Catherine Ingraham
It seems to me that we must first ask about danger since, among other things, John Hejduk insistently and formally proposes it to us : the militaristic danger of spikes and points; the surgical danger of knives and pain; the psychological danger of identity, snakes, and suicide; the spectator's danger of freezing up at the spectacle (Medusa); the theological danger of crucifixion and falling — all of these architectural and architecturally rendered. But danger is not an easy subject in architecture. Indeed, the two branches of inquiry I want to propose — one having to do with the "errand," the other with the "detour" — do not, on the surface, appear to have anything dangerous, much less architectural, about them.
    It was a surprise to me to read, in Lancaster / Hanover Masque, the prefatory and descriptive texts organized under the headings "subject" and "object."1 The subjects named by Hejduk are The Sower, The Reaper, The Butterwoman, The Trapper, etc., in other words, the subjects are named for what they do, for their craft. The objects : Farm Barns, Animal Hospitals, Clothes Wagon, are descriptive and functionalist in the same sense. I was surprised not because these names, these subjects in this Masque, are different from the cast of subjects and objects in other Masques (they are both different and the same), but because it suddenly seemed clear to me that at least some of Hejduk's work emanated from an entirely different place than I had ever imagined; emanated, that is, from colonial America. I am not referring to the various neo-classical homages that postmodernism pays to Williamsburg and the University of Virginia, nor, in a curiously related way, the modernist homages not to classical or colonial architecture but to a colonial culture that valued industry, work, and functionality above all (Calvinism). I am referring to what Perry Miller, that historian of seventeenth-century American consciousness, called the "errand into the wilderness," itself a phrase that came from Samuel Danforth's election sermon in 1670.2
    Miller's main point is that the second and third generation of settlers (the descendants of Thomas Hooker and John Cotton) had somehow lost their nerve. Things were not going well. These children were in "grave doubt" about what the great errand had been that drove the Massachusetts Bay Company to settle New England. John Winthrop, who was head of that company, characterized this errand as a divinely inspired social solidarity in the face 9f great adversity, the "possession of a land without being possessed by it," the fulfillment of divine will and manifest destiny. The list of afflictions should this errand fail included "crop failures, epidemics, grasshoppers, caterpillars, torrid summers, arctic winters,...and (most grievous of all,) unsatisfactory children."3 The errand, then, was not to build a new foundation, but to build upon the divine foundation already in place in England (and in the garden of Eden). What happened was that the children yielded to the seductions of the land and, in so doing, lost the sense of the errand and "launched themselves upon the process of Americanization."
    The sense of the "errand" to which Miller is referring is double. In the first place, it means "a short journey on which an inferior is sent to convey a message or to perform a service for his superior." The angelic messenger falls into this category. In the second place, it means "the actual business on which the actor goes, the purpose itself, the conscious intention in his mind,"4 a meaning that had developed by the end of the Middle Ages. The first settlers were on an errand of the first sort, the descendants on an errand of the second sort, that is, they began doing their own errands. It is this fall from the "mighty designation" to found the holy city — the angelic errand — that inaugurates the sort of American protestant urbanism that John Hejduk, the Catholic, subsequently repopulates with fallen angels. These fallen angles are now humble farmers and clerks in the democratic state, but they still often wear the crowns of their former divinity.
