LA = SKYNET
LA IS SKYNET is a lecture proposing that Los Angeles is a self-aware ecosystem intent on destroying its inhabitants.
LA IS SKYNET was developed for a Pecha Kucha night hosted by LA Forum and AECOM. A style of "lightning talk" developed in Tokyo, Pecha Kuchas are defined by a 20x20 structure, where the speaker gets 20 slides, 1 minute per slide. Originally inspired by MadLibs, the evening's theme prompted designers, architects, and artists to define what the city of Los Angeles means to them.
SKYNET references the Terminator’s main antagonist: a self-aware (artificial) intelligence system with its ultimate goal being the extinction of the human race.
Ecological tensions define LA: smog, sprawl, and space being three main issues for architects/urban designers.
Architecture defines humans' relationship to the natural world through mediating our interactions with it.
Historically, “supernatural” styles of architecture treated nature as divine, beautiful, pastoral and an ultimately passive entity/environment.
David Gissen in “City of Dust: Architecture and Subnature in LA” describes Los Angeles as an “epicenter of sub-natural architecture” i.e. it negotiates a milieu that is less than natural and potentially threatening to human existence.
Subnature: Those forms and processes of nature deemed filthy, fearsome, or uncontrollable.
Examples: smoke, garbage, debris, smog, over- growth, etc.
Frank Gehry transformed “smog into signifier” with the stucco construction of the Danziger house. By painting the outside a “dirty” gray, he eliminated the need to address smog accumulation by attempting an aesthetic reframing of a perceived design flaw.
“Chaos was the law of nature, order was the dream of man.” - Henry Adams
Architecture presumes control over the natural environment. Anthropocentrism is the assessment of reality through exclusively human perspectives.
Anthropocentrism is a major concept in the field of environmental ethics and philosophy because it is considered one of the root causes of problems created by human interaction with the environment.
Perpetual disintegration and renewal is the way of the universe.
Object-Oriented Ontology is a metaphysical movement that rejects the privileging of human existence over non-human objects.
Author Timothy Morton proposes that ecological criticism must be divested of the nature / civilization bifurcation.
Dark Ecology is a term introduced by Morton which expresses the irony, horror, and ugliness of nature. More importantly he suggests that there is “no theoretical neutral vantage point on which to articulate ecolog- ical claims.” Viewing nature is, in a sense, an arbitrary signifier which removes the human from implication in ecological catastrophe. But it is also a standpoint that opens the idea of nature to new possibilities.
Closely related to Dark Ecology is the concept of ‘mesh’. Morton defines ecological thought as the “thinking of interconnectedness.” Mesh has no central position or privilege for all life forms - living or not - are part of the mesh.
He states: “Death and the mesh go together in another sense, too, because natural selection implies extinction.”
From this perspective, we can see nature as a conscious system enforcing natural balance. Emphasizing interdependence eliminates boundaries between the interior / exterior forms that mediate our world.
Humans are embedded in nature and thus subject to natural selection. Nature extrudes everything equally: humans, concrete, and garbage. By extension, this relationship determines an exchange of awareness that does not privilege one entity over the next.