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Janz, Bruce - Making a Scene and Dwelling in Place - Exhaustion at the Edges of Modes of Place Making

Janz, Bruce - Making a Scene and Dwelling in Place - Exhaustion at the Edges of Modes of Place Making

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Published by bbjanz
Textual Studies in Canada. Will Garrett-Petts, Craig Saper & John Craig Freeman, guest eds., 2009. Also in Rhizomes 18 (Winter 2008) Will Garrett-Petts, Craig Saper & John Craig Freeman, guest eds.
Textual Studies in Canada. Will Garrett-Petts, Craig Saper & John Craig Freeman, guest eds., 2009. Also in Rhizomes 18 (Winter 2008) Will Garrett-Petts, Craig Saper & John Craig Freeman, guest eds.

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Published by: bbjanz on Dec 24, 2009
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Making a Scene andDwelling in Place:Exhaustion at the Edges of Modes of Place-Making
Bruce B. Janz
Imag(in)ing Place
Tis essay had its genesis in a deliberate misreading o a coner-ence call or papers. I had been working on what I called “place-making imagination” when I was told about a conerence askingor papers on “Imaging Place.” Only two letters separated what I was doing rom what was required – Imaging Place easily becomes“Imagining Place” and hypostatizes into “Place-Making Imagina-tion.” Imagination produces images, I thought, and is comprisedo them, and so the misreading is slight at best. I should be able tomake things t easily enough.But that slight adjustment hides something more interesting.Tis small addition, this interruption into imaging, may suggestmore than is immediately apparent. “In,” as a preposition, suggestsa move toward the center, a move “inward.” I we are in the room, we are bounded by the walls; i we are part o the “in” group, we arenot, at least, on the outs; i we are “in love” we are perhaps domi-nated and inused by love. But “in” as a prex, that’s dierent—itis “in”discreet, “in”temperate and possibly even “in”hospitable. Inother words, while the preposition “in” moves inward, the prex“in” negates, even moves outward. “Intemperate” suggests a moveaway rom a civilized and balanced center. “Interminable” suggestsa move beyond temporal boundaries, i not outside one’s patience.In, in short, inscribes a tension. Inserted into a word, we dont quiteknow whether it is intentional, a verbal interloper, or even at allinteresting. But there could hardly be a better word to start with, when place is concerned.Is this all just word play? Ater Derrida, how can it “just” be word play anymore, and anyway, why is play such a bad thing? Andyet, the word play always moves us toward something else, some-thing that allows a little light to shine in, i that does not suggest alittle too much metaphysics o presence. It is worth rememberingthat the play is serious. “A man’s maturity,” as Nietzsche said in
Beyond Good and Evil 
, “that is to have rediscovered the seriousnesshe possessed as a child at play.” Tis little word play, this slippage
between “image” and “imagine” provides a startingpoint or thinking about place, how we understandit, how (or whether) it matters, and perhaps mostimportantly, what happens at the edges o incom-mensurable modes o place-making.Te image has a long history, o course. Wemight, ollowing Aristotle in
De Anima
, equate it with the “phantasm,” the ability to apprehend animmediate sensory experience and make a mentalrepresentation o it. For Aristotle, a phantasm basedon sensation is something humans share with ani-mals, while a phantasm based on reason is imagi-nation. We might, o course, ollow Augustine (inthe latter hal o 
On the rinity 
, among other places)and connect the image with the source o all images,the “imago Dei,” the image o God stamped on us.Te image, then, classically, is a “phantasia.” Now,o course, we think o “antasy” very dierently, as adelusion or an alternative to reality. Imagination, onthe other hand, is a resolutely human characteristic,a specic kind o image production. It enables us toassemble given contents o the mind into somethingnew and makes available what is not yet present,and to do so in a manner that is not just inerential(the way one might expect the coming o a riendby an SMS sent ahead). We might also think o im-age and imagination as two sides o a coin, or moreaccurately, as the external and internal aspects o representation. Te philosophical tradition runningthrough Aristotle and Augustine, o course, doesntmake this distinction: i the image is the “phantasy”and the imagination is a uniquely human character-istic, we have a dierence o kind, not o degree.So, ar rom merely seeing image and imagina-tion as extensions o each other, related as productand mental aculty, there is good reason to see themas separate. At the very least, they are classically as-signed to dierent beings with dierent capabilities.Te point here is not to work out in any exhaustive way the Aristotelian understanding o the soul butrather to open the door to the possibility that whatis usually taken as an obvious extension, betweenimage and imagination, might in act exist in sometension.Image, imagine. Linked by the presence and ab-sence o “in.” Phantasy and imagination. Perhapsthis is just playing with binary oppositions. Butthere will be more binaries to consider beore we aredone. Umberto Eco once said o the movie
that, “the clichés were having a ball” (Eco).Te movie succeeded, in other words, not because itavoided clichés but because it reveled in them. Per-haps the same can be true o binaries, those discred-ited products o Cartesian thought. In what ollows,I want to explore two modes o place-making, one which we might reer to as “dwelling,” that is, thememory and desire o imagination, and the other which will be the “scene,” that is, the exchange andinterplay o image. Instead o denying binaries, I want to make the tension between the two produc-tive.
Dwelling and the Rural