    Forced back, as we are, by Hejduk's subjects and objects into an earlier phase of American history (nostalgically or otherwise, it doesn't matter for the moment), we might ask how his urbanistic proposals — the villages and gameboard of the Masques — exhibit the failed errand to settle a wilderness territory with a set of divine principles intact, the anxiety of that failure, and, at the same time, the exhilaration of the clean slate that this wilderness (erroneously, it turns out) represented. There can be no simple answer to this question since Hejduk is, and seems to have always been, both the figure of the father, who maintains the original mission, and the son, who wanders from the path.5 Most of Hejduk's work is not situated within the American city and it would be hard to determine how American urbanism specifically, if there is such a thing, registers itself in his work. The new urban population of Hejduk's work — those who are concerned above all with their formal, architectural relation to the world and are even named in terms of that relation — is, similarly, without a body politic or even a nationality. And yet it is just this kind of ambiguity, the ambiguity of national identity and, above all, of place, that Miller suggests was produced by America's early failure to adhere to the divine mission. This failure mirrored, of course, the original fall of Adam and Eve, itself a continuous theme of Hejduk's drawing. There are, too, the matters of the pagan and the pantheistic, of Bacchus and the Void, of the peculiar biographies and choreography of the occupants (The Children grab and hold the streamers and begin to dance around the Maypole. The music is played on a French horn. The girl-children wear patent-leather shoes with buckle straps made of ivory. They sing a song about the Northern Tundra berries that grow in the melting snow.6) Tales of this sort seem to emanate from some place deep within a European soul and yet Hejduk is from the Bronx and his players are all New World colonialists. The insertion of both objects and the subjects into a pre-existing city — often the same objects and subjects into different cities — without taking critical account of that city, either formally or politically, is perhaps evidence enough of a certain wilderness sensibility, of a lost errand and a sense of freedom. And, too, there is the hint of a circumvented theological mission in Hejduk's work that manifests itself as the architecture of human recalcitrance (the occupant who refused to cooperate) and a nostalgia for the social clarity of the original mission (each occupant occupying one place, the place that is named after him/her, the house of the suicide).
    But there are other matters here. The errand, which one crudely imagines running in short bursts from one part of the city to another, shares a certain topographical character and a certain scale with the urban "detour," a short bypass of an area of construction / devastation. Hejduk's work seems to be about both the errand and the detour, about both the execution of an individual (idiosyncratic) task and the construction / devastation of an urban interstice, a hidden space and hidden house, announced only by its hooded eye, as in the Berlin Masque, in which the psyche operates. For the detour and for the psyche, we go, appropriately, first to caterpillars (one of the afflictions that befell those who failed to fulfill the divine mission) and then to Freud.
    Henri Fabre, the well-known French naturalist / entomologist, once constructed an experiment whereby a herd of Pine Processionary caterpillars — a species that lays down a road of silk and then follows it, one caterpillar after the other — becomes trapped on a circular path of its own making.7 The caterpillars go around and around until, after eight days (eight days !), by accident, one of them escapes the enchanted circle and lays out a new path that the others, half-dead, finally follow home to food and warmth. This experiment interests me for its lessons about the construction of experiments involving life and death; the formalisms of the road, the shape of the circle, the fact that the entrapping path is on the rim of a classical terra-cotta vase and that the escape from that path is down the precariously steep cliff of the vase side, the curiosity of the name "Pine Processionary," the processional line itself; its moral lesson, never absent from Fabre's work, which is often about courage, intelligence, bravery, and, in the case of the caterpillars, stupidity; for the weirdness of the silken road as a digestive "track" constructed outside the body, leading to and from food and home; and for the relish Fabre derives from these "scientific" spectacles.
    What to make of this ? The construction of this experiment seems oddly Hejdukian. It combines the formal with the mythological, the moral with the spectacular. Further, the choreography of the spectacle, which involves patient watching and "aesthetic sensibility," is simultaneously voyeuristic, scientific, and regulatory (these things are not, of course, mutually exclusive). The intricate lesson of the detour in Fabre's experiment, which I will say more about shortly, is also of interest since Hejduk also seems to believe that one must detour around, or deviate from the path or street in order to find some kind of architectural truth about the city and its occupants. The detour will prove to be interesting, interesting in the work of Freud where dangerous material, such as Hejduk's spike, point, cross, and angel of death, must detour through and be repressed in the unconscious mind in order to be made presentable to the conscious mind; interesting in Derrida, where history and the épistème are detours for the reappropriation of presence.
