Steve, memories 1
I am an architect. In that I am interesting, I write, of anything else well only if words and time allows.
That’s all I have, Nick once said that I had a "memory like a country lane, narrow, windy, and covered in potholes that meanders on forever". But I can’t manage names, faces, ex-lovers or tasks. I only remember horrible events, objects and words I should not have spoken, whereas I am often haunted by strings of text from Fortini, Baudrillard and Gaddis. So I wander around the city life a self creating driftwork.
Born on the 28th June 1951, a cold and miserable day I presume, christened I found out 43 years later in the John Wesley church in Barnet. North London.
Then: Father John Curren B…. Mother Kathleen Louvain L…. Sisters Linda , Jaqueline, Sally… Brother John Hedley. Pets Cats Korky, Sammy.
Now: Wife Zofia Terese D… Children Nina, Sam… Cats Larry, George, Bessie Terrepins Gargantua, Rabelais.
Standing tiredly on a train – listening to some young, relative to his own age, people declaim their sexual attraction to one another, basing this on the discourse and the concentrated gazes. Then looking around he watched gentle hands as thin as razor blades and as long as a flesh covered skeleton, tendons pushing out through the flesh. Desire, he thought, was as surprising as the music of Miles Davis on a hot summer night in the RFH. Later still after a bottle of German beer and a cappuccino listening as he typed this rubbish in the story of the day – he was fascinated to watch the media clowns talking about some film or other from the techies standpoint. A young woman curled up and away from them to avoid having her love of the media destroyed in one fell swoop.
Tokyo on Tuesday: well once it was almost possible then the men in black suits arrived. Lou Reed playing ‘what’s good without you ?’ I smile at some child in MacDonaldosan shades.
Calling all angels.
A flawed opal.
Raw video images , carefully designed to ensure that they give the impression of a lack of design. Then looking over the top of the portable computer a video playing on the monitor, the clear blue Australian sky, electro magnetic pulse – it’s the end of the world and they should be playing Sun Ra but instead its some pop song Chico says its time to walk. Plane on the freeway or is it the outback. It’s after the end of world and my children are asleep upstairs whilst my cats hang around and their small feet pit patter about. Deep in the suburbs.
Ever since I got into this surreal IT business, its always been a business and not a science or an engineering discipline as MC (it was) a Software Engineer claimed… But I thought, in rejection, that my father and my grand father were engineers, me I’m just not. And then my families history caught up with me and Steve the third generation, put a few words on paper and confessed. But I never really wanted this. The millennium approaches and two parallel lines drift out towards the apex, two myths at the end of time – the neo-mysticism of millennial events and the insignificant technological panic of the approaching yr2000 pseudo-debacle. Perhaps I am the right person to deal with these events because I am so conscious of their triviality. Sometimes (and don’t they always talk), perhaps because they lack ‘faith’, skills or knowledge of what benchmarking is and then they expect some person to either design the useless tests or to phantasize them into existence. The sun rises on the day of the test and it fails, though they often pretend it’s a success, I suppose it’s nice that some people still believe in the grand narratives of science and the enlightenment. How can it not since the benchmarks are about systems that don’t exist
I see myself in front of a shop, looking through the window reconciled to everyday life.
In most accounts of Surrealism and also those written on the periphery of the movement he appears as almost a monster. He appears as an egotistical maniac, controlling and directing in a way only a visionary can be. But then you must look at Mad Love or Communicating Vessels to see how good a writer he was. How many revolutionaries are not in some sense or other monsters ? In France they have been known to say that he died in 1966 two years before the party he always wanted. Then reading the manifesto back in 74 – bought second hand in a long defunct second-hand bookshop called Pooles on the Charing Cross road…. I think I’d seen L’age dor the day before for the first time. A man licking a statues foot, passion and desire on a dreamscape, music I can’t recognise accompanying the passion.
Photographic concepts. Place unknown. Winter grey. Father subscribing to a satirical journal. It has a serious supplement which supposedly contains factual information. The cartoons are discussed and supposedly waited for, but I have my doubts. My father goes around singing some popular songs that have now disappeared into obscurity. The magazine arrives and I rip the brown paper cover off (dad being at work) and reading the first cartoon burst out laughing ‘how funny, look they are kissing’. They look benignly on and I don’t realise that they are laughing at me. So that’s how humour and art separate.
Poetical concepts. A marquee on the green. Summer, masses of people in the background whilst a man with a shock of black hair gesturing through his laryngitis. Reading, huskily from a long forgotten pamphlet of poetry published as things were in those days by a regional press based in Edinburgh. Oil skin bound notebooks. Blue lines on acid free paper. Then a picture of a man with wild hair standing in front of a mirror, the man is called…
Another summer. Then: on a bridge smoking an oval cigarette whilst waiting for a woman met the previous day on the Quai in the shadow of Notre Dame, reading Zone and musing on the bridges like sheep. At that time I was still destined to be a writer, paid I hoped, to weave spiders’ webs of words, not something (obviously) that was going to happen but then I didn’t know this and wasn’t to know this throughout that lost decade. When she appeared on the bridge Paris turned into a woman, a state that she has remained in ever since.
Pragmatic concepts. Autumn nights. Elements of sharpness in the air. Coming in as the dusk falls. Parents talking in an adjacent room words inaudible. Can’t sleep that night. Then in the morning ask them ‘What does hire purchase mean ?’
