Abstract

This essay argues that a demand to be written on is intrinsic to architectural constructs. Beginning with the debates that surrounded the renovation of the Berlin Reichstag and the decision to preserve the graffiti left on it by conquering Soviet soldiers in 1945, wall writing is shown to be a profoundly unstable medium that fractures the historicity of its host surfaces even as it highlights their authority as systems of protection or exclusion. In Brassaï's photographs of the streets of modernist Paris, graffiti is understood as a uniquely auto-exhibitive discourse, a script that constantly exposes the limits of writing. In Walter Benjamin's study of Bertolt Brecht's poetry, this lapidary style is characterized as a kind of ex-scription that counters the formative, singularizing force of inscription with a trace logic that disarticulates the very schemas of surface and display that appear to ground it. Benjamin continues this discussion in his Arcades Project, revealing architecture and poetry to be two dimensions of a broader dynamic in which any sentence is a gesture toward the wall it will mark, if not render ephemeral, while any wall is a gesture toward the sentence that it will put on display and thereby potentially evacuate of its expressive or performative power.

Additional Information

ISSN
1053-1920
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-15
Open Access
No
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