Transcript: Mark Kingwell on Crossing the Threshold | Feb 21, 2004

Mark Kingwell stands behind a wooden lectern in a black room. He is in his thirties, clean-shaven, with brown hair. He’s wearing a black suit and black shirt.

He says I WANT TO
TAKE YOU NOW ON A WALKTHROUGH
THE GRID OF THE CITY.
I PROMISE WE WILL RETURN TO THE
INTERIOR AND UH, PROBE THE IDEA
OF THE LIMITS OF THOUGHT THERE.
UM, TODAY I WANNA START WITH
THE IDEA OF ARCHITECTURE.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Mark Kingwell. Philosopher. Crossing the Threshold: Towards a Philosophy of the Interior. The Limits of Thought. Trinity College November 25, 2003."

Mark says UH, WHICH WAS
EVER IN THE BACKGROUND INDEED
LAST NIGHT.
UM, IN FACT, ONE OF THE
TENSIONS OF ARCHITECTURE IS
BETWEEN THE INTERIOR AND THE
EXTERIOR.
IT'S NO SURPRISE TO MOST OF YOU
PROBABLY THAT UH, MUCH
ARCHITECTURE IS DESIGNED WITH
NO EYE WHATSOEVER FOR THE
INTERIOR THUS CREATED.
IT'S A
STANDARD WRAP AGAINST THE
ARROGANT MODERNISTS OF RECENT
ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY THAT THEY
BUILD BUILDINGS FROM THE
OUTSIDE IN AND AS IT WERE LEAVE
THE SPACE INSIDE TO LOOK AFTER
ITSELF.
UM, THOSE OF US WHO OCCUPY OR
WORK IN SUCH BUILDINGS CAN
ATTEST TO THE DIFFICULTIES
THEREIN.
INTERIOR ARCHITECTURE BY
CONTRAST TRIES TO BUILD
BUILDINGS FROM THE INSIDE OUT.
BUT UM, IN ADDITION TO THAT
TENSION THERE'S A TENSION I
THINK ABOUT THE NATURE OF
CONSCIOUSNESS AS IT RELATES TO
ARCHITECTURE AND THIS IS THE
POINT I WANT TO TRY AND PROBE
TONIGHT.
THAT IS UM, WE HAVE TO BE
CAREFUL NOT TO GIVE INTO THE
TEMPTATION NOT TO NATURALIZE
INDIVIDUAL CONSCIOUSNESS ON THE
MODERN MODEL.
THIS HAS INDEED BEEN MY THEME
FROM THE START AND ESPECIALLY
THE CARTESIAN NOTION OF
CONSCIOUSNESS NEEDS TO BE
QUESTIONED AND I THINK
REFORMED.
UH, IN THE CONTEXT OF
ARCHITECTURE MICHELLE FUCOE FOR
EXAMPLE REMINDS US THAT "WE
SHOULDN'T SEE CONSCIOUSNESS AS
A FORCE THAT DRIVES HISTORY
FORWARD TO A RATIONAL END POINT
OF FREE INDIVIDUALS IN WELL
DECORATED DETACHED DWELLINGS.
CONTRARY TO WHAT YOU MIGHT SEE
IN MANY MAGAZINES AND BOOKS IN
OUR OWN EXPERIENCE."
IN HISTORY FUCOE SAYS, "WE MUST
REMEMBER THAT NOTHING IS
FUNDAMENTAL THAT IS THERE IS NO
BASE LINE EXPLANATION THAT
ORDERS ALL THE OTHERS."
THERE ARE ONLY RELATIONSHIPS.
MATERIAL INNOVATIONS THEN AS
WHEN A TOPIC CLOSE TO OUR
HEART, THE LIFE SUSTAINING FIRE
MOVES INDOORS THROUGH ADVANCES
IN MASONRY.
OFTEN CHANGED THE WEB OF SOCIAL
RELATIONS THEREBY.
SO NOW WE HAVE A HEARTH AND SO
WE HAVE A GATHERING AROUND THE
HEARTH, WHICH IS THE HEART OF
THE HOME AND SO THE HEARTH AND
HOME AND SO ON.
BUT MATERIAL CHANGE OF THIS
SORT, THAT IS BRINGING THE FIRE
INSIDE DOES NOT HAPPEN IN A
SOCIAL VACUUM.
IT RATHER RESPONDS TO COMPLEX
MOTIVATIONS IN A SERIES OF
FEEDBACK LOOPS THAT DEFINE AN
INFINITE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN
CONSCIOUSNESS AND ITS MATERIAL
REALIZATIONS.
SO FUCOE ASKS "WHY DID PEOPLE
STRUGGLE TO FIND A WAY TO PUT A
CHIMNEY INSIDE A HOUSE IN THE
FIRST PLACE?
OR WHY DID THEY PUT THEIR
TECHNIQUES TO THIS USE?"
IT'S NOT AS THOUGH ONE DAY THEY
WOKE UP AND SAID OH, NOW WE CAN
BUILD SUSTAINABLE FIREPLACES
AND CHIMNEYS SO NOW THE FIRE
COMES INSIDE AND EVERYTHING
FOLLOWS FROM THAT.
DESIRE PROCEEDS AND IS SHAPED
BY AS WELL AS SHAPING HERE.
INDEED DESIRE AND CHANGE ARE
INTIMATELY RELATED AND FAR MORE
COMPLEX THAN EVEN HAGGLE'S
ASCENDING DIALECT (Unclear)
COULD ACCOUNT FOR.
"ARCHITECTURE MORE GENERALLY."
SAYS FUCOE "IS BEST CONCEIVED
NOT AS A BASE LINE MATERIAL
FACT THOUGH ARCHITECTS WILL
OFTEN SAY THAT BUT RATHER AS AN
ELEMENT OF SUPPORT TO ENSURE A
CERTAIN ALLOCATION OF PEOPLE IN
SPACE."
A CANALIZATION OF THEIR
CIRCULATION AS WELL AS THE
CODING OF THEIR RECIPROCAL
RELATIONS.
ARCHITECTURE MAY BE REACTIONARY
OR LIBERATING OR NEITHER OR
BOTH.
WE MUST REMEMBER ALWAYS THAT
LIBERTY IS ITSELF A PRACTICE
NOT A STATIC CONDITION.
WE ARE FREE AND INDIVIDUAL ONLY
IN THE EXERCISE OF OUR
INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM AGAINST
SOCIAL BACKGROUND.
NOT AS PART OF SOME BIOLOGICAL
AND STILL LESS GOD GIVEN
NATURE.
EVEN SO CALLED NATURAL LIMITS
ARE NOT AS WE KNOW ENTIRELY
UNCROSSABLE THRESHOLDS.
WE DEFY GRAVITY, WE OUTWIT
GENETIC CODE AND WE REVISE OUR
BODIES ALL THE TIME.
WE MUST EXIST IN TIME AND
SPACE.
IT IS TRUE BUT AS WE SAW LAST
NIGHT TIME AND SPACE ARE NOT
RIGID GRIDS OF NECESSITY, THEY
ARE CONTINGENT ACHIEVEMENTS OF
OUR IMAGINATION.
THEY BEND TO OUR WILL IN
COUNTLESS WAYS.
WE CREATE THEM BUT THEY IN TURN
CREATE US AND IN THIS WAY EVERY
THRESHOLD IS INDEED ALWAYS A
CROSSING.
SO THERE ARE LINES AND VECTORS,
THERE ARE BOUNDARIES AND
INSIDES AND OUTSIDES.
THERE IS, TOO, A NEW MAP OF
SPACE ITSELF.
THE INFINITELY FLEXIBLE GRID OF
CARTESIAN PLANER SPACE.
WHAT DESCARTES ADDS TO THE
TRADITIONAL GREEK GEOMETRY IS
THE SYSTEMATIC BIAXIAL AND
EVENTUAL TRIAXIAL PLOTTING OF
POSITION.
AS I SAID BEFORE THE BASIC FACT
OF HUMAN EXISTENCE IN SPACE IS
THAT THERE ARE ALWAYS SIX
DIRECTIONS CREATED BY BEING.
IN FRONT AND BEHIND, ABOVE AND
BELOW.
LEFT AND RIGHT.