Spring. Sitting with my Mother in the waiting room of the hospital, upset because I can’t see my father who is somewhere in the depths of the sanatorium. Eventually he appears following behind my sisters who have brought him back in an attempt to pacify me. He hugs me and smiles, laughing with pleasure at my tearfulness. What he doesn’t realise is that the year he spends in the hospital effectively destroyed the relationship between us. When he returns home he does not have the inter-personal skills and knowledge to re-establish the bonds between us and my Mother makes no attempt to help him over the breakdown. We never recover.
Habits good and bad
Summer. The family sitting eating together in the garden, Aunts and Uncles from the North visiting along with friends. Smoking and drinking beer and spirits. Large numbers of visitors. Birthdays building up to explosive proportions. My father stilling boasting of my collapsing memory, He’s trying to make me learn things by heart. I can’t. I can no longer remember his birthday, sometime in August I believe.
The first house was in East B. A three bedroom terraced house built on a hill that led down onto the common land below. Behind the house a heavily rutted alley. Along which we kids ran up and down playing hierarchical wargames, and committed endless genocide and at more peaceful moments rode our trikes and frequently repainted cars. It was the 1950s - TV was monochrome and still a single channel, radio consisted of sad nostalgic noises issuing out, from the as yet unknown past. Sometime in the middle 50s my father came home with a gramophone it worked for a day and I remember the tension as he and my older brother played and tested its mono channel boom, it didn’t work and the fear, the disappointment was that they’d send it back. They did only to be replaced by a still bigger more beautiful machine.
Saturday - Work
On Saturday, I think I was seven or eight, my Father took me to his gothic palace of a factory in Kennington. Being Saturday it was quiet. Only a few machines making the usual cacophony. Electric motors whirr, high overhead an arched roof and glass rooflights. Metal chutes and the fragrant smell of oil glue and ozone caused by the sparks from the motors, The oil, the shards of steel and aluminium. It was the nearest thing to passion in his life.
Sunday – School
Sometime before I was eleven I stopped going to Sunday school, it was the moment I became secular. I lay on the floor and pretended I couldn’t walk, better to be physically dysfunctional than a Christian. My parents wanting to send me because it was the proper thing to do, in a vain attempt to save my soul. From that moment on the escape from religion was complete. Sometime after this I became an evangelical atheist, mostly because I desired some revenge on the foolish hypocrisy of believers.
The hard boiled wonderland
At some stage the wars that appear on the TV become hyper-real media events, even the small scale tragedies that appear as bombs in the city you are in, are far from the real. Bodies falling over into the desert sand buried by bulldozers whilst media running dogs interview strange gung-ho young men who want to ‘kick butt’. Occasionally a reporter stands delightfully in front of a tank and discusses the horrors of the war (I think its desire).
An American City from the 15th Floor
It is towards the end of winter, late February or early March and the weather is cold and bitter, the wind is blowing down from the North outside it howls and whines against the window. The sky is as grey as the concrete and tarmac that makes up the built landscape. Standing looking out from here to the horizon the landscape is dominated by Cars. Whether it is roads, parking lots or the strange Auto Hotels that dominate the high rise buildings everything seems related to the car. The city as a consequence seems strangely hollow, like a five mile across donut the centre has been hollowed out and denuded of people leaving a few scattered workplaces and cars. A mile long train is passing through the city at five miles an hour, its horn blowing as it passes across side roads. There are no people walking down there on the street only machines. Over there down in a darkened doorway someone strikes a match
An American City at Night
Red mercury signs and the white neon lights of the 50 floor tower opposite. Halogen lights turning in the car park 1000 metres to the north. A head that hurts and tomorrow. But the absence of people and the predominance of poor technology is fascinating.
Chindogu is the art of useless objects. It presents what is perhaps the most perfect example of the concept of spirit from a non-obscurantist point of view, invented by the Japanese, most wonderfully of all Japanese examples. Chindogu refers to overfunctionality in objects, that is, objects-inventions which become so over functional that they become meaningless as in the marvellous binoculars that you can buy in Tokyo with built in battery windscreen wipers. This enables you to see perfectly when it rains, which like so many contemporary articles just produces laughter.
Toilet as culture
In a traditional German toilet, the hole in which the shit disappears after we flush the water is way in front, so that the shit is first laid out for us to sniff at and inspect for traces of illness or parasites; in the typical French Lavatory, on the contrary the hole is in the back – that is the shit is supposed to disappear as soon as possible; whilst the English lavatory represents a synthesis, a mediation between the opposing poles, the basin is full of water, so that the shit floats, bobbing like an iceberg, visible but not to be inspected. As Jong said of German toilets... "German toilets are the key to the horrors of the third Reich, people who can build toilets like this are capable of anything..." Three separate existential attitudes – German reflective thoroughness, revolutionary hastiness, English moderate utilitarian pragmatism.... German conservatism, French revolutionary radicalism, English moderate liberalism... English neo-liberalism.
After you’ve been in the IT business as long as I have you inevitably get involved at some stage or other in some discussions of architecture and in these discussions, you end up feeling like the client of the architect who ends up discussing the drawings of the trees, road signs or the sheep, rather than the buildings and associated technics. This is usually because the discourse is designed to only allow you to function at this level, since you are not supposed to start walking from a known territory and with the ability to establish a place and direction, whereas they want to not allow you the ability to know. Most architects are ultimately concerned solely with the building of a small living space, usually a house extension, or at best a house or Garden shed and this allows them to be fundamentally parochial. When you arrive in their parochial universe from a more complex architectonic space you are doomed to attempt to introduce complexity and the everyday chaos of your life into this minute and constrained space and as a consequence you reach for the trees and sheep in an attempt to introduce complexity and chaos into the scheme of things. Architects would like to perceive themselves as modern alchemists the transformers of baseness into gold, but they understand nothing of the baseness of things. Instead they are the drawers of trees that can never appear.
