Architectures of Hiding

Samira Daneshvar

Work: Deformative, Yet Silent

In the Dictionary of Untranslatables, Pascal David explains that “the human activity that falls under the category of work, at least in some of its uses, is linked to pain, to labor, and to accomplishment.”1 For Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), work and labor are considered as “two sides of the same coin.”2 In this sense, work is what an architect does in his/her daily life; labor is their role in the larger economic equation. This project questions the historical and theoretical implications of work and labor, as they pertain to the discipline and practice of architecture.

Considering “work” through the lens of modern professionalization, this project illustrates an example of the effect of standardization on the body of the working class. The combined objects of Pelvic-Chair, Mouse-Arm, and Bag-Back explore anatomical abnormities that are caused and developed by the work associated with the field of architecture. Each piece depicts the silent deterioration of an architect’s body throughout its everyday engagement with the so-called “work.” Excess and repeated movements, or stillness and absence of almost any movement, for prolonged periods of time, decay the productive body and result in visible anomalies. In engagement of the human motor with the instrument of design, the organic and the artificial turn into the temporary extensions of each other. Therefore, both the human body and the non-human apparatus experience the counter-force that is effected in their participatory work. The continuous friction of apparatuses of work with the physical body on the one hand, and the gradual malleability of the body in response to these apparatuses on the other hand, result in the weariness of both. The marks of this encounter are inscribed in language of deterioration in the physical constitution of both.

Whether it is a computer mouse, a backpack, or a chair, the interaction of the physical body and instruments of work lead to deterioration, deformation, and “pain”– all of which shall be properly kept under disguise of corrective apparels, postures, and prosthetics of composure. The friction, often times, becomes legible through the frequency of repairs and replacements of the parts; that is both for human and non-human parts. Translation of work-induced disorders into aesthetics of physical figures in these three objects, renders the physical impact that are endured in achieving efficiency.

Keywords: work, body, deformation, standardization

1 Emily S. Apter, Barbara Cassin, and Steven Rendall, Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014), 1263.

2 Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, Charles R. Walgreen Foundation Lectures, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), 134.

SAMIRA DANESHVAR is currently pursuing her PhD in the History and Theory of Architecture at Harvard University. Her research is situated at the intersection of architecture and medical sciences. She focuses on the historical understandings of the human body as both a socio-cultural and a scientific object by studying the historical relationship of the human body to both its interior and exterior environment. Her work attempts to raise questions on the production of knowledge through the body and the cultural artefacts surrounding its rationalization and universalization.

See the Work: Deformative, Yet Silent exhibit →