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Ruins of Governmentality

Part 2 Project 2010
Peter Jenkins
Birmingham City University Birmingham UK
A Mass-Surveillance Information Processing, Storage and Feedback Facility

Ruins of Governmentality is a metaphorical architectural exploration of power and control in society, originating largely from the later writings of Michel Foucault, who gives signification to the term governmentality.

The studio theme pointed towards issues of control in society. From initial broader reading of Neitzsche's Will to Power, the Genesis account of the fall of man and various dystopian future sources, the project quickly converged on the connection between the control of the self and control in society.

The first point of departure was to create a graphic novel which, informed by analytical diagramming of relevant philosophical ideas, generated a plausible social context wherein surveillance could be taken to the extreme, thereby facilitating the maximum implementation of governmentality. It was intentional to avoid the "panopticon" prosaism due to its visual fixation - modern surveillance extends far beyond the ocular.

“[Discipline] cannot be identified with any one institution or apparatus precisely because it is a type of power, a technology, that traverses every kind of apparatus or institution linking them, prolonging them and making them converge and function in a new way.” [Gilles Deleuze]

The architecture attempts to embody the very thing Deleuze would seem to imply only exists metaphysically. Employing real human brains to store, process and feed back all of society's information within a self sufficient, self sustainable and semi-organic hive, the intervention is set against the backdrop of a ruined cathedral in Coventry, symbolic of the former dominative orders of power as both a church and a significant WWII bomb site.

Despite a significant rebuilding program over all other bomb sites in Coventry, the Cathedral is unique in its maintained ruined state, kept as a memory and foundation of what was before. The intervention builds over and onto this, suggestive of democracy's usurpatory takeover, having overthrown medieval theocracy.

Whilst highlighting western society's worship of knowledge alongside the technological convergence of machine and flesh, the project's main aim is to ask the question of whether we are free, and whether we can be.

Peter Jenkins


Peter’s project is the culmination of a semester long fascination with religious beliefs, philosophical tendencies and personal views on the state of the world we live in today. Early on, his ability to weave a complex narrative and to find common overlapping nodes amongst seemingly dissimilar sources, like Nietzsche’s “Will to Power” blended in with the “10 Plagues of Egypt” and Oshii Mamuro’s “Ghost in The Shell” proved a key skill that layered complexity and depth into his conceptual stance from the start. Adding to his vast yet solid repertoire of intricate ruminations, Peter’s most valuable asset during the course was his willingness to try, test and develop the most audacious nonstandard ways to materialize his anxieties.
One of the aspects of his work that was the most exquisite in his project was the amalgamation of ideas, spatial conditions and tectonic arrangements, which to me, blurred the line between narrative (as in a literary device) and architectural enactment (as in a physical construct). Specifically in an instance of his project where paper (books which became an outlawed form of information container) where mixed with bodily fluids (the surplus product of using human brains as the new container for information) to create a novel architectural material, with its own macabre yet subtle set of tectonics. The papier-mâché filigree, creating honeycombed space frames, the layered muscular tissue fabricating tensioned cocoons that held the honeycombs, and ultimately the juxtaposition of the human brain matter into sleek inorganic machines, all contribute to create unexpected spaces and atmospheres. There is also of course within his project, from a socio-philosophical point of view, the comment about information being the new religion and a whole complex narrative which denounces information nowadays as having the same enslaving power that religion used to.
To summarize, a brilliant tour de force that throughout the course dealt in depth and managed to concatenate a considerable amount of incredibly diverse sources, achieving great refinement from the very abstract conceptual premises to the very concrete, resolved and original tectonic manifestations.

Tutor(s)

Mr Kevin W Singh
2010
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