    But let me return for a moment to Fabre. Some of the bixarreness of the episode with the caterpillars is that Fabre watched to see what the caterpillars would do. Here is how he sets it up :
  1. I propose to make the caterpillars describe a closed circuit, after the ribbons running from it and liable to bring about a change of direction have been destroyed....If the Processionaries find the silken rail always clear in front of them, with no switches anywhere, will they continue on the same track, will they persist in following a road that never comes to an end ? What we have to do is to produce this circuit, which is unknown under ordinary conditions, by artificial means... Slowly, in single file, the caterpillars climb the great vase, mount the ledge and advance in regular procession.... [T]he leader.... keeps following the circular moulding [sic]. My object is achieved in a quarter of an boor. The closed circuit is realized magnificently, in something very nearly approaching a circle.8
The caterpillars describe this circle on the top of the vase over and over and they continue to lay down silk that thickens the road. Eventually, they become transfixed by this road, unable to deviate from it even when extreme hunger and fatigue force them to stop and huddle, even when the author places tempting pine branches nine inches away. It is the failure to deviate that constitutes the tragedy of this experiment. By Fabre's calculations, the caterpillars walked for 84 hours and covered, during 8 days, 453 meters. The circumference of the vase was inscribed 335 times. The moral tale is that deviation is a function of reason and will save your life. The moral tale is that the designer-scientist, architect, angel-with a fine brush can wipe away the thread of silk on which you arrived and by which you were planning to find your way back. The moral tale is that the lip of the vase, its circular cornice, is a hellish territory. The moral tale is that loyalty to the road is greater than loyalty to home. And so on.
    In the micro-world of the insect man, these moral lessons are local and amusing. But once they are allegorized in the cosmos of "man" and "architecture" (as they inevitably are, both in Fabre and in Hejduk) their import, and conflicting propositions, become more serious. It is at both these scales, it seems to me, that John Hejduk is working : at the local and micro scale — Aesop's Fables, the local tales, the banker's and candlestick-maker's house — and at the cosmologically enlarged scale — divine territories, cities and villages, large cycles of life and death, time and space. If one were to try and typify Hejduk's influence on architecture it might take the same form as Fabre's influence on science : i.e., what begins as a matter of personal or animal (domestic) concern is drawn out / personified in such a way as to enlarge it to the scale of a philosophical, theological, and architectural proposition. The poetics of this work, if there is one, lies in this almost occult and alchemical change of scale.
    The errand and the detour bring us, through the problem of scale, to the image and one place where the image is paramount, the dream. Hejduk's work is iconographie, which is to say it is work whose essence is images (thus Hejduk's architecture is the architecture of the picturebook). According to Freud, dreams are also predominantly images; as he remarks, "dreams think predominantly in visual images and... what are truly characteristic of dreams are only those elements of their content which behave like images."9 "Dreams hallucinate and...construct a situation out of images." Dreams and dream interpretation are about the simultaneous competition and elaboration of the image and the word. For this reason, the role of interpretation in Freud has been instrumental in the critique of interpretation wherever it may appear. It is the relationship between dream and analysis (image and word) that the entire four hundred pages of The Interpretation of Dreams centers on, and that I want to spend only a few minutes discussing.
    The detour of dangerous thoughts through the unconscious results in repressed material, some of which is later recovered by the subject through the analysis of dreams in Freudian psychoanalysis. Now the interesting thing about this recovery is how the language of images of dreams is translated, or rather, commuted, into the words of analysis. The dream images, what Freud calls the manifest content of the dream, are extremely condensed. Analysis is a process of decompressing the dream material that is latent, what Freud calls the "dream thoughts." Thus does the analysis seem verbose whereas the dream seems economical, just as we might have suspected from the simultaneously precise and imprecise — and fabulistic — thousand words it proverbially takes to describe one picture. The dream images are a picture puzzle, a composition that must be taken simultaneously at face value and not at face value.
    The dream is always, according to Freud, the fulfillment of a wish and it is the work of analysis to break through the censorship of the dream — to interpret its symbolic images — in order to understand the wish and its danger. What appears to be an incidental, small-scale event in the economy of the dream may take on a large-scale significance in the world of analysis. What might be merely a passing image, once interpreted, becomes an entire map of the transaction between the mind and the world. The detour, in the case of the dream, is not from one street to the next, but from one species (the image) to another species (the word). In dream analysis, we see that both the danger and the hope is that the analysis will bring things hidden to light — and not just to light but "to word." The other danger and hope is, of course, that we will bring nothing to light and be saved by silence.
