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8-11 Published by: The MIT Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3171403 Accessed: 29/07/2010 11:30
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who in many ways epitomized the Victorian era?His life spanned the nineteenth century. his Victorian sensibilities. changes his mind. for us. we are put off by his florid.edu/projects/hypertext/ landow/victorian/ruskin/ruskinov. From our vantage point at the end of the twentieth century. This picture of Ruskin makes it easy to imag- Assemblage 32: 8-11 ? 1997 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology .his belief in the building as a legible text in which ornament was the medium of communication.stg.brown. Common wisdom would tell us that the core of Ruskin'sviews on architecture . opinionated prose. Ruskin is. Why now John Ruskin. and his intense focus on detail made his workanathema to the modern movement and therefore worthyof neglect in the new age. The most fashionable and influential critic of his place and time.it has been common among architectural historiansto accuse Ruskin of ignorance of building technologies. or in the ubiquitous small. reddishbooks that populate the shelves of used bookstores. writes lines of prose that loop in associa8 tive chains way out beyond where the readerthought s/he was going. Furthermore. and of a failure to apprehend the spatial qualities of buildings: accusations supportedwith carefully excised quotations from Ruskin himself. Even his home page (www. Reading Ruskin can be a maddening experience: he frequently contradictshimself. his relentless faith in God.Jennifer Ruskin Bloomer Redux Jennifer Bloomer is an associate professor of of architectureand professor-in-charge the Post-Professional Programand Laboratoryfor Experimental Design at Iowa State University. Ruskin is. perhapstoo much of that time. and the class snobberyguiding the look down his long nose (this even in the later work in which he pontificates about the dignity of the workingclasses). for most of us.html) reeks of the fussy fuddy-duddy. His endless sermons on the Gothic style hardlyseem worth anyone's time. of a simplistic relaapproach to the structure-ornament tion.These books are alwayscheap: Ruskin is out of fashion. a distantfigure whose irrelevantthoughts have been left behind in a few million wordsrecorded in thirty-ninevolumes. Living only days into the twentieth century. his disdain for classicism. And the way he goes on about the tiniest bit of stone or strokeof paint will drive to distraction the readerwho is looking for the big picture.
gained from a childhood deprivedof toys and hugs. But even in the nineteenth century.as well as in EzraPound'sThe Can"the tos.it adds to its brilliancy.and Finnegans Wake. and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation.Although Pevsner'stheory is.would go on to design the little white chapel on the hill at Ronchamp that Pevsnerberatesin the second edition of Pioneers. In a later chapteron Bataille'sinforme. this time to pass along the ability to see the geometric bones of the world to the rising This boy. commencing with his discussion of "Villa and Cottage Architecture"in the early Poetryof Architecture:"Whitenessdestroysa great deal of venerable character.In using this great whiteness as a figure of foreboding and of a blankness. full of meaning. by taking away all appearanceof age. Paleness of color destroysthe majesty of a building. the champion of ornamented and sculpted architectureboth seems clairvoyantand throwshis own line across the fin de siecle. that white is not to be blamed in the villa for destroyingits antiquity. is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness. for some. And what are we to make of Theo van Doesburg's 1916 drawing"L'Enfant Me'canique (HommageatRuskin)?'Its geometric abstractionbearsa happy resemblance to the image that figuresthe title of first Rosalind Krauss's chapterof The Optical Unconscious. in a wide landscape of snows . discountable for its obvious Anglicizing angle." And later:"Ifthe color is too white.spent many youthful hours staringat Alpine rocks.he writes:"We find. puristEdouardJeanneret. but above all else his obedient silence and his fixed stare?"2 Kraussgoes on to connect Ruskin'slifelong ability."' and The title of this issue. tracing a connection from the recast of the Weimar Art School by Walter Gropius through William Morristo Ruskin as one element of the synthesis of tendencies that Pevsner argues would become the modern movement in architecture. Guy Davenport's stunningessay"The House That JackBuilt"tracksthe labyrinths of Ruskin'sForsClavigerain JamesJoyce's The Dubliners. are:"Andwhat about little John Ruskin. RuskinRedux." Furtheron. neither is it reprehensible. By invoking"the modernistvocation of [Ruskin's]stare. it nevertheless marksa line across the figure of the rift. of this book. But this is not the only picture. allcolor of atheism from which we shrink?6 These are the words of Herman Melville qua Ishmael. for the shadows would make it far too conspicuous.the sourcesof which are not limited to artand architecture. and we should get only " tawdriness. who. In 1851.and secondly. when beholding the white depths of the milky way?Or is it."she describesanother connecting line. without taking away from its depth of tone. Ruskin similarlyemployed the metaphor of whiteness to ruminate on the pale behemoth that had recently appeared in Hyde Park. Ruskinreachesacrossto the twentiethcenturywith more threads.4 The whiteness that would come to characterize modern architecture was an object of Ruskin'sattention. following a note that the appearance of age in a villa is neither desirable nor necessary.Bloomer ine a distinct and abrupt rift between the ideas of the nineteenth-century theorist and twentieth-centurydesign. the year of the publication of Melville's masterpiece.Ruskinappearsagain.a colorless. that as in essence whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color.and harmonises ill with the melancholy tones of surrounding landscape: and this requires detailed consideration. whiteness was something quite more than a choice of surface color: 9 Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartlessvoids and immensities of the universe.with his blond curls and his blue sash and shoes to match. by hinting at a disguised and humble material. Ruskin'swriting seems to prefigure the concerns of architecturalmodernism. pondering the whiteness of the great whale in Moby Dick. therefore. to fix a disinterestedand analyticattention on things with the myth of modernism'sabstractionof the world into geometric pattern. Here. and at the same time the concrete of all colors.a wiping clean the pages of all that has been. where Pound called the labyrinth of the twentiethcentury[where]hispattern torywould developa maze-likepatternfull of sudden surprises tragicblind alleys.The firstwordsof this chapter.suggests something other than a resuscitation . we can have no ornament.3 like Ruskin. first. on the contrary. For there is Nikolaus Pevsner in 1936's Pioneersof the Modern Movement (to be 1949's Pioneersof Modern Design).Ulysses. as harmonising ill with the surrounding landscape.
who is best known as a brilliant and incisive literarycritic.especiallybecause it has room for the whole of your character. Love is the contemptible emotion for theory at the currentfin de siecle. Although Fear and Disgust have been legitimized as topics of speculation.the paint on the canvas . his worksexpressingconcern for the lower classes. in architecture)positions him as a thinker as much at home in the discourse of the close of the twentieth century.an eloquent. Perhapsmost importantly. in A Thousand Plateaux. The apparentlyserial chains of association worktheir ways into nets.and with a radical empiricism that smacks of Derrida. and the gift of iron stains to marblesand jaspers. amplified by Tompkins's. rust- colored soil. by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.They are eloquent.assemblage 32 of a long dead figure. and heartfeltcritique of the inIn stitution of American education."4 Both Tompkins and Ruskin addressan absence in the discursive climates of architecture and academe."1 argues that Ruskin'sanalysisof Turner begins with the fact before him . What has been called the free associative writing of Ruskin is in many ways confluent with nonlinear forms of narrative structureand with electronic hypertext. . And Ruskin'sthoughts. The Latin redux means a returnto home."1 Ruskin'ssewing skills are more appreciated by Hillis Miller. . in every sense of the words. the return of someone who has been in exile or has been travelingfor awhile. dartingabout among superficiallydisparatepassagesand subjects whose relationswere supposed to become clear in the end.and not Miller simply an object of representation.triple love . intelligent. Perhapsthe most unfashionable of all Ruskin'sideas in 1997 is surprisinglyparalleled in Jane Tompkins'sA Life in School: What the TeacherLearned.8 Actually. Ruskin wrote in a patchwork manner.)12 Ruskin'swritingson the political economy. and his cries for architectureas a collaborative professionin which the construction worker's skillsare appreciatedby a deferen- tial architectwould be verymuch at home on the pages of a self-criticalprofessional journaltoday."3 the book. see Charles Reeve's "Godly Untruth"in this issue. Radical stuff indeed. when the silverysheen of Progress has become smeared and tarnished. His tendency to see connections across disciplines and build arguments that are interdisciplinaryis more familiar. as the fogeyish curmudgeon who died at its dawning. 10 . for example. The resultant web would be so complexly woven that excision . who sees Ruskin'slacing of writing with engravingand needlework as a valorizationof the everyday. the creation in which you move. intelligent. and less the evidence of "madness.material act of which culture is a vital part. and heartfelt(if a bit fussy). and back to iron weapons that drawblood.. She describes the practice of a theory that could have come from Ruskin's"Influence of Imagination in Architecture.would unravel ratherthan strengthen it. we can see the self-contradiction that characterizesRuskin'swriting as a skillfully implemented heuristic tool and can recognize this as a good reason to attend his work with some care.. his tiradesagainstgratuitousnovelty. and the creaturesto whom you minister. [but] see that those impulses be headed and centred by one noble impulse. swerves dramaticallyout of her customaryterritory to investigatethe emotional consequences that the educational institution brings to bear on student and teacher alike. the childhood memory of the edge of a waterbasin stained with iron rustand its relation to rustyknives and razors. are powerful catalyststo the crawlingsof skins.9 "infantfetishist of patchwork" Krauss's constructed texts this way a century before this analogue for thinking and writing would by theorized and practiced. and let that be Love . if we are willing to see. as a circuit.thereforeto breathingand blood. Ruskinskillfully unpacks the relation of the painting to the real as well as the question of the real."to us. not a simple line. developing his ideas by accumulation and digression. intersecting other circuits of iron-rich. (For furtherconsideration of Ruskin's analysis. give the rein to all your impulses. terra-cotta tiles. Ruskin'smarked distrustof the notion of progress(in society. ."a lecture given to the members of the Architectural Association in 1857: For this artof yours. in culture. His fascination with the relation of word and image and his interest in the architectonics of systems of knowledge are arguablydifferent only in style of expression from those of more familiar figures closer to us in time. staining. Tompkins.at least in Ruskin'sview .for the artwhich you practise.
