Student: Michael Fohring
Advisor: Martin Bressani
Studio: Directed Research Project
Year/Term: Fall 2015
The thesis seeks to explore the affective nature of the architectural act, putting it forth as a means of disassembling complex boundaries between individuals to bring them together in a truly primordial way. Gargantua and Pantagruel, the two great masterpieces of French Renaissance writer François Rabelais, offer a specific spatial and aesthetic framework within which to test the act of constructing in light of these intentions. As wildly provocative satires of the political and religious practices of the time, Rabelais’ novels provide insight into how the space of the carnival and the mode of the grotesque can positively challenge and make bare a society’s value-driven constructs, and serve as a time and
place of intimate gathering, and of metamorphosis and renewal. As a necessary offspring of the ordered society, the carnival is founded on its own time and its own rules, emerging as completely apart from the everyday, inhabiting the threshold between it and its plain opposite. If the norms, rules, and quantifiable time of the everyday serve to draw lines which both contain and separate, the carnival makes these lines fluid, conflating right and wrong, the self and the other, the terrifying and the hilarious, and the beautiful and the wretched. The aesthetic mode of the grotesque, which permeates Rabelais’ imagery, operates much in the same way and with the same intention, in the same formless interstitial space. Rather than the individual bodies and objects we’re accustomed to, neatly defined and withheld from each other and from the world, the grotesque form brims over its limits of singularity, joyously succumbing, deforming, and melding with the bedlam of the earthly and the bodily other. Wrapped in ambivalence, what was ordered and rigid becomes abnormal and flaccid, but gloriously, wondrously, comically so, beckoning us to think beyond the gap between the beautiful and the repulsive, the self and the other, and return to the world re-born.