Altitude: an e-journal of emerging humanities work

July 1, 2004

Beyond My Window

Filed under: Volume 2: Dreamscapes (2002) — Tags: , — Clifton Evers @ 6:32 am

by Lesley Williams, Altitude, Volume 2, Article 5, 2002.

PDF Version: Beyond My Window

Beneath the surface of me (1)…a philosophical daydream on the metaphoric and practical qualities of Utopia

At the tip of each fine frond of the Melaleuca, fat drops of rain collect and gleam wetly with reflected light, until a wrenching wind-gust launches them back into the saturated grey backdrop of afternoon, into the swift flow of water channelling a depression along the edge of the mown space just beyond our fence. Parrots, three, bright orange at chest and crest, a hint of green, turquoise winged, dance and dash through short watery grass, gather wash-away seeds with gusto.

All the birds are energised by the rain. A dozen sparrows peck and twitter in the Hakea. Two blackbirds chase a nosy yellow-wing away from their nest-site in the ivy-covered tank stand.

Lesley Williams studies in the English Department at Adelaide University.

Advertisements

manentersroom

Filed under: Volume 2: Dreamscapes (2002) — Tags: — Clifton Evers @ 6:27 am

by Ike Kim, Altitude, Volume 2, Creative 1, 2002.

PDF Version: manentersroom

man
enters
room

man
turns
round

takes
step
ford

turns
a
round

look
at
you

man enters room
man orders
turtle soup

man says “This
isn’t turtle
soup.”

man enters room
man orders
turtle soup

man says “That
wasn’t turtle
soup.”

man enters room
man orders
turtle soup

man says “Oh
my god, what
have we done

man enters room
extends body falls
like a stone

man is found
dead with some
thing on his
back

man enters room
man finds man

man says “We’ve
found Adam.”

man enters room
man goes to
sleep

man wakes up
turns to side
finds stick in
bed and dies

man enters room
man turns round
takes two steps
turns twice to
the right looks
forward walks
towards you step

turns twice to
the right walks
forward says a r e
y o u o k a y

reaches for you
see a fire
extinguish
er pick it
up hold it
pull pin squeeze

the man moves
toward you a r e
y o u o k a y

man enters
room looks at
you takes long

braid of hair
wrapped round neck
in right hand

left
hand reaches
into jacket

knife cuts off
braid at nape
of neck put

in box stand
palms up to
sky

man
enters room

Conversations with Barthes Prior to Committing Suicide

Filed under: Volume 2: Dreamscapes (2002) — Tags: , — Clifton Evers @ 6:23 am

by Mark Noe, Altitude, Volume 2, Creative 2, 2002.

PDF Version: Conversations with Barthes Prior to Committing Suicide

This story takes place in black and white. Not the black and white of a Twilight Zone rerun, the hard colourless angles so startling after the filtered sepia tones of a McDonald’s commercial. And not the black and white of false dawn; potential colours only, flattened into shades of grey. This is the black and white of colours so intense, so thick, so full that they shift out of red and blue and green, into a spectrum that has no room for anything but black. So more accurately, this story takes place in black and black.

Close your eyes; hold them shut till the last image has faded from your retina. This black. Squeeze your eyes tight, and ghost images intrude on the blackness, images so bright-black they hurt, and we would turn away if we could.

* * *

Michel Foucault: ‘The text always contains a certain number of signs referring to the author. These signs, well known to grammarians, are personal pronouns, adverbs of time and place, and verb conjunction’ (204-5).

* * *

He wakes from a dream; the dream has been in colour. He always dreams in colour-though he never remembers the dreams, only the colours. And he does not wake directly from the dream. He stops dreaming, going from REM sleep to deep sleep, a place without sight let alone colour, and from there he wakes.

* * *

Roland Barthes: ‘Linguistically, the author is never more than the instance of writing, just as I is nothing other than the instance saying I’ (1988 169).

* * *

He usually awoke with his radio alarm tuned to K-Oldies. Buddy Holly or the Big Bopper would return briefly from the dead to gently nudge him awake. He would shower, shave, brush his teeth, put on one of four suits in one of four shades of grey, and go to work. Sometimes he would stop at McDonald’s on the way and pick up a Breakfast Burrito and an orange juice.

This morning (he could not tell if it was truly morning, or some hour of the night he had never visited before), he did not get up, did not shower or shave or brush his teeth. He did not put on one of four suits in one of four shades of grey. He did not go to work. He lay tangled in his sheets and stared at the night, having decided that it was indeed night. A night so rich in black that the air seemed thick with the colour, as though a fog made up of impossibly small droplets of black had seeped under his door. At the same time, the blackness stretched so far into the distance that his bedroom walls no longer seemed the solid barriers that they had been when he went to sleep.

