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October 2005 - the Odradek and other strange creatures

an oblique take on the language of spaces and forms

Led by Mary Kim

When: Monday Oct 17, 6:00pm

Where: The Charlotte Museum of History

“Well, what is your name?” “Odradek,” he says. “And where do you live?” “No fixed abode,” he says and laughs, but it only the kind of laughter that has no lungs behind it. It sounds rather like the rustling of fallen leaves. And that is usually the end of the conversation.

...I ask myself, to no purpose, what is likely to happen to him? Can he possibly die? Anything that dies has some kind of aim in life, some kind of activity, which has worn out, but that does not apply to Odradek. Am I to suppose, then, that he will always be rolling down the stairs, with ends of thread trailing after him, right before the feet of my children, and my children’s children? He does no harm to anyone that one can see; but I still find the most painful the idea that he is likely to survive me.


– Franz Kafka, ‘The Cares of a Family Man’

Be afraid.


It is the time of the year to talk about monsters and other strange creatures. Time to wake up to possibilities that so far we just sensed lurking in the shadows. But then not all monsters are scary. Yet even the most harmless ones, at least momentarily, make us step out of our comfort-zones. The sheer possibility of their existence challenges many of the basic premises of our own. And their creation often requires us to broaden our vocabulary, invent new terms, and sometimes even create a whole new language.

For the past few years Mary Kim, who is currently an artist-in-residence at the McColl Center, has been engaged in developing a language of oblique elements. Reminiscent of a wide range of precedents like those by Buckminster Fuller, Louis Kahn and John Hejduk, Mary’s explorations brings together elements of literature, architecture and painting, and raises questions like (to quote Mary):

If the narrative (plot) is the organization of a story in time, what is a comparable organization in space?

What is the role of humor, irony, parody and satire in architecture?

What is impossibility in architecture?