Friday, 23 December 2011

The real Cape Kennedy is inside your head

Following my recent post on Darkspace and cosmic anxiety, readers who find themselves in need of more planetary hauntings may find winter solace in an article by me on J.G. Ballard, Max Ernst, and outer space, which is published in 3:AM Magazine. It just remains for me to wish you all festive joy during this time of warmth and repose.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

The Memory of Agoraphobia

L'├ęcluse de l'Arsenal, Paris. By DT.

A city unfolds, at once closing and exposing itself to the broader world. Streets and roads flood in from afar. In them, human beings emerge in this mass of materiality; there they find their way in the world, building homes that protect life from the world. Here, people live; they are alive and occupy a definite place within this world. The city grows, it has life. The wilderness will flourish in the middle of this dense world. A diverse eco-system spreads its way through the city, generating a rich atmosphere that is fed back into the people who live within its embrace.

Yet every now and then, empty squares punctuate the landscape, vast columns of unpopulated space float in the middle of the city’s pulse. For a while, you could not enter those empty squares without simultaneously entering another realm. There, your body would come to a standstill, frozen like a monolithic relic. Back then, there was no small danger that you would be unable to make it from one corner of the square to the other without collapsing in the middle of the great space. And so you remained in place, hovering on the border of the square so that an escape would be readily available should the urge to flee strike you. The square, however, was only a beginning that would soon spiral into the surrounding world.

For sixteen years, you could not enter a building. Buildings were prohibited for you. They were portals to a realm that you didn’t understand, a realm that didn’t coincide with your worldview. And so they fell to the wayside, all of them no longer accessible to your body. During this time, you withdrew from the world of buildings and enclosed spaces. Borders, doorways, and windows were your native haunts. There you would dwell, bridging the outside world to the terror of confined space. Closed windows and doors were an abomination to you. Very often, your vision of the world would be diminished when a door would close. Losing sight of your surroundings, you compensated with other senses, principally touch. In the absence of an open door, you would assemble a series of chairs around your body to generate the impression of a space contained within a space. The chairs were your companions in those dark hours; they would fend off the outside world from you, enclosing you within a sacred space no longer accessible to the public. And so you waded through the darkness with a chair by your side.

Without the chair, you made your way in the world with the assistance of other methods, above all else, a pathological attachment to the superstition of rituals—or, the rituals of superstitions. A set of circumscribed practices enabled you to cohere in the world, and without them, the world no longer made sense to you. If you were unable to hold a small metallic object in your left palm, then the world would assume a foreboding sense of general horror. For you, the small metallic object was a talisman of peace in a world marked by change, contingency, and violence.

Your disease was not only activated by space alone. For twenty-seven years, you could not voice certain words without reliving the meaning of those sentences in your body. Very frequently, you were reduced to a mute state. You remember a hallway and a conversation. Somewhere, the word “collapse” was mentioned, and you swiftly proceeded to fall to the floor in a state of slumbering stupefaction. Everywhere, people looked down at your lumbering body, possessed by the magic of inertia. Your body had given way, and since then you have exercised special caution about saying and hearing certain words. Words such as “frailty,” “blood,” and “flesh” are extremely hazardous to you, and you will think very carefully about your surroundings before you mention them.

Today, you must exert considerable effort to remember such episodes. They are buried in time, now assuming a photographic stillness devoid of their terror. But the experiences have not left your body. When crossing the street, you still feel that latent hesitation that comes with the phobic worldview. Beneath the electric lights of the world, you sense the vibrations that are otherwise invisible. Touched by the madness of phobia, you are unable to re-enter the world of things.

Today, a different emptiness unfolds. In the dreadful hours that plagued your phobia, you achieved the serenity of having a centre, around which the world would freely revolve. You termed that centre, “home.” Around it, you would construct your life, feeling its great influence cast a reassuring presence on your skin. In the mysterious aisles of supermarkets and in the wilderness of city bus journeys, your mind would forever be haunting the home, which was left behind. It was your declaration against the world, against life.

