Exhibitions and Events

Postscript 17 - Lance Blomgren on Serial Space


Serial Space was a series of talks and readings at Artspeak that approached the repetition of spaces that appear throughout our conventions of “urban” or “nature,” and propose a shift away from conventional dichotomies such as city/country. Speakers included Elizabeth Bachinsky, Diana George, Jacob Gleeson, Gareth Moore, Charles Mudede and Matthew Stadler.

The lectures were thought provoking, inspiring even, although their impact didn’t sink in until an hour later, at the corner store, when I realized I was still in love with you. But we have been through this before, so many times that this emotional terrain has become vague, both liberating and oppressive like some sort of Beaverton. Throughout the presentations, I kept poking your shoulder in an irritating manner. My mouth was pasty—too pasty to speak—so poking made sense. Did you get the message? I doubt it. Those Cub Scouts in my town were elitist little bastards who never let me join the brotherhood, so my Morse code poking skills remain sketchy after SOS. But SOS is what I had, so I used it. I slapped down the change for a bag of kettle fried chips and stepped out into the night.

The air was a cold, wet lick to the face. I whispered your name, enunciating the consonants and slurring all the vowels and suddenly Matthew Stadler’s ideas about serial spaces made some sense to me. This sense took the form of a stomach rush of excitement, something highly erotic and terrifying for its madness. To exist in a state of uncertainty, transition and mystery without the annoying need to reach after definition and reason. If Vancouver was a summer blockbuster, there would be wild animals and vegetative overgrowth threatening to take over the streets. The laws would be privatized, copyrighted even, the police would be mobsters and chaos would rule. We’d have to take refuge in underground caves, which I would do with you in a heartbeat. We’d create zones of safety and resistance in nomadic underground cities with the few that shared our beliefs and wanted to fight and rebuild. Our fear would be not that we were breaking the law, but that there were no laws left to break. We’d also be scared of the oversized robotic insects. We’d strive to create new laws, reestablish our founding myths of civilization and order, perhaps have children. Would that be so bad? Instead, you’re not returning my calls. Instead, this goose sanctuary underneath the Georgia Street Viaduct and a garden of empty chip bags.

Walking immerses us in the experiential link between serial spaces and the principle of serial vision. Moving at a uniform pace, I am treated to a series of revelations, a drama of juxtapositions, as with each step the existing view gives way to the emerging view. Who were those people called Paul and Liz? And why was that man shouting? The Georgia Street Viaduct is the only semblance of freeway in this city. From here you have to head east, to what might have been called suburbs in earlier times—to where Elizabeth Bachinsky writes of the imperceptible barter between love and violence, hope and loss—to find a road like this. Or you can head south, over the border. Like all poetry, Bachinsky suggests, things make sense only as they crumble. I drove the I-5 a number of times, for example, and each time I never thought of you. I was thinking of my girlfriend from high school who once spent a night with the keyboardist from The Squirrels in Seattle while we were dating. Now that was painful, and there was nothing serial about that relationship. It had been well defined, or so I thought, but that seemed to matter little after I saw her letter to him, the fancy handwriting and baroque decoration divined through the magic of pure attraction. I hated that jerk, although I never met him. To this day Seattle makes me uneasy. During the lecture, Charles Mudede said the I-5 is best seen through the windshield of a car and as I walked, I for one wished I was in a car, following his advice. The world is a risky place, isn’t it? Just off this road, Diana George reminded us, there is the Green River Killer; there are Gleeson and Moore’s dismembered camper trailers, sites of refuse and alluring illicit activity. There are late night meetings by men in limousines who shake hands. The fundamental principle of the city—enclosure, a disciplinary space entrenched with walls, separating us from the dark forests outside the city limits, and the nightmares that linger therein—has always been a mirage of control. These walls have rarely kept our enemies at bay, and now, the urbanists tell us, the terms of the city are no longer adequate to describe the fluid multiplicity of cross-border events that flow in every direction, not to mention the porous spaces and zones of indistinction that enable these events to take place. I suppose we can remain friends. There should be a way to discover something new for us somewhere in the transient economy we call our past. But where would this be and what would it be called? By the time I got home my feet were freezing and I was a wreck.

My new apartment is a tiny room in the back of an old house. It used to be an entranceway perhaps. It’s so small there’s no way I could invite anyone over without things getting quite intimate. I paced, trying not to think of you, but the apartment only offers two steps; I tried to watch a DVD, but my computer had caught a virus. Sometimes we would go to bed ridiculously early, rush towards sleep as if we were taking a vacation together. I thought about a conversation we once had while eating soup. What’s the practical realization of all this? you asked. We’d probably never be together, I noted. The beauty of our zones of indeterminacy is their namelessness and placelessness, their ability to give us some dream space between our overly defined systems, oppressive dichotomies and all-too-familiar, let’s face it, boring conversations and public issues. Clearly, the sex can be hot.

But how to preserve this? The potentiality of serial spaces, their qualities of defiance, liberation and reinvention are so transitory, and always under threat by the talkers and namers who are us. We are tempted by language. Our various public wildernesses

easily become public bewildernesses or potential “wild zones of terror” as Susan Buck-Morss writes, un-defined spatial/temporal blindspots that are, as such, outside the law and therefore prone to some form of colonization by those seeking power. That’s when things get nasty. It’s hard, as they say, to keep a good thing a good thing and to know a good thing when you see it. Friends say I should move on, get over it, but this implies both a starting point and a destination. So maybe things are really OK. I’m sorry I keep dredging up the past and sorry for all those messages; I will continue to work on a way out of this quandary. I love that you read so many books and always have great ideas and new things to say, and wouldn’t want to lose that. Nor the way you enter a room about two seconds behind your fresh scent, your crazy dancing. When we speak of serial space, we should probably do it in whispers. To protect it means to abandon it, for abandonment is the only remedy against our desire for human will and planning. We could be talking about faith and in some sense we probably are.

Lance Blomgren 09-01-2006