In these post-modern times humans need the alchemists who were able to transmogify base uncertainty into precious self-assurance, and the authority of approval (in the name of superior knowledge) in the philosophical store that these alchemists possess. Post-modernity is the age of experts in identity, problems of personality healers. Post-modern humans are choosers, selecting "this or that" in an attempt to minimise danger or risk, or missing an opportunity. Because of not seeing enough or not chasing it keenly enough. To miss an opportunity is unacceptable and to avoid this, post-modern humans need counselling, advice, help. Uncertainty in the post-modern produces not the demand for religion but an ever-growing demand for identity experts. Humans haunted by uncertainty (post-modern existential anxiety) need re-assurance that it can be done and not religion telling them the inevitability of human weakness.
He looked sympathetically at my tired looking face." ...Heard that they intend to start harvesting the algae and scop...."
" Scop ?" I queried unable to stop myself from querying the banality.
" Single celled protein..."
"Yeah I hate the way its turning the coastal waters into pea soup.... Iook at it....Myself I always liked the bigger animals, fish. The worst affect of the catastrophe is the way life is shrinking."
" That's crass Darwinism isn't it ?.... " I said.
It once meant the noise between words, the white wall around a moment or two and then Blanchot. "night white night – such is the disaster, this night from which darkness is missing, without being illuminated by night." And the logistical jump from this space and white pause to the element of death in the text, which is so apparent in all important work. Even let us state in the white wall of cinema which always ends in death and is usually (re)considered through the narrative trope of Todorov ‘equilibrium-change-new equilibrium’ model which always takes us on and a few steps closer to death. With Blanchot the concern is more closely defined through the attempt to produce a language from which the subject is excluded, paradoxically, of course this takes us closer to the subject than is bearable and personally I always end up to close to The last Man and reaming of….
Establishing what delineates the recit is difficult as there is no genre equivalent in the anglo-saxon artistic tradition(s), even so it has become more difficult since Blanchot effectively reconstructed the genre’s boundaries but it can be said that it is a highly personal account, written in the first person, of a series of events to which the narrator is closely tied…
The point of the theorisation is perhaps; that the social imaginary (si) that I exist within, live within is, partially at least, self-constituted, I would go further and even theorise that it is a partially self-constructed si, consequently that I have to ascertain, theorise, think what constitutes the part of the si which is the non-self-construct. What are the foundations that we as the subject are built on, the background noise, the white noise of what constitutes the social imaginary as I normally, so joyfully theorise. (love the commas).
But this advance which I posit as a way of dealing with the different relationship with the social that I have now from the moment in July when I walked out of school for the final time. The seven years that followed from this insignificant moment changed me, from a specific relation to the si which could be understood as disciplined but fearful and ineffectual to one where the discipline had become estranged from my everyday life, the fearfulness had transformed into anger (and existential anxiety) and the ineffectual into something strange and other. By the time ten years had passed I was becoming located in the Foucauldian paradigm of self-discipline but it would be close to another decade before I understood this structure, concept as it was to increasingly impact my everyday life. Here I type into this grey much loved self-disciplinary machine, aware of the issues and impact of the pragmatics of the act but aware of how successful the shockwave riding activity has been for me (us?) and then I wonder if I’d have survived this far without my love of theory. So much less exact a word than philosophy but so much more knowing for the cognoscenti, which in more ways than I care to think of or commit to I am one of, just outside of the frame enough to accept, and then, (yes and then…) how given the nature of self-discipline could I have survived this far if it did not match the estranged and alienated being that I was as I walked out of the school into the world of discipline (and the dying paradigm a dysfunctional si that was changing, mutating and traced in manifestos of the SI and others) and a broken future…
Do you believe we know more than before ? Of course it’s more. How much more ! Is this just due to science ? Oh no it’s lots of things including the singing of songs, because science has helped to forget so many things from alchemy through to the forms of magic that work. I was sitting next to a guy who wanted to sing about as if it was meaningful to compare this to some kid using the internet.
Down the hill a dog barks incessantly in a strange way I am waiting – a cool wind blows. I got up this morning thinking of work. Edges of this began to haunt me as the existential anxiety of my being, or work as it is called since I’ve become so immersed in the bourgeois lifestyle that I’m not anxious about the ownership of the haven of my house; whereas work is an endless series of anxious moments built on one another. I persist and survive because the people I’ve surrounded myself by, are the usual causes of my anxiety. But the underlying issue of human finitude, the aspect of our everyday closeness to death and completion/ending. It is this that leads us towards belief but all we end up with is incompleteness, to find meaning that is acceptable within the constraints of human finitude is the task and issue at hand. The human condition is constrained from beginning to end and that state inevitably leads us to our being stratified by a desire for a ‘transcendent other’. What is desired is what they will construct (either in the real or in phantasy) to find meaning in the limitation is to find meaning elsewhere.
