Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mashup: "Walking in the City"/"Moment of Surrender"

Here's a kind of sequel to "Theology of New York City"..

Thanks to Len Hjalmarson for introducing me to  Michel de Certeau's chapter "Walking in the City,"
(helpfully redubbed "The City as Text" on The Place website) in the book

"The Practice of Everyday Life."

It should be no surprise that much of this chapter  calls to mind/intertexts and intersects  with U2's "Moment of Surrender."

But by the time I hit references about   "the walking of passers'by"  and vision and visibility, I wondered if this chapter actually helped inspire the song.

One never knows what Bono is reading, and what literary references sneak into his soul to reappear later in lyrics.

I also find an answer in de Certeau as do why the song's narrator "did not notice the passersby, and they did not notice me."  We are caught up in writing/walking our own texts/streets.
It's a wonder we ever notice the face of Jesus in the ATM reflection.."God is a mirror in which each man sees himself"  as Bono often appends to the song in concert.

BTW, at least two more U2 sightings/trainspotting in de Certeau:

  •  de Certeau references Malaparte: "The Palace de la Concorde does not exist. It is an idea.  More than  an idea." Bono has used a line more than once about America being an idea.
  • "Elevation" sighting:  "His elevation transders him into  a voyeur. "
  •  de Certeau deals with simulacra, the topic of "Better Than The Real Thing"

Two random and non--U2 related  notes about the chapter:

  • de Certeau  namechecks  Erasmus: "the city  is a huge monastery."  Intriguing..  (OK, a U2 connection: "New York")
  • de Certeau  invokes "nowhen,"  a crucial  physics concept for enKingdomed time travelers. Sing it: "He's  a real nowhen man.."(OK, a U2  connection: the pysics of the "Dismantle" album; "Love makes no sense of space and time.." etc)

Here below are

  • 1)the U2 song
  • 2)The de Certeau chapter

Now I can never hear the intro of either without remenbering my first time atop the World Trace Center,
a)"What if this tower fell?  Nahh, never happen.."
 b)"What a birds-eye/Godseye view; it feels  voyeuristic/prophetic/elevated...

All these years later, I have a sense why..


U2, "Moment of Surrender":

I tied myself with wire
To let the horses run free
Playing with the fire 
Till the fire played with me

The stone was semi-precious
We were barely conscious
Two souls too smart to be 
In the realm of certainty
Even on our wedding day

We set ourselves on fire
Oh God, do not deny her

It's not if I believe in love
But if love believes in me
Oh, believe in me

At the moment of surrender
I folded to my knees
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not
notice me

I've been in every black hole
At the altar of the dark star
My body's now a begging bowl
That's begging to get back
Begging to get back to my heart
To the rhythm of my soul
To the rhythm of my unconsciousness
To the rhythm that yearns
To be released from control

I was punching in the numbers 
At the ATM machine
I could see in the reflection 
A face staring back at me
At the moment of surrender
Of vision over visibility
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

I was speeding on the subway
Through the stations of the cross
Every eye looking every other way
Counting down 'til the pain will stop

At the moment of surrender
Of vision of over visibility
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

Coda, added in concert

Life is short
It’s the longest thing you’ll ever do
The worst of the curse
Was that your dreams came true
God is a mirror in which each man sees himself
Hell is a place where you don’t need any help
When I first met you, your face was like snow
What about wherever you wanted to go
Your face, your grace, your lipstick trace
Your case as you put it down
8.17 on the ground
Your faith in a clown
Don’t leave me now
Don’t leave me now
Alone in the song
Don’t leave me now
Alone in the song 

Miguel de Certeau ,"The Practice of Everyday Life" :Part III. Spatial Practices/ Chapter VII. Walking in the City

Seeing Manhattan from the 110th floor of the World Trade Center. Beneath the haze stirred up by the winds, the urban island, a sea in the middle of the sea, lifts up the skyscrapers over Wall Street, sinks down at Greenwich, then rises again to the crests of Midtown, quietly passes over Central Park and finally undulates off into the distance beyond Harlem. A wave of verticals. Its agitation is momentarily arrested by vision. The gigantic mass is immobilized before the eyes. It is transformed into a texturology in which extremes coincide—extremes of ambition and degradation, brutal oppositions of races and styles, contrasts between yesterday's buildings, already trans-formed into trash cans, and today's urban irruptions that block out its space. 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. In it are inscribed the architectural figures of the coincidatio oppositorum formerly drawn in miniatures and mystical textures. On this stage of concrete, steel and glass, cut out between two oceans (the Atlantic and the American) by a frigid body of water, the tallest letters in the world compose a gigantic rhetoric of excess in both expenditure and production.

