Friday, January 15, 2010

A Greekified Rome

We're reading de Certeau's "Walking the City" for Monday's Performing Vancouver class. Students are being encouraged to engage in their own détournements. This from Suzanne Hawkins from a previous course she took, with Debord's "psychogeographical" approach to the city here complementing de Certeau's construction of the pedestrian as tactician:

A few semesters back I made a short stop-motion film, A Greekified Rome, based primarily on Michel de Certeau's "Walking in the City, and Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle. The film depicts a Vancouver dérive, a consideration of the political construction of space through passive movement, or drift. Here is a brief theoretical introduction followed by the film.

non possum ferre, Quirtes, Graecam Vrbem
(my fellow citizens, I cannot stand a Greekified Rome)

Juvenal, Satire III

Michel de Certeau, in “Walking in the City” writes of New York: “Unlike Rome, New York has never learned the art of growing old by playing on all its pasts. Its present invents itself, from hour to hour, in the act of throwing away its previous accomplishments and challenging the future. A city composed of paroxysmal places in monumental reliefs. The spectator can read in it a universe that is constantly exploding (91).” Certeau’s New York, unhinged from its history and renewed in its cyclical immediacy, is by Debordian measure a “state [that] can no longer be led strategically” (20). New York, “the city,” is decaying. The city proper is manifest in both the “urbanistic system” – the totalising discourse that seeks to produce a rational space resistant to threatening “physical, mental, and political pollutions,” to substitute “a synchronic system” for regressive mores and traditions, and to create itself as “a universal and anonymous subject” – and “urban life” – the “swarming activity” of everyday practises (Certeau 94-95). However, the city in decay is manifest exclusively in the urbanistic system, more accurately, in the paradoxical failure of the urbanistic system, which “repeatedly produces effects contrary to those at which it aims” (95). For Certeau’s New York, such failure has “transformed [the city] into a texturology in which extremes coincide – extremes of ambition and degradation” (91). The city in decay – “simultaneously the machinery and the hero of modernity” – like the Debordian spectacle – “both the result and the project of the existing mode of production” – is an unreal reality (95/Debord Fragment 6). The short stop-motion film, A Greekified Rome (2008), formally and thematically enacts the city in decay as spectacular unreal reality, transposing Certeau’s New York on pre-Olympic Vancouver.

Note: The text featured in the film is from the poem "Vision Quest 2020," by Sachiko Murakami (from her collection The Invisibility Exhibit).

1 comment:

Peter Dickinson said...

Thanks for sharing this, Suzanne. And for bringing Debord into discussion with de Certeau for the class. Fond memories of Charlotté's screening of this for the seminar last semester.