learned in its semiotics, the majority of them, not. The city is also a time machine it stretches backwards and forwards in time. It is like looking at the night sky, the light of the stars all from different times converging on the retina simultaneously. The city bombards the eye and mind with differing times and differing philosophical understandings of humanity’s place in the cosmos. Cities have alternative realities some drawn and mapped some not.
Neil Spiller is the former Hawksmoor Chair of Architecture and Landscape and Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Greenwich, London. He is on the editorial board of AD (Architectural Design). His architectural design work has been published and exhibited on many occasions worldwide. Since 1998, he has produced the epic COMMUNICATING VESSELS project. Neil’s numerous books include Cyberreader: Critical Writings of the Digital Era (2002); Digital Dreams: The Architecture of the New Alchemic Technologies (1998); and Visionary Architecture: Blueprints of the Modern Imagination (2006).
Image: “Longhouse Roof Garden“ 2021