TRUE FACTS: 'Architecture is Not a Language' – Diplomausstellung 2017 - An interview with Anna Sofie Hvid

DOMUS: Mrs. Hvid, is there a reality behind your activities?

ANNA SOFIE HVID: No.

DOMUS: So, how would you describe what you are doing?

ASH: Your question implies that reality is a reference point up front, in the rear, beside, and beneath what we are doing, but we don’t align ourselves to that type of reality. In accordance with Bohr I could say: We are suspended in reality in such a way that we cannot tell what is up and what is down ...(1)

DOMUS: You’ve been at the helm of the architecture studio SDA (Society of Dialectic Architecture, editor’s note) for two years now, have you ever really built something?

ASH: For years now we built in-between reality and fiction, in a very successful way. The realization of objects is not our benchmark. Many architects realize significant architectures, but we focus on the inter- space. If you want to highlight the actionist notion in that, you could say that we work in the interface, in the dialectics of two or more entities. You probably know David Ruiz Muriel, the awardee of the “cgarchitect Architectural 3D Award 2016”? We are, so to speak, between the pixels of his renderings and the hollow space of Gehry’s “Walt Disney Concert Hall”, and we participated in the “datascapes”; those computer generated shapes.

DOMUS: Meaning that you philosophize?

ASH: No. But, from time to time, in close collaboration with the “Unemployed Academics Union”, we temporarily hire PhD-level philosophers. It proves to have added value. We don’t consider think space between the pixels as a philosophical framework, but rather as aesthetical practice: Our approach is that the perspective of the inter-space of all entities shall be integrated with their individual and unreduced identity. This is rather a materialized task, than a way of thinking. For example, the black cloth between Kandinsky’s artworks (now exhibited in a historically informed way, at the Lenbachhaus) suggests a flat ontology between art and surface, between the dust particles that become invisible on the black background, and that turmoil in the top light. It is like in “Jacob’s Room”: “The sea was indistinguishable from the sky, except that the sea was slightly creased as if a cloth had wrinkles in it. Gradually as the sky whitened a dark line lay on the horizon dividing the sea from the sky and the grey cloth became barred with thick strokes moving, one after another, beneath the surface, following each other, pursuing each other, perpetually...” (from Virginia Woolf’s “The Waves”, editor’s note). I don’t know how to think of that without wetting one’s pants in order to keep one warm (ethically speaking). Aesthetically speaking, the adventure is on the dice. We are culturally sufficiently educated to realize that the artwork doesn’t represent something, but when picking up this analogy, we could say that the inter-space doesn’t represent too; the same could be said about the dust particles or the skirting board. Architecture, especially architecture for the historic art industry, aims for the representative and the significant and places the symbolic beyond that which withholds from the significant. If architecture is art, then it is only because it is not a signifying language. At this point, Mies would have lit a cigar (laughs). (2)

DOMUS: If you insist that you operate between the pixels and build in the “datascapes”, then you also operate within a visual language?(3)

ASH: Well, the question is whether the inter-space is part of that visual language. In “Museums at Night” Sergei Eisenstein talks about a trip to the Chichén Itzá Museum where the lights are switched off. The museum visit was continued with torchlight and matches (it was 1931). Do the phases in the dark belong to an aesthetical experience of the museum pieces or just the “illuminated” ones? The enlightened visual language to which art and architecture commit themselves to under the pretence of documentation and communication of art is qua their fluid tech. quality an expression of biopower. Social platforms build the archive of our visual language based on “searchability”, and that in return determines our visual world of experience. The inter-space enables a biopower non-social dialectics between light and darkness, space and inter-space, etc.

DOMUS: Aesthetics as flash?

ASH: I argue in favor of Haraway in that sense, who says: you have to learn to stay with the trouble. The flash doesn’t go past and we have to learn to work with the twilight. Trump’s counselor, Kellyanne Conway, replied that she is talking about “alternative facts” when being refuted by facts. “Alternative facts” can’t be strained off by confronting them with the truth (is that the opposite of “alternative facts”; something like “true facts”? ... there, one can see that absurd regress). “Alternative facts” keep us in some inconvenient suspense, and in that state, we have to work between the well-lit and unlit objects. It’s a memory game! Memory as architecture – that fancy bits architecture with empty attics and leaky joints – I’m referring to Bachelard, of course.

DOMUS: Bernett Newman said in the 1950’s: “Sculpture is what you bump into when you back up to look at a painting”. When you renounced painting in 2017, marked by the “True Facts” exhibition, you dissolved a picture in architectural interiors; and those in pixels... one doesn’t encounter architecture or sculpture...

ASH: ...you forget that this work was shown in the extension building of the Academy of the Fine Arts in Munich – designed by the“Coop Himmelb(l)au”-studio – and that was a punch line: That architecture wants and wants and wants to be a sculpture – a typical reminiscence from the “art architecture complex” of modernism and the post-modern. As a counter-concept to that I came up with meekly organic cream-tea architecture, specific for that last oil painting that I painted.4 I had created the architectonic contexts for that picture which you would have never bumped into, if you had not backed up to look at it – on the other hand, it is something you couldn’t have escaped from. If you would have tried that you would have bumped into the Coop Himmelb(l)au sculpture.

DOMUS: Picture and architecture merged...

ASH: ...in the inter-space in an indistinguishable way and inseparable...

DOMUS: ...has this exhibition ever happened?

ASH: No.


  • 1 Editor’s note: Bohr is misquoted here. The correct quote is as follows: “Traditionally philosophy has accustomed us to regard language as something secondary, and reality as something primary. Bohr considered this attitude toward the relation between language and reality inappropriate. When one said to him that it cannot be language which is fundamental, but that it must be reality which, so to speak lies beneath language, and of which language is a picture, he would reply „We are suspended in reality in such a way that we cannot tell what is up and what is down.“(Petersen (1985), S. 302)

  • 2 “Architecture is a language ... We have to pull the whole thing together, we have to destroy the separations between painting and sculpture and architecture and design“ Mies van der Rohe. See video: https://vimeo.com/139258382

  • 3 From 2008 – 2017 painting was part of Hvid’s practice.

  • 4 „Lukke Gaarden“ (Hvid, 2015), oil on paper, 32,5 x 46,7 cm, is part of the dark oil painting series; these motifs are only visible in a certain light perspective.