TIME, QUESTION, FOLD by Andrew Benjamin

The relationship between philosophy and architecture not only works to position one in relation to the other, it also opens up the possibility that one may already be figuring in and thus would already be present within the other. It may be, for example, that architecture is already at work in the structuration of its own presence within philosophical texts. [1] With Deleuze's Le Pli [2] something else is being brought into consideration. Here there is another philosophical possibility. More exactly, however, it has, in part, already been brought in, and therefore the fold--also le pli --is already present in contemporary architectural theory and practice. [3]
With this presence questions rise. What is it that is present? How is the practice to be understood? Is this a case of architecture's adoption (and therefore adaptation) of the philosophical? Within each of the questions there endures the further question of the nature of the relation that links architecture and philosophy. Relation is from the start ineliminably present, and it is the precise nature of this presence--its being present--that will demand to be thought.

Questioning here can always proliferate and yet within the proliferation what is maintained is the necessity to take up the fold's own architecture. In other words what has to be given a specific place is the possibility of the site as being that which may come to be architectural. (One difficulty here, though it is a difficulty with far greater extension, is in giving architecture, and with the architectural, sufficient specificity.) Working with this text--to begin with Deleuze's text Le Pli --and thus tracing its own architectural implications will entail following a two-fold strategy. In the first place there must be the sustained attempt to extract that which is present in Deleuze's formulation--reformulation perhaps--of Leibniz's philosophy that allows for architecture, and in the second there will be the attempt to locate that strategy within what can be called architecture's opening. There different moments will continue to intersect and, in intersecting, in their movement backwards and forwards, they will have the effect of diminishing, and finally obviating ,the hold of prediction. With the abeyance of prediction chance may play a constitutive role. It will have a chance, finally.

In order to begin, a prevarication may be necessary. However, what this prevaricatory move will involve is a redirection in which, if only momentarily, philosophy returns to itself. It will not be a recovery--for nothing has been lost, there will never have been an original saying--but a return that sunders any real possibility of giving this 'itself' an essential and thus unified statue. In the place of the substantive--philosophy as having an essence that can be stated as such, even stated within an attempt to reground or regroup essential thinking--there will be the actative. In other words what will be essential is an activity, one which is necessarily conflictual, and one which therefore resists the essential. What this gives rise to is an opening in which any turning back has to be rethought as a repetition that can never master of determine itself. (Completion only endures as part of a metaphysical and in the end nihilistic fantasy.) Philosophy is originally, thus, the locus of an enacted conflict and therefore it will always have to be taken as originally complex. [4] Moreover, and as a continuing part of that resistance, the history of philosophy can be rewritten in terms of the affirmation and forgetting of the effective presence of anoriginal complexity.

Here this will mean that the project announced in Deleuze's Le Pli can be taken as part of a wider and perhaps more generalizable possibility within, and thus for, philosophy (a possibility effaced once it begins to form part of the fetishism of the proper name). In recognizing this as an opening, what, consequentially, then come to be sanctioned are differing movements, moments in which critique and the advent of the philosophical take place. Instead of enacting the modernist fantasy, one which is already inscribed as much in philosophical texts as in architectural programs, of the absolutely new beginning--the radical and complete differentiation, metaphysical destruction--what emerges as central is relation. The actual meaning of relation is of fundamental importance. Two elements need to be noted here.

In the first place, relation involves the recognition that what cannot be precluded are connections and interconnections. There can be no absolute differentiation. The recognition of the primordiality of relation is evident, for example, in Walter Benjamin's assertion that what cannot be eliminated from either the object of interpretation or the historical object is the possibility of their having an 'afterlife' (Nachleben). Indeed it can be argued further that the ineliminable linking of 'life ' and 'afterlife' is a specific thinking of relation. [5]

