Next Babylon: Accidents to Play in

Essay in the form of statements by Marcos Novak, for the publication The Art of the Accident, 1998.

Next Babylon: Accidents to Play in

The Art of the Accident, 1998

When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
Arthur C. Clarke, "Profiles of the Future"
The Idea knows nothing of negation.
Gilles Deleuze, "Difference and Repetition"
The process escapes one person's control, but it matters little knowing who set it off and by whom it will be inflected in turn.
Constant, "New Babylon"


10. Art is the roadbuilding habit (Zeno). It ruptures, then rebuilds, the edge of thought.
09. Architecture is the art of the elaboration of inhabitable space, beyond mere accommodation, in the direction of excess over need.
08. Elegance is the achievement of maximal effect with minimal effort.
07. Both cyberspace and bodyspace are real and physical, and both are inextricably intertwined with the virtual.
06. Cyberspace is constituted by information technologies; bodyspace is augmented by information technologies.
05. Immersion is the transition from bodyspace to cyberspace; Eversion is the transition from cyberspace to bodyspace.
04. Space and time are no longer separate, not even in an everyday sense: a space-time vernacular has developed.
03. Hence, we must speak of a vernacular of augmented space-time, of body-space-time and cyberspace-time.
02. Augmented space-time encompasses the full continuum from body-space-time to cyberspace-time.
01. This new continuum is newspace-time, or newspace, for short, the space proper of transArchitectures.
00. Beauty is objective; meaning is subjective. Both are relational.
000. Accidents will happen.


This text was once much longer, too long for this book. Rather than editing it down manually, and in the interests of exemplifying the art of the accident, I gave the original text over to algorithmic processes that reduced it in size and destabilized its meanings. Naturally, these processes introduced numerous accidents, errors, discontinuities, and unexpected changes, the most obvious of which was the breakdown of hierarchic structure in favor of a structure that is flatter but also more amenable to recombination.

Two countervailing processes were used: first, the main body of the text was submitted to repeated reductions using Data Hammer, a program designed to summarize material found on the Internet. Second, the Babelfish/AltaVista translation program was used to translate a quote from Constant into various languages. Constant's phrase was first rendered into another language, then back into English, then into yet another language, and so on, the output of each step becoming the input for the next step.


[(transAccidents: Point of origin, English:) The process escapes one person's control, but it matters little knowing who set it off and by whom it will be inflected in turn. (Constant, 1974)]

[(transAccidents: English to German:) Der Prozeß entgeht einer Steuerung, das der Person, aber er macht aus wenig weiß, wem es einstellte weg von und durch, wem wird es der Reihe nach gebeugt.]

[(transAccidents: German to English:) The process escapes a control, which for the person, but he makes from few white, whom it adjusted away of and through, whom it in sequence bent.]

· Taking over from an older generation that resisted computation of all sorts at all costs, a generation of young reactionaries is perpetuating a twenty-year lag in architecture's engagement with new challenges, re-enacting the centuries-old Quarrel of the Ancients and the (trans)Moderns.

· Even those who otherwise professed to be committed to critical explorations of the avant-garde potentials of architecture recoiled from the radical reevaluations required by the rude but potent newcomer, reevaluations that challenged theory, research, practice, pedagogy, industry, use, the very definition of architecture, and, most of all, our understanding of space itself.

· Peer pressure, and the sheer necessity of accepting that any conception of critical studies of architectural culture that did not examine these new issues was plainly irrelevant to the rapidly forming new world, ensured that those who did not enter of their own accord were in virtual effect immersed into the liquid new spirit kicking and screaming.

· However self-congratulatory the rhetoric of the small and incestuous architectural voiced minority may have been, by any external measure the slow and reluctant progress made in embracing computers in architectural discourse simply managed to maintain a two-decades-long lag between the edge of possibility and its appearance in so-called advanced architectural thought.

[(transAccidents: English to Portugese:) O processo escapa de um controle, que para a pessoa, mas ele faça de pouco branco, de quem ajustou afastado e através, quem ele na sequência se dobrou.]

