Where the architect’s imagination has floundered, works of comic art like David Mazzucchelli’s “Asterios Polyp” and Chris Ware’s “Building Stories” have emerged as superior examples of paper architecture, buoyed by similar questions about how we inhabit space. Where the architectural comic has gone big in order to grapple with its utopian impulses, comic art has gone small.
Is slavery a sin? What exactly constitutes our “full and complete humanity”? Because he considers such questions not just historically but also philosophically, Davis’s research opens out, like 12 Years a Slave, into broader topics such as freedom, forgiveness, and the possibility of transcendence. Slavery, Davis saw, was a profoundly human problem, and therefore to reckon with slavery would mean to reckon with human nature—that is, to reckon with the kind of being that was simultaneously capable of perpetrating such a system and also of coming to see the need to dismantle it.
As an American who has come of age in the era of what we are constantly told is our decline, I could not help feeling that Shanghai was on the right side of history—and feel drawn to a momentum that I hoped would touch and somehow change me. In fact, from the moment of my arrival, I experienced the city as a series of almost continual frustrations and delays.
I had come to Estonia hoping to find a certain strangeness, perhaps in the form of an administrative subculture where everyone spoke bureaucratese in their sleep—“Deliver the key player to the change agent! Mobilize the mutual learning action plan while there’s still time!” What I found was in some ways stranger.