Much place-talk in the latter part o the 20thcentury relies on Heideggers later work on dwelling(Heidegger 1971; Casey 1993). It is worth noting,then, that scenes and dwellings start rom very di-erent places, when it comes to place. Dwelling, I will argue, is rooted in a conception o place as ru-ral, while scenes are rooted in a conception o placeas urban. Tis does not mean that there cannot bedwellings in urban areas, or scenes in rural areas, butrather that these two modes o place-making rely on assumptions about what place is, and what placeought to be, which have their roots in the rural/urban distinction. A signicant amount o recent writing on place has oten had the hint o building,nding, losing or yearning or home, that is, it ol-lows what I am calling a rural mode o place-mak-ing. o see how this mode o place-making works, itis worth thinking about Heideggers understandingo dwelling.Heidegger inquires about dwelling in a numbero places, notably, in “Building Dwelling Tink-ing” and “Te Question Concerning echnology”(Heidegger 1971, 1977). Dwelling is integrally tiedto building, in the sense that true building is an ex-pression o dwelling. rue building does not enramespace instrumentally but allows a set o possibilitiesto be maniest. o build a bridge across a river, orinstance, is dierent rom damming the river. Tedam turns the river into “standing reserve,” that is,electric power (in this case) that is abstract and canbe used in any way one sees t. At the same time,our mode o dwelling is reduced to power-users,that is, to pure instrumentality. Te bridge, on theother hand, allows human settlement to collect oneither side. Te river is not reduced to one use butcontinues to be a river in the broadest sense.Dwelling as place-making tends to proceed romsome established and intelligible senses o dwelling,such as home, region, locale, tribe or nation. While
“dwelling” has clear ontological connotations, it isexpressed through existing orms o spatial arrange-ments such as region or nation because these havea history o standing in or place. Imagining placeas dwelling usually means imagining place as home,region, nation and so orth and equating identity  with those bounded and rooted spaces. Tese dwell-ing spaces are like Heidegger’s bridge over the river,in that they make a set o possibilities available andresist turning place into standing reserve. A region,or instance, establishes a set o customs and practic-es and in doing so suggests options. Freedom comesnot in the lack o conditioning elements, but in thepresence o a structure in which the possibilities o dwelling can be brought into existence. Jean-François Lyotard oers an elegy to dwellingin his essay “
and the Megalopolis” (Lyotard1988). Te
, or the domestic space, is char-acterized or him by rhythm and stories. Rhythmis wisdom and also service, which is “given and re-turned without any contract.” It is also “a commu-nity o work,” which is rooted in stories, because thecommon work o the
is the
itsel, thatis, the repetition o its own stories through work,through the domestication o time. Te
is where memory is located, both in narratives and“in the body’s mannerisms.” And, the
“givesthe untameable a chance to appear” (196), althoughin act “[t]he undominated, the untamed, in early times concealed in the
, is unleashed in the
homo politicus 
…” (197). What disrupts the
, in Lyotard’s view? Temegalopolis. Te megalopolis is not merely city-space, but it is:Much more complete, much more capable o programming, o neutralizing the event andstoring it, o mediating what happens, o con-serving what has happened. Including, o course,and rst o all, the untameable, the uncontrolleddomestic remainder. End o tragedy, exibility,permissiveness. Te control is no longer territo-rialized or historicized. It is computerized. (198-199)In other words, it is not cityspace that threat-ens the
, but the “monad” o techno-science.Te untameable is neglected. Te need or “writing,childhood, [and] pain” disappear. Lyotard is almostsarcastic about the result o the death o the
:o think consists in contributing to the ame-lioration o the big monad. It is that which isobsessively demanded o us. You must think ina communicable way. Make culture. … o suc-cess is to process. Improve perormances. It’s adomestication, i you will, but with no
. A physics with no god-nature. An economy in which everything is taken, nothing received. And so necessarily, an illiteracy. Te respect andlack o respect o severe and serene reading o the text, o writing with regard to language, thisvast and still unexplored house, the indispens-able comings and goings in the maze o its in-habited, always deserted rooms—the big monaddoesn’t give a damn about all this. It just goesand builds. Promotion. (199-200)Tis is the price, or Lyotard, o the megalopo-lis, o techno-science. But his elegy is more mourn-ul than angry. “Domesticity is over, and probably it never existed, except as a dream o the old childawakening and destroying it on awakening” (201).Te loss o this particular type o dwelling is notcomplete; the
can represent the loss as trag-edy. But the
is more likely to be pressed intoservice by the big monad—Nazi Germany did justthat. Te issue is, what must one do, under theseconditions? Lyotard’s answer: “at least in the ghetto we shall go on. As ar as it is possible. Tinking, writing, is, in our sense, to bear witness or the se-cret timbre … Let us at least bear witness, and again,and or no-one, to thinking as disaster, nomadism,dierence, and redundancy” (203). What we have is almost a romantic impulse androm the most unexpected o writers. But perhapsthe real question is, is he right about the corrosiveeect o place-making within techno-science? I heis, then a great many digital projects must necessar-ily undermine place-making, even in their eort tocreate or represent it. I think, though, that Lyotard’saccount is somewhat premature, in the sense that heproceeds solely rom a Heideggerian understandingo place. Te story can be told in other words, start-ing rom the ailure o the
—starting rom theconcept o the scene.
Scenes and the Urban
Te scene is something that, in one way or an-other, a host o theorists have tried to unpack. Ar-guably, the scene is built into early expressions o modernity in writers such as Baudelaire, Proust and

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