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A Question of Being Human (9)




Whole/hole: (Room/Architecture)





A hole punched into reality. Already imagining its wholeness; reality its lining; the imagining of its wholeness. The otherness of everything but the self at its centre. The welling up (from out) of the hole of the self; become the whole of the self… Pictured, become an illusory whole (incorporating elements lining or supporting the hole). A hole opening onto matter, onto what matters. And as ‘this’ is all we have, to call it ‘matter’ is immaterial, it is what (our) space is paved with (certainly it is what matters). A whole opening as ourselves, walls with cavity, with space within… our illusion, part visual, requiring a space within the lining (for there to be a lining there must be a space…). But also fundamental; constitutive beyond personification. The sense of a room.


(The question, whose room, leading us to the answer, ‘genius loci’, the spirit of the place, a personification, our projection, so… our room, we haunt ourselves, in the space we occupy as much as in the spaces we experience and project. …foremost amongst them, the sense of a ‘room’.)


So of space in general, of our experience of space as such (and not only place) as our room (perceived as such only by ourselves – often anthropomorphized, personified as a, more or less pantheistic, deity).


Extensions of the room (reaching across ‘the room’). In the case of a ‘feature’ such as a mountain, it is the place that we revere, or, perhaps more precisely, the view of such, that we revere (that we look up to…). The distance vision (or ‘the vision’) traverses en route to the focal point, intuited as ourselves, so offering beginning and end (of the journey of the image), self and object, either pole, both ends of perception, both sides, all the walls of perception, enclosing… the space between -the ‘empty distance’- as the room of this experience of a feature…  The vastness of the room so constituting our experience of the sublime. Extended, but recognisably the space of a room, the sense of a room… the ‘walls of perception’. So be it sacred lake (sacred valley) or sacred mountain (or some other feature), all increase in value with distance, with the space they bridge, accrue meaning in order to be themselves, to provide the view: to make of the feature, a feature, permit its being seen as such; the sense of bridge as special because of this joining, because actualizing this distance… unifying the sides, subject and object bridged… bridged by their gulf, the gulf between them – bridged by space. Our intentionality (and our imagination) throws a line to the other side. The other wall of the room. And so space becomes place. The ‘distance’ itself, finally is not quantitative, but qualitative; it fills, resounds from the walls of our place. ‘Place’ writ large, is but the whole of our world. As the whole of our experience may be invested in value – made sacred.


Personification, genius loci, is a fundamentally second person experience, a projection, metaphoric, producing a sense of ‘you’? Beyond it, or the he/she of third person… for our experience of a ‘place’, if intense, is (like) that of being faced with, in the presence of (sensing) a person, in a kind of communication with that person, as such… (an awareness of the other as in some way the same; as described by Buber and Levinas). It is the intense ‘You’ of ‘place’ which gives it the characteristics, and rights, of another human being, of human beings as valuable, so as something worth saving (it seems we must confer sacrality of some sort onto things in order to motivate ourselves to protect them) or in the sublime sense, as terrifying. (Imagining a place or rock as a deity is one thing, third person, but to communicate with such … to enter into a second person relation… to commune with such - that is unthinkable. We flee this impossible thought, it is the root of the Sublime, of our blind terror at even the touch of this thought…).


Room. Whence the favourite trope in imagining our spaces, our types of space… as we project our basic experience of ‘this’ (there being no ‘that’ – unless ‘that’ of second order or indirect, reported, told, experience) onto parts of ‘this’ (our experience) finding in those parts a home from our home, a home for our home, a room divided between the homely, of our desire to make our environment homely, safe and secure, and our apperception of greater powers, inimical forces, to pacify, accommodate, understand (via personification, reason, science). Including perhaps those forces which appear as if, or as representing (our fear of), us at our worst… so requiring cure, sacrifice, the making of our ‘better’ self. In architecture too… a home, an environment to be ‘at home in’. A better world. ‘This’, our fundamental opening, from which all others gain their allure and terror, threat and promise… an opening onto an opening, cut onto a space - a ‘room’ we will carry around with us for the rest of our lives (and which will cease to be only with our death).