    Jacques Lacan reminds us of a third danger : that, in the process of interpretation, we will forget what he calls the "gap." In directing our attention at subjects, Lacan remarks — and here one might bring to mind both Fabre and Hejduk — one tries to touch them at the navel, "the navel of dreams," Freud calls it to "designate the ultimately unknown center."10 As Lacan goes on to say : "It is always dangerous to disturb anything in that zone of shades, and perhaps it is part of the analyst's role, if the analyst is performing it properly, to be besieged — I mean really — by those in whom he has invoked this world of shades, without always being able to bring them up to the light of day."11 It is in the locus of the gap, this zone of shades, that Lacan situates the "signifier," the word-image whose primary characteristic is "lack."
    Like most analysands (executors of the signifier) Hejduk's desire is to "stitch up this gap" between image and word (between the dream and its analysis), partly through a rewriting of the subject's experience as an architectural allegory : a "narrative description of a subject under guise of another suggestively similar."12 The allegorical character of Hejduk's mythical inhabitants rests in their "suggestive similarity" to the buildings they dwell within, speak about, are infected by. If it didn't throw us into an impossible spin, I would say that Hejduk attempts, in this regard, to reverse the image-word relation characteristic of psychoanalysis. He reduces the word to a condensed and cryptic "poetics" that the image subsequently elaborates and interprets. This is certainly one of the main propositions of the equation "a picture is worth a thousand words," that is, that a picture has as much to say as a thousand words (which, for words, isn't very many; it is only the picture that imagines i,ooo words to be a lot — but this is a different issue). The problem with this reversal is that, 1) we are not really dealing with dream images or dream texts, but with dream-like material (i.e., allegory), and 2) once we make the image the elaborating instance of the word we can no longer make use of Freud, although we can still make use of Lacan's "gap." In other words, it doesn't make sense to speak of the psychoanalysis of a subject where the subject's words have themselves become cryptic images. This is not psychoanalysis but psychosis.
    But let us say, provisionally, that something like this psychosis is happening, since words and images both have cryptic potential. Let's say Hejduk asks us to detour not through the condensed iconography of the image but through the word. We come in Riga, for example, to the text describing the Garden of Angels :
  1. The Garden of Angels is enclosed on three sides by walls ten feet high. The fourth side has openings which lead into snake-like metal corridors. The garden has a grid of trees. The trees are planted so that they can he used as angel perches. When an angel alights onto a tree, the angel's wings flap in a harmonic motion creating a slight wind. The air then has the odor of almonds.13
    The specificity of the text (three walls, ten feet high, a grid of trees), which is careful to use certain architectural nodal points (wall, corridor, grid, perch), gives us what appears to be a symbolically reduced portrait of a place. Were this really a dream, one would have to ask, "well, where did these angels come from ?" or "why the odor of almonds ?" These questions would, in turn, lead one to discover, perhaps, the desires expressed in the dream. But there is, now, also the drawing that accompanies this text. The drawing of the Garden of Angels does not bother with the dimensions of the wall but instead elucidates the garden as part of a city of buildings with inverted roofs, next to a prison, with a clothes wagon passing by, and dead tree branches reaching over a wall. In other words, the vocabulary of the drawing is recognizable in a way that the words of the text are not. We don't have to ask, "why the dead tree branches ?" because the dead tree branches just are, they are their own evidence. It is not that the image elucidates a "poem" (which is our idea of cryptic language), since Hejduk's writing is not poetry or, if it is, it is poor poetry. The image elucidates the words by being specific where the words are general. The images belong to an already specified grammar, the grammar, for example, of the the "V" cuts (double scission) : the "V" of the angel wings, the "V" of the inverted roofs, the "V" of the tree branches, the clothes wagon which appears elsewhere, the prison, and snaking corridors.