Voyeurs or walkers
To what erotics of knowledge does the ecstasy of reading such a cosmos belong? Having taken a voluptuous pleasure in it, I wonder what is the source of this pleasure of "seeing the whole," of looking down on, totalizing the most immoderate of human texts. To be lifted to the summit of the World Trade Center is to be lifted out of the city's grasp. One's body is no longer clasped by the streets that turn and return it according to an anonymous law; nor is it possessed, whether as player or played, by the rumble of so many differences and by the nervousness of New York traffic. When one goes up there, he leaves behind the mass that carries off and mixes up in itself any identity of authors or spectators. An Icarus flying above these waters, he can ignore the devices of Daedalus in mobile and endless labyrinths far below. His elevation transfigures him into a voyeur. It puts him at a distance. It transforms the bewitching world by which one was "possessed" into a text that lies before one's eyes. It allows one to read it, to be a solar Eye, looking down like a god. The exaltation of a scopic and gnostic drive: the fiction of knowledge is related to this lust to be a viewpoint and nothing more.
Must one finally fall back into the dark space where crowds move back and forth, crowds that, though visible from on high, are themselves unable to see down below? An Icarian fall. On the 110th floor, a poster, sphinx-like, addresses an enigmatic message to the pedestrian who is for an instant transformed into a visionary: It's hard to be down when you're up.

The desire to see the city preceded the means of satisfying it. Medieval or Renaissance painters represented the city as seen in a perspective that no eye had yet enjoyed.' This fiction already made the medieval spectator into a celestial eye. It created gods. Have things changed since technical procedures have organized an "all-seeing power"? The totalizing eye imagined by the painters of earlier times lives on in our achieve-ments. The same scopic drive haunts users of architectural productions by materializing today the utopia that yesterday was only painted. The 1370 foot high tower that serves as a prow for Manhattan continues to construct the fiction that creates readers, makes the complexity of the city readable, and immobilizes its opaque mobility in a transparent text.
Is the immense texturology spread out before one's eyes anything more than a representation, an optical artifact? It is the analogue of the facsimile produced, through a projection that is a way of keeping aloof, by the space planner urbanist, city planner or cartographer. The panorama-city is a "theoretical" (that is, visual) simulacrum, in short a picture, whose condition of possibility is an oblivion and a misunderstanding of practices. The voyeur-god created by this fiction, who, like Schreber's God, knows only cadavers, must disentangle himself from the murky intertwining daily behaviors and make himself alien to them.

The ordinary practitioners of the city live "down below," below the thresholds at which visibility begins. They walk—an elementary form of this experience of the city; they are walkers, Wandersmänner, whose bodies follow the thicks and thins of an urban "text" they write without being able to read it. These practitioners make use of spaces that cannot be seen; their knowledge of them is as blind as that of lovers in each other's arms. The paths that correspond in this intertwining, unrecognized poems in which each body is an element signed by many others, elude legibility. It is as though the practices organizing a bustling city were characterized by their blindness.' The networks of these moving, intersecting writings compose a manifold story that has neither author nor spectator, shaped out of fragments of trajectories and alterations of spaces: in relation to representations, it remains daily and indefinitely other

Escaping the imaginary totalizations produced by the eye, the everyday has a certain strangeness that does not surface, or whose surface is only its upper limit, outlining itself against the visible. Within this ensemble, I shall try to locate the practices that are foreign to the "geometrical" or "geographical" space of visual, panoptic, or theoretical constructions. These practices of space refer to a specific form of operations ("ways of operating"), to "another spatiality" (an "anthropological," poetic and mythic experience of space), and to an opaque and blind mobility characteristic of the bustling city. A migrational, or metaphorical, city thus slips into the clear text of the planned and readable city. 

Prom the concept of the city to urban practices

The World Trade Center is only the most monumental figure of Western urban 
development. The atopia-utopia of optical knowledge has long had the ambition of 
surmounting and articulating the contradictions arising from urban agglomeration. It 
is a question of managing a growth of human agglomeration or accumulation. ‘The 
city is a huge monastery’, said Erasmus. Perspective vision and prospective vision 
constitute the twofold projection of an opaque past and an uncertain future on to 
a surface that can be dealt with. They inaugurate (in the sixteenth century?) the 
transformation of the urban fact into the concept of a city. Long before the concept 
itself gives rise to a particular ligure of history, it assumes that this fact can be dealt 
with as a unity determined by an urbanistic ratio. Linking the city to the concept 
never makes them identical, but it plays on their progressive symbiosis: to plan a 
city is both to think the very plurality of the real and to make that way of thinking 
the plural glfkctive; it is to know how to articulate it and be able to do it. 

