Mihai Stanescu

spaces of passage - zero

URBAHN(germ) = ancient road /a path used in mythical times ... Urban, <Urbahn>,
Significant resemblances, the creation of a discourse accompanying a non-living being; an ancient road connected with the drifting of spatio-temporal perception; the opposite of the ROYAL PATH, the intricate, labyrinthine road, orphic in essence (but more so in form), the meta-road.

The sons of Israel promised not to divert from their course across the Amoreis' fields and vineyards and to follow the royal path leading to the Promised Land. Drifting off the path can exist only in the absence of truth, the germination of the road takes place between shortcuts and loops, through the senses: labyrinths, crossings of minor roads, some of them without exits, dead ends that are however full of unimagined treasures.

The transformation of the Ego into something alive takes place through the continuous passage towards the Self-that-is-older-than-life, by reaching the gates; the spirals of learning the experience-metaphors of the URBAHN, present from beyond time, transgressing and using it as a meaningful sign bearing a message that is undetectable to an ordinary perception.

URBAHN = a palimpsest-reality, adaptable to any kind of discourse referring to the city, to living in a communal space; IN-concept, OUT-consensus, a non-paradigm, a circus of acrobats and flame swallowers who have visited our Interior City.

spaces of passages - one

The City. Each exit from our everyday home brings us face to face with an avalanche of perceptible/imperceptible messages, received from all peripheries of our contacts with the "foreign" world, with otherness. Add to this the impact of the city environment - an indefinite monster speaking in numerous whispered voices, roars, whistles and onomatopoeias. We protect our interior tranquility as much as we can, although it is also mixed with outside noises, but exactly when we lay down our defenses something immediately interacts with us, forcing us to take decisions which will manifest themselves in our whole being. And after a while we find ourselves trapped in a mäelstrom of sendings and receivings, actions and nuanced refusals. We re-discover and re-learn ourselves again and again through a Brownian movement or one with clearly objectives - and the only quality of this movement we can see, desire or expect is the persistance of a future inactivity. It is as if we had to cross a pedestrian crosswalk as long as the day itself, spurned on only by the tought of reaching the end, the opposite sidewalk.

Our disappearance in the urban landscape: a double acknowledgement. We acknowledge our personal status as social actors, contributors to the enlargement of entropy, small creators seizing the favorable conditions offered by the Big City. The pleasure of meeting other people is secured through the ceaseless appeal to whatever social norms are shared by the whole community. We feel an internal battle during every meeting/departure from someone spotted accidentally in the street, at the coffee shop, in libraries ... We need to awake our senses which have long ago forgotten a sense of indistinct peace from which we come. And toward which we run, sometimes at paroxysmal speeds.

This brings about a second acknowledgment, general but not abstract: a recognition of the exterior, the urban space built outside us that we interpret/live daily, as a whole, as a structural unity impressing us, generating the idea of the MESSAGE. In a painfully clear and frighteningly ambiguous manner this piece of information finds connections with what intrinsically inhabits us. Paul Valéry in "La Crise de l'Esprit" perceived this candid and continuous violation of the interior space by the public one as a form of identification: "... and I tell myself that in our soul there are streets, crossroads and dead ends. There are gloomy corners and areas we should avoid and as well as magnificent and sacred spaces. Our soul conceals tombs that comprise the monuments of our victories and the high edifices of our conceit. And we know that in our Interior Fortress, where every moment is a step of our life, a ceaseless activity gives birth to good and evil, truth and lie, beauty and the grotesque - all the contradictions specific to mankind which necessarily assemble themselves in a powerful contrast in a capital city."

spaces of passage - two

Narwhals. The statement according to which urban planning can no longer exist, at least not in the way modernism perceived it, has left room for an indefinite and unlimited criticism. The definitions of the city can no longer be restricted to urban discourse. They have become divergent and they generate attitudes varying from "the Nietzschean frivolity" affirmed by R.M.Koolhas, to an equally constructive refusal to acknowledge the crisis in the relations between the creators or professionals of the urban landscape, and its beneficiaries.

Can the city be still considered, respecting the terms of this debate, as a compact conglomerate endowed with significance? Simplifying, can the perception of the urban message still be experienced as an integral totality? The message covers a variety of psychological realities that can be designated by such words as: fear, spleen, stress etc. The message is a sequence of units of sense in specific connections. The city as a perceived message has been so far a simultaneity of sense-units anchored to the norms of the community.

All of a sudden, the city's inhabitants and constructors became aware of the tearing apart of units of signification, into functional and artistic patterns, into zones of a maximum interest vs. limit, marginal, even dangerous zones. If the town has so far been centered, the expression of the father-state (through administrative, educational, religious areas, with inflexible values), the increased possibilities for communication and globalization have produced a decentralization of the city and a reevaluation of its components. This has led to the coagulation of these units of sense, to the assemblage of buildings superimposed on a zone of the city.

This is how the narwhals appeared, assemblages of buildings that, besides their mainly esthetic and functional purpose, promote a series of messages which although considered as auxiliary tend to become essential in their relation with occasional receivers. Such is the case with the fluorescent advertisements placed in the most important squares, the immense advertising billboards placed on apartment buildings, and the banners stretched above the main roads. These parasites tend to unify - aggressively and without any selection - those places and buildings that had nothing in common before.

The fluorescent lighting of company Q ensures that is will be noticed by the majority of people through its extremely exact placement in both financial and traffic centers. You can even see them around your own house as reminders of a conditional structure that determines our supposed needs. This is the narwhal's tusk, pricking and wearing the commercial messages as streamers. It establishes a communication between spaces through the intermediary of common signs which function as rules, through the simple association of brands, however strange these may seem to those who wear them.

The same goes for advertising billboards - which physically unify apartment buildings and institutions in an avalanche of light and color - bridges without beginning or end, floating parachutes, narwhal tusks suspended from the void. The boulevard marked by a repetition of advertisements of identical products try to create the impression of the single, royal path that leads to the place where Paradise can be found.

The multitude of the temptations of daily life, directly/indirectly caused by advertising, are like groups of narwhals in the season of mating ... and we appear as a fertile medium for the madness of the senses.

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