Sunday, November 11, 2007

street fiction

I have no visuals to share yet, unfortunately. But I did write a dime novel about my unaccepted street.

This is a story about dollars, water, and chicken poo.

Our exploration of the city was an attempt to unravel its tangled freeway fibers, to find a mythical songline through the "vacant and forgotten" industrial landscapes. Vacant on paper often belies a complexity on the ground. We collected rugged specimens of weeds as evidence of survival in a free-for-all landscape. We collected the traces of human habitation--trash--and attempted to record these ephemeral markers as caerns or guides through the landscape. We then proceeded to measure the forgotten: the moisture of weeds growing from a crack in the sidewalk, and the sound of rainwater gushing out of downpipes onto asphalt. The city groans a tireless, toneless white noise mumble in response. Cars slide past the unaccepted street on an interstate lightning-bolt. The sun evaporates what rain is left in the puddles, and the Bay sucks in whatever we spit at it.

Diagnosis: the city suffers from anterograde amnesia, the inability to store short-term memory. We forget our rain because we seek only the facility of its removal, to quicken its path to the Bay without destroying our ability to continue to flush the streets of the unwanted. We forget our rubbish because it goes away once a week to a magical place where we don't have to think about it. It is more useless to us than rainwater, though not by much. We also forget about our working-class: many have jobs in the city, but how many minimum-wage workers can afford a decent place to live? Each night there occurs an exodus of people who might prefer to live closer to their work. But the city forgets about them, too. Out out, it seems to say to all these things.

What might be the spatial consequences if we localize these memory slips? 1. Hold on to that rainwater 2. Use some of that rubbish 3. Provide affordable housing

Prescription: Chicken-City. It is a Walking City, though walking in the inverse direction than as Archigram envisioned it. It crawls in from the country-side to gobble up the wastes of our city and show us how to do things right. We take what is free: the unaccepted street space not interfering with the function of the street, the rainwater that is dumped on the street, and compost and
other wastes.

Where there is a room to rent, there flows people. Where there is a cheap room to rent, there flows students, artists, and the working class. Where people flow, water must also flow.

Where rubbish is abundant, especially delicious rubbish, you may find creatures. We want useful creatures. Chickens will eat the organic waste and give back to the city some chicken shit and some eggs. The city will say, thank you for the eggs but why are you giving me more shit? But this waste is useful--it can decompose along with other organic wastes and provide a constant, reliable source of heat. That heat could provide hot water for all those people looking for a cheap room to rent.

Is the story now over, all is told? Is the existence of Chicken-City a parasite on the city's memory, forcing it to remember not to flush but to be anal retentive, but in a good way? Heroic architecture or bust...

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