An operational concept? 

The ‘city’ founded by utopian and urbanistic discourse is deßned by the possibility 
of a threefold operation. 

First, the production of its own space (un espace propre): rational organization 
must thus repress all the physical, mental and political pollutions that would 
compromise it; 

Second, the substitution of a nowhen, or of a synchronic system, for the 
indeterminable and stubborn resistances offered by traditions; univocal scientific 
strategies, made possible by the flattening out of all the data in a plane projection, 
must replace the tactics of users who take advantage of ‘opportunities’ and who, 
through these trap-events, these lapses in visibility, reproduce the opacities of 
history everywhere; 

Third and finally, the creation of a universal and anonymous subject which is 
the city itself: it gradually becomes possible to attribute to it, as to its political 
model, Hobbes’s State, all the functions and predicates that were previously 
scattered and assigned to many different real subjects - groups, associations, or 
individuals. ‘The city’, like a proper name, thus provides a way of conceiving 
and constructing space on the basis of a finite number of stable, isolatable, and 
interconnected properties. 

Administration is combined with a process of elimination in this place 
organized by ‘speculative’ and classificatory operations. On the one hand, there 
is a differentiation and redistribution of the parts and functions of the city, as 
a result of inversions, displacements, accumulations, etc.; on the other there is 
a rejection of everything that is not capable of being dealt with in this way and 
so constitutes the ‘waste products’ of a functionalist administration (abnormality, 
deviance, illness, death, etc.). To be sure, progress allows an increasing number 
of these waste products to be reintroduced into administrative circuits and 
transforms even deficiencies (in health, security etc.) into ways of making the 
networks of order denser. But in reality, it repeatedly produces effects contrary to 
those at which it aims: the profit system generates a loss which, in the multiple 
forms of wretchedness and poverty outside the system and of waste inside it, 
constantly turns production into ‘eXpenditure’. Moreover, the rationalization of 
the city leads to its mythification in strategic discourses, which are calculations 
based on the hypothesis or the necessity of its destruction in order to arrive at a 
final decision. Finally, the functionalist organization, by privileging progress (i.e., 
time), causes the condition of its own possibility - space itself - to be forgotten; 
space thus becomes the blind spot in a scientiñc and political technology. This 
is the Way in which the Concept-city functions; a place of transformations and 
appropriations, the object of various kinds of interference but also a subject that 
is constantly enriched by new attributes, it is simultaneously the machinery and 
the hero of modernity. 

Today, Whatever the avatars of this concept may have been, we have to 
acknowledge that if in discourse the city serves as a totalizing and almost mythical 
landmark for socio-economic and political strategies, urban life increasingly permits 
the re­emergence of the element that the urbanistic project excluded. The language 
of power is in itself ‘urbanizing’, but the city is left prey to contradictory movements 
that counterbalance and combine themselves outside the reach of panoptic power. 
The city becomes the dominant theme in political legends, but it is no longer 
a field 'of programmed and regulated operations. Beneath the discourses that 
ideologize the City, the ruses and combinations of powers that have no readable 
identity proliferate; without points where one can take hold of them, without 
rational transparency, they are impossible to administer. 

The return of practices

The Concept-city is decaying. Does that mean that the illness afflicting both the 
rationality that founded it and its professionals afflicts the urban populations as well? 
Perhaps cities are deteriorating along with the procedures that organized them. But 
we must be careful here. The ministers of knowledge have always assumed that the 
Whole universe was threatened by the very Changes that affected their ideologies 
and their positions. They transmute the misfortune of their theories into theories 
of misfortune. When they transform their bewilderment into ‘Catast1'ophes’, When 
they seek to enclose the people in the ‘panic’ of their discourses, are they once 
more necessarily right?

Rather than remaining Within the field of a discourse that upholds its privilege 
by inverting its content (speaking of catastrophe and no longer of progress), one 
can try another path: one can analyse the microbe-like, singular and plural practices 
which' an urbanistic system was supposed to administer or suppress, but which have 
outlived its decay; one can follow the swarming activity of these procedures that, 
far from being regulated or eliminated by panoptìc administration, have reinforced 
themselves in a proliferating illegitimacy, developed and insinuated themselves 
into the networks of surveillance, and combined in accord with unreadable but 
stable tactics to the point of constituting everyday regulations and surreptitious 
creativities that are merely concealed by the frantic mechanisms and discourses of 
the observational organization. 

