edge archiving.

Patch and / or Void of Plastics
September 26, 2010, 5:46 pm
Filed under: psychogeographical edges

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch does not have a particular location, nor does it have a particular shape.  It is unknown when it was discovered, or by whom.  It is not land, and it is not ocean.  It is known as either a “patch” or a “void.”  While its size cannot be determined, it is estimated to be about twice the size of Texas.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a stew of plastics and human waste (much from land waste, in addition to sea waste), which became a prominent figure of the “green” ideology within the last few years.  In 2007, NPR reported a story about a man who encountered the mysterious plastic island (link: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15713260), but the actual discovery of the “patch” is subject to a number of other mythologies.  Legends of this plastic island lend themselves to a kind of collective green paranoia, prevalent to many of the narratives you’ll find surveying the news media circuits.

Out of this liberal apocalypticism, the garbage patch has come to mark a dystopic edge-site, the mythologies of which are moreover a part of a longer history of the oceanic imaginary of capital.  The patch presents itself as territory, while it is in fact the anti-territory which has developed out of the “rim” — the Pacific rim, which functions within this tropology as the edge of erasure between global market sites.  Through this erasure of space, the “rim” has produced a space for our human waste.  This is a “void,” not a “patch.”

In a project which is premised on a tropology, the figure of the “patch” and / or “void” works into a narrative of the “rim” that has been governed by the right.  To the constant accusation of the right — that the left is composed of mythologies — the retorts have been dominantly either a move to de-mythologize, with some pretense of ‘history,’ or to re-mythologize the right.  What goes unevaluated, however, is the function of these mythologies — and in this case, the materiality of these mythologies.  As a result of the Pacific rim imaginary — or, the oceanic imaginary of capital — the ocean has taken on a new landscape.  For ships which travel the “rim” between Japan and the U.S. coast, the “patch” must be navigated as land: it is an obstruction which refuses terrestrial logic, always changing its shape and location, while it is an edge-site which cannot be broken through.  Yet in terms of its mainstreamed “green” narrative, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been absorbed into a certain mythology which is without a critical bearing in the mythology which produced it.  That this “patch” exists mythologically, without longitudinal / latitudinal coordinates, constantly re-mapping itself, might be understood through and outside the Pacific “last ocean” narratives of capital.  The material reality of this mass — or stew — forces a re-imagining of the ocean, forces a “void” to break from the “rim” of local obliteration.  This is how to make sense of the “problem,” which has been mediated by the “rim,” generating the solutions of an out-moded narrative of returning, recycling, going “back to the garden” with consumer politics.

Through the green-stream:


“The Chrysanthemum and the Sword”
September 11, 2010, 7:12 pm
Filed under: edges of television

“The Chrysanthemum and the Sword”

My project with the “edge” began as an experiment with sixties historiography. The “edge,” in this sense, provides a method by which to narrate the sixties, as a site of both radicalism and the end of radicalism – a narrative currently problematized by a memorial edge which operates at times divisively between generations connected to the left through a sixties ‘history.’

The hypothesis of this experiment was over the proliferation of the “edge” as a self-constructed narrative / mythology of the counterculture, and the mainstreaming of the “edge” in sixties youth through commodity culture. In this sense, the “edge” is unexceptional to the broad-stroke history of the sixties: the idea of the “edge” (Hunter S. Thompson’s “edge,” or Ken Kesey’s “edge city,” or The Diggers’ “planet edge,” etc.) is yet another figure of what might have been lost after a perceived saturation point of capital. However, the idea of the “edge” is precisely the site of eccentricity which yields a world of paradox: at this saturation point, the eccentric becomes encircled.

In tracing this idea of the edge through this history of its encirclement and mainstreaming, Mad Men provides a steady stream of material for gauging and evaluating iterations of the sixties narrative from our current historical situation.  The failure of the sixties project has been the dominant narrative of the left, with ’68 marking the event of a “tragedy.” Now, the sixties is imagined from the crisis point of the right, which is perhaps the transparent – almost gimmicky – appeal which Mad Men offers us.

Throughout the series, the “edge” works on multiple registers, as a geographical, historical, and metaphysical figure. This first culminates in an episode from the second season, “The Mountain King,” in which Donald Draper and his employee, Peter, go to Los Angeles for an Aerospace convention, looking for potential clients for their New York-based advertising firm (which is in the process of internationally merging / “going global”). Draper has an apocalyptic vision during his meeting with potential clients, and he imagines the advertising and promotion of MIRVs as the horizon of the sixties – a horizon of global catastrophe. Leaving Peter behind, Don escapes the convention and goes to Anna Draper (whose significance should be clear, to an extent, without my use of a “spoiler alert”), in a setting of his past which conjures memories of his life before advertising, New York, and his new wife and children. The episode ends with Don walking into the ocean (a familiar act of edge-crossing), with George Jones’s lyrics “a new life to begin.”  The scene is a gesture — if gestures may be unsubtle — toward a larger narrative of western salvation: Don looks to the Pacific, seeking the pilgrim’s progress, and can only go so far before he returns to New York, the firm, and his family in a moment he later declares a “crisis.”

