Tommi Hilsee

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“Like every wounded child I just wanted to turn back time and be in that paradise again, in that moment of remembered rapture where I felt loved, where I felt a sense of belonging. ... I was still mourning-- clinging to the broken heart of girlhood, to broken connections. ... We can never go back. I know that now. We can go forward. ... love returns us to the promise of everlasting life."

~ Bell Hooks, All About Love 13

Tower of Love

For my masters thesis project at TU Delft (within the ExploreLab chair) I'm building a tower of love— incrementally, slowly, attentively, ecstatically, quietly and boisterously— with friends— between now (now) and April (2020) (when I will present the project at whatever stage it happens to be in (but the building continues beyond of course)).


Before you think I mean love merely in the romantic sense I should clarify that I don't just mean pleasure and passions (but I also mean that), or the deepness of unshielded intimacy with another (which I also certainly mean), but I'm more after a love akin to friendship. But not merely passive friendship too typical of this neoliberalized world where interests are commodities we download and gatherings occur in singular moments, "a banal affair of private preferences".1 I'm a bit more interested in duration and the ability to stay.

But I also don't mean couple love, or love of the same (identitarian love, fascist, racist love), or love in order to become the same (also identitarian love, added with the banishing of multiplicities, like being forced into formless gloops in order to take on the form of the other half of a man (not that this doesn't reproduce in queer/other relations), so that only then you can belong, and be loved... and meld-away your own 'singularity' or identity). These are what Negri & Hardt were calling corrupt loves2— following Ahmed3, and loads of other thinkers.

The kind of love I mean is more of a longer, wider and more expansive political love, built on friendship. The kinds of friendships that entangle ourselves in each others lives, through processes of building[making] lasting, growing, joyfully[transformative], collective wellbeing.

Let's read Spinoza: :p “It is of the first importance for [persons] to establish close relationships and to bind themselves together with such ties as may most effectively unite them into one body."4 But what makes Spinoza cool is that what he means by the potential for friendship to coalesce many interests into "one" is not to be merging into the same. Spinoza was into finding the formation of a new (rational) state based on "harmony" and a "common mind" which allowed, encouraged even, the composition of singularities into something larger then the individual. These singularities interact, engage and communicate their needs and desires (like Arendt's idea of politics, a bit5) in order to construct/become the 'multitude'. Negri & Hardt take this and promote this encounter/experimentation as the key force to combat these corrupted loves of unification— or that love itself is the production/composing of new singularities (the common)— which is not something that passively happens, but something that is actively constructed.2 Which is cool. (Love is an "event in that it marks a rupture with what exists and the creation of the new.")2

While Spinoza was a bit not opposed to forming a state based on fear (atleast in the beginning), he was certainly not with this Hobbesian, Machiavellian 'Social Contract', "better to be feared then loved" stuff. Spinoza thought this kind of harmony is untrustworthy and leads to hatred. For him friendship and love are an alternative, and his notion is radical in that it takes the interests of others as the interests of ones own. (Subjects share affections of pain and joy, beyond ones personal desires.) This 'state of love' "cultivates citizens who are disturbed by the misfortunes and injuries of others and even look for ways to prevent them in the first place",6 because by doing so they are also caring for themselves. One cares for the community, and the community will inturn care for them, to increase their health, to give them life— not out of self-interest or moralistic altruism, but because the communities, worlds and relations in which we are a part are what give us life. We receive the world as a gift, and we should correspond with it,7 by engaging(caring[to engage is to care]) with life and the relations in which we are entangled. (And engaging takes on some risk, some sacrifice, some discomfort in going toward each other, in the many forms we engage and exist.) ...For Spinoza "increasing own advantage"8 is not this liberalized appropriation of the individual, but always contains a horizon of a future, always emerging, collective greater good, which could be called hope.


An integral part of love, as I'm talking about an active love, which is itself about constructing, is joy. And by joy I also don't mean a static pleasure or happiness. It's a bit like Spinoza's concept in which he defines joy as "an affect by which the body's power of acting is increased or aided."8 Joy in this sense is also active, it constitutes a transformation in increasing our capacities. He links this directly with love: "Love is joy, accompanied by the idea of an external cause."8 He spends some time explaining 'external cause' (in his geometrical precision), but I got a bit lost. But for me the 'external cause' is our relations with others, and our needs and desires. Which is to say that when we come into contact with others in order to make something which increases our joint capacity to make (and think, and feel) more things, we are acting joy and constructing love. (Or rather it is love.) Which is always aimed upwards, creating evermore (collectively) powerful bodies and minds. Joy is something which extends and grows, persists and entangles.

