Hungry as an archway

“Hungry as an archway Through which the troops have passed I stand in ruins behind you With your winter clothes Your broken sandal strap.”1

I wrote the following five years ago, in a letter to a long lost lover, met again by chance. That year I had returned to London after a ten year absence, and found myself living just a couple of streets away from my old life there. The air at the time felt pregnant with recurrence. My feet seemed to follow old patterns and paths buried beneath the pavements2.

“I don’t know if you’ll ever see this. It doesn’t matter. Although I’m writing it for me, it’s addressed elsewhere. It might be to you, some hope, or actually for some part of me that is buried with you in this strata of streets and years. Perhaps those streets are catacombs now; other strata lie on top, but there is still life in them3.”

Since then, even more displacements, evictions have occurred. More forgetting; people have moved on, leaving no address. Facades have been sandblasted, vegetation uprooted. Districts have been given up to the bulldozer, surveyors and estate agents; have even been renamed4. The tides of an invigorated market have washed up a brightly coloured jetsam of “for sale” boards against facelifted walls in ever more distant areas. The commodity replaces memory. Ever inflating values are promises of futurity. The future will give us more. The word “space”, increasingly used to denote “my place” indicates an alienable quality, that of exchange. The exchange never happens now- the boom in property values is based on what a theoretical buyer will pay, at some point in the future.
1 2

Cohen, Leonard “Take this longing”, from “New skin for the old ceremony”; CBS 1973 “Reflection shows us that our image of happiness is thoroughly coloured by the time to which the course of our existence has assigned us. The kind of happiness that could arouse envy in us exists only in the air we have breathed, among people we could have talked to, women who could have given themselves to us. In other words, our image of happiness is indissolubly bound up with the image of redemption.” Benjamin, Walter, essay “Theses on the Philosophy of History”, collection “Illuminations” trans. Harry Zohn, Fontana, London 1992 (page 245) 3 From unsent letter addressed to K, 11 December 2001 4 The suffix “village” in a place name is clear evidence of estate agent activity; e.g. “Stoke Newington Village”, or “Old Ford Village”. Hampstead has expanded to include areas of Kilburn. 1

“The initial day of a calendar serves as a historical time-lapse camera. And, basically, it is the same day that keeps recurring in the guise of holidays, which are days of remembrance.”5

The past is inherently dangerous, Its difference from the present has a critical dimension. If things were not always this way, they do not have to be this way now. The present state of things was not inevitable. The repression of the past is vital to those who want to sell us the future,

In ancient Israel: “Mundane chronology signified little, unless as a part of a greater sacred scheme. How this worked can be seen from the story of jubilees…which were celebrated every fifty years…the completion of seven weeks of years (7 X 7 = 49). The fiftieth year that followed was the year of jubilee. Land was left fallow, estates were returned to their original owners or to their heirs, debts were remitted, and slaves recovered their freedom.”6

The old cycles of church festivals and Olympiads embodied the constant return of times out of time.7

“Within the concept of history, time indicates social change and the uniqueness and irreversibility of human events. Traditionally, it has taken on meaning in opposition to “nature”, in which time is change only in the sense of cyclical repetition.”8

Writing on John Berger, Angela Carter said that:

“…The elimination of the peasantry is the final act in the destruction of the experiential reservoir of the past, so that it can no longer be part of the totality of the present. This destruction Berger sees as ‘the historic role of capitalism itself, a role unforeseen by Adam Smith or Marx’…once history is destroyed, all energy may be concentrated on what is about to occur, the future, which as every grammarian

5

Benjamin, Walter, essay “Theses on the Philosophy of History”, collection “Illuminations” trans. Harry Zohn, Fontana, London 1992 (page 253) 6 Weber, Eugen “Apocalypses”; Hutchinson, London, 1999 (page 10) 7 “The first Olympic games were held in 776 BC, and the use of the Olympiad as a quadrennial measure continued from the fourth century BC through the fourth century AD.” ibid. (page 8) 8 Buck-Morss, Susan “The dialectics of seeing: Walter Benjamin and the arcades project”; MIT press Cambridge Mass. And London 1989 (page 58) 2

knows, does not exist…”9

This could as easily be said of numerous urban populations. Though the city facilitates rootlessness, promiscuous contacts, it produces stratas of desire, loss and memory as a by-product of its ceaseless circulation. Whatever their stated intentions, it could be said of those – Peter Ackroyd, Iain Sinclair that make it their business to excavate and record these currents that they work for the heritage industry, which repackages the traces of what amnesia leaves. This is then sold back to those who have forgotten.

Throughout the 1980’s, as the country shed the last of its heavy industry, legacy of the nineteenth century, “Victorian style” lamp-posts and hanging baskets were embellishing many town centres. As the welfare state suffered the first of many continuing attacks, out of town supermarkets took on the forms of alms houses, wings extending to embrace large car parks, and that symbol of civic pride, the clock tower. It may still be that these fragments, when shaken, give a dry rattle- a shrivelled kernel of danger, homeopathically delivered.10

My memory is a fierce candle.

Angel/Senex11

“The lead12 of Saturn is the downward pull of gravity into subjectivity. The plumb line drops ever deeper, straight to the grave, and below, to time past and the underworld spirits…There is …a belief in compensation as psychic law (karma, retribution, revenge)13…And a profound preoccupation with

9

Carter, Angela, essay “On John Berger”, collection “Expletives Deleted”; Chatto and Windus London 1992 (page 28) 10 Homeopathy is predicated on the notion that water has a memory. A solution of the presumed active ingredient, diluted thousands of parts to one is made. One part of this is diluted with another thousand parts water, and so on. The active ingredient is assumed to become more potent as it gets increasingly attenuated. 11 “Senex” is the name; meaning “aged” in Latin, that James Hillman gives the consciousness of underworld deities such as Saturn, Kronos (Old Father Time) etc. 12 Lead is associated with Saturn, as are all metals and mining. Also it is specifically his, due to its sombre colour and most of all, its weight. 13 “Social Democracy thought fit to assign to the working class the role of the redeemer of future generations… This training made the working class forget both its hatred and its spirit of sacrifice, for both are nourished by the image of enslaved ancestors rather than that of liberated grandchildren.” Benjamin, Walter, essay “Theses on the Philosophy of History”, collection “Illuminations” trans. Harry Zohn, Fontana, London 1992 (page 252) 3

archaeology, history, religion, prophecy and the outcast of occult phenomenon…The temperament of the Senex is cold…As lord of the nethermost, Saturn views the world from the outside, from such depths of distance that he sees it all ‘upside down’ and to this view the structure of things is revealed. He sees the irony of truth within the words, and the city from the cemetery, the bones beneath the game of skin…”14 “A Klee painting named ‘Angelus Novus’ shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet…”15

Like the ghost, Hillman’s Senex and Benjamin’s Angel of History represent a parallax, a point from which to look. From our time-bound perspective, the uncanny is an image. It appears as a flat changeless interruption into the continuum of space, things, and events16. Taking the trouble to see through their eyes gives one a view akin to looking at an old lover through the eyes of a new one. The old is obsolete, finished, the representative of a displaced world and language, a smoking ruin left behind. Looking at the angel manifesting before us, as with the new lover, we can glimpse some promise of futurity, a distant and transfigured city. Looking at the Senex, we see Kronos, the embodiment of Father Time that eats his children; the dirty-lipped grave hole.

