Concrete Doesn't

A thing is when it isn’t doing. A thing is concretely where and what it is. For example, a successfully shot arrow sticking in a target when it is in a state of arrest. Concrete is as concrete doesn’t.

Does it solidify? (1)

At the beginning of last year, Felix Salmon of The Guardian wrote: “It’s easy to see, then, how brutalism is flourishing in the age of Occupy.” (2) Over the past six years there has been a surge of images picturing dilapidated concrete buildings from the sixties, printed in black and white for coffee table books and photography magazine spreads. One can trace the Brutalist resurgence to Tumblr and Pinterest, where images of failed public housing and dilapidated municipal buildings collect and congeal as signifiers of taste, of architectural appreciation. Guided by a socially-oriented vision of public space, the principles behind brutalist structures crumble with the concrete buildings, even as they continue to occupy space. Their “resurgence” shapes a new vision of public space, one in which taking and owning images of the structures is equal to interaction with the politics behind their emergence.

Let’s pretend a bookstore has maps dedicated to a Brutal tour of Washington D.C., New York, Berlin, etc. and the museum gift shop has a build-your-own 3D model of London’s Brutalist buildings. Here, the intern unpacks and stocks the shelves; “She is inside labor but outside remuneration: stuck in a space that includes the outside and excludes the inside simultaneously.” (3) Supposedly in transit, but stuck at an underpass, sitting in traffic while attempting movement.


As video artist Hito Steyerl discusses it, occupation is a sort of deadlock, “managing access and flow” according to nearly always predetermined lines of class and power. Likewise concrete is formed by a process of deadlock of its own. Aggregation forms a rough surface, one of uneven development. Particles solidify at a slightly different rate, and the resulting cragginess is due to that asynchrony. (4) While Salmon meant that the Brutalist comeback was suited to the Occupy generation of Occupy Wall Street, he could just as well said it’s suited to the Occupied generation--the one who, in attempting to use images to speak, gets stuck in the image and allows it to define positionality. “Thus art assists in the structuring, hierarchizing, seizing, up-or downgrading of space...and it divvies up roles in the figures of artist, audience, freelance curator,” (5) intern, or gallery girl. It’s obvious now more than ever that even the conscious occupation of pre-established positions, images, serve only to freeze movement.

It’s January 23rd, 2017; “Walking through cold winter sun and fading insurrections sustained and amplified by mobile phones. Sharing hope with crowds yearning for spring...But spring didn’t come this year.” (6) Movement looks now like the opposite of solidification; it looks like melting, like deconstruction, not staying still long enough to freeze.


(1) Brian Massumi, “Concrete is as Concrete Doesn’t,” in Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation,” (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002), PDF.

(2) Felix Salmon, “Concrete jungle: why brutalist architecture is back in style,” The Guardian, September 28, 2016, Accessed December 8, 2016,

(3) Hito Steyerl “Art as Occupation: Claims for an Autonomy of Life,” in The Wretched of the Screen, (Berlin: Sternberg, 2009), 108

(4) David Joselit, “On Aggregators,” October 146 (2013): 13.

(5) Hito Steyerl “Art as Occupation: Claims for an Autonomy of Life” in The Wretched of the Screen, (Berlin: Sternberg, 2009), 109

(6) Hito Steyerl “Art as Occupation: Claims for an Autonomy of Life” in The Wretched of the Screen, (Berlin: Sternberg, 2009), 115.


Author: Corinne Butta, Creative Director, Editor & Producer: Alex Assil, Photo: Daniel Kosoy, Model: Anaka Wetch


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