This was 10 years, 7 months, 3 days ago

this precious state of being, flying back to nyc from an elsewhere, as ripely elsewhered as I could be. right now on this plane, flipping through a magazine, NYC seems a world away; those concerns seem so petty, so small, so local, so micro. the american-ness or the new-york-ness of new york, usa, amplified a thousandfold until it jumps out at you with harsh relief. I can almost run my fingers over the edges of local aesthetic, 'culture', 'texture', what have you not.


that is why, when traveling, I like infrastructure more than anything else; infrastructure, hardware, small points of production where the rhythmic patterns of logistics, resources, desires intersect and create small little nubbins of effects, very subtle, very minor. a small embossed 'recycle' mark on the bottom of a glass bottle. the plastic ridges on a power plug. tesselated patterns on manholes. the raised ridges on stairs. the paper texture and typeface of receipts. the placement and orientation of buttons on a vending machine. the different color and shape of traffic lights. subway smells. faucet handles in the bathroom, automated flush sensors, braille floorplans, exit signs, license plates, asphalt texture, crosswalk sounds. all of these impossible to replicate, to preserve. 'Infrastructure' of course even encompassing things that you could not see anywhere else; scraps of receipts, cheap plastic bags, the wrappers of onigiri rice balls, the shape and weight of convenience store drinks.

it wouldn't be a stretch to say that infrastructure alone may be the prime reason to travel at all. restaurants are everywhere. souvenirs already imported, thus unimportant other than the narrative of "I carried this back for you" imparted onto it. travel minus imports = the unconsciously preserved mundane, the wonderful and varied texture of the 'common', and overall a drinking-in of the entirety of the world, which requires a suspension of entitled notions of 'quality' and thus 'authenticity'.

right now, right now the violence of the concept of 'authenticity' seems infinite, primal, all sorts of destruction done in the name of authenticity, of a perceived trueness, which is perhaps as valid as trying to find the 'original river', stepping into it twice, and which, to an extent, is also like trying to talk to the same person twice. trying to visit the same country twice. not a loss but a movement; or rather even: everything is constituted out of movement and change.

I suppose it depends on one's attitude towards travel. a few years ago when I was in Mongolia, I saw a traveler at a hostel ask for a very specific tour: camel rides across the gobi desert. never mind that most tours across the desert involved horses, but they wanted that camel ride, and so the tour company was trying to figure it out. were they okay with a part-camel, part-horse ride? no. what about a caravan tour? no. a camel ride it had to be. and while I'm not critiquing the specificity of the request -- we all have our specific desires -- I can't help but assume that the desire for a camel ride was borne more out of an image of mongolia, image taking precedence over an undesired real.

and that seems like such a shame - to bring to a place one's own image of that place, and then to find it; a continual self-fulfilling prophecy in action, which is perhaps convenient and comforting, but a lesser form of travel in my very strong opinion; the meekest kind of self-negotiation. perhaps like watching movies, having read the plot beforehand, or even cheating on an exam; a desire for strict control overriding one's own ability to self-modify.

what underlies these ideas is most probably a cherishing of self-modification above all; self-less and self-alteration; exploration and movement. antithetical to that is the concept of fixity, steadiness, non-change. stable change is possible, in that 'stability' is the demarcation of certain zones of non-change ("healthy" = stability of bodily well-being, "safe" = stability of future bodily well-being).


my question to myself is then: how do buildings figure in this equation?

1) buildings, too, are organisms, yes, with lifecycles and rhythms, yes. but they are organisms at a long scale, perhaps an even longer scale than my own bodily being. after all, the earth is an organism. mother gaia is in constant flux. mountains self-modify, yes. yet at a local, human temporal level the mountain is as solid as could be; the ocean is as vast and unyielding as could be; as someone with a human body I can say that these things are solid. they feel like absolutes.

(and perhaps this way of thinking is liberating in that these kinds of absolutes and solidities and fixities are borne out of scales, not out of universals, but out of relative viewpoints, the real solidity of a blizzard's potential to kill existing simultaneously with the real ephemerality of a blizzard's lifecycle on the earth's skin. )

in any case; as long as I am here, there are real 'absolutes', or 'unchangings' (to me). the specifics of which thing is unchanging or not may differ over time, but they will exist as a category. these things do not change. then what?

2) how does one desire non-change (again, different from stability)? what is that like? is it boring? is it the rhythm of the ritual? does the 'framework', or a moment non-change that encompasses/allows change count? this is probably why I focus on conceptual-art-esque gestures as a way to decide things; meta-decision that allows a deferred local decision. (ex: how to decide what to eat tonight? the restaurant has to have at least three different vowels in its name.or: my idea for a ring: every morning, perform three gestures of 'wrapping' around one's finger. one can tie a piece of string looped three times around the finger; 'wrap' a running stream of water around the finger three times; trace a line with a pen around the finger, three times; 'wrap' the universe around the finger three times by turning around in space; etc.)

and to some extent this meta-decision is a decision; to some extent it is a continual deferral of one, the 'I will decide later', and to some extent it is an amplifier or a technique that makes something so interesting. it can be all of these three things at the same time.

to some extent I want the decision to come into full force for me as a powerful gesture; the decision as productive action; the decision as a joyous decision. In travel it is there; to seek out paths, to wander. I want to go that way. I want to go that way and to find this and I know what I want, am just trying to find it.

3) Then to some extent these decisions must be done with a kind of joyousness, not out of an endless regret of wanting to know what would have happened otherwise, but a joyousness of experimenting. the same way that one might mix together a concoction of ingredients to make a nearly-inedible food: there will be more. for now, let's see what happens. and I think this is often times very very productive and interesting; a kind of flexibility. make, make, make. oh, is it a failure this time? well, let's continue to move. when you wander, are you devastated by the dead-end, or the u-turn? of course not. so go forth.

4) but, but. the "let's see what happens" is also a deferral; not of the decision, but of the impact of the decision. the experimental mentality of joy and play founded not on wanting precise finalities but out of a loss of control or an openness predicated on not wishing to seek a singular result. "by making everything successful, nothing is successful." etc. etc. perhaps, perhaps not.

however: sometimes those cases happen. sometimes they need to be plunged into, and the solution not re-worked or twisted around or flipped, but just simply engaged with and met. no alternatives.

and so where does it start? or not start? if one pursues this mentality - of absolutely pushing through; then all games and all pursuits are aligned in the framework of success/not success. lying on the table is the korean middle school 15-subject grade average; here we go again, your name, id number, average, class average, school average. is it enough to be 11th in your school? 5th this year? and if you're not? isn't that always the criterion against which one will always fail?

5) unless there's a direct participation that doesn't involve this ranking. based on "effort", perhaps. process, not goals. did you go forth? did you, at least try? did you push through and get somewhere because you tried? isn't that worth it? it's worth it enough to have tried. maybe I need to score myself on how much I tried. re-orient things; instead of talent, it's effort. give myself grades for effort. the nice thing about effort is that the solution is clear.

6) maybe it is just - hours spent. how many hours did you spend on it? and perhaps it is especially nice because that is all we have - time. the most fundamental resource. and it is not shared; it is really just mine. how many hours did I spend? just that, perhaps.

7) I am aware of the extent to which this approach is anti-liberating. in fact, it is a jumping into the fray. it is a pro-stress approach. there is no freedom here, just engagement. but perhaps that itself should be an experiment.

8) to joyous effort.