Serial Monogamy

“And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven… prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “…He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain

14

Hillman, James “The Essential James Hillman: a Blue Fire” ed. Moore, Thomas; Routledge, London 1989 (pages 208-9) 15 Benjamin, Walter, essay “Theses on the Philosophy of History”, collection “Illuminations” trans. Harry Zohn, Fontana, London 1992 (page 249) 16 “Thinking involves not only the flow of thoughts, but their arrest as well. Where thinking suddenly stops in a configuration pregnant with tensions, it gives that configuration a shock, by which it crystallises into a monad… in this structure (he recognises) the sign of a Messianic cessation of happening…” ibid page 254 4

anymore, for the former things have passed away.”17

There is muscle memory. It persists. Actions are repeated until they become blind reflex. A matter of sinews, pressure. A balancing trick, like reaching for the familiar switch before entering a darkened room. The fingertips know the way. They have maps on them encoding locations, labyrinths of feeling, circuits of neurones that fire without our will. The blank glory is glimpsed behind or through a new face. In the same irrecoverable daylight, other faces pass behind it. It always happens again.

A new vocabulary and idiom is interred in the lovers’ flesh, which resonates and echoes to a new touch. A harmony here, a discord there, amongst the forms of previous liaisons already buried. Like broken statuary, they fragment, but outlive their obsolescence.

In allegory - “The singular debasement of things through their signification…corresponds…to the singular debasement of things through their price as commodities. This degradation, to which things are subject because they can be taxed as commodities, is counterbalanced…by the inestimable value of novelty….Newness is a quality independent of the use value of the commodity. It is the source of that illusion of which fashion is the tireless purveyor.”18

Each affair seems an opening of the promise of the world, a proffered transfiguration. Each time carries a weight of need, injury, deferred promise of healing. Life is long, and getting longer; at least amongst us privileged few. Patterns proliferate. It is what patterns do. Each instance must be believed in as the last. Each instance is a foreshadowing of the sought after; the final, perfect manifestation.

We once watched the new city rise around us; an attempt at a glossy amnesia. From our vantage: the hill, the tower, the winos’ bench in the hopeless park, the end of time, with the foreshortening of intoxication or distance, the city was already over. It seemed to have been born an accumulation of ruins, pointing finger stumps and bones at the sky.

17

James, King “The Bible”, Apocalypse 21:1-4

18

Benjamin, Walter ; “Expose of 1939, D, Baudelaire or the streets of Paris“; “The Arcades Project” (trans. Eiland and MacLaughlin) Harvard University Press, New Haven 2002 (page 22) 5

“There were – really – nights when I howled for you and never expected any returning. There were days when I passed it all off as a mistake, and sneered at the you and I that made it. There have certainly been times when I have wondered if you were just the one who happened to be there, a necessary prop for the drama in my heart. I consigned both of you to the dark, long ago, painted over you with bright futures and decisions I almost thought I nearly made. And you live there still and the streets are there still, a theatre of memory behind the bright new facades. These streets and their attendant ghosts extend into my bones, are filigree beneath my skin. My body remembers more than I do. You are in my bones. None of these times are wrong, none have been disproved.”19

Surveyors
Centrifugal force, the spinning of origin that always collapses in upon itself20, throws history off at varying trajectories. So the abyss of the eye behind the theodolite will plot perfect straight lines of futurity across mounded rubble, through the remains of homes.

I have an image in my head that has stayed with me for a month or more now, surveyors standing in a muddy wasteland, gouged by tyre tracks, no trees, a threatening sky. The margins of this space are delineated by a wire fence, against which brightly coloured rubbIsh has been blown and hangs, caught in the mesh. That, and the luminous yellow safety jackets, helmets and equipment of the surveyors are the only patches of colour. They walk around, studying a map. One stands at a distance from the other, holding a stick perpendicular to the mud, whilst the other looks through the theodolite. The device looks like it might pace out the space itself on its long spidery legs; an alien insect.

The surveyor will stand with his machine, the only vertical in a plain of mud and rubble. His eye, at one with his device, will throw a grid of lines from that perfect geometrical point, outwards into the future. This will happen. He will have and has always had, utter confidence in his project. Starting
19 20

From unsent letter addressed to K, 11 December 2001 “...We have seen how labour, life and language acquired their own historicity, in which they were embedded…It is no longer origin that gives rise to historicity; it is historicity that, in its very fabric, makes possible the necessity of an origin which must be both internal and foreign to it: like the virtual tip of a cone in which all differences, all dispersions, all discontinuities would be knitted together so as to form no more than a single point of identity, the impalpable figure of the Same, yet possessing the power, nevertheless, to burst open upon itself and become Other.” Foucault, Michel “The Order of Things” Routledge, New York 2002 (page 359) 6

from here; the new city, clear sightlines21. To him, the levelled plain is the null point. It is, it will be, merely the beginning. To him, the levelled plain, the present that he stands in, is already the past.

They are serious people with a job to do. The wind blows, rattling their map. It is going to rain. They are going to make things happen.

Towers
Two years ago, I sat with a partner in the revolving restaurant at the top of the television tower in what had been East Berlin. From our vantage, the lights of the city span beneath us, as if arranged for our gaze22. We speculated on dark stretches as perhaps marking where the wall once ran, now encroached upon by the illumination of new housing and businesses. The décor, and the man in the tuxedo playing an electric organ at the stationary core, were what we imagined to be the remnants of Soviet chic. The style seemed to give us an invisible wink, a layering of familiar irony.

It dawned on us, looking out and downwards as the East paraded before us for the third time, that we were sitting beyond the limits of what we had grown up thinking of as “The West”. This border had disintegrated, our side had won. We were looking out into what was no longer terra incognita, but parts of what were now called “the New Europe”. But if this no longer marked the edges of the western project, where were they? Perhaps there were no edges any more23.

