(in memoriam Guy Debord)
The Architectonality of Psychogeographicism or The Hieroglyphics of Driftwork
(in memoriam Guy Debord)
Ever since Plato we've been taught to revere anamnesis -- but let's descend to the pre-Platonic cave, the paleolithic grotto, to recover the positive dialectic of amnesia -- without which memory becomes simply a curse, coagulating at last as History (the degree of zero of memory as suffocation): the first city (Çatalk Hüyük) is already arranged as a gridwork, the very antithesis of the grotto's aesthetic shapelessness, it's meandering & amazing spaces, it's melted stalagmites & stalactites -- its organicity (which is never the less expressed as mineral life). The cities of Sumer & Harappa were likewise laid out as severe grids, cruel abstractions of linearity. To draw a line is to separate, to create spatial hierarchy (between priest & people, rich & poor, surplus & scarcity) and to define the topia of memory against the dark unconscious of the tribe, the u-topian cave, the organic wild(er)ness. The tertium quid or coincidentia oppositorium here (between "grotto" & Babylon) might appear in the medieval city (which still survives in a few places in the Islamic world) where the excessive cruelty of the grid is mollified -- not erased but softened -- by a recording of a space according to the tree or the river-delta model (chaotic bifurcation ranging to complexity based on intra-dimensional "strange attractors") -- an urbanism of the organic, the aesthetic, & the complex or plural (as opposed to the inorganic, the ideological, & the simple or total).
The medieval city is an extruded grotto Some of these cities introduced allegorical pageants or parades in which huge emblem-complexes (composite hieroglyphs) were built & set up or carried around the labyrinth of streets. Myths & legends were acted out: -- sometimes the Lord Mayor played the role of "Lord Mayor", wandering thru a street-theater of encounters with symbolic characters (like Bloom in Nighttown), thus re-newing the City as its elected Hero undergoing the initiation of ritual marriage with the urban goddess.
Here the Free City comes to a synchronic & ludic consciousness of itself hic et nunc, rather than succumb to the miserabilist diachronism of power's violence. In this Hermetic City we find the background or womb-space of the alchemical Emblem Books, and the narrativity of a Bosch or Breughel. Memory loses its heaviness here & takes on a folkloric air, carnivalesque (the festival as reiteration of pleasure) with built shapes that appropriate (thru design or thru the accidents of decay & accretion) the forms of breasts, phalluses, wombs, rocks & water, moss & flowers, even of wind & light.
The Babylonian grid-city wants memory to persist thru time -- smooth & empty time -- but as Dali showed, memory persists only in the deliquescense of measured time. The medieval-hermetic city (like Blake's Green Jerusalem) preserves memory but in a "disordered" way -- like akashic marmalade -- time which is textured & full. "Babylon" preserves order (or else!) -- but what happens to memory there ? Isn't it transmuted into the poison formaldehyde of History, the re-iterated tale of our poverty & their power, taxonomic myth of the ruling class ? Who can blame us for harboring both a nostalgia & an insurrectionary desire for the narrow winding alleys, shadowy steps, covered ways & tunnels, middens & cellars of a city which has designed itself -- organically, unconsciously -- within an aesthetic of festive & secret conviviality, & of the curvaciuos negentropic mutability of memory itself ?
The psychic urbanism of the 1960's constituted yet another attempt to reclaim built memory for this "Romantic" project -- rus in urbe, as F. Law Olmstead put it -- "The country in the city" -- reintroduction of the eternal "baroque" (as in "baroque pearl") or spontaneous form -- (like the miraculous fungoid cinnabar grottoes of Mao Shan Taoism, created by the Imaginal potency of the Adept) -- which is also the "divine" spontaneity, unconsciousness & forgetting, of Nature. A project for the builders of some near-future No Go Zone: -- the city of psychogeographic resistance, the anti-grid, architectonality of driftwork, festal space -- and the Cave of Fluid Memory. Rock & water -- the reverie of the bard, the forgetfulness of the gods.