Licentiousness, yes, but subject to tight control. Architects, reformers and literati of the eighteenth century coincide in projecting or imagining houses of pleasure inspired by the panopticon of Bentham or anticipating its radial and controlling configuration: the ideal city conceived by Ledoux (in which could not be absent a temple for sex education, the Oikema) is built around that central eye; In The 120 days of Sodom, Sade gives semicircular form to the hall of the castle of Silling, with the dressing rooms of perversions equidistants of the central throne that the narrator occupies.
CCCB’s exhibition 1000 m2 of desire includes plans and models of both, located in the Black Forest and the forest of Chaux respectively, obverse and reverse of the understanding of the architecture as scenario of initiation rites, directing gestures and looks. From the disciplinary to the lustful eye, the boundary between the two is diffuse.
Bentham himself, who Foucault catapulted as a propitiator of biopower technology, was on the other hand a staunch defender of sexual freedom, facing the misogyny of his time and the vexation of homosexuals, as explain the curators of this show Adelaide Caters and Rosa Ferré.
But truly revolutionary sexual utopia would come from the hand of another unclassifiable genius, Charles Fourier, philosopher of the passions, cataloging a wide variety of characters according to desires, tastes and sexual manias. In harmonious age these would not be repressed and furthermore will become the driving force of human relations. Passional attraction would engender fluid environments within the phalanstére, such as gastronomic and orgiastic meetings. Fourier took the city-palace model from the Palais Royale (the red-light Parisian district of the time), but in Harmony prostitution would have no reason for being because marriage would not exist, nor the hypocrisy that gangrene the current system.
In the exhibition Fourier shares space with a video montage (by Andrés Hispano and Felix Pérez Hita) about the hippie communes, since they put into practice the utopia of free love and, as their distant mentor, fought against human alienation and mechanization. The video includes archival material on Drop City, the mythical community housed in cupulated structures as a country version of Buckminster Fuller’s geodesics.
In the psychoactive minds of artists of the sixties the walls of the phallansterium melt, expand, contract … become elastic by the effect of a sensory cocktail of light, aroma, color, sound, vapor, lysergic substances and high tech. Pneumatic constructions and multimedia spaces (Nicolas Schöffer‘s Sex Entertainment Center, pionner in understanding the architecture as a psychosomatic and multimedia art work, has been recreated in a installation piece), Archigram‘s pleasure cities and Hans Rucker-Co‘s expansive helmets for couples , suppose the definitive rupture of the distance between the subject and the space. It becomes immersive, modulated by the libidinal flow.
In this context of orgasmic euphoria related to architecture and furniture, it is not surprising that the cinema popularized Wilhelm Reich‘s orgonic energy accumulator (also reproduced in the show) with films such as Woody Allen’s Sleeper and Roger Vadim’s Barbarella. Reich, like Fourier but from the field of psychoanalysis, understood that sexual repression was the cause of the evils of civilization.
Reich’s orgasmic machines were also introduced in the Californian houses designed by Richard Neutra, whose therapeutic conception of architecture was translated into the better use of the sun with bedroom porches and, in general, in the conception of the home as high standing camping. Sunbathe, uninhibited sexuality and vegetarian diet were advocated in those Philip Lovell’s adepts, naturalism align with to a clean lines architecture. This thoughts are introduced by Beatriz Colomina, who also has curated the extensive section dedicated to Playboy and its synergies with modern architecture and leading designers of the moment.
Playboy magazine was revolutionary not because of its erotic or pornographic content but because it was fully involved in forging the image of a homely man, careful of the decoration, an authentic housekeeper for who every detail (furniture, lighting, spaces distribution) had to be destined to seduction. In one of its first numbers, the magazine publishes a guide of 25 steps for love conquest, from the vestibule to the bed.
An audiovisual explain to us those 25 steps, among the emblematic furniture that the magazine is responsible to publicise (Womb armchair of Saarinen, Ferrari-Hardoy’s butterfly chair…) Later we find a reproduction of the bed-office of Hugh Hefner, surrounded by television monitors.
This round bed, which included all kinds of communication devices, was the center of operations for the Playboy director. He was the quintessential model of the “interior man”, who just left his mansion to enter into other interiors made in his image and likeness: his clubs or his private jet, Big Bunny, whose scale model is exposed next to the bed.
The magazine was a platform for the diffusion of experimental architecture, being the futuristic capsules that proliferated in the imagery of space age ideal stage for the playboy man, such as the inflatable and sensual structures of Ant Farm, whose documentary about his House of the Century can also be seen here.
The final section of the route is dedicated to what the curators call sexographies, which would be defined by the current cartographies of sexuality, in the global era, in the era of the conversion of sexuality into merchandise and part of the tourism industry. Although the desire will not cease to look for its nooks and crannies in the urban walks, today the dark rooms have become a relic of analogical times. To this search of liminal spaces of desire was aimed the mapping of dark rooms in Barcelona, done by Pol Esteve and Marc Navarro. None of these places remain standing (the pages of contacts on the Internet make them unnecessary), fact that gives to this field work an archaeological value.
It seems that Fourier’s dream of liberating sexual manias has been fulfilled: cybernetics allows you to satisfy them either with your Second Life avatar (see Yann Minh‘s work) or finding paraphilic affinities on social networks (the photographic mosaic of Jean-Didier Bergilez gives us an idea). But these manias or affiliations are not the basis of social harmony, but the subterfuge to avoid the unbearable daily life. In the video Home and body (Hispano y Pérez Hita, the duo of Soy Cámara) the García Calvo voice in off of and radio transmissions talking about the house as metaphor of the body and on the fallacy of individual freedom overlap with irony to images of sexual practices with dolls and latex masks.
Secrecy and narcissistic overexposure coexist as the heads and tails of contemporary pornographic disorder.
Although at this point the museographic discourse loses something of its starting point: apart from the interiors photographed by Larry Sultan (idle times in the filming of porn movies), the architectural utopia of Ingo Niermann to democratize love, audiovisual documentation of some resorts or the research on the electro dance spaces realized by Pol Esteve, they include works centered in the digital platforms that have little to do with the architecture as desire modulator, unless it confines to the commonplace to understand that the virtual is everything architecture, invisible and ubiquitous panopticon. Extending so much the sense of space (domestic, cartographic, literary, virtual…) has its appeal but sometimes gives the impression that everything can fit.
On the other hand, while they have been able to emphasize the phallocentrism that governs the architecture of the desire of yesterday and today, it would be interesting to contrast it with artists who have denounced it (from Kienholz to Elmgreen & Dragset or Juno Calypso).
We also think that they might have gone deeper into the techno-architectural outlook of the near future in relation to sexual behavior, as was imagined by artists, writers and philosophers, from Ballard’s High Rise to Bruce Bégout’s Le Park (novel-essay on the parcage of leisure for elites and neuro-architecture). Vertical utopias (or distopias) forged by architects who observe from the last floor of their respective ivory towers the tribal advance of the human zoo (reduced to sexual appetite and instinct) in high tech jungles. An interesting counterpoint to the horizontal utopias to which the exhibition devoted much of its endeavor.
Being the eye of the architect of Ledoux the first image that comes to our encounter when entering the exhibition, it would make sense to finish it with the megalomaniac minds of these architects of select microcosms (literary figures but with an important allegorical meaning). It would have served as a counterpoint to the horizontal utopias to which the exhibition dedicates with great skill its commitment, in truth, achieving the transformation of 1000 m2 into pure pleasure: contemplative, sensitive and intellectual.