(New York: JohnWileyandSons. 1981). 7. I have also been supported in variousways by the kind deeds and good advice of MarkWigley. KristineOttesen Garrigan.and Alicia Kennedy . 3. Ruskin Redux is dedicated to the memory of JayFellows. 108. Francesca Hughes. The Poetryof Architecture: Cottage.The latework Le Corbusier.for offering me the opportunityof this guest editorship. 4.. Krauss. in the production of all the color images in the issue. Notes 1.W. ing state-of-the-art HarrisDimitropoulos has demonstrated once again the potential of the computer beyond quotidian speed of production. .. 8. The Two Paths. During the production. 1967). Thanks to Charles Reeve for reminding me of the Ruskin bits in Miller. paintings."The Work of Iron in Nature. In the 1949MoMA of publication Pioneers transforms he what of ModemDesign. J.and Policy. The Geographyof the Imagination (San Francisco: North Point Press.1877). chair of the Department of Architecture at Iowa State University.architecture graduatestudents at Iowa State. and project in this issue are the work of delightful company. 5. Being Lectureson Art. 2. a mode thatrecallsRuskin. 143. Thanks to Catherine Ingrahamfor recommending and lending it to me. Bob McAnulty. Villa. 10. and I thank them all for making it so. 1859). Etc.105. Mass.and I thank them here for hard work and grace under pressure. Those who know the world'sdemands for the workof Tom Phillips will realize the magnitude of his kindness in making seven new Humument pages especially for this issue of Assemblage. reality can finditscompleteexpression 11 only in the style created by the giants of that by now distant past"(217).1. of Notrenotably Dame-du-Haut Ronchamp.186. In making the design of the cover and endleaves of the issue both beautiful and theoretically substantial. who. triumphant style. 51.has acted far beyond his customarysupport of Assemblageto make this issue happen. Ibid. Thanks Mark to Stankard leadingme for to von Doesburg's mystifying drawing.222. And I came to wonder if Ruskin had not been given short shrift in the scheme of things. 188. Pevsner insists "today's that . KataPhusin (John Ruskin). New York:W. Moby Dick (1851. and Its Application to Decoration and Manufacture(New York:John Wiley and Sons. 1973). I learned I was not alone. as well as his good humor. Hillis Miller. and he is the object of spousal and professional gratitude. 195. Catherine Ingraham.Ruskin on Architecture (Madison: Universityof Wisconsin Press. 12. 1993).The Optical Unconscious. 6. 1. notfit the at did of historical construction. 13.. and I am most gratefulto Richard Solomon and the foundation for their support. The essays. HadarIron and Daryn Edwards. 1992). my skin has crawled with a growing awarenessthat I was more often reaching for the little red books.Bloomer For several years. and JasonVigneri-Beane. handed us a raveling thread to the nineteenth century. with Ruskin'sMaze. Herman Melville. 14. A generous grant from the Graham Foundation brought this issue of Assemblage into being. When I went public with this notion. produced the grotto-esquedeluge of quotations for the frontispiece of Paulette Singley's essay. OpticalUnconThe scious(Cambridge. It has been a great pleasure to work with these individuals.: HarvardUniversityPress.: The MITPress. 151-97. He has also been characteristicallygenerous with his time and expertise. Ruskin. See John Ruskin. 11. Robert Segrest. 9. pattern Pevsner's andhe represents as an interludial it attempt to escapefromthe reality modernism of comto In parable German expressionism. Norton. I thank also the editors of Assemblage Michael Hays.adhering to the aesthetic tenets of Ruskin while exerciselectronic production.Pevsner in haddescribed the firsteditionas a movementintoa full-blown. Rosalind Krauss. Guy Davenport. Mass." in The Two Paths. Art. E. 79. Illustration(Cambridge.
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