Siena – I was struck by the meandering streets and the repetitiveness of the architectonics, the town had some elements of extreme interest because of the evident age of the structures, constructed origninally at the moment of the medieval period and reconstructed over the ages to remain apparantly unchanged. So many generations and yet the time is so short 900 years and less, in the scale of geological time nothing at all, but the passing of time for geological matter is nothing in this human order – a million times slower. And clouds communicating through waves – a lizard hunting for insects on the rocks, occupying what we in our hubris regard as a human space but which is occupied simultaneously by other creatures, other worlds, the big other (sic). "The curvature of intersubjective space".
P… we parked halfway up the hill in the blue marked out parking space. Free parking, another 100 metres and we’d have been limited to 2 oros. We walked up hills, stairs, around alleys. I was desperate for the sound of steam, music drifting down between crevasses, old bricks. The scent of cigarettes and the swish of cotton and linen. In my rubber soles I drifted upstairs and around alleys like the ‘classical’ ang(e)lic tourist. All I lacked was the occasional cigarette and more cappuccino and espresso, perhaps later…
When we left the villa in the early afternoon I’d imagined it was cool so I dressed in trousers, shoes and socks but as time passed, we were driving east, the temperature event horizon went up into the upper 20s and I knew I’d seriously misjudged it. But after we had sat around in the piazza looking at the regional museum, curved gently along half a block with a vulture and a griffin over the white ancient stairs, a marble fountain in the centre of the piazza spouting gentle sheets of water, Sam and I talking about programming and the different behavior of sadistic children in Italy. The pigeon jumping upstairs looking for food. Zofia taking picturesof the main street, the Nikons’ mechanical shutter making that satisfying clunk as she pressed the release button…. We drank coffee and ate smoked ham sandwiches sitting beneath white canvas umbrellas as the temperature dropped 10 or 12 degrees, rain fell onto the piazza and I wished that I had drunk more than one cappuccino but being with Zofie I sometimes feel constrained in my simpler desires, guilt and an inability to fulfill these softer caffine filled desires. She tells me I am addicted (and it’s true). Zofie drank coke and smiled a lot, she enjoys the focused presence of the children. They cannot escape and this causes her to relax into this quietude happy.
We left and entered the regional museum it is well lit but with a focused selection of work, mostly renaissance religious work some comically bad some glowing but too many renditions of death. Strange how when you see so many quasi-religious and religious works of art you cannot fail to see the thread that represents the relations between death, human finitude and religion. The images that represent the core iconagraphic moments of the beatitude, birth and crucifixion draw out in gold, tempura and oils the deathly moment of the plague ridden and violent societies of their time. But the objects maintain a strange inability to represent the everyday; possibly that had to wait for a bourgeois representational society (see a guidebook for more details). Afterwards we left through gently sloping streets passing beneath and besides anti-war graffetti (Kosova and Nato) and theatres, jazz record shops, fiats and tarmac sprayed on top of black stone slabs. Beneath buildings we roamed dreaming of Borges and labyrinths, tree trunks horizontally placed to hold collapsing buildings apart, so that they could not consummate their love for one another. Arches of stone and small rooms, corridors spanned the streets between buildings. Music shops called me, bookshops desired my presence gesturing, as only they can, deep into my unconscious, and bricks crumbling to dust… Around the corner of buildings a view over a valley… Honky tonk piano playing. Stairs rising up and a viaduct, as light as air and as solid as stone arched over rooftops for people to walk over.
Around a corner cats sat on a faded red fiat watching humans walk by. People stood in the Piazza de Sole (quote from Dante on the wall) waiting not speaking like Wim Wenders ‘Angels’, beatific smiles, stairways that went down two stories and then ended abruptly going nowhere. More dark allies, more angels, guitars playing, flutes and voices, laughter, down stairs and up slopes, piazzas, a place, walking down the main street until we pass through a space marked by tall trees, grass and bushes. A hotel bar with tables outside in a marked off space. Four old men sitting and talking around a table talking over cigarettes and perhaps wine. Indifferent to the passing time, in there machismo they are together. A view over the rooves of the city/town and in the distance hills and heat haze. Clouds like dogs passing by. A green metal bench, young women smoking whilst we talk of trees and home, the lancia, food and what shall we do tonight ? (I’m thinking of beer and the act of writing this…) I imagine that I know where the car is and we walk back along another strange street and then the curved steps we began from. (leave by rail, car actually and buying food at the Spar.) "The curvature of inter subjective space…." (Written listenning to Kogalman’s Cantos I to IV bliss.
The rules of the game…. you can define them anyway that you want but the need to discuss them in terms of the meaning of young days. A flying beetle buzzes Zofie’s head and in the noise and panic stricken response she loses sight of the flying blackness. Post lunch siesta calls but in the heat I’ve slowed down like a lizard and am waiting for the day to cool down. A hot breeze runns across the valley and…
After a certain moment it becomes as easy to stay as to go somewhere else. So many times in my life I have lived with this contradictory desire. Over the valley a brown track, marks and scars the surface of the wood. Nothing disturbs the valley’s scar. Dogs, sheep, crows and chickens disturb the quiet soundscape.
To translate is to be divine. Twentyfour hours a day the insects make the buzzing noise that I think of as being a song but which is caused by their rubbing body parts together. How they sing, buzz. A wasp hangs around in the eves, warm as toast and striped to warm of the danger of being. Across the valley the air is visible because of dust and pollen. A greyish blue color, some of the suspension is of course alive insects and in the distance perhaps even small birds. The sun so bright it threatens to tear the veil of reality from my eyes.