    Now, however, the problems with this whole analysis can no longer be overlooked. What can it mean, as I asked before, to take up the question of dreams and interpretation in the absence of the psychological crisis that precipitates analysis ? A crisis does exist in this work, but it is not quite like the crisis of the- psychoanalytic subject, although it shares something with the psychological. If Hejduk's images repress and provide a detour for a certain danger, as I believe they do, then how can we speak of this danger ? To answer this, and to get us back on track, so to speak, we need to go back and then deviate again.
    The so-called "errand into the wilderness" that I started with, vis-à-vis Perry Miller, was more than the abandonment of the divine mission. It was a substitution of what Miller calls "the problem of...identity" for "the magnificence of leading an exodus of saints to found a city on a hill."14 We know from Lacan, and from Freud (and Derrida), that the problem of identity is about insufficiency and lack. And we know from architecture and architectural theory that at moments of lack, structures attempt to apply ornament, to both cover up and inscribe the deficiency. All of this — errand, identity, ornament — as well as the "change of scale" that I referred to earlier as the way in which Hejduk gets from the house of the suicide to the philosophical house or the angelic house (and which is also crucial to the analysis of the dream) has to do with a functional forgetting. To stitch up the gap between ornament and structure, you must forget the competition between the decorative and the structural; to establish an identity, you must forget the fundamental alienation of self; to change scale, you must forget the monstrosity of the enlarged and the shrunken; to interpret a dream, you must forget the gap at the navel of the dream.
    In one respect, Hejduk knows the price of forgetting. He is quite brilliant at this thing we could call "wilderness urbanism" — the urbanism of the misrun errand and detour — and he knows the lessons of the Pine Processionary : spectacle is knowledge, deviation saves you, the lip of the vase is hell, the road is a silken thread, etc. On the other hand, Hejduk forgets so completely about the gap (in scale, identity, the dream, the word-image), that every story he tells, every architecture he designs, is a dream of control and omnipotence. Every occupant of this architecture is renamed by Hejduk, each body and history is mined for its structural power, every political, social, ideological boundary is erased and receded.
    All along the way, I have been imagining Hejduk as one of the descendants of that founding Protestant urbanism who felt the loss of the original errand and inscribed that loss, and the ensuing identity crisis, into his villages — THE FATHER. But, as I also initially imagined, he is simultaneously THE SON, one who not only forgot himself in the wilderness in the sense that he let drop the divine project, but one who subsequently became the master planner. The father desires to erase the (wayward) son; but the son, he/she who masters the wilderness, in turn erases the father. This is an old crisis of reversal, replacement, settlement, and colonialism.
    I have brought the argument to a certain point here that seems plausible; that the transformation of the errand into the wilderness through forgetfulness — keeping the idea of forgetfulness full — resulted in an urbanism of forgetfulness. The positive emblem of this forgetfulness in the American wilderness is the Jeffersonian grid. Joan Copjec, in an article entitled "The Grid and the Logic of Democracy," writes that the more architecture ignores psychoanalysis (and it is psychoanalysis we have been speaking of), the more the unconscious will "bedevil architecture." No one, she maintains, can understand the ubiquitous grid plan of American cities without knowing something of psychoanalysis. What she means by this is that both the grid and democracy are governed by paradoxes that only psychoanalysis can account for. These paradoxes are as follows: 1) "Democracy is the only social system in which every individual has a chance to express his or her particular will" but each individual's vote "only counts as one....The individual's particularity is thus annulled by the very act of its expression." 2) In Freud's version of the Oedipal myth, which is also a tale of the mythical origins of democracy, the sons rise up and kill the father (which is also the killing of the system of inherited knowledge, the body of the king, etc.). But the father proves to be more powerful in death than in life. The guilt of the murder severely "prohibits" the enjoyment of the sons. The [democratic] equality of the sons, which occasioned the death of the father, is also only possible through their privation. In other words, it is "only the absence of guarantees that guarantees democracy" As Copjec remarks,