We returned from that trip to a London where house prices were booming and estate agents’ offices were springing up like mushrooms even in previously “undiscovered” areas.24
21

“The cultural historian Katerina Clark has remarked that those who got entangled in the literary myth of the city’s material precarity chose to ignore the fact that St Petersburg was the heart of a thoroughly real empire… Might a parallel denial of the vast death-toll of the city’s construction be responsible for the repeated motif of the city as a mathematical abstraction, a geometric tracery floating free of the bones on which it was built?” Wood, Tony “Prisoners of Paradise”; “Things Magazine” issue 17-18 spring 2004 (available http://www.thingsmagazine.net/text/t17/petersburg.htm visited 06/10/06) 22 “Whoever has emerged victorious participates to this day in the triumphal procession in which the present rulers step over those who are lying prostrate. According to traditional practice, the spoils are carried along in the procession.” Benjamin, Walter, essay “Theses on the Philosophy of History”, collection “Illuminations” trans. Harry Zohn, Fontana, London 1992 (page 249) 23 In fact, I have a sense that the borders of the West can be inferred by mapping landfill sites. Detritus migrates away from power. These borders also exist closer to home. 24 The following is from an anonymous post on a London property website. It is pretty typical of the sort of thing, largely, I suspect, posted by estate agents themselves. “The Deptford Park area is on of London’s undiscovered gems…not only are there some lovely Victorian houses on quiet streets. The East London line is 8 minutes away…all of this is set to get even better when the new East London line station will open on Surrey 7

Like a cave five stories up, the flat was bare and unfinished, in between tenants and stripped, awaiting refurbishment. Furniture was piled in the centre of the rooms to allow the walls to be painted. I lived around these structures, contemplated them, and never thought of dismantling them, putting their elements to my own use. Unfinished is perhaps the wrong word for something never really started, a long erasure. Large windows looked east across the city. Days passed sitting, gazing out of them. The meniscus of the horizon, pierced by the towers of the Barbican, the telecom tower25and tower 42, lay like a lid over smoky stratas of brick, stone, obsolete connections. Like something painted on the glass, it stayed distant, lost, unmoving. From my five-story height, it could not be reached or touched. I could see the point in those other towers and imagined them occupied by other stylites26. The street itself could only be gained via a creaking and sepulchral lift and there, the shorter perspectives, the closeness of the pavements, made me the more ghostly in contrast. The impact of their touch fragmented me.

Face down in the dirt

Canal road in 2005, which is two minutes walk away…” (http://www.findaproperty.com 20 March 2006) 25 Another structure that once boasted a circular, revolving restaurant. 26 Christian ascetics who stood atop pillars in the first few centuries of christianity 8

“Archaeologists peer into the ground…” found newspaper clipping, provenance unknown. The Archaeologist I have an image cut from a newspaper captioned “Archaeologists peer into the ground…” The man in the foreground lies face down. His arm dangles into a trench about the length and width of a grave. He could be dead. It is impossible to see if his eyes are open or not. Whether his eyes are open or not, he looks at: roots, fragments of bone, pots, ancient pavement, the adhesive earth. I see the same when I close my eyes, the broken dome of my skull. Perhaps his hand is grasping some truncated hand long buried. He will haul that absence into the light. These particularities are what he, or whomever he works for, will attempt to build wholes out of. Everything there in the dark that his arm hangs limply into, is broken.

The geometrical city of the planners glows like a golden net on the surface of the actual. It manifests in fragments. The archaeologist stays face down, whilst shining threads stretch past and over him towards the future.

The Wheel

On my father’s seventieth birthday, my mother, brother and myself accompanied him to the London Eye. I recorded this on video. I watch the film quite often, pause it, anticipate each succeeding section, whilst looking at a frozen frame isolated from the movement. As the wheel ascends, individual elements, cars, buildings, lose their focus and merge into a larger panorama. There is a brief moment of suspension over the city hanging over a carpet of lights that intensify as it gets darker. This could be any city at this moment. Our home is no longer familiar. I often pause it at this point, look at each of us in turn silhouetted against the glittering pixellated wasteland beyond the glass wall of the gondola. We will all imagine that we can point out our respective houses; impossible, of course. All that will be possible is the ability to roughly indicate directions.

The process reversed itself on the way down. Particular streets, then rooftops, became more distinct, 9

until we stepped out onto the pavement to look for my parents’ car. Later, we passed what used to be my father’s bookshop on Chiswick High Road, the house in which I was born. It had been dry cleaners for the past thirty years, but was now undergoing a renovation or perhaps a change of use. The frontage had been removed revealing “PREMIERE BOOK CENTRE” in Roman capitals like an antique inscription, the sign that my father had painted in 1961.

We stop the car. I film him from the other side of the street as he crosses the road to examine it. In the video, he is a small figure, like an antiquarian visiting a burial chamber. He paces back and forth, barely illuminating the empty façade with the sporadic flash of his camera. His face is not visible, but I imagine him squinting, as I have seen him do often when trying to decipher a signature or a page. The traffic passes between us, raking the street with headlights. He turns around, and I zoom in on his face as he waits for a safe time to cross. He doesn’t know that I am filming him. His face is slack but slightly perplexed by something, confused. I pause the tape. As the shadows from the roaring traffic passed across his face, for a moment, he looked like no one so much as his mother.

“…Blasphemy which has no fear is decoration.”27

“Maybe there are constellations of events, places, and the other powers that shape us and our lives. These constellations repeat. Time is not a linear trajectory, it is a mosaic. It makes pictures. Recurrence is what creates patterns, but just because something is a pattern, it doesn’t make it automatically significant. These considerations all tend towards diminishing us, as us, because what is happening is a constellation, a picture, and we are merely elements. Or rather, it doesn’t make its elements automatically significant. They are just indexes of the pattern.”28

There is a story that has been told about the Caryatids, the stone women who stand in place of pillars: “…the figures represent women from the village of Caryae; they have been incorporated into buildings as load-bearing elements, in symbolic punishment for Caryae’s treason in siding with the Persians
27

Walcott, Derek; essay “What the Twilight Says”; collection “What the Twilight Says”; Farar, Straus and Giroux, New York 1998 (page 3) 28 From unsent letter addressed to K, 11 December 2001 10

against the Greeks.”29

These women have been sentenced to hard labour, trapped for millennia beneath the eaves of temples and public buildings. A more explanation for their presence is that they are dancers: “Caryae… also an important place of worship, dedicated to the cult of Artemis Caryatis.” 30 Dance was an essential part of the rites. What could be as giving support could also be choreography31. It is true, however, “In 368 BC, the son of the king of Sparta took Caryae and, according to Xenophon, slit the throats of all those who were not already dead.” 32 Whatever its historical truth the story of punishment has read that likely was

adhered to the women of Caryae, They are trapped in a particular version of history33, just as they are trapped in the decorative scheme in which it is encoded. “It may seem to us as if they move with a light step; but we can’t hear the whip of history slashing the air behind them.”34