Senses/orders of experience. Showing/telling (mimesis/diegesis); narrative versions of direct and indirect (speech, the experience of), of learnt or communicated experience as transmitted by the word, oral, heard (overheard) or read (already vision, prompting the voice within). Or as vision, mimetic always (when not ‘reduced’ to writing) whether direct or mediated by recording or other technology. Hearing also may of course be direct or recorded, technologically transmitted (the other senses, smell, balance or touch are either implied, or rarely and with difficulty recorded and transmitted – usually found described indirectly through the word, read or recounted, heard - often not only indirect but with no origin except mimetic, as the imitation of experience which is fictive… so already a translation).


Dominated as we are by our sense of vision… How different to the other senses (when imagined as the main form of organization of incoming information… into a whole). Sound (intensity, repetitions and rhythms, proximity, toward/away and including the Doppler Effect… re-vibration as indicating degree and kind of enclosure). Smell (intensities, towards/away and fading (built in)). Touch (zero/sum, pressure as intensity, mode of caress, repetition and rhythms, from patterns to Braille, language in touch as we are used to it in sound and sight). Balance (zero/sum; sense of uprightness, verticality, in part defined by our (visual) experience of its opposite, horizontality, the horizon – if we can see it: by the horizontals of the built environment if we can not…). All organized by some sense of proximity, and by the (self-preservatory) perception of a movement towards or away from the self. Even balance, the proximity to the floor, implying an equidistance to the horizontal and a (largely pre-conscious) alignment with gravity… our embedded verticality – life as a standing creature (even when we sit, and by so doing reduce the giddying distance from the ground). With the possible exception of touch (wind, pressure) all map a space, better a surround… not with walls, but with movements, densities, around and centering on ones self, again suggesting that self (its place, the centre of perception). The centre of the world, in the middle of something again… a room without walls; porous, fluid horizons, or limits… fading as (defining distance from the) outer rim (where perception vanishes, its non-visual vanishing point), so configuring intensity as proximity… extensions as movement away from our self centre… like radar or sonar… (A sensitivity to gender issues generally involves noting the gendering of the senses; masculinity often involves metaphors originating in visuality and extension, femininity polemically draws on metaphors of touch (Irigaray)).


Our intentionality: amplifying portions of our experience, a ball bouncing of the walls of the room of the self… and of the self; there and there and … here (or whatever it is (whoever it is)) that covers the hole in the wall which permits us to peer in (the whole of the self) looking in from … outside? And behind us…?  The ‘blind spot’ that prevents us from being conscious of what it is that makes us conscious, the blind spot in every theory (and artificial language, not least, logic) that covers the place where it joins on to, is supported by, another realm, other levels, invisible, or self-contradictory as ‘seen’, experienced, from within, imaginable only from ‘without’, a fictional position, but necessary, one of our very many necessary fictions. ‘After all’… 


(We are like…) A pinhole camera where we are the place of the hole, the place of the passage of light… (the hole of the self) a moment of passage… moment of the eternal present, the whole of the self (together with our self-knowledge, our self-recognition, so many rites of passage, so many positions taken up in the nexus of forces that is the place of the pinhole, held up, held aloft, held together, experiencing, as by a web of magnetic forces). If recognition is the gift/curse, medicine/poison of the social in the self (of the self as self, as self before others, including itself) then ritual is the shoring-up it so painfully and persistently demands. Repetition as nurture; persistence as identity. Identity as our room.


We are part of everything whether we like it or not: everything (we experience) is a part of us, whether we like it or not. We may devalue this experience; but the gift of identity it offers us would imply a return of gift as its protection (a better definition of the word ’care’). A debt that should appeal to our self-interest, it is a part of our self that we succour when we pay this debt. And we must live with the results. The makeover we offer our room is also constitutive of ourselves.








Copyright Peter Nesteruk, 2012