Interior: Twelve Points on the Phenomenology of Empire

buckminster fuller dome on fire 2 exp

(Originally appearing in E.R.O.S Journal no. 7, ‘Interior’)

  1. Interior is an absolute condition—it both precedes its own construction and defines itself in contrast to nothing. Interior has no exterior.

  2. Interior is meta-architecture: it is the technological attempt of architecture to transcend itself through the act of pure enclosure—an architecture so vast as to contain the world. It is architecture separating itself from itself. This is why the objects that constitute the space of Interior are a kind of inchoate architecture—an architecture which, separated from itself, becomes senseless.

  3. Interior is historically produced. Benjamin’s famous interrogation of the nineteenth century interior found it to consist of multiple forms—multiple interiors existing in tension with one another and thus standing in contrast to a general exteriority of the modernizing world beyond. The domestic interior achieves a level of withdrawal from the ‘reality’ of capitalist labor precisely in its opposition to the space of work, the space of the commodity (arcades). Here, interior persists in the classical sense of a space known and perceived in its negation of exteriority. It is a space in which illusion dictates, protecting the individual bourgeois from the trials of labor that reside in its invisible exterior. It becomes the cocoon of natural eternity, immune to the modernizing city outside, the experience of the arcade, the micro-politics of capital. This is interior in gestation. If interior was, for Benjamin, the space of a withdrawal from the world, today, interior has replaced the world. Withdrawal is no longer possible.

  4. Interior admits no limits, despite the fact that limits are what define it. Interior is sea-like architecture. It is fluid space without dimensions, whose orientation is permanently relative. Just as Interior has no limits, it is decentralized, perceivable only as a horizon. Interior is topological. Neither experienced as a legible space nor understandable as architecture, the meta-architecture of Interior appears by rendering concrete what is virtual in origin. It is spaceless.

  5. Interior admits no negativity. This is not because it precludes negativity, but because it translates it through a lexicon of positivities; it conceals it through gestures, encapsulates it in casual swaggers, it molds it into a confident stride. It interiorizes negativity as a thousand mobile interiors circulating across its smoothness. Negativity as such is never constructive since it remains always partial, forgotten, embryonic. Negativity in Interior thus becomes pathological, precluding its conscious mobilization as a directed rupture.

  6. Interior is a relation of transparency. Interior has no cracks, no nooks, no obscurity. Shadows exist only to project the otherwise invisible presence of interior. It is a space of total illumination. It is the infrastructure which enables a total visibility of human behavior. Interior is where life is coerced by exposing it to itself. It is conduct made spatial. Interior is a space felt through interpellation. It is a space of voluntary yet total participation. Its power is passive and increasingly relies on the spatial effects it produces by exposing life to the sublime terror of sharing a single, crystalline space. Its architectonics mold social relations into quasi-occult gestures, signaled codes—communication as pure form without content—a totalizing transparency that presses all opacity into a paranoid non-relation to the self. It is the electrification of the socius with an anxious potentiality—a totalizing charge that reduces life to its generalized conduct. Interior is an architecture of silence. Yet in its monopoly over silence, it forbids silence from those who inhabit it. It is a space of coerced chatter. The space of interior speaks endlessly one phrase: “everything is ok.”

  7. Interior is an architectonics of crisis. It is Empire’s insides. It reconstructs the world as a world of interiors. Yet because interior is not so much an architecture, we could say that it is instead the phenomenology of Empire. Lacking a spatial exteriority, what stands at the threshold of Interior, permanently pressing in on its delicate transparency, is crisis. In the theatre of crisis, Interior deploys contingency to assert an atmospheric, displaced authority. It is law made immediate, spatial, affective, total.

  8. Interior is a technology of subjectivity. Yet far from producing subjectivity, the glassy horizon of Interior destroys it since the operative consistency of subjectivity would presuppose the singularity and visibility of power. In its place Interior manages the perpetual coordination of life not as a mass of bodies (as in Hobbes), but as a homeostasis of individual bodies, each enacting its own machinic trajectory in space. Interior displaces. It demands perpetual motion. It achieves stability as an equilibrium of non-aligned bodies set in constant motion. This is why the only orientation interior permits is that relativized to each individual body. If all motion stops, if motions begins to cohere into motion, its stasis is compromised and interior becomes dangerous, volatile.

  9. Interior is the ‘inferno of the Same’ (Byung-Chul Han). Interior thrives on a currency of terror produced by constructing itself as an arena of potentially limitless Otherness. It is this terror which gives consistency to the experience of interior whose neutralization is guaranteed by the universally voluntary abandonment of human countenance. Interior eliminates the Other amidst a mass of circulating bodies. This is why images that depict interior always privilege the body from the back.

  10. Interior is implosive: Security is experienced as the act of interior collapsing in on a point of irregularity. It is perhaps the only time when interior momentarily leaps forth from its atmospheric invisibility, only to evaporate again into the void of its perpetual peace. Violence, in Interior, is the sudden shift of background to foreground.

  11. Interior annihilates history. It squeezes time with the pure gravity of its total illumination of the present. Time in interior collapses in on itself into a single point. Surrogate histories abound within a space-time in which risk presents itself in the permanence of its absence. Interior is the unfolding of future in realtime.

  12. Interior preserves life by ‘futureproofing’ it. It is a crystalline Leviathan, the silent sky under which life voluntarily reproduces its most innocent, automatic gestures.

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