The “nut-tree sisterhood”35 have long been mostly forgotten. However, they recur in the measures of the dance drowned out by the clash of weapons, the clanking of chains. Finally their burden is fixed by the apparent lightness of the decorative.
29

Wood, Tony “Prisoners of Paradise” http://www.thingsmagazine.net/text/t17/petersburg.htm (visited 06/10/06) 30 ibid. 31 “As (Artemis) Karyatis she rejoiced in the dances of the nut-tree village of Karyai, those Karyatides who in their ecstatic round-dance carried on their heads baskets of live reeds, as if they were dancing plants" (Kerenyi 1980 p 149). A caryatid supporting a basket on her head is called a canephora ("basket-bearer"), representing one of the maidens who carried sacred objects used at feasts of the gods.“ Wikipedia entry on “Caryatid” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caryatid (visited 05/10/06) 32 Wood, Tony “Prisoners of Paradise” http://www.thingsmagazine.net/text/t17/petersburg.htm (visited 06/10/06) 33 “…the cultural treasures…have an origin which he cannot contemplate without horror…There is no document of civilisation which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” Benjamin, Walter, essay “Theses on the Philosophy of History”, collection “Illuminations” trans. Harry Zohn, Fontana, London 1992 (page 248) 34 Wood, Tony “Prisoners of Paradise” http://www.thingsmagazine.net/text/t17/petersburg.htm (visited 06/10/06) 35 “Karyai had a famous temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis in her aspect of Artemis Karyatis: The Erectheion caryatids, in a shrine dedicated to an archaic king of Athens, may therefore represent priestesses of Artemis in a place named for the "nut-tree sisterhood" Wikipedia entry on “Caryatid” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caryatid (visited 05/10/06) 11

Caryatid

“The Yellow Wallpaper” In the late 1880s a woman confined to her room as a “rest cure” imagines being disgusted, obsessed, menaced and finally absorbed by the wallpaper in her room36:

Grotesque, early 16th century

"...I never saw a worse paper in my life. One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin.
36

“For many years I suffered from a severe and continuous nervous breakdown tending to melancholia--and beyond… I went, in devout faith and some faint stir of hope, to a noted specialist in nervous diseases, the best known in the country. This wise man put me to bed and applied the rest cure…and sent me home with solemn advice to "live as domestic a life as far as possible,"…and "never to touch pen, brush, or pencil again" as long as I lived…I went home and obeyed those directions for some three months, and came so near the borderline of utter mental ruin that I could see over. Then, using the remnants of intelligence that remained…I cast the noted specialist's advice to the winds and went to work again…I wrote The Yellow Wallpaper, with its embellishments and additions…(I never had hallucinations or objections to my mural decorations) and sent a copy to the physician who so nearly drove me mad. He never acknowledged it.” Gilman, Charlotte Perkins; "Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper" (1913) http://www.library.csi.cuny.edu/dept/history/lavender/whyyw.html (visited 09/10/06) 12

It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide--plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions.”

I imagine the pattern to be a trellis, composed of S curves and C scrolls, that climbs and spreads, with garlands, containing in it's interstices vignettes of some sort of pastoral. This style has variously been called rococo, chinoiserie, grotesque and arabesque: the “subterranean-fantastic, the occult-spectral”
37

Nearly two thousand years earlier, Vitruvius describes the same kind of experience, circa 27 BC : “… monsters rather than definite representations taken from definite things…candelabra uphold pictured shrines and above the summits of these, clusters of thin stalks rise from their roots in tendrils with little figures seated on them at random…Such things neither are, nor can be, nor ever have been.”38

The “unheard of” contradictions continue the same.

The Grotesque

For Walter Benjamin, the grotesque style gave birth to baroque allegory, his picture of a world that was a rebus, to be read in which nature “devoted neither to the earthly or moral happiness of creatures, its exclusive aim is their mysterious instruction…serves the purpose of expressing its meaning…The transfixed face of signifying nature is victorious, and history39 must remain in the role of stage-property.”40 The world was not pregnant with immanent meaning, it was hollowed-out, scenery41. Meaning, or instruction was achieved via a dialectical process which navigated the chasm between the world and its meaning.

37

Benjamin, Walter “The Origin of German Tragic Drama” (trans. Osborne, John);Verso London 2003 (page 171) 38 Vitruvius, quoted in Harpham, Geoffrey Galt; “On the Grotesque - Strategies of Contradiction in Art and Literature”; Princeton University Press, New Jersey 1982 (page 26) 39 for the distinction between Nature and History, see page 14, also notes 31,32 40 Benjamin, Walter “The Origin of German Tragic Drama” (trans. Osborne, John);Verso London 2003 (page 170-1) 41 See also pages 5-6, “Serial Monogamy”; “The singular debasement of things through their signification… corresponds…to the singular debasement of things through their price as commodities.” 13

“Meaning” resides elsewhere and is not what stares implacably back at us through the fronds and curlicues. The visible indicates it merely by its absence.

“The ambivalent presence of meaning within the ostensibly meaningless form constituted the real threat…of grottesche.”42

“The word is not derived from grotta in the literal sense, but from the “burial” - in the sense of concealment - which the cave or grotto expresses…For this the eighteenth century still had the expression das verkrochene [that which has crept away].”43

“Das verkrochene”…something has crept away and now hides in the luxurious thicket of decoration where no one will seek it.

“There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down. I get positively angry with the impertinence of it and the everlastingness. Up and down and sideways they crawl, and those absurd, unblinking eyes are everywhere. " 44

She feels the pattern looking back at her. That is its impertinence. It asserts itself, has its own life. The placing of “eyes” on objects as on fishing boats in some parts of the Mediterranean, may mimic the development of similar patterning in the animal kingdom. Some butterflies, for example, display a fixed gaze on the backs of their wings to deter predators. The urge to decorate may be apotropaic in motive.

