Monday, 29 September 2014

Minor project further research

To really do this project properly and create Piranesi's the Prisons series into a 3D world, I need to understand his influences, his reasons for creating them and have a look into the artist that where influenced by him. Hopefully after this I will have a very clear idea on how to create my 3D
environment in a way that is still Piranesi. 

Born in Venice, he got away from the place as soon as he could, but could never leave its pervasive air of decline. He didn't find modernity, or progress, or the Enlightenment. His addiction to the ruins of Rome, his intoxication with their immensity, their power, seems pathological. The chance to see Le Carceri is a chance to look beyond their mythic charisma to find Piranesi himself inside his imaginary spaces.
Hogwarts moving staircases  
As early as 1760 a spectacular set for Rameau's opera Dardanus copied one of Piranesi's boundless prison spaces. It was the beginning of a blackly glittering stage and film career for Piranesi's images, from Metropolis and Blade Runner to the moving staircases at Hogwarts. In today's architecture, you see Piranesi's imagination in Tate Modern, and London Underground's Jubilee line.
Piranesi's chief contribution to practical - as against imaginary - design was to fabricate what an ungenerous critic would call fakes. Piranesi sold "antiques": that is, he put together bits of ancient Roman sculpture that he and others had dug up - a carving of a lion's foot, a couple of fauns' heads - to fabricate imposing, profuse objects you can imagine gracing Nero's palace. 

Eighteenth-century artists, writers and radicals routinely compared the social order to a prison. It seemed as if the boundary between the deathly other world of prison and the illuminated outside world was very thin, as if you could slip constantly between the two, as if the boundaries of prison were able to ensnare you as you slept.
It was only in the second edition of his carceri that Piranesi sited his prisons in ancient Rome. Perhaps he wanted to cover the subversive possibility that these prisons are dream images of his own time, his own society.
Piranesi is more than half in love with his prisons. They are a place his imagination can wander, and at the same time an impossible place - the prints contain spatial paradoxes, including a staircase that exists on two planes simultaneously. It is a place without limits or contexts: Piranesi's prison interiors have no outer walls, and each vista is cut off only by the frame of the image itself. The spaces are so big, so continuous, that they may not even be interiors; this may be a city that has grown into a world, where interior and exterior are no longer definable. There are views through arches of almost recognisable Roman sights - the colonnade of St Peter's. But there is nothing to tell us that these mark terminal points of the prison. Instead, they are incorporated into it.
If inside and outside no longer exist, up and down are what create the sense of power beyond description. While prisoners undergo mysterious torments, luckier souls pass by on parapets or bridges that have no logic or necessity. Piranesi argued that architecture should indulge in grotesque ornament; the architecture of his prisons is redundant, it is not functional, it relishes itself. The awful thing about Piranesi's punishments is that you don't quite know how they work, or what the thinking could be behind them. A wheel with spikes around its circumference; a post with more spikes; a kind of chandelier suspended from a beam, which on closer inspection looks like it might be ringed with meat hooks; pulleys, one of which raises and lowers a basket big enough to contain a person into a huge marble vat.
And yet, in most of the pictures, we don't actually see anyone being tortured. It is all suggested rather than shown. A couple of prison guards - or they might be prisoners doing forced labour - dig a grave in the middle of the prison. Elsewhere, there are glimpses of the damned. A man being pulled on a rack. Naked figures chained to posts while high above them it looks as if a musician is playing the fiddle. Higher still, spectators gather on a vertiginous walkway. It is impossible to tell at times who is a prisoner, who a guard, who a visitor. In the end you suspect that everyone in this place is a prisoner. At the same time, they might all be here by some perverse choice - there is a languid quality to it all; the tortures and chainings are relaxed, almost consensual.
Looking at Le Carceri, it doesn't seem that Piranesi either believed it was possible to escape from the prison he was enclosed in, which was without walls and without an exterior; he was one of the damned. Piranesi seems to think he belongs here, and to have succumbed to the ultimate corruption: taking pleasure in his punishment.

The Prison's series is supposedly based on a malarial fever-dream, the Carceri suggest a descent into the subconscious, an extraordinarily detailed nightmare. This is the Piranesi of the dark imagination that appealed to the fantasies of the Romantics and the psychology preoccupations of the moderns: Thomas De Quincy, in Confessions of an English Opium Eater; Edgar Allen Poe, in The Pit and the Pendulum; Marguerite Yourcenar, in The Dark Brain of Piranesi. The optical-architectural puzzles of M.C. Escher are obvious descendants. In Piranesi’s Dream: A Novel, Gerhard Kopf gives the artist a speech in which he defines architecture as “a sublime symbol for the tension between what you want to do in your own mind and what you are able to do in reality.” Piranesi’s style is full of paradoxes, refracting antiquity through a prism that encompasses Baroque, neoclassical and Romantic.

Minor Project Idea

For my minor project I would like to create an environment based on Giovanni Battista Piranesi's series of 16 etchings "The Prisons" (Carceri).

Piranesi's prisons series takes on from what our perspective could be called "Kaficaesque" *, "Escher" *-like distortion, seemingly erecting fantastic labyrinthine structures, epic in volume, they are "Caprricci" *, whimsical aggregates of monumental architecture and ruin.

* Kafka's writing has inspired the term "Kafkaesque", used to describe concepts and situations reminiscent of his work, particularly Der Process and "Die Verwandlung". Examples include instances in which bureaucracies overpower people, often in a surreal, nightmarish milieu which evokes feelings of senselessness, disorientation, and helplessness. Characters in a Kafkaesque setting often lack a clear course of action to escape a labyrinthine situation. Kafkaesque elements often appear in existential works, but the term has transcended the literary realm to apply to real-life occurrences and situations that are incomprehensibly complex, bizarre, or illogical. Numerous films and television works have been described as Kafkaesque, and the style is particularly prominent in dystopian science fiction. Works in this genre that have been thus described include Terry Gilliam's 1985 film Brazil and the 1998 science fiction film noir, Dark City. Films from other genres which have been similarly described include The Tenant (1976) and Barton Fink (1991). The television series The Prisoner is also frequently described as Kafkaesque.

* M. C. Escher, was a Dutch graphic artist. He is known for his often mathematically inspiredwoodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints. These feature impossible constructions, explorations of infinity, architecture, and tessellations.

Selection of M. C. Escher's work

* Capriccio means especially an architectural fantasy, placing together buildings, archaeological remains and other architectural elements in fictional and often fantastical combinations, perhaps with staffage of figures. This genre was perfected by Marco Ricci but its best-known proponent was the artist Giovanni Paolo Pannini. This style was extended in the 1740s by Canaletto in his etched vedute ideale, and works by Piranesi and his imitators.

Selection of Marco Ricci's paintings
Selection of (Giovanni Antonio Canal) Canaletto's work
Carcere oscura, Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Piranesi took up architecture as a profession through his father. His mothers brother Matteo Lucchesi is with whom his education was entrusted. Piranesi studied perspective with Carlo Zucchi and as an essential complementary subject, stage-design with the famous Bibiena family. However there was little place for a young Venetian architect so he decided to perfect himself in the art of engraving. One of the plates Carcere oscura from his first series Prima Parte di architetture e prospettive, directly inspired by stage-design, was to appear in 1743 as a prelude to the most celebrated of the artist's suites, the Prisons. 
It is thought that Canaletto, marco Ricci and perhaps Guardi influenced Piranesi and most notably Teipolo.