The Stateless Comedy
Michael Westerlund_ Architectural Association_Diploma 2 Project
The Stateless Comedy is a story about how we are currently dismounting our societies through a global movement fed by individualism. It is transcending both the virtual and the analog, and it is not necessarily about where a physical journey starts, Lesvos, but rather where it ends, Copenhagen Denmark.
Denmark, a nation-state in limbo acting according to its neighbours, Sweden and Germany, the two main stops of European migration. Copenhagen, the capital, the heart of one of Europe’s most progressive international work regions, Öresundsregionen. The latter, now completely fragmented as a result of Sweden closing its borders in January 2016, turning Copenhagen Airport into an external territory and not least the very stage of these destructive forces.
Thus, the Stateless Comedy is a redesigned airport terminal replacing the existing Terminal 3 in Copenhagen Airport, Denmark. It is based on the experiences of the displaced and hence acts as a therapy of our fragmented societies transforming the urban transitional space into a new and unknown condition.
Growing and increasing in impact over the last 200 years, our individualistic narrative now transcends all layers that make up our presence. It has established a social trajectory of displacement where a two-folded reality is not only dividing us into “us” and “them”, but is also the key driver behind populism and is being fed by the same core. It builds a common situation preserving everyday rituals, hence status quo of a common identity imposed by the state. It pushes those who do not belong into an existential grey zone where one cannot see oneself as part of any given context. Therefore, although we have never been more aware of our planetary existence and had access to such diverse opinions and endless information before, we have never been as alone.
Using the airport as its ultimate stage, a set of 12 notional spaces materialise the most common experiences of the displaced such as rejection, anxiety, disorientation and alienation. When resolved against the program of the airport, each space’s specific reality exaggerates the common feeling to traumatic levels and is thus able to reveal the built-in destructive forces of our societies and its permanent inhabitants. The spaces therefore become representations of the mental outside in the physical inside and are able to create links between the personal experience and the social reality. Through these links, the displaced can become acknowledged and we can create an alternative future where we overcome the current social, political and programmatic fragmentation where we use the same tools, politics, program and legislation to efficiently include and exclude. We need to overcome these destructive forces to avoid a future where formal and informal statelessness becomes a future norm.
Who influences you graphically?
I find the visual language truly important and therefore seek through a wide variety of influences for each project specifically. Hence, every project gets it’s own visual identity to further enhance the subject or topic. In this project specifically the drawings and works of Zaha Hadid became quite an influencer early on, as well as the works and sketches based on sequences and cinematic approaches of not least Bernard Tschumi but also to some extent Steven Holl. To further enhance the project’s position in the grey zone between the real and imagined, the notional and the physical, it was given a graphical language which derives from comics and the cinematic world.
How and to what extent did the aesthetic language of Diploma 2 tutors affect your way of drawing?
In some aspects it has affected me a lot coming from a technical school where there is a strong and narrow emphasis on the traditional presentation of a set of plans, sections and renders mounted on A1’s. Hence, there was an intense period of transition in the beginning in the sense where you as a student can present your project however you like in Diploma 2. You simply need to find the strongest way yourself.
On the other hand, Diploma 2 has a strong approach in extracting each student’s own identity as an individual through their project respectively. Hence there is no strict ”Diploma 2-graphic” as such, although they tend to be very information saturated and limited in numbers to favour quality. Hence, due to the tutor’s differing personalities and interest where one is more artistic and provocative and the other more technically and fact driven there is a general tendency of creating very complex and informative drawings combining the two.
In the case of ”The Stateless Comedy” the drawings became hybrids of illustrations, architectural manifestos and cinematic scripts while also explaining the extensive underlying research of the project. This approach pushed all aspects of the project further as I was forced to illustrate historical, contemporary and possible future narratives in the same drawings while also making very abstract theories communicative in a direct and tactile manner.
How importants is the diagram as a tool for communicating and formatting ideas?
If I were to limit this to the context of an architectural tools the diagram has the possibility of being a very responsive informative tool. Used and adapted in relation to project specific needs, it carries the possibility to adopt the full spectra of communication ranging from the most simplified positions or processes to the most complex revealing extreme detail, layering and overlapping. Hence it can be small pictograms showing an appropriation of a concept in an abstract manner (as in the case of the notional spaces) as well as an A1/A0 drawing with extreme detail and complexity showing for example a social transformation (as in the case of the Transformation of Space-drawing).
However, as with all other formats it will only be efficient and relevant as a tool if the author knows clearly want it needs to communicate. Hence the diagram should not have a predetermined role in any project.
How could a specific format help reinforce the thesis? maybe a map of displacement-passport-animation etc?
When chosen wisely, the format should expand and strengthen your argument in an efficient matter. In The Stateless Comedy I chose to use a range of formats specifically addressing different aspects of the project. It was important due to its position in between the theoretical and practical, politics and design, subjective and objective. Hence the drawings, books, thesis in Technical Studies, 3D-prints, photographs from field trips etc all worked together to create a whole. What links them are certain key characteristics in terms of graphical structure, fonts, colours and structure which makes them easily available for the viewer/reader.
In my thesis, a key problem when talking about topics as statelessness, autonomy and migration is to make them tactile and comprehensible. Therefore I made the film ”The Interview”, where the viewer can clearly see the longterm impact of displacement and how this is real and not something imagined. Starting as a side format, the film became the single most important tool of the entire thesis often leaving jurors and students completely stunned. They were simply not prepared to be thrown in to such a direct experience.
The presentation incorporated clips from my film The Interview mixing these with drawings, theoretical backgrounds and statements. All relating back to each other strengthening my position as they were woven together through tools ranging from general overviews like The Map-drawings to specific booklets and rendered moments. The presentation would end with showing the statelessness passports shown in the film, along with the other documents, making something potentially abstract and possibly fictional real and tangible. Clearly it was a strong experience as a listener to first see these artefacts on the screen and a few minutes later having them in your hands. Thus I created a direct link between the safe environment of the presentation space and the destructive forces described by the interviewed. Through this a completely new experience would emerge and take the listener into the world I was describing.
What defined the specific moments you choose to frame as views?
The project is structured on 3 parallel narratives creating a 4th, fictional narration, manifested in the terminal. All four of these are linked and structured in relation to each other using the established cinematic technique of a 6-stage sequencing communicating the story. These key moments created the foundation of the moments to make the stories more accessible and comprehensible for the viewer in relation to the very limited time frame we had to present. Thus, when writing the narratives and narration in relation to this structure, key moments would reveal reveal themselves and luckily these also corresponded to the key moments when reading the narratives separately. These moments were then further explored in my other thesis in technical studies (The Disharmony of Paradise) to make them quantitative and later framed in first person perspectives through cinematic renders, sketches and line drawings. By using these, the viewer could easily relate to the transformation of the conventional to the new and unknown condition of a specific space and become part of the interior experience.