Urban Research Group trip - notes


Yesterday we went downtown to the African Burial Ground national monument, the court buildings, the bollards and barriers to street traffic in the financial district, Occupy Wall Street, 60 Wall Street, and Maiden Lane; Mark Shepard wrote the trip up for the Urban Research blog. The following was my response; I wasn't able to publish it directly. It might be of interest to others as well:

I was thinking about common threads - always a misrecognition - in relation to the sites we visited. What occurred to me was the relationship between capital and the body, between capital and materiality. The bollards, etc. are objects whose existence is only to deflect or stop other objects; as such, their internal structures are based on resistance. One might think of them as asteroids. What are they protecting? The simulacra of capital, capital flows. They're historical markers - of a wallstreet complex where bodies (investors, brokers) mattered; they're related to the floor of the stock exchange, just as the occupy the floor of the (historic) city complex. The largely non-white bodies that the Burial Ground monument honors are the literal/littoral backbone of the same capital, when capital was based on real, not virtual production. The monument also acts as a deflection or stoppage: what's stop is the viewer's flow through the city (which the bollards don't impeded, providing one is on foot): you can't mourn, can't lament, unless there is a real or virtual space for your lamentation, a space, like the hug, within which you might turn inward, inhabit. I think of the monument and bollards as two bookends - the beginning of written history was all about tallying, labor, slavery, and the early production of capital (think of mid-eastern bullae), and the end of material inscription is all about flow, abstraction, digitalization, and - on the level of the street - symbolic capital (OWS, bollards). The result? The body is increasingly at a distance, denied, skimmed, becoming Kristeva's clean and proper body with a vengeance, because a body in virtual space can't get dirty. And real bodies? They beneath, centrifugally, capital - they hold it up, but they're deliberately absented by empire, just as the wounded never appear on television, and bodies slaughtered literally disappear without history into the earth. But OWS and people in Indonesia, Somalia, Sudan, know otherwise of course.

So that all of this is metaphoric, which is a problem; the world is far more ambiguous, from birth until death. And metaphor erases, attempts erasure, of that very ambiguity which is at the heart of the real. So that perhaps metaphor might be thought of as digital in this sense? This erasure? And metonymy, because it might partake of the real, might be analogic? A stuttering or stumbling? 

- just some thoughts occasioned by the walk -