04.21.03 - 7:21 p.m.
fig a: wanksta.jpg (thanks AJ)
In Yoga For People Who Can't Be Bothered To Do It, Geoff Dyer describes a time when he wandered around Rome with two microdots in his system, practicing a type of investigation he calls acid archaeology. He directs his drug fueled imagination backwards, into the past, trying to conjure up ghosts of Roman soldiers and the buzz of a busy marketplace a thousand years earlier. But even with the drugs, even with his unusual depth of knowledge born of obsession with antiquity, he can't do it. For him the ruins are fated to always be ruins.
You don't have to be in Rome to try this. You can do it on the south side of mission. Wander down the street and peer through chain-link fences into burned out buildings. The windows are boarded up, the signs are faded. What used to be there? Nobody knows. In modern cities, institutional memory fades quickly. This point is made in the latest issue of Cometbus, in which Aaron celebrates the closure of Berlin Wall (faux-trendy coffee shop) but laments the fact that he can't remember what was there before.
The city I grew up in, Las Vegas, has a pathological case of this type of urban amnesia. In Las Vegas, they don't preserve history, they pave it over. Or they quite literally blow it up. Old casinos are demolished to make way for gaudier, more modern creations, and in a town where everybody moved in yesterday, who can remember what fell?
In the face of this diminishing past, it is essential to probe with the powers of thought into the history embodied by a city's ruin. Acid archaeology's cousin is dérive, a notion first brought to my attention in college by KTRU's famously situationist music director Rick Sawyer, then mentioned more recently in the journal of that gentleman habbit. dérive is a psychogeographic approach to wandering-- a sort of drifting-- by which a small group can determine the psychological contours of their landscape. Follow your instincts, it's more than mere chance.
"Our loose lifestyle and even certain amusements considered dubious that have always been enjoyed among our entourage — slipping by night into houses undergoing demolition, hitchhiking nonstop and without destination through Paris during a transportation strike in the name of adding to the confusion, wandering in subterranean catacombs forbidden to the public, etc. — are expressions of a more general sensibility which is no different from that of the dérive. Written descriptions can be no more than passwords to this great game."
Do you creep through abandoned buildings?
"The lessons drawn from dérives enable us to draw up the first surveys of the psychogeographical articulations of a modern city. Beyond the discovery of unities of ambiance, of their main components and their spatial localization, one comes to perceive their principal axes of passage, their exits and their defenses. One arrives at the central hypothesis of the existence of psychogeographical pivotal points. One measures the distances that actually separate two regions of a city, distances that may have little relation with the physical distance between them. With the aid of old maps, aerial photographs and experimental dérives, one can draw up hitherto lacking maps of influences, maps whose inevitable imprecision at this early stage is no worse than that of the first navigational charts. The only difference is that it is no longer a matter of precisely delineating stable continents, but of changing architecture and urbanism."
I like to explore. I want to think about this more.
Essay derives from "try". Will this one continue or is it just another ruin?
previous -- next