WORK | Topologies

Posted on 18/04/2013


Writing, specifically my writing, feels broken lately. Or, if not broken, then perhaps breaking and brittle. Not quite holding together, not fluid or flexible. Too utilitarian to be useful. This breaking feels somewhat tender and tenuous. What I am yet to figure is whether this break is fracture or puncture, fissure or wounding. A breaking through: either way there’s some promise or possibility of different liberations or escapes or, just, flights.

Strangely, or not, these breaking points come when I am enmeshed in a planning and policy discourse that countenances order, institution and security. Another kind of planning is needed: a random, rambunctious and rebellious planning for random, rambunctious and rebellious cities and places. Perhaps that’s not planning at all: a pointblank refusal. So coming to this breaking point – this fracture or puncture or fissure or wounding – is, again, like coming to writing, coming to place and planning as writing, as if recounting a kind of elusive fairytale.

And so, this week, enmeshed in other lives and conversations: struggling with a paper on regional program and policy evaluation; reading Perec’s text on Species of Spaces which triggered 11,000 words or thereabouts of conversation with Luke J;  consultations on regional development and cultural policy; a moment to reflect on the trajectory of Long Time, No See? and how I might need to rewrite some of that; and the hum and bubble of life and work with John. And, most importantly, a clean bill of health. Some years ago, I was in a good place – a breathing space – and one day I said to John, “I am happy”. At that very moment, that very realisation of happiness broke its own magic. A breaking of such force that it was all we could do to cling to each other. That breaking brought us ‘here’. While remaining ambivalent about ‘here’, it is the ground of that random, rambunctious and rebellious planning I am exploring. Since that time, I have cautiously approached expressions of happiness, as if to speak it would be to ressurrect that curse and conjure cataclysm.

There are a great many evocations, exchanges and connections in the texts woven with Luke J, perhaps to the nth degree (or power). Though these are the ones I need to work with, for writing place and place writing.

1. Timothy Morton
Noting his evocation of mesh and wondering whether that resonates with Ingold’s idea of meshwork. What can this do for planning? Ingold’s meshwork of story and Morton’s mesh of interdependence. Planning always commits to an exterior view, detached and disconnected. What of a planning – as practice – that works in, as, through and with the mesh of interdependence or commits to ecological thought? If planning cannot do that, what use is it? Morton describes mesh as follows:

The ecological crisis makes us aware of how interdependent everything is. This has resulted in a creepy sensation that there is literally no world anymore. We’re losing the very ground under our feet. In philosophical language, we’re not just losing ‘ontological’ levels of meaningfulness. We’re losing the ‘ontic,’ the actual physical level we trusted for so long (Ecological Thought, 107).

2. Michel Serres
“We wander, outside all places.” I was reading Serres for another writing project some years ago. Not much at that time but enough to recall sinking into his ecstatic prose. Recently, I was revisiting his writing on topology for Fieldworking and Long Time, No See? “The global wandering, the mythical adventure, is, in the end, only the general joining of these [discrete] spaces, as if the object or target of discourse were only to connect, or as if the junction of the relation, constituted the route by which the first discourse passes.”

3. Rosi Braidotti (and the nth degree)
Something Luke J said made me question writing to the nth degree. A google search revealed Braidotti’s essay on nomadic subjectivity and eco-philosophical ethics: “It [Zoe, as in animal life, an animal sense of radical alterity] is a constant challenge for us to raise to the occasion, to catch the wave of life’s intensities and ride it on, exposing the boundaries or limits as we transgress them. We often crack in the process and just cannot take it anymore.”

4. New myths
The Lady of the Lake was, I just read, treacherous and vindictive too, enraged by the parasitism and broken words of men. I had previously thought of her as phallic. As the keeper of Excalibur, she both emasculates and empowers men. Though her own power is never dissolute. Michel Serres might be useful here too as we call to the possibility of a new writing and language for new myths.

Each has a particular relationship to my questioning, working, breaking right now. “Writing is good: it’s what never ends,” says Helene Cixous. Although it might break or tear, it can also stretch and push to its edges. This is what a topological approach expects.

Posted in: fieldworking