RMIT Architecture & Urban Design
Bachelor of Architectural Design, Design Studio Semester 1, 2018
Supervisor: Dr Michael Spooner
Students: William Bennie, Jack Murray, Jean Viljoen, Jack Stirling, Stefan Spanopoulos, Junro Tao, Kim Nguyen, Dominique Pozvek, Anne-Marie Couture, Olavur Egholm, Yuhan Xie, Zirui Wang & Wenzheng Wang
Ballot Presentation: WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH NOTHING?
1. In 1982 the German filmaker Werner Herzog directed Fitzcarraldo. The film is the sort-of-true story of a failed entrepreneur who is determined to fund an Opera House for a new but wealthy Eurocentric city in the Amazon Basin. To achieve his goal he intends to ride the boom in rubber plantations.
2. Leasing an inaccessible parcel of land in the jungle he sets off up one river on an old steamship with the deranged plan to pull the 320 ton ship over a mountain to access a parallel river that could allow him to collect the rubber. His crew abandons him, but an indigenous tribe fulfil his plan and the steamship is pulled through the jungle and over a mountain into the adjacent river. As the crew sleeps the indigenous chief, attempting to appease the river gods who would be angered by the defiance exhibited by a boat making its way across land cuts the mooring of the ship and it floats with the remaining crew down river back to the city in the Amazon Basin. Despondent, Fitzcarraldo sells the boat, but not before sending the captain on one last voyage. He returns to port with the entire Italian cast of the first opera production – without an Opera House in sight.
3.I don’t want to sound despondent, but I feel like ive been doing this a very long time. Im not sure if I feel like Fitzcarraldo or the film maker Werner Herzog but I certainly had the ambition a long time ago to push a few bits of architecture about…and now Im realising I could just as easily signed up the singers and dealt with the rest later. This brings with it other problems of course.
As a student of architecture I always wanted to imagine my ambition as big as Fitzcarraldo and you would think, in the privileged position Im in now, white extremely over-educated single queer and still under 35 (just), I would be more certain that it is – but Ive always thought of myself as a marrano…
…a boondoggle… or as someone interested in architecture but as Prospero famously describes Caliban “not honour’d with a human shape”
5. Like last semesters Masters studio Nabucco, named after the Opera that was loosely framed on the historical siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonia King Nebuchadnezzar II, this studio picks up the broken thread of someone elses ambition as I feel like I have nothing left to offer. These studios wrestle with my doubt, with my intense hesitation to continue, and my own visceral hallucinations.
6.Universitalties are the cat cry of the ballot. You will have heard many of them today. They are of course solid bricks of intellect. I just wouldn’t want to pass one. A ballot should be like great sex, you shouldnt be able to tell your mother about it. The taste of fantasy. The crackle of heat in the air. A request to keep the wedding ring on just this once. That type of thing. This then is my intimate confession. We – you and I – will drag a boat from one side of the city to the other.
7.Along the way we will build an intensely private universe of meaning. And we will do so through a sustained enquiry into the archaeology of the world – its cruelty and its gratitude. What will come of it is a matter for no one else. No One. But our visions will be narrowed as we wake from our slumber and we lurch into the paleness of it all. It will of course be, as almost everything has been, a reflection on theatricality and on a Queer vitality. And more recently on longing and nostalgia.
8. What is a Nothing but a plinth broad enough to hold a spectacle as big as the divine, somewhere to dance, in our silence, against the setting sun. At the end, salute it, thank it and give me three cheers for civilisation.