“In what way is it possible to conjoin a heightened graphicness to the realization of the Marxist method? The first stage in this undertaking will be to carry over the principle of montage into history. That is, to assemble large scale constructions out of the smallest and most precisely cut components. Indeed, to discover in the analysis of the small individual moment the crystal of the total event. (Benjamin, Arcades Project: N2,6)”
“In the early 20th century, Walter Benjamin ended his career, and his life, while engaged in a massive research project – ‘the Arcades project’ – in which he collected thousands upon thousands of fragments of text – some from archives and newspapers, others from his own notebooks, observations and reflections. The work was never finished – Benjamin took his life fleeing from the Nazis before the project was complete. Yet this collection of materials, coupled with his writings about the project, suggest an intriguing methodology for studying the urban condition. “Dialectics at a standstill” (Jesse Goldstein, 2013)”
In the Environmental Urban Theory Lab led by Jesse Goldstein, PhD in Sociology candidate at CUNY’s Graduate Center, D-UE and Theories of Urban Practice students partook in an exercise entitled Fragments of Green Urbanisms. Students were asked to generate two 5-250 word “fragments” each week. These fragments were to be quotes or responses to the readings presented in the course or images and text found or produced, conversations overheard or had, snippets of sound, smells, feelings, fears. Fragments were pretty much anything, so long as it could be housed online. At the end of the course students formed small groups to compile and create new fragments or a collection of fragments derived from the semester long archive. The result showed to be an experimental group discussion about the urban.
The Geography of Survival of the Drunk
Late at night, after a few hours spent drinking with friends at a bar, one might experience on his way home the urgent need to… pee. And with the alcohol having taken away parts of one’s inhibitions, the idea of peeing in a dark corner outside might seem more socially acceptable (I hope I’m not the only one who can relate to that anecdote…). While I was living in Berlin, and even in Montréal, peeing in a dark corner was an easy thing to do. There’s always an empty lot or an alley close by. But in New York, finding a space blocked from view and illegible to authority where one can pee outside in piece has proven to be difficult… This experience might be the closest thing I’ve experienced to being homeless. It’s not comparable, I know, but it still made me relate, on a very superficial level, to the idea of a the network of public and private spaces that constitute the geography of survival of the homeless. Maybe I should push this experience further.
I was riding a crowded #39 bus in Boston, MA and we came to a stop. An elderly woman with a cane started to get up so I got out of the way for her to exit. She sort of half got out of her seat, just enough so that she could toss some crumpled paper and plastic wrappers out of the rear door onto the street. I looked at her in disbelief, and laughed out loud in her face. She looked at me, smiled and shrugged and sat back down mumbling that she couldn’t be bothered to hold onto trash for so long.
When we are talking about green jobs, the first picture I draw in mind, and probably other people too, is that of something high-tech, cutting-edge energy-efficient, etc. But in fact – a repair shop is also a green job. Isn’t it? Tailors and shoemakers who are making anti-massmarket product are also doing green jobs, don’t they?
I am consistently overcome with this burdensome negativity in the direction of there’s-no-hope-in-the-world-why-do-we-even-bother. It is increasingly difficult to see where our massive levels of social, economic and environmental inequalities will lead us in a positive light. I will employ optimism to this confession—I believe in possibilities of a better future beyond our generation, but theres a ton of fear for the process of getting there.
A Fragmented Fragment: Constructing The Man Made City
I never really understood mentions of feminist critiques of planning until reading MacGregor’s article. I suppose you can be so far inside of something it becomes invisible.
I see the rationality and functionality of the city, but I feel the city too. It is hard to divorce my knowledge from my emotions – nor do I want to. Together my understanding is deeper.
Advice I received as an 18 year old girl moving to a city:
-”Don’t make eye contact. I was once followed home in Phoenix when I accidentally made eye contact with a strange man.”
-”I just read an article about sexual assaults and wearing your hair in a pony tail can make you a target. It’s easier to grab.”
-”I have this for camping but I think you’ll need it more.” (upon receiving bear-mace as a going away gift)
I didn’t really get out much at first…