[(transAccidents: Portugese to English:) The process escapes of a control, that stops the person, but it makes of little white, of who he justified moved away and through, who it in the sequence if he folded.]

· Still operant, this hermeneutic dilution of the instrumentalized virtual emphasizes the virtual as a latent interpretation superimposed upon a conventional, if highly contorted, built form, but refuses to admit the questions brought about by the advent of intelligent environments, interactive, latent, and invisible form, non-local and non-retinal social space, telepresence, augmented reality, nanospace, ubiquitous and inhabitable computing, the morphogenetic space of complex adaptive systems, and the many advanced contemporary understandings of the "topochronometry" of space-time, in sum all those aspects of newspace that I have collected under the term "transarchitectures," heralding emerging, unprecedented spatial practices and modes of inhabitation.

· Instead of seeking to foster the variety of new literacies that are necessary within our new context, various forms of critical studies of architectural culture aim at theorizing computation from an arm-chair philosopher's viewpoint.

· We have proven that we cannot access the sum of what is true by logic and formalism alone: intuition is necessary to bridge the vast deserts of noise that span the distances between isolated, rare, relevant, true, powerful statements.

· However, in the context of the discussion of the relation of virtuality to architecture, a distinction made by Deleuze is being echoed as a mantra across current discourse and is leading to serious confusion.

[(transAccidents: English to French:) Les évasions de processus d'une commande, ces des arrêts la personne, mais lui fait de peu de blanc, de qui il a justifié déplacé loin et à travers, qui il dans l'ordre s' il se pliait.]

[(transAccidents: French to English:) The escapes from process of a command, these of the stops the person, but makes him little of white, which it justified moved far and through, which it in the order if he yielded.]

· This partitioning of terms has been taken as a rallying cry and is repeated widely, not as a clarifying concept leading to a more productive engagement with new challenges but as a political password for mutual recognition of initiated insiders in an incestuous and unchecked discussion.

· That the direction of this line of thought is suspect can be seen by the fact that the conclusion reached by those who follow it is that architecture has always been virtual, or, at least, has always engaged virtuality, and that the virtual is in some sense that which is immanent in a work, that which is in some ways essential, and is in any case present but inaccessible, without reference to information technology and computation, without in other terms a substrate of implementation.

· Drawing upon both mathematics and biology to distinguish between "differentiation" and "differentiation," and positing a complex double concept of "different/tiation," Deleuze himself is clear about the tangibility of the virtual.

[(transAccidents: English to Spanish:) Los escapes del proceso de un comando, éstos de las paradas la persona, pero le hacen poco del blanco, que alineó movido lejos y por, que él en el orden si él rindió.]

[(transAccidents: Spanish to English:) The escapes of the process of a commando, these of the shutdowns the person, but do little to him of the target, that it far aligned moved and by, which he in the order if it rendered.]

· He goes so far as to grant the virtual a manner of objectivity, writing "indeed the virtual must be defined as strictly a part of the real object, as though the object had one part of itself in the virtual into which it plunged as if into an objective dimension."

· There is no doubt that the perennial Palladio continues to fascinate architects because of the discrepancy between what he built and what he drew, and the evidence this offers regarding the priority he placed on the metaphysical aspect of architecture.

· It is in remembering Plato that we can see how Deleuze's comment has been troped to bring architectural discourse to a reactionary position: the virtual has been equated with the Platonic ideal and has thus become metaphysical in an antiquated sense not at all consonant with Deleuze's sense of the ideal.

[(transAccidents: English to Italian:) Le fughe del processo d'un commando, queste degli arresti la persona, ma fanno piccolo a lui dell' obiettivo, che lontano ha allineato mosso e da, che lui nell' ordine se rendesse.]

[(transAccidents: Italian to English:) The escapes of the process of a command, these of the arrests the person, but make small to he of the objective, than far away it has aligned moved and from, than he in the order if it rendered.]

· Confusing the virtual with the ideal makes us disregard what is most important about the project of constructing a technologically embodied virtuality, which is exactly that it is virtuality made explicit, immersive, empirical, and shareable.

