Terra Media: Miscommunication in Mediating Objects
The objects below use the medium of text to build an image. The content (Jean Luc Godard’s 1962 film, Le Mepris) is a proxy, a McGuffin, to discuss miscommunication through mediation.
Essentially the thesis behind the project ‘Terra Media’ is about the fragmentation of the world. It is about form-over-content i.e. mediation and the ‘lines’ we draw around the meaning of artifacts. All with a focus on designing an architecture that is explicitly about the experience of miscommunication – of the boundary where meaning collapses. How could we imagine a space for miscommunication that is always incomplete and always under construction? Always on the line, in a terra media?
“To know – to want to see – is to possess” says Alberto Moravia in an interview. The author of ‘Il Disprezzo’, on which Godard based Le Mépris, speaks of another book in which he also has his main character interrogating his wife to breaking point. “He wishes to possess her.” Much like Camille is turned into a godly object, up for possession by Paul or Jeremy. In linguistic terms too the naming of objects is already an act of possessing them by acquiring their knowledge. This is an activity exclusive to human communication. Through naming, objects are given a mental boundary that indexes their being. In art, one could argue, this is comparable to another exclusively human construct: the line. If one was to draw Camille’s body one would impulsively and primarily opt for lines to compose the image (and I think this goes beyond blaming the impulse on the fact that the tools alone have a sway over the action that gives rise to the line by default i.e pens, pencils, sticks or fingers). What is clear is that through the demarcation of a boundary, almost a territory on the space of the page, there is an inside-the-line which is ‘Camille’ and an outside-the-line which is ‘not-Camille’. A territory of woman and non-woman, body and non-body, being and non-being, known and unknown. Moravia comes to conclude that “we sometimes need to trust without wanting to know – respect.” 65 This is compromise more than neutrality. The terra media is where the suspension of doubt occurs for the sake of mutual understanding. Although language ought to be forgiven for its capacity to miscommunicate, one too often forgets the ambiguity of the line and is easily misled into taking it too seriously.
In mediation one should not seek the communication of absolutes. Instead, linguistic complexity ought to be cherished for generating multiple truths. The more reductive the mediating system becomes the more oppressive the realm of representation as a whole. In his film, Godard breaks down the absolutes and hacks away at the very boundaries drawn around meaning. In fact, both the film’s internal narrative and the meta-narrative in which viewers partake, are neither in the territory of ‘Camille’ nor in ‘not-Camille.’ They are instead in a tertium quid, the terra media. Everything is thrown onto the line where the abstract nature of being is put into question. Le Mépris may end tragically for Camille but it is nonetheless cathartic for the couple. Paul escapes the idolatrous hold that his wife has over him and the ocean ahead lays infinite in its possible realities.