22 January 2013

Social Space (or, In Advance of a Tilted Arc)

Geography has little, or nothing, to do with it. Nor does fate, I suppose. Each
encroaches. Be it nature, or imposed,

erected. And that ring of dolmens and slabs may’ve served some purpose
out on Salisbury Plain. A function from which – depending on which
theory you choose – some bit of useful knowledge might be devised, divined,
deciphered. From Bronze to Gilded, the latter an age for the polis arising,
stacking up. Steel skeletons and curtain walls.

Architecture and engineering, building -- like the act of walking, itself --
being a triumph over gravity (which can be,
                                                  if you'll pardon the expression,
a diversion of forces and skirting of laws. Load-bearing verticals and the 
sheltering horizontals. The rudiments of post and lintel

construction. And there are equations for this, I'm sure. Things
ratioed,then proportionally modeled or molded. Space carved up
and framed. Orchestrations of emptiness, solidity framing air and
light at certain times of day. Equations of the sort I'm unable to parse,
penciled out and threaded on a knotty profusion of specialists' glyphs.
Equations of heights to breadths to masses
& whathaveyous.
{ Man being -- it was once said -- the measure of all things.
Albeit in this instance, a proportional unit, a bodily mean.
Easily rendered as a grapheme or dash by the draftsman.
Figure-ground relationship, reduced to relative scale. }

Whichever theory you chose, a charting device or sundial.
But here in the grid a sundial doesn’t work so well, pulls the short shift,
here where in most places the sun only invades the canyon for a couple of
scant and bracketed hours. High noon, the shadows are their shortest.
Barely there, directly beneath, and stood upon. Unshakingly underfoot as
I cross the plaza during lunch hour, taking my path across
and around
A curtain, a wall.

But there are other equations I learned long ago. And other streets
I knew where the orientation (aligned with the points on
a compass) allowed the shadows to fall and stretch out in
the late afternoon. Including the one that swallowed and
dwarved me a couple hours after school had let out,
its owner towering over, and asking,
Hey, kid -- nice shoes. Where’d
you get those – offa wire?

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

image: David Hammons, Shoetree, utilizing Richard Serra's public sculpture T.W.U.
[Trade Workers Union], Lower Manhattan, 1981. Photograph by Dawoud Bey.

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