Saturday, September 22, 2007

Mapping the Void

This summer, I looked into using Yellow Arrow as a possible means to map Paterson. By the time my arrows came in the mail and I figured out the confusing instructions, my stay in Paterson was almost over. Nevertheless, I used one to mark the portal for a trek I took with Anne and Alita along the freight rail that cuts through the city's notoriously turbulent 4th ward all the way to the fetid shores of the Passaic. You can check out the exact location by typing "Paterson" into the search engine at Yellow Arrow's main gallery (one of the many drawbacks to this site/service is that there are no distinct urls you can reference). I think this site may have been a pioneer in terms of Internet mapping experiments; however, other larger entities have surpassed them with their ease and accessibility (e.g. Google, Flickr). Pictures from the trip are above: I love the fake super 8 (courtesy! There may be only 8 millimeters between heaven and earth. Such are the mysteries of photogenie.
I'm reading some essays on mapping and psychogeography for a talk I'm giving at Parsons next week via iChat. I'm interested in a point about Situationist techniques of alternative mapping made by Tom McDonough in "Delirious Paris: Mapping as a Paranoiac-Critical Activity": "Freud notes the way in which the animism of 'primitive man' (which bore striking similarities to the neurotic mind) altered the spatial arrangements of the phenomenal world into a new configuration that obeyed a logic all its own. . . . It was the task . . . of the Situationist derive . . . to induce that hallucinatory state, to adopt the obsessional neurotic's belief in the omnipotence of thoughts and desires, in order to momentarily assert the possibility of radical change in the form of a world fully accommodated to the subject." (np) Even though he is appreciative of the Situationists, his language seems to me unproductive, as if this type of remapping is an aberration of the solipsistic, rather than a healthy impulse which civilization has repressed, and which is crucial for survival in the modern city. The value of Situationist experiments is to point up how the habitual experience of the city is neurotic and obsessional, not the derive. Undoubtedly, the neurotic has a positive value in McDonough's essay, but I think this backhanded valorization (similar to his use of the word "animism") points to a deeper suspicion he may hold.
The popularization of alternative forms of mapping may bear my position out, even though most uses of Flickr, for example, are more what I would call obsessional or neurotic proper. But maybe these are the wrong words. Since McDonough is bringing up Freud, I must add that I think the crucial shift in perception may have to do with a shift (unpackable here?) from Freud to Lacan, and within Lacan from the symptom to the sinthome. The sinthome, as Zizek has described it (especially in The Fragile Absolute), announces a constant and fragile arrangement of "quilting points" as they attach to the real. Instead of imagining a "real space" to which we must submit our perception, the network of points composing the sinthome is the reality itself, not a neurosis which must be overcome.

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