Deviating for a moment... there is something about slowness, in constructing or otherwise, that makes us shift our attention, our aim and our orientation. In the sense that we've already begun building (the tower, or something else philosophical, whatever you want to place here), we are not rushing to begin 'the real work', and we aren't rushing to arrive at a predetermined fixed endpoint. And when we move like that we attend to the shifting reasons as to why we are building this, and in what ways we build it, and to our bodies, and the bodies of our friends (and the need for rest), and the emotions of the moment. In which a shift from productive, efficient modes of construction (dominant within economies of building and economies of knowledge— the unrelenting compelling speed of capital) to modes of being in the act, in presence of things/worlds/relations (enjoy the cold and the darkness! Carry the beams one at a time back and forth! Makes 8 trips instead of 4!), in which the value is oriented towards constructing wellbeing. We don't build to exploit and to conclude, but to endure and grow, to inhabit, and to increase our joint wellbeing, our joint power and our joint capacity to think, feel and make more things, together. (But I'm not a purist, I don't mean to inscribe a single physical speed, fast intensities can also be slow...)

Reflecting with a friend just yesterday at the Doe-Het-Zelf Werkplaats, we were finding that our modes of building when coming into contact with others to problem-solve in the act (better called making things) were not only in the physical building of bikes, or the building of (shared) knowledge, or even the building of relations, but in the constructing/sharing/participating in emotions. Unlike a typical bike shop the joy and frustration of things working or not working is a shared experience that everyone jointly engages in. And this could be related with how Spinoza termed things which are good as those which "render [the body] capable of affecting external bodies in a great many ways... [and] render the body capable of being affected in a great many ways..."8 In this way the capacity to feel and be affected by others and to affect others is integral to the project of love and friendship. For Spinoza affections are what increase or diminish the body's power of acting— with joy being the affection which is principally good, for it causes increases in power. Taking attention to the slowness of our participation in the life-world around us, feeling with it, allows us to be open to being affected, and towards being active in constructing love through joy.

Furthermore, these modes of making things/knowledge/relations/emotions (with the slash being not a divider or an either-or but something that bridges, links, and almost implies oneness, mutate-ability, living in the space between...), can together be called a construction of wellbeing— through acts of making which increase capacities to make, think, connect and feel— or rather: an architecture of love— acts of making love (pun intended).

Thinking through Making

By now maybe you have realized that this is not an architectural project which is concerned with proposing a building plan, or even a method of building which could serve as a model for future buildings (with some usual implication of universality). No, I'm not even concerned with what a building should be, or what it should contain, I'm not interested in knowing the answers to those as some sort of fixed response. I'm interested in how we make things, together, in the flux of changing things. Which is not easy, because there are a lot of things that get in the way of our ability to make serious things together, and stay in those difficult processes. (There's a lot of Haraway9 and Ingold10 influences in this whole thing by the way.) Thats why I think we should stay in the specificity of things— in that the building of this tower is merely a story of some specific things that some specific people engaged in and made in some specific place at some specific time. And it's nothing more than that— but we share with you the story, and the tower, as a gift which you can also engage with. Maybe you'll enjoy it, and maybe you want to join us, because we will still be building, down there, out there, with the people who don't mind (actually live for) the mud and the darkness. (That part is not a metaphor, it's very dark at night and very muddy, and you get to know the moon cycles :P)

A principal component that runs through all of this talk of love, friendship, joy and affections is the act of making. Of course I'm quite into making things, this is an architectural thesis by the way, and I'm also quite into thinking (and feeling and relating), which I'm trying to draw connections between (not just me of course). The architectural component is the one which is pulling making out of the soup and moving through that as primary strategy, a medium, in the project of love, and affection. Through making things together we become closer, more entangled, bond— we increase our power and capacity to make more things, to know more things (sharing, exchanging, gifting), to think more (together and between each other)— forming new multiplicities— to experience the pain of sadness and frustration, the euphoria of overcoming adversity, the adventure of new experiences and emotions and so on.

From my own personal experiences it has always been through making that I have felt most alive, and when that gets mixed with others, my gosh what a feeling. The feeling is so intense its dangerous! When we move through making together, in the act (not predetermined, but emerging out of our engagements— the plan is 'delayed'12) we can feel with the world(it's tools, technologies[knowledge],11 artifacts) around us (and its present-pasts) in order to construct the new. Not only is that when we can build, but it is what allows us to build! When we build in such ways we put into motion those things (the knowing how the build) that we have accumulated through our engagements with each other and nature/the world around us(old-knowledge, 'technical knowledge', and so on)— we can put some posts in the ground and be able to stand on them with the weight of our (collective) body! And then we can do so many more things!