“Having slain the fearful monster Gorgo…Athene cut off her head and henceforth wore the Gorgoneion as a protective spell on her body and on her shield.”45

42

Harpham, Geoffrey Galt; “On the Grotesque - Strategies of Contradiction in Art and Literature”; Princeton University Press, New Jersey 1982 (page 31) 43 Benjamin, Walter “The Origin of German Tragic Drama” (trans. Osborne, John);Verso London 2003 (page 171) 44 Gilman, Charlotte Perkins “The Yellow Wallpaper”; Courier Dover Publications, New York 1997 (page 5) 45 Gombrich, E H; “The Sense of Order: a study in the psychology of decorative art”; Phaidon Press, Oxford, 1979, (page 257) 14

Human follows fish, to vegetation, to architecture, to a string of pearls. The constituent parts do not harmonise, but are held in place through their endless metamorphoses by a tense line, an arbitrary symmetry. The protean, promiscuous couplings of the style are spread across walls. Architectural, human, animal, vegetable, floral; like the butterfly’s wings, it protects the frail structure of dwelling from the chaos outside by mimicking the chaos. The chain of transformations hides itself in it’s own triviality, it’s hollowness, it’s decorativeness.

Gilman’s narrator ultimately identifies herself with a component of that pattern.

As to it’s “everlastingness“; that is a function of pattern. It repeats. Wallpaper makes a seamless surface to cover the various materials beneath, the cracked plaster, damp.

“…monstrous or chimerical, they… (Grotesque designs) …interweave heterogeneous forms in creative ways that have no obvious model; they ignore nature and the hierarchical ordering of the world. Indeed, the grotesque is removed from any origin or foundation that might undergird it.”46

There is something behind, within, the pattern. Gilman’s narrator becomes aware of it a dangerous constellation moving: “Through watching so much at night, when it changes so, I have finally found out. The front pattern does move- and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it! Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over.…and she is all the time trying to climb through.” 47

She finally becomes part of the wall, physically sticks as close to it as is possible, circling the room as the "creeping woman" that she has either freed from the pattern or has become. The figure of the woman trapped in the “rest cure”48 has joined the “nut tree sisterhood”49.

“Proposing two dissimilar meanings with a single expression, allegory is perpetually and
46

Swain, Virginia E; “Grotesque Figures“; Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London 2004 (page 11) 47 Gilman, Charlotte Perkins “The Yellow Wallpaper”; Courier Dover Publications, New York 1997 (page 12) 48 See note 36, page 12 on the genesis of Gilman’s story 49 See note 35 page 12 15

constitutionally different from itself. Allegory literally designates the speech of the “other” (in Greek, allos), and otherness is its very structure. Furthermore…the grotesque’s heterogeneity requires us to unpack its temporal structure in order to recapitulate the evolution of a species or imagine the possible violence that might have thrown disparate elements together”50

“…nobody could climb through that pattern - it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads. They get through, and then the pattern strangles them off and turns them upside down, and makes their eyes white!” 51

The disposessed of history move within ornament52. This possibly explains its insistence on emptiness; almost forgotten, almost heard, an implacable dance.

Piranesi
50

Swain, Virginia E; “Grotesque figures“; Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London 2004 (page 13) 51 Gilman, Charlotte Perkins “The Yellow Wallpaper”; Courier Dover Publications, New York 1997 (page 12) 52 compare with Bakhtin’s “Grotesque Body”; “The "grotesque" body depicted in pre-Renaissance art in general and Gargantua and Pantagruel in particular is one which, according to Bakhtin, unashamedly "fecundates and is fecundated, that gives birth and is born, devours and is devoured, drinks, defecates, is sick and dying… Rabelaisian man, if Bakhtin's thesis is correct, possessed "true . . . fearlessness" in the face of the human condition. Because he felt his own body to contain within it the presence of the cosmos, because he experienced his embodiment as "a point of transition in a life eternally renewed, the inexhaustible vessel of death and conception…" Bakhtin quoted by Lavery, David; “Evil Genius: An Experiment in Fantastic Philosophy”; available http://davidlavery.net/Grotesque/Major_Artists_Theorists/theorists/bakhtin.html (visited 12/10/06) 16

Dissection of head from “De Human Corpus Fabrica” Andreus Vesalius (1514-64) The tree grows from the pediment….. The broken dome echoes the dissected skull, the autopsy, exposing the vermiculation53 of the brain. Minerals accrete, accumulating stalactites on the ceilings of underpasses. Rain drips slowly through concrete. Artificial ruin is an apotropaic gesture, to include that within the structure which destroys it. The vocabulary of this architecture is made of half forgotten words, frost work, pick work54, that rot as the buildings do. Made for the tongues of connoisseurs, they crumble. Vegetation and mould overtake them, just as those tongues were overtaken.

These letters; their forms are perhaps the remnants of some larger structure. Though the arch of “n” is intact, the column of “t” broken, doors and windows stare blankly, framing nothing. The colonnade of “m” runs nowhere now, three orphaned supports still holding their piece of shattered lintel. They sit, scattered and distinctl in the empty plaza of the page, a museum, for something. Exhibits are placed or left where they fell, as evidence of some catastrophe, preserved for instruction or admonishment.
53

Vermiculated rustication: (Building Stone) “…with the face carved as though eaten away in parts, with irregular worm-like holes and tracks all over it, reminiscent of wood or sand.” Curl, James Stevens “Oxford Dictionary of Architecture” Oxford University Press, Oxford 1999 54 Frost work, Pick work: forms of stylised ageing for building stone, intended to resemble patterns of ice and pitting of age respectively. 17

“The Tomb of Nero” c.1744-47

“In the ruin history has physically merged into the setting. And in this guise history does not assume the form of an eternal life so much as that of irreversible decay.”55

The image above is one of Piranesi’s early capriccios. It was published in an album of ostensibly decorative prints of architectural fantasies. Given the market, a set of rococo images would have been appropriate. This is a rococo image, but the elements of the standard pattern or cartouche: garlands, cscrolls, vegetation have collapsed, rotted, and been infested by snakes and rank weeds. Parts of the outline are still visible in the main mass of debris. Some standard classical elements are included; the tomb at the top and the broken column, but their ruin goes beyond the aesthetically distressed look that may have been required. This is the decay of a style. The whole is in a state of necrotic fermentation, its cells sodden and broken open with the poisonous juice of the decorative.

55

Benjamin, Walter “The Origin of German Tragic Drama” (trans. Osborne, John);Verso London 2003 18

“Intersection of the Via Appia and Via Ardeatina” 1761 Piranesi reconstructed ancient Rome as he imagined that it was, except that in his vision, scratched and eroded into copper plates, acid mimicking millennia of time, weather and war; it was never new. Or perhaps his insight is one that remains applicable to the modern: that as soon as something is built, it is already over. His depiction of the fossil-like debris of Empire and Republic are images of what Benajmin saw as “natural history”56; that is, human history, until its revolutionary awakening; the endless cycles of repetition and obsolescence that exist in nature.