This pathway could be inscribed as a consequence, but also as the reciprocal, 
of Foucault’s analysis of the structures of power. He moved it in the direction of 
mechanisms and *technical procedures, ‘minor instrumentalities’ capable, merely 
by their organization of ‘details’, of transforming a human multiplicity into a 
‘disciplinary’ society and of managing, differentiating, classifying, and hierarchizing 
all deviances concerning apprenticeship, health, justice, the army or work. ‘These 
Often miniscule ruses of discipline’, these ‘minor but flawless’ mechanisms, draw 
their efficacy from a relationship between procedures and the space that they 
redistribute in order to make an ‘operator’ out of it. But what spatial practices 
correspond, in the area where discipline is manipulated, to these apparatuses that 
produce a disciplinary space? In the present conjuncture, which is marked by a 
contradiction between the collective mode of administration and an individual 
mode of reappropriation, this question is no less important, if one admits that 
spatial practices in fact secretly structure the determining conditions of social life. 
I would like to follow out a few of these multiform, resistant, tricky and stubborn 
procedures that elude discipline without being outside the field in which it is 
exercised, and which should lead us to a theory of everyday practices, of lived 
space, of the disquieting familiarity of the city. 

The chorus of idle footsteps 

The goddess can be recognized by her step. 

Virgil, Aeneid, I, 405 

Their story begins on ground level, with footsteps. They are myriad, but do not 
compose a series. They cannot be counted because each unit has a qualitative 
character: a style of tactile apprehension and kinesthetic appropriation. Their 
swarming mass is an innumerable collection of singularities. Their intertwined paths 
give their shape to spaces. They Weave places together. In that respect, pedestrian 
movements form one of these ‘real systems whose existence in fact makes up the 
city’. They are not localized; it is rather they that spatialìze. They are no more 
inserted Within a container than those Chinese characters speakers sketch out on 
their hands with their fingertips. 

It is true that the operations of Walking on can be traced on city maps in 
such a Way as to transcribe their paths (here Well-trodden, there very faint) and 
their trajectories (going this way and not that). But these thick or thin curves only 
refer, like words, to the absence of what has passed by. Surveys of routes miss 
what was: the act itself of passing by. The operation of walking, wandering, or 
‘window shopping, that is, the activity of passers-by, is transformed into points 
that draw a totalizing and reversible line on the map. They allow us to grasp only 
a relic set in the nowhen of a surface of projection. Itself visible, it has the effect 
of making invisible the operation that made it possible. These fixations constitute 
procedures for forgetting. The trace left behind is substituted for the practice. It 
exhibits the (voracious) property that the geographical system has of being able 
to transform action into legibility, but in doing so it causes a Way of being in the 
World to be forgotten. 

Walking rhetorics 

The Walking of passers-by offers a series of turns (tours) and detours that can be 
compared to ‘turns of phrase’ or ‘stylistic ñgures’. There is a rhetoric of walking. 
The art of ‘turning’ phrases finds an equivalent in an art of composing a path 
(tourner un parcours). Like ordinary language, this alt implies and combines styles 
and uses. Style specifies ‘a linguistic structure that manifests on the symbolic level 

. an individual’s fundamental way of being in the world’; it connotes a singular. 
Use defines the social phenomenon through which a system of communication 
manifests itself in actual fact; it refers to a norm. Style and use both have to do 
with a ‘way of operating’ (of speaking, walking, etc.), but style involves a peculiar 
processing of the symbolic, while use refers to elements of a code. They intersect
to form a style of use, a way of being and a way of operating. 

A friend who lives in the city of Sèvres drifts, when he is in Paris, toward 
the rue des Saints-Pères and the rue de Sèvres, even though he is going to see his 
mother in another part of town: these names articulate a sentence that his steps 
compose without his knowing it. Numbered streets and street numbers (112th 
St., or 9 rue Saint-Charles) orient the magnetic field of trajectories just as they 
can haunt dreams. Another friend unconsciously represses the streets which have 
names and, by this fact, transmit her - orders or identities in the same way as 
surnmonses and classifications; she goes instead along paths that have no name or 
signature. But her walking is thus still controlled negatively by proper names. 

