Wednesday, 13 April 2005


“Space has always reduced me to silence.”
(Jules Vall├Ęs, L’Enfant)

Having ceased to dream at night, daydreaming becomes the only accessible medium through which the mind begins to find respite from its immediacy. Drifting; but into what? When sleep refuses solace, it encloses within itself and becomes a mere night framed by the absence of day. The grandeur is forsaken whilst time emits a burdening presence. By way of compensation, the everyday opens itself up to an imagery stolen from aborted dreams. It is a half-way house between desire and lack.

Very often however, and quite suddenly, the mind can be taken out of its space and displaced into one that reverberates with the night. Yet, not being unconscious, the horizon is too lucid. There is a reason we dream at night. Too much is seen in the daydream which presents only a glimpse of silence. This is the half-way house of allusion and suggestion. Passing things which pertain to actual things carries a mystery that is hampered when they are delivered of their obscurity. Perhaps Bachelard is right: perhaps shelter does consist in a weary interplay between imagination and memory.

What does daydreaming portend to when the mind loses itself in the midst of non-space? The lapse in consciousness which brings about reverie is too sudden to dissect. All we know is that there is a flight – a shudder – in which the present loses its clarity as the elsewhere emerges, unflinching in its determination. I admit: the present falls into degradation against the backdrop of this seductive haze. The eye ceases to be merely passive and instead dreams of an impossible space once inhabited but now transposed to the elsewhere.

That daydreaming becomes the medium through which the elsewhere is located is a testament to its veiled nature. Walls hide those who seek refugee. Yet, one – whoever the one is – always knows of the hiding. When I hide in red hallways, then I am committing myself to being caught. I would not hide were it not for the possibility of being caught. Events that fall into oblivion resonate a sound when they erode and in doing so make themselves known. I can see you. Yet, silence is the only rejoinder we can give to the elsewhere. It deserves to be a lost secret.

Tuesday, 12 April 2005

Sheltering: Kenophobia

Kenophobia: Bachelard was determined by its exposure. For him the house only becomes a home when it is “really inhabited”. Clutter sifts in the void where space discloses its essential absence of presence. A house is a corner of the world. As such, it must be defined by spatially by what it is not. Houses carve themselves into naked land and in doing so enforce their presence. Their intimacy is thus acquired from the fact of being designated and so reserved. How does Bachelard overcome this fear?

Corners become retreats, shells become sacred, and mobility is seized whilst the guise of peering into inhabited space becomes pre-dominant. Bachelard is, of course, a radical subjectivist, an accusation which once bore pernicious overtones but now is symptomatic of impotent collectivism. Still, this refusal to countenance space outside of phenomenal space means that there is a precarious stability to Bachelard's oneiric house. The omission of uncanny space is one way in which subjectivity is reinforced: uncanny space recalls a difference between the familiar and unfamiliar, and the presence of unfamiliarity would thus disrupt the unity of subjective experience.

Kenophobia: the fear of empty space. But why? What does empty space lack and so induce fear that inhabited space fulfils? Bachelard: “An empty nest found belatedly in the woods in winter, mocks the finder.” An empty nest creates an impasse which exists despite its absence: it points to something which no longer serves its function, and yet remains a thing resembling the image of that function. It mocks by alluding whilst offering no immediate gratification in return. Bachelard’s “felicitous space” delimits itself to space in which the inhabited resists the impasse. Instead, memory provides the grounds for a dwelling that is continuous. This is what Bachelard means when he uses the word oneiric: a spurious ontology which relies on the ontic assertion of subjective experience.