Recording technologies, like enclosed spaces, promise to safeguard their contents from the ravages of the outside world. Sound waves, rather than leveling out into oblivion, are inscribed into wax, to be retrieved, self-equal, at a later date. Of course, white noise and other sonic oddities render pure preservation a quixotic goal; a message, altered via the imperfections of the arts of recording, is inevitably different upon its playback than at its first utterance.
Not everyone, however, sees these distortions as meaningless errors. Paranormal investigators tend to treat failures of transmission as messages in their own right: to them, splotches on digital photographs are spiritual bodies and radio static eldritch screeds. Notably, these investigators also see evidence of the beyond in failures of homeliness: the first sign that a house is haunted, many ghost hunters argue, is simply that its inhabitants feel uncomfortable. What to make of this collapse between the errors of communication technologies and the errors of architecture?
In 2018, seeking an answer to this question, Familiars Strangers invited a team of paranormal investigators to examine a prototypically haunted space: a locked attic room—or, to be specific, the locked penthouse atop the Paul Rudolph-designed Yale School of Architecture (Rudolph Hall). The Haunting of the Penthouse narrates this night and its frightful discoveries, the most notable of which may be that the figure-ground reversal of paranormal investigators—who listen not to signal but to noise—has much to teach architectural analysts. In this light, Rudolph Hall can be defined as much by its intended program as it can by the ways in which it serves as a framework for counter-programmatic acts: revolutionary student demands, arson, amatory misuses of space, and all the other noise for which Rudolph Hall inadvertently serves as channel. - Familiars Strangers