the inside frame:
studying art and architecture through boundaries

The boundary language project offers workshops, studios, seminars, and lectures about a new interdisciplinary notation system that can describe and model spatial-temporal settings in terms of their fundamental cultural and psychological components. Drawing from the works of Vico, Lacan, Zizek, Spencer-Brown, and others as well as a range of examples from art, architecture, and the landscape, boundary language lays the ground for comparative studies as well as intensive artistic interventions.

COLLABORATIVE PROJECTS. The phenomenon of the boundary is intensely 'Lacanian' in its topological relationships to space and time. Essays, publications, workshop materials and other documents have been collected on the new central BOUNDARY LANGUAGE CENTRAL SITE.

WORKSHOP-STUDIOS. Boundary language workshops meet in exotic locales, combine film and food with discussion, engage the landscape through photography, drawing, and experimental provocation. The result is a vacation to write home about, particularly if your home is ACTAR, Routledge, or MIT Press. Quieter minds will keep to journals, post-cards, and personal blogs. Watch for the announcement of the next annual destination. Not just for insiders; send a resumé plus a summary of your interests and goals for the 3-5 day session and suggest a location of your choice.

READ UP: Work in progress, reprints, on-line publications, and other readings on boundary language are available at LOCUS. These writings span all boundary language projects and include a sampling of early work. Locus is repackaged with the new BOUNDARY LANGUAGE CENTRAL SITE.

PAST WORKSHOPS. Thanks to a Nadine Carter Russell Chair appointment at the College of Art + Design, Louisiana State University, boundary language was extended to questions of the landscape in Spring 2008. This workshop series focused on the centrality of the 'uncanny' as an ordering strategy in perception, culture, travel, landscape use and design, and the special case of the garden. Go to the special LSU WORKSHOP PAGES for documentation of this workshop. This site is also available by clicking on the 'landscape' link on the left. Check out the early draft of the Crippled Cow Studio's project book. Past workshops have been held at the University at Buffalo (SUNY), Virginia Tech. Alexandria Center, The Cleveland Urban Institute, and the University of Pennyslvania.

scene from George Herriman's 'Krazy Kat' cartoons

Project development through a variety of media is encouraged, including Installations and performances, analogous drawings, maquettes, narratives, and videos. Structural, functional, esthetic, cultural, and technological issues must be considered simultaneously. "Study methods" are also open for discussion. The studio and seminar will use a "hopscotch" method to cris-cross unexpected topics and to hippity hop across categories, cultures, media, and time-zones.Participants in studios, workshops, and seminars are encouraged to use film as a primary groundwork for projects that create frameworks for reflection and discussion.


Slavoj Zizek, a central source of boundary language critical theoryMETHODOLOGIES. Boundary language is itself a topological notation system developed to combine psychological, philosophical, architectural, and esthetic concerns within a single graphic code. The basis of the code comes from such sources as Giambattista Vico, Jacques Lacan, Norman O. Brown, Slavoj Zizek (photo), Ernst Cassirer, George Kauffman, Jay Kappraff, and George Spencer Brown. Its main component parts center the human subject within the contrasting orders of the symbolic and the un-symbolizable imaginary.

Central to the inside frame studio and seminar is screen theory, a study of the role of framing, representation, and media. Tutorials for self-study and preparation include a series of puzzles using boundary language and screen theory. A diagram called the 'bolagram' is the template for thought, study, and discussion. Learn how to construct a bolagram, and see bolagrams created to date.

Boundary language, screen theory, and the inside frame are not esoteric abstractions. They are drawn from popular culture, critical theory, and the arts, where they are a part of strategies used for centuries to organize art works and the audience response to them. For a strikiing illustration of this, look at George Herriman's long-running comic strip, Krazy Kat, for a basic primer on boundary language ideas.

The ideas behind boundary language may be condensed into four meta-topics: iconicity (art's practice of self-reference), anamorphosis (point-of-view issues), idiotic symmetry (dialectic conditions arising within human thought, behavior, and settings), and the inside frame (themes of inversion, displacement, surplus, and collation).

Additional strategies include the generic practice of 'hopscotch' — a method of topical combination using a 'polythetic' logic that allows incompleteness and cross-categorical inclusiveness — and fictim design, a technique for assessing and controlling the function of the point of view in the construction and interpretation of works of art. The hopscotch method uses a grid/net requiring the linking of seven themes/sites: Vico, Babel, Alcestis (Euripides), labyrinth, a theater of universal memory, Mulholland Drive (Lynch), and Rear Window (Hitchcock). Participants explore links in terms of both metaphor or metonymy. The idea of a boundary language is supplemented and condensed by screen theory, a compact account of the perceptual zones of the process of artistic reception.

An index of most topics, papers, and resources might help in case you get lost.

potential maquette, camillo's theater of universal memory

WHO. The Inside Frame studios, workshops, and seminars are directed by Don Kunze, Prof. of Architecture and Integrative Arts at Penn State University.

WHEN? Versions of the seminar/studio have been taught at Penn State (under the guise of 'Sleuth Architecture'), the University of Pennsylvania, and Cleveland Urban Center. A semester-long studio and seminar at the University at Buffalo combined film, installation art, and critical readings to generate a series of projects on the subject of boundary crossing. Most recently, boundary language will be carried to Louisiana State University's Department of Landscape Architecture thanks to a grant from Nadine Carter Russell.

The Boundary Language Project was initially supported by the Vernon Shogren Foundation, Raleigh, NC. Seminars and workshops supported by the University of Pennsylvania, Penn State Alumni and Continuing Education Office, the Department of Architecture, PSU, the Urban Center at Cincinnati, the Reyner Banham Fellowship at the University at Buffalo, and the Nadine Carter Russell Fellowship at LSU.