· The pursuit of the impossible for the purpose of recuperating it into the possible is still a concrete project, unlike the pursuit of the impossible for the sake of leaving it on the side of the metaphysical, which is an abstract effort that leans toward the unchecked and the facile-fantastic.

· Just as the recognition of the embodied mind renders obsolete the Cartesian mind-body division, the virtual-as-construct enacts an embodied virtuality that is engaged in the world as we are constructing it, in all its problematic but rich specificity.

· The virtual-as-ideal, on the other hand, stops short of engaging the underlying matrix of physics and materiality that makes both mind and cyberspace possible; the virtual-as-ideal limits itself to making isolated conventional forms in conventional space, dressing them in rhetorical conceit, and leaving the world unchanged.

[(transAccidents: English to German:) Die Entweichen des Prozesses eines Befehls, diese der Anhalten die Person, aber bilden klein zu ihm des Lernziels, als weit weg es bewogen und von, als er in der Ordnung übereingestimmt hat, wenn es übertrug.]

[(transAccidents: German to English:) An escaping of the process of an instruction, this for that stopping the person, but form small to it the training aim, when far away moved it and of, when it corresponded in the order, if it transferred.]

· It should be obvious at this point that while the virtual-as-ideal operates by trooping and interpretation to enact power-plays of membership and exclusion, the virtual-as-construct encompasses a variety of existing, emerging, and still-to-be-invented forms of expression, including liquid architectures, transArchitectures, hypersurface architectures, and other as-yet-unnamed alien hybrids of bodyspace and cyberspace.

· The need for new skills is already becoming evident as architects begin to embrace computer animation and simulation software in which understandings of differential geometry and scripting are required.

· Citizens are seen as creative nomads free to alter the environment as they see fit, employing the Situationist panoply of concepts for life-against-boredom: détournement, décor, the dérive, the labyrinth, unitary urbanism, ambiance, psychogeography. 13 [(transAccidents: English to French:) S'échapper du processus d'une instruction, ceci pour cet arrêt de la personne, mais forment petit à lui le but de formation, une fois loin écarté lui et de, quand il a correspondu dans la commande, s' il transférait.]

[(transAccidents: French to English:) To escape from the process of an instruction, this for this stop of the person, but form small with him the goal of formation, once far isolated him and from, when it corresponded in the command, if it transferred.]

· Non-Situationists saw a proposal that involved a re-evaluation of architecture and life on such a grand scale that it seemed impossible to implement under any known or foreseeable political economic or social system.

· This is because there is no question that his proposals are critiques of the reality within which he worked and that the realization of his propositions would require substantial changes to that reality.

· Constant's spaces never seem to have specific functions or to explain themselves in terms of utility, and though there is a fascination with a labyrinthine interiority, it is always unclear how one would actually dwell there.

· It is as if Constant were able to sense virtual space as we now understand it but did not have the means to reconcile the vision with the techniques of his time, and so proposed what he saw in his mind's eye using the materials and techniques at hand, however inadequate those were to the vision.

· The megastructural framework that was to cover the entire planet has been replaced with the infrastructure of the global Internet, the World Wide Web, and the convergence of the cellular telephony grid with constellations of low-earth orbit satellites that bring the whole earth within wireless electronic reach.

[(transAccidents: English to Spanish:) Para escaparse del proceso de una instrucción, esto para esta parada de la persona, sino formar pequeño con él la meta de la formación, una vez que lejos le esté aislado y de, cuando correspondió en el comando, si transfirió.]

[(transAccidents: Spanish to English:) In order to escape of the process of an instruction, this for this shutdown of the person, but to form small with him the goal of the formation, once far he is to him isolated and of, when it corresponded in the commando, if it transferred.]

· The lack of personal possessions and the sharing of common goods is already the case in multi-user environments, where spaces are built by copying and using convenient shareware components, a practice that is entirely sensible when the copy is identical to the original and the cost of reproduction is marginal.

· The lack of specific function is totally in keeping with the liquid variability of algorithmic space and is in perfect agreement with McLuhan's insistence that the meaning of a medium is the medium itself, not any particular content that happens to be transmitted through it, just as the meaning of the telephone is telecommunications, not any particular conversation however important or unimportant.

