How To Disappear Completely




As I write this, fleets of fantasy are being found to be inserted into reality with greater certainty. Fact and fiction are so layered on top of another, so integrated, that distinguishing between the two is becoming nearly impossible. Moreover, our weak understanding of the production of virtuality disconnects us from truth. Since the destruction of our knowledge on the construction of digital infrastructures, we’ve since never been able to build it, deconstruct it, repair it, or reconstruct it. In this time of dependency and uncertainty our only truth are the images that this infrastructure automatically and perpetually copies, pastes, and synthesizes into new images. Can we discover the significance of these fictional images as artifacts of truth? Will we finally understand why people are disappearing, escaping into the liminal space, the Actual Present? Is disappearing dangerous? Is it a discovery of truth? A local citizen, STACY, recounts the thoughts which ran through her head before and after she lost her shoe, and disappeared (IMAGE #1).


A memory placed in a structure designed as a timeline of movement becomes a machine for processing past events. Through its movement, this index, this machine seems to generate something which is not just the real but the hyper-real. Five memories were auto-produced as images of the augmented-present of STACY during the interview. These images are of her hyperreality, our evidence into disappearing.
A.TIME: Index

B.MEMORY: Face to face

C.POSITION: Tower and stairs




“…The bell tolled at the stroke of midnight, of course. I thought I was asleep.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well I thought I was asleep, but the bell rang and suddenly I was sitting in front of the Prince. He was maybe an inch away from me. Right in my face.”

“Was he handsome?”

“Strange question. Why would it matter? But yeah he was. His breath was warm and clean. [B] But something felt wrong when he looked at me. It wasn’t just him, everyone was looking at me, looking at us.”
“Did you kiss him?”
“No. He moved his lips in for a kiss but I instinctually bolted up. The tower [C] felt alive because everyone was tied to it. I lost track of time and now it was punishing me.”
“Were you late for something?”
“Yes I was.”

“STACY, it seems like you didn’t know what you were late for?”
“I didn’t. I brushed the leaves off my lap. I looked at his face while running and told ‘im I had to leave. I wasn’t thinking, just doing. ’

“And he told you not to leave. Were you worried?”
“Terrified. I’ll never forget it. The clock was still clanging in the background. Obnoxious. It seemed everyone was looking at us.”

“Did you know for certain?”
“I was constantly being watched. We all were. Did you know there use to be entire stretches of land, leveled and marked for focusing satellite cameras? They were called ‘camera resolution targets’. Imagine thousands of cameras in the sky in order to provide constant access to surveillance. Everyone was willfully participating in it. Even if it you didn’t see it, and you never saw it, the air was thick with tension.”

“That’s when you knew you were going to disappear correct?”
“Yes. It’s a feeling deep in your bones. Being watched isn’t for everyone. I knew it wasn’t for me. I needed to escape from them, I just wasn’t expecting it, or rather, didn’t consciously know it was happening. It’s a bit shocking this isn’t a commonly shared feeling.”

“I agree. You would think people would seek their freedom and solitude. My theory is we’re all a bit masochistic; somehow the voyeurism is like a disciplining structure, the same we use to fear when we created the all-seeing god. But you hadn’t realized this earlier? What specifically prompted you to leave?”
“It was the sound of the clock striking midnight. I suddenly woke up and became aware of the everything: the past and future, like um— in a moment I could see all movement in time.”

“Was it your movement or all movement? What happened with the Prince?”
“I don’t know. I lost my awareness of him. I was looking at the landscape beyond the castle. I was suddenly so jealous of those people, the ones that lived there. They had nothing, the privilege of solitude and disconnection from the rest of the world.”


“You didn’t find him handsome though?”
“Christ, you don’t quit… Yes he was objectively handsome and a creep.”

“Because everyone at the ball was there to show off, to whore themselves out in some rotten way. That’s all it’s for. He was handsome because he can’t let a camera catch him looking the least sloppy. He’s filled with all these physical augmentations. It would be too honest otherwise. And good luck getting someone to actually dance in public or, God forbid, possibly enjoy themselves and look like a fool in the process.”

“STACY, what did you tell the Prince?”
“I told the fucker ‘goodbye’ and I took off. Nothing else needed to be said”

“And he asked you to stay?


“Yes! He was persistent. But it didn’t matter because even if I was drawn to him something else took control. I ran forward and through a grand hall filled with pink light. I vividly remember the sound of my glass slippers on the marble floor; they were so delicate. I loved them, but also felt betrayed by them in a time of emergency. If they broke, my feet would be utterly annihilated in a pile of flesh and glass.  The shoes weren’t mine though so breaking them was truly out of the question. I don’t know how they stayed intact. He was there behind me.”