THESE ARE NOT ALWAYS THE TERMS
OF DIRECTIONALITY BUT ITS
POSSIBLE NAMINGS.
THE CARTESIAN GRID TAKES THAT
IRREDUCIBLE THREE DIMENSIONAL
REALITY AND RENDERS IT TWO
DIMENSIONALLY FOR ITS PURPOSES
BUT IT DOES MORE THAN THIS.
IN IT’S VARIOUS ACTS OF
DIMENSIONAL REDUCTION, THE GRID
IS ALSO OF COURSE CREATIVE.
IT ALTERS OUR IDEA AND
THEREFORE OUR EXPERIENCE OF
SPACE.
NOW WE CAN MAP AND GRID
VIRTUALLY ANYTHING OR TO BE
MORE PRECISE, VIRTUALLY MAP AND
GRID ANYTHING.
THE VERY IDEA OF THE MAP THOUGH
PROCEEDING THE CARTESIAN MOMENT
BY LONG CENTURIES IS GIVEN LONG
LIFE AND NEW DIRECTION.
NO LONGER THE
CONCEPTUAL FANTASIES OR
CAUTIONARY FABLES OR EARLIER
AGES WHERE A MAP MIGHT HAVE
EXPRESSED THE RULE OF FORTUNES
WHEEL FOR EXAMPLE OR THE
CHASTENING FEARS OF THE DRAGONS
THAT LIE BEYOND THE BOUNDARY.
INSTEAD NOW
WE HAVE A CLUSTER OF NEW
IMPERATIVES ABOUT PRECISION AND
ACCURACY AND AS WITH SPACE SO
WITH TIME.
IT'S WELL TO REMEMBER THAT THE
NAVIGATION OF MAPPING OF THE
SEAS WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN
POSSIBLE WITHOUT THE RELIABLE
TIME PIECES THAT ENABLE USEFUL
LONGITUDINAL MEASURE.
YOU CAN FIX LATITUDE BY THE
STARS AND THUS GET A READING OF
NORTH AND SOUTH BUT EAST AND
WEST RESIST MEASUREMENT AS LONG
AS THERE IS NO PRECISE WHICH IS
TO SAY MEASURED TIME TELLING.
AND THESE NORMS OF MEASUREMENT
ALWAYS BOTH DRIVEN BY AND
DRIVING POLITICAL AND
COMMERCIAL DESIRES THEMSELVES
CREATE A DRIVING INNER LOGIC OF
REPRESENTATION.
THIS LOGIC OF REPRESENTATION
WHICH MOST OF US TAKE FOR
GRANTED EVERY TIME WE USE A MAP
TO FIND OUR PLACE ON A HIGHWAY
OR TO ORIENT OURSELVES TO A
STREET IS OF COURSE REDUCIBLE
AT THE MARGINS OF ABSURDITY AS
IN LOUIS CARROLL'S FAMOUS TALE
OF A COUNTY SO BENT ON ACCURATE
MAPPING THAT IT COMMISSIONED A
ONE TO ONE SCALE MAP WHICH WHEN
COMPLETED LAY OVER THE GROUND
OF THE COUNTY LIKE A CARPET.
THIS REMINDS
US THAT ALL MAPS, EVEN HIGHLY
ACCURATE ONES REMAINS FANTASIES
OF REPRESENTATION.
ALSO THAT THE CONCEPTS OF
ACCURACY AND PRECISION ARE
THEMSELVES SUBJECT TO IMPORTANT
LIMITS.
THE LIMITS OF USE.
MAPS ONLY MAKE SENSE IN OTHER
WORDS THEY ARE USED.
AND USE STRUCTURES BOTH THE
MEANING OF PRECISION AND
REPRESENTATION ITSELF.
CONSIDER FRACTAL MATHEMATICS
FOR EXAMPLE WHICH REMINDS US
THAT A GIVEN STRETCH OF
COASTLINE NO MATTER HOW SHORT
IN MILES IS INFINITELY LONG IN
POSSIBLE MEASUREMENT.
EVERY INLET AND CREVICE OF THE
COASTLINE CAN BE MAPPED BUT
THEN CAN BE MAPPED AT SOME
HIGHER DEGREE OF MINUTENESS AND
SO ON AND SO ON AND SO ON.
INDEED AT ONE POINT DO YOU
STOP?
AT THE POINT OF VISUAL ACUITY
OR DO YOU GO TO THE SUBVISUAL,
THE SUBLIMINAL VISUAL, TO THE
MOLECULAR AND SO ON.
AT A CERTAIN POINT, A POINT IN
WHICH CAN ONLY EVER BE
DETERMINED BY OUR PURPOSES, BY
WHAT WE ARE UP TO, THE NOTION
OF ACCURACY WITH ITS IMPLICIT
BUT WISPY NORMATIVELY, THE MORE
ACCURATE MAP BEING THE SO-
CALLED BETTER MAP BECOMES SELF-
DEFEATING.
THE CARTESIAN GRID THEN LIKE
ALL GRIDS IS AN ABSTRACTION BUT
IT'S ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL
ONES EVER IMAGINED.
IN ADDITION TO MAPMAKING AND
ALL THAT IT IMPLIES THE GRID
MAKES POSSIBLE THE CALCULUS AND
HENCE THE POWERFUL MATHEMATICS
OF 20th CENTURY PHYSICS.
IT’S STRUCTURE AS YOU CAN
ACCURATELY SAY INVENTS THE
PECULIAR SPACE AND TIME
CHARACTERISTIC OF MODERNITY.
A SPACE AND TIME I'M NOT
DEFENDING HERE BUT PROBING.
AND THOUGH IT’S PROXIMATE ROOTS,
ROOTS ARE MATHEMATICAL, ITS
GENEALOGY IS MORE COMPLICATED.
JUST AS INNOVATIONS IN OPTICS
AND EPISTEMOLOGY MAPPED OVER TO
BOLD, NEW TECHNIQUES IN
PAINTING AFTER DESCARTES
ENABLING THE HYPER REALISM OF
THE DUTCH 17th CENTURY.
SO EARLIER STRUGGLES TO ACHIEVE
REALISTIC PERSPECTIVE IN
PAINTING MADE POSSIBLE THE
ABSTRACT REFINEMENTS OF
DESCARTES NOTIONAL UNIVERSE OF
INFINITY.
PERSPECTIVE DOESN'T MERELY
REVOLUTIONIZE PAINTING IN OTHER
WORDS, IT OPENS UP A WHOLE NEW
WORLD CREATING RADICALLY NEW
NOTIONS OF SPACE, SUBJECT,
OBJECT, LOCATION AND EVEN
IDENTITY.
IT'S NO EXAGGERATION TO SAY
THAT THE SPATIAL TEMPORAL
UNIVERSE MOST OF US NOW INHABIT
AT LEAST IN THE WEST WAS BORNE
IN THE STUDIOS OF A FEW
EXCEPTIONALLY TALENTED ITALIAN
PAINTERS, MATHEMATICIANS AND
LENS GRINDERS WHO LAID DOWN THE
CONCEPTUAL POSSIBILITY OF
EVERYTHING FROM RELIABLE
NAVIGATION TO THE HIGH
PRECISION BALLISTICS OF THE
CRUISE MISSILE.
BRUNOLESKI, ALBERTI AND THEIR
FOLLOWERS SKETCH AND THEN
REALIZE THE ADVANTAGES OF
COORDINATE SPACE AND INFINITE
PERSPECTIVE.
BRUNOLESKI, THE FLORENTINE
GOLDSMITH AND ENGINEER, NOW
ONCE AGAIN RIGHTLY FAMOUS FOR
HIS RESTORATION OF THE ANCIENT
ORDERS OF ARCHITECTURE WAS A
MASTER IN THE SCIENCE OF
OPTICS.
CRUCIAL, ENABLING KNOWLEDGE FOR
THE RENDERING OF SIGHT AND
LIGHT LINES ON PLAIN SURFACES.
TO BE SURE RIGHT ANGLES
FORESHORTENING AND BISECTING
ORTHOGONALS HAD ALL EXISTED
BEFORE BUT NOW ATTEMPTING THE
ANCIENT GOAL OF ACCURATE
REPRESENTATION OF REALITY,
THESE EARLY MODERN PIONEERS
STUMBLED ON A NEW WORLD.
I SHOULD SAY CREATE A NEW WORLD
WHERE ANY RECTANGLE CAN BE MADE
TO SUGGEST NOT JUST DEPTH
WITHIN THE FRAME BUT INFINITE
FACIAL EXTENSIONS BEYOND THE
FRAME.