The buildings and monuments pile up on top of each other like coral that develops into reefs by growing anew on the empty carapaces of the previous generations. His version of the Appian Way was already a charnel house when figures in togas drove chariots along it, dwarfed by a cliff face, a petrified wave of tombs. The frozen, decaying tropes of the classical tower above them. It is a form of anti-nostalgia.

56

“…the idea of “natural history” (naturgeschichte) provides critical images of modern history as prehistoric merely natural, not yet history in the truly human sense” ibid. (page 160) 19

In the Hunterian Museum 02/05/06

5 August 1950, Investigators comb the wreckage of a crashed B-29 bomber The Accident Investigators “General agreement exists that an accident involves a sequence of events and that the events sequence must encompass unintentional injury or damage.”57 Questions will be asked, lessons will be learned. The fragments of the aeroplane will be arranged in an empty hangar, numbered, and placed in a timeline. The catastrophe of Jetztzeit 58 will be recouped by serious people in fluorescent yellow jackets. They will establish causes and chronology, put the crisis of the moment into a form that can be assimilated, learned from, then absorbed as useful material into the system that it attacked. The wreckage will be put to use by the future.

57

Benner, Ludwig Jr. “Accident Investigations: Multilinear Events Sequencing Methods” Reprinted from the Journal of Safety Research, June 1975/Vol. 7/No. 2; available http://www.iprr.org/Papers/MES75.html (07/10/06) 58 Literally, “now time”. The unassimilatable present that contains all times. “History is the subject of a structure whose site is not homogenous, empty time, but time filled by the presence of the now (Jetztzeit).” Benjamin, Walter, essay “Theses on the Philosophy of History”, collection “Illuminations” trans. Harry Zohn, Fontana, London 1992 (page 252-3) 20

The bereaved require closure. This is provided by some explanation; sequence. There is an assumption that to know how it happened will somehow ensure that it will not, cannot happen again. The imperative is that the rupture is healed, the path is smoothed again and the future is once again inevitable. Whilst this is a fiction necessary to the continuation of life as before, it remains a fiction. The rupture is this present moment. It cannot heal . It has been wounded and wounding for as long as it has existed, which is forever.59

“It is… assumed that an activity is occurring when an accident begins. An activity is defined as a set of successive events directed -consciously or unconsciously-toward some anticipated or intended outcome. …For accident investigation purposes, an event is something that takes place, an occurrence of moment or significance, a happening logically ensuing from or giving rise to another happening…Events must be described in terms of a single actor and action, which means breaking down the sequence into discrete events that can be so described.”60

The museum Memory is unreliable as it is retrieved. Fragments of what has been merge with our hopes and wishes for it. The act of remembering is itself a wish. The need that it expresses colours its content.

I had previously visited the Hunterian Museum five years ago on several occasions over the period of a week to draw some of the exhibits. Initially, it feels the same, entering the large Greek revival building on Lincolns Inn Fields, collecting a visitor’s pass at reception and climbing the stairs past the portraits of previous fellows of the Royal Society of Surgeons. The weather outside is also the same, a warm early summer’s day, but I do not remember there being carpet in the museum previously.

The walls have been taken up with boards bearing explanatory texts and cases containing exemplary specimens to illustrate them. The bulk of the exhibits are now arranged in a hollow square occupying the centre of the space. It seems that there are less of them now. A sense of privacy has been lost,
59 60

See note 58, on “Jeztzeit” Benner, Ludwig Jr. “Accident Investigations: Multilinear Events Sequencing Methods” Reprinted from the Journal of Safety Research, June 1975/Vol. 7/No. 2; available http://www.iprr.org/Papers/MES75.html (07/10/06) 21

traded for greater visibility, greater ease of circulation. I recall that the main space was divided into bays created by the shelves, where one could be alone, unseen and surrounded by the quiet dead.

The human and animal dead are displayed here. Dismantled into their components, like the mechanisms they have become in this scheme. Their components have been dried, or pickled in jars.

Beyond all hope of resurrection in their previous unlabelled and (to me) unexplained state, they at least retained the privilege of their dumbness61. Now, they are surrounded by explanation, fixed and framed by the texts on the walls. The story being told is one of scientific progress, and these relics are now press-ganged into that glittering procession to the future, carried as its emblems. Or, perhaps worse, its advocates. Severed tongues and larynxes are called upon to break their silence, and perform testimonials for the ventriloquist.62

It began as the collection of an individual63, so each exhibit had already died at least twice64. What was dumb presence to the collector65- his cloak of debris, curios – has been subjected to a final death, that of becoming an illustration. A space for rage, perplexity and mourning has been lost.

A board displays a drawing of a “Diseased Pelvis”. The clean symmetry of the bone is disrupted by

61

“The greater the significance, the greater the subjection to death, because death digs most deeply the jagged line of demarcation between physical nature and significance.” (Benjamin, Walter “Origins of German Tragic Drama”, page 166) 62 The ventriloquist in this case is historical progress. “The danger affects both the content of the tradition and its receivers…that of becoming a tool of the ruling classes. In every era the attempt must be made to wrest tradition from a conformism that is about to overpower it…even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious.” Benjamin, Walter, essay “Theses on the Philosophy of History”, collection “Illuminations” trans. Harry Zohn, Fontana, London 1992 (page 247) 63 The museum‘s founder: “John Hunter (1728-1793) came to London in 1748 at the age of 20 and worked as an assistant in the anatomy school of his elder brother William (1718-83), who was already an established physician and obstetrician… As well as developing new ideas on the treatment of common ailments – such as gunshot wounds and venereal disease – Hunter spent time collecting specimens of lizards and other animals…in 1783 he moved to a large house in Leicester Square, which enabled him to take resident pupils and to arrange his collection into a teaching museum….Hunter devoted all his resources to his museum. It included nearly 14,000 preparations …As his reputation grew, he was supplied with rare specimens such as kangaroos brought back…from James Cook’s voyage of 1768-71.” Information from http://www.rcseng.ac.uk/museums/history/collections.html (visited 14/09/06) 64 “It is the deepest enchantment of the collector to enclose the particular item within a magic circle, where, as a last shudder runs through it (the shudder of being acquired), it turns to stone.” Benjamin, Walter “The Arcades Project” (trans. Eiland and MacLaughlin) Harvard University Press New Haven 2002 (page 205) 65 “The true method of making things present is to represent them in our space…(the collector does this, and so does the anecdote.) Thus represented, the things allow no mediating construction from out of ‘large contexts’.” (ibid. page 206) 22

baroque scrolls of the diseased half, like the vegetation on seashells, crumbling masonry.

