Clemens Finkelstein, M.Des./M.A.
Clemens Finkelstein is a Ph.D. candidate in the History and Theory of Architecture at Princeton University. He received a B.A. in Art History and Cultural Studies from the Humboldt University of Berlin, an M.Des. in the History and Philosophy of Design from Harvard University, and an M.A. in the History and Theory of Architecture from Princeton University. His doctoral research engages the built and natural environments at the junction of Art and Architectural History with the History of Science and Technology. His work has been supported by the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, the History of Science Society, and the Princeton-Mellon Initiative in Architecture, Urbanism & the Humanities, among others. He has worked extensively as an editor, program manager (M+M Princeton University), and curator (A+D Architecture and Design Museum, Los Angeles). His articles and reviews have appeared in several journals and edited volumes, including The Sound of Architecture (2022), Iconology of Abstraction (2020), the Journal of Design History, the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, and Technology & Culture. A Fulbright Scholar from Germany, he has also received a Commendation for Outstanding Achievement from Harvard University (2015-2017), Princeton University’s Lowell M. Palmer Fellowship (2018-2019), and is Planetary Scholar at the Panel on Planetary Thinking (Justus Liebig University Giessen, 2022), Junior Fellow at the CAS »Imaginaria of Force« at the University of Hamburg (2022-2023), and Berlin Program Fellow at the Free University of Berlin (2023-2024).
- Vibe, c. 1969: The Technicity of Operative Ambience in Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios. In: Angeliki Sioli, Elisavet Kiourtsoglou (Hg.): The Sound of Architecture: Acoustic Atmospheres in Place. Leuven 2022, pp. 71-86.
- Planetary Disequilibrium. In: e-flux architecture, Beatriz Colomina (Hg.): Sick Architecture Series (2022).
- Crafting Interiority, or the Evolutionary Objectivity of Vibrating Worlds. In: react/review: a responsive journal for art & architecture 2 (2022), pp. 26-56.
- Spatializing Imponderables: Vibratory Logics of Environmental Control. In: trans 40: Phantasma (2022), pp. 47-52.
- Vibrascapes: Contact Zones and Planetary Media. In: koozArch (2022).
- Towards a Transsensorial Technology of Abstraction. In: Krešimir Purgar (Hg.): The Iconology of Abstraction: Non-Figurative Images and the Modern World [Routledge Advances in Art and Visual Studies]. London/New York 2020, pp. 193-207.
- Sinnesübungen für Datatopia: Die Transgenese in Ryoji Ikedas Werk. In: ARCH+ 234, Projekt Bauhaus 3: Datatopia (2019), pp. 20-23.
Research project: Primordial Planetary Force [Urkraft]: Vibration as Phenomenotechnique in the Spatial Conceptions of Modernism
Environmental system boundaries became increasingly blurred around 1900 by the elusive phenomenon of vibration. Throughout global history, an ambivalent relationship to the force of vibration is echoed in industrial and indigenous epistemologies, constantly oscillating between intellectual attraction and existential terror. As a force of nature responsible for apocalyptic devastation or the life-giving impulse of organisms, the transformative potential of vibration led researchers from a wide range of disciplines to describe it as a primordial planetary force [Urkraft]. Encompassing imaginaries of the humanities and natural sciences, vibration became a ubiquitous indicator of environmental relationships. Whether in geophysics, where its epistemic potential served to explore the Earth's interior; art, where its aesthetic modulation was appreciated at the threshold of human perception; architecture, where its techniques enabled modern construction; or quantum mechanics, which decomposed reality into its frequencies, the turn of the century marks a moment when the world appears as composed of vibrations. This research project traces modern architecture's complex relationship to vibration as a phenomenotechnique, tapping into the anthropogenic operationalization of the physical phenomenon into a design technique. The focus lies on the dynamic exchange between modern conceptions of space in architecture, the life sciences, and geosciences in the early 20th century German-language discourse.
Research results: Environmental Force: Phenomenotechnics and Materialized Cosmologies of Vibration
At the turn of the 20th century, the humanities and the natural sciences were increasingly concerned with the material and immaterial effects of vibration. As an original elemental force (Urkraft) of the planet, vibration not only shapes the face of the Earth but also controls the life-giving, form-giving processes of its dwellers and mediates ontological relations between the organic and the inorganic. The interwoven morphological and pathological understandings of vibratory force in the environmental conceptions of architecture as well as the life and earth sciences can be read primarily in the materialized cosmologies that their disciplinary processes engender. My fellowship at the DFG-Centre for Advanced Studies allowed me to examine two epistemological strands of historical engagement with the perception and application of vibratory force: the planetary force fields of geophysics and the human perception of force in early twentieth-century neurophysiology and psychology.
Whereas physical sciences turned away from anthropomorphic concepts of reality to advance — technoscientifically facilitated — the objectified breakdown of the world into vibrational frequencies, neurophysiologists and psychologists strove to reintegrate humans as environmental force-sensors. The latter experimentally sought a human sense of vibration sui generis, which, evolutionarily atrophied, would be re-trained to provide modern denizens of industrial society with knowledge of their increasingly vibrating environment. Similarly supported by modern scientific instruments, geophysicists traced the internal structure of the planet, one recorded vibration after another escaping from the Earth's body. By considering material conditions as well as immaterial techniques of vibrational force during my tenure at the DFG-Centre for Advanced Studies, I was able to trace the superimposed imaginaries of the humanities and natural sciences as well as the transdisciplinary fluctuating concepts of force between natural appearance and artificial production of vibration: the making of environment.