Heather Marcelle Crickenberger writes:
“Even if [Benjamin’s] .. compositional practice is merely “the working of quotations into the framework of montage” .., his form .. may still be seen as “a discontinuous presentation deliberately opposed to traditional modes of argument” .. through the “medium” of the “blinks.” These “blinks” are a textual means of linking parts of The Arcades Project to other parts .. in a non-linear way similar to .. the hyperlinks on websites today. ..[T]hese blinks help Benjamin to set up “vibrations across the epochs of recent history” .. thus “blasting apart . . . pragmatic historicism—grounded, as this always is, on the premise of a continuous and homogeneous temporality”.
However, much of the genius of Benjamin’s structural lesson is yet to be presented since .. [the Eiland edition] .. omits the complex thirty-two character hyperlinking system–“the blinks”–Benjamin had developed in order to create subterranean passageways or short-cuts between passages with thematically related content.
“In speaking of the inner boulevards,” says the Illustrated Guide to Paris … from the year 1852, ‘we have made mention again and again of the arcades which open onto them. These arcades, a recent invention of industrial luxury, are glass-roofed, marble-paneled corridors extending through whole blocks of buildings.. Lining both sides of these corridors, which get their light from above, are the most elegant shops, so that the arcade is a city, a world in miniature .. in which customers will find everything they need.” (In: “The Structure of Awakening: Walter Benjamin and Progressive Scholarship in New Media. (2007. Dissertation in: The Arcades Project Project. The Rhetoric of Hypertext.”)
Benjamin’s famed arcades project theorizes the city, the lives – of the bodies, of the City – in and as, a hypertext. The arcades of Paris, early modern incursions and interventions, they hollow out the body of the City, make surgical incursions, modernist cuts/linkages that in-vent direct and immediate contacts – thus the flaneur as a type, the newly unmoored urban butterfly-body carried along on its fleeting feelings, half-perceiving/ed, touching down barely, leaving only faintly shining trails of distracted points of contact. But the many superimposing/ed and multiply intersecting/ed bodies that make up our City today, impress on us the post-modern City body, a hyper-body not to be confused with this Benjaminian City-as-hypertext that is presenting her body to her readers: That older modern City is still drunk with mounting proliferation of all new techno-mechanical (de)linkages; the postmodern City however, has been extending such connectivities into the microscopic, into the innermost of our minds and hearts. This our City of F. Berardi’s semio-capital, it supplants and etherealizes that older massively real-material connectivity – that which makes a “real” City – and infuses into it countless virtual excursions, visits – and occasions, too, of being visited, and found (out). The moderns’ City is still one of communications – full-body – that arise between self-possessing/ed bodies, bodies that also must obey and please so many other bodies, communications from which other such urban bodies will unfold themselves, and will find themselves living in “their” intersections, between any self and any other(s), living themselves in, in fact as, contested domains, permeating all the other(s) and deeply permeated and traversed inside themselves by the near infinity of multitudes of other bodied selves – very smaller, very much larger selving bodies. This is where today’s morphology of urban space will yield to tomorrow’s onto-topology of (all) bodies. We find our Benjamin marvelously caught up between Marx’ functionalist materialism and, on the other side, his own knowledge of the mystics’ spirit-body, a spirit that is not in, but in-between, spirit of/between the bodies of the urban dwellers in these their intercourse(s) with all the fecund City’s spatial bodies.
The City that we know: A cauldron that cooks up bodies – and it also cooks them down – those complicated/complex bodies we call persons, who get considered within or out, of their contextualities, and cooked until tender also all those many simpler-seeming bodies, in multitudes around us, and also so imperceptibly deep inside us through and through, just every-one “thing” that there arrives to make (up) the City: (Very nearly) disembodied heads swirling by, eyebrows arching up away, street corners suctioning, foot falls hard dampening, lamp posts parting views, whole rows of building fronts slipping underfoot or jumping on your back, coat pockets keeping it safely to me, avenues rolling on toward next year, a hot dog stand will pause just here – for now. The City is a field of fields – and what are fields if not the regionings of intersecting bodies – it is a (hyper)garden even, it is the mutual invadings staged by all the many body-gardens that populate it, make it a multi-people(d) here, there, everywhere, and also nowhere, where there are garden-bodies settling into their domains in one another’s hair(s). (And this is where we have gotten to, 2013 still on the date, this year when we will need to substitute – “bodies” for things, and then also think life, and lives, as in-habitations of domains, for life, and lives, conceived as ideal system(at)ic entities: It’s now all ecology, no, all ecologies, from our most private thoughts to our hospitalizable bodies, all that is, it’s all ecologies that swarm through(out) their City, their attractor and black hole-ing pivot.)
And sometimes, oftentimes, we, human mortal bodies, have come upon our/selves as lost, we feel a caving in the center, gnawed in from loss, from absence of what now we know had been substantial, we are borne down on, weighted-under, by what can be no more for us. Is this not something that indeed we had to learn to bear in infancy, and perhaps already even there-in, in what is most inside, rocked softly in a mother’s watery orb? We all are wounded when that some-thing has gone, gone missing, that which had been streaming forth and spinning our lives’ unfolding self. And do we not already learn on soles two inches long that – when we just take a look back again – that any this that now seems so much here – and very now – that any this that fills us so completely as our present/s, instant/s, and instantiaton/s, that this already will have passed, will be lost? We stumble and we come to realize, that some-thing once so very dearly warming is no more for us – and losses we also incur when they vanish, those dark ghosts, the not-to-be-faced faces of our various lacks in vital power, those “negatives” that we have cast into sore self-images, faithfully trusted company in our miseries. We hit that wall, we cross a line we did not know was there, and suddenly it dawns that now the bottom has fallen out,that something absolutely vital has vanished from the depths of our innermost.
Our daily goings/comings now are hollowed out from vaguely spotted and obliquely aching cavings – and every so often there occur momentously locatable invaginations: Then there holds sway a strange body-negative, an empty (non)place where some still quite acceptable self – and all the other that belonged to and with it – some selving had been (fairly) alive and well, or so it seemed. And now just these ruinous Piranesian Carceri, melancholical etudes in our eyes and ears that roam in what suddenly surrounds us as labyrinthinity made up of all the familiar, places girating (in)to non-places that stare unnerved emptiness into the last of our guts. However, team players on(c)e and for all, we still do hope for lack to be filled-in again, for us to be redeemed, against all odds: The mother will console, she will receive (back) our tremulous hearts, give her (so wholly whole) embrace to our-selves so we may come back in(to) again and rest inside – not just inside the world but, passing through her, rest inside ourselves. She will re-weave the garments that we will bear, the gentle closures that protect all insides of the world, of us and all of them alike, of all the good and all the bad, of all that was and all that is to come next, and to begin again – of all the mothered body-lives. The father, on the other hand, he will (en)train us, gear our tremblings to the imperative performative, will canalize our flesh that just begins to feel itself, will streamline and direct this our bodies’ flesh to terminate in such designs and targeted actions as will re-store our strengths – but thusly also their back-faces, our needs and weaknesses. And so we learn how to overcome – more, to erase, eliminate, make null, those lurking lack(s), in learning to keep on (re)constructing all the structures of our contracted confidence(s). That is the Father’s ultimate promise, to (re)gain as finally our very own, that so elusively founding trust in life, in ourselves, in our other(s), this our wish worked for, this trusting somehow earned against all odds. How could it come to be that such trusting, right smack in the face of the inevitable loss of all, that such a trusting heart could build itself into the very fabric of our bodies – and presumably, since we were worms? And is this just the ruse of evolution duping her children so they would go on gladly sacrificing their individualities, incurring all these many, their own losses, in exchange for propagating a specious species life?
