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Cardboard Orthogonal Blob: An Architecture for Self-Realization
Architecture Urbanism Design Collaborative [AUDC]

Modernity Redux

Since the turn of the millennium, the world has been buffeted by turmoil: economic over-exuberance followed by bubble-bust calamity; political stability erased by unspeakable acts of terrorism; the end of history replaced by war without end; limitless possibilities for design instantly exhausted.

But is this condition unprecedented? Or is it simply the refusal of modernity to be reduced to feel-good slogans in Fast Company and Wired? Traumatized and shaken by this (once again) alienating world, the individual is lost, uncertain and rootless. In response, architecture must return to being a field of engagement with contemporary life: for what is more fundamental to the task of modernism than articulating the struggle between the individual and a mass-produced world that threatens to annihilate that very being? And where does that struggle emerge more clearly than in the built?

Twenty-Seven Million

AUDC's response to this renewed call for the articulation of the individual in modernity emerged in response to our contribution of a Multimedia Viewing Station [MVS] for deployment during the fall 2001 Jane's Addiction tour. Inside the MVS, individuals were to view a presentation on contemporary slavery developed for the Jubilee Foundation.

Although few of us think of slavery as a contemporary problem, some twenty-seven million people are enslaved throughout the world today. In Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and even in the United States, individuals are subject to complete deprivation of freedom either through violence or through indentured servitude. Never before have so many been enslaved. Never before has the existence of slavery been so forgotten.

Jubilee's multimedia presentation depicts the reality of contemporary slavery. Yet, it does so with discretion. The multimedia presentation focuses on the Jubilee festival. Common in world religious tradition is the idea of a fifty-year interval at the end of which a festival is held freeing slaves and releasing those in debt from their obligations. Depicting celebration rather than victimization avoids further symbolic acts of violence against slaves. Even without sensationalism, any represention of slavery would underscore the free viewing subject's superiority to the enslaved viewed. Depicting individuals as slaves would enslave them further. Instead, the multimedia presentation takes place as a series of interviews with the freed about their new lives. Experiencing the freedom of the former slaves allows the viewer to share a personal journey without assuming a position of superiority.