Monday, September 17, 2007

Nick on Careri

A corrupt arcmap program (thank you Murphy's Law) gives me extra time to respond to Careri. Here goes:

The eternal nomad--are we not all nomads, moving about pastures varying in size and complexity? I feel affinity for the Jews (possibly because I am also married to one...) who according to Chatwin (p. 34) have "moral ambiguities" about settlement. Their history is one of homelessness, whose roots are embedded in time, not space. All Jewish holidays are rituals of time and repetition; the Sader itself is a re:enactment of the flight from Egypt. Sukkot is a holiday with precedent similar to the Passover, but instead of the ritual dinner, one builds a temporary structure, the sukkah, in which to eat meals and entertain guests and sleep in for one day. If we consider life as only that of immediate experience, the here and now, then do we not build symbolic sukkahs at every instant, a space which is made and destroyed at the turn of our gaze?

Thus we are all nomads, inhabiting a desert world where we must search for objects which do endure the eroding forces of time. And this is key for me as I read Careri: where do the orienting devices, the menhirs, come from, and more importantly, what makes them stay? In terms of Constant's New Babylon, what gives form to the collective roof of the gypsy camp, when all elements beneath are ephemeral and interchangeable? What holds a city together, and at an even more basic level, what makes a place what it is and how do we respond to it given the premise that every signifier is shifting, eluding a cohesive, static signified object?

Careri posits that the menhirs were erected to "stabilize the vertical dimension" (p. 50), the sun being an object with a shifting arc, revealing the nature of time yet confounding the two-dimensional plane bound by the horizon. The sun is rationalized by a vertical object which may trace the passage of the sun by its shadow. Moreover, a complex territory may be rationalized by the menhir as a "lettered stone", inscribed by "symoblic figures, elements with which to write on the territory, signals with which to describe the territory" (p. 52).

We are no longer permitted to make "lettered stones" as such; our markings are too numerous to convey in an analog format, our perceptions of territory too diverse to symbolize in a singularity. A building set in the ground is inherently flawed by Careri's walkscape; the nomad wants to pick up the building and carry them with him. And yet, the nomad wants the building as a solid entity, to mark the passage of time so he has a place to return to, a way not to become ka, the eternal wanderer.

The grass lifts up from beneath the tread of a now ghostly Richard Long footstep, returning to its original position, leaving no trace, no identity. Or does it?

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