We must go from a forced mutation to a chosen mutation.
Paul B. Preciado – Learning from the virus, Artforum May/June 2020
Ever since Darwin’s theory of evolution, the followings were questioned: ‘faith’ in ‘the great designer’, the master architecture of fit-purpose design for specific species (non-transferable from one to another) with assigned orders, forms and destined paths. However, even after 162 years of the acknowledgement, the typical perception of architects’ role to have the right values, to plan well and to give orders has not changed. Mutations and the agencies of mutations play a key role in superseding this perception. By its nature, mutation produces variations, creating a new alternative to the current condition: this is especially true of Seoul, where (sub)conscious spatial agents are constantly experimenting with their forms of living whilst negating the prescribed and idealised notions given by architects and allied institutions. Seoul’s mutations (and multiplicitous forms of living) are already underway and ready to be revealed.
Although Seoul’s mutations are mostly driven by people’s desire to enjoy their lives, these are rarely ‘chosen’. On a deeper level, the enjoyment and the desire involve profiteering, competition, success models backed by institutions and typal productions. The status of Seoul’s mutation is complex. It requires a serious understanding of typological transformation as a socio-cultural index of the mutation which materialises and makes contemporary conditions visible. By acknowledging architecture as archives of previous types, mutations, techniques of production of subjectivity and their strategic alliance with the disciplinary regime, our regulated space and subsumed behaviour become apparent.
The fact that mutation (and its consequential variations) never replicates the previous form does not promise an alternative to our lives: it often prolongs the stay of the status-quo and even deepens de-politicisation, exploitation and dependency of the city. However, in many ways, the variations against the normative and the multiplicity opposed to the binary are also promising, which carries liberating potential of the mutation as it sets us free from historical forms of discipline, hierarchy and constraints over who we can become: the mutation manifests the possibility to denaturalise the previous forms of life.
As mutations already indicate, we (architects) can neither impose nor foresee what forms of life will unfold and must reject our compulsions to adopt symbolic, programmatic and typological thinking. Like Preciado argues, “we no longer need architects”. Or rather, we need architects to be aware of our mutations. We must observe, expose, and create opportunities that can facilitate more experiments and pleasure - towards a chosen mutation.