Today, the centrality of the home has been dispersed into the world: it no longer binds you to the enclosed spatiality of your past. Ever since you made your way across a small bridge overhanging a polluted river, your body has adjusted to the fact that there is a world in the first place. Soon after the bridge, the world lost its foreboding quality, and the boundaries attaching you to your home loosened. Finally, you were free. In the heady days that followed your liberation from the disease, you ventured far out. From the homogeneity of airports to the elaborate maze of shopping malls, the world shone with the dizzying lightness of a place untouched by anxiety. For you, the black demons that had accompanied your 56 years on this planet were delivered of their hold.

And yet, for all this freedom, the world now assumes a deadened appearance. On the other side of the visitation, the disease has left you damaged. Soon after the initial liberation, a grey bewilderment set in. Lacking a moral purpose, you are now unable to justify the existence of the home. Far from a beacon of meaning in the midst of a meaningless world, it has now become a continuation of the world without value—an empty space, glowing in the flat landscape of a desensitised and derealized world.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Visitor to a Museum

"In a post-apocalyptic world, in which a large part of the population consists of demented and deformed mutants being kept in reservations, a man embarks upon visiting the ruins of a museum buried under the sea which can only be accessed during low tide."

Written and directed by Konstantin Lopushansky

Saturday, 3 December 2011


The Earth’s Moon. Taken from Rue de Rivoli, Paris.
15:26, 02nd December 2011. By DT.

Concerning its [the earth’s] position there is some divergence of opinion. Most of those who hold that the whole universe is finite say that it lies at the centre, but this is contradicted by the Italian school called Pythagoreans. These affirm that the centre is occupied by fire, and that the earth is one of the stars, and creates night and day as it travels in a circle about the centre. In addition they invent another earth, lying opposite our own, which they call by the name of “counter-earth”

(Aristotle on Philolaus)

And the Pythagoreans called the moon the counter-earth, in so far as it is also an “earth in the aither,” and since it blocks the light of the sun, which is a peculiar characteristic of the earth, and since it marks the end of the heavens just as the earth marks the end of the region under the moon.

(Aristotle on Philolaus)

Philolaus [says] that there is fire in the middle around the center which he calls the hearth of the whole and house of Zeus... And again another fire at the uppermost place, surrounding [the whole]. [He says] that the middle is first by nature, and around this ten divine bodies dance: heaven, planets, after them the sun, under it the moon, under it the earth, under it the counter-earth, after all of which the fire which has the position of a hearth about the center.

(Fragments of Philolaus)

From the outset, at any rate, they considered ten the perfect number, but seeing that, in what appears to the eye, the moving spheres are nine in number - seven spheres of the planets, an eighth that of the fixed stars, ninth the earth (for they thought, in fact, that the earth too moves in a circle around the stationary hearth, which, according to them, is fire) - they themselves added in their theory a counter-earth as well, which they assumed to move opposite the earth, and for this reason to be invisible to those on earth.

(Aristotle on Philolaus)

Philolaus the Pythagorean [says] that fire is in the middle (for this is the hearth of all), and that the counter-earth is second, the inhabited earth is third and lies opposite to and moves around with the counter-earth. Accordingly, those on the counter-earth cannot be seen by those on this earth.

(Fragments of Philolaus)

“After the counter-earth this earth itself also moves around the middle, and after the earth the moon,” for this is what he himself reports in the treatise on Pythagoreanism. But the earth, since it is one of the stars moving around the middle, makes day and night according to its position relative to the sun. But the counter-earth, moving about the middle and following on this earth, is not seen by us because the body of the earth is always in our way.

(Aristotle on Philolaus)

Philolaus [says] that destruction [of the world] is twofold, on the one hand when fire rushes in from the heaven, and on the other from lunar water when it is poured out by the revolution of the air. And the exhalations of these are nourishment for the cosmos.

(Fragments of Philolaus)
Screen-shots from "Another Earth" (2011) and "Melancholia" (2011)