Benjamin Bratton on Thu, 10 Apr 2003 05:47:45 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Biotech + Architecture + Politics + the English

Dear Mr. Butt, 

Thanks for your comments, but I think significant elements of the piece are
missed by your reading and characterizations. I am baffled that you would
see this as a promo piece for genetic engineering. I would refer you once
more to the entire concluding section of the piece, "Genomic Affect and
Instrumental Sustainability: Bio-Ethics of Multiplication and

First let me say that my interest is precisely in the cultures of
biotechnology; and not just in the high science laboratory version, but
truly the more prosaic, quotidian forms of polymorphous embodiment that
would ever even link biology and technology as a condition through which
culture does, or could ever, 'take place.'

The "Technoscientific culture of no culture" is exactly, specifically not
the position from which the work explores that condition. There is, perhaps
to a fault, almost no science in work, but a rather dense weaving of
cultural positions and propositions.

I would also think that It should be clear from the work that issues of
gender are in fact paramount to my consideration of bodies, post-bodies, and
architectonic embodiment.  In this case, the issue at stake is the sexuality
of built form itself, not the sexuality of "space" per se, as Grosz,
Colomina, Butler, Lavin, Burgin, Morris, Weiss, Wigley and others have
mapped with agendas for more fundamentally incongruous than your monolithic
invocation of "gender critique" would allow.

The sweep "from Rabbi Loew to Stan Lee..." refers not to a universal
singularization of the subject of biotechnologial imagination, but precisely
to the unresolvable variation.

...and if you don't read "irony" in the notion of "fuckable architecture"
(and the citation from this phrase to a site selling dildos) then you are
not reading well. 

More importantly, it is precisely what exceeds our capabilities to decide in
advance (critically, ethically, politically) that makes biotech (in all its
guises) something through which we should rethink the premises of collective

I paste the concluding paragraph...

"The integrations of recombinant, nanotechnological and pervasive
computational technologies into a indiscrete hybrid of digital, mechanical,
and biotechnologies drive radical shifts in our perceptions of body, family,
collective, space, city, region and environment. As a momentum of
desolidification, this techno-genomic modernity is of course about much more
than architecture per se. These integrations and disintegrations reopen
Œcode¹ to radical, even monstrous modes of experimentation that leave us
without adequate Œexpert systems¹ to arbitrate them, and without certain
capacity to adjudicate in advance our own inevitable involvements.

A few months ago, when asked by a New York Times reporter about the ethical
difference between genomic design and eugenics, I said that ³projects which
singularize our standards of beauty are probably bad, and projects which
multiply our standards of beauty are probably good.² Bioartist Adam Zaretsky
wants blue-skinned children, and why, ultimately, is that worse than wanting
blue-eyed children?"

Does this honestly strikes  you as an evasion of race and gender
problematics? If so I would suggest that take the time to deliberately
update your vocabularies of these. Reification, to be sure, is the highest
form of "suppression."

I would anticipate the most successful utilizations of biotechnology and
architecture have and will continue to come not from laboratories but from
animate bodies and lived locations themselves. However, the irresponsible
surrender of speculative lab-based biotechnology to the domain of colonial,
patriarchical "technoscience" is exaclty the sort of frightened, smug
posture that any truly creative praxis must circumvent as a matter of
principle and survival.

But I fear that you are quite comfortable with the notion that this is all
just too much; and that bodies (raced bodies, gendered bodies, sexual
bodies, laboring bodies, etc.) are no such conditional, variable
incorporations, but are rather relatively static categorical
subject-operations of a relatively stable biopower or class power. If so,
then it is you, not I, that writes culture as if from nowhere.

Put plainly, the interest is in building beyond the bodies we know. This is
the future of the city.


On 4/9/03 4:22 PM, "Danny Butt" <> wrote:

> Shaun wrote: 
>> So I delight in the philistinism of being able to say, 'Show me the bricks
>> and mortar'.
> Or more concretely - and, um foundationally - than the missing "bricks and
> mortar", perhaps, is the lack of reflexivity around the cultural framework
> of the biotechnological and architectural theories employed in Benjamin's
> initial piece.

Benjamin H. Bratton
The Culture Industry

SCI_Arc (The Southern California Institute of Architecture)
UCLA, Department of Design | Media Arts

(323) 646-8071 (mobile) | (323) 661-2691 (office) | (213) 613-2260 (fax)

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