Against Architecture; the writings of Georges Bataille by Dennis Hollier: Introduction Bloody Sundays a summary

As a group we drew several conclusions about the text by Dennis Hollier about Georges Bataille’s views, each of us chose a paragraph or a quote and put together some views about that section.

“Bataille denounces architecture as a prison warden”

The conclusions draw from this quote is that  Picture2you would be safe from the elements and away from the street and therefore would feel protected inside four walls; this then leads onto the question of what is the origin of architecture? Is it a house, temple, tomb or as Bataille suggests a prison; each has a tie to the question suggesting the different areas of life in which specific focus is held. The house because it is the foundation of structure as the first things the cavemen built were dwellings; something to keep the rain off the backs and the wind out their hair. Although the tomb closely followed this, a place to leave the well respected dead was often more important than the aesthetics of where the living survived, the finer and more elaborate the architecture was of the tombs the greater importancePicture1 was placed upon them. A temple, a place of worship, is another important structure the key to where architecture originated is clearly in the level of importance the wider world places upon a building and the greater the importance the more elaborately and ornately the structure was designed. It is for this reason that I feel Bataille is wrong when he says the prison was the origin of architecture as firstly it came along much later than the other three but also we do not regard them as a pleasurable place to be and do not respect those who dwell within them.

Bataille’s theory against Hobbes’ theory

‘If the prison is the generic form of architecture this is primarily because mans own form is his own prison’

This goes on from suggesting that the prison is the origin of architecture to talk about it being the ‘generic form of architecture’ which to me suggests the opposite end of the spectrum; that it is so ordinary and uninteresting that no one would want to inhabit it because there is nothing visually pleasing about it. It has four walls and a roof but no character. This idea is compared to the limitations of man, how you cannot do things or be things you want as you are limited my what is essentially your nature or your physical capabilities. Picture3

‘the image of decomposition reflected to them by the slaughterhouses’

‘They flee the un-redeeming ugliness of the slaughterhouses for the beauty of museums.’

These quotes are beginning to talk about the relationship between the slaughterhouses and the museums, that i will go into greater detail about later on.

‘So the figures of the Ancient Regime, where the idle had pride of place, one afterPicture7 another will disappear. The final episode of this elimination of parasites is the collapse of the church, the temple of an immobile God, the only useless space remaining in this beehive, which falls down on father marle holding services before empty pews. No one destroys it: it falls down by itself, wrecked by disaffection, swept off by the energy of unstoppable life cutting a swath through whatever opposes its path’

This section of the text talks about comparing a church to a beehive; how if all the people stop attending the church it will fold just as if all the bees left the hive it would also be no more crumbling to dust. As it says it does not take a single person to destroy the whole it takes a complete lack of interest by the population to lose a structure that was once so highly regarded and their allegiance must have transferred to somewhere else.

‘The anti-Catholicism Zola’s last novels depends of good taste for much of its argument. Zola, after having disgusted an entire generation of readers, suddenly plays the disgusted role in the presence of the ticky-tacky religiosity of the iconography surrounding fin-desiecle neo-Catholicism, a flayed Christ and his martyrs showing off their saintly bruises: ‘what a butcher’s stall’ he writes in Paris ‘with guts, muscles, blood.’ Zola, like Bataille, in fact, condemns a religion that refuses to accept its kinship with butchering; Zola condemns a religion that puts it on display. In this sense, his replacement of the church by a public park prefigures the replacement of the slaughterhouses of La Vilette with a park of science and industry.’

‘A pure consumption with no remains, no trace, a total sacrifice, bloody but with a blood that does not stain, that leaves no memory. Bloody Sunday, bloodless Sunday.’

This particular quote was my favourite Picture8from the text as I just feel it takes aspects from the entire text and ties them all together. It’s mentioned earlier that often slaughterhouses were replaced by museums or parks, replacing them with museums connects them to the Sabbath bringing religion in as museums are generally visited on the day of rest. This is the same for parks as they are used as a place for recreation; tying the religion back in as it was traditionally forbidden to work on a Sunday and so therefore in the past what else was there to do. My quote talks about the replacement of a church with a park. Bataille and Zola both condemn religion; Bataille condemns a religion that refuses to accept its kinship with butchering whereas Zola condemns a religion that puts it on display. The replacement of slaughterhouses with the La Vilette park of science and industry mirrors Zolas replacement of a church by a public park. All of the church was destroyed, nothing is left and a park is in its place; religion is replaced with something completely different. This reminds me of when it says about ‘a pure consumption with no remains, no trace, a total sacrifice, bloody but with a blood that does not stain, that leaves no memory.’ In my mind that communicates the loss of the church and its replacement with something that does not have the same pull to the same audience; those who go to a park on a Sunday are evidently not in a church on Sundays. Many of the people will not remember it used to be there and the importance of the religion is diminished as it was replaced with nothing remaining to remind of it. Picture9

In conclusion my views of the introduction to the book Against Architecture are that Georges Bataille clearly does not approve of architecture and the way the world responds to it. Architecture is presented as a prison and talked about in comparison to our bodies; they resemble a prison as we are restricted in our actions by the capability and feebleness of them. Architecture is presented in this way as structures generally have a specific purpose when designed; if you were to change the use of a building it significantly changes the view people have of it, but also the view people have of the activity occurring within its walls. For example if you were to move the government form the grandeur of the Houses of Parliament to say a warehouse or a barn and instead of sitting in elaborately decorated benches they were to sit on bales of hay or patio furniture it would greatly diminish the authority of the government and the decisions being made. However if you were to move a pie eating contest from a tent to an Olympic stadium it would appear of greater importance. The architecture of the building often denotes the architecture of the organisation within it. Bataille talks of replacing slaughterhouses with museums and parks and how this connotes a religious image as a church was also replaced with a park tying the ideas together. How the total consumption of a structure runs parallel to the total consumption of Jesus; how his blood did not stain and how the church was completely replaced as there will eventually be no memory that it ever stood there.


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