“The Chrysanthemum and the Sword,” a more recent episode, begins with Peter reporting back from a dinner at the Asia Society. When Peter proudly announces that he has booked a meeting with Honda representatives, Roger Sterling, a WWII veteran, interrupts him: “I don’t expect you to understand this,” Roger tells Peter, “because you were a little boy, but I used to be a man with a lot of friends, and then World War II came, and they were all killed by your new yellow buddies.” Despite Roger’s outburst, the rest of the partners decide to pursue Honda while keeping Roger “out of the loop.”

Between Peter and Roger, the edge is the Pacific “rim,” or, the edge of temporal and spatial erasure between Tokyo and New York / San Francisco / Los Angeles. For Peter, this is a historical edge: Roger represents the ruins of WWII, whereas, he explains, “the rest of us are trying to build something.” The logic of Peter’s history is determined by market expansion, while for Roger, the “rim” is an aporia of forgiveness – to which he responds with a sense of (self-righteous) loyalty. The edge here might be described as the axis of forgiving and forgetting history, or, the generation gap of memorial history.

Peter, and the rest of the partners, proceed to meet with the Honda representatives – with the primary interest of a three million dollar account. After their first meeting – which prompts Peter’s reflection that “everything they do is inside out” – the partners are certain that they’ve lost the opportunity, due to Roger’s attempt at sabotage. “We beat you, and we’ll beat you again, and we don’t want any of your Jap crap,” Roger tells them, once he’s discovered that he’s been tricked into an extended lunch during a secret meeting.

Despite the presumption of failure among the partners, Don continues to pursue the deal with Honda, and meets with the representatives alone. Notably, Don is described in this episode as “always thinking on the edges of where you are.” Don performs yet another self-transformation – in this instance, an act of self-orientalizing. He starts to drink sake, he brings a date to a Japanese restaurant, he learns to use chop sticks; while he also decides to withdraw the company’s bid, because he did not follow the rules of proceedings, after reading Ruth Benedict’s The Chrysanthemum and The Sword. As a result of what Peter calls an “inside out” tradition, Don manages to secure the account, and Roger ultimately surrenders.

In the larger narrative of the series, this episode is one of many glimpses at a sixties history which begins at another edge – that is, it begins with the figures of the end. It is in this sense that, through Don, the idea of the sixties becomes a project of ending in 1960. When Don, as a figure of advertising, encounters the sixties counterculture, he is frequently in the position of explaining the primacy of the youth market. The characters who represent youth culture, or radicalism, in the series are in these instances oblivious to their own development from commodity culture. Whereas this is a familiar narrative, what is perhaps historically specific to the series – as our most recent popularized attempts at sixties historicity – is the vantage from which it is narrated. In these terms, this is the more fundamental ‘edge’ of the series: it is not a post-sixties narrative, but a post-financial crisis narrative.

As a site of this new periodization in popular culture, Mad Men is constructing a history which – following the experiment – features this ‘edge history’ in its backdrop, beneath its surface, between its stories and characters. The series is “thinking on the edges” of where we are, rather than the edge of the sixties. Yet in these instances, such as the edge of the Pacific “rim,” the edge is now a different kind of figure. It is not the edge of revolutionary potential, but the edge of the market, the edge of globalization, and, for Donald Draper, the edge of a metaphysical loss of self. Self-transformation is not the salvation he seeks, earlier in the series, in his encounter with the ocean. “Forgiveness,” for Roger, is reached over an account bidding. These edge-crossings are compelled by a single logic, which is the logic that compels the larger narrative’s periodization. Whether or not this avails historical possibilities, this is certainly a new way of ending the sixties.

“End of the World” Edges
September 5, 2010, 12:28 am
Filed under: psychogeographical edges

“The End of the World” by John Martin, 1853 — apocalypse as an inside edge:

“Contact Zone”
September 3, 2010, 12:57 am
Filed under: edge glossary

“Contact Zone”

re: Mary Louise Pratt: Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation

“Contact zone” is a term which, Pratt writes, “[refers] to the space of colonial encounters, the space in which peoples geographically and historically separated come into contact with each other and establish ongoing relations, usually involving conditions of coercion, radical inequality, and intractable conflict… ‘contact zone’ in my discussion is often synonymous with ‘colonial frontier.’ But while the latter term is grounded within a European expansionist perspective (the frontier is a frontier only with respect to Europe), “contact zone” is an attempt to invoke the spatial and temporal copresence of subjects previously separated by geographic and historical disjunctures, and whose trajectories now intersect.” (6-7)


Within the greater trajectory of an “edge history,” Pratt’s notion of “contact zone” presents a mode of edging the frontier imaginary with sites of intersection.  These sites of intersection, contact zones, mark edge-sites — rather than a mode of edge-crossing.  This is precisely the limit to imperial thinking, from which “contact zone” develops.  The “edge” reaches a similar limit, which is a dialectical limit of inside / outside edge imaginaries such as the American frontier.

