These research probes take their point of departure from communication theorist/economic historian Harold Innis’ ideas regarding a “strategy of culture” for negotiating passages between empires. For Innis, this passage was the rise of the American empire as the British Empire crumbled. His bias of communication theory sought to draw out the implications of an emergent, modern political order hegemonized by a world scale system of nation-states, a world scale economy dominated by the new institutional form of multinational corporations and a new medium of communication —information— mediating cultural and economic flows through each other. All this has condemned us, Innis argued, to an “obsession with presented-mindedness”: or, the dominance of informational space over time biased media of social poesis. Today, our conjunctural passage is perhaps between what Hardt and Negri theorize as Empire and its numerous replicants, ranging from various meta-terrorisms and micro-fascisms through the proliferating dialectics of debt and distinction. Does not Innis’ “plea for time” then become even more urgent as a strategy of cultural politics in our time in the face of a global society of the spectacle? These research probes then seek to generate from within the space bias of our times new spatialized temporalities out of the very koan-like refuse of this contradictory situation.
time bias poem no. 1 / device for plotting biography and history prototype v1.0
This poem invites you to throw a pair of dice to situate yourself on the board and calculate calendrically the flux of your subjective temporality in relation to historical dates (the significance of which may or may not be remembered) and a calendar clock of affects, should you, like me, not remember otherwise who you are today.
time bias poem no. 2 / Go try your luck in my alley . . .
Theorizing Counter-environments / Queen’s Park Row
(Transit Plan for Downtown Redevelopment 161114)
Go try your luck in my alley . . .
And so the oceans parted
and the raven, airborne, called your name
called you here to this fork in the road
through the eye of a needle
at the end of this time.
To economize means to allocate scarce
resources to a given end
should you give an end, if you give
If nature abhors a vacuum then why
is there a hole in my being
here again here again hear again
the multitudes parting, o the multitudes
footsteps dividing the journey, the passage
through the city through the hollow lane
on the edge of a cliff, farewell
beneath the walls of the river
beneath the citadel of the empire
neither here nor there at the gate
neither here nor there at the wire
neither here nor there at the light
neither here nor there in the wind
when the shell breaks
how far will
Alleyways seem to provoke a strong reaction from passersby. Either they are feared and are to be avoided or they offer the possibility of escape whether in chase or from routine, supervision or surveillance. Or is it rather that different people react to the same alley in different ways? Indeed, are alleyways fundamentally different from other functionally irreducible back-stages of the urban form such as underpasses, highway medians, bridge banks, loading docks, LRT setbacks etc. that resist re-functioning and re-appropriation into routine, instrumentality and fantasy with greater force? But then alleyways also seem different than other superfluous yet necessary retrieved spaces of aggregation and commingling such as piers, riverbanks, rooftops and the steps of great public buildings that are no longer built. Consequently, this intermedia research probe attempts to explore and map some of the current contradictions animating this counter-environmental fragment of urban form just when capital’s reconquest of the urban seems complete and the positioning of the human body in space is now monitored with unprecedented precision and predictive power.
Go try your luck in my alley dares you to enter an indeterminate space; the nest at the threshold demands care and foregrounds the indeterminate cardboard structure at the end of a soft, translucent passageway in somewhere. A place to play, a child’s play-house? Or a shelter of desperation? This oscillating, unresolvable antinomy is the standpoint from which one reads the poem that seeks to “place” this space back into the time of your body. But if we are able to learn anything from how this space makes you feel and what this poem means to you, indeed for the poem to work as a poem, it becomes crucial, as with intermedia research generally, to forestall, tactically at least for a time, the ultimate reification of this construction into the genre of an art-installation on which it remains parasitic but beyond which it, as an embodiment of decolonizing theory and an avatar of the future, it necessarily points: Thus the project title: Theorizing Counter-environments / Queen’s Park Row (Transit Plan for Downtown Redevelopment 161114).
Dr. Sourayan Mookerjea
Director, Intermedia Research Studio
Department of Sociology
University of Alberta