words written in the week of
June 12th to June 18th
in previous years.
This was 7 years, 9 months, 26 days ago

a few things to think about.

On the ride back home from the airport, I look out the window of another cab (a different but similar cab, different but similar vehicle), and realize that the city is so still, so silent, so quiet. So small. I no longer have to extend my mind to the outer extremes, no longer have to consider everything at once, feel my brain receding, retracting back into my head, the absence of honking somehow making me feel that something is missing.

Everything seems very placed, very set; doors are doors, roads are roads, cars are cars, everything in its right place, defined vs. undefined sharply. Crosswalks are crosswalks, and not-crosswalks are not-crosswalks.

You could call this a certain kind of modernism, or a kind of taxonomy, or a certain kind of simplicity, an order borne out of a kind of logic that does not like to swallow contradictions but keeps it away at arm's length.

--

I find myself having a hard time articulating where it is I am right now, currently. I am absent, a little, hovering, locked into another perspective, as J calls it. Yes, indeed. I am here, looking at all these things with the gaze as if I am there. Things that I used to think were important seem petty; things that I hadn't actively looked at before feel more important, and it feels like the world has been brought into focus more, a reminder of scope, of presence, of existence.

For a brief moments, careers and resumes seem heartbreakingly petty and meaningless; exhibitions and press releases seem to be inconsequential; positions and labels seem like half-hearted charms incanted as futile efforts to ward off more pressing issues that sweep down onto us. Hearsay and discussion just the inside jokes of a discipline.

It's like, as if, having counted numerous mothers sleeping on the ground with their kids, painfully ignoring 8-year-old beggars and their entreaties for just a few rupees, the thing that was the most visible was a "system", and how strong it can be. Systems, as in operations, ecologies, dynamics, not some kind of strict algorithm that launches into play, but more like the collective murmuration of a flock of birds that organizes into a system, the swirling mass of twenty-something kids in Williamsburg that form swirls and whirlpools of movement between bars, bodega ATM, and subway stops -- these kind of systems.

Viruses generate systems. Are not viruses strong, the kind of thing that decimates a population and leaves it reeling with social shock, enough so that we give it a name and remember it for centuries since? Money and its externalities is memetic; every transaction generates two money users, two enthusiasts, and so the spread of usage spreads rapidly. Concepts, TV shows, rumors. Roads, water pipelines, high-voltage electricity wires. Governments, medias, discussions. Are not these systems strong? Are these not pervasive and influential enough that when you go to another place, all these things are different? Similar, but different?

In response to the enormity of a system, what is architecture? What is the value of understanding the rustication of the facade of a building? Media can swing opinions, make people cry. Spaces can affect people, and shush a rambling crowd into respectful solemnity. Places can conjure up senses of isolation and otherness. Novels can make you think about things you hadn't thought about before, generate and modify your opinions. Management and logistics can make things previously inefficient into something that is powerful. Technology can make things that were impossible into something that is possible.

--

Having just come back, having felt what money means, how power affects, how ways move in these different ways, it's like: now I kind of know what I want, a little bit more.

I want to be powerful. Mostly in terms of abilities, than politics. I want to know, in-depth, how things work. I want to know what to do to make them work. I don't want to make beautiful things; I want to come up with elegant and beautiful solutions to important, widespread problems. I'd like to fix things, whether spatial or organizational or technological.

--

Sometimes I think: What is the future of architecture, and what is my relationship to that future? Do I want to be part of it? Is it important to me?

Space is important to me; so is people, so are systems, so are ecologies, so are experiences. I want to practice an applied anthropology, solve problems.

I realize now that having parents who were (are) both professors while growing up affords me the luxury of being simultaneously irreverent to and respectful of academia; rebellious progeny, so to speak.

--

Only certain things matter to me right now; those things come forward in full focus; other things are simply absent, irrelevant, unnoticed. I've been thinking of the past year and the next year as an experiment in isolation, self-orientation. Internally imposed structures, patterns, rhythms. Gorgeous summer days that have high skies and beautiful sunsets. Things moving slow; the rhythm of kids playing on the streets. Meetings in shaded rooms. Work, work. What is the texture of work? What makes you happy? In 10 years, what will you have been the most proud thing to work on? How does one's life change when you have kids? When you lay projects, like eggs, and incubate them into existence? Journals and parties and papers so transient, so momentary in their movement, just another blip; there are enough things like that already. In the world there are schools to be started, buildings to be built, unbuilt, processes to be understood, celebrations to be had. New mental models to be acquired.