The mother does regenerate, the father will re-place. The mother feeds us (from) inside her body, she is the inside now of our bodies, and so we learn and so we know how to absorb all that is good to us and also, like all flesh must, all of the deathly daily losses that are all bodies’ inborn fates. Throughout all that is loss – and losses run from any slightest moment to the next – throughout whole lives lost and possibly, regained, be this over fractions of a second or across the span of aeons measured out, the motherly will give (all of) her own body to hold and to sustain us, in all of our bodies’ selvings.
The City makes us realize that such a mother dwells inside of all her bodies, that she lives everywhere and everywhen a body stirs – as (this body’s) interiority. For these our inner body-gardens’ selvings, these are “who” is left of who we really are when all else outside of “us” has been bracketed away. It is in bodies being mothered – and in their own motherings of all their outside other(s) – that is where these so improbably afflicted body-selvings come to be. Life’s bodies just need to be mothered, and to mother – in series, as series – mothering-mothered throughout that series of losses in which enduring as condition that first makes (us) bodies is invented, losses to endure, without reserve, each one so very nearly total, so that therein, within their very passing turning into our passing, so that from passed loss new openings may open (inside, in what thereby become “us”) into beginning newly selving lives. Not simply won-back something lacked but that what had been left, that itself transfigured now from gaping hole to newly vital interior life, a tree inside our new hearts – to greet the tree outside. But it is true, bodies need to be fathered and need to father, too – albeit perhaps this only secondarily. The father is father of the word, of our word(s) – and by the word he (mostly) is. He teaches substitution and re-presentation, he is the One by whom we learn to name, and blame, our losses, he is the One that will install re-placement strategies and parts, he is the One that organizes granaries and all the forts that are insistently intent on stemming loss and covering lack (of this or that – or anything, in fact.) In father’s name we build the City fortified that we will wear on armored bodies, and more than wear such warriors’ habit, we will instill self-maintained structures of defense in our very innermost, we will gladly requisition, update, and “enhance” our well-worn bio-organizing/organized instincts to become the furnishings and drapings of our language-controlled – and controlling – body-riding personas. The fatherly will (re)structurate its way through all the children’s bodies to build into them exact equivalents of all those outside forts that we the children have (been) trained so hard to project-design far out into the world, this now languaged world of ours that is also world for all our other(s) – the City (di)splayed in firmly laid out palaces – major to miniscule – arrayed along veins both concentrative/dispersive, muscle and bones that gather power in and spew it back out.
The City today however, enthralled and captured by the father’s semio-capital, driven into ever proliferating and accelerating spinning-out, it is still also – and is now, more so than ever – the matrix, a mater-matrix that most gently can suffuse our bodies to endure, a weave that weavingly permeates, that fills our bodies with bitter-sweet goings-on, grace spanning over our horror vacui, and lives lost only to be transfigured to live on (again). The mother’s City helps us bodies to endure, endure that awful other side of craved-for continuity, the side of loss(es), so (un)mercifully unpredictable in detail, so tragically foreseeable as generality. So what is it that this matrix weaves – mere stories, self-illusioned, of redemption in companionship and solace? Is here just an all too comforting ideology at work, the hypnotism of an evolution-sprung reflex that blindly keeps on re-producing the phantasma of a redeeming mother, that, to make us feel a little better, keeps painting over, painting out, the very real absences and lacks that truly are the real “real” – end of story? “Consolatium”, that once was a rubric of ancient rhetorics, and what was rhetorics but the invention of the figuration of sense(s), of tropes made out of words to fabricate our human – and then so humanly projected – our anthropic treasury of inner life, thinkings feelingly, feelings thinkingly, with consolation as part of the work of “art”, rhetorics as the elaboration of our lexicon, thereby made inheritable, of how to feel, feel ourselves as selving bodies? The ancients laid loss all out for us, and we did our best to look away or manufacture by-ways far enough around this thorny thicket: But through it goes the path for all that lives as bodies. For only path itself is what endures, in and as itself, and only when thrown out fully willingly, into the unpredictably fateful. This path, not of endurance but of what endures (as bodies), that is the City, that civitas of dwellers (with)in their mutual responsibilities. And path and passage are also the City, her other side, Urbs, that pure con-centering of bodies all, of all the bodies, chickens to roof tiles, and also of us, we, the City’s home-bodies – interminably infinite concentrativeness that survives – lasts out every-thing – since it is coupled with its opposite pole, distantiation.
The literary labors on “solatium” bear fruit in Stoics’ equanimity held fast in the face of the fate of all that’s bound to die (perhaps to be reborn somehow, in others’ bodies?), in Christianity’s guilt-redeeming (justly deserved?) sorrow over or rather under, Adam’s fall from paradise, and lately in the modern(ist) denial that inters all loss under the foundations of progress’ great edifice, and today in our postmoderns’ resignative resort to the hospices of palliatively mediated companionship. Another scholarly moment: The motherly is our solace, more than consolation prize, for the etymology of “sol” takes us (in)to the idea for wholeness – and from there perhaps also to the wholeness that our earth gives ground(s) to as where we plant our soles. From such roots there springs the Latin ancestor “solari”: Solari – to “console”, deponent verb through which consoling goes across to other and comes back to self, console stays in-between them, testimonial of boon both and of detriment, of both fulfillment and of lack, condition that besets, and girds the being-bodies. To be both many and a one, condition for/of bodies who cannot but exist as doubled deep inside, as body-beings that must con-solid-ate themselves in couplings where separation and togetherness become a one-and-many, where all the sides will, and must, remain distinctly separable while wholly fused. Console, we may surmise, it means to make, to let become, again a whole. And such becoming – individually-collectively – whole again, it must proceed in reinitiating, in re-entering the whole that is our bodies’ fundamental jointness – in and as the multiplicity with (all) other(s). That other Latin ancestor, “solus” sticks in there, too: It means “alone” but does aloneness not point out that there can only be a One alone if it has (won) power to be (a) whole, for and in itself, so that it may stand alone – while any such
aloneness cannot sustain itself without the (prior) “with” all other(s)
that it must lean against, both toward it and away from?
In progress’ wake we mostly set our hopes on father’s City, on cornucopia of all that lies in wait to fill in all the gaping absence(s), blot out the absenteeism of what has gone missing, of what has become an absence not just inside but of us ourselves. And even though band-aids they be, encouraged we look forward in good faith to doing that much better yet next time, run through by yet another rush to keep (us) going on, jumping on the back of yet another thing, so we may win (back) again, so we may hold possessed again the world – and from it ourselves above all else. Today the father’s City stands foremost, it constitutes our grandest artifice, a simulation both and dissimulation of our paradise regained on earth, mirage that seems invulnerable to contradiction and negation. Who can argue with it, when after all this growth machine has never yet ceased working faithfully, inducing continually its own laborings, to produce our boons (and busts), and to write off, and resolutely socialize, all the (un)productive costs that space engenders: For space-ing is nature’s very fabric, space-ing begets all those real distance-ings, the spatial syntactics that spell out themselves not just in-between but also deep inside all (our own) resourced bodies-of-production, these our bodies that the City of semio-capital shunts around its relays, now become bodies-of-(self)consumption. The fatherly City drives hard its exploits – (of) all the bodies – to get around their inherent weight and shift their self-possessed inertia, to (re)channel their stubborn selving for and in themselves, mixing itself into all these their thinkings, feelings, lovings, hatings, memorizings. Today this City’s intent, to liquefy all these resourced bodies, to lubricate the streams of values realized in ever new modalities of capital, now this striving has breached a boundary: The City’s exploits now are expanding deep into its onw interiors, there in the innermost of all its bodies to open up new territories to be conquered by the proliferating armies of semio-bodies that the mediatization-of-everything is churning out – only to soon devour, streams of newly (re)minted bodies whose ambits, materiality, sensoria and sense of self, all will be enhanced, magnified, spectacularized by story lines. The City’s bodies will wear these lines in erotized imagery of weaponry, as habitable stories of powers gained or lost, in tropes that perform themselves by way of us, the real body marionettes, in ready-made(s) around for us to ingest as magnifiers of our experiences… The real-material bodies that we touch – and which will touch us if we come close enough – such real bodies now must labor in their servitude – even and also when they “enjoy themselves” – as water carriers, as substrates cultivated for the delivery of exactly that which has come to stand in stead of what is real, administrations of our “experience” – flabbergasting topsy-turvy world if there ever was!
