A book of positions, I feel invited, but distant – city “as a place shivers and becomes many others.” I read the book from across the continent, in a place that behaves in much the same way, but differs in particulars – smaller, basically not Manhattan, the smells, the infrastructure, not a city of walkers, and I am one – Traffic & Weather‘s way of active walking is still, somehow, even in places as resolutely inhospitable to walking as mine, a way of empirical pleasure and empirical exasperation. In love with description, I read a description to love, made as it is from questions:
“Is the interior of a concrete barrier really planned? Why does it escape, bend, and oxidize? A sort of brutish reminder. Of what? Lack of foresight, of stages, of concern. It didn’t keep much out, except us. We were kept out.”
I know this kind of walking: this is wilderness walking at least a much as city walking: the difference being that we (somebody) made these secret, unknowable places – some intention is worked upon us; the wilderness walking shares the questions, but perhaps not the assumption of plan, of intent. Like walking, a little bit. Kept out.
Marcella’s relationship to the institutional art world’s vocabulary: sites, documents, proposals, engagements. Her approach mirrors the institutions and the layers of institutional history that made the city:
“To be site specific: enhance your understanding of the area. Artistic intervention in a ‘specific locale.’ Rehabilitation of brownfields? Industrial park! Exploited, developed, ‘privileged sphere,’ extracted, gentrified, strategic. Prairie park. Desert orchard. City monument.”
The sentences, like the city itself, move between institutions in their vocabulary, equating the work of ‘art’ with all the other large scale things happening in the city: “It was a project on projects. But it doubled back on itself and got nullified. That’s what happens when everything in a city is documented.” And that has its effects: “How the city is like ourselves. The sound reminds us of rain. The rain simulacra begins.” To imagine that it’s possible! That the whole thing could be documented! Remember Total Information Awareness? Is documentation things or people?
“a city explores itself in boxes just as a person is centered by circles”
Nevertheless, the documents contain lyrical information:
“The process of rebuilding. Men pour pitch into a beat-up bucket and point flamethrowers at it. Mud is carted out from every doorway and poured into dumpsters. The pitch-flamethrower scene is from the past. We will remember it and think of the days of pitch, grease, oil, open flames, construction.” In which the documentary moment is instantly turned into a memory.
Light glitters on the waters
and an orange glow on the horizon before that.
Blinking light, metronomic. And another.
Once you return: can it be achieved—in various space?
The spire appears on the bowl horizon
now buildings now roofs
in the other space to slightly different sounds
as if it were something to be carried with you.