“Where was the pink light coming from?”
“In the hall [D]. There was a heavy red curtain with light shining through, and rows of tall, stout columns. The columns made me anxious because I couldn’t see around them. I had no idea if there were others in the room.”

“Ironically there weren’t people around, but plenty of cameras-”

“And mirrors, tiny little mirrors. I saw them.”

“And then what?”
“The Prince chased after me. He was yelling: ‘I don’t know your name! How will I find you?!’”

“Did you tell him your name? Why was he so interested in you?”


“I didn’t. He was so interested because- well, unlike him, I’m unabashedly an impostor. I found a way to cloak myself in a new identity, one opposite of mine. My clothes, my hair, my jewels, my attitude… all stolen! Not that that was uncommon, but some of us I guess end up entering a new realm as a result. He was falling for someone else. My godmother used to say that disappearing only occurs in extreme stress and when you question yourself and your identity. It especially happens when you lose yourself. When your identities distort into one another… I had found the means and the inspiration to lose myself entirely and became a perception of something or someone else. I’m ashamed but thankful, in a way, for having abandoned my self. I’m not sure I would have escaped otherwise.

When I was running, I had a vision: gusts of wind passed through the hall. I’m feeling a bit sick, but lighter. Suddenly I could see the night sky. There was a storm, and the hall was filling with pink water. People on boats scraped the marble floor as they wade through the shallow water, ruining the wood of the ships in the process and halting in place. These people were very gentle and light, not like the aristocratic people I saw earlier. When still, they were ghosts in an airy tableau vivant.”

“Can you describe your physical state a bit?”


“Ha! That’s hard to say. Ahead there was a beautiful staircase. I kept running down the steps. The steps were so wide, like an ancient structure. The whole time I’m turning over my shoulder, expecting to see the Prince’s warped face. I’m anxious to say the least. In all I was totally out of my body. I had a sense that even though the events were strange, I knew I had created them and I had control over everything. My anxiety was in not knowing what I might do next.”

“What you’re describing sounds like a lucid dream. Have you ever had one?

“Never. But I don’t sleep much and don’t do much dreaming. I’ve done a lot of swimming in lakes though, I use to think that was dreamy. Is it like that?”

“I couldn’t tell you. Never been to a lake. The ones where I grew up were dangerous at that time. I know I look old enough for something like that, but– so how did you navigate through?”
“I just kept running, my body was taking over. My slipper caught on one of the steps and I turned back to retrieve it, but I finally caught sight of the Prince running towards me. I left it behind.”

“Was this when you were fading in and out of this vision? How do know if any of this was real?”

“I didn’t, and I still don’t know what was real… Hey! You ever heard that phrase about catching fish?”


“’If you want to catch little fish, stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve gotta wade deeper waters.’”

“What does that mean?”

“Uh– A friend told me that it was about consciousness; if you want to get into a true state of presence you’ve got to expand the state a bit, get a little deeper. But what about sharks? They go into shallow water too.”

“That’s a good point. Maybe the sharks are like spirits meandering in between reality and the deeper consciousness.”


“I really wish you’d been to a lake. It’s not right for a guy like you to be held up indoors all your life. But yeah you could be right. The whole event was both perception and reality. Escaping the ball was like crossing a screen, between an image and reality. That contradiction didn’t exist.

“I hope that changes one day. I’m not hopeful, but let’s see. So then you escaped.”

“Yeah and it was frightening. I was floating! My body flew through the gate and out into the landscape.

“Into the ruins.”
“Yes. In the in-between, I was just carried there, onto the field of grass in the north. I saw the moon for the last time and then I– just melted into the landscape. [E]”

“How long were you gone?”


“I’m told it was about 30 years.”



What prompted you to partake in the latest blank space competition?

Nick: This is a competition that fit into our ethos and what we’re interested in exploring. We like to investigate what a fantasy is and its relation to reality . Why is it important for us to be making images that are fantastical? They have a function. They’re useful for us to understand the potential of reality. This competition and our investigation made it clear that we are constantly confronted by images which are fantastical, which cross our screens and become reality. Images influence us everyday.

Elena: —And as architects they are the only thing we produce. This competition was a way to explore the limit of building images. We always build images. I’m always telling the students that the only thing we will build in our careers as architects are images. And then once our buildings are done what do we do with our buildings? We take other images! We spend all of our time working around the image. And if someone is hanging ugly curtains around the windows of our buildings we use photoshop to change that image because we always project design as an image. That’s why we call it “project”. It’s always a projection.

What is your take on the architecture competition? in particular the fairytales series?