Images of Firenze and questions of identity, intersubjective space, we drove in from the south. The metallic taste of a constant traffic jam and 32o’s of heat, which made the carbon monoxide, sulphar, nitrous oxide and the P10s amongst other things bounce off the buildings, corroding the old soft brickwork the entropic dust falling onto the failing stone pavements. The city is one huge traffic jam, cars, lorries, vans, the rare public buses, motor scooters, scooters, endless bloody scooters. We drive around half the city to find the empty "P" space by the Basso. The fountain washing the air with its vapor. Bedraggled ducks and swans. We walked along main throughfares, through the piazza independence, pausing on stone benches whilst we considered where to lunch. The air was so thick that my senses transferred their awareness to a pain in my neck. As if stressed out of sorts, suffering from existential anxiety but instead I am being poisoned by the city. Along canyons formed by ugly dysfunctional architecture, we wandered down towards the old town centre. Past shops selling luxury items, past paint shops, garages, policemen in white helmets with berettas in slick holsters drawing lines between life and death. Junkies being hassled by packs of cops who are waiting patiently for suffering to set in and confessions to pour out. Africans selling false rolexes to young people who know they are fake but they look good and solid whilst the insides are made of Swatches and Timex movements (though who wants anything to last these days…). Other Africans sold leather bags and thongs. Hiding in allies and bars when the police appear, protecting us from the Africans just trying to get by, to put food in their mouths and a shelter over their heads…. Lunch in a bar/ristorante water, ravioli and cappuccino, more time, streets passing desperation growing to see the Arno and the dead fish. I’d never been here but I might as well have been since I’d read the passage in the Duras novel so many times, how had she captured the unbearable smell and scent of the city ? Looking at the church with its renaissance brick dome I thought it was the doumo and felt vaguely disappointed but another 100 metres and just past Feltrinellis the doumo appeared, black, white green marble, a mass of tourists from half the planet. Passed by looking for an ice cream (gelatria) for N+S. (Red powder under my nails) Trying to avoid the hideous depths of traffic and people. (The cast of the city of was set by the invasive way we approached the city. Like incading hordes we sprayed the city with poison arriving through the Porte of Rome.)
In the Piazza de Republica standing beneath the copy of David, no more a copy than my phone, as identical and real as the crunching paving stones beneath my feet; the images of Italian Deities…. Large bronze statues in gorgeous post-modern poses, full of irony (towards the piazza), humor to themselves and fine curves as they loom indulgently over the banal tourists and squared off buildings. We didn’t walk directly down to the Arno but moved off to a side street to drink coke and to inspect the books bought in Feltrinellis for me a Tabucci novel called "Requiem" N bought Robinson’s book "Antarctica". I did not ask for a creme de menthe avoiding the potential tragedy that lay in it’s green sliminess. The waiter was a voluble classic Soho waiter making soft passes at young German tourists. Smoking and dreaming on the sidestreets of Firenze…. The slow painful walk through the heat down the street past building work, plastic chutes and plastic wrapped buildings. A pen shop with post-modern frames and graven images of the David. Photographs of Daliesque men in somber suits with pencil thin moustaches. The music of lambrettas…. The moving around pavement workings and the Arno, but no dead fish only dark and muddy ugliness of the city and the river. The Ponte Vecchio which I looked at bid did not step onto because of the masses of tourists, to drift across the bridge would have required 4 in the morning and solitude. A sudden breeze helped to clear the pain in my head and we walked back up the old road towards the car. Post modern designer shops, Firenze is one of the shopping cities of the wrld, it oozes consumption like no other except perhaps for New York, like no other place I’ve been to. (though no bars and no cappuccino was on my list of successful places/events) On the way out of the city in the traffic, stalled on a sub-inner city highway Gypsy children of indeterminate age walked barefoot on the tarmac begging for change. One two year old crying as it followed its older brother who was between 6 and 7 along the static row of cars. The conflict between the two extremes was mediated by ourselves shutting windows, closed in the requiem for the painful day. Soft porn images of a woman in a brand name of underwear tied to trees sweltering in the heat and pollution. Time passed along narrow streets with pain returning and the resistance of drugs being bought in green cross pharmacies. The street we were on passed from the selling of Paul Smith (women) through Hugo Boss to exclusive paper shops which were never to be written on, with tortoiseshell barreled pens, silver jewelry and marquettes to gold wire tractors. Then slowly the street ran back down into the real of small working bars, motor scooter shops and the sense of terminal entropic decline as the money was running out beyond the basso. From no parking to the residential zones (cars parked for 2000 lire and hour from eight till eight) but with no identified moment at which you could say people now live here…Seedy hotels all claiming air conditioning and looking as cheap as those hotels I used to stay in during the early 70s in Paris. I wondered by the Hotel Vasari (did he imagine hotels ?) what differences would there have been between the ‘I’ as it exists now and the ‘I’ + Firenze in the 70s…. (but there is the stall of the Radical Party which I always associate as being possible due to the SI and 68, here I suppose the hot autumn…) would the difference have constituted easier and earlier happiness ? More Antonioni and Bertolucci rather than Rivette, Duras and Godard. This is the curvature of intersubjective space written out as geography…. amongst the buildings of this drawn out city, dust drifting in and out of lungs, metallic tasting mouth… A long phone call to Mary whilst we sit in the traffic jam. ‘Superstore’ a big giant food shed in the city of medieval wonders (sic) a 90sparadigm invading the space of the Firenze suburbs. No florentine biscuits however. In the traffic jam heading towards the A1 Autostrada the air conditioning on air re-cycle mode. desperate for water, watching the suffering trees move past at 2KPH. The lack of public transport apart from the few P10 polluting buses pouring stuff into the smokers lungs, caking my hair, coating my face with dirt and leaving dirty shadows on my cheeks beneath my glasses coated with a patina of dust, which was to stay for hours until I could soak my face in cold water.… The Autostrada angelic and 120KPH lorries, a GTV zooming by, two hours later arriving in Niccoine and dropping into the local ristorante for food and table football. I wondered why I’d not seen many local youths before in this country, I watched them playing table football and realised it was a sign of the gradual collapse of the birth rate.
