I was struck by the abundance of visual representation in Michelle Addington’s article, “Phenomena of the Non Visual.”

She begins the article by describing methods of orthographic representation so clearly that no illustration is needed.  I responded to this with a set of illustrations (just to highlight how easy it was to pull from her succinct descriptions.)

These examples provided an immediate reference for the reader– they allow for the imagination of spaces and conditions within the mind, which is a very powerful thing.  Orthographic descriptions are great for writing and talking because they utilize culturally familiar terms and allow for a “vivid” (visual) description of a condition.

Addington proposes that these images describe a “fixed and constituent” condition, and that visual terms are harder to come by when trying to describe the “fluid and contingent” conditions of architecture.  This leads to neglect of a significant portion of architectural issues– at least neglect of the discourse on these issues.

Should we really be surprised though?  We have more words to describe the visual condition than any other sense.  Such available details inherent in our language suggests that we will always be predisposed to describe things visually, and perhaps instead of trying to describe things explicitly through other senses, we should look to metaphor in our phenomenological descriptions.

Addington sort of acknowledges this when she states, “The visual avatar becomes the language, and the only language, through which we can communicate that which is ostensibly private and personal.  But we cannot draw what is perceptually present through the means of orthographic projection any more than we can draw what is physically present (with ‘physical’ referring to the phenomena, and not the artifact.) As such, our representations of interior environments remain stunningly simplistic.”

This statement can be true in conventional practice, but within the history of visual arts, it is woefully incorrect.  Paintings, sculpture, and other art forms tap into synesthetic relationships without using the descriptive verbal components often required by analytical drawings & diagrams.

By putting such a high emphasis on a kind of academic analysis and etymological obsession with pinning everything down in a systematic specificity, we lose the “subjective simultaneity” that Addington aims to describe.

Instead of attempting to derive a hard-lined description of the “non-visual,” we should define it in a roundabout way that can be interpreted in a variety of metaphorical, synesthetic, and phenomenological ways.  By creating a fuzzy description full of metaphor, analogy, and ambiguity, we allow for the representation of an action boundary as something more than just a wiggly, double/triple line.

Essentially, we need to let poetry into professional practice.

Nobody is going to hire me when I get out of this place.

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