FROM LEONARDO'S RECKLESS
ASTONISHING FRESCOS IN THE
SISTINE CHAPEL IT IS BUT A
SMALL STEP TO THE FRAME
FLOODING MOODINESS OF CASPER
DAVID FREDRICH.
AND THEN IN STAGES OF EVERMORE
CLEVER REACTION, THE CUBIST
FRACTURES OF BRAQUE AND
PICASSO, THE PLAYFUL GEOMETRIC
FORMS OF MONDRIAN, POLLOCK'S
DRIPS, REINHARDT'S EYE FILLING
BLACKNESS AND SO ON.
ALL OF THIS IS RELATED.
BUT IT'S MORE THAN JUST ABOUT
ART.
SINCE THIS NEW FASCINATION WITH
THE FOUR SQUARE SURFACE ALSO
CONDITIONS EVERY OTHER ASPECT
OF MODERN EXPERIENCE.
CONSIDER FOR EXAMPLE THE PAN
OPTICAL GRID PLANS OF NEW WORLD
CITIES LIKE MANHATTAN.
WHERE AS WREN COOLHOUSE HAS
ARGUED NEW COMBINATION OF
DETERMINACY AND FREEDOM ARE
CATALYZED ON THE CARTESIAN
PLANE OF THE CITY.
THE ESSENCE
OF THE URBAN GRID IS THAT
YOU'RE ALWAYS LOCATABLE.
YOU ALWAYS OCCUPY AN
INTERSECTION OF COORDINATES
LIKE THE ONES YOU OFFER
HABITUALLY AS WE MIGHT SAY BY
SECOND NATURE TO CAB DRIVERS OR
CELL PHONE INTERLOCUTORS.
AND YET BY
BEING LOCATABLE YOU ARE ALSO
POTENTIALLY ALWAYS MOVING.
YOU ARE A NODE OF POTENTIAL.
RESISTING THE IMPLICATION OF
SURVEILLANCE THAT'S CARRIED ON
THE VERY GRID BY WHICH YOU
MOVE.
MODERN NOTIONS OF INFINITE
SPACE AND TIME, GRIDED,
LIKEWISE ENCOURAGE INSIPIENT
PROJECTS OF TWIN CREATION AND
ANNIHILATION, THE PROJECTS THAT
WE GROUP UNDER THE HEADING OF
SPEED.
THE SPACE TIME GRID PLOTS
DISTANCES BETWEEN POINTS.
BUT AT THE SAME TIME IT SHOWS
SEPARATION AND DEMANDS THE
INSTANTANEOUS ELIMINATION OF
SEPARATION.
VELOCITY BEGINS BY SEEKING TO
DESTROY TIME THAT IS, I WANT TO
SHORTEN THE TIME BETWEEN TWO
SPACES BUT IT ENDS UP BY TRYING
TO DESTROY SPACE ITSELF.
THE INNER LOGIC OF SPEED IS
THAT WE SHORTEN THE TIME
BETWEEN LOCATIONS UNTIL AT
SPEED'S VANISHING POINT TIME
ITSELF COLLAPSES INTO A SINGLE
SPATIAL POINT WHERE ALL
LOCATIONS ARE TEMPORARILY,
POTENTIALLY IDENTICAL.
WE ARE EVERYWHERE AT ONCE.
OR MAYBE LESS ABSTRACTLY,
CONSIDER THE PAGE ON WHICH
THESE WORDS APPEAR.
TRAILING THEMSELVES FROM TOP TO
BOTTOM AND LEFT TO RIGHT USING
A VERSION OF THE PLANAR PAPER
SURFACE AND EVENTUALLY THE
SADDLE STITCH TECHNOLOGY WHICH
WE CALL THE CODEX.
THAT'S HOPEFUL IF THIS ENDS UP
BEING A BOOK IT'LL BE SADDLE
STITCHED IN THE CODEX BUT
CONSIDER THE PAGE.
THE PAGE ITSELF IS A GRID WHICH
IS STRUCTURED FROM TOP TO
BOTTOM AND LEFT TO RIGHT.
IT'S ANOTHER RECTAL LINEAR
SPACE ESSENTIAL TO THE WORLD'S
DOMINANCE.
IT ESTABLISHES CENTRE AND
MARGIN, IT IS A WAY OF SENSE
MAKING.
IT COULD BE OTHERWISE ITS
CONTINGENT, NOT NECESSARY BUT
ONCE ACCEPTED AS CONVENTIONAL,
IT HAS ENORMOUS POWER.
IN CHIP KIDD'S NOVEL
THE CHEESE MONKEYS,
AN IMPERIOUS GRAPHIC DESIGN
INSTRUCTOR CLARIFIES THE STAKES
FOR HIS YOUNG PUPILS WHO ARE
TRYING TO MASTER THE ART OF
PRESENTING INFORMATION
VISUALLY.
"THE PAGE" HE SAYS, "THE
POSTER, THE SURFACE YOU ARE
WORKING ON, THAT'S YOUR
TERRITORY AND THEY ARE GOING TO
INVADE.
FINE, LET THEM.
THAT'S WHAT YOU WANT ANYWAY.
BUT BE READY, THEY ARE ALWAYS
COMING FROM THE LEFT, ALWAYS,
ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS.
THEY ARE COMING FROM THE LEFT,
THEY ARE COMING FROM THE TOP.
WE ARE THE WESTERN WORLD.
WE READ, SEE, THINK, LEFT TO
RIGHT.
YOU HAVE FEW GIVENS IN THIS
CLASS, IN THIS LIFE.
THAT IS ONE OF THEM.
USE IT."
NOW NOTICE THE LANGUAGE OF
INVASION EMPLOYED HERE.
THE SENSE THAT THE PAGE IS AN
INSIDE ATTACK FROM OUTSIDE.
IT IS A KIND OF DISPUTED
TERRITORY.
A SPACE OF OWNERSHIP AND
CONTROL AND CONFLICT.
THIS, TOO, IS THE WESTERN
WORLD.
MOVE BACK TO THE GRID OF
MANHATTAN OR ANY CITY BUT IT'S
THE CITY I WILL CHOOSE TO FOCUS
ON.
THE CITY WAS FOUNDED IN 1623
BUT IT DIDN'T REALLY FIND
ITSELF UNTIL THE 1811
COMMISSIONER'S PLAN, WHICH GAVE
OPTIMISTIC IF INDEED AT THAT
TIME NOT FANTASTIC STRUCTURE TO
THE UNDEVELOPED LAND LYING TO
THE NORTH OF WHAT WAS THEN NEW
YORK.
THE 50,000 PEOPLE CLUSTERED AT
THE BOTTOM OF MANHATTAN ISLAND.
THE COMMISSIONER'S PLAN ADOPTED
WITH CHANGES AND NATURAL
SETTING VARIATIONS AND MANY
OTHER NEW WORLD CITIES
INCLUDING CHICAGO, SAN
FRANCISCO, TORONTO, MONTREAL
WAS ITSELF MERELY A LOCALIZED
EXTENSION OF THE LAND ORDINANCE
ADOPTED BY THE CONTINENTAL
CONGRESS IN 1785 WHICH DIVIDED
ALL UNSETTLED LAND IN THE
CONTINENTAL UNITED STATES INTO
A MASSIVE GRID OF REGULAR
TOWNSHIPS SIX MILES SQUARE WITH
LINES AND CONCESSIONS TO MATCH.
THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS SAYS "NOT EVEN A CONTINENT IS BIGGER
THAN ORTHOGONAL GEOMETRY'S RULE
OF REGULAR REASON."
THE CITY SOON BECOMES A
FUNCTION OF ITS SIGHT.
AN UP THRUST MASS OF FORCED
CONGESTION AND CONSTRAINED
ASPIRATION.
MORE PEOPLE FLOODING INTO THE
GRID AND OCCUPYING IT FULLY ON
TWO DIMENSIONS AND THEN
PRESSING INTO THE THIRD
DIMENSION, PRESSING LIKE UNSAID
CONCRETE THROUGH CRISSCROSS
REBAR'S OR SQUEEZING DOUGH
THROUGH A PATTERNED NOZZLE.
MORE THAN THIS, THE GRID MAKES
ALL FUTURE PLANNING AND PROFIT
SIMPLER THAN EVER.
THE 155 PARALLEL STREETS EACH
200 FEET APART, THE DOZEN 100
FOOT WIDE NORTH SOUTH AVENUES,
SOON CARVE THE CITY INTO
SELLABLE LOTS, EACH 25 BY 100
FEET.
GRID FACILITATES GREED.
AS AN AID TO SPECULATION JOHN
W. REPS SAYS "THE
