Sunday, November 21, 2004

analysis and art are all about making too much of something until it becomes sovereign and not a part of our world

There's a store at the ground floor of "my building," my building being the place were I rent a room to sleep and eat and write and think in from some nice guys down the street from my building. Anyway, this store is an antique store. The definition of "antique, from my perspective, seems to have expanded in scope. There is plenty of stuff in there from my parents' childhood, not all of it of exemplary craftsmanship or original character. According to the shows on PBS, historical character is the primary quality of an antique, so given this critereon I suppose everything in there is equal in antique-ness.

Antiques, then, are a physical embodiment of the power of nostalgic memory. They are a self-organising entity that is valued and moved according to the collective needs of people from bygone generations. As a child I loved chemistry sets and books on weather, so I can't help but think of aggregate activity as a simple application of physics, a placement of energy to create turbulence above. This energy, nostalgia, is like heat applied to the bottom of a pot that makes eddies and bubbles, bringing the contents of everyones attics and closets and junk drawers to a boil, forcing dusty items out of storage and across state lines to be sold again and again and again, because this stuff has no worth except in its aggregate possession and its sale. The item itself, cherished beyond any worth at the time of purchase and documented to ludicrous detail, a swarm of information in itself, yet having a center of gravity that, despite its internal forces, moves in a predictable parabolic path onto a shelf blue-white with halogen illumination from track lighting delicate and powerful. This worldlike item, driven by nostalgia, moves in a chaotic path from hand to hand, but once again the aggregate motion of thousands of these items is self-contained and shaped, like a thunderhead or the motion of milk dropped into hot tea.

This is like a blackboard sketch, however, in that the source energy- nostalgia- has been oversimplified, purified into a single symbol, the subject surpressed so the object can be the center of attention. The precise attachment of value to these scattered items is in itself the distillation of thousands of types of attention, a simple operation in itself: take the collected thoughts of every person on the globe looking at this object, average them, and price that thought. And this happens. It happens without anyone in charge. The heat of nostalgia creates its own valuation, because these objects are moved by and for their value. Nostalgia and value are inseperable, the same as energy and heat. From a digrammatic point of view nostalgic memory exists then to create motion, not to freeze things at a single point in time. It exists to uproot, to re-contextualize, to constantly reevaluate, devolves into hawking and haggling, and dissipates into apathy. These items of collective affection are passed around, the lifeblood of this organism, until the vibration and heat of their motion turns them into the dust that coats closets and attics.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

another outline to someone else's complete thought

There's been a lot of talk recently about bottom-up vs. top-down. In everything. I like this false dichotomy more than most, but it seems that there's a lot of middle ground to be missed. Authorship is also an issue. As far as I get it, this can be used as yet another way to bridge the gap between Derrida and architecture: take the site, context, or any other pattern, invented or real, to substitute for the text. A "bottom-up" approach would then be to deal with this field condition through folds/warps/seams/what-have-you to produce Architecture. This is roughly synonymous with a literary critique. But, while text is a fairly even field, this is less applicable in architecture. Thus, the first real step- before you can work from this field, first you have to invent it. This makes the actual process of complication/critique reductive instead of revealing; to critique one's own creation is inherently to simplify through theme. Or, if not, it's just the first step again, invention, which is not really bottom-up, now is it? These "field conditions" lack the richness of context and ubiquity of existence that allows the lateral slide of associations Derrida was so enthralled with. There is no lateral slide in architecture; the goal of the process is to obfuscate until no readings can be made at all (which, strangely enough, may be a parallel to the literary critique in itself.)

I have just described contemporary theory as both oversimplistic and obfuscating, which, I suppose, makes it fascist. This seems like a rather extreme position to take, so I think I'll back away from this avenue and sleep on the mess I just made.

