Saturday, May 12, 2007

No Socially Shared Metaphysic

Flux Factory has just released its schedule of free tours, parties, meetings, and readings to take place during its happening in Paterson this June. Among other things, I will be hosting Paterson reading group, with meetings and tours throughout June (download the schedule for dates and info.)
The purpose of Flux Factory is to use this month--in cooperation with inhabitants of Paterson--to conceive of a monument for the city. In conceptualizing some kind of urban monument, my two blogs collide. On "The Woonasquatucket Primitive," I already expressed my cynicism at the unchecked proliferation of monuments of all stripe in the Providence riverwalk area, in deference to the more modest interventions of an anonymous artist I recently discovered to be a homeless man. Will this Paterson monument be a "real" monument? Such a thing could provide some sort of sense of public meaning, even though, as Richard Serra pointed out in reference to his anti-monuments "there is no socially shared metaphysic." The last time I was in Paterson, we discovered a depressingly perfunctory tombstone behind chainlink fence commemorating the underground railroad: at the very least, something like this should be given the dignity that is misdirected onto the Lou Costello statue. But a monument is surely a luxury, and perhaps would even be construed as a sign of corruption or frivolity in a city like Paterson, which would be better off investing in the future than the past. It has been suggested that Flux buy a cheap house for urban youth programs. Or, in the end, given that they call themselves "flux," the happening itself could be a kind of dematerialized monument, based on the heightened interactions of people who would not normally have met. The impulse to memorialize in Paterson will undoubtedly meet with a score of paradoxes and ironies. In fact, this preference for future growth over historical past is perhaps based on a false distinction. As Robert Smithson pointed out, New Jersey is precisely the place where the future fails, and its landscape memorializes the ruin of impossible utopian projects.

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