* * *

Roland Barthes: ‘Ego always has a position of transcendence with regard to you, I being interior to what is stated and you remaining exterior to it’ (1989 16).

* * *

A gargoyle perched on his bedpost. Or it may have been a grotesque. I’m sure I learned the difference in school. Just as I learned the difference between stalactite and stalagmite. I was given a little phrase: ‘Stalactites hold on tight and stalagmites grow with all their might’. But they never gave me a phrase for gargoyle and grotesque. I know it has something to do with water flowing out of their mouths or not. But since this particular gargoyle (or grotesque) had his mouth closed and was perched on a bedpost, the point may be moot.

* * *

Foucault has noted the relationship between pronouns, adverbs of time and place, verb conjunctions-and the author. Barthes the transcendence of the pronoun ‘I’ and its unique connectedness with the pronoun you. An explication of the pronouns in this narrative may tell us something, if not of the author, of the text, if not of the text, of the reader-and the distinction between these terms.

The first paragraph of this narrative contains no personal pronouns. Though this may simply be a rhetorical device, a disembodied not-voice reinforcing the surrealistic, the question arises, who is speaking? Author? Implied author? The protagonist?

Adverbs of time and place, which refer to an imaginary local identified in the opening sentence as ‘This story’ are of no help. ‘Story’ refers, not to a real place, but to a locus that is in flux, that takes on form only with the introduction of a pronoun, the second person you in the phrase ‘close your eyes’. Yet, this you is too ambiguous to focus ‘story’. Perhaps this is that artificial-intimate you found in some experimental fiction, an internal monologue which attempts to incorporate the reader. If this you is the reader, a new problem arises; the admonition, ‘close your eyes’, creates a situation in which reading can not occur.

The locus of ‘story’, never stable, shifts when you supplies its binary, an implied I, and changes to we in ‘we would turn away if we could’. This we invokes both the impersonal, or royal we, and the intimate we which incorporates the implied I with the audience, and emphasises the external position of the reader first introduced by the imperative to ‘close your eyes’.

The locus is drawn back into the text with the third person he, later identified as the protagonist. Interspersed as it is among the numerous pronoun shifts, this he, rather than solidifying the narrative on the protagonist, becomes as transitory as the other pronouns.

Any attempt at locating a narrative focus in the he is further problematised by the chatty I of the gargoyle section. Who is this I? How does the I differ from the he? From the I now speaking?

This fluid sliding of pronouns, rather than obscuring meaning, is revelatory, exposing in minute increments that this story is not about the protagonist (the he). If we would find meaning in this story, we must look, not to the protagonist, but to ourselves, reader and writer, and the tension between the pronouns I and you. Reference Barthes: ‘I and you are reversible, I can always become you, and vice versa’ (1989 16). We must look to the experience created within a text when these two pronouns merge in narrative, replacing the he; in many respects, this merging defines the author-reader dynamic.

* * *

‘Who are you?’ he asked the gargoyle, surprised that he was not surprised to see such a creature perched on his bedpost.

‘A gargoyle,’ the gargoyle replied, then appeared to consider this statement for a moment. ‘I think.’

‘What’s happening?’ he asked.

‘Nothing yet,’ the gargoyle (or grotesque) replied in a granite voice. ‘At one time the rules said that the story must begin with some action of the protagonist. However, we now operate under a new paradigm, which says the story must begin with some action of the reader. Under this paradigm, meaning may be embodied in you, but you have no body.’

* * *

Dialogue confronts the difficulty theory has in addressing the proposition that the speaking subject speaks, not from a text, but from a body. Theory has so distanced the text from that body as to render the body’s existence questionable.

Dialogue, by definition, originates in a body. Through it, metonymically, the knowledge that there is, or was a body remains. At the same time, theory, in distinguishing between the writer and the author, asserts that one is body and the other concept. Still, at some point we must ask ourselves, if the author is dead, what has become of the writer? Which is represented by the I and which by the he and what happens when the you of the reader is introduced to them?

* * *
Snow started falling. Thick, soft flakes that hit the desk top and collapsed into clear pools of water, to slide noiselessly down the slope of the desk. They looked florescent in the blackness.

One landed on his cheek and dissolved into a slushy rivulet down his chin.

‘What’s this?’

The gargoyle appeared to examine the blackness with intense concentration. The snowflakes that landed on him clung to his granite surface without melting.

‘Atmosphere.’

* * *

Black. All visual images in this narrative are sucked into this colour that is not a colour, yet that embodies and includes all other colours.

At some point we must examine this use of colour. Are these colour images what Barthes refers to as ‘insignificant notation’ (1989 142), descriptors which have no purpose within the structure of the narrative? Is colour simply a part of setting, atmosphere, description? Or-as Barthes has made numbingly clear in S/Z, does, in fact, ‘everything signif(y) something’ (51)? Are colour images (those of sight, a function of the body) the first indication that a body exists behind, possibly within, the text-that the narrative, unlike the text, does not exist outside of a temporality conceived and perceived by a body?