Benjamin's is a position--a position allowing for a type of generality--that seeks to maintain the primordiality of relation while holding to its centrality beyond the conception of historical totality that is at work within the Hegelian tradition. Both Benjamin and Deleuze can, in this sense therefore, be read as part of that generalizable move (a move amounting to another possibility for philosophy, though equally another possibility for architecture). In the second place, and more specifically, Deleuze's work on Leibniz can itself be taken as a thinking of relation. The fold is a relation. Indeed, its being a relation will allow for the question of how apposite a thinking of relation it is. The question of how apposite this may be as a thinking of relation is itself given within the bounds set by the incorporation of critique into this particular advent of the philosophical. Furthermore the possibility of there being an inherent division within relation would work to indicate that relation, both as a term and as strategy, resists the hold of essentialism. Essentialism would entail a simple formalism that takes relation as a given, and as such would deny the inherent plurality within relation itself. Replacing the essential and the formal will allow for unpredictable relations.

Deleuze's reading of Leibniz not only links Leibniz to a divergent tradition that has always maintained the centrality of the multiple---thereby implicating his (Deleuze's) own project in that tradition--but goes a step further by identifying the conditions in which 'we' (nous) are found as in some already described or identified by the process at work in Leibniz's philosophical writings. Leibniz emerges therefore as a philosopher for modernity. This will not be a Leibniz read within the will to truth but a Leibniz whose work is allowed to connect. One which therefore, following Deleuze's own precepts, is given space: 'We remain Leibnizian, even though it is no longer the accords which express our world or our text. We discover new ways of folding as new envelopes, but remain Leibnizian because it is always a question of folding, unfolding, refolding [parce qui'il s'agit toujours de plier, déplier, replier ]'. (p. 189)

It is the commitment advanced in this passage that maintains the critical dimension within the reading of Leibniz. (Critique is a relation which is inextricably linked to the need for judgement arising out of the impossibility of a universalizing synthesis.) What this passage also introduces, and it is a theme whose introduction will be central to any undertaking concerning either Le Pli or more generally philosophy's other possibility, is time. If it is 'always a question of folding, unfolding, refolding', then how is this 'always' (toujours) to be understood? Not only is there the commitment to this as a description of activity in general--perhaps a Deleuzian De rerum natura --it will be with this repetition that time will insist. Here specifically the question will concern the time of this 'always'. It should not be thought that this word provides no more than a trivial addition. In allowing for a certain flexibility within translation, it can be argued that the 'same' possibility is also at work in the important philosophical confrontation between Plato and Heraclitus. It is a confrontation--one, given its translation, that sets the limits of philosophical modernity--in which not only does time figure, but more emphatically time will provide the actual possibility of confrontation itself. This is, of course, a time that is necessarily interarticulated with modes of existence. Time and existence, while always plural, are nonetheless made all one word necessarily inter-connected.

Heraclitus, according to Aristotle, describes the soul as reon aei (always flowing). [6] Moreover, in the Cratylus Plato describes the essential being (ousia) of the form; the specific instance is 'beauty', as being of necessity, aei estin oion estin (always the same as itself) (439d). The term 'always' (aei) figures twice. And yet what the same word designates is two fundamentally different ontological and temporal set-ups. On the other hand the Platonic demands an ontology of statis in which the problem of presentation is fundamental and which works therefore to determine the productive limits of the system. Moreover what is unthinkable in Platonic terms is the co-presence of instantiation and becoming. And yet it is precisely this possibility that characterizes the Heraclitean formulation. For Heraclitus presentation is not precluded by an ontology and temporality of becoming. What needs to be added, though this will be an addition that takes Heraclitean concerns beyond the range of the fragments, is that what has the quality of the Heraclitean 'always' is not located within the general frame of representation, and therefore the issue is not whether or not it is possible to represent the all--that which is given to be represented--in its totality. It is a general description of a fundamental ontological and temporal condition. It is possible to suggest that when Leibniz defines the monad in terms of force and then goes on to establish a distinction between the form taken by a monad at a specific instance--the monad's 'perception'--and the monad's own substantial presence defined in terms of 'force' (vis) what is being rehearsed is precisely the ontological and temporal possibilities that inhere in Heraclitus. A similar state of affairs also pertains to the nature of the distinction between 'appetition' and 'perception' (compare Monadology 15). [7]