Walking through Dharavi is both surprisingly mundane and strikingly interesting; there are no systems, no informal-formal dichotomy, no slum or building, no nothing like this. It's like how, when building something, everything is made out of actions, either nothing is really a mistake or everything is a mistake, every actions unable to be evaluated in the light of proper vs. not proper. Every existing object is there, already present, until we come along and muck it up by wanting to know, insistently, whether or not it is a proper one; whether or not this settlement is formal or informal, whether a community arose organically or not, whether or not people cross the street at structured crosswalks or unstructured moments. Whether we should delight in the joy of a multitudinous swarming confusing mass that we term "rhizomatic" and dust our hands off and say, 'that is that', as if something was answered in any way.

Where do you cross the street? Here, there, everywhere. Or rather: where is a street crossing? Crossings happen at streets; when people cross, a crossing has occurred. A street crossing is a way of making suggestions; over time, in a given society, a street crossing may be influential enough to successfully suggest to those who cross: hey, cross over here. The street crossing has only some bearing on whether or not people do cross at that location, and is never synonymous with the act of crossing itself. The moment that "informal street crossing" is somehow adopted as a term, with the idea that "formal" or "structured" street crossings are approved forms, is the moment that the phenomenon of having-crossed-the-street is thought to be defined by where the street crossing is.

TL;DR: people cross where they want to, not because there are lines on the ground, so looking at people crossing where there are no lines on the ground and declaring it as a qualitatively different kind of action is idiotic.

Does what I am saying come across? Everything is swirling, moving, acting. When infrastructure is gone and trains run and people squeeze out the edges and hang out in a joyous commute back home to feel the wind in their faces and sun in their eyes, and everything magically seems to work out without no harm, and when people cross the street in a calm flowing manner and the traffic, too, flows around them, and when guardrails don't exist and you simply stay away from a slippery watery edge, and when you want it you go for it, and you push in line because you go for what is important to you, and in a place where these are the systems that always exist (nobody has ever been modern, or Other) just laid bare a little bit more, then you realize that some concepts really just wither away, seem irrelevant and meaningless, relatively unimportant. When you step over people on your way to this cafe so that you can drink a coffee for 120 rs or a sugarcane juice for 10 rs and that 12x difference really means squat to you, when you exist in this swirling world (not India, the World) governed by power, money, influences, abilities, spaces, forms, resources, bellies, appetites, then the connoisseurship of coffee seems to be irrelevant, merely a boring luxury, a critic's taste in film being utterly meek and impotent, architectural theory being desperate to hold relevance.

Here, this world seems to say, here, the powers that speak are mathematics, finance, law, influence, engineering, power. Do you know how to program an FPGA? Do a feasability study? Wrangle some data together? How to structure the financial bylaws of a startup? Do you know how to generate these ecological systems that change the land scape of what we have been governed? Do you have excavators, bulldozers, and trucks to change the terrain of what we have? How can you change the way people live their lives? Does that matter to you? Shouldn't you just retire and go to a beach and live like a slothly greedy king with the money you have? Could you retreat into a rural community and live happily, doing something that is important to you? Does it make sense that India has many monasteries; the density of people also generating the dream of isolation, independence, availability?

All of these questions hover around that common central question, 'the meaning of life', etc etc, which of course is shorthand for what is the foundational meaning of your life; what are the irrationally chosen axioms on which you decide what is valuable to you. Like all irrationally chosen axioms, then, maybe it's inevitable that such a decision is met with constant doubt (why this irrational decision over another? why not this other?) or with blissful non-consideration (I've already decided, so why worry; 1+1 = 2 is not an axiom to worry about, either). From where do your axioms come? Nowhere, really, no logical basis, no convenient explanation, no superhero origin story of a fundamental lightning bolt, radioactive shock, alien power, blood transfusion, innate origin, no essence that flows into you, but the complete opposite: a choice that was made, that makes itself important because it is, because I said so, because I said so.

