Narratives as Minor Architectures’ Repertoire: Affective Images and Haptic Architectural Visions

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Children’s Games, 1560
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Children’s Games, 1560

“This was what literature knew, had always known. Literature tried to open the universe, to increase, even if only slightly, the sum total of what it was possible for human beings to perceive, understand, and so, finally, to be. Great literature went to the edges of the known and pushed against the boundaries of language, form, and possibility, to make the world feel larger, wider, than before.”
Salman Rushdie, Joseph Anton

Minor architectures can be defined as an open set of spatial practices and know-hows based on the immanent differentiating agency of bodies (or their inexhaustible power of variation). These practices feed on the circumstantial and experimental, operating in the narrow margins and blind spots of major languages, structures and knowledges; unsettling them. While minor architectures work with and within materially limited spaces, tools and conditions, they manage to bring forth affective amplitude: they enlarge the world through forms of plural material entanglement. While these minor architectures escape representation, identification and measurement, they have an extraordinarily rich relation with literature as shown by the work of Jill Stoner, Hélène Frichot or Jennifer Bloomer. The latter writes that «one of the tasks of minor architecture is to operate critically upon the dominance of the visual—the image—as a mode of perceiving and understanding architecture.» Accordingly, as we work with minor architectures, we move beyond retinal images onto affective images which, following Spinoza, we can define as those affections of the human body representing to us external bodies as if they were present, without actually reproducing their external forms. Contrary to traditional representations, these affective images touch directly upon the body, trace it (write on it) and orient it articulating its worldliness and establishing forms of material commons. With this contribution, we will focus on these topics in relation to Maria Puig della Bellacasa’s text «Touching Visions» in her book Matters of Care (2017), in order to understand how working with these affective images through narrative devices can help us work with alternative (haptic) architectural visions articulated around material emergences and more-than-human negotiations. We will finish by considering the role of the repertoire as embodied collections of affective images able to trigger spatial processes, leading us to conceive of the architect’s role as a kind of spatial minstrel or anonymous conduit of new forms of spatial commons.

Paper presented at the Architecture and its Stories Conference (AIARG Annual Conference 2022)