In sum, what continues to be present in Heraclitus and in Leibniz, present in contradistinction to the Platonic heritage, is the possibility of the initial--thus anoriginal--co-presence of that which is ontologically and temporally different. (Reworked, it is, or course, this possibility that Deleuze finds in Leibniz.) Moreover it is a co-presence that opens up the possibility of another take on complexity--that is, an approach to complexity in which the complex depends upon ontological and temporal difference. Returning to the theme of representation, what this means here is more significant than the melancholic celebration of the negative. In other words, there is no inherent limit within representation to which allusion is being made. It is not a question of a grounding impossibility--an ineliminable negativity--determining thought and action; at work here is a different possibility. This other presentation of the impossibility of representation should be linked to time. In other words, all that there could be is not present and thus not given in one and the same moment to be represented. Again this should not be taken as the negative--a type of presentational via negativa --but rather a distancing from the evocation of presence that is demanded by the posited, even if already putative, coextensivity between form and function. This coextensivity--a set-up inhabiting both philosophy and architecture--is important because of its temporality. What it presupposes is that all that will have happened will have taken place in one and the same time; what is given is given once and for all. However, with the possibility mooted here there is a different regime of time. Initially it works within the opening of the intended coextensivity of form and function, a coextensivity which while definitional of certain modernism is also there throughout architecture's history as characterizing the building's 'arrangement'. Furthermore it is the reworking of this coextensivity--a reworking in which function is retained while the necessity of its expression is held open--that marks what has been identified above as architecture's opening. Moreover this opening will eschew a simple displaying and confusing of styles; such a manoeuvre would in the end amount to the ornamentalization of ornament. The jumbling of genre and style leading to style's indifferent relation to function while including what was identified as the ornamentalization of ornament also needs to be understood as involving time. Time, the time of the architectural post-modern, involves a progress in which nothing occurs or changes presented within the temporality of fashion. Here, in contradistinction to the temporality of the post-modern, there is the affirmation of a different temporal scheme: another regime.

It is this different regime of time that, it can be argued, is discovered by Deleuze, for example, in his treatment of the Leibnizian infinite. The link between the Baroque and the infinite plays a significant role in Deleuze's reading. He takes considerable care, quite rightly, in distinguishing between the Cartesian and the Leibnizian philosophical positions. What is fundamental to the Leibnizian is the nature of the co-presence of the finite and the infinite: 'The actual infinite in the finite ego [moi], this is exactly the position of equilibrium, or disequilibrium, of the Baroque.' (p. 119)

Again, a similar structure of thought--a structure marking out the co-presence of the different--will be identified by Deleuze in the discussion of the monads. Furthermore it is also there in the deployment of the[[dotaccent]] language of architecture in his reformulation of what is taken to be the Baroque structure of Leibniz's text Essais de Théodicé. Deleuze identifies it as a text which responds, par excellence, to the general criteria of the Baroque narrative [récit]' (p. 82). He then goes on to describe the text in the following terms: 'It is an architectural dream; an immense pyramid which has a summit, but no base and is constituted of an infinite number of apartments of which each one is a world.' (p. 82)

In broad terms that which can be drawn from these differing formulations is the co-presence of infinite and the finite, the limited and the unlimited, as well as how their insistent presence is to be understood philosophically and architecturally. It is this possibility that is also at play in the description of the fold. However, not only is there this co-presence, there is in addition the image of complexity. Complexity is the fold that as it is unfolded opens up further folds, which in being unfolded reveal further folds. What this means is that there can be no real beginning and, usually, no real end. The nature of inside and outside is recast by the complex fold. And yet of course within the movement there are real states. Static actual existence is not precluded; rather, it is to be thought as an interruption and thus as an eruption out of movement. In emerging, the static--the actual--reveals, allows itself to be uncanny, by enjoining new relations. The position of a necessary complexity works to reposition the Leibnizian conception of complexity as fundamentally removed from the Cartesian. The nature of the divide between them must resist the easy conflation often provided by the complacency of history within which Descartes and Leibniz are equated and linked by virtue of their forming part of the Rationalist philosophical movement.