COMMISSIONER'S PLAN WAS PERHAPS
UNEQUALLED."
AND INDEED THAT HAS BEEN THE
STORY OF THAT GRID AND MOST
GRIDS BUT THERE ARE PLACES IN
MANHATTAN WHERE THE ORIGINAL
SUBUNIFORM SHAPE OF THE ISLAND
REASSERTS ITSELF.
WHERE THE ORGANIC STRUGGLES
WITH THE RATIONAL.
AND THESE REMIND US THAT THE
IRREGULARITY OF THE GRID IS AN
ARTFUL IMPOSITION.
AN ORDERING
AND PROFIT BASED SCHEME LAID
OVER WHAT WAS AND STILL SOMEHOW
REMAINS A NATURAL SIGHT.
INDEED, THE GRID COMES TO BE IN
PART OUT OF RECOGNITION OF
THOSE NATURAL LIMITS.
THE EDGES OF
THE ISLAND AND THE WATER WHICH
SURROUNDS US MOST OFTEN
INVISIBLY CROWDING
POSSIBILITIES AND DEMANDING
THAT PLANNERS GO CARTESIAN
AND THEN GO UP, UP, UP TO
ACHIEVE THE DENSITIES NECESSARY
FOR TRUE WEALTH TO BE CREATED
IF NOT OF COURSE DISTRIBUTED.
THERE ARE PLACES IN MANHATTAN
WHERE IT'S ENTIRELY POSSIBLE
THAT YOU'RE ON AN ISLAND.
MOST OF THEM, IN FACT.
IT'S ALWAYS USEFUL TO BE
REMINDED THAT IT IS AN ISLAND
AND ITS STATUS AS AN ISLAND IS
WHAT HAS FORCED THE CONGESTION
OF THE GRID WHICH IS BOTH
LIBERATING AND CONSTRAINING.
CONTRAST THIS BY THE WAY WITH
THE EXURBAN SPRAWL, WHICH IS
TYPICAL OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF
LATE MODERN CITIES WHERE SPACE
IS NOT AN ISSUE AND THE ORGANIC
SHAPES THAT WE SEE IN THE
SUBURBAN DEVELOPMENTS NORTH OF
THIS CITY FOR EXAMPLE MUCH MORE
RESEMBLE A KIND OF AMOEBA OR
NATURAL CELL FORMATION THAN
THEY DO THE RIGID RIGHT LEFT UP
DOWN PLANS OF THE GRID.
UM, IT'S UP TO YOU TO DECIDE
WHICH OF THOSE IS MORE
CONGENIAL TO YOU OF COURSE.
THE SO-CALLED ORGANIC WHICH WE
TEND TO CELEBRATE VERSUS THE
SO-CALLED RATIONAL OR RIGID
OFTEN CAN BE FAR MORE
ALIENATING.
THE NEW YORK GRID GOES WONKY IN
PLACES LIKE CHINATOWN AND THE
WEST VILLAGE.
DOWN IN THE CORNERS OF THE
ISLAND.
AND HERE IT IS STILL POSSIBLE
TO GET LOST.
THE PATTERN OF THE GRID'S
REGULARITY STRUGGLING OUT OF
THE STILL WAYWARD MASS OF THE
CITIES OLDEST NEIGHBOURHOODS
DOESN'T REALLY COME CLEAR TILL
14th STREET EXCEPT ON THE EAST
SIDE AROUND TOMKINS SQUARE PARK
IN THE EAST VILLAGE.
IT'S AS IF THE CITY WANDERED
AROUND FOR A WHILE.
LOITERED AND STROLLED AND
MESSED ABOUT BEFORE FINDING ITS
STRIDE AND TAKING OFF NORTHWARD
INTO THE UNCHARTERED EXPANSE OF
THE ISLAND WITH A REGULAR GAIT.
AND INDEED ONCE YOU ARE ON THE
GRID, WALKING NORTH IN
MANHATTAN CAN FEEL LIKE
CLIMBING A LADDER.
TAKING YOUR REGULAR STEPS
ONWARD AND UPWARD FIRST TO THE
RICHEST OF MIDTOWN THEN TO THE
COMFORTS OF THE UPPER WEST SIDE
ALL THE WAY THROUGH TO AN ATTIC
OF POVERTY IN THE CITY'S
NORTHERN CORNERS.
DOWN AT THE BOTTOM OF THE
ISLAND THIS REGULARITY
COLLAPSES AS IF FROM THE WEIGHT
OF BUILDING AND WEALTH AND
ASPIRATION THAT CARRIES ON
ABOVE IT AND HERE YOU MAY GET
LOST EVEN IN THE CITY IN WHICH
YOU LIVE, EVEN IN A GRIDED
CITY.
SOMETHING THAT WALTER BINYAMIN
REGARDED WITH A SPECIAL KIND OF
AWE WRITING OF GETTING LOST IN
HIS NATIVE BERLIN.
"BUT GETTING LOST IN BERLIN IS
ACTUALLY NOT THAT HARD AND
INDEED GETTING LOST IN LONDON
OR VENICE IS ALMOST
INESCAPABLE.
GETTING LOST IN NEW YORK FEELS
LIKE AN ACHIEVEMENT, A GIFT AND
IN THE WEST VILLAGE WHERE I
USED TO LIVE THE STREETS ARE
TANGLED AND EVEN SOMETIMES
CURVED.
THEY REFUSE THE LOGIC OF
UNIFORMITY.
MANY OF THEM, CONTRARY TO THE
LOGIC OF THE GRID HAVE PROPER
NAMES.
BEDFORD, MORTON, BARROW,
BLEAKER.
BUT SOME OF THEM RETAIN AS IF
FOR A JOKE THE SYSTEM'S NAMES
WHILE EVADING THE SYSTEM'S
PLAN.
SO FAMOUSLY WEST 4th STREET FOR
INSTANCE, THE STREET ON WHICH I
LIVED SLIDES ACROSS MANHATTAN
IN A ROUGHLY WESTWARD LINE AND
THEN SUDDENLY CUTS NORTHEAST AT
A SHARP ANGLE.
SUCH THAT JUST FEET IN EITHER
DIRECTION FROM MY THEN FRONT
DOOR WEST 4th STREET CROSSES
BOTH WEST 10th STREET AND WEST
11th STREET WHICH ARE
THEMSELVES CUTTING DOWN TOWARDS
THE HUDSON RIVER IN AN ANTIC
SOUTHWESTERLY MANNER.
A WHOLE WIDE SLAB OF THE MAP OF
THE WEST SIDE IS CUT LOOSE HERE
FROM THE ROUGH NORTH SOUTH
ORIENTATION OF THE REST OF
MANHATTAN.
INSTEAD LINES ITSELF PARALLEL
TO THE RIVER, A REMINDER OF AN
OLDER KIND OF CITY DWELLING AND
AT THE EDGE OF THIS CAPRICIOUS
CHUNK OF LAND THE JOIN IS HERKY
JERKY AND WEIRD AS IF TWO
PIECES OF OTHERWISE SQUARE
CABINETRY HAD BEEN HAPHAZARDLY
GLUED TOGETHER AT 48 OR SO
DEGREES.
WHEN I FIRST MOVED HERE AND WAS
LEARNING MY WAY I HAD A SERIES
OF PREDICTABLE MISHAPS.
I WOULD WALK TOO FAR SOUTH
BEFORE CUTTING OVER.
I WOULD HAVE TO BACKTRACK.
I WOULD CHOOSE WHAT WOULD TURN
OUT TO BE MAXIMALLY INEFFICIENT
ROUTES FROM MY BIG, SHABBY
APARTMENT TO MY OFFICE NEAR
GRAMERCY PARK OR MORE OFTEN TO
A NEARBY BAR ON BARROW STREET
OR 8th AVENUE.
AT THE SAME TIME ALL RESIDENTS
OF NEW YORK HOWEVER SHORT-TERM
I PRIDED MYSELF UNREASONABLY ON
MY MASTERY OF THE CITY'S
GEOGRAPHY.
THIS IS PART OF THE ASPIRATION
THAT THE GRID ENCOURAGES EVEN
WHEN IT AT THE SAME TIME DASHES
IT.
IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING THAT I
NEVER ASKED FOR DIRECTIONS OR
CARRIED A MAP MYSELF.
THAT'S FOR LOSERS AND OUT OF
TOWNER'S.I ALWAYS
WALKED INSTEAD WITH A
DETERMINED AND PURPOSEFUL
STRIDE EVEN WHEN I HAD NO IDEA
WHERE I WAS GOING."
[Laughter]