N: I’d love to hear in working in the Miralles office and working with competitions so regularly, what your take is on competitions, Elena.

E: We were hiding when we were doing architecture competitions. We had the work that was going on, the reality in the office, but Miralles was always inventing competitions— actually we would do two competitions per month. It’s a lot! But he would encourage the studio that the only way an architect can grow is when he hides or she hides into a competition. Because a very good competition, like this one, allows you to speculate and to inform any projects of reality that you are working on. The architecture competition is that tool that allows an architect to really formulate an idea or a manifesto. And when you have been doing 20 competitions a year you probably start to understand something that you can then consciously build. But it is that freedom space that normally happens before midnight. That’s why competitions exist when it’s night…

When we were doing competitions. There was always this saying that “we don’t want to win the competition.” When we started this collaboration between the three of us, it was on purpose that we were not going to think to win the competition because when we think to win the competition is when the competition becomes painful. And if you think about our competition, this was very free. We got into the loop of exploring all of these images until now and I think it’s a fantastic opportunity.

N: It was super free. And the documents we have now are very different from what we submitted because we allowed ourselves to be perturbed by our own images and as a result they continued to grow. To describe the process of this project is difficult because the images themselves represent the layers of the process. They have been layered over and over with new images and new ways of thinking about the same thing we’ve examined over and over. We have of course had images that are specific to the process. These motion detection and rotoscoped images, the examination of the motion of the animation inside the Disney movie was an effective way of seeing the motion that helped to create an understanding of our images, by implanting images inside the motion of the environments and characters in Cinderella.

What lead you to choose Cinderella and in particular the 20 seconds when she loses her shoes as a basis for the project?

E: We chose this fairy tale because it happened to be the most banal one. We have it in common. We said, “What’s the fairytale we dislike the most from Italy or from The States? It’s Cinderella.”

Zach: In a way yes. For me, I wanted to focus on it because it’s the subject connected with so many people’s idea of fantasy. It’s this idea that fantasy and Cinderella are synonymous with one another. But then we had tons of other narrative elements that went into that which overlap onto this. At many points in looking at these images you forget maybe entirely about Cinderella or her escape. It’s visible but there’s lots of competing elements overlapping on these images.

N: You’re both right. The choice started off as kind of a joke.

E: I remember very well that we were asking ourselves, “Can you imagine to focus on the moment she loses her shoe?” and that we should zoom into that moment. Those 20 seconds she loses her shoe is the basis of the project because what we wanted to do was to build the images of those 20 seconds before and after she loses the shoe. It’s the most important part of the movie, but it’s forgotten.

N: It’s forgotten and it happens so fast and you don’t process all of the techniques and details that occur in that sequence. What’s fascinating is that in those 20 seconds, when you begin to deconstruct it, you realize all of these strange things in terms of the staging of it, the sequence of moving from thing to another, a very dark space to a very light space—

E: Yeah and at the same time this conversation of Deleuze when he speaks on the “Paradox of Zeno”, of the arrow… So in the moment that we are taking those 20 seconds and transforming our five images what we are doing is we are saying that movies are still images. We have been, in a sense reflecting on the capacity for a movie to be a still image because we were zooming into the moment of the arrow just before hitting the target and that for us was very important to define what an image is…

What informed the use of the interview as narrative device?

Z: It’s a missing person. In everyday life we’re going out onto the streets and seeing there are no people. Where are these people? They’re in front of a screen living their own particular customized story and thus these people have disappeared. What do you do when someone has disappeared? You file a missing persons report. I think that’s a key element to this overly explicit documentation, that there is a vague subtext that people are trying but failing to understand what’s happening. Am I right?

N: I think you’re right. I think it was a reaction to the way the images were manifesting. That there’s a mysteriousness to these images and the reaction to that is to give a format to the narrative that’s obnoxiously clear; it’s a conversation between two people.

E: Yeah , but why?

N: It was just a reaction.

E: Yeah but one day this text was there with this format… I wasn’t aware of the format. So I believe we choose this because the three of us need a dialogue to understand why we did this. Do you remember when the interview structure appeared?

Z: It came later in the competition… Originally these instances as a part of this interview, were going to be remembered moments in these exact images that you could link these moments to exact parts in the images.

E: I think that these two documents are very complimentary: one is the fact and one is the fiction. I think that in this complementarity, we established another interview in between the two documents. They are layered on top of one another “…so integrated that distinguishing between the two has become nearly impossible.” In fact, time is like this. When you split time in a simultaneous condition sometimes it doesn’t make sense. So I think the complementarity is what is interesting. The interview is a fact and the image a fiction…

What role does time play in your speculation? To what extent is this a significant parameter when talking about the overlapping of realities and fictions?