What is it then that they spell out? Disposed in constellations that hierarchize 
and semantically order the surface of the city, operating chronological arrangements
and historical justifications, these words (Borrégo, Botzaris, Bougainville slowly 
lose, like worn coins, the value engraved on them, but their ability to signify 
outlives its first definition. Saint-Pères, Corentin Celron, Red Square these names
make themselves available to the diverse meanings given them by passers-by; they 
detach themselves from the places they were supposed to define and serve as 
imaginary meeting-points on itineraries Which, as metaphors, they determine for 
reasons that are foreign to their original value but may be recognized or not by 
passers-by. A strange toponymy that is detached from actual places and flies high 
over the #city like :V1 foggy geography of ‘meanings’ held in suspension, directing 
the physical deambulations below: Place de l’Eto1'le, Concorde, Poissonnière These 
constellations of names provide traffic patterns: they are stars directing itineraries.
‘The Place de la Concorde does not exist,’ Malaparte said, ‘it is an idea.’ It is 
much more than an ‘idea’. A Whole series of comparisons would be necessary to 
account for the magical powers proper names enjoy They seem to be carried as 
emblems by the travellers they direct and simultaneously decorate. 

Linking acts and footsteps, opening meanings and directions, these Words 
operate in the name of an emptying-out and wearing-away of their primary role. 
They become liberated spaces that can be occupied. A rich indetermination gives 

them, by means of a semantic rarefaction, the function of articulating a second, 
oetic eo a h on to of the eo a h of the literal, forbidden or ermitted 
meanin . The insinuate other routes into the functionalist and historical order 
of movement. Walking follows them: ‘I fill this great empty space with a beautiful 
name.’ Peo le are ut in motion b the remainin relics of meanin and sometimes 
 by their Waste products, the inverted remainders of great ambitions. Things that 
amount to nothing, or almost nothing, symbolize and orient walkers’ steps: names 
that have ceased precisely to be ‘proper’. 

Ultimately, since proper names are already ‘local authorities’ or ‘superstitions’,
they are replaced by numbers: on the telephone, one no longer dials Opera, but 
 The same is true of the stories and legends that haunt urban space like 
superfluous or additional inhabitants. They are the object of a witch-hunt, by the 
very logic of the techno-structure. But their extermination (like the extermination 
of trees, forests, and hidden places in which such legends live) makes the city 
a ‘suspended symbolic order’. The habitable City is thereby annulled. Thus, as a 
woman from Rouen put it, no, here ‘there isn’t any place special, except for my 
own home, that’s all There isn’t anything.’ Nothing ‘special’: nothing that is 
marked, opened up by a memory or a story, signed hy something or someone 
else. Only the cave of the home remains believable, still open for a certain time 
to legends, still full of shadows. Except for that, according to another city-dweller, 
there are only ‘places in which one can no longer believe in anything’. 

It is through the opportunity they offer to store up rich silences and wordless 
stories, or rather through their capacity to create cellars and garrets everywhere, 
that local legends (legenda: what is to be read, but also what can be  permit 
exits, ways of going out and coming back in, and thus habitable spaces. Certainly 
walking about and travelling substitute for exits, for going away and coming back, 
which were formerly made available by a body of legends that places nowadays 
lack. Physical moving about has the itinerant function of yesterday’s or today’s 
‘superstitions’. Travel (like Walking) is a substitute for the legends that used to 
open up space to something different. What does travel ultimately produce if it is 
not, by a sort of reversal, ‘an exploration of the deserted places of my memory’, 
the return to nearby exoticism by way of a detour through distant places, and 
the ‘discovery’ of relics and legends: ‘fleeting visions of the French countryside’, 
‘fragments of music and poetry’, in short, something like an ‘uprooting inv one’s 
origins’ (Heidegger)? What this walking exile produces is precisely the body of 
legends that is currently lacking in one’s own vicinity; it is a fiction, which moreover 
has the double characteristic, like dreams or pedestrian rhetoric, of being the 
effect of displacements and condensations. As a corollary, one can measure the 
importance of these signifying practices (to tell oneself legends) as practices that 
invent spaces. 

From this point of view, their contents remain revelatory, and still more so is 
the principle that organizes them. Stories about places are makeshift things. They 
are composed with the world’s debris. Even if the literary form and the actantial 
schema of ‘superstitions’ correspond to stable models whose structures and 
combinations have often been analysed over the past thirty years, the materials (all 
the rhetorical details of their ‘manifestation’) are furnished by the leftovers from 
nominations, taxonomies, heroic or comic predicates, etc., that is, by fragments of 
scattered semantic places. These heterogeneous and even contrary elements fill the 
homogeneous form of the story. Things extra and other (details and excesses coming 
from elsewhere) insert themselves into the accepted framework, the imposed order. 
One thus has the very relationship between spatial practices and the constructed 
order. The surface of this order is everywhere punched and torn open by ellipses, 
drifts, and leaks of meaning: it is a sieve-order.

LINK: the while chapter can be read online here or here  

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