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MyGlassChain: Re-imagining Social Architecture

By Shane Brennan, Casey Koppelson, Nathan Lovejoy, and Lucy Ross

MySpace Group


"I want to make this proposal to you: Today there is almost nothing to build, and if we can build anywhere, then we do it in order to live. ... Let us consciously be "imaginary architects"! We believe that only a total revolution can guide us in our task. ... Break up and undermine all former principles! ... The individual personality will disappear with commitment to a higher task--if architecture reappears then the master builder will be anonymous. I can see the beginning of this in our tendency to join and fuse together. ... Quite informally and according to inclination, each of us will draw or write down at regular intervals those of his ideas he wants to share with our circle. ... In this way an exchange of ideas, questions, answers, and criticism will be established." --Bruno Taut

Artist Statement

We are a group of new media art students interested in the transposition of physical, informational and social architecture. In December 2005, we created a series of profiles on the social networking site MySpace for members of The Glass Chain, a group of German architects who envisioned an ideal society that would be united by a new model of physical and community architecture. Their use of a cryptic language, adoption of pseudonyms, and the exchange of words and pictures among a set of members are aspects that resonate with the structure of Internet communities like MySpace. The Glass Chain "friends" interacted in the MySpace network for a number of weeks, and may be continuing to do so at this time.

The Glass Chain "impersonators" are only one possible intervention of this kind. We encourage you to create your own fake profiles of intellectual interest, infiltrate the social spaces of the Internet, and help re-imagine its architecture. The Glass Chain is a communal project; you may participate, in addition, by adopting their identities.

Project Components

Watch the Flickr Show Here

The Glass Chain MySpace group page, moderated by Bruno Taut himself, contains a description of the group, links to its 10 members, and additional photos. It also includes a forum where members may engage in group correspondence and ideological debates (for example, "Faith versus Form," a topic discussed by the "original" Glass Chain). The page has been customized using a handwritten Glass Chain letter for the background wallpaper. The group page acts as a central hub for the Glass Chain network of members and a visualization of their connectivity.

A major part of our intervention was initiating interaction with MySpace members. We did this through "friending" people, joining groups, sending personal messages, leaving comments and posting bulletins. The reactions we received were varied: some ignored our advances, others like "elwood blues" and "linda" had a significantly more positive reaction and interacted with our architects. While acting from our adopted identities, we interpreted their actual debates and correspondence according to the refigured environment. We wrote as they might have written as much as we adapted their characters to the specificities of MySpace's social architecture.

Bunny is the Glass Chain's groupie. She embodies the MySpace user stereotype (as evidenced by her overblown profile, overdramatic pictures, use of shorthand, and the parts of profiles lifted from other users). We decided to create her character so that we would have at least one "ringer" interacting with the Glass Chain, a caricature of a portion of our assumed audience. Her interaction was limited, as there are time restrictions on posting to forums and groups, and she was created later than most of the other profiles. Since she didn't have access to forums, she posted Glass Chain slash fiction in bulletins and comments, invading the presumably serious space of the profiles and situating her as a hardcore fan of the group, not just an academic admirer. Her slash is another way that the "characters" live on; she's rewriting the Glass Chain canon.

Theoretical Analysis

The Glass Chain was a group of architects whose vision for utopic structural formations reached beyond physical materials and into the fabric of society. Their architectural designs were plans for a new social organization, one based on community and communication. With more than 32 million members, MySpace may be the largest interactive social community on the Internet . It is also, indeed, a "space," an architectural structure built out of users. By infiltrating MySpace with this particular group of architects, the idea of "social architecture" is compounded and the discussion of "community" becomes dispersed in various discourses: physical, ideological, information and social architecture. To multiply the discussion of architecture further, we "performed" several Internet communication structures, including MySpace, Blogger, flickr and e-mail. This project explores how German, expressionist architects may have engaged the MySpace medium if they were young users today. Their cryptic and antiquated architectural discourse is inserted into the domains of contemporary internet jargon, yielding a mix of ideas that are surprisingly compatible. At several points, it almost seems as if Bruno Taut--when he writes "out of social continuum, a new architecture will be born"-is foreshadowing the emergence of Internet communities.

In assuming alternate identities on Myspace, the project aimed to exaggerate the fabricated nature of online interaction, where privacy and public space combine to produce a sort of "consensual hallucination." The dead architects were deliberately chosen for this purpose, as they had already adopted pseudonyms of their own in their correspondence with each other, hence the "Hermann Finsterlin, AKA Promethus, etc." Rather than stop there, we chose to continue with this chain of false identity, and created the characters of Bunny the fan and Iain Whyte. With the creation of these additional pseudonyms, our project became a form of collective, interactive narrative, similar to Luther Blissett, the "virtual 'open' pop star," in which everyone has the ability to assume the identity of a particular character, and can interact with other members operating under their own assumed identity. Or, in certain cases, a person can interact with one character, jump to that character's identity, and have an extensive conversation, lasting several weeks, entirely with oneself.

The use of the blog and Iain Whyte continued the group narrative in allowing each group member to contribute to the project equally. Contrary to a slick, well-designed webpage, the free and accessible aspect of blogging perpetuated the populist spirit of our project as well as the egalitarian ideals of the Glass Chain.

"The term 'cyberspace' participates in a topographical trope which...defines the activity of on-line interaction as taking place within a locus, a space, a 'world' unto itself. This second 'world,' like carnival, possess constantly fluctuating boundaries, frontiers, and dividing lines which separate it from both the realm of the 'real' (that which takes place off line) and its corollary, the world of the physical body which gets projected, manipulated, and performed via on-line interaction."-Lisa Nakamura, Race In/For Cyberspace

??All online interactions are performances of a characters, whether there is deceitful intent or not. Intentional interventions allow for novel interpretations of online spaces. Performance encourages users of an online space to explore the boundaries of the "second world" and question the assumed rules governing interaction as well as the status of the individual within a community

What we have done in this project is extend the lives of these architects. As the two quotes demonstrate, these men were very concerned about the longevity of their intellectual work and whether people would recognize their contributions to society. Finsterlin's adoption of the pseudonym "Prometh(eus)" positions as the persecuted greek god who brought fire to humanity. It is with this sense of self-sacrifice in the name of truth and advancement, that the members of the Glass Chain looked toward the future. By resurrecting these archictects in a social environment, which to an uncanny degree they foretold, we have done nothing more than they had hoped would happen.

Future Implications

We expect this project and its wake to be long-lived. While the pseudonymous activities will potentially continue with this original group, we have, more importantly, demonstrated that MySpace may be used as a art medium, and have made our efforts "open source." It is our hope that these tactics will be adopted and reconfigured by new artists who are inspired to create other interventions in the Internet's social arenas. This project, with its multiple charades, has pointed out that our actions and identities on the Internet are always, already, imbued with fantasy and performance. This is a theme that will undoubtedly persist in our future online artworks.


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