Networked_Performance

Live Stage: Citiness and Literariness [us Philadelphia]

southafrica.jpgCitiness and Literariness: Architecture Dejeuner with Lindsay Bremner :: November 8, 2007; 12:00-2:00 pm :: Slought Foundation, 4017 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA :: Free admission (Reservation required).

“If cities are indeed unique and unparaphraseable, then, as such, they have more in common with poetic than literal language, with literature than information. Insofar as the city exceeds interpretation, it operates like a work of literature does. For while they have economic, political, social and cultural histories which can be identified and in relation to which they can be described, interpreted, explained, judged etc., cities also display a resistance to such interpretation. My thesis is that this lies, not in some deep or hidden meaning that we have failed to uncover about a city, or in a theory not yet written, but rather in the unique and particular way cities shape the lives of those who live in them, what I have called their “citiness”.

This can be understood, I think, analogously, through Blanchot’s concept of the “literariness” of a work of literature. Literariness, for Blanchot, is something that occurs when language is released from its significatory, descriptive or narrative function and becomes material effect – rhythm, sound, colour, contour, style etc. (Blanchot 1943). He refers to this as the double negativity of literature (Haase and Large 2001). Information bearing language communicates by the dual operations of negating the presence of reality, and positively substituting ideas for things. In literature however, “the word does not transform the negativity of language into the positivity of the concept, but stubbornly maintains and preserves it” (Haase and Large 2001:32).

The “thingness” and the “aboutness” of language are superimposed. Language no longer substitutes concepts for things, it no longer communicates, but becomes itself, becomes “other”, circulating among, between and within the world of words itself. This explains the resistance of literature to interpretation or comprehension, or rather the infinite displacement or slippages of meaning that occur within it. Failure to understand literature cannot be attributed to insufficient knowledge, but rather to its inherent autonomy, its “otherness”.

The city asserts its otherness in a number of ways.

Firstly, it exposes us to an excessive presence of others, of strangers, who call into question our ownership of the world…

Second are questions of authorship … the city annihilates authorship … The very multiplicity of agency at work in it means firstly that it is not made by any one … Urban life is constantly made and unmade by multiple realities, and authorship, no matter how prominent, quickly disappears into obscurity, anonymity or cultural history…

Thirdly, like the work of literature, the city brings its authors / writers into existence, not the other way round … The city is not authored by us, not written by us, but writes us. It writes us into being as city people, as people constituted by and living in “the constantly moving stream of money” (Simmell 1971:330) and does so as we “read” it, or, in de Certeau’s words, walk it, live our everyday lives in it…” From Citiness and Literariness: Architecture Dejeuner with Lindsay Bremner [PDF]


Oct 30, 10:55
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  1. A (slightly edited) passage from Lindsay Bremner’s draft for “Citiness as Literariness” | Tightgrid:

    […] from Lindsay Bremner’s draft for “Citiness as Literariness” [PDF]. Found via Networked_Performance. The city asserts its otherness in a number of […]


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