“anonymity is compensated for by a certain number of expedients (at least this is how they look to us), whose combination forms a system. one can figure out the address by a (written or printed) schema of orientation…”

19/08/2011 § Leave a comment

nicolas allinder, moriyama house site context (2010)

 

the streets of this city have no names.  there is of course a written address, but it has only a postal value, it refers to a plan (by districts and by blocks, in no way geometric), knowledge of which is accessible to the postman, not to the visitor: the largest city in the world is practically unclassified, the spaces which compose it in detail are unnamed.  this domiciliary obliteration seems inconvenient to those (like us) who have been used to asserting that the most practical is always the most rational (a principle by virtue of which the best urban toponymy would be that of numbered streets, as in the united states or in kyoto, a chinese city).  tokyo meanwhile reminds us that the rational is merely one system among others.  for there to be a mastery of the real (in this case, the reality of addresses), it suffices that there be a system, even if this system is apparently illogical, uselessly complicated, curiously disparate: a good bricolage can not only work for a very long time, as we know; it can also satisfy millions of inhabitants inured, furthermore, to all the perfections of technological civilization.

anonymity is compensated for by a certain number of expedients (at least this is how they look to us), whose  combination forms a system.  one can figure out the address by a (written or printed) schema of orientation, a kind of geographical summary which situates the domicile starting from a known landmark; a train station, for instance.  (the inhabitants excel in these impromptu drawings, where we see being sketched, right on the scrap of paper, a street, an apartment house, a canal, a railroad line, a shop sign, making the exchange of addresses into a delicate communication in which a life of the body, an art of the graphic gesture recurs: it is always enjoyable to watch someone write,a ll the more so to watch someone draw: from each occasion when someone has given me an address in this way, i retain the gesture of my interlocutor reversing his pencil to rub out, with the eraser at its other end, the excessive curve of an avenue, the intersection of a viaduct; though the eraser is an object contrary to the graphic tradition of japan, this gesture still produced something peaceful, something caressing and certain, as if, even in this trivial action, the body “labored with more reserve than the mind,” according to the precept of the actor zeami; the fabrication of the address greatly prevailed over the address itself, and, fascinated, i could have hoped it would take hours to give me that address.)  you can also, provided you already know where you are going, direct your taxi yourself, from street to street.  and finally, you can request the driver to let himself be guided by the remote visitor to whose house you are going, by means of one of those huge red telephones installed in front of almost every shop in the street.  all this makes the visual experience a decisive element of your orientation: a banal enough proposition with regard to the jungle or the bush, but one much less so with regard to a major modern city, knowledge of which is usually managed by map, guide, telephone book; in a word, by printed culture and not gestural practice.  here, on the contrary, domiciliation is sustained by no abstraction; except for the land survey, it is only a pure contingency: much more factual than legal, it ceases to assert the conjunction of an identity and a property.  this city can be known only by an activity of an ethnographic kind: you must orient yourself in it not by book, by address, but by walking, by sight, by habit, by experience; here every discovery is intense and fragile, it can be repeated or recovered only by memory of, the trace it has left in you: to visit a place for the first time is thereby to begin to write it: the address not being written, it must establish its own writing.

 

roland barthes’ essay no address has been on my from the moment i read it several years ago.

 

how do you piece together place

a young hare

 

 

notes:

[title]     today’s title and essay come from:

Barthes, Roland, and Richard (Schriftsteller) Howard. Empire of Signs. New York: Hill and Wang, 1982. Print.

[image]     today’s image was created by a young hare and inspired by the work of armelle caron.

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