Real bodies become submerged in overcodings and get lost in disseminations, are made over into signal-bodies, they are reduced (and they collaborate in reducing themselves) to acting as messengers – of pleasure, of indifference, and also, albeit each day less so, of pain. And as every message branches out and leads off to yet more, the real bodies come to disappear within the foam, in Lefebvre’s cloud(s) of signifiers. Yes they are quite willing to deny themselves for sake of denying their own, denying bodies’ givenness to pain, to act mere purveyors of the sensory, of imagery – be those for our eyes, our ear, or the hairs on our bellies. Here exploitation – always of bodies, and by bodies – takes a real nasty turn: It exploits bodies‘ built-in desire to overcome their grievous weight, to breathe more freely, it offers unlimited ethereal existence in immaterial semio-fields, all this in exchange for (very nearly) dying-off, for living the pre-final death of their own materio-physicality, a bargain that so nefariously substitutes the image(d) for our bodies’ real naturo-social “little deaths”, those daily deaths which bodies need to begin their selving lives again, real redemption and real immortality – but only in their returnings. There is an unrelenting enormity in how this global City proliferates, how it explodes and implodes both, how it simultaneously singularizes and compacts, all these our bodies, now thoroughly semiotized, how this City disperses them all across and re-congeals them for locally enjoyed “experiences” within our global “culture”, the culture of a world managed through run-away crises, by and for the privileged. The greatest of mysteries, the one of that great whole of our universe of universes, once presented on the screen, is rendered in conveniently organized views that we find ourselves ushered into. As to the City, real distances, irksomely real-and-material – and thus the real building blocks of bodies – they will somehow persist. The City of semio-capital will never tire to bring them down to minimized appurtenances, to packaging, to speded up deliveries, computers’ boot-up shaved back to near-instantaneity. In the father’s City real bodies are the shrink-heads left to hang around as muscle-bound infrastructural substrate, technically just about still relevant for gaining pleasure(s) and subjected to treatment to obliterate the pains they still may cause – and these are the pains that come from our real loss(es), already reformulated and reduced to losses measured in pleasurable items. This City prides itself on standing ever ready to service us according to the bargains we have struck, threatening but behind a friendly face, hell-bent on satisfying all of the lacks disgorged by loss, busily converting loss to lacks, old and new, this City helps out right away, no questions asked – except for your creditability. It is as if the father’s City were all designed just to be sure to cover up and fill with burgeoning “Ersatz” – another Benjaminian topic – these potholes in our souls, these lack(s) that give names to the cavings-in that loss will leave behind.
But it is just here, around the loss, here is where the other City, the one that holds us, holds all (its) bodies, may still hold its own, the City as mater-matrix. For at some, maybe just at this moment in our happy-hour sojourn on the bar stool, and looking out the window, and just barely catching that furtive movement stirring around the lips of a woman passing by
in pink shades and black open coat, that’s where that great warehouse City, the giant shopping mall wherein to tide ourselves over our loss(es), that’s where this mirage of ready replenishment just(ly) will evaporate. Such improbable “presencing” of an-other, of another touchable, however over-mediated the coming-in of this impression, to whatever illusionary modality our postmodern discourse may have relegated it – this irruption of a real-material body, of a body that is feeling itself moved and is moving itself, this can pierce all our habits (both what we do and what we wear as ourselves), it can unrail all the entrained demeanors of the City’s bodies in pursuit of re-gaining their variegated happinesses. Here the veils are torn, the dressings donned by buildings, streets, people, even animals, are dropped, all these figurations taken on by real things precisely to deny the loss, they suddenly collapse and now comes down what was designed to rear up as happy-go-lucky tokens for (ever) better futures just around the corner. The warehouse peddles promises that will allow us to continue, continue ourselves, get a continuance. Lets face it, we, we bodies, we crave “continuity” above all, more than God – and what is He but that, but (our) continuity personified/personifiable. The discontinuous is what bores steel-headed worms into our bodies’ hearts, angels of death too thin to see, left-over pins from our many many dying(s) into loss. The father’s City covers loss in layered fabrications that throw bridges over, the mother’s City though may give us a real continuity. And does it matter that such continuity can only be that which manages to persist with-in all these irruptive changes, with-in the dislocations that, viewed in the rear mirror, appear much smaller than they are, with-in all the tiny yet momentous jumps, moment to moment, place to place, the fragmenting jumps that the motherly allows to become transitions, transitions in and of becoming (again) our bodies, becoming ourselves as bodies that selve.
The father’s City makes us face the martial side in our lives, we dwell there under Vishnu’s arms, the heavenly destroyer, we fall there into apocalypse, under the hooves of horsemen who ride roughshod the City’s territories. The mother’s City cradles us in Aphrodite’s foam, softly surrounding us with earth-time, holding all her bodies so they will heal – and heal their other(s) (for being healed and healing are two sides of the same coin). The City as destroyer/builder here, the City there as alma mater that preserves, not spatial structurations but their fecundity. These sides establish the polarity that runs through the City – and so solace, paradoxically, can only come from both together. Without the father we’d be suffocating deeply imprisoned inside Nietzsche’s nightmare of the return, unbearably eternal, of the ever-same – where that which keeps and holds together rules alone. For even empires that long ago have cruelly disposed over soft bodies and projected harshly (re)aligning power through the City, even such empires outgrow their self-servingly exploitive-expletive impetus. Long-perished races, once ensconced behind palatial walls, eyes on horseback panning proudly across the faces of the street walls, walls that we today still pass, long-gone gazes launched into the soft of windows, here, and there, windowed eyes that we still today peer into, and out of: True, those who are gone may well have left their boot prints on our backs, they may still encase our bodies in lastingly imperious gestures that carve their ways into the living architectures of our City. But more often such vainglorious burnt-in gestures will have already sprouted weeds, flora and fauna of new and other generations, will have been been turned, turned aside, turned over, will in fact, have even turned against themselves, and have turned out new fertile soil and urban spatiality. The City’s nature is its capacity to invert and revert itself: A power-driving network of steets can be turned, can turn itself, against its heart, and thus imperial plans may exude solace just in how we feel – within them, deep within their heart – this founding urban clinamen to switch, to swap, to ex-change – not just certain qualities and faculties but the deepst nature of things and spaces. The City’s nature is nature accelerated to the speed of the neuronal, the City is all switch(es), flipping polar opposites, and this power of undoing itself, this radical(izing) reversibility of composition that dwells deep with(in) any and all of the most solid City bodies, is always there, not just implied but “really-materially” implicated – and perhaps most strongly so where some superiorly “strong” form flexes its powers so as to blot out its other half, its sister opposite. And any-thing, and any body that constitutes and has, a specific form for and in itself, such body must bear with(in) itself that other pole, its own complete(d) “un-form”, itself as the chaotic, its ultimate antipode visited from its own viewing place, from this “itself” – dreaded-and-desired dissolution of the self in Thanatos condition for dying (again) into Eros’ new beginnings.