“On Saturday morning last, john Symmons esq. Of Grovenor House, had a mummy dissected there by Mr. John Hunter, at which were present Doctor Brocklesby, and others of the faculty with several of the literati…In the language of surgery, she cut up well…The company, after the custom of ancient funerals, dined together, and afterwards poured libations to her memory.” 66

There is a distinct and telling contrast between “…she cut up well…(and) afterwards poured libations to her memory.” The difference is that between a trauma that has been defused, narrated; and one that retains the potential of an angry ghost.

“…external influences are termed perturbations when they vary or deviate from what is usual or expected…as long as the actors adapt to the perturbations encountered without being stressed beyond their capability to adapt or recover…homeostasis is maintained and an accident does not occur. If one of the actors fails or is unable to adapt, the perturbation initiates an events sequence that ends homeostasis and begins the accident sequence… with cascading injury or damage. Until the subsequently stressed actors are able to accommodate the impinging stresses without further harm, the accident continues toward its outcome, governed by the condition of the actors, the events, and the laws of nature. Thus, the accident can be seen to begin with a perturbation and end with the last injurious or damaging event in the continuing accidental events sequence.”67

Benjamin differentiates between two forms of memory. 68 The first, following Proust, he calls memoire volontaire, its vital characteristic is that “the information which it gives about the past retains no trace of it.”69 The second, memoire involontaire, is that which was contained in the Proustian madeleine. This is the past that still contains a shock, is still alive with a critical charge, and will return when it wills. Citing Freud, he suggests an important function of consciousness is actually to absorb the
66

Text from board in museum, quoted from The Times 4 April 1788. The board also explains that it was fashionable in the late eighteenth century to collect mummies. Fakes were plentiful, and anatomists, such as the Hunters, were used to certify their authenticity. 67 Benner, Ludwig Jr. “Accident Investigations: Multilinear Events Sequencing Methods” Reprinted from the Journal of Safety Research, June 1975/Vol. 7/No. 2; available http://www.iprr.org/Papers/MES75.html (07/10/06) 68 Benjamin, Walter, essay “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire”, collection “Illuminations” trans. Harry Zohn, Fontana, London 1992 (pages 153-9) 69 ibid. page 155 23

shocks of stimulus, thus to protect the organism. “The greater the share of the shock factor in particular impressions, the more constantly consciousness has to be alert as a screen against stimuli…perhaps the special achievement of shock defence may be seen in its function of assigning to an incident a precise point in time in consciousness at the cost of the integrity of its contents.”70

“I am thinking of an occasion about seven years back. I was looking after my parents’ cats, and, being bored in the house, dug out some of my old stuff. Part of that was my teenage diary. I sat on the back step – it was summer and very hot- and read them. I had been used to patronising my younger self, as if he was a slightly embarrassing younger sibling. Not to be taken seriously. Not real, entirely, because I was the only authentic version, and knew far better. As I read, over a day or so, that teenage self came back to me. It was not my voice, not as I remembered it. But he was real, and gone, and forceful. His loves and hates were vivid.”71

Mourning is a reaction to the discontinuity wrought by death. Someone or something is no longer there.

Notes on style

“(Saint) Simeon discovered a pillar which had survived amongst ruins, formed a small platform at the top, and upon this determined to live out his life. This first pillar was little more than four metres high, but his wellwishers subsequently replaced it with others, the last in the series being apparently over 15 metres from the ground.”72

In the beginning, the world was a featureless ball of clay. Humans and other creatures moved on its surface. Driven by habit, the strongest force in the universe, their wanderings wore paths into it, which became deeper over time. Habitations were hollowed out of the sides of these gullies. The streets
70 71

ibid page 159 From unsent letter addressed to K, 11 December 2001 72 “Simeon Stylites” from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simeon_Stylites (visited (03/10/06) 24

continued to sink, as the ceaseless movement of humans and other creatures eroded them further into the earth. This process left the roadside shrines, drinking troughs, public monuments, sundials and saints rising above the level of utility, out of reach of the passing populace. They remained, became decorative features. Part of the facades, their use was forgotten. They became style.

“…the notion of style, generically considered, has a specific, historical meaning. It is not only that most styles belong to a time and place; and that our perception of a given work of art is always charged with an awareness of the work’s historicity, its place in chronology. Further, the visibility of styles is itself a product of historical consciousness.”73

Empires link hands over centuries. The “Classical“ reappears, each time referring back to a vanished model, source of legitimacy and prototype of form. Each new manifestation is a step back towards the pure form, the origin. The origin evoked attempts to manifest as the new, then sinks back again into obscurity. From some perspectives, time does not march towards a brighter future. Each novelty, appearing as the cover for a vast repetition, provokes a yawn.

“Fashion has a flair for the topical, no matter where it stirs in the thickets of long ago; it is a tiger’s leap into the past. This jump, however, takes place in an arena where the ruling class gives the commands.”74

As Marx wrote, unforgettably, history repeats once as tragedy, then again as farce75. It returns insistently as style. Finally, as pastiche or parody, though he did not think so, when the assumed core beneath the carapace is rotted away76. The forms and terms of its model are echoed, with subversive intention – but still it repeats them. The need to reiterate, which might be the vital element in play is overlooked.

Maximilien Robespierre made a speech at time when he presided over a France that was about to set
73 74

Sontag, Susan; essay “On Style”, “A Susan Sontag reader”; Penguin, London 1982 (page 139) ibid. (page 253) 75 Marx, Karl “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon”(trans. Padover, Saul K, Engel, Freidrich). http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1852/18th-brumaire/ch01.htm (visited 7/10/06) 76 “The false appearance of totality is extinguished. For the eidos dissapears, the simile ceases to exist, and the cosmos that it contained shrivels up. The dry rebuses which remain contain an insight…” Benjamin, Walter “The Origin of German Tragic Drama” (trans. Osborne, John);Verso London 2003 (page 176) 25

out into a new era, the calender had changed – year one had arrived77. He set out his version of the future in it, his remade world.

