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Clinic for the Exhausted: An Architectural Exploration of the Imaginary Techniques of Raymond Roussel
RMIT University, Melbourne Australia.
RMIT University.
2010 (English)In: Imagining...: Society of Architectural Historians Australia New Zealand (SAHANZ) / [ed] Michael Chapan, Michael Ostwald, Newcastle, NSW, Australia: University of Newcastle , 2010Conference paper (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The French writer Raymond Roussel has been described as the Marcel Proust of dreams, and it is a curious fact that the two writers’ mothers were friends, for it is as though they were both infected in the cradle by a maternal imaginary that would haunt their delicate constitutions and trouble their ascent into the realm of the symbolic. With this paper we will present a few of the surreal methodologies that Roussel employed to write certain of his novels and plays. We will argue that the imagination here is not simply the faculty that allows for a free play of images and ideas, but that it also offers a methodology by way of associations between images and ideas that can be followed even while these proceed at a break-neck speeds. Michel Leiris explains that Roussel was not interested in anything real, or on any observations of the world, but only upon completely imaginary compositions. Some of the methods or compositional techniques that Roussel professes to employ include taking two sentences that sound the same, but from which two different senses can be derived that allows the writer to arrive at distinct scenarios; choosing a random phrase and employing phonetic word play to create a different sentence; conjoining words with multiple meanings; and other similar disturbances and slippages of language making the textual medium an uncertain and precarious one.  Influenced by the textual methodologies of Roussel, which seek to disrupt the common sense meaning of language, the architectural imagination that we will present belongs to the work in progress of Michael Spooner’s A Clinic for the Exhausted, a design research project that is composed of four clinics, each an architectural exposition on Edmond & Corrigan’s Building Eight, RMIT University.  We will focus in particular on the clinic entitled, The Swimming Pool Library, submitting a performance of the design imagination at play as it gathers associations of images and ideas that disrupt our expectations of how a design methodology should conventionally proceed. As Michel Foucault explains, on encountering Roussel’s work, “the reader thinks he recognises the wayward wanderings of the imagination where in fact there is only random language, methodically treated.”


Building Eight’s discontinuous genealogy in A Clinic for the Exhausted is offered as evidence of how Roussel’s compositional ambivalence can be mobilised  in the exploration of design methodologies pushed to their limits, unmooring what we understand to compose the architectural imaginary and in turn, questioning how we go about constructing our architectural edifices.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Newcastle, NSW, Australia: University of Newcastle , 2010.
Keyword [en]
Exhaustion, Clinic, Raymond Roussel, Peter Corrigan, RMIT Building 8
National Category
Architecture Literary Composition
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-87072OAI: diva2:501353
Imagining...SAHANZ, 27th Annual Conference. University of Newcastle, Australia. June 30-July 2 2010
QC 20120328Available from: 2012-02-14 Created: 2012-02-14 Last updated: 2012-03-28Bibliographically approved

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