We have come to realize that weirdly, solace can only come to us because the City places us in both the father‘s and the mother’s hands, and that deeper still reversibility keeps on (re)opening between them, reversibility that conquers death, that can perhaps be all-redeeming, reversibility where loss can and surely will, become gain again, where gain (surely) will become another loss. Two protagonists, the fatherly, the motherly, these our City does portray and also exercise, so as to work (out) an ontological reversibility that comes to rules all that is (non)existence: At one pole there is invention of (re)placements guided by the signifier, by power positive/positivistic, at the other there is (re)generation of life’s bodies without, outside of language – so it seems. These poles however can only be the two faces of Terminus, god before the Olympic ones. For on the side of semio-devised consolation the signifier as its own phallic self is nothing but self-exalting power that lords it over (all) the other signifiers – while only from within their swarming multiplicity can meaning(s) be (re)generated: And so we see that that whole side of the signifiers works only as a system that itself is based on inner reversibility. And on the other side of things, where we might place the maternal-material, there is also reversibility, mutely resting in fecundity, between the disappearance and emergence of bodies. Must we surmise a yet greater, a universal reversibility, one that would be our one and our only chance to keep life going within the strictures of thermodynamics’ laws, a reversibilty that would be both primary condition for existence of any-thing at all, and also would be consequence?
The fact that things can be turned, can turn themselves, into “signs” of other(s) – and also thereby of themselves – that would establish one pole in the polarity that constitutes this reversibility of Being – a pole equivalent to past and future; the fact that things can occur as purely “materia” would be the other pole in this reversibility, equivalent to what we call the real present, here and now. Such a reversibility would provide ungrounded groundings for any and all existences and non-existences as such, it would get us past the dualisms and dialectics between the material and the immaterial, it would also grant substantially world-creative power to (self)consciousness – epiphenomenon yes, but also a very real actor in the game.
We are taking this excursion because the City’s teachings can make us reach as far as that. We did in fact already have a clue since why else would we feel so enlivened to “read”, to treat, the City as a (hyper)text-ual, and thus as some-thing that fluctuates, that fluxes, between the immaterial-semiotic and the real-material? (And yes we also know that there is no-thing that is strictly either or, that every-thing is made up in between these poles which operate as tendencies, as directions along which there occur the becomings and un-becomings of bodies.) The City “read” as paradigm for all the modalities of reversibility, it shows us daily that life is exactly that which traverses between these poles and thereby reverses itself: From birth it goes to death, from gain to loss, and immersed in this reversibility we learn to play – in our (urban) artifice(s) – how to reverse directions of (un)becoming between here, the virtual-potential, and there, the pragmatic-real. The City builds these two sides, these poles, into our growing lives, the father(ly), the mother(ly), and so we learn in our flesh that these are the (conceptualizing/ed) poles between which all lives must open (and also close), that to make our reality they cannot become affective-effective without each other: Losses will be made up, or not, in how their mutual reversibility plays out, in their (re)turnings, in their reversing where they will turn into, will become the other pole – in leaving to become the virtual-potential, and in (again) returning to become the newly real-all-too-real. There is solace then even in feeling the father’s semio-power carving commands into the City’s bodies because also it must bend to receive reaffirmation from (with)in the real bodily-material. And on the other hand, there is solace in seeing, in the City, how blindly evolutionary material (re)generation also has need of language(s) that institute, and keep refining, the sensibilities that return merely reflexive reactivity in/as guiding-guided action. For the “purely” bodily-real too, has need of inner semiotization, it needs to suffer and enjoy, imposing signification on itself so that there can be any joy (and sorrow). And such signification gets ever closer to the material tissue of the world, it is a semiotics that communicates, not by namings but through the dia-grammatic: By making, and allowing, the gestural shape of action to explain what it refers to – and, if by unsaid implication, even also why.
But are these poles fully equivalent, or do the scales tip towards the mother(ly)? And could this be otherwise if all the virtual-potential seems utterly dependent on being carried (out) by the maternal-material? We might consider that if any-thing desired to exist, to become (its own) real-material body in its selving for and even in, itself, could this its self-distinctive existence take (any) place, take any time – in fact a time of its very own – if it did not have already somehow (with)in these its selvings, the other pole, that “mere” appendage, its own virtuality, its image, the imaging that produces its becoming (self)conscious, its selving in how it feels itself as different from all its other(s), not just the real others but all those other(s) that it itself might be, that it itself could become, thus all its own potentials resident in virtuality? The father’s semio-power looks as if sternly imposed on “natural” matriarchy but that’s just in how the history went down, for also matriarchies have their own cruelties. Since so much more abuse has come down through the father’s signifier, we now incline in our search for solace towards the motherly, the materia mistreated. (And there we forget that any such mistreatments, before we can judge them so, we need to feel such abuse first in and as the violations of our potentials which are already somehow our own because they dwell immanent – as virtualities – in our own enslaved and wounded flesh!)
There is no easy solace to be had, no sure reconciliation, no redemption lite, whatever short-cuts and band-aids the City holds in store. But somewhere under all the solaces for sale the City keeps (re)opening the paths for us to win redemption that runs deeper: This path however, leads right through the wounded heart, through the middle of the pain that the flesh side of matters is undergoing. Here we find a second reason, “beneath” all the historical, for why in search of solace we do incline to the mother’s hand, arm, bosom, body: Fact is that humans are not finished and for this reason we simply need the woundedness, the suffering(s), in order to find out, re-member, to respect, that potentiality – of other lives that might [have] come to be for us, of potentials lost or imagined in dimly outlined prospects for our (partly) self-made destinies, prospects in(to) the virtual that we need to launch our becoming (human) bodies that selve in this universe. Bodied beings, we depend on feeling the affects-effects of our (and others’) doings to learn who we are ourselves, we need such suffering as what comes of comparing all our potentials with who and what we really are today. Here a great image appears in a new light, the mater dolorosa, the mother’s City that takes all pain into herself. (She takes the pain, not just to pay for giving us our savior, but from behind, from within the son, she will absorb all our self-birthing pains.) This image seals more than the subjugation of the mother’s pole, it points to where the (real) seat of pain is, and why this seat holds privilege and primacy: In it we see beyond the fact that pain is loss, we see that loss is losing our potentials stretched out between these two poles, for becoming more freely living bodies in this polarity between potentiality and reality. And perhaps we see here that reality itself is not what resides in substantial materia but a, but our feeling of joyful suffering (with)in the lap of the mother’s passed-on flesh, the gap that spans between the material and the virtual.