Z: When you’re telling a story, time is always a requisite element.

E: The role that time played in our speculation was crucial because we were frustrated in thinking that it was the limitation. So we took it as the limitation and thought “let’s build time by complimenting this object with this object.”…To me, this project is less about the overlapping but about a simultaneous condition between reality and fiction.

Z: The whole point of this competition in the first place is that it was in response to living in a post-truth era. So we were wondering if we were ever in a truth era. Is it even possible to live in a truth era? Isn’t everything we see, even if it’s right in front of us and examinable; is this logical positivism even possible? Isn’t everything an interpretation?

E: It’s an interpretation. The idea to reinterpret the Cinderella story is in fact showing that everything is an interpretation. The reality is in the moment. That’s why we were trying to not add movement to the reality of Cinderella, but rather to stay in each moment. Each image that we have been producing was a moment, an instant present moment. And that is what really counts. In the moment that you make a speculation of something, like we are doing now in self-reflecting, it becomes story, but it’s this interpretation in this moment. I think that now we can say that we reproduced the Cinderella story completely, we are inventing a new story, to show that story, histories and stories, are very interpretative. There is a lot about the production of truth in these still images. The truth of a moment. It’s the moment of the “now-when.”

Could you expand on the process and tools of the project?

E: I think that the process is the tool. There is no “tool”. The “tools” are like now [during this interview]. We are not really aware of what we are doing through this interview, but it is mainly the process of recording whatever is happening that it becomes the tool.

Z: We used so many tools.

E: All of them!

N: Yes!

E: We were layering even time on top of our documents and this now is the overlapping idea that is so evident in all of our documents.

Z: Some of this stuff is even recordings from a vacation I took. Some of it is from the actual Cinderella Walt Disney animation. It’s an agglomeration of our subjective reading of our realities. But then this recording of these very subjective instances into this narrative and then suddenly you get a new narrative.

E: I have the feeling, because i’m even self-reflecting even in what I normally do in drawing by layering, constantly, information. I think that when we layer information as in we do in photoshop, the real time, which is what is important, is the time of the process. It’s not even the time of the story or of Cinderella. I was looking at these images and these images are different than from the submission because you’re still growing them. You’re still depositing information on the top of them, as you would an entrance table when you enter a home and empty your pockets.

What is for you the architects most important tool?

E: With that, it’s probably time and space. It’s not a tool as you would say with Photoshop, but those things help you to really layer time on top of space. Of course, Photoshop was important because we wanted to produce even this self-reflection on the screen so the photographic quality was very important. Because what is very beautiful of these images, which refers to the tool, is never the images, it’s the reflection. But I can put my money on the fact that they don’t see the reflection!

N: It’s everything but the actor.

E: The actor that’s on the other side.

N: It’s the absence of the actor.

E: It’s absolutely that.

N: The process of building: that is our most important tool, which is the time and the space. As Elena was saying it doesn’t even matter what that representation is, but it’s to be able to have the capacity to reflect on what you’re making and to be able to further edit that work or document and to be able to expand on that. It’s actually something that goes beyond your ego… I think that’s what makes a great architect, is when they see that thing the are making and are focused on the existence of that object and what do they have to do to propel its existence. How do you give it fully its character?

Z: I think tool means by definition that it has to be something which becomes an extension of the self, like a hammer. If it’s something that has to be external to me, then I would cheat my own answer and say that my best tool is Nick and his best tool is me. And so it’s this cooperative self-critique and self-reflection.

E: I wish that every competition is like this. I understand that architecture are more serious. I do believe that sometimes we can produce architecture like this. I would like to see a competition for the next housing project in Madrid based on eight images of a Cinderella fairytale, but instead of Cinderella we represent the story of a family… I do believe that this fairytale competition and the reason why we took part in it and treated it almost like it was an architecture competition was because it was all very structured. Every image is built as a building, as a floor plan, as a section, that’s why it has so much information. But my question when we did a competition was to have a personal conversation between the three of us and say “can we do an architecture competition like this?” Why do we, the architects, have to invent a storytelling, fairytale competition? Why isn’t there a document that is about the storytelling of the buildings as a starting point for a project? I would start an architecture competition by first saying invent a story and give us not a sketch but a built story like a document of architecture. And in that I think we showed that we are three amazing architects.

Z: The irony of this, I think, even if this seems really abstract, but it’s something that’s done in daily practice at any firm; that you have to ask the client about who they image themselves to be, who are they becoming, and then you have to be able to understand their narrative and build them something according to this imaginary, not yet real reality.