Contesting Design in the General Terrain of Contemporary Public Space
Loo, S, Contesting Design in the General Terrain of Contemporary Public Space, Contested Terrains (SAHANZ 2006) , 29 September - 2 October 2006 , Fremantle, WA, pp. 309-315. ISBN 0-646-46594-5 (2006) [Refereed Conference Paper]
Public spaces in the age of speculative capital have been described as extraterritorial and a-contextual as they arguably suspend or make unavailable communal life. Precincts of generic
architecture can be described as places in which the socio-political system of the nation/state
cannot fully mediate and transform extant life into local sovereign sense. The ontological constitution
of the modern subject is marked by an Agambenian indistinction between the imperative
to act according to the sovereign norms, and the radical potentiality not to (be or act). This paper
investigates the implications of indistinct belonging to contemporary cities for design as an
act of resistance. Using the work of Italian political militant and philosopher Paolo Virno on the relations
between potential and act, the paper draws a diagram of design which is not an actualization
of potential (say the material appearance of generic forms of architecture as testament to
the constituent power of the general public), given by historical contingency (say the codes, legislations
and normalisations that are in force owing to the constituted power of the sovereign).
Rather, to Virno, the historical is given by a relation, postured in time, between potential as an
unactualisable permanent not-now, and the act which is altogether incommensurable with potentiality.
Virno's reading unleashes a negativity that cannot be absorbed by the synthesising capacity
of the dialectic.