Mark Kingwell says "AS A RESULT
I THINK I WAS ASKED FOR
DIRECTIONS OFTEN."
[Laughter]

Mark Kingwell continues "AND I ALWAYS
ANSWERED THE REQUEST WITH A
CHEERFUL CERTAINTY THAT WAS
OFTEN OUT OF STEP WITH ANY
NOTION OF ACCURACY.
AND I WOULD WALK AWAY FROM ONE
OF THESE ENCOUNTERS ALMOST
IMMEDIATELY REALIZING THAT I
JUST SENT THE HAPLESS
PEDESTRIAN, USUALLY AN OUT-OF-
TOWNER ON A PATH IN DEFIANCE OF
THE LAWS OF PHYSICS.
SUCCESSFUL COMPLETION OF WHICH
WOULD INVOLVE EITHER DEPLOYMENT
OF TRANSPORTATION DEVICES OR
PERMEABLE BRICKS AND
BROWNSTONE.
I'D WALK AWAY WITH A PROFOUND
SENSE OF SATISFACTION.
WHAT A GIFT I HAD GIVEN THEM.
GETTING LOST ON THE GRID.
I HAD A FEELING THAT IT WAS
JUST A SECOND TOO LATE TO TURN
BACK AND CORRECT MYSELF.
I HAD THAT WEIRD HAPPINESS OF
THE INEPT VIRGIL'S VERSION OF
(Speaking French)."
(Long pause)