"...We wish in our country that morality may be substituted for egotism, probity for false honour, principles for usages, duties for good manners, the empire of reason for the tyranny of fashion, a contempt of vice for a contempt of misfortune, pride for insolence, magnanimity for vanity, the love of glory for the love of money, good people for good company, merit for intrigue, genius for wit, truth for tinsel show, the attractions of happiness for the ennui of sensuality, the grandeur of man for the littleness of the great, a people magnanimous, powerful, happy, for a people amiable, frivolous and miserable...."78

He rightly identified ennui, or boredom and sensuality together, amongst his enemies. The indolent attitude of these decadent twins towards time was hardly something he could condone. In his new Republic, the present, “charged“ as it was with the jeztzeit of ancient Rome79 had no place for the neurasthenic dalliances of the old regime. He was intent on directing attention to the future; the work was not complete, and sacrifices must be made until “we may at least witness the dawn of the bright day of universal happiness. “80

Sensuality is so mixed up in the texture of boredom, that is to say time, it is impossible to tease the two apart, or tell which caused which. In boredom, time becomes a physical sensation. It thickens. Every moment has weight. Listless passionate afternoons in bed, watching the light change beyond the curtain, twilight spreading from the corners of the room. Turning around for another embrace,
77

“On July 14,1790, the Moniteur universel dates itself “first day of the second year of Liberty”…Then, on September 22, 1792, the Convention, having abolished the monarchy the day before, went on to abolish the Christian Era. All official documents would henceforth be dated from year 1 of the French Republic; and in 1793 the Republic adopted a decimal calender appropriate to the rational era…” Weber, Eugen “Apocalypses”; Hutchinson, London, 1999 (page 14) 78 Robespierre, Maximilien: “On the Principles of Political Morality, February 1794“http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1794robespierre.html (visited 09/06/06) 79 “...to Robespierre ancient Rome was a past charged with the time of now which he blasted out of the continuum of history. The French revolution viewed itself as Rome reincarnate. It evoked ancient Rome the way fashion evokes costumes of the past.” Benjamin, Walter, essay “Theses on the Philosophy of History”, collection “Illuminations” trans. Harry Zohn, Fontana, London 1992 (page 253)(page 253) 80 “What is the end of our revolution? The tranquil enjoyment of liberty and equality; the reign of that eternal justice, the laws of which are graven, not on marble or stone, but in the hearts of men…We wish, in a word, to fulfill the intentions of nature and the destiny of man, ….and that, by sealing the work with our blood, we may at least witness the dawn of the bright day of universal happiness. This is our ambition, - this is the end of our efforts…” Robespierre, Maximilien: “On the Principles of Political Morality, February 1794“http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1794robespierre.html (visited 09/06/06) 26

because the day has gone, anyway. Boredom is letting things slip away, because they will pass anyway, and watching the process.....sitting staring at the letter that has to be posted, until it's too late.

Smoking is a pleasure, it is also lethal. Smoking is, amongst other things, a physical index of boredom. It is what you do more when bored. The cylinder between the fingers is burning up time, like a medieval monastic candle clock. It also burns up time at the other end of our lives, so we are told. each cigarette burning minutes off the total lifespan, in addition to how long it takes to smoke it. Part of the pleasure is, the feeling that time become physical, set alight, then drawn in and exhaled. It dissipates- becoming a ghost, an odour. A bored room will be seasoned and thickened with cigarette smoke.

Things elongate, draw out; instead of events - fireworks, and cockroaches scuttling in a huge empty hall - they are part of the fabric of time, its texture and its architecture., the cornerstone; scarred, gouged; the passing of eons are integrated into the fabric of the freshly built palace.

As style yields a perfume, so does boredom. The repetition and cannibalisation of style is a form of amnesia, but contains memory in a repressed and more dangerous form81

On the compulsive repetition of a decorative element: “It’s this hidden narrative that I think St Petersburg’s atlantes82 and caryatids are part of, their recurrence not solely an inadequate stylistic response to social upheaval, but the formal figure through which the city’s architectonic unconscious expressed an enormous, irrevocable loss.” That of the thousands of serf labourers who were conscripted to build the city, and died in the process “They are a sculpturally encrypted memory or dream-image, guilt-laden, persistent, unshakeable…on and on until the cataclysmic awakening of 1917, St Petersburg had the same recurrent dream, in which the unnumbered and unnamed victims of its birth-agonies wore the masks of ancient strongmen and dancers.”83

“One function of style…(is)…to preserve the works of mind against oblivion. This function is easily
81 82

See page 25, Benjamin, Freud and the memoire involontaire Male column figure, male counterpart of the Caryatid 83 Wood, Tony “Prisoners of Paradise”http://www.thingsmagazine.net/text/t17/petersburg.htm (visited 06/10/06) 27

demonstrated in the rhythmical, sometimes rhyming character of all primitive, oral literatures…rhythm, rhyme and the more complex resources of poetry…are means that words have for creating a memory for themselves…form, in its specific idiom, style - is a plan of specific sensory imprinting, the vehicle for the transaction between immediate sensuous impression and memory (be it individual or cultural).”84

Style is the decorative sheath that remains after the breaking, or rusting, of a real blade. What do blades do? They cut, they separate. Style is the afterglow of a sunset, giving enough light to perceive the lineaments of the crumbling temple, but not to decipher the inscriptions. It is the perfume that seeps from the bones and empty skull, and clings85. In this way, it is the visible sign that refers back to a vanished origin, the source of the borrowed glamour, and its legitimacy.86

“…This mnemonic function explains why every style depends on, and can be analysed in terms of, some principle of repetition or redundancy.”87

“I wanted something back. Something of me seemed to have been swallowed, has been swallowed. I know we all ultimately go into the dark, but something felt prematurely erased. I know also that we are born with this need, it is primal, and we never lose it. It attaches to any convenient – or inconvenientobject, when it will, for it’s own reasons. It is larger than our world because it is larger than any object in it, larger than all the objects. It attaches itself in order to make itself manifest. This need will not be placated, no matter what happens between us, and anyone else. It still feels as if something can be brought back from oblivion. Some strata of life can be unearthed. I feel blessed for that.”88

84 85

Sontag, Susan; essay “On Style”, “A Susan Sontag reader”; Penguin, London 1982 (pages 153-4) “…The miracle of St Nicholas's manna, a pure water collected from the tomb every May. Whether it emanates from the bones or the marble, no one knows for sure, but its perfume is said to ward off evil…Key rings, plaques, medallions, books and ashtrays are priced in lire, dollars and roubles. A thimble of manna, diluted with holy water, goes for £1.50. A deluxe two-litre bottle will set you back £160.” “Bones of contention” Rory Caroll The Guardian 22 December 2000 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,414584,00.html) 86 “…it seems that signs are drawn chiefly to indicate how something must be repeated. Protocol is the first literary genre. For something to have meaning, it must be repeated - and if one thing is to be repeated, everything must be repeated.” Calasso, Roberto "The Ruins of Kasch" (trans.william weaver and stephen sartarelli) Vintage London 1997 (page 186) 87 Sontag, Susan; essay “On Style”, “A Susan Sontag reader”; Penguin, London 1982 (pages 153-4) 88 From unsent letter addressed to K, 11 December 2001 28

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