This is undoubtedly a private project— but one that is open. It is initiated by me— it doesn't come from an already formed collective, and it has no fixed values towards its direction. (Other than the values in which I animate it with in the current moments in which I am there with it (and those values will shift, even in myself)). The collective forms through the continual renegotiation of myself interacting with the thing(tower), and with the others that join me with the thing(tower), and the values continually re-emerge through our engagement there in the act. The collective occurs at that moment of (genuine) engagement— and thus the collective is never fixed. Maybe thats bs, I don't know...

But I do want to question the prevailing notions, (mostly in activism, but also more broadly), that projects need to be open, accessible, democratic and based on consensus. Hardly ever does this occur, or is even possible or perhaps even desirable. Most if not all projects emerge from a small group of friends or people that share already declared/known affinities or sets of values— which is fine. I think that's how things happen. But we should be honest about that, and be weary to impose notions of adhering to universal morals— or being definitive that there is a correct way to think, act and build (that somehow you've figured it out). It can get maoist, fascist and moralist quickly... and I'm not so interested in that. I'm more interested in experimentation and responding to each other with attention and care. (Projects and spaces have different scales and levels of public encounter as well— the tower is not a library or a werkplaats, but it could become one, or some people might break off and make something like that.)

To summarize what's going to happen, well, I don't know yet. One part is simple, I'll continue to invite my friends to join me in moments at the tower. Some moments are intense with action, others are slow with pancakes and chats. Some people have ideas and want to make some things and I'll help them make some of those things. Some people just want to watch, and are curious, or want to hang out. Some people want some small tasks to begin engaging, alongside an openness to the things and ideas that haven't yet come. And many things in between. And it's a bit of a dance like that, and we figure it out a bit as we go— thinking through making and experimentation. But the idea is that it's not just my tower— it's open to a life beyond also. And I'm inviting you, specifically inviting you, because I want to make things together and hang out, and make more things which afford us the ability to hang out in so many more ways— like being up above the lake between fabrics and griendhout we weaved together ourselves, playing a game of cards or something, why not.

I can't describe to you the recipe for engagement, as each situation is different, and this project is not about stipulating how that will be, but is about being open to how it could possibly go and being prepared. The description of the tower will not be speculative but will be documentative. I will share the stories of all the various engagements, through written diary entries of each day, drawings (architectural and otherwise), photographs, transcribed discussions, and maybe some more things that we haven't thought of yet. I will continually populate this website with those things as I think of the best way to present them, and when I'm not too exhausted from gathering things and making things. :) See you soon :)

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

1. Carla Bergman and Nick Montgomery, Joyful Militancy: Building Thriving Resistance in Toxic Times. AK Press, 2017.

2. Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, Commonwealth. Harvard University Press, 2009.

3. Sara Ahmed, In the Name of Love. Borderlands e-Journal, Vol. 2 Num. 3, 2003.

4. Baruch Spinoza, Political Treatise. Hackett Publishing, 2005. (1670)

5. Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition. University of Chicago Press, 1998. (1958)

6. Antonio Negri, Subversive Spinoza. Manchester University Press, 2004.

7. Tim Ingold, The Life of Lines. Routledge, 2015.

8. Baruch Spinoza, The Ethics. Penguin, 1996. (1677)

9. Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press, 2016.

10. Tim Ingold, Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture. Routledge, 2013.

11. Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time, 1: The Fault of Epimetheus. Stanford Press, 1998. (1994)

12. Alberto Altés Arlandis, Delaying the Image: Towards an Aesthetics of Encounter. Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, 2015.

13. Bell Hooks, All About Love. Harper Collins, 2000.

and some others that are in my mind...
Gilles Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy
Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus
Brian Massumi, The Autonomy of Affect
Erin Manning, The Politics of Touch
Édouard Glissant, The Poetics of Relations
Penny Brickle, Life and Death of the Longhouse
Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study
Daniel W. Smith, Deleuze and the Question of Desire: Toward an Immanent Theory of Ethics
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality
Manuel DeLanda, A Thousand Years of Non-Linear History
Manuel DeLanda, Assemblage Theory
Alberto Altés, Ana Jara, Lucinda Correia, The Power of Experiment
John Dewey, Art as Experience
Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things
Miguel Ros Montaner, Situated Collective Utopias
Paul Hajian, The Essence of Splace
Jan Wampler, Open Notes for Young Architects

and yet there are many thinkers and friends, and discussions with friends, whose influence is all over the text in ways that are hard to differentiate because their ideas and words are too entangled with other ideas and words as to be able to draw a line between them. I will in some time soon make a 'shadow copy' of the text scribbled over with all the lines of origin to the thoughts (as many as I can recall, because it sounds fun).