When we stand on earth and think of the world in latitudinal terms, we are minimal, yet this is the world we attempt to conquer and pretend to comprehend. When we stand at low altitudes in the tropics, in front of tropical glaciers, we can see the world – through Altitude – without the need to go out in space to synthesize an image of this planet.
This thesis proposes a deviation from reading the world in latitudinal terms, to see beyond North vis-à-vis South dichotomies, and to transcend binary norms that have largely defined and misinterpreted tropical environments. While many of these territories have achieved political independence, the colonial structures of power and imperial views remain, and they continue to govern us.
The work is developed through two interconnected components. First, a group of essays that examine and conceptualize a series of “Environmental Liberations” in the tropical Andes, which include liberations of ecologies, grounds, and publics, but most importantly, liberations of the mind, social constructions, and imposed norms that are constantly manifested in the built and non-built environment.
Second, these ideas are also narrated and abstractly projected through time and space to generate a “Tropical Journey,” as a timeline to disseminate history and a device to assess tropical diversity.
This historical trip and landscape narration are an invitation to read the earth’s short elevation, which only extends a few kilometers, and explores how altitude becomes “a Tropical Liberation” – a disassociation from misperceptions of “Tropical” as a homogeneous hot and humid climatic condition.
The second return of Hong Kong marks the end of the one country two system. As the clock strikes midnight, the fine dress of the city turns into rugs and her carriage reverted to pumpkins. With the rupture, comes the displacement of the city’s population like the brain drain that prompted the Berlin Wall erection. The Hong Kong airport have since become a precarious spatial-geopolitical threshold over which the specter of a second Cold War looms. The Norman Foster architectural and engineering marvel, once a symbol of pride signifying Hong Kong’s free and open society, now devolves into a set of fragile Pearly gates that struggles to uphold its promise as an egress to the world beyond. The thesis probes the underlying sociopolitical, historical and psychological vectors that converge at this increasingly critical border crossing. Peeling away the physical veneer, it seeks to expose and deconstruct the spatial-geographical politics of the air terminal. Taping into the realm of the unnarratable and intangibles, it probes the border-architecture in an age when telaesthesia perpetuates traumas, and traumas foreshadows memories of the future. In the manner of an autopsy, the immersive game medium is experimented as a tool to revisit the city’s final episodes. Developed alongside the thesis, the video game project serves as a set of visceral spatial re-enactments designed for public expression, connection, empowerment and archival of history. In the afterlife of the city, the simulacrum is an antidote to the bon fire of vanity, a therapy for reconciliation with traumatic encounters, as well as a virtual media artifact continuing the fairy tale’s unfulfilled glamours that is short-changed by an abrupt ending. As a methodology, the video game artifact is an alternative form of archaeology by which historical events could be systematically deconstructed, whereby intangible vectors of memories and perceptions can be explicated and rendered accessible.
In February 1973, Jean Duvignaud, Paul Virilio, and Georges Perec introduced the infraordinary in the fifth issue of their small journal, Cause commune. The infraordinary subsequently became attributed mostly to Georges Perec, to describe his keenness for the everyday in his prolific literary works. Infra-, a spatial preposition, meaning under or below, modifies the ordinary, or everyday life, in a call to action “to question that which seems to have ceased forever to astonish us.” Such a simple, local act can have immense consequences. Rather than removing “the everyday” from its context in order to defamiliarize it, as Cause commune critiques of mass media, the infraordinary studies the context itself, a seemingly blank space, or void, upon which the everyday is written. By choosing interdisciplinary essays to include in Cause commune, with a vast array of subject matters, the editorial team demonstrates the infraordinary is not just applicable to the literary, sociological, and architectural disciplines, but formulate an art of living upon this blank background.
The following thesis is an attempt to approach the infraordinary not only as the subject of exploration, but as a method of writing itself. The aim of this thesis is to trace the infraordinary conceptually through the immediate textual context of Cause commune issue No. 5, the work of Georges Perec, and the work of Cause commune’s other contributors. It is not an origin story, but a text enumerating ideas and forms of thought on everyday life that coalesce in this journal. By excavating what is below everyday life, the infraordinary shows just how unfamiliar we are with everyday life in the first place as we constantly come up against and avoid a void, and how we are equipped to do something about it—through creative acts and life itself.