The Shadow of God in the Garden of the Philosopher. The Parc de La Villette in Paris in the context of philosophy of chôra, Part I-V

Abstract

In the traditional sense, a work of art creates an illustration of the outside world, or of a certain text or doctrine. Sometimes it is considered that such an illustration is not literal, but is an interpretation of what is visible, or an interpretation of a certain literary or ideological message. It can also be assumed that a work of art creates its own visual world, a separate story or a separate philosophical statement. The Parc de La Villette represents the last of these possibilities: it is a philosophical statement that develops the premises derived from poststructuralist philosophies and the philosophy of deconstruction. The uniqueness of its being status, however, is that it does so not only at the level of the theoretical assumptions, but also through its functioning as an active philosophical work. This means that a park is a happening philosophy. Its activity, however, does not refer only to the present tense, but is also an attempt to penetrate the future, all otherness and impossibility. This kind of activity assumes that the work, in a sense, does not yet fully exist, but is also still produced in the processes of its interpretation. The theoretical foundations of the park included texts by Bernard Tschumi, in which he questioned traditional ways of creating a work of architecture, postulating in return the use of a long series of negations, which were comparable to the crisis of metaphysics characteristic of contemporary philosophy. It is therefore no coincidence that the publication containing Tschumi’s theoretical text on Parc de La Villette was accompanied by an essay by Jacques Derrida developing some of the architect’s concepts. The next step in integrating philosophy into the process of park design was a series of discussions between Peter Eisenman and Derrida, who completely moved the creation of the park into the world of thoughts, without accentuating the need for their realization in the material reality. The main topic of these discussions was the problem of the chôra, which was taken up by later commentators and used to interpret the park as a work in which the philosophy of the beginning is manifested relating to issues of politics, morality and religion. The park was therefore interpreted as a space of invention within the scope of creating new rules of functioning of the community and democracy. Thinking about the political future may, however, exceed the horizon of ordinary expectations. Although philosophical thought is always connected with contemporary problems and metaphysics sometimes intertwines with current politics, yet at the same time the customs of philosophy also include crossing horizons and thinking about absolute otherness and impossibility. Initially, the chôra, différance, Absolute Otherness (tout autre) and the Impossibile were concepts of pure philosophy of atheistic character, but with the further development of the discussion, more and more theological motifs began to emerge. One of the reasons for this phenomenon was the fact that radical negations of all being, which were contemplated in contemporary philosophy (by Heidegger and Derrida, among others), had previously been manifested in negative and apophatic theologies (by Master Eckhart, among others). Also the category of the “Other”, taken from Emmanuel Levinas, was clearly connected with the thought about God. A further reason for connecting the chôra with the theological thought was the interest in the philosophy of deconstruction expressed by some theologians. Caputo in particular managed to persuade Derrida to participate in discussions on the current status of religion. In the late period of Derrida’s writing, further statements on religious topics appeared. All these reasons led to posing a question about the identity of the chôra and God. Although there were no satisfactory conclusions on this issue, the discussion was also important to create an interpretation of the park as a place of worship. The chôra, representing, according to Plato, the preoriginal emptiness is the place of every beginning, but it turns out that it is not neutral to the being created in it. The chôra deposits itself in every being as an irremovable beginning that interferes with its stability. The chôra, therefore, forces us into a palintropical movement, but it also turns out to be a pure compulsion, an erring necessity and a fundamental force from which, in the human perception, motifs useful to the individual and to the community are extracted. All definitions of this force, including its anthropomorphisation, are formulated in such a way that they allow for building private and collective morality upon them. Such definitions are changed depending on variable political situations. It is difficult to determine whether in the processes of changes in the formulation of “God’s names” any essential value is retained, which is not subject to change. The current definitions of the chôra (God?), which can be found, for example, in the philosophy of Caputo, stress that she is a combination of various and contradictory forces. This characteristic inherits much of Plato’s concept, reminds us of Master Eckhart’s views on Gottheit and, at the same time, is not unfamiliar to Tschumi, whose essays were an apologia of contradictions. The current concept of chôra, transferred into the sphere of politics, is the praise of social diversity and the protection of the difference from the forces of order. In the Parc de La Villette, the future community and democracy were elevated as a system of safe existence of individuals in all their singularity. The park is a temple of a future community in which individual beings have nothing in common.

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Cezary Wąs
University of Wroclaw

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2024-06-07

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