From the villa down perfect windy roads along through Mercatllo along a long flat by windy road with villages and corners that made me wish I was in the spider. Drifting road banked corners past melon fields. Adverts tacked onto trees advertsing Fiats, Alfas, Castiglione and films. By the roadside old men sat on the universal white plastic chairs smoking and watching us and the world drift past. Caribearni in blue uniforms looking for crime through film and tv filled eyes.
The town reminded me of Bath, a nice square, very narrow streets. Bars in old corners, cars negotiating high sided allies. Like all Italian towns vistited this time a lack of parks, no greenery. Alberti Buzzi abstract expressionist – sack cloth and ashes, burnt pieces of wood. Lace painted over the shadows of the body on clothes attached to the corners. Painted in beige on a bright red background. Plastic panels distorted with heat reminding me of Duchamps Bride laid bare… Melancholy the plastic hung like mutated fl;esh from the strangely rectangular frame. Like an hallucination.. the noise of crickets, cicadas, a car an hallucination….
Ooh ah the clones are taking over…
One more nail in the coffin of the human supremacists and individualists. With clones the unpleasant clash of two discourses, inheritance and socialization. Since it is impossible to recreate a persons life the clone would grow into something other. Would the original subject regard the clone as an "other" or would it rather respond to it as a derivative subject of self. Science fiction usually follows the Cartesian mind/body split and writes a copy of the mind onto the clones body, using an understanding of the mind as software and magnetic tape copying (then), the subject/other relation is never worked through, death is regarded then as not final. But with these discourses surrounding the clone we are reaching a point of end for the notion of the individual one subject one clone – how could you tell who owned property? It’s mine? It’s mine? The reality is more banal because we are here identifying all clones as being subjects and others. Elsewhere they are identified as copies of others, of one subject, doesn’t convince however. But here they are understood as subjects in themselves, most likely we’ll move towards the banality of normalcy. The normality of perfected banality. Each clone…
Position leaves us with the understanding that the locus of power is empty, a vacuum, corrupt, hopeless and that anyone who has to fill this place must have the same profile…. An empty cupboard, histrionic, phony understudy who embodies the silhouette of power, a memory of direction. Then one October day they instruct you of the imaginaries and you say yes…
In the past few weeks we accede to the desire that the world turns on a pin and then they say…. Its SSD u know, what? surrealistic systems development. The optimistic and perhaps naïve belief that we can understand, plan and project our way into the future is still apparently the way forward according to the twentieth centuries weirdest invention the project manager. They are supposed to plan and work to deliver the project, which is a subset of the program. A program being made up of many projects whilst the business is made up of many programs (this they say is rationality, the master discourse of the day)… Whilst as the general incoherence builds up you realize you know next to nothing about what is going on, external to the boundary of your everyday experience. This isolation in a sea of chaos leads towards a recognition of the impossibility of knowing. Then beyond this u wonder if the thoughts you have of making something or other work have any foundation in reality, perhaps better just to accept that management and being, perhaps even engineering are best understood as requiring surrealism as the frame from which to understand…
A Saturday evening
In one of those post-work weeks when the effort of doing something seems much greater you might imagine you decide to travel into town to buy a novel you’ve just read the review of in one of the Saturday papers. Black ink on slightly off-white paper and a certain poverty of discourse as the critic, well actually a newspaper hound who thinks they know what constitutes intelligent literature, discourses on the wonderfulness of the most ‘important novelist of the past twenty years…’. So after some discussion of heading south to see some movie or other which we could not agree on we decided instead to go down to a bookshop in Piccadilly. The chosen store used to be a bourgeois department store called Simpson’s, the clothing store for Peter Wimsey. Back in the days when the bourgeois male dressed in English rather than European. The store still had all the remains of the twenties and thirties architectronics from Otis lifts, through curved plate glass windows and brass handrails. As befits a post-modern bookshop, which has the unstated intention of covering the widest range of available books and other sub-media, it has its feet firmly established in all eras of the 20th century rather than just the immediate present. I queried the information clerk who said there might be one copy on a science fiction shelf on the first floor, this was typically understated as the computer system failed to notice the shelf full of copies on the same floor. I bought this and three other books, a Blanchot Recit, a hypertext novel by B.S. Johnson and the latest Terry Pratchett. After Zofia selected a couple texts for herself we went up to the sixth floor lounge bar and relaxing in the semi-dark we drank cocktails whilst looking over our purchases and discussing the day. We poured the doctored alcohol down throats, across tastebuds, around sensitive teeth and into the soul. Relaxing down on the tired swoon I think of driving home with some horror and shrug ourselves out of the door back into the Otis lift and down onto the Piccadilly. Why is the name of the Otis lift, shaking its way down to street level, so important?