For Descartes the complex consisted of an amalgam of simples. (A 'simple', for Descartes, is the object of 'clear and distinct perception'. It is therefore a posited entity that is absolutely self-referential and admits of no further reductions. The geometrical equivalent is the axiom.) The Cartesian complex therefore could always be reduced to its constitutive parts and by regenerating the complex it could be understood. Understood totally in its totality and thus able to be represented as such. It is self-evident that the Cartesian construal of the relationship between the simple and the complex is structured by its being articulated within the problematic of representation. Nonetheless, the important point here is time. All that is there to be given, thus all that comprises the complex, is given at one and the same time. While the complex may not be able to be comprehended in one moment, it is nonetheless complete in its enactment; it is enacted completely. The reduction of the complex to its constitutive parts is a movement which, in Cartesian terms, has no effects. In other words, further complications are not added in the act of reduction. Here is the contrast. The Leibnizian conception must involve that which can never be absolutely unfolded since the monad unfolds infinitely. The infinite and the finite are co-present in their difference and thus allow a joining-up that can never be reduced to a particular form at the present. The impossibility of this reduction occurs because what it is that is present comprises two different temporal orders, each with its own possibilities. Prior to returning, albeit briefly, to this two-fold temporal order it is vital to take up what has already been identified as architecture's opening.

The initial and disruptive element of this opening is, ironically, its conserving nature. What is held in place--though it is a holding that may allow what is held to be questioned--is function. The nature of the function is questioned and possibilities opened up which were not hitherto accessible, by allowing the necessity of a specific enactment to be held in abeyance. And with it in holding to the specific function as a question, the process and thus the disruptive continuity of questioning is maintained. Opening the relationship between form and function gives rise to a specific and strategic question. If the link loses its coextensivity what, then, will be at work in the opening? It is thus that the question of how the relation between form and function is to be taken, and enacted, arises. It is a question that defies the teleology and the temporality of prediction. With the abeyance of prediction and thus with the absence of a necessary relation between form and function chance will come to figure. The necessary retention of a commitment to a form of function--a form that in functioning questions the nature of that function--precludes the utopian while maintaining architecture's critical dimension. In the practice of contemporary architecture the fold has found a place in that opening. In writing about Eisenman's Rebstockpark project--a project deploying folding--John Rajchman notes: 'In Eisenman's words: " one must make present in a space its implicit 'weakness' or its 'potential' for reframing". The principles of his perplication are then that there is no place and no space that is not somewhat "weak" in this sense, and "weakness" is imperceptible prior to the point of view that one normally has of the space or the place. [8]

Time and the fold can therefore be taken as working together in the question. The question, however, is linked to the function. It is the necessary ground of questioning. Libeskind's extension to the Jewish Museum, while not taking up the fold as such, utilized the structure of a question, indeed a plurality of questions. The questions that endure concern the presence of absence, presenting that which resists representation, Berlin's own relation to a now past Jewish presence within it; other questions are possible. The questions, rather than ornamentalizing the building, to be seen as additions, façades, etc., can be taken to provide the building's actual structuration. The structuration enacts questioning by resisting any provision of definite answers, while at the same time maintaining, in a questioned form, the possibility of representation, display and thus the work--a work reworked--of the museum. Its being this complex and thus its having this complexity occur at the same time. At the same time therefore it resolves and does not resolve. At the same time therefore it is both finite and infinite. It is precisely this possibility that Deleuze has identified in Leibniz as a possibility for philosophy in which ontology and the question remain as central and which architects have used--though it can always be achieved in other ways--to inscribe the time of questioning into the fabric of the building. It will be the inscription of time that will sanction, on the one hand, the use of different geometric configuration, while on the other it will link the presence of the building to another conception of the present. In other words, allowing time the priority usually accorded to space will cause both the building and the historical space (thus the historical time) it inhabits to be rethought. This rethinking will, in turn, demand those philosophical adventures which are, in part, at work in Deleuze's Le Pli .