Black is imbued with an excess of symbolic meaning in our culture. It is just such an excess that makes it useful as a metaphor for narrative. Extending the word black: ‘black hole’ provides us a complete metaphor for narrative. Colour, not colour, yes-yet, not a static image. Colour metamorphosing, in flux, within time and transcending time. Sucking everything up into it, or, recognising that within such a temporality it is simply impractical to differentiate between the colours which form it. Each individual colour undifferentiated from the other. Just as writer, reader, text, are distinct-yet become undifferentiated within the narrative.

* * *
The snow melted. The blackness became complete.

A television flickered to life, breaking the blackness into intermittent reflections of its own grainy mirror of reality. Steve Allen sat comfortably in a swivel leather chair facing two men on a couch. Smiling at the camera, he spoke.

‘I have with me today Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault, interestingly enough, both Frenchmen, and incidentally, both dead. So we’re very fortunate to have them here tonight to discuss the death of the author with us.’ He swivelled his chair to face the older man. ‘Let’s start with you, Dr Barthes. What is the significance of the author to current theoretical thought?’

Barthes cleared his throat and spoke slowly, as though choosing each word with care.

‘The explanation of a work is always sought in the man or woman who produced it, as if it were always in the end, through the more or less transparent allegory of the fiction, the voice of a single person, the author “confiding” in us’ (1988 168).

‘I take it this isn’t what’s really happening,’ Steve Allen suggested.

Barthes nodded. ‘Writing is the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin. Writing is that neutral composite, oblique space where our subject slips away, the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very identity of the body writing’ (1988 168).

‘I’m afraid you’ve lost me there,’ Steve Allen said, turning to the camera and chuckling in a comfortable, self-depreciating way, as though to assure any viewers who were also lost that any reasonable person would be. He turned back to Barthes. ‘Of course, your most famous statement, Doctor Barthes, is that the author must die. Why is that?’

Foucault answered, and though Barthes fidgeted, he seemed content to allow him to speak for both of them. ‘This relationship between writing and death is�manifested in the effacement of the writing subject’s individual characteristics. Using all the contrivances that he sets up between himself and what he writes, the writing subject cancels out the signs of his particular individuality. As a result, the mark of the writer is reduced to nothing more than the singularity of his absence; he must assume the role of the dead man in the game of writing’ (198).

Steve Allen smiled. ‘That’s very interesting. Now, I’m afraid it’s time for a word from our sponsor.’

The television sputtered, then went blank as some inane jingle for some fast food restaurant attempted to dissipate the darkness.

* * *
The protagonist was no longer in bed. He stood in line at McDonald’s. He blinked in surprise at a colour that wasn’t black. His eyes soon adjusted to the filtered sepia tones.

He was naked, though no one seemed to notice. The employees and patrons wore identical smiles of delight on their faces. An inspiring jingle perfectly complimented the sepia tones.

‘This doesn’t look good,’ the gargoyle, perched on the ‘Fresh Salad’ cooler said.

‘What doesn’t?’ the protagonist asked. He found the presence of the gargoyle reassuring.

‘He’s getting desperate.’

‘Who?’

‘The Author. Better do something soon. He feels as though he has lost his agency. He requires you to give him meaning.’

‘Isn’t he the one in charge? Isn’t he writing this?’

‘At one time, within the confines of the story, he was God. Or was it within the confines of reality, God was author? That’s why he (the author, not God) started writing in the first place, to make of himself the speaking subject. Now he’s not even sure if he will exist after the text is completed. If something doesn’t happen soon, he may revert to nihilism.’ The gargoyle shook his head stiffly. ‘That isn’t a very pretty sight.’

* * *

Roland Barthes: ‘The birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the author’ (1988 172).

* * *

The door to the McDonald’s opened and a man in camo, carrying a gun, stepped in. The protagonist supposed the gun was an AK47.

‘Yes, it is,’ said the gargoyle. ‘You should have done something.’

‘What?’ He yelled. It wasn’t as though he hadn’t tried. He didn’t know what was expected of him-a typical post-modern dilemma. He wasn’t sure who he was-character, author, reader. He wasn’t sure, if he died, who would die with him. He wasn’t even sure whose thought that was.

The delighted smiles never left the faces of the employees and patrons as one by one the man in camo blew their brains into pulpy purple and grey abstract patterns on the otherwise spotless tile wall.

He blew the gargoyle’s head into dust and pebbles, then turned the gun on him.

* * *

Headline: Gunman Kills 17 In McDonald’s

A lone gunman shot and killed seventeen people in the McDonald’s on South 820 this morning. An eighteenth victim survived the shooting, but remains in critical condition. His name is being withheld pending notification of his relatives. (Details on pg. 6).