As a point of intersection — or as an edge-site — a “contact zone” is an inward, liminal space which operates at the edge of utopianism and imperialism (encapsulated in the notion of “transculturation”).  The image of a contact zone is a kind of Venn diagram: a space determined by its outward edges.  The dialectical limit, therein, comes in the imperative of edge-crossing.  To cross the outward edges of a “contact zone” — as in Brautigan’s narrative (see article in “longer pieces”) — is to either push out of the utopian or imperial logic, or, to push out of a utopian imperialism.  Crossing the “edge” of a contact zone, historically, is the narrative of western expansion.

In its critique of the frontier, “contact zone” takes on an inward logic which is inherently postmodern — a collapse of the notion of an “outside.”  It is in this sense that “contact zone” might be understood as the “edge” of a frontier discourse — an edge from which an “edge” discourse might be further expanded.  What are the edges, or the outer limits, of these zones?

Through the global era, our cosmic imaginary has been territorialized by narratives of “contact zones” which operate as frontier sites.  Star Trek imagines space as an ocean, on which the ship and captain sail to different planetary islands, or encounter other ships along a horizontal plane.  The “contact zones” of the ship’s expeditions are sites of conquest, where different aliens (effectively, different human races) either engage in diplomacy or war.  Kirk and his crew represent a utopian vision of patriarchical multi-culturalism — a sixties utopia for the American masses — distinct from the traditions of primitivist or orientalized cultures they encounter.  These encounters take place in “contact zones,” which in these instances, operate as cocoons of cosmic Western expansion: vacuums from which alternative possibilities of space cannot be imagined.  Here, “contact zone” can be used to understand the particular hybridity of these spaces of possibility, or, of impossibility.

“Good Intentions Paving Company” & Towards the Edge-Pilgrim
September 2, 2010, 7:51 pm
Filed under: lyrical edges

Unfortunately, no music video released for this — but certainly a narrative with prescience.  Newsom uproots the “on the road” motif, creating a space of free-play.  Her lyrics imagine a romantic landscape — or, a potentially romantic landscape — as the ruins of the “on the road” American imaginary.

Joanna Newsom’s lyrics:

Twenty miles left to the show
Hello my old country hello
Stars are just beginning to appear
And I have never in my life before been here

And it’s my heart, not me, who cannot drive
In which conclusion you arrive
Watching me sit here bolt upright and cry
For no good reason at the Eastern sky

And the tilt of this strange nation
And the will to remain for the duration
Waving the flag, feeling it drag

Like a bump on a bump on a log, baby
Like I’m in a fist fight with a fog, baby
Step-ball-change and a pirouette
And .. and I regret, I regret

How I said to you, honey, just open your heart
When I’ve got trouble even opening a honey jar
And that right there is where we are

And I been ‘fessing double fast
Addressing questions nobody asks
I’ll get this joy off of my chest at last
And I will love you ’til the noise has long since passed

And I did not mean to shout, just drive
Just get us out, dead or alive
A road too long to mention, Lord It’s something to see..
Laid down by the good intentions paving company

All the way to the thing we’ve been playing at, darlin’
I can see that you’re wearing your staying hat, darlin’
For the time being all is well
Won’t you love me a spell?

This is blindness beyond all conceiving
Well, behind us the road is leaving, and leaving
And falling back
Like a rope gone slack

And I saw straight away that the lay was steep
But I fell for you, honey, as easy as falling asleep
And that right there is the course I keep…

And no amount of talking
Is going to soften the fall
But, like after the rain, step out
Of the overhang, that’s all

It had a nice a ring to it
When the old opry house rang
so, with a solemn auld lan syne, sealed, delivered,
I sang.

And there is hesitation
And it always remains
Concerning you, me,
And the rest of the gang

And in our quiet hour
I feel I see everything

And am in love with the hook
Upon which everyone hangs

And I know you meant to show the extent
To which you gave a goddang
You ranged real hot and real cold,
But I’m sold.
I am home on the range

And I do hate to fold
Right here at the top of my game
When I’ve been trying with my whole heart and soul
To stay right here in the right lane

But it can make you feel over and old
Lord, you know it’s a shame
When I only want for you to pull over
and hold me, ‘Til I can’t remember my own name

“Don’t Push Me ‘Cause I’m Close to the Edge”
September 2, 2010, 7:25 pm
Filed under: lyrical edges