· These can be just as easily transposed to virtual space per se as they can to intelligent physical space, that is to say, they exist in the domain of newspace, the continuum between real and virtual that is the domain of transArchitectures.

[(transAccidents: English to French:) Afin de s'échapper du processus d'une instruction, ceci pour cet arrêt de la personne, mais former petit avec lui le but de la formation, une fois que loin il est à lui a isolé et de, quand il a correspondu dans le commando, s' il transférait.]

[(transAccidents: French to English:) In order to escape from the process of an instruction, this for this stop of the person, but to form small with him the goal of the formation, once that far it is with him isolated and from, when it corresponded in the commando, if it transferred.]

· There are people we only meet when both they and we are in a third space, either online or in some part of a new city that is unknown to us but still to our liking, our new next Soft Babylon.

· Constant's efforts are unbuildable but are nevertheless concerned with a concrete utopia that liberates the real, while the architecture of the virtual-as-ideal may be buildable but is still concerned with an abstract utopia that explores the impossible under the guise of the antiquated immanent and metaphysical.

· Constant's propositions challenge not only the shape of architecture but the shape of the society that would produce it and inhabit it; the architecture of the virtual-as-ideal proposes new shapes but leaves the society that would produce them unchallenged.

[(transAccidents: English to German:) um vom Prozeß einer Anweisung zu entgehen, lokalisierte dieses für diesen Anschlag der Person, aber klein mit ihm das Ziel der Anordnung zu bilden, sobald das weit es mit ihm ist und von, als es im Kommando entsprach, wenn es übertrug.]

[(transAccidents: German to English:) in order to escape from the process of a statement, this localized for this impact of the person, to form but small with him the target of the arrangement, as soon as that is far it with it and of, when it corresponded in the command, if it transferred.]

· Anyone who has ever attempted to design something for cyberspace knows full well that the limitations are severe, that resources must be expended sparingly, that numerous standards must be complied with, and that careful engineering is required just to make even the simplest things happen.

· The space-time that opens in the span of the hyperlink is not the space-time of virtual reality as conventionally understood, but a meta-space-time, an initially indeterminate intermediate space and time that opens in passing from the token upon which the link is hung to the destination to which the link points.

· This is the curious space-time that is presently underutilized by being filled with information of merely peripheral interest, such as rates of the data transfer and estimated times of task completion, for instance, a space-time waiting to be used as a space-time proper to new tectonics.

[(transAccidents: English to Portugese:) a fim escapar-se do processo de uma indicação, isto localizou para este impacto da pessoa, ao formulário mas pequeno com ele o alvo do arranjo, assim que aquele fosse distante ele com ele e de, quando correspondeu no comando, se transferisse.]

[(transAccidents: Portugese to English:) the end to run away itself of the process of an indication, this located for this impact of the person, to the form but small with it the target of the array, thus that that one was distant it with it and of, when corresponded in the command, if transferred.]

· Using cutouts from the plan of Paris and a graphic language of bold arrows signifying links across discontiguous space The Naked City anticipates an urban condition in which remote urban locations are linked together, not according to proximity but according to an orchestration of psychogeographic ambiences.

· Indeed, the negotiation of such inter- or trans-spaces has become an integral part of the art of cinema, allowing the editor of the cinematic image to act as the architect of the meanings by which discontiguity is spanned without decaying into discontinuity.

· What is being done for two-dimensional space must also be done for linked spaces of three or more dimensions, morphing not only the perspectival screen images of interlinked spaces but the three-or-more dimensional contents of those space-times, crossfading between both forms and behaviors.

· A history of architecture can be written on the basis of how the transition from one space to another has been elaborated through time and culture, as evidenced in the design of entries and fenestration.

[(transAccidents: Italian to English:) l' estremità da funzionare via in se del processo d'un' indicazione, questa situata per questo effetto della persona, alla forma ma piccolo con esso l' obiettivo dell' allineamento, così di che quell' era distante esso con esso e di, una volta corrisposto nel comando, se trasferito.]

