Princeton University

Anesthetic Design: The Rights of the Modern Nerves
M 29 Oct 2018 | 5:00pm | Kresge Theatre (map)
Alan H Rider Distinguished Lecture

ANESTHETIC DESIGN: THE RIGHTS OF THE MODERN NERVES The history of modern design uncannily parallels that of modern anesthetics. For Adolf Loos, the elimination of ornament was not simply an aesthetic choice, but a neurological or even narcotic one. He argued that we moderns no longer have the nerves necessary to eat, dress, and decorate as in previous centuries. Modern man has a whole new set of nerves with completely different sensitivities. Le Corbusier saw the smooth white surfaces he was advocating not just as hygienic, a way to prevent the spread of germs, but as an anesthetic to calm "the nerves shattered in the aftermath of war." Friedrich Kiesler, Buckminster Fuller, Richard Neutra, Charles and Ray Eames put the nerves at the center. It is as if nerves themselves were the true clients of modern architecture.

BEATRIZ COLOMINA is Professor of Architecture and Founding Director of the Media and Modernity program at Princeton University. She has written extensively on questions of architecture, art, sexuality, and media. Her books include Are We Human? Notes on an Archeology of Design (2016), The Century of the Bed (2015), Manifesto Architecture: The Ghost of Mies (2014), Clip/Stamp/Fold: The Radical Architecture of Little Magazines 196X-197X (2010), Domesticity at War (2007), Privacy and Publicity: Modern Architecture as Mass Media (1994), and Sexuality and Space (1992). She has curated a number of exhibitions including Clip/Stamp/Fold (2006), Playboy Architecture (2012), and Radical Pedagogies (2014). In 2016, she co-curated the third Istanbul Design Biennial with Mark Wigley. Her book X-Ray Architecture is forthcoming in the fall of 2018.