simultaneously and substantially dual


This is from an article by Arjun Appadurai.  In it, he describes how the world we accept as empirical, the spaces we see and touch and know can only be properly negotiated when we add in an intangible dimension, what we remember and imagine from other places – ones we’ve inhabited, dreamed about, seen at the movies.  By adding the new dimension, which by the way is very real, we see that we live in a much different place than commonly described.

“Because of the degree of media penetration and saturation – which frequently also means media of many kinds and media from many places, particularly television, where it’s available – people live, as it were, in layered places, which in themselves have a variety of levels of attachment, engagement and, if you like, reality … In a world of migration and mass mediation, everybody is living in a world of image flows, such that it’s not simply and straightforwardly possible to separate their everyday life from this other set of spaces that they engage with through the media, either as receivers, or as workers in call centers, or on interactive websites.  The work of the imagination allows people to inhabit either multiple localities or a kind of single and complex sense of locality, in which many different empirical spaces coexist.  So one of these call center people is simultaneously living a little bit in the United States and also living substantially in Bombay.  But Bombay itself, because of films and so on, is not merely empirical Bombay.

In this sense you have a kind of creative, spatial form which isn’t reducible to its empirical facts.  Now those empirical facts – for example, that the trains in Bombay are incredibly crowded  – must be faced at the end of the day.  Even if you’re inhabiting many localities, this one will always be present to you.  But because I do believe in the work of the imagination, I believe your engagement with this empirical world can be somewhat different depending on what translocalities you inhabit mentally, in and through the imagination.  So the train isn’t the same for everyone, not only because there’s a better part and a less good part of the train, but simply because the train is only one element of people’s localized existence.  Again I would say, remembering the urban poor, that the relationship of their experienced spaces to their imagined spaces is always at a disadvantage.  And this must be changed.  But the poor, too, negotiate a relationship between experienced spaces and imagined spaces.  They’re not only living in sheer experience while the rest of us live in the imagination.  That’s my sense of the political economy of these spaces.”

~Arjun Appadurai, The Right to Participate in the Work of the Imagination, Trans Urbanism, V2_Publishing/NAi Publishers


cadences of unknown movements
March 27, 2008, 9:05 pm
Filed under: unseen world | Tags: , , , ,

Circus is a world set apart that takes us in and that we apprehend when we enter the tent.  The ring is a collapsed proscenium; we are made to think that we are a part of the zaniness.  But we always remain convinced that we are not from that world, that we’re just there to delight in it for a moment and then, with more than a little relief, to leave it behind. So which one is it; are we part of it or not?  I think both, that we are a part of it, but want to keep ourselves clean from its madness and scandal by insisting that we have nothing to do with it.  It’s an exercise in substitution:  they’re crazy, I can leave.

“In short, although Calder has no desire to imitate anything—his one aim is to create chords and cadences of unknown movements—his mobiles are at once lyrical inventions, technical, almost mathematical combinations and the perceptible symbol of Nature: great elusive Nature, squandering pollen and abruptly causing a thousand butterflies to take wing…”

– Jean-Paul Sartre

vivid roilings
March 26, 2008, 4:37 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , , ,

(plankton/the great metaphysician, by de Chirico/powder ritual)

Here is a definition of the difference between optimism and utopianism.  Which are you?  I feel surrounded by utopianists, the gentle fall of the powder from their wigs, the smell of old, their polite insistence that what existed 200 years ago is desirable!, the dark press of lack of knowledge that (we are assured) is held in confidence and for the good of all by old men.  Hell, the young men only look that way; they’re old too!

Optimism recognizes an inherent propensity or directedness in any disposition of historical things (even the post-historical “fragments” or the passive drift of cultural “plankton” to which Koolhaas alludes), a direction or propensity that may be drawn out and followed, while utopianism remains imprisoned within the moral universe of what “ought” to be, and so can call on no materiality whatever on which to impress its chimerical shape.  Optimism and danger, very simply, are affirmations of the wildness of life – of the life that resides even in places and things – while utopianism remains an affirmation of the stillborn universe of the metaphysician’s Idea: transcendent, fixed and quixotically indifferent to the vivid roilings of a historical world.

~Sanford Kwinter, Flying the Bullet, or When Did the Future Begin? from Rem Koolhaas: Conversations with Students

a world lacking description
March 26, 2008, 4:09 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Interesting that vampires cannot see their own reflection.  A little less interesting that dogs see their reflection – and that of their bones – and greedily drop the real attempting to get the unreal.  So it seems vanity and greed are metaphored in images of reflection and that the dead are robbed of these human indulgences. Here, in post war communist Poland, all points of reference are removed by refusing to name and describe things.  Instead images and words are used to make an idea that isn’t real.  And living in that place is hard and lonely and duplicitous.

“It’s hard to live in a world lacking description. It cannot be understood if one didn’t live in a not-described world. It is as if you lived without identity. Simply, anything around has no reflection, anywhere. You can’t see any reference point around, for nothing has been described and nothing has a name. So you live on your own, alone; anything that could be used to describe the world was used by propaganda to build the theoretically attractive idea, but… in reality, unfortunately, it always ends up the same way: I mean, you feel a gun on your head. We lived by ideas of fraternity, equality and justice, but there was neither fraternity, nor equality and no justice at all.”

