Narration / Non-Ville / Description

[Co-written with  Andri Gerber] in: SpecialeZ 1 (2010) Paris: Editions Ecole Spéciale, S. 32-39 ///

Bildschirmfoto 2015-06-02 um 20.54.09PDF >

The city is not. Not because of a hypothetical, physical absence—the city is well present—but because it escapes naming. It escapes any verbal representation or depiction. We are not capable of grasping the city through language, thus, it is not, because we can only comprehend what we can speak of. This is particularly the case with the emergence of “nonlieux” or post-urban conditions, but it was somehow always implicit in the relation of human beings to their urban environment, be it the imagined or ideal sites (the heavenly Jerusalem) projected on the reality of medieval cities…

This difficulty to depict and represent the city can generally be subsumed into two different types of approaches: description and narration. Even though the two terms are often charged with different contents, we can say that description is considered to be scientific, objective and its instruments mostly an index— like a list—while narration appears to be subjective and sequential. It is revealing that this dichotomy, as such, was almost never treated or theorized, but (re)surfaces every now and then in urbanism, but also in literary theory, philosophy or in the theory of science. In the following paragraphs we will first discuss an urbanistic case study of this dichotomy, then look at it in relation to other disciplines and, finally, propose our own interpretation of the dichotomy for urbanism through a discussion of Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Lacan…

[Image: Richard Estes „Central Savings“, 1975]

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