Mark Kingwell continues WHILE THE
GRID ENCOURAGES THE IDEA THAT
POSITION IS ALWAYS LOCATABLE AS
I SAID BUT IT ALSO LEAVES OPEN
THE POSSIBILITY FOR MOVEMENT.
THIS IS THE DUALITY I WANT TO
EXPLORE NOW.
(Long pause)

Mark Kingwell says IN FACT,
POSITION BECOMES AN ALL
IMPORTANT ASPECT OF HUMAN
CONSCIOUSNESS.
AN ASPECT WHICH IS OFTEN
NEGLECTED.
EVEN TODAY WHEN MOBILE
COMMUNICATIONS HAVE MORE AND
MORE RENDERED THE IDEA OF
LOCATION IRRELEVANT, THE FIRST
QUESTION MOST PEOPLE ASK OF A
CELL PHONE INTERLOCUTOR IS
WHERE ARE YOU?
IT DOESN'T REALLY MATTER AND
YET IT MATTERS.
I WANT TO VISUALIZE YOUR
POSITION.
I WANT TO SKETCH MENTALLY THE
DISTANCE BETWEEN ME AND YOU.
ARE YOU IN PARIS OR AROUND THE
CORNER?
ARE YOU AT THE TOP OF THE
EMPIRE STATE BUILDING OR IN
YOUR OWN DINGHY BASEMENT
APARTMENT?
OUR BODIES AS I SAID ARE
ORIENTED TO SPACE.
AND OUR
PLACEMENT WITHIN SPACE IS
THEREFORE NEVER BENEATH
INTEREST.
SO WHILE WE COMMUNICATE WITH
DISEMBODIES, DISEMBODIED VOICES
ALL THE TIME, WE BOCK AT THE
COMPLETION OF DISEMBODIMENT.
WHERE ARE YOU?
WHAT ARE YOU
DOING?
WHAT ARE YOU WEARING?
WHO'S WITH YOU?
MANY PEOPLE OF A RATHER
UNSAVOURY TYPE REALIZE THIS
PREOCCUPATION WITH POSITION.
I MEAN, FOR EXAMPLE MARKETERS
AND BRAND CONSULTANTS.
THEY USED THEIR KNOWLEDGE OF
POSITIONALITY'S IMPORTANCE TO
TRACK OUR MOVEMENTS IN SPACE.
POSITIONAL ANALYSIS IS THE
SUFFIELD OF URBAN ANTHROPOLOGY
THAT STUDIES THE WAY HUMANS
MOVE THROUGH SPACES INCLUDING
CRUCIALLY COMMERCIAL SPACES.
FOR EXAMPLE MOST PEOPLE TEND TO
LOOK AND TURN RIGHT ON ENTERING
A RETAIL SPACE RESULT... THIS
IS IN NORTH AMERICA.
IT DOES VARY.
IN NORTH AMERICA IT IS AS A
RESULT OF PREPONDERANT RIGHT
HANDEDNESS AND THE WAY WE LEARN
TO NEGOTIATE MOVEMENT OF
STATIONARY OBSTACLES AND NON-
STATIONARY PEOPLE.
INDEED SHOPS CAN AND MUST BE
DESIGNED WITH THESE POSITIONAL
IMPERATIVES IN MIND.
LESS THEY LOSE THEIR ABILITY TO
SURF OUR WAVES OF DESIRE TO THE
SHORE OF PROFITABILITY.
BUT POSITION IS NOT ALWAYS
LITERAL AND SHOPPING AND DINING
THEMSELVES ARE OFTEN THE
LIGAMENT HERE BETWEEN THE
LITERAL AND METAPHORICAL
NOTIONS OF POSITION.
THIS IS ESPECIALLY SO IN OUR
CONSUMERIST DOMINANT DAYS.
IT IS A TRUISM AT LEAST SINCE
THURSTON BEVLIN'S THEORY OF THE
LEISURE CLASS THAT THE MOTIVE
DESIRE IN THE ACQUISITION OF
COMMERCIAL GOODS IS NOT THE
OBJECT'S THEMSELVES BUT RATHER
THE SOCIAL POSITION THEY
CONFER.
POSITIONAL GOODS ARE TROUBLING.
INDEED THEY'RE INCOMPREHENSIBLE
TO CRUDE ECONOMIC ANALYSES
BECAUSE NO AMOUNT OF EXPANSION
WILL SOLVE THE PROBLEM OF
DEPRIVATION WHICH THEY
INTRODUCE THAT IS POSITIONAL
GOODS ARE DESIGNED TO CREATE
DEPRIVATION AND CORRESPONDING
FEELINGS OF ENJOYMENT OF THOSE
NOT DEPRIVED.
(Unclear) CALLED THE INVIDIOUS
DISTINCTION CONFERRED THROUGH
CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION.
WHEN YOU ARE DEALING WITH
POSITIONAL GOODS IN SHORT,
THERE IS NO PURELY GOODS BASED
ESCAPE FROM THIS COMPLEX OF
SOCIAL RELATIONS.
THE INESCAPABILITY OF
HIERARCHY.
THE POSITIONAL GOODS OF
CONSUMPTION ARE LINKED
INTRICATELY IF OFTEN FALSELY TO
THE POSITIONAL GOODS OF MERIT
AND DISTINCTION.
SO IT'S NOT THAT ALL POSITIONAL
GOODS ARE BAD, I MEAN, AN
OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL IS A
POSITIONAL GOOD, TOO, RIGHT?
THAT IS IT WOULD BE VALUE LESS
IF EVERYONE HAD ONE.
THE POSITIONAL GOOD IS A GOOD
THAT RESISTS SOLUTION OF THE
PROBLEM OF ACQUISITION AND
DEPRIVATION THROUGH MERE
PROLIFERATION.
YOU COULD GIVE EVERYONE AN
OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL AND IT WOULD
CEASE TO BE THE GOOD THAT IT
IS.
CONSUMER SOCIETY, FRANKLY, ALL
SOCIETIES BUT IT'S EXACERBATED
IN CONSUMER SOCIETIES ARE ADEPT
AT KEEPING ALIVE THE LINK
BETWEEN MATERIAL GOODS AND THE
POSITIONS THEY CONFER.
THIS IS THE ESSENCE OF
ADVERTISING.
IT REALLY DOESN'T MATTER WHAT
THE GOODS ARE IN THEMSELVES OR
WHAT SPECIOUS CLAIMS ARE MADE
FOR THEIR SO-CALLED INTRINSIC
VALUE WHATEVER THAT MEANS.
THE GOODS MAY POSSESS INTRINSIC
QUALITIES BUT THAT'S NOT WHY
THEY'RE VALUED.
IF EXISTING POSITIONAL GOODS
WERE MORE WIDELY DISTRIBUTED
EXPERIENCE SHOWS THAT NEW ONES
WILL BE QUICKLY FOUND.
USUALLY INVOLVING AS BEVLIN
SAYS "FINER AND FINER
DISTINCTIONS."
DISTINCTIONS IN EQUIPMENT OR
DIFFICULTY OF ACQUISITION OR
RARITY.
THEY MAY ALSO INVOLVE ABRUPT
CREATIVE REVERSALS.
WE'RE VERY FAMILIAR WITH THIS
IN OUR OWN DAY.
WHERE WHAT ONCE WAS COOL NOW IS
NOT.
OR KITCHE OF YESTERDAY IS
SUDDENLY ELEVATED TO TODAY'S
COOL.
THIS IS THE RELENTLESS FASHION
LOGIC OF THIS IS THE NEW THAT.
[Laughter]
IT MAY ALSO
INVOLVE AN OLDER TACTIC WHICH
IS SECRECY.
EXCLUSIVE CLUBS, UNDISCOVERED
SHOPS, HIDDEN RESTAURANTS AND
THIS SENSE OF SECRECY AND NOT
BEING ABLE TO LOCATE OURSELVES
WITH REFERENCE TO THE
POSITIONAL GOODS WE SEEK BRINGS
TOGETHER THE LITERAL AND
METAPHORICAL SENSES OF
POSITION.
HOW DO I FIND THAT BAR THAT
EVERYONE WANTS TO GO TO?
HOW DO I CROSS THE BOUNDARY TO
GET IN TO THAT RESTAURANT WHICH
IS THE PLACE EVERYONE IS
SPEAKING OF?
THE KEY TO ALL POSITIONAL GOODS
IS ENVY.
AND THE FACILITATION OF ENVY IS
THE AIM OF ALL ADVERTISING AND
INDEED IF MUCH OF THE LIFESTYLE
PORNOGRAPHY THAT PASSES FOR
DESIGN THEORY IN TODAY'S
MAGAZINES AND TRADESHOWS.
WE ALSO SPEAK OF HOUSE ENVY TO
RETURN TO THAT DOMESTIC
INTERIOR FOR A MOMENT.
I MEAN, THAT PARTICULAR FORM OF
MARGINAL DISSATISFACTION THAT
COMES UPON US WHEN WE CROSS THE
THRESHOLDS OF OTHERS LIKE
VISITING VAMPIRES INVITED
INSIDE AND FIND OURSELVES
DRAINED AND WAN, UNABLE TO SEE
ANYTHING BUT WHAT WE DON'T
HAVE.
[Laughter]
THOSE WINDOW
TREATMENTS, THAT GRANITE
COUNTER.
THAT STAINLESS STEEL FRIDGE.
THAT EXPENSIVE LOOKING
(Unclear)
FACILITATING ENVY IS JUST ONE
SENSE UH, OF EXTENDING
OSTRACISM.
THOUGH TODAY WE RARELY EMPLOY
THE ANCIENT GREEK DEFENCE OF
THAT PRACTICE NAMELY THAT IT
BUILT CHARACTER AND ENCOURAGED
REFLECTION IN THE ONE
OSTRACIZED.
NOW WE TEND TO PRACTICE A
SIMPLER VERSION OF OSTRACIZING
WHICH IS MERE INVIDIOUS OUT
GROUPING.
WE THRUST PEOPLE BEYOND A
BOUNDARY.
A THRESHOLD EVER MOVING NOTICE
OF COOL OR TASTE OR DISTINCTION
AS WE MAY CHOOSE TO CALL IT.
BUT WHAT WE CHOOSE TO CALL IT
IS LESS IMPORTANT THAN THE WAY
IT WORKS.
ONCE THERE'S A THRESHOLD
BETWEEN COOL AND UNCOOL IT'S
VERY EASY TO SHIFT OUT GROUPING
TO SCAPEGOATING OR WORSE.
INDEED AT THIS POINT NOTICE THE
THRESHOLD FUNCTIONS TO
FACILITATE EXCLUSION RATHER
THAN INCLUSION.
IT'S MUCH RATHER IMPORTANT TO
KEEP PEOPLE OUT OF MY CLUB THAN
TO KNOW WHO ELSE IS IN IT.
AT A CERTAIN POINT EXCLUSION
BECOMES THE POINT OF
MAINTAINING THE ENTIRE
BOUNDARY.
YOU MIGHT THINK THAT THE LIMIT
CASE HERE IS THE NOTORIOUS SORT
OF SCHOOL GIRLS CLUB WHO SOLE
RATIONALE IS THE EXCLUSION OF
THE SINGLE DESPISED SCHOOLGIRL.
THIS IS THE ONLY THING THAT
UNITES THE IN GROUPERS IS THAT
THEY DON'T WANT HER IN.
WELL, NOW
THAT I HAVE CIRCLED OR
SPIRALLED OR SOMEHOW RETURNED
SOMEWHERE NEAR THE POINT FOR
WHICH I STARTED, LET BE AS
CLEAR AS I CAN ABOUT WHAT I'M
ARGUING.
WE HAVE I
THINK LOST OUR SENSE OF
THRESHOLD IN AMONG OTHER THINGS
AN EXTENDED FETISIZING OF THE
INTERIOR.
WE HAVE IN PURSUIT OF WHAT WE
CONSIDER TO BE INDIVIDUAL
FREEDOM LET SLIP BOTH THE
TRAGIC DIMENSION OF CONFRONTING
LIMITS AND THE ROBUST RELATION
OF PRIVATE TO PUBLIC
CHARACTERISTIC OF SOCIETIES AT
THEIR BEST.
WE HAVE MISUNDERSTOOD AND MORE
OFTEN MERELY IGNORED THE RICH
POLITICS AND ETHICS OF
INTERIORITY.
WE HAVE ALLOWED A MISCONCEIVED
NOTION OF CONSCIOUSNESS BECAUSE
WE HAVE NEGLECTED THE TRUE
COMPLEXITY OF THE INSIDE OUT.
I'VE SAID THAT DESCARTES GAVE
US THE OUTLINES FOR THE
ABSTRACT GRIDED SPACE OF THE
MODERN WORLD.
IN THIS SENSE ALONE HE MIGHT BE
CONSIDERED A CREATOR OF
MODERNITY WITH IT SCIENCE AND
TECHNOLOGY SO DEPENDENT ON THE
MANIPULATION OF THOSE XYZ
ABSTRACTIONS BUT DESCARTES AS I
MENTIONED YESTERDAY ALSO MAKES
ANOTHER DECISIVE MODERN MOVE
AND THAT IS WHAT I WANT TO
EXAMINE IN CONCLUSION TONIGHT.
IN THE MEDITATIONS ON FIRST
PHILOSOPHY DESCARTES FAMOUSLY
TRIES TO SOLVE THE PROBLEMS OF
GOD'S EXISTENCE AND
EPISTEMOLOGICAL ERROR BY A
NOVEL STRATEGY OF SELF-
INVESTIGATION.
A SERIES OF EPISTEMOLOGICAL
THRESHOLD CROSSINGS DESIGNED TO
FIRST EMBRACE AND THEN DEFEAT
THE DREAMING DOUBT AND A
POSSIBLE LURKING MALICIOUS
DEMON ENGAGED IN A SYSTEMATIC
DECEPTION.
THIS FIRST PERSON PROCESS OF
EXAMINING THE BASIS OF OUR OWN
KNOWLEDGE IS PERHAPS SO
FAMILIAR TO US NOW THAT WE
MIGHT NOT SEE THE REVOLUTIONARY
IMPORT OF THIS INTERIOR MOVE OR
INDEED MORE APPROXIMATELY WE
MIGHT NEGLECT THE FICTIONAL
STATUS OF DESCARTES CHARACTER.
THE SPEAKER.
HIS MIND'S EYE.
THE SCENE IS VERY CAREFULLY SET
IN DESCARTES MEDITATIONS.
SEEKING THE FOUNDATION OF TRUTH
NOT OUTSIDE IN A TRANSCENDENTAL
REALM OF THE PLATONIC SORT BUT
INSIDE IN THE NATURE OF MIND
ITSELF OF THINKING DESCARTES
RECHARTS PHILOSOPHY'S COURSE.
THE RESULTING PICTURE OF THE
MIND AS A SELF-CONSCIOUS NON-
MATERIAL, NON-SPATIAL SUBSTANCE
DOMINATES THE WEST STILL
DESPITE ITS MANY OBVIOUS
PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEMS.
THE CARTESIAN INTERIOR BECOMES
AS IT WERE THE FINAL FRONTIER
OF MUCH OF OUR SELF-NARRATIVE.
THE ULTIMATE INSIDE WHERE EACH
OF US IN OUR UNIQUENESS
ATTEMPTS TO GO THROUGH TIME AND
SPACE IN A SORT OF MUMBLING
MONOLOGUE BUT THE INTERIOR THAT
IS THUS DEFENDED DEPENDS UPON
THE INTERIOR THAT IS SET IN THE
SCENE.
DESCARTES TELLS US FAMOUSLY IT
IS AFTER PLATO'S (Unclear)
PROBABLY THE MOST FAMOUS
INTERIOR DESCRIBED IN THE
WESTERN TRADITION THAT HE SITS
IN HIS STUDY, HE'S IN HIS
DRESSING GOWN, HE'S SEATED BY
THE FIRE.
THESE FICTIONAL DEVICES MEANT
TO ENCOURAGE A SENSE OF
INTIMACY MEANT TO ALLOW US TO
FOLLOW HIM, TO FOLLOW THAT EYE,
OUR OWN EYE INTO THE INTERIOR
WITHIN THE INTERIOR.
(Long pause)

