Thinking about space–still: Hazel White, Lawrence Weiner, Kathryn Milun, Deleuze and Guattari
This interview segment with Lawrence Weiner seems to line up with this fabulous section of an interview with Hazel White, author of Peril As Architectural Enrichment at Words with Writers:
Asking the question: Do you have a philosophy for how and why you write?, White responds with the following explanation of the way her experience with landscape architecture informs her poetry:
I’m a longtime student of Alexander Technique. For me, it’s about overcoming habit to see how a body wants to move in space before habit claims its movements. I’m very interested indeed, and this is part of my writing about landscape—I’m only in a small way interested in landscape as an idea, as a social construct—my work is about the experience of landscape prior to landscape becoming a construct. I’m trying to get below the level of habitual, trained response to what movement exists beneath. For example, it’s been found that we love a combination of shelter and a view, and we will walk toward that space. And peril is one of the pleasures identified as being essential to architecture. So, my philosophy about why I write is, I guess, that it’s an expression of an almost animal nature of being in habitat. On the one hand I would like to write more clearly, and on the other hand I would like to go farther into a sort of limbic writing that’s more feral.
My sense of this coincidence may be partly because of this fantastic dissolve:
and the way it relates to the highlighted quote excerpted from the above response:
“To see how a body wants to move
in space before habit claims
There’s something about the strangeness of the space in the still overlapping the habitual movement of the body which White mentions. One would be hard-pressed to habituate the semi-translucent and layered material of the space represented by this dissolve made up of a port, a mildly flooded parking lot, a warehouse / town, the elongated and windowed studio Weiner works in, and the phrase, “THE WATER MADE IT WET.” I want to build spaces like that—with the spatiality of sound—perhaps with text, perhaps visually.
I’m wary of the possibility of getting to a disoriented space of this sort through visual means, however, because of Kathryn Milun’s compelling inquiry into agoraphobia (Pathologies of Modern Space). She sees agoraphobics as those who have “surplus sensibilities,” namely tactile sensibilities, which are devalued by the predominantly visual nature of modern, urban spaces. She pushes back against the current clinical definitions of agoraphobia, “fear of fear,” or simply, “panic disorder,” because they overlook the importance of particular spaces as habitual trigger of panic.
For Milun, the original definition, fear of open spaces, was more accurate and useful. Milun would like to see space reemerge as a major consideration in the study of the disorder, and perhaps more importantly, she would like to turn the disorder towards a new examination of space itself.
In her chapter “The Nineteenth-Century Urban Commons as a Gendered Puzzle,” Milun calls upon Deleuze and Guattari’s conceptions of “smooth” and “striated” space in A Thousand Plateaus. Having already described the way that directional markings on a carpet could assist agoraphobics in crossing a large, open room, we get the sense that gridded, or striated space is less generative of panic than “smooth” or open spaces.
However, Milun’s use of these classifications of space is a bit at odds with the impressions of them I was able to draw from Deleuze and Guattari themselves in “1440: The Smooth and the Striated.” The characteristic example of “smooth space” given by D & G was the crazy quilt, made by fitting random, unsquared scraps of cloth together into a surface.
(something like this from the Nebraska History Museum)
It is the piece-by-piece construction and conceivably limitless confines of this un-striated / gridded space which makes it smooth. I suppose it’s the invisibility of openness, which may, for Milun preclude tactile organization or “striation,” but am not sure. I’m still not quite able to connect “smooth” spaces with the open spaces, Milun seems to be getting at.
I’ve gotten quite swept up here—
I haven’t previously taken time to articulate these first bits of thinking that will organize my next project—the function of sound as a tactile and spatial medium will be central.
Dangling here at the end of this piece, past my cursor, is the quote from Weiner that actually got me from White to the “Design Matters Segment” embedded at the top of this post: “you’re in the stream of life whether you like it or not.” (1:53) This seems appropriate.
That the entire time I’ve been writing, I’ve been trying to remember exactly how I got from one to the other—the gap here feels very spatial in a falling and bright sort of way.
I’ve been waiting and grasping at an opportunity to connect this—
instead I spewed Milun and Deleuze. The density of language which resulted from describing those texts as opposed to the stretchiness of my description of White and Weiner is telling—though I can’t process it
into a message yet/?ever?. The quote is still not all here yet. We’re still working at getting it
here. I find writing about my process is often triggered by trying to pieces things together—it’s perhaps the need for language-based glue or connectivity which draws this out from me. Not necessarily a need to justify the connection, but the desire to share it—maybe even with myself.
Inside my head, the space of recognizing commonalities between two “things” is often instantaneous and feels empty for me—almost as if someone had turned on a vacuum between two concepts. To lay out the process of getting from point-a to point-b—if that’s a logic—seems to be a way of developing that logic into a complex system which shapes the project I’m working on. Until I force myself to stretch it out and really look at it, it remains invisible to me too.
…The word “system” in the last sentence is troubling me in that it implies something that can be solved or fixed—the process and system of a project, however, is constantly shifting and developing its density…
So, though and because my memory is completely blanking on me: “you’re in the stream of life whether you like it or not. And if you’re going to be in the stream of life, you have to accept the responsibilities of it… I’d like a few more of the pleasures, but there doesn’t seem to be time” (1:53-2:03). I’d put that pleasure out to sea, man—risk it.Tags: crazy quilt, Deleuze, Design Matters, Guattari, Hazel White, Kathryn Milun, Lawrence Weiner, Milun, Poetics, sound, Space, spatial theory, Weiner, White