Readings – DeCerteau – Walking in the City

Weird one this, starts off as a nice commentary about viewing New York from the top of the World Trade Centre. DeCerteau contrasts the view from the top “seeing the whole” with the experience of being down below, where you can’t see the totality but can only feel your way through the environment. He talks about how Renaissance painters gave us a view of cities that we weren’t physically able to really experience until much more recently, and talks about how we can now have an “immense texturology” before our eyes.

He then goes on to talk about the utopian notion of the city as a three part operation. The first of these relates to the city’s production of its own space, and how the rational ordering inherent within it suppresses chaotic behaviours. Fair enough, but from this point on I didn’t understand much of what was going on at all. Maybe the point is that the complete confusion and bewilderment I felt having read the text would equate to the experience a person may have when exploring a sprawling urban mass from ground level. That must be it.

There was a good trip to the top of the Elysian tower to discuss the text then. Very interesting, I’d never been there before, there’s a huge sense of isolation and separation from the rest of the town, and a kind of opulence to the fixtures and fittings that nobody’s there to enjoy. Other people had gotten on better with the text than I had, they’d been much more open to just experiencing the language and going on a kind of journey with it. It’s a piece of writing that needs to be read with poetic ears. Must get some.


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