A Queer Dispatch from Warsaw

Warsaw is a grey city. Long, wide boulevards, echos of Soviet post-war reconstruction, create linear surfaces. I love that about this city. New buildings full of office workers sit next to crumbling edifices, fallen bricks, bullet holes, and other wounded and rotting buildings remind one of a time before Hitler. Only about 15% of these buildings survived. In the tourist-oriented Old Town, these buildings have been completely renovated. Where I live, near the central train station, this is not so much the case. My building hearkens back to 1935, four years before Hitler’s invasion. Pockmarked with scares of ammunition, it sits calmly, meditatively and reminds one: I am here. I like this building, the weight of it, the protection it provides, the shelter it gives me, and the fact it survived the war. There is something special about the grey, the old, and the pockmarked.

Often decay is pushed to the periphery of Western culture, especially in the United States. Sanitized from the mind, the old must be placed in ‘homes’ — to rot away. These spaces are inverse utopias, what Foucault called ‘heterotopias.’ Zones of decay, placed away from public site. When decay spills into the streets one is reminded of the decay inside. We are all decaying. If I may paraphrase from the Heart Sutra: Entropy is body, body is entropy.  Today I was walking through this space we call Warsaw, and thoughts both light and heavy came to me. Something propelled me to walk fast, and yet I felt a sense of meaninglessness. We often use spacial metaphors to think about emotions: something feels heavy, light, open or closed, tight; we get shivers, goosebumps, we are weighed down by our thought-feelings and so on. All of these examples are either spacial metaphors or take place spatially.

Architectural theories need to include these emotional, cognitive and spiritual spatial relations. As one traverses ‘object domains’ (perhaps ‘the world’ is both too big, and too small a concept, I will leave this until I finish Markus Gabriel’s book on why he thinks ‘the world does not exist’), as one travels through space, spatial relations already-always embedded in the self exist in tandem with what we might call ‘spaces proper.’ Proper spaces are those thought of as rooms, hallways, streets, bookshelves, and so on. Yet because we are so embedded spatially, as space, we enter into relations with these spaces as other spaces. Certainly contemporary architecture is grappling with the psychodynamics of what was fashionably called (in the West, perhaps at the intersection of Haight and Ashbury) ‘inner space’ in the 1960s. And yet, I would like to propose an ‘inter-space.’ We are quite literally ‘inter-spatial’ beings.

920x920

Places in spaces, which are also spaces, matter. A place can have all types of inter-spatial relations that affect other inter-spatial relations, depending on the force of the connection the place itself exerts. A force of place, when we are talking about thinking, feeling and spiritual spaces, is socially determined. Symbolically structured, through language, customs and rituals a certain place can give off a significant vibration throughout other subjective ‘inter-spatial’ spaces. Think of the Pentagon, an unusually powerful place, with great abilities to resonate and reverberate throughout multiple places, affecting many places, spaces and inter-spaces. So as beings-in-space, we inhabit places, and we are inter-spatial; dynamically threaded through with Other ‘inter-spaces.’ Perhaps this is a better way of thinking of subjectivity: not as an interior carved out of being, but an inter-space: a sort of ceaselessly changing, yet always-already cogent gap. Cogent means having the ability to constrain, among its definitions. So, in a sense, one ‘holds oneself together,’ creating chains of meaning, or what I call ‘signifying chains.’

Perhaps one doesn’t just create chains of meaning, narratives, etc, but also chains-to-meaning. Is this gap, this inter-space that we are then a chain-to-meaning making mechanism? Does the non-consensual submission to language (one must learn the rules of the game, grammar, vocabulary, without consenting) create an enabling constraint? Does language give us the necessary meaning to be beings in ‘inter-spaces,’ the ultimate of which is perhaps between the womb and the tomb? I am not sure where I stand in relation to what I have just written, yet I know that I am using another spatial metaphor (“where I stand”) to describe a response to an essay on spatial relations. If we are inter-spacial, or inter-spaces, and this word needs some working out no doubt, then how does this affect the notion of subjectivity? Subjectivity is defined by the OED as “The quality of existing in someone’s mind rather than the external world.” But inter-spatial beings would exist mentally-physically, externally-internally, they would bridge the gap, or radically: be some type of cogent, reflective gap. If I am a collation of spaces, then I am not thinking and feeling merely as in my ‘interior’ being, but rather as a being displaced into inner and outer, here and there, a dreamer able to displace myself, move myself, feel the weight of the buildings, interact with the ‘external’ as an internal-external? I don’t know.

I know neither the etiology nor the vectors of these thoughts. They may coalesce into something more, or fade behind the stage into nothingness. Yet I decided to place them in this (cyber) space as a reminder: “I” am a place, a place at- or as- an inter-space, and space changes space. Interaction is possible via space, and so is change, as entropy indicates in 4 billion years or so the Earth itself will vanish with the Sun’s supernova. A glorious moment in space. As I am space, and space is me, perhaps I will partake in this event, not in my current form of course, and – of course this is another matter – perhaps I already have?

. . .

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