Tuesday, July 29, 2014

This gives rise to the illusion

"If we are blind to everything but the sequence of steps, then the collecting follows the picking and gleaning, the bringing under shelter follows the collecting, until finally everything is accommodated in bins and storage rooms. This gives rise to the illusion that preservation and safekeeping have nothing to do with gathering."

—Martin Heidegger, "Logos (Heraclitus Fragment B 50)" in Early Greek Thinking [1951] Harper & Row 1975, 1984, p61. (Krell & Capuzzi translators)

A landscape to be invented

"Imprisoned by four walls
(to the North, the crystal of non-knowledge
a landscape to be invented
to the South, reflective memory
to the East, the mirror
to the West, stone and the song of silence)
I wrote messages, but received no reply."

Octavio Paz, from "Envoi" (cited as epigraph to Henri Lefebvre's "The Production of Space").

Here sprang up many faces

"Here sprang up many faces without necks, arms wandered without shoulders, unattached, and eyes strayed alone, in need of foreheads"

—Empedocles (Fragment B 57), 5th C BCE

There is a word in it somewhere...breaking into song

"The Dictionary / Maybe there is a word in it somewhere / to describe the world this morning, / a word for the way the early light / takes delight in chasing the darkness / out of store windows and doorways. // Another word for the way it lingers / over a pair of wire-rimmed glasses / someone let drop on the sidewalk / last night and staggered off blindly / talking to himself or breaking into song."

—Charles Simic, "The Dictionary" in The New Yorker Magazine, July 1 2013 p43.

Questions that once moved like light...now and then: here and many places

"This then is where I am, and as I settle to work I find I have to resolve, step by slow step, experiences and questions that once moved like light.  The life of country and city is moving and present ... through a network of relationships and decisions. 
    A dog is barking – that chained bark – behind the asbestos barn.  It is now and then: here and many places. When there are questions to put, I have to push back my chair, look down at my papers, and feel the change."

—Raymond Williams, "The Country and the City" (1973) p8.

By this means they built the walls

"Don't think it strange if you hear that wild animals and trees followed Orpheus from place to place; and that by their singing both Amphion in Greece and Apollo in Phrygia imbued stones with such lust that they began mounting one another – as many of you here would do if given the opportunity. By this means they built the walls of Thebes [Oedipus slept there] and those of Priam's city [Troy]..."

—Ariosto, preface to 'the Necromancers' [1520]; in 'The Comedies of Ariosto,' Beame and Sbrocchi (transl's.) University of Chicago Press, 1975 p101.

The future is not ominous but a promise; it surrounds the present as a halo

"...the live creature adopts its past; it can make friends with even its stupidities, using them as warnings that increase present wariness... To the being fully alive, the future is not ominous but a promise; it surrounds the present as a halo... Only when the past ceases to trouble and anticipations of the future are not perturbing is a being wholly united with his environment and therefore fully alive. Art celebrates with peculiar intensity the moments in which the past reinforces the present and in which the future is a quickening of what now is."

—John Dewey, "Art as Experience" [1934] Penguin Perigee 2005, p17.

There is nothing more important or fascinating in life than the motives of human behaviour

"Why should I allow this casual encounter with a perfect stranger to become a kind of debate? ...I decided to keep myself under control. The moon was behind us and our shadows lay in our path. They had merged into a single dark patch that crawled ahead of us on the snow and as I looked at them, I felt something begin to grow inside me that, like these shadows, was dark, elusive and, like them, also ahead of me. My companion was silent for a minute, then spoke in the confident tone of a man who is master of his thoughts. ' There is nothing more important or fascinating in life than the motives of human behaviour... Is that so? ' I nodded. ... What a strange person, I thought... My astonishment was growing to the detriment of my self-control. What did this man want of me? ... This crank was certainly interesting, but he annoyed me. I made another impatient move to walk on; he followed me..."

– Maxim Gorky, 'The Reader' (Originally appeared in the journal 'Kosmopolis' 1898); Robert Daglish, translator.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The total body begins to appear

"The magic carpet has already carried me away, and I fly past embankments and beaches. From high above, like a stripe, a thin ribbon of sand. But near at hand the beach. The elements are there: earth, air, the sun's fire, water... Here, the elements meet, but their intersection signals the demise of each in the other. The earth culminates in the sea; the sky dissolves into the earth and the water. This surface of encounters is one of interference: the fine sand, its delicious fluidity. Here, bodies no longer experience water alone or earth alone, or air and sun in isolation... Each element plays a role, receives the others... Where they end, the beach begins. Transition, passages, encounters. A space of enjoyment... The total body begins to appear. Until quite recently, a sense of fear was associated with beaches, which were given over to fishermen, peasants, collectors of kelp to fertilize fields, pillagers of shipwrecks. The modern era discovered them as a space of enjoyment that could be used by everyone, all class distinctions being dissolved in a strip of land near the sea... Unfortunately, beaches can support no constructions other than those that are forgotten. Anything more and the structure would obliterate the space of enjoyment, in the process destroying its most characteristic feature: fluidity, transition. And architecture?

"... Of course, what purpose does it serve to investigate enjoyment and a suitable morphology when we know that between now and the end of the century, millions, tens of millions of homes, the humblest, the simplest shelters, will be needed around the world? Of course! What good is poetry or what is still referred to as art?... Nevertheless, questions need answers: Who will build the architecture of enjoyment, assuming it is possible? For whom and with what means? ... Will it be an apartment building, a public building, a village, a ch√Ęteau, a town? A ''folly'... We cannot continue for long to set aside social needs and demands.

".... That there is no architecture or, to put it in simpler terms, that there exists no morphology of enjoyment, that it is barely conceivable and almost unimaginable, is terrifying. Especially given that this is not an isolated finding but connected to other facts. And in this way, the petty and perfidious interrogation of architecture, insignificant in appearance, assumes its full scope."

—Henri Lefebvre, Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment [1973], (University of Minneapolis Press, 2014) p48-49,55, 59.

For my response to a chapter in this book, called architecture, see the experimental archi-poem "Arch of Enjoyment" (for and against Henri Lefebvre).