Thresholds 52: Disappearance
MIT Department of Architecture
Edited by Samuel Dubois and Susan Williams
Some disappearances are pointedly more conspicuous than others. In 1983, magician David Copperfield ominously dropped a curtain revealing an empty black sky, having just made the Statue of Liberty vanish from sight. As Lady Liberty’s disappearance was watched with amazement by television viewers, Copperfield cautioned his audience: “Sometimes we don’t realize how important something is until it is gone.” Constructing illusions, playing tricks and deceiving audiences, magicians challenge what is real, imagined or just an illusion of the eye. But even a playful disappearance in a magic trick can reveal deeper implications.
Thresholds 52: Disappearance will explore the ways art and architecture negotiate the elusive topic of disappearance. We seek contributions that aim to discover how disappearances are spatially manifested (human/non-human, living/non-living, material/symbolic) and how the appearances of certain things have led to the disappearances of others. We are interested in scholarly articles and other artistic and intellectual contributions that engage the notion of disappearance by clarifying, complicating and challenging our collective understandings of architecture, art history, and other related disciplines and practices. Submissions can address any time period or geographic setting.
Disappearance is an ambiguous term—an occurrence, a process or an outcome. While a disappearance can stay within the binary state of visibility to invisibility, it can also make something become less common through a slow process towards non-existence. If disappearance itself is a fascinating subject, what enables something to survive after its raison d’être disappears may be just as intriguing. Scientific determinism tells us that, materially speaking, nothing actually disappears. The law of mass conservation establishes that while matter can neither be created nor destroyed, it can be rearranged in space. But this scientific truth becomes convoluted when the lived spatial and visual experiences of humans are accounted for. How can these two opposing views exist—or not exist—within the same world?
Disappearances can be manifested in various ways, scales and contexts:
–stolen art and historical artifacts
–start and end of various artistic movements or media
–visualization and spatial design as strategies of tracking disappearance
–untraceable actions of internet culture
–phantasmagoric vanishing experiences in haunted spaces
–dematerialization of analog skills in architectural design and practice
–concealed or implied structural systems over real structures
–construction sites intrinsically being replaced with actual buildings
–disappearance of materials and techniques when better ones emerge
–sinking of coastal cities
–or just anything or anyone hidden in plain sight
Submission Deadline: June 1, 2023.