So it's like: India was like seeing all the other mountaintops, in fact, seeing that mountain range, and knowing that New York is just a tiny little place, and these scenes are so small, and that what drives you is just a collection of impluses harnessed together into an engine that allots monetary and social resources (salary! prestige! career!) based on the organizing structure of those impulses, really. Simply put, it's an existential self-questioning brought on by a reminder, a broadening of scope, a re-evaluation.

--

The other day I went to a thrift store with A, M, and T, and shopped in this new way: I wandered around the store, and found three things that I liked in half an hour. I tried two on, and decided that I liked them, bought them, and that was that. My relationship with the object, my relationship with myself, over. That's surprising to me. Is it? It is.

--

It's so interesting, so interesting to feel myself change.

This was 11 years, 9 months, 29 days ago


Diagram for A Thousand Plateaus, Introduction - Paragraph 13, 2010, Marc Ngui


I have all these thoughts that come out when doing mundane things. I think it's Dantec and D&G that provoke these thoughts as catalysts, I think, like latent crazy dreams that happen when there's only intake and no output in thought, reading essays but never writing them, looking at objects but never holding them, and so on.

the other day I was cleaning the fridge, or rather cleaning the dismembered and dislocated innards of the fridge in the bathtub, when it suddenly occurred to me (or rather, it suddenly formulated itself as a thesis) that self-reflexivity as an analytical methodology (ex: medium-specificity within art history) is an a priori method, yes, but more interestingly is perhaps born of an anxiety against groundlessness. that is: it's an approach that is specifically an anxious response to the encroaching territory of non-modernism, and thus an absolutely tacit but also absolutely solid acknowledgement of these happenings. or: a modernist autonomy is born only because (and _not_ in spite of) the proximity of a 'frontier' or a 'rupture', the lack of a tether with which art can be read, knots between 'meaning' and non-arbitrarity becoming untied. in that way, is it too trite to say that post-and-pre are two sides of the same coin, that the necessary conditions of its birth are exactly the same condition which it resists? or maybe the better image is of a fence in a field that ends up generating two spaces, rather than dividing one.


I've been looking for this quote for a while, and finally found it. It's never been typed on the internet before, but it's here now, fresh and new:


"I shall not explicate this text; I shall merely produce a number of fragments which will be, in a sense, outcomes of the text. These fragments will be in a more or less emphatic state of severance with each other: I shall not attempt to link, to organize these "outcomes"; and in order to be sure of frustrating any liaison (any systematizing of the commentary), in order to avoid any rhetoric of "development," of the developed subject, I have titled each of these fragments, and I have put these titles in alphabetical order -- which is, of course, both an order and a disorder, an order stripped of meaning, the degree zero of disorder. "

- Barthes, "Outcomes of the Text", 1972 (emphasis mine).

This was 12 years, 10 months ago

it strikes me
that this this performs as

this mental tic that's inevitable. now, "strikes me" is this way of venturing forth into an explanation without having to put all of my weight behind it; it's possible, it strikes me, this idea slipped by me like haley's comet brushing by the earth (and maybe there's a further metaphorical resonance to be found in the oxygen-tank hoarding that occurred when people thought the tail contained poisonous gas), no responsibility on my part; I've just caught the ball. it struck me.

and performs. oh oh performance. it's beautiful, performs as, effects, appears. does it? it appears to do so. subjective interpretation couched in objective language. quiet interpretation of observed phenomena. your hands held behind your back.

but whatever. we "utilize the means at hand". we real cool. we bricoleurs.

