Friday, July 21, 2006

Chance Encounters

Urban Appointments: A Possible Rendez-Vous with the City by Brian Massumi (HT: Space and Culture) (click here to read extract):
In the everyday course of things, the sites of the city can be trusted to keep their appointments. A skyscraper can be counted on to be in the right place at the right time in order to serve as a landmark. A train station or government building will faithfully fulfill its promised function, on schedule. There are regions of known possibility surrounding each of the building types or infrastructural elements composing the city – ways of featuring in the lives of those who enter them or pass them by that are as conventionalized as the types are generic. For each generic, there are regulated rhythms of passage into and out, more or less predictable patterns of circulation around, and strict zoning and ownership limitations on what can affix to the external envelope that stabilizes its public mode of appearing. The regularity of a building's regime of transition creates a backdrop against which any unexpected arrival will stand out. The background, however, does not simply disappear under the weight of the anomaly. In fact, it rises to the surface and reasserts itself in and through, in addition to, the unaccustomed gesture. For example, projecting an inside scene on an outside wall actually strengthens the feeling of exteriority. Nobody is fooled into thinking that it is no longer a façade. But few seeing it will be untouched by the strangeness of seeing the inside out. The uncanniness of the feeling brings a sharpened awareness of the façade's exteriority, but with a twist: not as it normally presents itself. Exteriority resserts, with new and added effect: in a special effect.

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