[(transAccidents: Italian to English:) the extremity to work via in if of the process of an indication, this situated for this effect of the person, to the small shape but with it the objective of the alignment, therefore of that that was distant it with it and of, once corresponded in the commando, if transferred.]

· "In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni," "we go round and round in the night and are consumed by fire" was the motto of the Situationist International and the title of a film by Guy Debord.

· We can easily crossfade Marx's "all that is solid melts into air" into "all that is solid melts into information" and "all that is information melts into hyperspace."

· The spectacle dominates our times and New Babylon is being built, not as a megastructural web around the surface of the planet but as Soft Babylon, as both the infrastructural virtual space within the global internet and as the hidden impulse in the making of transurban transmodern bodyspace.

[(transAccidents: English to Spanish:) persona, a la dimensión de una variable pequeña pero con él el objetivo de la alineación, por lo tanto de el que era distante con ella y de, correspondido una vez en el comando, si está transferida.]

[(transAccidents: Spanish to English:) the extremity to work via inside if of the process of an indication, this located for this effect of the person, to the dimension of a small variable but with him the objective of the alignment, therefore of which he was distant with her and of, corresponded once in the commando, if it is transferred.]

· New formal explorations of conventional architecture will no doubt continue as powerful tools alter the range of what can be conceived or constructed both in bodyspace and in cyberspace, but the newest challenges will be non-retinal, dynamic and abstract.

· There is no way to escape the fire of spectacle, only to resist it and from time to time fly through it fast enough not to catch fire.

· Both the new Ancients and the transmoderns are caught in its field of attraction, but perhaps the transmoderns will remain liquid and learn to play with fire while the reactionary new Ancients simply dehydrate, ignite, and flame away.


· Newspace is being constructed by big technology, at the service of big commerce, motivated by big interests, and likely to make big mistakes.

· Odysseus, like the historical trickster, the Situationist, and the contemporary hacker, is a figure who is both self-disciplined and insubordinate.

· We play music, serious music, why not play architectures, serious architectures, transArchitectures.

· Round and round we go: In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni.


Andreotti, Libero and Costa, Xavier (eds.) (1996) "Situationists: Art, Politics, Urbanism," Barcelona: Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona.
Andreotti, Libero and Costa, Xavier (eds.) (1996) "Theory of the Dérive and other Situationist Writings on the City," Barcelona: Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona.
Clarke, Arthur C. (1973) "Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry Into The Limits of the Possible," New York: Harper & Row, Publishers.
De Melo Pimenta, Emanuel (1997) "Arquitectura Virtual: Architécti," Vol. VII, Nov/Dez/Jan 98, Barcelona: Editora Trifório, LDA.
Deleuze, Gilles (1968), "Différence et Repetition," Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.
Lambert, Jean-Clarence (ed.) (1997) "New Babylon: Constant: Art et Utopie: Textes Situationnistes," Paris: Éditions Cercle d'Art.
Lefèbvre, Henri (1991) "The Production of Space," Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, Ltd.
Matsunaga, Naomi (1998) "Transarchitectures in Cyberspace: Ten Architects Who Stimulate The World," Tokyo: Nikkei BP.
Möller, Christian (1994) "Interaktive Architekture," Berlin: Aedes Galerie für Architektur und Raum.
Plant, Sadie (1992) "The Most Radical Gesture: The Situationist International in a Postmodern Age," London: Routledge.
Sadler, Simon (1998) "The Situationist City," Cambridge: MIT Press.
Sakamura, Ken and Suzuki, Hiroyuki (1997) "The Virtual Architecture: The Difference between the Possible and the Impossible in Architecture," Tokyo: Tokyo University Digital Museum.
Soja, Edward W. (1996) "Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-And-Imagined Places," Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, Ltd.
Levine, Joseph M. (1991) "The Battle of the Books: History and Literature in the Augustan Age," Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

i Arthur C. Clarke (1973) "Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry Into The Limits of the Possible," New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, p. 14.
ii Gilles Deleuze, "Difference and Repetition," New York: Columbia University Press, p. 207.


© 1998 Marcos Novak / V2_

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