Representation | Signifiers

R. Hebblethwaite

R. Hebblethwaite

To discuss representation is to discuss communication. That is to say, the ‘reading’ of one knowledge body by another. The term ‘communication’ is implicit here for its affiliation with language and the idea that there may be miscommunications – mistruths.

When Roland Barthes posited the ‘death of the author’ he implied that the intent or knowledge on which an entity is predicated is of little relevance; it is through the observer’s interpretation that meaning is sought. The observer interprets the text, art or media and imposes their own knowledge body on the piece – from their back catalogue of acquired knowledge. This process is, in essence, the art. The poignant question is, then, to what extent can said piece be interpreted before it is misunderstood (if at all)?  This question looms over the pedagogical marking system for many architectural schools that find themselves gravitating to the realms of artistry or objectification.

The platform for such readings is the process that the creator undertakes. It is the process of drafting that eludes Mr Neville to the folly befalling him in The Draughtsman’s Contract and leads the photographer in Blow Up to perplexing questions regarding reality and crimes complicit in his work. It is this process, this simulacrum, that dispenses with reality, instead crafting a pseudo-reality that, at times, crosses paths with the real and imaginary, artistic playground where reality is subjected to the creator’s own interpretation. This notion is expressed when the photographer, Thomas, learns that his abstract expressionist neighbour implies no meaning when creating: meaning comes later. The process is removed from reality, choosing to negate or employ it as fits, constructing abstracted realities and facilitating “the mind’s propensity to construct tales from them”. (Schneider, 2004)

It is between the realities of the constructed and the true that the creator is embroiled. “His only identification is with the camera, that transcendent mechanism with which he makes images and graphic fabrication of – what? Truth or Fantasy?” (Crowther, 1966). This idea is illustrated in the short text ‘We Can Remember It For You Wholesale’ by Philip K. Dick, where the protagonist (Douglas Quail) has a memory implanted that consequently crosses with a real one he had covered up, in turn causing confusion as to which reality is real: “After all, an illusion, no matter how convincing, remains nothing more than an illusion. At least objectively. But subjectively – quite the opposite entirely.” (Dick, page 306). Thus the creator is subject to his own creation.

This concept is prevalent in the academic studio of Adrian Hawker, predicated on the idea of ‘crafting’ architecture. That is to say, crafting of a narrative, deployed fiction and abstraction in the pursuit of art [itecture]. Casual sex and objectification are portrayed in both Blow Up and The Draughtsman’s Contract, creating striking dichotomies from the notion of the casually objectified/exploited society to the emphasis on exhibition and exploitation of students in the studio to propagate the ideology of the tutor. The tutor’s “Add some lines here” is near synonymous with the planting of lingerie within the draughtsman’s scene.

Robert Hebblethwaite’s work is appropriately used to portray the notion of hyper-reality and capitulation/subjection to it – and, consequently, the tutor. Robert cut and exploded a chest on abstracted sound recordings from Edinburgh’s Royal Museum, that frames a panning view from a boat in the Faroe Islands which is then projected through, and inscribed into a wall. In turn producing ‘tectonic’ ensembles and elements drawn out from the piece in an attempt to elicit an architectural understanding derived from this hyper-reality, even though, rationally, these concepts bare no relationship to one another. Having worked with Robert both in studio and on a self-funded live project in Borneo, I arrive at the conclusion regarding the critical faculty that each process provides: as the academic environment is not subjected to realites constraints of time and money it allows the student to question how architecture is conceived (paper architecture) – the process and faculty of architectural conduct. Whereas live projects, subject to real materials, time and money, more specifically problematise the issue of how to construct architecture – the deployment of the design in reality.



Total Recall, 1990, motion picture, Paul Verhoeven, Carloco Pictures, United States

The Draughtsman’s Contract, 1982, motion picture, David Payne, Channel 4 United Kingdom.

Blow Up, 1966, motion picture, Carlo Ponti MGM, United States of America.

Online Article:

Crowther, B. New York Times. 1966. Blow Up (1966). [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 08 March 14.]

Schneider, D. Alt Film Guide. 2004. Great Work of Art by Michelangelo Antonioni: Movie Analysis of BLOW-UP. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 08 March 14.]

Fictional Text:

Dick, P, K, 1997, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. [e-book] Carol Publishing Group. Available through: University of Pennsylvania Library website <> [Accessed 08 March 14.]

Student Work:

Hebblethwaite. R, 2014. Island Territories. [studio work] (Robert Hebblewaites private colleciton)

Personal Communications:

Hebblethwaite, R., 2014. Discussion on work. [interview] (Personal communication, 5 March 2014).


© Hayden White