Space

[Featured Image: Chris Burden’s Metropolis II / Kinetic Sculpture]

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“At times we think we know ourselves in time, when all we know is a sequence of fixations in the spaces of the being’s stability–a being who does not want to melt away, and who, even in the past, when he sets out in search of things past, wants time to “suspend” its flight. In its countless alveoli space contains compressed time. That is what space if for.”- Gaston Blachelard, The Poetics of Space

Averring that space compresses time isn’t that far off from Einstein’s inauguration of spacetime, which is notably one word. 20th Century obsessions became spacialized: cities, rivers, housing developments, (mega) prisons, shopping malls, concert halls, freeways, byways and highways, etc; architecture became more than power, centrality and beauty. The infrastructures became fleshthoughts. Psychostructurally, culturally, economically, etc. a finite Subject (§) must negate the abounding brambles. Clearing negation from lack, Hegel averred “Thinking is, indeed, essentially the negation of that which is before us.” That which is before subjective-reflective consciousness is also after it. In other words, worlds constantly close upon, make demands of, and parade entities incessantly around the Subject. Worlds, environs, surrounds and circles us: Buildings, trees, shops, cups of tea, cigarettes, wine, crack cocaine, prison walls, police, classical music, rap, television, etc. Worlds’ environs do not withdraw, they incessantly embed and anchor, circle and surround. On the ground of Being-in-itself (Absolute/Infinity/Nothing) is the finite being-for-itself which cannot be-itself fully; otherwise it (the Subject) would be No-thing. Finitude can, however, have infinite features; it is deeply connected to infinitives, or – in syntax – subjects without objects. And these infinitives – verbs without direct objects – (‘we came to see’) reveal an opening of the finite into the infinite.

Bodies in motion around certain grids, junctures, demarcations, points, lines and borders can frighten: Obsessions with linguistic / land similitude arising from 19th Century European nation-states now conflict with globalization. No longer do borders indicate ‘a (homogeneous) people.’  Mattering more and more, as they become less and less effective, borders represent extensions of fleshthought of Earthly space. What’s more: these borders needn’t be physical. Or rather they needn’t be demarcated by the Law. Borders exist within nation-states: race-based red-lining; middle-class white-flight from the US urban centers to suburbs; middle-class white flight back into those same urban centers (gentrification); displacement of immigrants to conurbations in European cities (London, Paris, Brussels, etc). Borders, internationally, are noticed when crossed: massive migration from war-zones primarily from the Middle East and Africa to Europe, and from Central America to the United States and Canada; race, class, affectivity, sexuality, politics are all related to spacial phenomena.

Colonialism is spacial; Columbus moved through space.

Rethinking space requires rethinking subjectivity and being; space and being are fused phenomena. The fusing of these phenomena creates the necessary conditions for placing. Space, being-existent, and placing. The Subject inhabits itself, yet it is porous: where does it end? A building inhabits itself: yet it is porous, where does it end? Debates about thermodynamics and insulation lead to some interesting observations.

In Iatrogenic Architecture: Unreliable Narratives of Sustainability, Kiel Moe writes,

“Architects and engineers habitually design isolated buildings systems that either make people sick or that degrade near and distant ecologies. In each of the aforementioned cases, they have routinely done so in the name of environmental progress and performance … [T]he built environment establishment has become—in too many ways and in too many cases—a physiological and environmental threat, often through the means and methods of the contemporary sustainability apparatus … But in an isolated thermodynamic system, there is no exchange of matter or energy between a system—such as a building—and its surroundings. In fact, buildings are always and only open thermodynamic systems wherein a constant exchange of energy and/or matter between a system and its surroundings occurs, regardless of the design. ‘Not only are these systems open,’ chemist Ilya Prigogine and philosopher Isabelle Stengers note, ‘but also they exist only because they are open. They feed on the flux of matter and energy coming to them from the outside world.’ […] They form an integral part of the world from which they draw sustenance, and they cannot be separated from the fluxes that they incessantly transform … This is the core of sustainability’s iatrogenesis (In medical practice, any unintended consequence of a treatment or procedure is referred to as an ‘iatrogenic effect’), for not only are those buildings hermetically sealed in terms of air, they are epistemically sealed in conceptual terms as thermodynamically closed systems. In open systems, principles of efficacious exchanges—not isolated efficiencies—engender systems that not only survive, but thrive, on exchanges of matter and energy that are as far from equilibrium as they are from ‘net-zero’ energy. This is key to overall system health, in both pedagogical and practical terms. Whether in technical, energetic, material, ecological, historical, economic, or social terms, architecture is anything but a closed system. Only when an open, far-from-equilibrium approach to architecture—and the open, far-from-equilibrium environments that presuppose the reality of a building—is manifest can architects even begin to think cogently about topics like energy and environments. To see around the corners of its closed system boundary assumptions is to see around the corner of architecture’s iatrogenesis.” (Harvard Design Magazine / Italics added)

Moe’s conclusion that “sustainable” architecture, with its insulation obsession, closed-systems, etc brings about unhealthy consequences impugns not just contemporary architectural practices, but “historical, economic” and “social terms.” Fortress Europe, with its need to insulate itself from refugees, while it seeks an illusive and elusive social equilibrium through quota systems and lock-down facilities for immigrant detainees, is ineffective, cruel and unhealthy. In fact, to steal and add from Moe, “The problem with this approach, again, is that [nations], buildings and cities are always and only open systems with inordinately broad temporal and spatial boundaries.”