Works Cited

Foucault, Michel. ‘What is an Author?’ In Modern Criticism and Theory. Ed. David Lodge. London: Longman, 1988.
Barthes, Roland. ‘The Death of the Author’. In Modern Criticism and Theory. Ed. David Lodge. London: Longman, 1988.
–. The Rustle of Language. Berkley: University of California Press, 1989.
–. S/Z. New York: Noonday, 1974.

Balloonman

Filed under: Volume 2: Dreamscapes (2002) — Tags: — Clifton Evers @ 6:19 am

by Liza Slater, Altitude, Volume 2, Creative 3, 2002.

PDF Version: Balloonman

Looking back
I’ve lost them. The ribbon has been cut to this bridge which our son engineered, that they say is a marriage between art and science. My wife Helen is striding out front there somewhere, arm in arm with our son Eddie. Me, I’m back here. I’m not one for crowds. All those people surging behind you, it just makes me nervous. If they get too excited or just have to get somewhere, they’ll trample you. You see I’m a balloon man. I make animals out of balloons. You know mainly to thrill the kiddies. Something for them to take away from the side show; more permanence then fairy floss, more impermanence then memory. That’s what I love about the balloon figures the most, their impermanence; beauty is after all. If the crowd, who are the first ever to cross this bridge, were to look below to their right, they would see the cities only permanent fair. The fair, or carnie as we jokingly call it, has yet to stir for the day. Mornings come late to those of us with a preference for in betweens rather than crossings.

‘We’ are of course very proud of our son. I want to be proud of my son. He calls me Harry, never Dad. I’ve never grown use to it. I do give myself some credit for my son’s career. A little that is. I’m not for parents sharing too much of their children’s limelight. So much of who they are, is who they are. But as I tried to explain to Helen once, my career path although appearing to be extremely different, isn’t really. Well of course it is, but isn’t, also. I believe Eddie’s love of bridges comes from my own love of building bridges. That’s what I do, I believe, as a balloon man. The bridge between the dream and holding the dream. It is after all the imagination that pursues the kiddie into wanting, lets say a giraffe for a pet. And after all it is the imagination that transforms the balloon into the giraffe the child wanted. Remember how much you wept over the loss of your special toy. The joy upon its return.

What led Eddie to become the engineer of this bridge? This bridge that causes people to smile and to get up early to be the first to cross it. Was it planned from a young age? Or was it just a serious of decisions that he hardly knows he made? Thinking back over his growing up I always get tangled in my own. From up here it all seems so clear the connection between this bridge of Eddie’s and what I do. How much difference is there between what I do and Eddie’s chosen profession? A lot some would say. But is there? Every structure, no matter how big, eventually crumbles. This I have always known but just haven’t known how to thread it into words. It is the very essence of my chosen career: what is will change no matter what. The lime green sausage balloon dog that so thrills the child, will deflate, become forgotten, lost, or accidentally get squished between the wall and a leg of a chair. We take the rubber of dreams and attempt to twist it into reality, ending up with knotted balloon giraffes, sausage dogs, and poodles. Despite that we grow to love them.

What I wanted to tell you is what I can see from up here. I get easily side tracked. Helen points this out to me. It’s true. There I am making a family dinner, chopping up the vegies, marinating the meat, and before I know it I’m fixing the leg of a chair that’s been rickety for too long. Helen fails to see the connection, only that I’m dithering over dinner. I would argue, if I was one for arguing, that for a successful family dinner it’s best if there is a sense of security at the family table. “Dinner will be late, yet again!” Helen hates a late dinner. It upsets her routine. She likes to walk her babies directly after dinner and then is one to retire early with a good book. She’s an avid reader. It’s not for me. I’ve always been one to use my hands.

School was not a good time for me. It sticks with you, all that school torment. I was always so big. People either gave me a hard time about it or expected me to be what I wasn’t. It wasn’t that I was a fat child, just a lot older looking than my years. People looked at my body, not at me. Of course I was expected to be a sportsman: a child thrust into a scrum of men. I was asked questions I could never answer. Spoken to openly about, what to me were still the mysteries of adulthood, sex. I just didn’t understand. Always felt so confused and left out of the joke. I disappointed; was disappointed. Looking in the mirror was like looking at a stranger. Once I implored Helen to understand that being a child that was so big only makes the adult want to be small.

There I go off on a tangent. A terrible terrible trait. Well there I go again talking in the negative. Susan says to me, gently, that I do this and that I’m being harsh on myself, rather I should say something like… I’m not sure how she’d put it, but she would encourage me to be more positive. Susan is a friend of mine who works the fair in the summer months. Only in the summer. From up here I can almost see her caravan. Not quite, I can’t lean out far enough. She still remains hidden. It is too early for her to be awake. To be brewing her first coffee in a long succession of coffees.