  1. By definition, then, democracy is an unsettling, a eonflictnal space; it is therefore undermined by liberal attempts to reduce this conflict, it is destroyed by the valorization and encouragement of pluralism....The attempt to secure the peaceful coexistence of all entails a surrendering of doubt for the proleptic certainty of the whole, the whole within which differences would presumably take their place and to which they would become subservient....The grid — as the urban law of democracy — is similarly conflictoal; it comports within itself its own transgression, its own limit or exception. The grid is not, contrary to the way it is ordinarily conceived, infinitely extensible....The breaks in the gridplan are not resistances to it,... [they] are internal to and not transgressions of the grid.15
It is psychoanalysis that has instructed us in the limits of universalization by formulating something that is unavailable to us, the unconscious. "This remainder... is the social bond in a democracy"
    Almost every Hejduk architectural tale ends with an opening to the very ideality — heaven, love, redemption, plenitude, sweetness, happiness — that is inimical to the maintenance of the conditions out of which that ideality is produced. The functional subject, with whom I began this investigation, has a name (farmer, reaper, master builder, clerk), a biography (the Chiropractor / Acupuncturist : "started his practice in Union City in a turn-of-the-century wood-frame house. He had the habit of placing his needles in the leather of the chiropractic cable....He and his wife decided that the Farm was where they wanted to be. They enjoyed eating piglet ear drums"16), and a place ("a moodframe house"). But the residue of the conflictual "gap" between subject and architectural object has been obliterated. One might say that the socalled democratic subject (comprised of an identity and place) that Joan Copjec enunciated as being indebted to the psychoanalytic idea of the unconscious has also disappeared. The danger of John Hejduk's work, then, is to the very subject to whom the work is tacitly dedicated — the democratic subject. And the danger consists of a reduction of the subject to an already reduced architecture. This is also, of course, where the seduction of this work lies : for one of our wildest American dreams is to become our grids, to become our architectures.
1 John Hejduk, Lancaster / Hanover Masque (London : Architectural Association; New York : Princeton Architectural Press, 1992). All citations are taken from this edition unless otherwise noted.
2 See Perry Miller, Errand into the Wilderness (Cambridge : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1956). All citations taken from this edition unless otherwise    noted. It now seems especially appropriate to me, in a general way, that we are referred back to the seventeenth century since the masque itself was the theater of the seventeenth century
3 Miller, Errand into the Wilderness, op. cit., 6.
4 Ibid., 10-11.
5 I am referring here, very loosely, to the accounts of some of Hejduk's student at Cooper Union who have often seen John Hejduk as the architectural and Oedipal father. Hejduk as "son" is more complicated. Certainly in his own work — drawing and writing — he adopts a certain posture of the disciple. And, in another way, his career has consisted of a highly idiosyncratic and influential body of work that mapped out an entirely different "architectural life" than that prescribed by the orthodoxies of practice and building.
6 Hejduk, Lancaster / Hanover Masque, op. cit., 38.
7 J. Henri Fabre, The Insect World of J. Henri Fabre (Boston : Beacon Press, 1991). All citations taken from this volume unless otherwise noted.
8 "The Pine Processionary," in Fabre, The Insect World of J. Henri Fabre, op. cit., 10-24.
9 Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (New York : Avon Books, 1965), 83. All citations taken from this volume unless otherwise noted.
10 Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (New York : Norton Press, 1981), 23.
11 ibid., 23.
12 Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. "allegory." I almost never use dictionary definitions in this privileged way since the dictionary is, ultimately, as problematic as any text. But here I was struck by the oddness of the definition and its own suggestiveness for examining Hejduk's work.
13 John Hejduk, Vladivostok (New York : Rizzoli international, 1989), 36.
14 Miller, Errand into the Wilderness, op. cit., 15.
15 Joan Copjec, "The Grid and the Logic of Democracy," in Mario Gandelsonas, The Urban Text (Chicago : Institute for Architecture and Urbanism and Cambridge : The MIT Press, 1991) 13-15.
16 Hejduk, Lancaster / Hanover Masque, op. cit., 46.
"Communications Ministry and Conservation Office," from Vladivostok, e. 1987.
Ink and watercolor on Japanese rice paper, S x 7 in.
Collection of the Architect. Courtesy John HeJduk, Architect.