Monday, January 31, 2011

Slowing Down Everyday Life:

As I get older, it becomes clear to me that some of the most beautiful ideas and events in life are some of the simplest. Some of the most interesting and exciting moments of my day are those whose emotions and surroundings never stop short. They persist and linger. Continuously revolving in and out of my life–allowing a constant visual flood of ever so slightly changing stimuli. Sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and emotions–all swirling, all the time.

What I note in myself these days is a constant need to break life into fragments. Be that through a short series of photos, or an obnoxiously long text that expresses one feeling–of one second–pulled through pages and pages of text. For all the interconnectedness of today, life still can move slowly. I enjoy that fragmentation of moments. I can also be deeply interested in movements, periods and styles of (mostly European and American origin), which in reality are microscopes on top of very small events and slivers of time in history. But the idea of a style or movement in itself is odd to me, too.

For a period of at least all of last year, and still to this day, I was/am absorbed with the ideas of the Situationists International from 1950-60s–most importantly, their idea of a dérive, which I used as the basis for some of the greatest self-initiated adventures in the city last summer and autumn (in the Jordaan). If I was going to walk around the city and let it lift and guide me subconsciously–why not follow a set of rules and give it a name?

Let's take a closer look:

'In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones...' Guy Debord, 1958

'The dérive (with its flow of acts, its gestures, its strolls, its encounters) was to the totality exactly what psychoanalysis (in the best sense) is to language. Let yourself go with the flow of words, says the psychoanalyst. He listens, until the moment when he rejects or modifies (one could say detourns) a word, an expression or a definition. The dérive is certainly a technique, almost a therapeutic one. But just as analysis unaccompanied with anything else is almost always contraindicated, so continual dériving is dangerous to the extent that the individual, having gone too far (not without bases, but then again) without defenses, is threatened with explosion, dissolution, dissociation, disintegration. And thence the relapse into what is termed ‘ordinary life,’ that is to say, in reality, into ‘petrified life.’ In this regard I now repudiate my Formulary’s propaganda for a continuous dérive. It could be continuous like the poker game in Las Vegas, but only for a certain period, limited to a weekend for some people, to a week as a good average; a month is really pushing it. In 1953-1954 we dérived for three or four months straight. That’s the extreme limit. It’s a miracle it didn’t kill us.' 

Ivan Chtcheglov, excerpt from a 1963 letter to Michèle Bernstein and Guy Debord, reprinted in Internationale Situationniste #9, pp. 38

The longer I live outside the States, the more interested I get in the world at large. And its history. I've noticed a stronger interest in the history of civilizations, lately, namely Dutch history and South East Asian history, with the rest to follow soon. Maybe that's the reason I'm so suddenly aware of time. Time can move so slow. But also so very fast. I'm coming to think that time is only an idea. Your hours can be full, or empty, of anything in the world, as long as you dream it/see it/(or) do it. And why fill your life with anything less than love and beautiful moments, at every moment of the day? I am really realising that no matter how fast we can globally communicate today, there is so much more to come in terms of technology and global interconnectedness in the future. Exciting.

I'm curious as to how humans will adapt to whatever situation they may find themselves in in 2,000 years from now. Too bad we can't find out. We're a fascinating creature, making whole markets, professions, crafts, and industries of out–nothing, if we want. We make our world go round. Artists and creatives have an important place in the past, filling in the lines between reality, life and survival, usually inscribed as a reflection of the culture of the moment. 'Art' always occupying a small sliver of 'history'. 

The longer I live in Amsterdam, the more interested I get in exploring the slowing down of selected events of my life, through various media forms. I'm not sure if it's the city, or life that's churned this interest to fruitation. There have been times when writing an online 
publication and I think to myself: this is so self indulgent. Why, why? But I like the fact that it slows me down, and forces me to reflect. It fragments my life through text through media. And I like that.

And so, I continue to wonder the world may bring, reading history of times gone by (The Embarrassment of Riches, about why the Dutch are so embarrassed of their glorious past), while living in the moment, immersed in environments that were conceived in the past (because buildings are never a reflection of the time, because they take time to build and are outdated before they're done), while reveling in the most beautiful moments around me.

About a month ago I locked myself out of the house. With no one was around to let me in, what was I to do, but dérive?