The final question that must be considered is where this situation leaves architecture's relation to philosophy. Again, it may be that the ultimate point of connection is that both work to conserve. Architecture, in order to endure as itself, must work to house and thus to shelter. What this means is that architecture cannot be conflated with its language--present as architectural images or metaphors within philosophical or theoretical texts; it must have form. Accepting this necessity, architecture's inescapable constraint, need not close down the question of form. Form, however, will always be mediated by the immediate specificity of function. Neither function nor housing nor shelter can be raised as though they exist in themselves. The presentation of function --its being housed in a certain way--is always inscribed within a network, of values and relations of power. This network has a mediating connection to form, since it will always come to be articulated by the form itself. In other words what is at work here is the complex interconnexion that conserves architecture--allows for the repetition of its telos --while accounting for the form of its presence. The same presentational procedures also mark the philosophical. A specific conclusion can be drawn from this state of affairs. In taking up architecture from within the self-conserving place of philosophy, and in architecture's own work with philosophy, it is the conflation of practice with language that will need to be examined. While not denying he materiality of language it remains the case that the materiality of architecture and thus its mode of being present are different. While both philosophy and architecture are inextricably bound up with those constraints that hold and thus conserve the specificity of each, their concrete determinations drive them apart. And yet while they are apart-- distinct from each other--they can come to be linked, and therefore in the link they both form a part of a similar mode of thinking, since each will sanction a critical stand that is constrained to work while holding to the identity in question. The interplay of apart/a part means that running through both philosophy and architecture is the centrality of time. Initially, time is the repetition of the same, a repetition which, while conserving, sets up the site of an intervention in terms of which what will come to be repeated will be that which occurs again for the first time, an occurrence which brings another time into play. This latter determination figures both within and as the concrete instantiation of questioning.

In moving between philosophy and architecture they remain apart and as a part of the complex work of repetition. The logic of apart/ a part, its being at work simultaneously in all its aspects, is, here, architecture's change. The work of this logic is not the hinge of oscillation; it is the infinite folded into the finite: the fold is opening.


1. This paper is adapted from a work in progress--Ornament and Space: Relating Philosophy and Architecture -- to be published by Edinburgh University Press. Part of the book will involve a detailed treatment of Mark Wigley's arguments concerning the relation between architecture and philosophy. Wigley's formulation of the architecture/philosophy relation figures in those opening questions and formulations.

2. Gilles Deleuze, Le Pli (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1991). In subsequent references to this work, the page reference is given in the text.

3. See, for example, Folding in Architecture, Architectural Design special issue no. 103, edited by Greg Lynn, 1993.

4. The following discussion presents in truncated form some of the arguments I have developed in far greater detail in The Plural  Event (London: Routledge, 1993). An important part of the strategy there, as here, is to give this original complexity an ontological formulation. The point of such an undertaking is to indicate that the complexity in question does not involve an amalgam of simples that could ever be further reduced, but rather that there is complexity ab initio . In order to identify this other origin the term 'anoriginal' has been used. In sum, what it seeks to name is this complex possibility.

5. I have tried to develop this aspect of Benjamin's work in 'Time and Task: Benjamin and Heidegger on the Present', in Walter Benjamin's Philosophy, edited by A. Benjamin and P. Osborne (London: Routledge, 1993).

6. I have tried to develop this interpretation of Heraclitus in 'Time and Interpretation in Heraclitus', in Post Structuralist Classics , edited by A. Benjamin (London: Routledge, 1988).

7. See the discussion of Leibniz in The Plural Event.

8. John Rajchman, 'Perplications: On the Space and Time of Rebstockpark', in Unfolding Frankfurt (Frankfurt: Ernst & Sohn, 1992), p. 36. Rajchman's is by far the most philosophically acute description of this project.

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