Mark Kingwell says WHAT WE MAY
FORGET HERE THAT NEGOTIATING
THE LIMIT BETWEEN MYSELF AND
THE WORLD IS A CENTRAL HUMAN
PROJECT WHICH CANNOT BE SOLVED
BY THIS INTERIOR MOVE.
DESCARTES COURTS AND THEN HE
THINKS DEFEAT SOLIPSISM.
BUT HE FORGETS THE SHARED LIFE
WORLD, WHICH HE HAS DESCENDED.
THERE IS NO ME WITHOUT THE
WORLD.
THERE IS NO WORLD WITHOUT ME.
USING WITHOUT HERE IN BOTH ITS
RELATED SENSES WITHOUT AS
INSIDE AND WITHOUT AS ABSENT.
THE ONGOING SELF-OTHER
ENCOUNTERS OF HUMAN
CONSCIOUSNESS CAN LEAD OF
COURSE TO VARIOUS KINDS OF
DISCOMFORT.
THIS IS FREUD WRITING IN
CIVILIZATION AND ITS
DISCONTENTS
ABOUT THIS
SELF-OTHER SELF-WORLD
DISCOMFORT.
"PATHOLOGY" FREUD SAYS, "HAS
MADE US ACQUAINTED WITH A GREAT
NUMBER OF STATES IN WHICH THE
BOUNDARY LINES BETWEEN THE EGO
AND THE EXTERNAL WORLD BECOME
UNCERTAIN OR IN WHICH THEY ARE
ACTUALLY REDRAWN INCORRECTLY.
THE EGO" HE SAYS, "DETACHES
ITSELF FROM THE EXTERNAL WORLD.
OR TO PUT IT MORE CORRECTLY
ORIGINALLY THE EGO INCLUDES
EVERYTHING, LATER IT SEPARATES
OFF AN EXTERNAL WORLD FROM
ITSELF.
OUR PRESENT EGO FEELING IS
THEREFORE ONLY A SHRUNKEN
RESIDUE OF A MUCH MORE
INCLUSIVE INDEED AN ALL
EMBRACING FEELING WHICH
CORRESPONDED TO A MORE INTIMATE
BOND BETWEEN THE EGO AND THE
WORLD AROUND IT.
THE CONTENTS APPROPRIATE TO IT
WOULD BE PRECISELY THOSE OF
LIMITLESS BOND WITH THE
UNIVERSE."
THE SAME IDEAS WITH WHICH MY
FRIEND ELUCIDATED THE OCEANIC
FEELING.
A COUPLE OF
THINGS WORTH NOTICING THERE.
ONE THING IS IT'S FAR TO
NEGATIVE AND I WOULD SAY
DEVELOPMENTAL PICTURE OF THE
NEGOTIATION BETWEEN SELF AND
WORLD IT IMPLIES A NOTION OF
EGO HEALTH, WHICH TENDS TO
REINFORCE THE ISOLATION OF THE
EGO.
A LITTLE LESS ABSTRACTLY YOU
NOTICE THAT FREUD CAN'T EVEN
BRING HIMSELF TO NAME YUNG.
[Laughter]

Mark Kingwell says SELF-OTHER
CONFLICTS AREN'T AS SIMPLE AS
FREUD HIMSELF WOULD THINK.
(Long pause)

Mark Kingwell continues TO PURSUE
THIS THOUGHT FURTHER THINK
ABOUT ONE'S EMBODIMENT, ONE'S
CONSCIOUSNESS AS EMBODIED.
WE OFTEN CONGRATULATE SOMEONE
FOR BEING COMFORTABLE IN HIS OR
HER SKIN FOR EXAMPLE.
AS IF THAT MEANS ACCEPTING THE
MOST BASIC BOUNDARY BETWEEN
SELF AND THE WORLD THROUGH THE
SKIN, THAT THRESHOLD AND
CONGRATULATING SOMEONE FOR THIS
APPARENTLY RARE ACHIEVEMENT AND
I SUPPOSE IN THIS AGE OF
SURGICAL ALTERATION OF FLESHLY
LIMITS EVEN OF GENETIC
CIRCUMSTANCE, THIS COMFORT IS
INDEED RARE BUT WE TEND TO MEAN
SOMETHING MORE METAPHORICAL
THAN LITERAL.
WE TEND TO MEAN A WISDOM IN
TAKING WHAT LIFE HAS TO OFFER.
BEING HAPPY TO BE HERE WHERE
ADMITTEDLY THE FINAL LIMITS OF
ONE KIND ANYWAY IS INESCAPABLE.
AT LEAST SO FAR BY WHICH I
MEAN, THE DISINTEGRATION, THE
LOST OF WHOLENESS IN THE BODY
WHICH IS DEATH.
THE DEATH OF CONSCIOUSNESS AND
THE BODY.
NOW CONCEIVING THE SKIN AS A
BOUNDARY ENRICHES THE
METAPHORICAL STORY NO END, YOU
CAN PROBABLY ALREADY SEE THIS
IN TERMS OF THE THRESHOLD
THOUGHTS WE HAD LAST NIGHT.
IT IMMEDIATELY RAISES THOUGHTS
OF BREACHES AND INTERVENTIONS.
CHINKS IN THE ARMOUR OF MUSCLE
AND BONE.
THOSE CHINKS IN STRUCTURES
THEMSELVES REFLECTED IN THE
ACTUAL ARMOUR OF BREASTPLATES
AND GRIEVES AND HELMETS OR THE
IRON IN KEVLAR OF MODERN
PROTECTION AGAINST VIOLENCE BUT
THESE ARE, WE SHOULD ALWAYS
REMEMBER ARE METAPHORS, THEY
ARE CONSTRUCTIONS.
WOUNDS MAY BE INFLICTED ON THE
BODY AND THE WOUND OF
PENETRATION ACQUIRES A RICHNESS
OF UNSETTLING OVERTONES
SOMETIMES SEXUAL INDEED.
SOMETIMES SEXUAL BUT RELIEVED
BY COMEDY.
AS IN I'M GOING TO READ YOU
THIS BRIEF PASSAGE FROM DON
DELILLO'S WHITE
NOISE.
A NOVEL WHERE THE NARRATOR'S
WIFE IS ABOUT TO READ TO HIM AN
EROTIC STORY.
THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVOURITE
PASSAGES ABOUT THE NOTION OF
PENETRATION.
[Laughter]

Mark Kingwell says "I WILL
READ," SHE SAID, THIS IS
BABETTE IF YOU'VE READ
WHITE NOISE.
THIS IS BABETTE SPEAKING.
"I WILL READ" SHE SAID, "BUT I
DON'T WANT YOU TO CHOOSE
ANYTHING THAT HAS MEN INSIDE
WOMEN, QUOTE, QUOTE.
OR MEN ENTERING WOMEN.
I ENTERED HER.
HE ENTERED ME.
WE'RE NOT LOBBIES OR
ELEVATORS."
[Laughter]

Mark Kingwell says "I WANTED HIM
INSIDE ME.
AS IF HE COULD CRAWL COMPLETELY
IN AND SIGN THE REGISTER AND
SLEEP AND EAT AND SO FORTH.
CAN WE AGREE ON THAT?
I DON'T CARE WHAT THESE PEOPLE
DO AS LONG AS THEY DON'T ENTER
OR GET ENTERED."
[Laughter]