-

1) I just watched pulp fiction for the first time yesterday
2) I just finished norwegian wood for the second time yesterday

It strikes me that violence in Pulp Fiction performs as a stand-in for literary license, or more specifically a license or flexibility that generates a logic of events absolutely one step removed from the usual twists and turns operating within the rules of typical movie plot. By violence I mean specifically acts of violation, events that threaten the usual order of things, the usual geography on which boundaries between specific regions of acceptability lie, etc. So, for example, when Uma Thurman's and John Travolta's characters start doing lines of heroin before their 'date', the space that's opened up through this use of drugs within the movie can be explained within real-world logic as a space that's outside of normal sobriety -- the resulting happenings can be explained literally in terms of this drug use ("they were acting weird because they were high"). It's the acceptance of the shallowest and most initial interpretation of the events going on that breaches your understanding and starts the gradual tear that rends disbelief into halves. My point is that maybe the logic of real-world narrative is dealt with on its own terms and then allowed to be subtracted from the movie because of these factors, maybe leaving something like a logic driven primarily by style and a plot aesthetic of what-the-fuck absurdity. Real-world events dealt on its own terms within logic so that Tarantino plays within the realm of this created illogicality?

I'm also reminded of the similar roles that radiation/genetic engineering and wealthy billionaires play in comic books and superhero stories: freedom, license, creativity spidering out from the notion that these "sufficiently advanced technolog[ies] are indistinguishable from magic" - creativity at the liminal edge of difference and strangeness initially allowed and explained through these technologies at the edge of our understanding, etc.

-

as for 상실의 시대/Norwegian Wood..

I couldn't help but laugh at certain parts and laugh again at my laughter. there were moments when I was certain that it was going to be like coetzee's youth, when watanabe, going on 20, talks about this sense of responsibility, and the older murakami filtering this all through his experience reflects back on this responsibility as something necessarily believed in but inevitably abandoned, and so on. resonating plot points for me, I thought. but no. no, it wasn't. two tiny thoughts:

one. I resent the moments at which murakami (or the narrator) tries to introduce these drastic changes in plot or deaths of a character (such as when kizuki dies, not a spoiler) almost too casually. It's like a steadied and deliberate remark you've practiced and finally introduced by a clearing of the throat and said in a tone too nonchalant to really be deadpan, blasé.

two. the last time I read it some four years ago I remember being struck at the specific point where the narrator turns from stoic description to action, and on reading this again I was somewhat surprised to find that exact turning point again. The phrase "I found myself doing" or "I heard myself say" and the accompanying sense of curious action spurred not by motivation but by something else is appropriate, maybe, for watanabe, words flying forward from somewhere behind distant from the horizon, passing overhead, that sort of feeling.

-

it's funny, lingering traces of travel. 'I am here!' so viscerally ignored when you're there really only sets in when you start to arrive or depart. magnetic fields generated only at the moment when current changes. you flow out, and everything resists and says "stay!" scraps of receipts and regional plastic bags and ticket stubs, in units of economic exchange that fly under the threshold of economic demand that would allow these things to be imported. hey, do you know that the plastic bag you're holding is the rarest, most unimported object possible? the city furthest away from seoul in terms of time, in korea, is somewhere inbetween seoul and busan.

travel; getting lost. to be honest I wanted nothing more than to wander around that evening in japan with a friend and through luck and thanks to couchsurfing that did happen indeed. brief one-off encounter with an awesome girl through koenji and shibuya. late night wanderings alone afterwards. music in my ears and listening to a city napping but certainly still awake. I think in boston these two months that's the thing I'll miss the most; this place grows silent after the T closes; where are the bright lights and the wicks burning around cups of drink inside? where's the room still lit up in some apartment or house somewhere? all of you, all sleeping at the same time. there are no windows high above these streets still lit; no distorted rectangles lit with an incandescent-bulb-yellow. we'll see.

This was 13 years, 9 months, 24 days ago

quiet home subways walking retreat. living in a borough outside of manhattan is to extend, then to retreat, to hold this inner rhythm of dichotomies of busy-relaxed, outside-inside, tall-low, together-alone, to live with this flow gently inscribed upon the body and to acquiesce with these rhythms.


aquiescence could also be: collude, conspire, in concert. going-along-with. There is correlation, and then there is causality. we're not talking about causality here, only a gentle correlation, parallelality, coincidence.

