Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Emergency infrastructure

Have you even given thought to emergency infrastructure?
Clearly the purpose is never to help you in an actual emergnecy, but to stabalise day to day life by signifying and appearing to make concrete (reifing?) radical contingency.
It is always comforting to look at emergency infratructure with the realisation that we are not using it at that moment and therefore we assume that "at least it hasn't come to that".
I, in fact, have 2 such instances: an emergency bottle of alcohol in my desk (which is not for ever drinking but a gaurantor that things haven't hit rock bottom); and in the pantry at home we have an army produced instant meal which is the gaurantor that I have some domesticity left intact. Consuming either of these items would be nothing short of traumatic.
What other items act in this way, as empty signifiers to insulate us from the Real?


  1. It's a bit different, but in that Graeber essay I liked how he talked about administration and bureaucracy, and how frustrating and absurd it is but we all go through with it because implicitly there is the threat of physical violence at the end, ie. debt collectors, prison. I guess prison itself plays a similar role, at least for the majority of law abiding citizens, its a kind of sword of damocles hanging over our heads which is just there to say well everythings all well and good but you know whats coming if you step out of line. Is it a bit like that scene in a movie where the cop or criminal sits down to talk frankly with someone, and as a sign of trust he puts his gun on the table-again its like this is how it is, I am not going to be using this unless you make me.

    For me, graduate school plays this role, I was thinking its always like, well, if this art game fails then I can always go to graduate school and retrain to get a real job, it's a personal empty threat to myself to keep me going.

  2. I love the idea of individual people being like cities with their own emergency infrastructures. What other human analogues are there for public amenities?

  3. Well I'm not sure what public ammenities really. Most ammenities are for linkage/logistics which is pretty self-identical to personal logistics:

    Airport • Bridge • Broadband • Canal Critical • Dams • Electricity Energy • Freight • Hazardous Waste Hospitals • Levees • Lighthouses • Parks
    Port • Mass transit • Public Housing Public chools • Public Space • Rail • Road
    Sewage • Shipment • Solid Waste Telecommunications Utilities • Water Locks
    Water System • Wastewater

    I guess people have: waste systems (forgetting/moving on/disposing of information); hospitals and parks (recuperation/energy systems; regenerative/relaxing activities).

    The main concrete example I can think of however:
    - signage: exit signs, stop signs, traffic lights
    - escape routes: emergency stairs
    - zizek always talks about participatory buttons that do nothing on lifts etc
    - public spaces that no one actually uses (like vestibules/foyers) (I guess this is what social life is largely made of)

    So, what type of graduate school do you mean? Retraining to do what? Like an MFA to teach?

    I am the opposite and the promise of a time of art to come is for me what sustains me doing rubbish things now. Basically, I spend all day staring at the glass thinking all the variations of breaking the glass - of course its just to delay its actual occurance. (ie textbook neurosis).

    I imagine like all deadlocks, once you break the glass the entire construct dissolves to nothing and its like waking from a dream.

  4. Brownfield sites (abandoned spaces not easily redeveloped) wrt to relationships and experiences?

    But the ones i'd like to think of a linkage for are:
    post office boxes
    mobile phone telephone towers
    rail boom gates