October 11, 2023
1-Museum of Accidents
At the dawn of the 2000s, Paul Virilio imagines a museum of accidents.
He defines it as follows:
“To exhibit the accident. All accidents, from the most banal to the most tragic, from natural disasters to industrial and scientific catastrophes, but also the happy accident, from a stroke of luck to love at first sight. Exposing accidents so that we are no longer simply exposed to accidents.”
According to the sigma report from one of the world’s largest insurance companies, Swiss Re, at the dawn of the 2000s, damage caused by man-made accidents surpassed that caused by natural disasters. Now we’re adding to this tally the damage created by climate change, the scale of which is incommensurable.
Paul Virilio’s project was prefigured in the exhibition Ce qui arrive (What happens in english) at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, but the museum itself mostly remained a dead letter. We propose to build it under the aegis of the Museum of Transgressions.
3-Museum of Accidents
The department’s motto would be Hannah Arendt’s quote: “Progress and catastrophe are the obverse and reverse sides of the same coin”. If every progress or invention is a symbolic monument devoted to the hegemonic order, every accident is its failure. Accidents are an attack against human techno-scientific ego and its will to control nature by regulating speed and the course of things. The Paradox is that we are growing increasingly allergic to accidents, we are trying to avoid them by all means with insurance, security procedures, and algorithmic predictions. Even happy accidents, such as falling in love are now the object of calculations. Yet the number of sinister accidents has never been so outstanding.
If museums have already seized on the idea of progress, we’ll take its negative, i.e. the accident. We won’t be talking about ships, planes or artificial intelligence, but about wrecks, crashes and bugs. Indeed, if invention is just a way of seeing, of grasping accidents as signs, as chances, then it’s high time we opened the museum to the unexpected, to the forbidden, denied and therefore what modernity regard as transgressive, the accident.
4-Museum is not a theme park.
The museum of accidents is not a theme park.
Paradoxically, as we are growing accident-phobic, we have developed a proportional fascination for artificial accidents or the accident’s thrill without its dear consequences. We psychologically train ourselves against accidents by making fun of them, and reproducing them in vitro in theme parks.
The first modern death trop machine at the bottom of the Eiffel tower that was supposed to inaugurate the monument in 1989 or the evocation the first flight accident, the Fall of Icarus, by the very architecture of the Terminal of Paris Charles de Gaulle Roissy Airport are testimonies of this obsession.
5-Museum is not a museum of horrors
The museum of accidents is not a museum of horrors
I will not be a cabinet of curiosities of human failures or a site to contemplate gruesome accidents. It will not delve into the gore or cater dark thirsts for destruction. As such it won’t be a catacomb of the industrial age.
The museum of accidents will do the autopsy of human direct or indirect accidents. It will be the anti-monument to all the industrial or technical museums by reinstating incertitude as the pivotal aspect of human condition. Its goal is double folded
1- to avoid integral accidents which is likely to internalise a multitude of incidents and disasters through chain reactions
2- reconcile humanity with machine’s contingencies. Admitting this is to transgress the current irrational belief in the possibility of annihilating unplanned events. Admitting this is the only way we can live with machines.
This department is made up of derailed machines, misaligned robots, computer bugs and defrocked AIs as well as orgasmic and ecstatic accidents. But whether deemed grim or joyous, this department would focus on events that have left the orbit of the predetermined to embrace uncertainty in all its terrifying and intoxicating glory.
It would be divided in 6 departments:
-The Individual accidents represented by the rebellious sex robots imagined by Shu Lea Cheang in her Lesbian cyberpunk porn IKU from 2000. Originally conceived as android sex toys deployed to collect sexual data from men, these robots will free themselves from their mechanical sexual program and found a cyber lesbian utopia in the wild.
-Then the infrastructural accidents which are illustrated here by the notion of social condenser imagined by the constructivists in the early 20th century. This notion was originally conceived as an architectural program encouraging the dynamic consistency of several activities, with the hope of generating accidental events through their interference. Their contemporary translation would be cruising areas in the interstices of buildings, such as shopping malls, multiplexes or librairies. In the present example, it is rem koolhaas New York Athletic club building inside which we can see yuppies eating oysters in the locker room of their gym after an impromptu coit.
-The informational accidents or the informatic bug that can lead to a market crash. We would reconstitute New York Stock Exchange, the only authorised sex club in NYC where information sleeps with capital.
-The industrial accidents exemplified here by Lebbeus Woods’ architectural violence.
-The natural accidents lead by climate change
-And finally in a separate space we will encounter the godly accident. Here it is illustrated by Pier Paolo Pasolini’s actualization of Saint Paul life in the 20th century detailed in his unrealized script about the later. After a car crash while on his way to Barcelona to fight to the communist resistance, Saint Paul becomes a vigorous marxism and will fight the fascist in Europe before getting killed in New York while trying to counter capitalism
As museology requires museography, the question of how to present the damage caused by progress remains unanswered, and is an essential element of the project. Therefore as a proposition we had the unrealized drawings micromegas by Daniel Libeskind. This composition was named after a satirical story by Voltaire and exemplified the idea of accidents as a resignation against inertia.