Detlef Mertens – Bioconstructivism, Biotechnics and Biotechniques: Lissitzky, Moholy-Nagy, Kiesler

Lecture date: 2008-11-04

By the early 20th century, both mechanistic and vitalistic theories in science and philosophy had been significantly transformed and ceased to be clearly distinguished.

Detlef Mertins explores evidence of a similar blurring in the work of constructivist artists El Lissitzky and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy in the 1920s and of Friedrich Kiesler in the 1930s. This work appears mechanical since it preceded the popularisation of biomorphic forms, yet was profoundly engaged with how nature builds across scales and in different material regimes and with the potential for technology to hasten human evolution.

Detlef Mertins is an architect, historian and professor at the University of Pennsylvania. His essays on the history and theory of modern architecture have appeared in numerous journals, anthologies and exhibition catalogs, including NOX: Machining Architecture, Phylogenesis: FOAs Arc, Zaha Hadid (Guggenheim), and Mies in America (CCA, Whitney). He is editor of The Presence of Mies and of the English translation of Walter Curt Behrendt’s The Victory of the New Building Style, 1927 (Getty).



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