As we walk the City, on our soles, through our eyes, (with)in our memories and new imaginings, here we may encounter and slip away into the testaments of absences long unknown, perhaps unknowable, and all seems loss all over. But there the City may greet us with attestations of boundless-seeming willingness to receive us, accept us again in our need, and to let sprout also the least significant, the very smallest amongst its dweller-bodies, to interweave again the carpets of the City’s space-ings so they may give rise not only to the heroic but also the most forgettably ephemeral and silly of our acts. The City as matrix will not judge by principle but within the “gremium”, from within her lap of spatiality where all that is finds an inside, becomes inside, where all (her) naturo-social bodies may convene and settle in convivial communication. The City’s lap, another paradox, in holding us together, will also free us to seek a singular fate of our very own, and it will go on holding, and keeping, these our fates, both those taken and those not realized, to meet all our progenies, for you and me – and all the others. What will be kept on however, is not so much the monumental(ized) but that which has become enfolded into the City’s bodies, that which has passed into all of them, what has become the City’s ever-shifting wholeness. The City tends to transfigure history, also and especially where it has been terrible, into solace that is passed down from past lives suffered, made over into gifts for us grown from within the losses in our lives and those of others – gone or yet to come. And so the most tyrannically exploitive of urban layouts etched into the City’s matricial lap, will still find itself abiding with the tensions and pressures that keep on (re)opening in our naturo-social, body-sprung potentiality, abiding with the City as second nature pluripotential that is stirring underground in all the insides and outsides of the urban space. Of course, all that is “nature” for us already is the naturo-cultural, nature as impregnated with all the languages, with what we learn as the father’s word(s) that culture has wrought into, and out of, (our own) materiality.
The mother’s City prolongs our hope that she will feed also the least of children, but she will keep this promise only as long as a certain, foundational continuity is safe: For pre-City nature, this continuity maintains the species-body, runts may have to die. But with the City evolution takes a leap, a leap takes place in the reversibility between reality and virtuality that we have come to see founds bodies’ very existence(s). The City holds more, and other, potentialities from which bodies may arise anew that live, and live on, as truly and really individual, bodies whose selvings continue in how they are passed on. So while the father’s word may judge as weak, as unimportant or despised some bodies’ forms, the motherly City sustains them as hollows, as “absences” that are here, and/or there, within her own matricial flesh and weave. The City grants the solace of such immortality to all acts taken to help others – to not living out a certain potential is what “translates” into such services that will be taken into the urban account.
In this City we can become (inversely) great – in, as – acts of loving dedication, and thus what lives on in the end is not command but offerings and sacrifices, made for an other, for the others across and down the line(s): The negative becomes a positive and the positive now carries it within itself – it sounds Hegelian, minus a crowning sublation though and also absent the substantiation of the ideal-immaterial. For here in this reversibility the so-called “immaterial” is in-material, is immanence, but not inside materia, rather it is in-between, (with)in the polarity between actual and virtual. What good is solace if it does not help us with our ultimate loss? If now we postmodern Transhumans go to seek our immortality in the survival of our unique individuality, we had better learn to impart this our most subtly selving body to a more enduring One that has capacity to receive it fully, to another body-individual that must be at least as subtly selving as we ourselves: That other one/whole body whom to live on in, that we must enter and be entered by, that is the self-organizing/organized multiplicity which the mother’s City holds together as, as if it were, a One that is all one whole for and also in itself.
The mother’s face stays in the dark, it must recede precisely so that from behind and under it may advance what becomes foregrounded, so that the rear, the back-ground may bring the formed to the fore and hold it out – these are the laborings of that Faustian feminine meant by the patriarchal God to pull up us men, and hither. This dark mother is the real Madre (Real) de Dios who will again hold, keep, bear us out -witholding from preemptive judgement, she will let us feel, and feelingly know, that we need not be, that we never really are, the orphaned of this world. The father’s City also helps the ones who feel abandoned, alone and lonely still but carried along within the crowding bustle, invited and obliged both to keep our pace with all the busied flinging here and there of bodies at work, spiraling out themselves on Deleuzian lines of flight, to there, to anywhere… Loss floors us first, we hit bottom, but then the ground gives way and all that seemed the best of ourselves is suctioned away into hostilely careless cave-ings everywhere: That’s when we have not trusted, far and deep enough, in that reversibility of fates whose source lives in the mother’s City. Solace will come in trusting in the prevalence of the motherly, most generative chora, chaotic turbulence of fluxes that keeps bodies’ lives going on in throwing open new space-ings and gape-ings – closer than can be touched, farther than can be grasped in measured miles. From this City, from this cauldron where form and matter (dis)engage in unions and dis-unions, from there emerge the space-ings – and time-ings – that make the openings for bodies, ours, our others’, to enter into, to leave also, and to return, to live on, different now and still also very much themselves. Here in how the City negotiates between the focused, delineated, over-focused, and, at the other pole, the de-focused, unfocused, darkly indistinguishable, here is the source that fuels life-giving separations and re-unions both, and therein lies a ground, if there is any, for trust, trust that solace will come, will stay. Where we find ourselves abandoned in our lonely sorrow over loss of what has vanished from inside us, we have not sunk far enough to feel buoyed by that reversibility, the smile of mercy opening inside the merciless face of reversible gyrations between the real-material and the virtual-potential.
And such un-grounded yet grounding trust in finding home again, in finding solace, in an inside, (with)in the mother’s City, it finds (to) itself again just over there, behind the teller’s face, three inches inward at that half-closed window on the second floor – and if we are still wrapped up in our losses it is because we have not made our peace with that reversibility, have not made it out of our little selves and over there to get with one and all the other(s) of the City, to share (in) the fates of our hearts. Uncanny and gently reassuring both, these motherings, swirling through the urban spaces, they constitute invaginations in the urban space (and time), the many wombs for (all) the City’s bodies to (re)site themselves again inside her, in vis-a-vis’ with(in) all their others who in turn are entering this renewed inside where new selving has come back. These motherings that labor as the insides of the space-ing(s) between the forming and the unformed, between the thought and the unthought bodily, they set up the feminine as another aspect of that reversibility: From the interplay of Eros and Thanatos, in-material order meeting with material chaos, from here there stems the traction that pulls us bodies to desire entering the others’ – and to be so entered, to become a father – and so become a mother also, for these our others who respond to us in entering to journey our inside depths. The Daoist accords prevalence to the motherly, that innermost inside in all the things, that hidden unseen valley of the mother, that which was before all else, that which now manifests in all here that is (the) other, so unfathomably other to our self-obsessing – and yet also, in the end, the selfsame familiar. This motherly valley lies so deep inside of all the bodies that any self there is also other – and thus an other’s self. If anything describes the motherly, it must be passage, that which in the City’s space and time sustains the passing of her bodies through loss – of an other and thus also of self – (in)to their being reborn(e). Such strange mother’s lap is the City’s spatiality that we all must go through to re-launch our bodies – so we, consoled, may become ourselves again, and so also to become new world again; trust and solace therein dwell. The mother’s City lets us partake in this mystery of mysteries: Does creation not have to come from a supposedly pure “exteriority” that nevertheless is paired already with prior insideness, must it not come from something that first rests as both no-thingness and as a ‘there”, a place “before” there can unleash themselves any of the exteriorities that Big Bangs push out – be they the great one or yesterday’s cooking recipe? The City surrounds us with the feminine, with prior power, the City gifts us with its body, with the paradoxical interiority of urban space – and urban time – with an interiority that is more than dialectically opposed to Descartian exteriority that yawns between lonely objecthoods. Interiority it seems, is precondition to all that is, to all existences – of bodies, and does not the Latin “existere”, to step out(side) – so as to become oneself, does it not tell us that we have somehow must have been inside already, for some good while of germination, in some melee and matrix before all things?