Since Susan has been a part of the fair she has brought, and I believe I can talk on behalf of the carnies as well as the general public, something fresh and well I don’t think I’m going too far to say nurturing. Yes, she definitely has something that in all my years I’ve never witnessed before. I’ve had the privilege to form a friendship with her. Which I’m sure I benefit from so much more than she does. Not that Susan would see it that way. No, she is too gracious and generous for that. Instead she would stroke my arm and say, “You’re doing it again.” But I’m not, there are few things I disagree with Susan about, but this I stand firmly on.

I often chat away the quiet parts of the day with Susan. We’ve got to know each other well. Or rather she has got to know me well. I talk. She listens. I don’t know if I could ever know her. She is beyond my reach. The years have come and gone, seasons, carnivals and each morning during the summer months Susan sets up her van along side my tent. But the anticipation, the dread that tomorrow is the beginning of summer, the time Susan joins us, and she won’t be there. Sometimes it’s so great that I’ve had a request from a child to make a giraffe and instead it becomes a question mark or a knotted beast with several heads. I even feel it when I know she will be there, of course she will be there, it is the middle of the season and her van is parked just there and she is asleep in it and of course she is going to rise in the morning, open the shutters and say, “Come in Harry, I’m just brewing some coffee”.

It’s lucky the security guards know me well and know I’m of good character, otherwise the times that I’ve grown the most anxious and found myself standing outside her van in the early hours of the morning, they might have thought my intentions were wrong. Instead they say, “Forgot something again Harry”, or “Expecting a big day tomorrow”, and stroll away. I’d never go in, interrupt her. It’s terribly bad to wake someone from their dreams.

Once, maybe more, as a child I stood outside my Mother’s bedroom door hoping she was still inside. The sounds had died down; left me alone. I would miss them: the crescendo, then her cry. Some people love to be woken to the sound of the singing of birds, I liked to be awake to them. If I could still hear the breathy voiceless calls then I knew she was still there. When it stopped, the rustling, the murmurs, how could I be sure.

Once I entered her room and whispered “Mum”. “She’s asleep boy. What, you can’t sleep? Me neither, I was just thinking of slipping outside for a cigarette, you’re welcome to join me. To sit with me that is.” The window was open and if it wasn’t for the breeze, the lift and fall of the curtain allowing the street light to enter the room like the sweep of a lighthouse, I wouldn’t have even known she was there. The stranger pulled on his boxers, then jeans and t-shirt. It was a warm night, he needn’t have bothered with his shoes. In the living room was a mini zoo: balloon animals hung from the ceiling fan, still life danced across the top of the lounge, noses dipped in empty dinner plates and beer bottles, some had tripped, fallen and were left abandoned on the floor. There were two of each type, but they had grown separate, scattered throughout what to them must have been the vastness of the living room. I attempted to pick some of them up, reunite them, but he interrupted me. “What’s your name son?” “Harry.” “Named after your old man were you?” “I don’t know.” “Yeah, I think you might have been. Do you like these Harry? You’re like your Mum, she loved ’em. I’ve never had to make so many of them, she had me working Harry, she did.”

The veranda railing creaked and shuddered under me. I didn’t trust it any more but his sinewy worn body rested easily upon it. With an upright back he lit a cigarette. “I’d offer you one, but you’re probably still a little young, only just though. How old are you?” “Eleven.” “Jesus, I would of guessed at least 15. You’re no small fry are you? Your old man must of been a big bloke. Oh well, good luck to you, you won’t be needing to waste your breath blowing and twisting coloured rubber for your keep and comfort, will ya?” Nestled in my cupped hands was one of his giraffes. “Will you teach me to make one like this?” “I’m all out of balloons son. Used up my store helping your Mum relax. Anyway what if I pass through this town again, I don’t want to have ruined my chances, your Mum’s got a balloon man at home and is seeking comfort elsewhere.” Turning he flicked his cigarette butt across the lawn. It must have at least made it to the footpath. He slid off the railing, went inside and picked up his gear, leaving the balloon animals. “See you, Harry.” He shook my hand firmly, like man to man, then walked out onto the road and continued walking.

I gathered up some of the pairs, knowing the house would be spotless when I got up in the morning. I hid them under my bed and out they’d come at night. What was I going to do when they wore out or deflated? They don’t last forever, as I said before, the beauty of impermanence. During those sleepless nights I taught myself to make them. Following the twists and knots of the coloured rubber I discovered how it was done, helped along by a book I borrowed from the library. But I did it, without his help. When I showed Mum (I hadn’t told her before) she wept. She wept at a lot of things, it was hard to know what kind it was. “Fun aren’t they?” “Where did you learn that from?” “A book from the library. Mrs Hickson interbranched it for me. I can make any kind you like. What would make you smile?” “I’m smiling Harry, they’re lovely.” “You’re crying.” “No darling, I’m smiling, I promise.” It was the early evening, time for her to be back at work. “You can make your own dinner tonight, can you?” “Yeah.” I would watch her cross the lawn, turn, and always she’d say half laughing, “Don’t forget to go to sleep”, wave and enter the barely lit street.