If we declare that the photographic image is complete and 'full' even without the caption, the discursive space, or the punctum, then the inclusion of the supplement intrudes into the image to fill a void that was previously nonexistent. One method of coming to terms with the operation of the supplement is to find formal evidence for the new meanings introduced by the supplement, and to argue that the meaning within the supplement was inherent in the image all along -- to argue for a causal relationship between the visual form and the supplemental meaning to provide a justification for the nature of the supplement. Perhaps a more conscious approach, and one also in tune with Derrida's argument, would be to acknowledge the nature of the supplement as itself generating meaning, and to create an allegory between visual form and meaning not as causal ('the visual form generates this meaning'), but in a relationship of aesthetic coincidence and resonance. That is, if the visual form and the meaning coincide, this relationship should be an allegorical and aesthetic one, based not on a causal relationship, as causality implies directionality, agency, and original motive, and as this would be a further belief in the "immediate presence" and "originary perception" that Derrida argues against. Instead, an understanding in terms of aesthetic allegory would be to believe in an understanding that echoes and adds to the photographic image, or that supplements the image itself: an understanding of supplementarity that supplements the image, and thus a continuation of Derrida's "endless linked series" of supplementarity and mediation.

ebb, flow. in this borough this demarcated excluded selected geographic and demographic space lit by the residual glow of a midtown sky. there is a balance I am seeking that lies somewhere between effort and lethargy.

ten days and I leave this short dwelling to reside again in manhattan. I am almost regretful because it means the passing of a place designated to be a place, the elimination of a night-time ritual for the sake of convenience, clarity, ease, utilitarian placement.

This was 13 years, 9 months, 25 days ago

several things:

1) Reading fiction is so much easier than reading theory. Not to say that one is above the other -- difficulty level is divorced from merit. (or, difficulty and merit are perhaps corellated but not causal). Thomas Pynchon, although discursive (and I mean discursive in the rambly, wordy, perambulatory sense, not the Foucaultian one) and wandering and such, flows directly into my brain and I understand crisply and precisely (accuracy not guaranteed) what he's saying, at least in terms of grasping movement and flow. Perhaps this is the time to re-read Ulysses again.

2) I can see why people call Pynchon postmodern, as in the after-Modernism sense, as in global capitalism makes comprehension impossible, that there are micronarratives that reject the hegemonic dominance of the grand narrative of Modernism speaking for all of humanity, that it deals with simulacra that is a copy without an original, copies copying copies:

"But our beauty lies," explained Metzger, "in this extended capacity for convolution. A lawyer in a courtroom, in front of any jury, becomes an actor, right? Raymond Burr is an actor, impersonating a lawyer, who in front of a jury becomes an actor. Me, I'm a former actor who became a lawyer. They've done the pilot film of a TV series, in fact, based loosely on my career, starring my friend Manny Di Presso, a one-time lawyer who quit his firm to become an actor. Who in this pilot plays me, an actor become a lawyer reverting periodically to being an actor. The film is in an air-conditioned vault at one of the Hollywood studios, light can't fatigue it, it can be repeated endlessly."

The desire to seek this metanarrative, some overarching order:

She drove into San Narciso on a Sunday, in a rented Impala. Nothing was happening. She looked down a slope, needing to squint for the sunlight, onto a vast sprawl of houses which had grown up all together, like a well-tended crop, from the dull brown earth; and she thought of the time she'd opened a transistor radio to replace a battery and seen her first printed circuit. The ordered swirl of houses and streets, from this high angle, sprang at her now with the same unexpected, astonishing clarity as the circuit card had. Though she knew even less about radios than about Southern Californians, there were to both outward patterns a hieroglyphic sense of concealed meaning, of an intent to communicate. There'd seemed no limit to what the printed circuit could have told her (if she had tried to find out); so in her first minute of San Narciso, a revelation also trembled just past the threshold of her understanding. Smog hung all round the horizon, the sun on the bright beige countryside was painful; she and the Chevy seemed parked at the centre of an odd, religious instant. As if, on some other frequency, or out of the eye of some whirlwind rotating too slow for her heated skin even to feel the centrifugal coolness of, words were being spoken. She suspected that much. She thought of Mucho, her husband, trying to believe in his job. Was it something like this he felt, looking through the soundproof glass at one of his colleagues with a headset clamped on and cueing the next record with movements stylized as the handling of chrism, censer, chalice might be for a holy man, yet really tuned in to the voice, voices, the music, its message, surrounded by it, digging it, as were all the faithful it went out to; did Mucho stand outside Studio A looking in, knowing that even if he could hear it he couldn't believe in it?