Even when we have made peace with that iron rule for/of (urban) existence, reversibility, we will still often wonder why the mother’s City can, and must, be tender both and hard-to-take. Why not all sweet if being inside, if warm insideness, somehow seems prior to all otherness(es)? Or further, were we wrong in attributing priority since that there can be insideness does it not presume that first outside other(s) may be gathered up into togetherness and so harbor each other in the round, exterior relations networked to become the inside of a mother’s body? But was that outside otherness, especially the one that brews and shoots out from the deepest grounds of selfhood, not only already there inside? The mother labors to bring forth and also to fuse back together what had become separately selving bodies, to forge re-union in the undifferentiated, the fatherly distinguishes, distributes, disperses. We come to see that our selves, these our selvings, are no presences but (our) endurings (with)in these passages between the poles, between the motherly and the fatherly, that our bodily consciousness is what flashes up in, and as, the in-between, between the amalgamation into compact compounds and, oh the other side, discrete self-distillation. So ultimately solace comes, so strangely, from how the City re-minds us sorrow-filleds that “we” also, however much the self is hurt, that we ourselves come from, become ourselves in, re-gatherings of others – and even in the most recondite depths of ourselves we are that, interior chambers made between others.
The mother teaches (in) our bodies’ insides that these our very own selves are but others that have come together and have been brought together to enjoy their (re)union within each other, so that their joint wholeness may bring forth a hybrid body – and hybrid are the bodies all, all bodies that gather-and-separate within togetherness to make and offer urban interiorities. It seems simple: We are alone when our selving seeks to survive by and in itself, when it cuts us off and condemns us to bear loss (also of self) alone, and more, to bear all of loss – and that means loss of all-that-is – and this just by ourselves. For those who live more in the father’s ambit, the mother’s City will help us to be together-and-alone, as collectives of individuals, where and when we venture to re-open our bodies more freely to engage with all our other(s) so in togetherness the loss(es) can and will be born(e) by all the motherings in which there build up insides between the bodies of the world. For those who live more in the mother’s City, the father-signifier-generated flashings-up of distinct potentials will help them live alone-and-together as collecting-collected individualities. “We”, we ourselves, we will be inside both and outside of these body-brother/sisterhoods – and that turns out to be the law that allows selves to become and continue being selves. It seems as if this law again concedes a certain primacy to the motherly when it decrees that bodies must belong to others more than to themselves and must first seek balance betweensuch others’ freedoms and such others’ burdens, but this because there is a prior brother/sisterhood of these others: And this priority of others only obtains because that is the brother/sisterhood of all these others, of all that is. Not so strange then that this our City so impresses on us that that “other” is, that all these many “others” are, where we must seek solace, solace of coming home, finding inside again. In these its gently underhanded offerings of resumed interior peace, the City lets us know that we must love the other(s) first – and that this, not so strangely after all, is necessary to help us out with our own sufferings of loss. Look back: The Latin “con-solari” comes to us from “solari” – being alone, whose voice is active both and passive and stems from an Indo-European radical for “solidly whole.” Solus as in con-solari, yes, to be alone (but) inside of togetherness, alone as in becoming again (one) whole that is able to stand for and in itself, (with)in foundational togetherness with all other(s), to enter a jointly mothering (and mothered) body that will bear all dissolution, oblivion, and loss that make up one half of bodies’ daily bread – and of all their “circenses”, too.
Contrary to what we so much like to believe, even the mother’s City cannot guarantee us a solidly “real” Parmenidean present that will persist and continue forevermore, divinely in itself and for itself alone. For in the City any present anywhere can be no more than one of many presencings that will impinge on us only on condition that we,
that all bodies whatever, accept any and all immediate-unmediated loss(es) within their selving as the price to pay for keeping going that ontological machine of reversibility, that fundamental conditio sine qua non for the (un)becomings of of any body, of a life, and thus for all things to selve around and along in this our world. This is the condition we as bodies must obey so we may claim our moving from (un)becoming into being, so as to be, be ourselves in enduring our whileings, creatures of the unions in their intersections of disparate becomings, body-things whose very existence is, and can only be, in our being that is continuation – in passing through that foundational reversibility – of our (un)becoming our other(s). And from such daring (un)becomings come all bodies’ frights – and all blisses, too. The riddle, and the source of solace, it’s in here: Bodies can only become their own beings in becoming other(s), more precisely, in becoming a renewed wholeing for itself that is undergone by all these others; and here’s the trick, it is this ever renewed wholeing for and in itself of what are others that is continuous with itself and so can disseminate the source for solace, continuity.
It is right peculiar this (un)becoming-all-their-other(s) of bodies, for is this not that iron law of time, ultimate destroyer, that prison house of necessity that the accidental must happen, that all must change – also the very innermost that dwells deep within a body’s nature? And yet or rather, because of that, this very law of the necessity of change does also underwrite all bodies’ constancy, their very selving, for within the underlying reversibility between the actualized and the not-actualized there opens the possibility of the (freely) willed returning, returning of us bodies as and in ourselves again. We need to do our best to keep and widen the margins of our freedom(s) within the interplays of all these instances of reversibility, and in the end we bodies need to hope for a good deal of grace for our venturing, to keep this wheel wheeling and not wind down into universal entropy – although who knows whether such “permanent’ death might be needed to restart the grand machine. For now we may look to the motherly in our City to provide such grace(s), such favorings of bodied order over dissolution that veers to the irreversible. Selving, our own identities – qua our being-bodies – can only come in and as our returnings, (with)in identities that survive by regenerating themselves as fought-over and won-back samenesses within oceans of divergent lines of (un)becoming other(s). All bodies, all depends on becoming reaffirmed by all those that make up (all) their other(s), on being granted a returning. Where we bodies again imbibe the mother’s City – and allow it to imbibe us in return, we will know inside of our bones that we need to reverse ourselves and let in this pain that we so avidly avert, pain of losing others – and so also ourselves, this grieving that is (also) our bodies’ nature, so that we can let go to make room, so that we may become room, for whatever selving may be graced with beginning next – renewed, both all new and all old reaffirmed, now an-other (one) body. We need to let the sorrow pass though our innermost to restart the wheel, so that the lost, that (all) the lost bodies of this world may be redeemed, re-born(e) in others. The next, that is all of our other(s) with all of ourselves, re-made as bodies, the next in grace, that is what the City holds out to console us. How could we be consoled if we, if bodies, were lumps or sacks, however well organized? The City shows us in each and every of its moments everywhere that all these bodies, ourselves and all the other(s), are nothing but the intersections, and more intersections between these intersections, between inhabitations of domains where life, where selving bodies seek to settle themselves, and this vast multiplicity of domains is primary as soil for bodied populations, this soil is the mother’s City. Two bodies lives are aflame in their contended domain(s), two bodies’ lives rest in retreat in what of them lies outside the directly affected, and two bodies come to full fruition in and across the whole domain that encompasses them both. The mother’s City lets us feel this, makes us understand inside our flesh that these intersections, unions, and disunions, woven together from all the disparate bodies of the City, they make up, they are what we call, and claim, as this “ourself”. Not that we need not fear the loss, not that we need not escape in dreams of immaterializing ideality, not that we need prevent damnation for having bought into Mephisto’s claim to have power over this moment and this place, to make them, and thus us, stay forever, and so to get rid once and for all of that so suffered vulnerability of our bodies’ souls to grief over loss: We must not fear the loss, we must abide with it fully, we must make a sacrifice of our loss, of ourselves, so that this abiding will restart the wheel – and the City is here, all around us, helping us to abide, to stay, to wait consoled, for reversibility to make up the loss.
