“Control and Remoteness“
The German term for remote control is ‘Fernbedienung’, or op-erating from a distance. In contrast to the English term, this sounds old-fashioned, even romantic. The older, more correct German term ‘Fernsteuerung’ meant steering from a distance. In both words two notions meet in a fantastic way. Both suggest that it is possible by means of remote controls to start and op-erate or steer objects and mechanisms from a distance. Operation starts instantly, without the person who operates and the object put to his/her service coming into bodily contact. Such an invisibly effective act borders on the miraculous—people would have thought in the past—and miracles are basically only wrought by gods and saints.
In his famous ceiling fresco in the Sistine Chapel (1502–1512) Michelangelo depicted the creation of Adam. God’s finger appears like a remote control with which He breathes a soul, consciousness and creativity into man. The artist has placed this divine finger in simply electrifying proximity to Adam’s beautiful, very relaxed hand. The eyes of God follow His finger (or is it the other way round?) to look straight into the eyes of the first man on earth.
Something is happening in the ‘here and now’: God’s omnipotence rouses idle and unconscious Adam to alert action, and Michelangelo’s representation thus conveys an inkling of what we today are increasingly becoming aware of (or irritated by), namely the question whether, and if so to what degree, all of us are in some way remote-controlled.
In his comprehensive study titled ‘Masse und Macht’ (Mass and Might), Elias Canetti has reported a precursor of remote controls in sensual gestalt, i.e. the power system of the Mongolians who were feared for their cruelty. Their power rested on two ‘pillars’, first the horse, the fastest means of transport at the time, and second the (bow and) arrow. On leaving the bow, the arrow was like an anathema hitting the enemy immediately.
The arrow contained the power of the imperative, the might of the mighty to kill and punish. This concept which started with the arrowshot is still the basis for every gun—be it pistol, rifle or canon: at the pull of a trigger or push of a button, the projectile moves forward, steered, and ideally penetrates the surface point the marksman has aimed at. Contemporary missile technology is capable of even more. The missile is remote-controlled and changes its trajectory in flight.
Gods and weapons may be seen as models for the concept of remote control. Both claim to be almighty, from which follows that in their actions they are infallible and create independent, new forms of reality. And yet—not every finger, every switch or trigger serves to remote-control. In any case, the best tele-steer-ing systems are those with invisible modes of command, for example the human voice and language. Commands, contents and sentiments are released by means of invisible articulation (And God said, ‘Let there be light’) to activate action, behaviour and emotions. The invisible reality of language contains multiple realities and generates recognizable facts.
With reality turned profane, everybody has become an ‘executor’ by remote control, every individual has become a god or goddess, a guiding weapon. There is hardly an area of human existence that could not be determined by this ‘teletool’. This is the context in which Anton Markus Pasing speaks of the ‘omnipotentor’. Part of his architectural philosophy ranges as ‘remote controlled architecture’ and speculates about the future of architectures for people to whom the holodeck, Techno and CAD are established facts, just like the nimbus, the chorale and the sacraments were for the early generations of Christendom.
The tele-steering sys-tems of the Electronic Age are the remote controls first devised for military purposes and astronautics and later released for civil-ian marketing. They form the indispens-able basis of almost every computer game. At the push of a button or the pull of a finger, animated parallel worlds move on the screen: racing cars and robots, frogs, horses, arrows and basic-ally everything mobile.
The remote control operates the world which lets itself be steered and controlled—at least in the comput-er-game worlds.
)These have made their mark on the images and notions of reality, simulation and virtuality held by the younger generation born around 1970. It is therefore justified that Anton Markus Pasing looks into the potential architectural demands and ideas of the next generation which sociologist Heinz Bude has termed ‘generation Berlin’.(1)
In one of his texts, Pasing speculates about the ‘expenditure of adaptive performance necessary for these people (i.e. the members of the Techno generation born around 1970) to feel at home in a newly built German residential area’ and reckons that the pressure to adapt is ‘immense’. ‘Or do you simply turn the music up, buy designer clothes, close your eyes and dream of fantastic worlds or clear spaces?’
For him, anything is possible in the future, even the emergence of a species which feeds on glass, of course only on the glass owned by people who confound the use of the term transparency with concept. Inveterate voyeurs or inferior imitators, for example! (2)
Since the Renaissance, the epigonic or voyeuristic patterns of identification are part of the repertoire of biographies on offer. Still today, the line runs between imitating slumber or voyeurist views of what is creative. Epigonic or voyeuristic living is an option of Modernism valid for bourgeois concepts and their contexts.
Postmodernism—as shown by Anton Markus Pasing’s concrete architectonic futurism—no longer understands the supra-consis-tency of socio-technological connections, no longer participates in the remote controlling processes which shake our culture. Only designs and a variety of futures remain. The latter are tentatively surmised and in their test arrangement show the characteristics of the hybrid. ‘Genesis 9’ (3) happens in the architectural emergency.
1 Heinz Bude, Generation Berlin. Berlin, 2001.
2 See: Anton Markus Pasing, remote controlled architecture, Wiesbaden, 1998, p. 100.
3 ‘Genesis 9’ is how Anton Markus Pasing has entitled his design of an artificial human being, or robot.