“Archipelagos” and “multiverses”: where do these terms come from? How can one think like an archipelago? This is a question posed by Caribbean poet, novelist, and theorist Édouard Glissant, who described archipelagic thinking as a kind of “trembling thought, a non presumptuous thought, but also a thinking that opens out, that shares itself out”. To relate outwards from one’s own position with longing, hesitation and intuition—to tremble—is to embrace a perspective that turns its back on self-referential and demarcative thinking. It is a method that works against dominion because it accepts the impossibility of compatible, heritable, and accessible origins. To think like an archipelago is to embrace a world-building indeterminacy.
In Archipelago: Architectures for the Multiverse, the archipelago becomes a proposal for a working method and a frame for relations. Glissant’s archipelago comprises both the individual islands that constitute it and the figure of the mainland it is oriented towards, one that argues for a fluidity of movement (the boat that drifts between) to grow new hybrids.
If the archipelago is a way to move, then the multiverse is a complication of place. Instead of stable destinations, which imply singular vectors of arrival, the multiversal place is one where many histories, understandings, and languages can be overlaid. How do we transcend definitions—modern/unmodern, local/global, dominant/oppressed—in order to understand where we are and where we can go?
In the process of its making and during its broadcast from May 6–8, 2021, Archipelago aims to weave this mode of inquiry into conversations about disciplines—architecture, landscape, and interior design—as a way to dismantle them. We propose that each discipline, separated neatly upon academic and professional surfaces, is in fact a boiling pot of colliding particles. We might describe the effect as a symbiogenetic “baroque edifice”, to borrow a term from Lynn Margulis. Or, akin to scrabbling through Donna Haraway’s compost heap. It might find affinities with Ursula Le Guin’s carrier bag of fictions, a container of possibilities rather than a pedestal.
Archipelago takes these as starting points for collective reflection:
–What do we need to build and when is building necessary?
–What knowledge, narratives, systems, and stories are hidden in plain sight?
–How do we question disciplinary boundaries by centering kinship, care, and advocacy?
The answers, or further questions, that can arise from these prompts will guide us as we reflect on what binds us together, what draws us apart, and how we can collectively think through the present moment and, perhaps, together draw the lines of a new archipelago.