Surveillance, Transparency and the Hidden in Contemporary Culture
Edited By Henriette Steiner and Kristin Veel
3 ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’: Transparency, Voyeurism and Glass Architecture
What is there of glass in your work? […] How does one talk about it? In optical terms or in tactile terms? Regarding tactility, it would be good if […] you would speak to our friends of the erotic tricks, of the calls to desire, do I dare say, of the sex appeal of the architectural forms of which you think, with which you work, for which you give yourself up.
—JACQUES DERRIDA, letter to Peter Eisenman, 19901
Around the time Derrida wrote his open letter to Eisenman, the glass surface typical of modernist architecture, with its claims to visibility and clarity, was once again under scrutiny. At the turn of the 1990s, glass was critically discussed as offering a game of confusing semi-transparencies, suggesting exclusion, control, framing and uncanny night visions, rather than light, clarity and democratic models of transparency – whether in work or in private life.
Theorists such as Anthony Vidler, José Quetglas, Rosemarie Haag Bletter, Joan Ockman and Stanislaus von Moos (building on doubts first expressed by Colin Rowe) based their reconsideration of the nature of glass as directly transparent, and thus as moral metaphor, on its reflective effect, its ambiguity in blending reflection, and on the opportunity for looking through the glass as a physical substance. In other words, they interpreted physical effects psychologically, and, finally, politically. In this discourse, it ← 43 | 44 → seems that glass is almost intrinsically liable to disappoint as a metaphor: for it is a substance...
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