Other closed categories need interrogation. What is called “human” or “animal” are indeed aggregates, nexuses, fluxes that far exceed such simplistic abstracted taxonomies. Architecturally, spatially: my body, your body, this body (connective tissue –> nebulous cloud circuit board –> connective tissue) is a partially open system, wholly dependent on situational, aleatory proximity. Being-for-itself, subjective and reflective consciousness, that is encompassed by fleshthoughts affirmatively holds together throughby- with- other holdings together. Forming a complex biome: a dynamic semiotic / ecological  inter-dependency of exchanges, pathways, and situations, the self-enclosed Subject (§) is rendered an archaic category (although one not yet to be dispensed with).

Even the hermit cannot be hermetically sealed from his fleshy placing in the world, from the seemingly aleatory exigencies of the open, entropic system he inhabits: Space. For he cannot be a hermit from the bacteria that are essential to the digestion of his food, nor can he cut off from the signifying (Symbolic) chains / lines that led him to become hermit. All of these are a part of his placing, a (semi) conscious awareness of being-there (Dasein) that constitutes the aperture that is him-here (unless (a) satori is reached, and this possibility needs to remain open, as it is – if self-awareness is there – an opening to the great wide open Nothing).  Situations arise from multiple exchanges, and these situations – ranging from banal chatting at a bus station to fleeing from bombs – culminate into more exchanges, nexuses and situations, and so on. A nexus is a site of exchange; tentatively: a nexus can be de jure (a courthouse, university, parliament, etc), de facto (organs, DNA, a friend’s house party, etc) or ad hoc / spontaneous (Occupy Wall Street, Tahrir Square, Black Lives Matters, prison cell conversations, virtual particles (?) etc).

A Space is always already opening towards more openings. Trending against recursively situated finitude, Space reverses recursive looping.

Serpiente_alquimica
Ouroboros drawing from a late medieval Byzantine Greek alchemical manuscript. Courtesy: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Serpiente_alquimica.jpg

Multiple lines branch out from the placing of the Subject as it seeks for-itself a Space. Longing for Eden, lacking, craving, needing, pleading, shitting, eating, fucking and sucking, Subject’s placing is always disturbed by what next, not yet, could have been, why am ‘I’ here, etc. A Space opens a Time; timing is placing through a Space; yet does this spatialize time? And what of multiple Times? Essentially the body of the for-itself is placing, situating itself subjectively in an object(I’ve); infinitives have no object, and are precursors to object-directed verbs. Questions arise from murky objectless Subjects. Where am ‘I’? Who am ‘I’? Why am ‘I’? Pretentious questions developed by academics? Or more ubiquitous phenomena experienced by even the most wilfully unthinking for-itself? Does a wilfully unthinking for-itself have an ‘I’? Are the masses, with their EastEnders, football, beer-drenched Superbowl weekends, etc. wilfully unthinking because thinking itself is an elite commodity? And can thinking-as-commodity be called thinking? What then are the haute bourgeois intelligentsia and their petit bourgeois groupies doing?

Space’s many lacuna and mounts, folds and smooth bits, allows being-for-itself-with- to emerge; what is behind this Space is essentially no-thing. Negative nihilist ontology posits massive negations in nothingness – nothingness crunching in on itself – emanates into something like lily pads of being; eddies of finite entities arise and fall from and into nothing; this thereby retaining the possibility of beyond the beyond even multiplicities of ∞.

Ergo, structures will dissolve under the weight of Times. No single gesture, movement of liberation, hopeful progressiveness, revolutionary upsurge can unshackle “humanity” from oppressive mechanisms, for “humanity” itself is an illusion, a chimera, an Imaginary Universal. The moment it’s uttered, articulated, enunciated and utilized, as history demonstrates, it shackles, bombs and oppresses itself. Times weights accumulate heavy on the decaying corpses of Imaginary Universals: from liberal democratic capitalism, Communism and Fascism, these shatter into so many fragments. For now, in this congealed present: The Supra-structure State-Money nexus remains hegemonic, a system of binary flows pragmatic and moribund, failing but just not yet enough. Nothing is sealed from decay.

“Time is the longest distance between two places.”
― Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie

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