Last night I couldn’t sleep so I went back and left a poodle I’d made on Susan’s steps. Yesterday a few young men hassled her when I was away having lunch with Helen and Eddie. Susan told me about it later. I don’t know what they said or did, she was just quiet all afternoon and when I asked her what was troubling her, she asked me, “Do you think those young blokes think our lives are meaningless?” I didn’t want to say yes so I just made us a coffee and dropped some whisky in it. When she took the first sip she laughed and touched my cheek. I thought if I just left the poodle on her step she’d know I’m watching over her. When I moved close to her van I could feel the gentle tremor and hear her birdsong.

Helen and I hadn’t made love in, oh, I couldn’t tell you how long, but when I crawled into bed beside her she turned to me. Did we both call another’s name? I don’t know. What I do know, looking down on the cities only permanent fair, is that we wake each day tangled in one another. And though I know the impossibility of forgetting, it feels like from up here, I only need to turn and I could leave it all behind.

December 1, 2002

Volume 2: Dreamscapes

Filed under: Volume 2: Dreamscapes (2002) — Tags: , , — Clifton Evers @ 7:03 am

Editorial by Emily Potter and Robyn Tucker, Altitude, Volume 2, Editorial, 2002.

PDF Version: Dreamscapes

Utopias and dystopias are frequently assumed to be oppositional spaces distinct from ‘ordinary’ lived experience; they are perfect spaces (whether positive or negative)-dreamscapes, ‘outside’ or other. Critical to this edition of altitude, however, is the recognition of the tensions of such categories.

Utopias and dystopias are contextual; what they represent stems from the situation from which they are envisioned. In this sense they are part of, rather than disassociated from. What, then, is their function within the present?
Are they utilized as tools for (specific types of) expression?
Can they be politically effective?

Are they transient, or can they form ontologies?
Considered contextually, are they part of a vision of progress, an eternal becoming? Can they ever be realised (and could we actually exist within them)?
Moreover, are utopias and dystopias actually ‘poles apart’?
Can we define such boundaries, or are they perhaps fluid?
Can they merge into each other?
Can one exist without the possibility of the other?
Can there be spaces-dreamscapes-in which they co-mingle? Indeed, are our ‘ordinary’, lived realities dreamscapes?
The pieces in this edition approach these questions, and more, in varying ways and modes, offering a landscape for contemplation that reflects the possibilities and limitations of these particular visions.

Contents


Articles:

Judy Greenway, Impossible Outlaws: Gender, Space and Utopia in Johnny Guitar
Emily Potter, ‘How can you live in a city of monuments?’: Reading Commemoration and Forgetting in Adelaide’s North Terrace Precinct
Conrad Russell, Dream and Nightmare in William Gibson’s Architectures of Cyberspace
Jesse Shipway, Psychoanalysis and Economics: The Significance of the Primal Scene
Lesley Williams, Beyond My window

Creative:
Ike Kim, manentersroom
Mark Noe, Conversations with Barthes Prior to Committing Suicide
Liza Slater, Balloonman

August 1, 2002

Impossible Outlaws: Gender, Space and Utopia in Johnny Guitar

Filed under: Volume 2: Dreamscapes (2002) — Tags: , , — Clifton Evers @ 7:00 am

by Judy Greenway, Altitude, Volume 2, Article 1, 2002.

PDF Version: Impossible Outlaws: Gender, Space and Utpoia in Johnny Guitar

In the country of Robin Hood, outlaws have a privileged place in the imagination. Over the centuries, in a multiplicity of Robin Hood narratives from children’s histories to recycled Hollywood costume dramas, outlawry has come to stand for colour and excitement in a monochrome world, and the romance of resistance to an unjust and repressive society. Central to the mythography is Sherwood Forest, the greenwood, the outlaws’ hideout; a place of nature separate from a corrupt society and the machinations of the Sheriff, where the outlaws have a degree of autonomy, and are able to rehearse the values of a different and better world. Robin Hood and his men merge with more ambiguous representations of the outlaw in the Western, perhaps the oldest genre of popular cinema. The outlaw takes on a generic character; and myths of outlawry and safe hideouts become one of the ways of imagining a changed world, or the creation of a new society that is both inside and outside the old.

Judy Greenway is a senior lecturer in the Department of Cultural Studies at the University of East London, where she teaches courses on Lesbian and Gay cultures, utopianism, and feminism and film.

