Black Maria III: Failure

nakao black maria dwg

[ Part I ]

[ Part II ]

[ Refs. ]

Black Maria’s failure to hold a single likeness is paralleled by its failure to contain space in any regular way. When Black Maria is closed, it forms a deep narrowing hollow. Space is trapped in the dark angle. When it is slowly opened, a bright sliver bisects the space at it deepest, most concentrated point. The new angle, as it opens, forms a space at the opposite end, close to the hinge; but before it can form properly, the hinge, which is offset from the open face, causes that angle too to come apart and the space to escape. The deepest, most intense interiority that Black Maria is capable of producing is also the moment at which that interiority is closest to incisive failure. Nakao describes the space as turning in on itself “like a glove turned inside out”. As a container for cartesian space, Black Maria is entirely unsatisfactory. The movement produced by its articulation about the hinge causes space to slip in and out, to flicker irregularly. “A folding screen. Not the conventional folding screen that distributes spaces, but one that sucks space inward, or rather, inspires space and expires it.”  Black Maria doesn’t contain space; rather it ‘spaces’. It projects space, articulates it, inhales and exhales it. It makes spaces between itself, within its angles. The emphasis here is placed on how Black Maria spaces rather than what space it contains. In order to inquire of Black Maria (as if it were an oracle), we need to consider its operation rather than its identity.

These two parallel failures: the failure to hold a stable likeness and the failure to contain a stable space, are not incidental. Black Maria spaces as it signifies: by means of an angle which traps. It creates angles in which space pools or is wedged. This angle, which manifests in Black Maria as a cut which severs, or a mouth which opens introduces an interval into the object.

It is not enough to say that Black Maria is simply continuously variable, in an isotropic way; as if all degrees of movement, all adjustments, all positionings, are precisely equal in value. Black Maria works strongly against this idea of isotropic variability. At certain positions, locations, configurations, significance is trapped for a moment in the angle; a little further and this significance leaks away: Look, a shark! No, wait, where did it go? Likeness only appear when, for a brief instant, the configuration attains a likeness and signifies.

The uncertainty that this produces in the person who encounters Black Maria, and registers the momentary likenesses (as I am suggesting people cannot help but do) is part of the effect of Black Maria. Black Maria does not simply and solely operate in the domain of form (if it is ever possible for architecture to reserve itself in that way). Its primary register is in the domain of the affect on the encounterer.

What does Black Maria do? It fails. Or rather, it refuses to succeed. It fails to signify a wolf in a stable way. Such signification would be possible: a statue of what a wolf looks like would suffice. But Nakao refuses this stability. Similarly, it would be possible to make some modifications to Black Maria in order to make it space in a stable way. But Nakao refuses this stability, too. The locus of both the refusal-to-be-like and the likeness itself, as well as the refusal-to-space and the spacing itself in Black Maria is the hinge.

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