Mark Kingwell says, "AGREED," HE
SAYS.
"I ENTERED HER AND BEGAN TO
THRUST.
I'M IN TOTAL AGREEMENT,"
I SAID.
"ENTER ME, ENTER ME, YES, YES.
SILLY USAGE, ABSOLUTELY.
INSERT YOURSELF, REX.
I WANT YOU INSIDE ME.
ENTERING HARD, ENTERING DEEP.
YES, NOW, OH."
"I BEGAN TO
FEEL AN ERECTION STIRRING."
[Laughter]

Mark Kingwell says DESPITE THE
SILLINESS OF THE USAGE THE BODY
LIKE THE LITERAL INTERIOR OF
THE SEPARATE MIND AS DESCARTES
ANYWAY DEFENDS IT AS SEEN HERE
AS A THRESHOLD TO BE CROSSED, A
VULNERABLE VESSEL BUT WE SHOULD
PUT THESE TWO BACK TOGETHER.
THE BODY LIKE THE MIND OCCUPIES
SPACE THAT PERSISTS THROUGH
TIME.
INDEED THERE IS NO DISTINCTION.
WE AS PERSONS TRY TO FIND AN
ARC OF NARRATIVE.
A STORY TO MAKE SENSE OF OUR
UNIQUE FRAGILE CONSCIOUSNESS
BUT WE KNOW THAT THOSE
NARRATIVES THEMSELVES ARE
CONSTRUCTIONS WHICH IF THEY
MAKE SENSE AT ALL WILL ONLY
MAKE SENSE RETROACTIVELY.
THEY ARE NECESSARY ILLUSIONS.
THE BODY CAN BE PENETRATED AND
VIOLATED AND DAMAGED AND
BROKEN.
AND YES,
ENTERED.
EVERY BODY HAS A SENSE OF ITS
INVIOLATE NATURE THOUGH AS A
MATTER OF FACT THEY ARE OFTEN
VIOLATED BUT WE MUST REMEMBER
HERE THAT YOU AND I ARE IN THIS
TOGETHER.
TOGETHER AND APART.
SHAPING AND
MAINTAINING THE SHARED LIFE
WORLD WE CALL OURS AGAINST A
BACKGROUND OF SPACE WHICH WE
ALL MUST SHARE.
EXPLORING THE LIMITS OF THIS
STRANGE APPARENT INTERIOR
CONSCIOUSNESS ITSELF AND ITS
NEGOTIATIONS OF INSIDE AND
OUTSIDE IS LIFE'S TASK.
YUNG, THE FRIEND FREUD HAD IN
MIND WHOSE NAME HE COULD NOT
BEAR TO UTTER, SAID "THE SELF
WAS NOT BEST CONCEIVED AS A
LINE IN TIME BUT AS A
CIRCUMABULATED CIRCLE.
A CIRCLE WHICH OF COURSE IN ITS
CIRCUMAMBULATION DOESN'T REMAIN
THE SAME.
YOU DON'T RETURN TO THE POINT
IN WHICH YOU STARTED OUT.
YOU RETURN TO A NEW POINT."
AND THIS IS THE WAY IN WHICH
BEING A CIRCLE IS DEEPER THAN
WHAT BRAD GOODMAN WAS GETTING
AT IN THAT EPISODE OF
THE SIMPSONS.
WE ARE ALWAYS AT WORK TOGETHER
DRAWING OUR WORLDS.
THIS IT SEEMS TO ME A CLUE TO
THE DEEP APPEAL OF CHILDREN'S
BOOKS LIKE THE ONE'S THAT
FEATURE SIMON OR HAROLD WITH
HIS PURPLE CRAYON.
THESE PEOPLE CAN CREATE LINES
IN WORLDS JUST AS WE LIKE.
WE CAN'T DO THAT.
WE INHABIT A WORLD WHERE SOME
LINES ARE ALREADY DRAWN, OTHER
LINES ARE FASHIONED AT EVERY
MOMENT BY OUR FELLOW
TRAVELLERS.
GRIDS ARE PRESENT, FORKS IN THE
ROAD APPEAR.
WHAT WE CAN DO IS REMEMBER THAT
ALL OF THESE ARE CONSTRUCTIONS,
ARE CONTINGENCIES.
EVEN TO SPEAK OF LIFE AS TRAVEL
IS TO AFFIRM ONCE MORE THE
MISLEADING METAPHOR OF THE
ROAD, THE FORKING LINE.
IF WE ARE REFLECTIVE WE CAN SEE
THAT THIS SETTING OF LIMITS IS
ITSELF A DOUBLING LIMIT.
IT LIMITS AND IT DOES NOT ALLOW
US THE SCOPE FOR MORE ROBUST OR
INTERESTING METAPHORS.
WE THINK WE PROCEED ALONG A
LINE, A VECTOR ONLY TO FIND
PERHAPS THAT WE HAVE INDEED
BEEN WALKING ROUND AND ROUND
AND RETURN TO SOME OTHER POINT.
ARISTOTLE WRITING MANY
CENTURIES BEFORE YUNG SPOKE OF
THE PURPOSE OF LIFE "AS
BECOMING WHO WE ARE.
NOT ALWAYS TRANSCENDING THE
LIMITS WE FEEL IN OTHER WORDS,
NOT ALWAYS TRYING TO GO BEYOND,
BUT LEARNING TO ABIDE, TO FEEL
WHAT WE CALL NATURALNESS BUT
WHICH IS REALLY JUST THE HUMAN
ACHIEVEMENT OF BEING AT HOME.
OF FINDING A PLACE FOR NOW, FOR
HERE.
A NEW KIND OF HEROISM.
A HEROISM NOT OF CROSSING ALL
BORDERS BUT CELEBRATING THE
CONTESTED WISDOM THAT THRESHOLD
OFFER.
A FORM OF PLAY WHICH LIKE ALL
THE BEST GAMES IS UTOPIAN IN
ITS CHARACTER OF NOT YET DONE."
THE DOMESTIC INTERIOR IS NOT
MERELY AN EXTENSION OF SOME
CONSCIOUS INTERIOR IN OTHER
WORDS.
A THRUSTING OF SELF INTO WORLD
OR ASSERTION OF INDIVIDUAL
CHOICE.
IT IS ALSO OR SHOULD BE A SIGHT
OF DEEP REFLECTION.
IN THE MEDITATIONS DESCARTES
MAKES IT CLEAR THAT HIS
DOMESTIC SCENE IS NOT
IRRELEVANT TO HIS INNER
EXPLORATION AS I SAID.
HE DESCRIBES THE FIRE.
THE CHAIR, THE DESK, THE
QUILTED DRESSING GOWN.
THINKING DOES HAPPEN IN PLACES
AND PLACES ARE NECESSARY FOR
OUR MEANING OF SELF, FOR THE
TASK OF THINKING.
BUT THE INTERIOR, DOMESTIC OR
MENTAL IS TOO OFTEN SEEN AS A
PLACE OF COMFORT OR SECURITY.
A COZY ESCAPE.
IT IS FAR MORE THAN THIS.
IT IS A CONTESTATION.
IT'S A PHILOSOPHICAL WRESTLING
RING WHERE WE REFLECT ON THE
PROBLEM OF BEING A SELF AT ALL.
ON THE VERY IDEA OF
CONSCIOUSNESS, ON THE VERY IDEA
OF BEING HERE AT ALL.
THRESHOLDS ALLOW INDEED DEMAND
MOVEMENT IN BOTH DIRECTIONS.
THEY SHOW US IF WE LOOK AT THEM
CAREFULLY THAT TIME AND SPACE
THEMSELVES ARE UP FOR GRABS.
SO ARE IDENTITY AND SELF,
CONTINGENCY AND NECESSITY.
EVERY CROSSING IS A VENTURE,
EVERY TURN IS A CHALLENGE.
WHEN WE ACKNOWLEDGE THAT WE
CANNOT OVERCOME THE
CIRCUMSTANCES OF THOUGHT
THROUGH THOUGHT ITSELF.
WHEN WE SEE PERHAPS AT EVERY
MOMENT PERHAPS AT A RARE MOMENT
THAT WE ARE ENGAGED IN THE
QUIETLY HEROIC BUSINESS OF
TOGETHER TRYING TO BECOME
OURSELVES.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

[Applause]

Watch: Mark Kingwell on Crossing the Threshold