Krzystztof Kieslowski

the divorce: appearance and performance
March 26, 2008, 3:56 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , , ,

Here is a description of how the city’s need for appearance and peformance can be totally divorced from each other.  I wonder about the inhabitants who occupy this condition of divorce.

Do they develop split personalities, which delaminate and separate? In the worst case, are they divided against themselves? Or are we in mendacity to accept the condition as genius and simplicity for the good of the metropolis?

The permanence of even the most frivolous item of architecture and the instability of the metropolis are incompatible.  In this conflict the metropolis is, by definition, the victor; in its pervasive reality architecture is reduced to the status of a plaything, tolerated as decor for the illusions of history and memory.  In Manhattan this paradox is resolved in a brilliant way: through the development of a mutant architecture that combines the aura of monumentality with the performance of instability.  Its interiors accommodate compositions of program and activity that change constantly and independently of each other without affecting what is called, with accidental profundity, the envelope.  The genius of Manhattan is the simplicity of the divorce between appearance and performance:  It keeps the illusion of architecture, while surrendering whole heartedly to the needs of the metropolis.  This architecture relates to the forces of the Groszstadt like a surfer to the waves.

-Rem Koolhaas, Delirious New York

i wish you were here
March 25, 2008, 11:04 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , , ,

This is about yearning; being in a state of suspension and ambivalence and seeing another state of connection and consequence, and wanting it.  Wanting it enough to take great risk to get it.  And the beauty of the state you want is described by someone in it who understands it and acts as an apologist for it’s joy. He is a friend, and maybe this is what a friend is, someone who explains and recommends risk, life, and the ultimate dividend joy.

“Here, to smoke, have coffee. And if you do it together it’s fantastic. Or to draw: you know, you take a pencil and you make a dark line, then you make a light line and together it’s a good line. Or when your hands are cold, you rub them together, you see, that’s good, that feels good! There’s so many good things! But you’re not here – I’m here. I wish you were here. I wish you could talk to me. ‘Cause I’m a friend.”

~ Peter Falk, Wings of Desire

my experiential home
March 17, 2008, 6:09 am
Filed under: unseen world | Tags: , ,

(Global Village Shelter)

Here is a description, by Juhani Pallasmaa, of how the imagination helps us to live.  He says it constructs virtually a home that will do, is a comfort, is fixed even when our lives are not.  It is tempting to think that a fixed life is best.  But, I like this neutral description.  The imagination works for stasis and the family keeps on moving.  The net effect is a life of adaptability and tension.

The image of home
Before I reached high-school age, my family moved several times due to my father’s job and, consequently, I lived in seven different houses during my childhood. In addition, I spent my childhood summers and most of the war in my farmer grandfather’s house. Regardless of having lived in eight houses, I have only had one experiential home in my childhood; my experiential home seems to have traveled with me and been constantly transformed to new physical shapes as we moved.

~Pallasmaa, Juhani. Identity, Intimacy and Domicile, Notes on the phenomenology of home

curiously reversed
March 17, 2008, 4:42 am
Filed under: chronotopes | Tags: , , , ,

(Cemetery, Enric Miralles)

Here is a description, by Juhani Pallasmaa, of how one thing, in this case a building, has to do two things at the same time if it is going to be good.  Architecture, he says, needs to relate us to space and time.  Space makes sense, but we, at least most of us, rarely think that a building or place relates us to time as well.

Contemporary architectural settings are usually experienced as having their origin in singular moments of time. They evoke an experience of flattened or rejected temporality. Yet, the existential task of architecture is to relate us to time as much as to space… The mental roles of these two fundamental existential dimensions are curiously reversed. In terms of space, we yearn for specificity, whereas in our temporal experience we desire a sense of continuity. Consequently, architecture has to create a specificity of space and place, and at the same time, evoke the experience of temporal continuum.

~Pallasmaa, Juhani. The Space of Time. Oz. v.20 1998, pp54-57

missing bombay
March 13, 2008, 5:56 pm
Filed under: departure lounge | Tags: , , , ,

From Maximum City, an account by Suketu Mehta of being educated in provincial, hateful Queens, NY

When I moved to New York, I missed Bombay like an organ of my body. I thought that when I left Bombay I had escaped from the worst school in the world. I was wrong. The all-boys Catholic school I went to in Queens was worse. It was in a working-class white enclave that was steadily being encroached upon by immigrants from darker countries. I was one of the first minorities to enroll, a representative of all they were trying to hold out against. Soon after I got there, a boy with curly red hair and freckles came up to my lunch table and announced, “Lincoln should never have freed the slaves.” The teachers called me a pagan. My school yearbook photo shows me looking at the camera with the caption, “It’s so strong I can even skip a day,” referring to an advertising slogan for a brand of antiperspirant. This was how the school saw me: as a stinking heathen, emitting the foul odors of my native cooking. On the day I graduated, I walked outside the barbed-wire-topped gates, put my lips to the pavement, and kissed the ground in gratitude.”

~Suketu Mehta, Maximum City

victoria terminus