In Paris I walked up towards Etoile and stopped off at the streetside kiosk to look at and then buy a Guardian, reading of Allende’s murder. Perhaps more than any previous or subsequent event it confirmed a different relation to the si, a moment of loss that coalesced into a white wall of intellectual fury, disappointment, alienation and philosophical scrutiny that has remained with me long after all other similar events have faded into the mediated non-events that the media bombards one with on a day to day basis. From Kosova back through the Gulf War to Italy in 79 when a number of mid 70s Italian friends disappeared into jail for no other reason than going to some party or other. I presume, when presumption is called for, that it was the prevention of the existence, the destruction of a democratically elected marxist government, with all the promise of difference that this raised which caused the loss of ‘faith’ that broke the remains of the si. From this catastrophe…
In 1973 the mad were not free to walk the city streets. In those days they were locked up in the dark Victorian wainscoating of society, perhaps a few enlightened individuals, Cooper, Laing and Guattari to name a favorite triumvirate, may have argued for their freedom but mostly they were locked up and hidden behind gothic walls in secret towns and villages. Let out into the city during the subsequent decades they are difficult to tell apart from the rest of the junkies, addicts, alcoholics, and down and outs who live there. It is difficult these days to understand why a space as crazy as a modern city would keep its mad in the dark shadows, when it is plain that madness in various ways has taken possession of the entire society…
Talking to my daughter
We are sitting around in the office talking about the literature she likes at the moment. She’s decided that she can only read one text by an author at a particular period of time. I’m not sure what the period is but the criteria is based not on dn the availability of time, the long and short duree, but on the need to optimize the exploration of an authors style. She leans into the bookcase, talking, as her fingers flicker over the books in a predatory fashion looking for some text by a writer she hasn’t touched on before. She is speaking of an SF writer called Wilson and a book called gypsies, which I bought some years ago and haven’t read for about a decade. As she talked about it the memory of the text, like the memory of water it returned and I am lost in the institices of the text. The narrative returns and the critique of the story structure drops out and flows across the floor to my daughter. How he persists in overdetermining the meaning of the text by fixing it in birth, inheritance and sadistic science. This she compares with a Cardigan novel which portrays a utopian society, that perchance is founded on an accidental catastrophic event, haunted by the mass extermination of 90++% of the world population. This text she defines not in terms of its narrative loss but in terms of the glories of the memes in the story.
Woman on the train
I sit on the train and wait for it to leave and then we (me; my state self and nomadic unconscious) are joined by a noxiously noisy woman who can do nothing but talk into her irradiating mobile phone. First whiningly to her mother and then to her friend Jackie…. ‘… I had to wear a badge saying I’m 33 today and a teletubbies badge all day…’ Giggles. Then asks if she is coming to her girlish birthday night out on Saturday ? I wonder if I dare ask where she’s going to make sure I’m not there. I presume that once she’d have just sat their and read some appallingly bad bookstall novel, but now its mobile phones and disconcertingly appalling bad public etiquette. On the net I presume she would be the spammer, the person who always types in CAPITAL LETTERS and has no understanding of punctuation at all. She whines and cajoles over the phone. The phone is and has become a dreadful element of communicative excess, an unnecessary object of inter-human communication which works to disrupt the flow of human thought that surrounds her, is this real? Understandable? I type and wish I had ear muffs. She has a man with her who says nothing and should be somewhere else, as long as it is not near me. And then I could feel my imaginary begin to creep and crawl away from the woman, leaning out of the train window, it was unopenable of course but that failed to stop it wanting to escape from her presence as fast as possible. She is mad of course but in this society what else can be expected… I am sure that some mistaken theorist once imagined that the use of the phone would transform people into something different, transforming the society, democratising, pluralising, through enabling better levels of discourse. How many times has this error been made by those who love a media form? Perhaps I should assume rather that the event (the medium) is like any other event and cannot be traced back to an understanding of a perfect form. And it is most definitely not the simulacrum of the perfect communicative event the shadow of which is drawn out on the wall and floor of Platos cave
Adorno - situation
The need to take risks is actualised in the idea of the experimental, which – in opposition to the image of the artists unconscious organic labor – simultaneously transfer from science to art the conscious control over materials. Currently official culture grants special funds to what it mistrustfully, half hoping for failure, calls artistic experimentation, thus neutralising it. Actually, art is now scarcely possible unless it does experiment. The disproportion between established culture and the level of productive forces has become blatant: What is internally consistent appears to society at large as a bogus promissory note on the future, and art, socially dispossessed, is in no way sure that it has any binding force of its own. For the most part, experimentation takes shape as the testing of possibilities, usually of types and species; it is therefore tends to degrade the concrete work to a mere example: this one of the reasons for the aging of new art. Certainly aesthetic means and ends cannot be separated, yet almost by its concept of experimentation is primarily concerned with means and content to leave the world waiting in vain for the ends. What is more, during the last several decades the concept of experimentation has itself become equivocal. If even as late as 1930 experimentation referred to efforts filtered through critical consciousness in opposition to the continuation of unreflected aesthetic practices, in the meantime the concept has acquired the stipulation that work should have contents that are not foreseeable in the process of production, that subjectively, the artist should be surprised by the work that results. In this transformation of the concept of experimentation, art becomes conscious of something that was always present in it and was pointed out by Mallermé The artist’s imagination scarcely ever completely encompassed what it brought forth….Adorno p37/8
Then how does this compare to Baudrillard’s understanding of the aesthetic? I asked this of the Baudrillard spoon list… but have not received an answer, nor to be honest do I any longer expect any communication on this topic… the issue, post ellipsis is beyond the scope of what is an acceptable topis, beyond the intellectual pale…
When I was young, very young my day used to talk about engineering systems and related work issues in ways that I would now conceive of as holistic. He did not quite sit around and discuss the physical engineering work in the same breath as the social and political engineering work that he must have been involved in on an everyday basis, however, but, well, perhaps (and so on) he could have, it cannot have been that different. So he talked of microns, sheet metal, presses and molds whilst I might talk of logic, process, program, systems, the end result is a discussion about objects placed in a social and political work environment that we painfully discuss. Everyday I wonder at the absence of the holistic approach that is required to deliver the daily result… In that absence lies the key to the daily politics of organisations.