When someone dies, when some deep-down feeling vanishes, a something evaporates that is hard-to-spot but coursing widely in the dark, and also when some butterfly comes trembling to its last, in all these places there is tremendous loss – for we also die then, it may seem a little only but actually it is a lot, it is the lot. There and then, loss breaks in on us like dimly felt caving-in, a progressive vanishment in search of naming: What is now gone is that one so utterly unrepeatable, so most tenderly constellated (re)union of all the bodies in the world who in their holding one another – together and apart – had made up of them all this One me, this littlest individual, this small real body in its selvings, however lowly. The motherly City keeps on with holding close its bodies, and also all her dead, holding them close she also holds them apart to impart to them a being of their own. In holding all the bodies the City provides a continuity of our own in which all these unrepeatably lost-forever bodies can continue to live on – be this in some-one’s distracted thoughts, hopes, dreams, and walks along these our streets into which the City has received their traced-out acts, still visible or never seen, and has nourished them with the blood of all the City’s bodied lives.
We find such continuity, in a somber mood, in the stubborn persistence of the urban monument, surprising survival of such archaic gesturality, now morphing into the varieties of urban media-screens. Is there real solace offered in such “memory” that builds us into the strengths and wealth of socially contracted nations and tradable communal histories, is there real solace in toughly resigning ourselves that all these losses, these innumerable deaths will be memorized in semiotic preservation as figures figuring in our communal canons of worthies? What can give real solace is that the Mother’s City is taking care to provide the continuity for that reversibility which to come into play needs for all our “soft spots” to (re)open, to pass through loss and pain so as to engender a new presencing. These spots in the urban spaces can open up everywhere like space-ings in a mesh, their nature is not that they are simply deep inside our innermost but that they are both inside deep and in the outside other’s inner depths. The soft spots in urban spatiality are where sufferings are welcomed in to take (their) place and to pass through so that there can emerge and take place renewed endearing communicational engagements, all of them so utterly vulnerable in their ephemerality; these soft spots are where we bodies, where the City body, feels most fully – itself and all the other(s) – so that solace may grow from all the actions left behind by other bodies – and also from what they had aspired to might be picked up again and held. Can there be solace coming out of such anonymity, out of real individualities transmuted into some character or feature, if we the living live up to it, if we pick up the pieces left behind and find in them again what we are willing to relive as the current generation of individualities of living bodies? In doing this we also let ourselves live again and on, but do we have to give up some of our own ambitions here, is this a debt we need to repay for lives past, or more than debt, feeling fully that all these others “lost” have prepared the soil we are made of ourselves? Then being good steward to all these now nameless others is being good steward to ourselves, and any disrespect or violence would only cut in our flesh. The City helps us here as well, and not just the mother’s: For we need to find just the most slightly adumbrated of forms left behind within the urban spaces, some vague idea formulated on the side of the father’s semio-realm, so that we can gear our own bodies‘ action accordingly. Here the mother’s and the father’s City work together to keep all these acts left behind – in front of us, aside, hidden under, even intentionally out of sight – so as to continually open us up into the next, the next here or there for us, so as to help us, help our bodies, to become again themselves in passing through the sediments of loss, inside us and outside us, and to console ourselves.
Does it turn out simple?
Solace is what gives us back our breath, what gives us courage to let go, what helps us stop holding on to what already has gone, gone long although it feels so sorely recent. Solace is what lets us breathe in all that world from which we must be re-born – including, especially, that painful absence of the lost. In-breath and out-breath must be complete so that the wheel can roll again. If we breathe all life lost and gained out into all bodies that are and if we breathe in freely all the new, the breathing of the City will let us live our loss borne lightly on winged heels, if we hold up this breathing in or out, we will bear loss doubled over buckling knees. The breathing of the City, through all its bodies, is that reversibility in action. The City can become authority to convert our bodies’ gravity to dance journeyings not just in-between but passing right through all urban space-delimiting barriers, through all the wallings-off, all seclusions, and in all directions – making contact directly inside to inside, inflicting only pains desired-for. To give us solace, the City must help us breathe not only through its open avenues and round its squares, but crucially, right through all the walls, so our breathing may diffuse and meet the other’s insides – so that it may become their breathings-in. This is the criterion for building cities, and we must ask: What other bodies will we become from our breathings-out, from these our entries into others’ bodies, as we move through day and day, what bodies will become from all these others who are breathing in these our acts? And then, what bodies may we become from what these our others on their own may breathe into our own enveloped regionings of self, down into the corners of our innermost? The City has its magic here, and this is where Egypt’s has erred – and has launched 3000 years of hopeless strivings to find salvation with the idea(l) of nested-nesting hierarchy that has pretensions to lead us (in)to the very end of all, the heart of godhead, to meet the innermost of ourselves. For when the City’s spatio-material progression, when her breath reaches into the inner chambers, where it and we are most vulnerably intimate, the City’s breath-support knows just how both to protect and how to open up these chambers so tightly circumscribed, right (back) out into the general space of the City as a whole, a space that is most sharply, and refreshingly, outside again. The City’s breath both shelters and exposes that most intimate, and so most freeingly it opens up its littlest bodies into the greatest of urban spaceings – it runs the wheel that reopens all bodies to their reversibility. Reopened to, re-embedded in the general matrix, the City can receive pained little interiors to let them re-build their locked-up destinies, and so what, or rather who, was not allowed to live as freely as they might have, they now can be redeemed. The camps are not in need of museal treatment, it is their very spatiality that needs to be allowed to act as the mother’s City – even if the touristic lives so briefly lived there make but short-term stops. This is the City’s answer to Adorno’s dialectics of desperately absolute negation: Yes, after Auschwitz art must without mercy and unfortunately it seems as if the very spatial nature of the City seems hopelessly enmeshed in perniciously “false” positivity, since it is simply ”there” in its facticity. But we have argued here that reality itself is not invested in some absolutely real thingness in itself but in the very reversibility between the real-material and the virtual-in-material. The City holds both all that has been done and all that was not. The City as the most multiplicitous body, body most encompassing of all otherness(es), be they factual or potential, it holds together within – and in fact, as – its own wholeness all the claims to life made by all – and also the most other – bodies ever. This City therefore, in the end will always speak life-art’s truth to power since it both shelters all interiorities and holds them to also justify themselves – in their own eyes as well in those of all their other(s). The body of the City will answer with the force of all that it keeps within the actual “real”, also any pretensions that are harbored there, also all unfulfilled desires seeking new room to germinate.