July 1, 2002

‘How Can You Live in a City of Monuments?’: Reading Commemoration and Forgetting in Adelaide’s North Terrace Precinct

Filed under: Volume 2: Dreamscapes (2002) — Tags: , , , — Clifton Evers @ 6:55 am

by Emily Potter, Altitude, Volume 2, Article 2, 2002.

PDF Version:How Can You Live in a City of Monuments?’: Reading Commemoration and Forgetting in Adelaide’s North Terrace Precinct

The title of this paper comes from Antoni Jach’s novel, The Layers of the City, in which the protagonist, researching as he calls it, ‘the many layers of Paris’ (1), wanders through the city’s spaces. His sensory encounters are multi-dimensional: like an x-ray, the visions, sounds and smells of an ancient place are evoked in the modern city, itself in constant process. Past and present seem co-existent here. The layers of human life, like piled up bones in the city’s catacombs, are the ground from which everything new emerges. The past is sustenance and generation, continually transformed as new becomes old and the future is now. At the same time, however, there is a sense of suffocation in Jach’s layered city, a degree of weightiness and burden, of statues, buildings and other icons of memory that hang heavy. His question ‘How can you live in a city of monuments?’ (117) is a point of departure for my own examination of a weighted space in a different city centre. In focusing upon the North Terrace precinct in the Adelaide CBD, I want to highlight the problematics of an engagement with the past that concretises remembering in the monument form. When these icons are presented as cohesive models of socially being and belonging, authorised by a particular ideology of common experience, the problematics are intensified. While I advocate an approach to memory that is part of the everyday, the actual constructs within which we daily move must be examined for what they ultimately offer and inhibit. Without abandoning the monument as a participant in memory, and denying the role of North Terrace as an active precinct in civic life, the necessity is there to acknowledge its language of selection and privilege if we are to escape, what Antoni Jach terms, ‘those residues of the past threatening to strangle the present’ (117).

In this discussion I want to highlight the intrinsic connection between remembering and place. While memory can be seen as an intangible, unfettered and mobile amongst the words and images that seek to represent it, the apparent need by groups to claim collectivity and find forms for its acknowledgement means that remembering is often located and scripted to signify particular ways of knowing and engaging with the past. Social space, as Lefebrve points out, is a ‘social product and embodies social relations’ (in Jaireth 24), making it a readable text through which we can trace and define operations of history and community. When social space is formulated however, persistently constructed and kept within fixed definitions of meaning, heterogenic existence is suppressed. There is no sense of interrelated spaces, no acknowledgement of plurality. I see the homogenisation of memory at work in North Terrace and feel the urgency of dismantling this. Through a proliferation of the monument and a continual return here to perform common remembering within the tropes of nation and the state, history is fixed, rendered immobile by acts of commemoration that impose, construct, and more significantly appear unchallenged. Here the icon is established as a connective device that ironically disconnects through its exclusionary nature, disabling the potential dynamics of remembering-that is, an experience of the active and the shared. As a self-conscious voice of public remembering, the symbolic demarcation of North Terrace needs to be taken as one of many approaches to memory in our city. It is imperative that we critically examine the meanings of commemoration in this public space, not to reject its gestures of public remembering, but to examine the ideas invested within these and thus to contextualise the spaces around us in terms of what they voice and how we choose to listen. It is not ‘the silence of the stone’, as Marina Warner puts it (Warner 37), that makes the monument fraught, but our relationship to it. To what and how we choose to publicly lay claim is fundamentally at issue.

Emily Potter is a postdoctoral fellow in the Faculty of Architecture, Planning, and Building at the University of Melbourne.

Dream and Nightmare in William Gibson’s Architectures of Cyberspace

Filed under: Volume 2: Dreamscapes (2002) — Tags: , , — Clifton Evers @ 6:48 am

by Conrad Russell, Altitude, Volume 2, Article 3, 2002.

PDF Version: Dreams and Nightmare in William Gibson’s Architectures of Cyberspace

Like City Lights, Receding�’

‘the cyberpunks are fascinated by interzones: the areas where…”the street finds its own uses for things”‘ (Bruce Sterling, Mirrorshades xiii ).

‘Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions� Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding�’ (William Gibson, Neuromancer 67).

‘Cyberpunk’, which forms the central theme of this paper, has been described by one of its best-known practitioners as ‘(a)n unholy alliance of the technical world and…the underground world of pop culture, visionary fluidity and street-level anarchy’ (Sterling xii) 1. Fran�oise Choay insists that utopia must consist of a narrative description of a model society, and that, ‘the model society (must be) supported by a model space which is a necessary, integral part of it’ (34). Does Cyberpunk qualify as a ‘utopia’ in this sense? The privileged site for Cyberpunk, as both fiction and social criticism, is ‘cyberspace’, the notional space within which digital communication occurs. In the vast literature that has sprung up on the subject in the last decade, this space takes on the aura of that ‘nowhere-somewhere’, which is one sense of the term ‘utopia’ (Robins 36).