Monday, November 15, 2004


There's an unavoidable affinity between suburban teens and automobiles. I'm no exception; I tolerate air travel. I enjoy trains and boats. But I am absolutely reliant upon the experience of driving. I love to drive, and I was an absolute addict in high school. There were drives on Sunday, drives after school and long drives in the summer. There was driving at night. I would take my car South, as the houses gave way to farms and gravel roads, bean fields and dead trees and old barns and men with guns. I would stop and look around. I would circle back and enjoy the same sight from behind. I would take myself North, along the highway and then down an unfamiliar exit, into a dim deserted street with no sound and wind that makes your ears hurt with cold and noise. The windows down and the heater on. I would stop and eat. I would get lost. I would drive until I was tired, stop and sleep. I would read signs out loud and sing. My stereo was alive- speakers cut in and out at will, and the volume was never constant. The music was ragged and loud.

My car was a decaying Volkswagon of middle age, a transitional vehicle that didn't know if it was a sedan or a sports car or a piece of junk. Every piece of equipment was voluntary, was provisional, was optional-- the clutch was as likely to work as the power windows. It had survived water, heat, cold, and time. It was more this way- it broke down so often and in so many ways I couldn't see it as monolithic, but as a series of parts that only fit loosely together. The dashboard was like a Watts tower of plastic and lights, cobbled together, solid but cracking and full of memory and with a living mass underneath. The trunk was a smorgasbord of past events- I could play guitar or put on a hat or change a tire.

This was not a tool of independence-- or rather, not solely. It was a tool of community, a facilitator of conversation. More importantly, when stopping for long behemoth trains or turning the lights off and looking at the sky or hearing the gravel crunch and the engine as the only sound for miles, it was a constant reminder of the size of the world in relation to this capsule of velocity, the fact that horizons always exist everywhere.

cowboy boots are the coolest

I'm going to beat this dead horse one last time. The reason I'm dividing things this way, using the "scalpel of criticism" to cut away everything I declare to be a stage set, is that I always worry that I'm living my life that way. It seems to me that being true to oneself and living in a straightforward manner without regard to opinion may not make you a saint, but internal coherence has a certain beauty. As I tend to obsess over others' opinions, creating an image of coherence seems to be easier than making my own path. The probem is that the seams in this costume are very apparent, and the overall shape is still not very convincing. This kind of feeling for structure applies to everything in my life-- I see almost everything as the result of internal branching and guided growth or a hasty attempt at facade-building. This is probably overly simplistic, but it allows quite a bit of healthy outrage. Sorry for the soapboxing, I will now return to sanity.

more about cowboy boots

Again on the subject of internal coherence- I need to split hairs further on the issue of "real" versus "simalcrum." I'm treading on thin ice here, as these are loaded nouns. So I'll make it simple: I'm not talking about context. A cowboy boot in New York City is still a cowboy boot. It's a matter of process: this object is invested with an intelligence created from its context, a process that doesn't invest heavily in self-consciousness, instead going for performance and coherence. The simalcrum, however, disregards process in favor of end result-- an end result that is about image or symbol, not performance. I guess, in the end, what I'm talking about here is a difference between symbol and object, sign and shed. So this has all been said before, go to work.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

the producers

Saw a billboard today that made me think of the nyc production = assimilation + repackaging + consumption equation. Something about the overall shape of an idea of life, and how something created without regard for consciousness will have a shape created from within, while something created as a simulcum, self-conscious and centered on image, is like the negative of that, a patched together formwork approximating that object. It's the difference between something being what it is and something being carefully cut and folded to look like something it's not. For instance, cowboy boots are a mountain of information; everything from the materiality to the shape to the surface decoration was created out of a context, without regard to its being. A cowboy boot is the embodiment of its purpose, location, intent, whatever. Shoes are great for this because they are both clothing and tool. But the fashionable re-creation of a cowboy boot, however cleverly done, can never regain this meaningful shape; even if it's the identical it's arbitrary. This arbitrariness is not wrong, but it is null. Null in french tends to signify not an absence of value but something beneath, detrious, filler. I like that.

I was flying today and I looked out the window and all of the cars parked and driving were reflecting into the sky. These glints are not just something I see; they happen to me when my eyes intersect a column of reflected sunlight that the car creates by existing.