And now we must ask whether – thinking spatially – there are urban topo-morphologies that serve better as a matrix for “solatium”? (For solace is more than just a shedding of loss’s pain, solace is what helps us bodes pass through loss and thereby recharge the wheeling of reversibility that brings redemption.) There is the City that presents itself endowed with comfortably comforting “human scale”, there is the City as Grand Magasin that offers consoling luxuries (for all those she deems admissible), there is the City whose hierarchized spatial system sternly enforces the benign continuity of the sovereign that is the state made up of all of us, and there is also the City as the evened-out nearly chaotic labyrinth of a commodious urban grid, the urban soil that cultivates a civil war carried out in productivism and merchandising. Of one thing we can be sure, pretty much, the rub is in how the city couples holding all her bodies together with keeping them apart: The motherly City works her spatial moves to rub our bodies up against each other, so tightly and surprisingly, that we bodes are held to most directly question and reaffirm our own ways of selving, and this in the ways of how our others selve, and all this not only in the precincts of family and tribe but in regionings of all the groupings in which participate the bodies of the City. And while it seems as if the other mode of being in the City, of our own (un)becomings so as to be the City, should be the father’s semio-mode, there is somehow under or farther within the motherly, a certain extra space. There the mother’s City also – and concomitantly – creates the opposite of keeping the compact together, there she creates the distance-ings – not just simply distances that inertly lumber as they space out spaces between things but distancings that both induce and allow bodies to pull apart and also to be pulled apart, an endowment granted by the nature of materia, rooted in its tendency to hollow out insides within spatiality as such. Distancings are made by all of the City that intervenes, however near the other body. These urban bodies, we, we now find ourselves sited in a distant urban place and yet we feel and know that that other once so close is still here, and closer even, in the virtuality that the City keeps on regenerating, and this also if that other seems lost forever. (Then that virtuality of renewed presence dwells inside us mostly, and this is why we still have cemeteries, cities of the dead, to help us reversing our losses.) The mother’s City holds us – together-and-also-apart, so her, and our, breathing will span far and easy between all those wheres where she will help us settle our bodies. Holding us together, so tightly as to sometimes give us more than a little pain in pleasure, while also keeping us so far apart across the measured urban spatiality that we may feel abandoned, she gets us breathing in between the here and there, between this “us” and all that “other(s)”, she gets us walking-breathing – and this not only on our bodies’ soles, through the nets of our eyes’ rays ruminant, around inside our ears’ vast caverns, and across our minds’ multi-folded virtual worlds. So above all, the City needs to spawn a (most heterogeneous) multiplicity of spaces in which we all cannot help but be together with(in) the other(s), in the now of our bodies, where we can stop, stop our busy-ness, and just open up to one another – and thus to ourselves. This stopping is crucial so we may feel again how we have become distantiated and how these very distances have forged how we cohere as body-wholes, wholes that selve in between their intersectional domains, selve as togetherness, and selve in quarters that become separate(d) through these bodies’ intersections.
The history of cities has given us two prototypes to accommodate the collective wholeness of all the urban bodies: The “street”, the “square”. But we must know that once we apply a typology, the forms of spatial ordering lose the power that resides in the City’s capacity to create spontaneously the most affective-effective forms to do its spacing out in order to collect, its collecting in order to disperse. The real mother in urban spatiality is One but only insofar as it is – also, and primarily so – the many that retain their multiplicity. Solace grows on an urban ground that brings all bodies together into mutually engaging ways that heat up and intensify all our othernesses, and this just so that thereby such urban spatiality may generate these bodies’ most intensive re-unions.
This City reinvents, and does continuously so, the urban lives of bodies as bodies that are wholly intertwined in communicational connectivity and which paradoxically, thereby also are afforded utmost self-distinction, even near total self-separation. This gives us one criterion, one that holds for space-ings whether as closely intimate as between this sweater and my skin or whether as far and wide as from here to a plain ride across a continent: The City is that mode of spatiality that gives birth, it is the art-born(e) machinic womb that generates its urban bodies, brings forth us, and our other(s), as urban bodies that belong to her and to ourselves both. How? The urban spatial structurings, matricial flesh, they generate the distance-ings that open up a place for bodies, they offer, they assign their places. Yet such matricial weavings also re-unite, they annul those distances created in how they work to set up communications, all sorts of contacts between all sorts of bodies. And all these communications, they are all manner of touchings really – touching encounters made through the distantiations, they set up the conditions which all bodies need to become empowered to emerge as individualities. The secret that the City harbors is that it is, that it must be, Janus-faced and -handed, one hand founds distancing, the other hand turns distancing on its head and lets it become directly intimating touchings, more intimate than any rural nearness, between all the City’s many selvings and its many otherings.
All the complex (topo)logic of urban space unfolds in its mereology: Between parts and wholes, all of them made up of heterogeneous allegiances and claims for autonomy. Distancing urban spaces are built up in steps that establish spatial delimitations which aggregate across the space(s) and time(s) that bodies need to live in; but at the same time, and in the selfsame space, wholes, structurings and orderings, made up of part to part relations, these also get built – and learn to build themselves. Precisely if your existence is in being both for yourself within the whole as one of its part-bodies, and is also in being without that whole as your own part(-body) in yourself – and this is the City as a whole – then the relationships between two and many non-contiguous parts can (also) become direct again, conducted through the (worm)whole, directly from what is most personally intimate into that other’s intimacy. Positivistic theories will relegate such directness across distance to fabulated “spooky action across distance” or bring it down back to pragmatic-instrumentalist mediations – in other words to regressive re-instantiation of physics’ principle of local transmission of causality, all relations reduced to mechanics of elemental part(icle)s. I think the City teaches us to not deny the whole an active role – and power. I think that it encourages us all to let it do its laboring in love, to bring together heart to heart all those so very self-separated things – for all these “things” can become bodies only when they, from their seclusions, (re)enter into re-unions, so as to make – and to themselves become – a “greater” whole, and more and other wholes, more encompassing. The whole is not a device for mediation. It is the whole of all, of all that is, that has become empowered to manifest itself in and as part of just this here, of this concrete one body-whole, it is the whole of all-that-is that has empowered itself to manifest in ever more encompassing joint (hyper)bodies. Such a whole can guarantee both distance and utmost directness of communication.
This is the magic of the City and this is why it can console. We find her magic anthropomorphized in the classical typology of urban space where whole societies with their individuals find themselves expressed in the hierarchies of their boulevards and squares, presided over by the palatial interiors of their common urban soul, but we also find it laid out in the cooly neutralizing abstractness of the urban grid. That’s just where we are today, ready (or not?) to conceive more freely our urban spatialities in urban forms that can be ever more disjunctive – and more conjunctive all at once – by way of inviting ever new forms of ordering endowed with greater power of communication and communicability. Even where its life breath is cut by gates and wallings-off, the City always remains the (re)incarnation of the vital need for all the most disruptive concentrations and space-ings, for all the most tightly sealed compacts and most wounding gapeings, to find a way to re-engage the separateds – and this from innermost to innermost. Sooner or later also the most splendorous privatized City cannot help but show its face as deceitful deficit, as real absence, as lack of vital communications that would make bodies whole again. For this is where the power of the City really comes from: It lives right at the edge, in both worlds at once, everywhere and nowhere, in reality and in virtuality. The City gives us, on one hand, that which is ”most” real-material, while, on the other, it withdraws all that is real and suspends the substantiality of all its bodies. For the City goes on living in all of its retreatings to the virtual, holding its bodies open to the potentials which it is holding in the lap of its spatiality, waiting for its bodies to reinvigorate old spaces and invent new spaces from within the old for new bodies to extend and settle into. It is in her capacity to sustain enlivening communication between bodies that are most other – other to others and other even deep inside themselves – and such threateningly inner alienness is necessary for bodies to become bodies that selve more vigorously. It is in this capacity that the City’s power ultimately lies to give us solace.
City of Solace.
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Johannes Knesl was born in Vienna, Austria, received a classical humanist education and after graduating with a professional and a doctoral degree in architecture, worked in the Department of City Planning, Vienna and as an architect in London, UK. After teaching architectural design and theory at the Technical University in Vienna he moved to the USA in1975 to teach at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and New Jersey Institute of Technology. From 1986 to 2006 he served as Chief of Urban Design with New York City’s Departments of Transportation and Design and Construction and has since been active as an independent professional in architecture and urban design. He has written and published widely on architectural and urban theory. Among his recent publications are “Everywhere eyes that see, bodies that feel: Archaecology, beyond cellular liberation“ (in: D. Pavlovits, editor: “With Silence Implying Sound”. Haecceity Inc. @ Sydney University Press. 2010) and “Notes on architectural videos” (In: EZUFF Projection Project. 2013.)