Knowing formed part of that solitude, formed that solitude, was part of being at work without work, without result, closing the ways out. In my lack of work I asked him. "Do you know what happened just know?" "Yes, I know very well but do you want us to talk about it ? Is that a good thing? We must be reasonable." "It may not be a good thing, but I’m not really speaking either." Then in the way of language and existence it’s possible to recognise that many things are going to reduce you to a feeling of impotence.
It’s possible to understand how things work through reducing them to their component parts. In many instances this is a useful and sensible approach, as in understanding the assemblage that flies that is the B2 bomber or what it is that constitutes Bertrand the Spider. It’s a classic scientific dissection, understand the small to grasp the laws of the universe. To reduce is sublime. But the systems that result from the reduced functionality proliferate like insects, they have the brief and often violent lives of insects that exist in huge nests. Alternatively they are solitary beetles alternately lumbering around on the ground or flying gracelessly through the air, crash landing on pillows or against clear glass windows.
A system breaks…
All day I am haunted by the system events of the day, a system rolls out, days later it is running very slowly and we enter into the third meeting of the day. Late. Then after half an hour of spurious discussions GS walks in the room with a piece of information that they had forgotten to transmit up the project tree. We forgot they muttered…. The packet size is set to the default and as a result it is running slow, should be 4096 rather than 512…
Project for next year…
Walking down squires lane and talking about Ian’s strange attitude to the universe, trying in our incoherent way to define the difference in relations to the universe between self and the Ian other it appears possible that we can see it in terms of the conservatism of the new squire. Founded on his specific existence as an educated person who functions on a day to day basis with the silent majority. A silent majority that in vengence for the wrongs continuously done to it is wilfully
The new squires.
I am actually thinking of Ian who functions in his everyday life as if he is a pre-enlightenment squire. His men, his servants and serfs and the imported maiden who squeals delightfully and hugs his unhappy child. His wife drifts around as the lady of the manner, delirious in the event of the change and unable to imagine what life was like prior to the banal moments when she became committed to her role as superior. Woman who delights in haughty airs and a fine downward glance. As I wonder whether the analysis should result in a recognition of his status as petit bourgeois small business owner or if because of the indifferent workers he is surrounded by he is engaged in the squirarchy of being forced to command.
The assemblage breaks down
When did the gradual death of my father reduce his body to a non-father state as he died ever so slowly? Gradually disintegrating over his last decade as drink, work and life took its toll. But the state between the two extremes is the fascinating as I have longterm memories of the gradual collapse, and they are not all bad. Though I remember the bad moment, the bitter dregs of memories of alcoholic excess, foolish drunken behaviour, aggression and occasional fits of good humour and laughter. But as the body shifted from full fatherness towards the non-father dead state I felt increasingly alienated from his behaviour, from the self defined state of being ‘dad’. Anyway here I sit and wait to see if I can remember the pleasures of being with him on the beach, on Sunday lunchtime, smiling in the garden… His decay was, as you would expect draw out on the map, the faultlines of the family, both the real family and the theoretical models hidden in his social imaginary…
Fifty Things I must do before the end of the world
So here are some things I can do to help get through the year.
So from here I can move onto things that are more unusual.
Dreams of time and space.
I would also like to learn to do these things or alternatively discover them.
Of course of the things I’ll never achieve (silly word!) because I don’t have the time or the talent, or perhaps because I could only do it imperfectly…
Then we reach the tings associated with my love of, desire to write.
Of course there are things I do because I am asked to write things for pay.
Then there are the things I’ve done which I’d like to see see through a couple of decades.
Then there are the things I know can never happen but wish that they could.
Finally I should throw in a few random desires which others might have for us.
There can only be lots more but some are impossible so I’ll stop with these.
Just beyond Farringdon…
Out in the wild grey yonder a crazy voice screams over a broken stereo. The rawness of the day…The voice is heaping its rage at the shattered plastic, the loss of sound on another lost soul in dirty grey clothing. "I bought that and you broke it…"
When people become lovers…
With all the closeness that this entails, they exchange fluids, antibodies, bugs, viruses, dry dead skin, flakes, hair, molecules etc…. and at the memetic level bits, bytes and pieces of information, ideas. Why through is the exchange of antibodies and the bodily end of exchange spectrum the more shocking? Language is viral. Wierdly, I wonder what a post-technological world would look like.
Will Inspector Sand…
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The dreamer in his corner wrote off the world in a detailed daydream that destroyed one by one, all the objects in the World. Gaston Bachelard' s The Poetics of Space
On Monday after days and weeks of thinking and negotiation I resigned from the benighted place I have grown, ludicrously to love, I don't think I am being excessive to define my relationship to it in such terms. Though it is by no means clear that I have an understanding which could be considered sane.
Steve de Vos - London 08/06/00