From the Toolbox of a Serving Library

My completely inspiring residency mates OK Do have invited responses to the following proposal:

Museum of the Near Future – Stories for a new Helsinki neighbourhood

The port is nearly asleep. Once a grazing ground, a home for fishermen, then an industrial shipyard, it now stands vacant, naked [1], waiting… In twenty years’ time, the place will fill up with life, including imaginable and unimaginable [2] activities that may go down by the sea. At present, shipping containers are giving way to construction sites, and once the last dock worker has clocked out, the wind will gradually take over. Hum-lulled, the port is to enter hibernation for two decades. Every dream [3] carries it towards the future where it shall re-emerge as a home for tens of thousands. In an attempt to participate in the reincarnation of the place – inspiring it to think big about itself [4] – our plan is to compile a set of materials for intervening in and nurturing its dreams.

In the spirit of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, or more recently Momus’s The Book of Scotlands, we invite you to speculate and imagine this place reinventing itself by means of literature: passages from novels, poems, academic essays, lyrics, scripts, news stories or other written pieces. Anything from funny to absurd, critical or political, your found quotation should offer a point of view to consider in the creation of an stimulating, meaningful place, which doesn’t necessarily exist anywhere outside our heads (or the pages of books) at present. Read the bedtime story for the port out loud – what could it become upon waking up?

[1] “There are ten million stories in the Naked City. But no one can remember which one is theirs.” –Laurie Anderson, 1984

[2] “You see, Wally, there’s this incredible building that they built at Findhorn. The man who designed it had never designed anything in his life; he wrote children’s books! And some people wanted it to be a sort of hall of meditation, and others wanted it to be a kind of lecture hall, but the psychic part of the community wanted it to serve another function as well. Because they wanted it to be a kind of spaceship which at night could rise up and let the UFOs know that this was a safe place to land, and that they would find friends there. So, the problem was–’cause it needed a massive kind of roof–was how to have a roof that would stay on the building but at the same time be able to fly up at night and meet the flying saucers? So, the architect meditated and meditated, and he finally came up with the very simple solution of not actually joining the roof to the building! Which means that it should fall off, because they have great gales up in northern Scotland. So, to keep it from falling off, he got beach stones from the beach, or we did, ’cause I worked on this building, all up and down the roof just like that, and the idea was that the energy that would flow from stone to stone would be so strong, you see, that it would keep the roof down under any conditions, but at the same time if the roof needed to go up, it would be light enough to go up! Well, it works, you see. Now, architects don’t know why it works, and it shouldn’t work, ’cause it should fall off, but it works, it does work: the gales blow and the roof should fall off, but it doesn’t fall off.” –Andre Gregory in My Dinner with Andre, 1981

[3.1] “Sometimes the house of the future is better built, lighter and larger than all the houses of the past, so that the image of the dream house is opposed to that of the childhood home […] Maybe it is a good thing for us to keep a few dreams of a house that we shall live in later, always later, so much later, in fact, that we shall not have time to achieve it. For a house that was final, one that stood in symmetrical relation to the house we were born in, would lead to thoughts—serious, sad thoughts—and not to dreams. It is better to live in a state of impermanence than in one of finality.” –Gaston Bachelard in The Poetics of Space, 1958

[3.2] “If today writing about utopias is a sign of spiritual desolation, then planning them must be a criminal act.” –Cedric Price, 1972

[4] “Rather than regard state [or, in general, place] brands as promotional tools, we should perhaps see them instead as diplomatic and journalistic “accounts” of a nation’s [or any other geographic community’s] own self-reflexive awareness with regard to the multi-faceted reality of globalization.” –Metahaven, 2008

I have suggested this passage from which to consider what else we can become, from the the introduction to Atlas of Transformation:

Let us imagine a situation where from one day to the next the rules of the game change, a game in which we are all, like it or not, a part. We may put aside any objection about the possibility of carrying it out and the legitimacy of such a decision, because what makes revolutions such is the fact that they simply are not legitimate from the point of view of the old order being replaced, and no revolution seems possible before it is actually tried. For example, suppose we decide to change the rules of language, to deny them completely–we spurn all known words, forget about the existence of the alphabet, deny the existence of parts of speech, cease to use syntax, and so on. We proclaim a revolution of language and decide to transform the rules of the language game.

Assuming we do not decide to communicate in another way (telepathically, for example) we face two alternatives–the first, that we replace the old language with a new, artificial language created by the intellect (Esperanto, for example) or use for its creation new rules starting from zero, that is, set out on a path of construction.

The second alternative is to adopt a foreign language, but one already tried and tested (the route of voluntary colonization or assimilation), or to accept a set of rules with which we are satisfied, but which actually come from another language (again colonization or assimilation by foreign rules), or we decide to create a new language on the basis of rules which have nothing in common with language as such (ex-territorial rules), and which experience has proved in another game (for example, gesture, machine language); that is, we set out on the road to experience, or nature.

-Zbyněk Baladrán, Vít Havránek


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