The spatial layout of the city is overlaid with the planned and orderly creation of a circuit board populated and organized by transistors, resistors, only in relation to an unseen yet tangible order and flow of power on the other side of the PCB, rivulets of metal, conduits of organization and relation. Oedipa's own hallucinatory mirage-like conception of this city is her own conception, a nostalgic specter for technological/Enlightement rationality and order -- unlike the desperate floundering of her husband who has already rejected this and cannot believe. Desire for order.

jamesonian, lyotardian, baudrillardian postmodernisms.

3) Moments and moments at these tangents of paranoia and skepticism I am reminded of Fredric Jameson's quote on conspiracy. Conspiracy, and its accompanying paranoia in the novel is ultimately defined by probability, or improbability, staged-ness, uncertainty:

Either he made up the whole thing, Oedipa thought suddenly, or he bribed the engineer over at the local station to run this, it's all part of a plot, an elaborate, seduction, plot.

In other words: What are the chances? What are the probabilities of these connections, matching-ups, these coincidences? The sheer repeatedness and volume of this constellation-like occurences push events into conspiracy, overarching order, and Oedipa sees this -- "it was part of her duty, wasn't it, to bestow life on what had persisted, to try to be what Driblette was, the dark machine in the centre of the planetarium, to bring the estate into pulsing stelliferous Meaning, all in a soaring dome around her?"

Fredric Jameson: Conspiracy, one is tempted to say, is the poor person's cognitive mapping in the postmodern age; it is a degraded figure of the total logic of late capitalism, a desperate attempt to represent the latter's system, whose failure is marked by its slippage into sheer theme and content.
Fredric Jameson, "Cognitive Mapping"

Jameson's notion of conspiracy is ultimately pessimistic in that he believes in the impossibility of total comprehension and representation of the logic of late capitalism, and that conspiracy is a perhaps anachronistic pre-postmodern method of understanding the world, of coordinating or generating divisions of syntax between coherent/incoherent, meaningful/unmeaningful, dividing pure form into content and non-content as this operation of generating meaning. But a conception of the impossibility of the accuracy of this task is contrasted by the fact that this narrative exists only within a novel -- a novel/story also being a linear progression of words that generates a sequence of meaning (whether the plot itself is linear or not). Out of a linear, logical sequence arises a haphazard alchemic mixture of meaning -- another mapping of sorts. If narrative and story generates these cognitive mappings, then The Crying of Lot 49 perhaps exists as story of story, mapping about mapping, a conspiracy of conspiracy....

This was 13 years, 9 months, 27 days ago

"....A window made of frosted glass allows light to enter into the architectural space, without allowing the outside to look inside, or more importantly in this case, without allowing the inside to look outside: permeability without visibility. Wodiczko, not without a certain mischievousness, calls these windows "Chelsea-style" and thus links them specifically to the art institution. If the artist's projected video seeks to operate as institutional critique by creating a conduit for a vision that brings the image of the outside into the internal space of the gallery, then the formal obfuscation of the image operates as a critique of this vision, a critique of its own operation of institutional critique for its limited nature of operation from within the discourse of art, able to present individuals that challenge the exclusionary operations of art but only on the homogeneous white field generated by an element of the architectural container. In addition, if the piece is institutional critique in that it highlights the gallery's constructed and exclusionary nature, then the futility of actual change represented by Wodiczko's choice in using windows, and not some other architectural structure that contains a hope for movement and transgression (such as a door), enacts a critique of his own institutional critique, highlights the inability of his work of art to affect a physical change onto the living situation of those who are excluded and portrayed in these windows. Art within the gallery is unable to act, precisely due to its existence within the gallery, generating a critique of the outside/inside divisions but only on the gallery's terms and within the discursive space of the art institution."

This was 14 years, 9 months, 27 days ago

Not too many days before I go. Still:

Hills Like White Elephants exhibit
Ssamzie Space 401 (somewhere around Hongdae), 6/14 - 6/30 1~7pm
Art inspired by the electronic duo Fortune Cookie and their second album Hills Like White Elephants (after the hemingway story?)