Cyberpunk is not only possessed of a utopian space-how it articulates its sense of such a space connects to an older utopian tradition. As Marcos Novak has noted, the sense of cyberspace as a ‘liquid’, emergent and temporalised spatiality recalls earlier ‘visionary’ architectures, including those of the Futurists and Situationists (‘Liquid Architectures’ 246-7). This connection renders Fredric Jameson’s assertion that Cyberpunk represents ‘the supreme literary expression, if not of Postmodernism, then of late capitalism itself’ (Jameson 419), highly problematical. Using Novak’s insight as my starting point, I want to concentrate on the work of perhaps the best-known Cyberpunk author, William Gibson, tracing his use of utopian architectural metaphor from his first novel Neuromancer, to his most recent, All Tommorrow’s Parties, published in 1999. Gibson’s understanding of cyberspace, as a confused tangle of forms, ‘like city lights receding’, is profoundly architectural. Much of this architectural imaginary recalls earlier visions: from the Surrealists in the 1930’s to the Situationists in the 1960’s. This sensibility is also present in Gibson’s description of non-virtual environments. From these sources, Gibson derives his ‘utopia’-a fluid, organic spatiality constituting a rich web of adventures and encounters, and also marked by a sense of the ‘uncanny’ and the collective unconscious (space as dreamscape).

Conrad Russell completed his doctoral thesis on Fourier, the Surrealists and the Situationist International at the University of Leeds (United Kigndom).

June 1, 2002

Psychoanalysis and Economics: The Significance of the Primal Scene

Filed under: Volume 2: Dreamscapes (2002) — Tags: , , — Clifton Evers @ 6:37 am

by Jesse Shipway, Altitude, Volume 2, Article 4, 2002.

PDF Version: Psychoanlaysis and Economics: The Significance of the Primal Scene

The note of interrogation which serves as the precondition for this essay resonates out from around a single question: What might we stand to gain from bringing the hermeneutic apparatus of psycho-analysis to the logic of economics? The passage reproduced above gives us a starting point from which to begin this foray, a clue, that is in essence, Nietzschean. On this reading, the discovery of the unconscious, the principal enabling achievement of psycho-analysis should be thought first and foremost as the sounding out of a false idol; the self-same one that fills the hollow center of Slavoj Zizek’s latest work, The Ticklish Subject. I am speaking of course of the cartesian self, the self-identical cogito, the idol of rationality and reason as the master of its own house. In exorcising this phantasm, in creating a space for an understanding of the way that irrational processes cut right to the heart of human subjectivity, Freud carved out a toehold for radical critique in an otherwise sheer and intransigent epistemological fortress. Following in an unintended way from Nietszche’s invocation to philosophise with a hammer, Freud’s conceptualisation of the unconscious set in train an intellectual concatenation whose reverberations can still be heard today, even by those of us who, unlike the philologist from Basel, do not possess ears behind our ears.

But the metaphor of the hammer should not be misunderstood. Despite the insistence of many of his Anglo-American critics, Nietzsche’s was not a destructive, nor even a nihilistic philosophy. Likewise, Freud’s clinical reassessment of the enlightenment subject was never envisioned as an act of negative critique. Which leads us, after a fashion, to a reading of the discovery of the unconscious as a sublime act of creative destruction on the part of the inventor of psychoanalysis, an act perfectly in line with the less commonly grasped dimension of the Nietzschean critical imperative; to sound out idols with the tuning fork of re-valuation.

Which brings us, in a round about kind of way to economics, or more precisely, to neo-classical economics and the logical and discursive system in which it has found expression. What greater false idol presents itself to our 21st century eyes than this monstrous reifying system that, disguised as the technical recipe for guaranteeing a new capitalist prosperity for all, was smuggled into the institutional corridors of the civil society with the invidious political agendas of Thatcherism, Reaganomics and in this country, Economic Rationalism. This Hayekian blueprint for world apprehension which has served, variously, as the grounds for the neo-classical and econometric hijacking of political economy and the source of philosophical legitimacy for the previously mentioned political movements acts at the present moment in coalition with even more powerful juggernauts hell bent on implementing the latest and most devastating stages of globalisation. In combination with compromised and acquiescent governmental institutions at every legislative level, these megaliths continue to entangle greater and greater regions of our planet in the sticky web of capitalist economism. When coupled with the explosive growth in reach and influence of the world’s financial power elite, the spread of the technocratic Weltanschauung held in common by these various parties seems to bring us closer and closer to the brink of the abyss beyond which lies the dire state of affairs described by Horkheimer and Adorno in the opening paragraph of The Dialectic of Enlightenment: the fully enlightened earth which radiates disaster triumphant.

Blog at WordPress.com.