The jury selected the 1st and 2nd place winners, along with a tie for 3rd place:
First Place goes to “Empty” by Zigeng Wang, a Masters student at Princeton University. Rich, detailed images of a post-industrial world illustrate an hyperrealistic, sci-fi-esque story about the great ethical and environmental dilemmas associated with globalization.
Second Place is awarded to “Beautifully Banal” by Alexander Culler and Danny Travis. A delightful style exercise, this story leverages CAD drawings to illustrate a mundane scenario in spectacular fashion: a fly is trapped inside an office building.
Third Place: a tie between “Screenland, By A Pixel” by Samantha Lee and Zhan Wang; and “CTRL C – CTRL ME” by Pauline Marcombe, Helene Marcombe, and Jay Robinson. In “Screenland, By A Pixel”, whimsical elaborations of a pixel, the atom of contemporary architecture creation, accompany a riff of Edwin Abbott Abbott’s “Flatland”. “CTRL C – CTRL ME” illustrates by way of metaphor what happens in the passage from inspiration to regulation. Colorful drawings narrate the story of a shrinking architect, becoming smaller and smaller under the pressure of technology and business rules.
The jury also awarded 11 honorable mentions.
Winners of the competition were selected by some of the most influential authorities in architecture, design, art, and storytelling. The jury included: Anish Kapoor, Sculptor; Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator of Architecture and Design at the MoMA; Juergen Mayer, Principal at J Mayer H Architects; Karim Rashid, Designer; Yves Behar, CEO of Fuseproject; John Hoke, VP of Global Design at Nike; Jaime Derringer, Founder of Design Milk; Shohei Shigematsu, Partner at OMA; Hunter Tura, CEO of Bruce Mau Design; Andy Hunter, Co-Founder of Electric Literature; Matthew Hoffman and Francesca Giuliani, Co-Founders of Blank Space.
The winning entries, along with the honorable mentions and other notable submissions, are featured in “Fairy Tales: When Architecture Tells a Story Volume 2”. The anthology gives readers an opportunity to experience first hand what happens when creatives tell a story. The book is designed by Bruce Mau Design, with a special cover by Spanish artist Vicente Garcia-Morillo. The book is currently available here.
Father passed away. Before he died, he asked me to pour his ashes into the river. He must have been muddled; the river in front of our house had dried up long ago. He left behind a diary. There is this story saying that he met mother in the fish shop beside the river. My mom was the daughter of the fisherman who owned the shop. Every morning grandfather would harvest a net of fish to sell in the shop. My father didn’t like to eat fish, but one day after school he saw this girl in the shop; after that, he frequented the place to buy fish and secretly set them free in the river.
However, that is not consistent with my memory. I don’t remember seeing a river in front of our house. When I was young, there were only the outdoor world (enveloped in smog) and the indoor world (isolated by various air purifying equipment). Ever since that massive blackout, the government built many power plants on the upper stream of the river in order to meet the ever-growing need for electricity for that equipment. Gradually, the lower stream dried up and the ship moved on the dry land. But I took it for granted. After all, it transported air, which is as crucial to mankind as water is to fish. I don’t trust my father’s memory. He was a novelist and his love story sounded dubious. In my memory, he would never set fish free. He was cold and arrogant and would only talk to the fish in his tank. He forbade me to study architecture or get entangled with the ship on the dry land— but how could I avoid it? That ship was running this world.
He restricted me from studying architecture, yet he was an architect when he was young. He would never talk about those early experiences. He was a savior-like figure in his age, leading the design of the first ship. But at some point in his life, he refused to engage with this world and concealed his identity, beginning to write a novel with the pseudonym of “outsider.” To be exact, he wrote the novel for 20 years, but never published it. He didn’t even finish it before he died. During that time, the whole family moved to this shabby house under the bridge. He refused to participate in the government’s centralized heating program and isolated himself. He set up a reading room on the platform of the building, right behind the billboard. He often said he was shuffling between two cities, but neither could see him. His fish tanks were everywhere in the reading room, and the walls were covered with various types of clocks, collected from all over the world; some were not telling the right time, and some were static forever. There was an old red telephone that he never allowed me to touch, yet he would never answer it himself when it rang. He was such a strange person.
I was ashamed of my Quasimodo-like father. He refused to embrace the world, but to a large extent, it was a world built by him from an early age. EMPTY is the world.
I must admit, EMPTY is a wonder of the time. Without its innovative business model, the air pollution could never have been addressed. EMPTY is by no means only an air company. Its cooperation with manufacturing companies induces win-win results. First of all, it is a ship, an OEM factory floating on the high seas—that means it doesn’t need to build a physical factory on land, obey the laws of a certain country, or pay taxes. Its recent deal with Apple is typical. After loading the components and cheap labor force in
China, it sailed to the U.S. and assembled the products on the way, thus greatly reducing time and costs. Besides, EMPTY helped solve the long-existing issues of deficit and trade between China and the U.S. China had enjoyed a large trade surplus with the U.S., so many products were exported but very few were imported; therefore, the transportation costs of cargo ships increased as they would come back empty. My father thought about the air! His idea could solve the trade issue with almost zero cost, and also created a way to address the problem of air pollution. Chinese and foreign media were deeply impressed. Air imported from the U.S. got many Chinese people addicted. Five years ago, it replaced cash as the form of salary for on-board workers, and the rest was sold on the internet platform of Alibaba. My father built the whole sales strategy and system. He put the server on the ship, avoiding about 4 trillion Yuan each year in taxes. If the ship was an OEM factory when sailing to the U.S., then it is a warehouse of EMPTY air when sailing back. People say my father was steering not only a ship, but a mobile Special Economic Zone for the wellbeing of mankind.
Obviously, tens of thousands of people benefited from my father’s concept. EMPTY was deemed the victory of globalization. Francis Fukuyama even republished a book for it, only to assure the world that it would eventually go from the bankruptcy of diplomacy to the end of Keynesian globalization; that EMPTY would not only provide clean and breathable air, but reduce costs for manufacturing companies and provide jobs, upgrading hundreds of pillar industries following the establishment of a permanently-thriving real estate market. For some time, both EMPTY and my father were stars under the spotlight. But a rumor from 40 years ago returned to ruin him. It must have been a long-brewed revenge. As the visibility of the air was very low, ground and air transportation were frequently delayed. EMPTY produced a drone to transport clean air with Boeing, using GPS to deliver air to the exact location of the customer. But there were problems. Like a fire balloon, the drone flew very slowly, making the delivery period unpredictable. Someone bribed experts to say that EMPTY had lied about the efficiency of the product and manipulated the weather forecast, hoarding produced goods to delay the time of delivery. They claimed that EMPTY was making profits through such evil means. EMPTY was a subordinate company of Alibaba, which owns the world’s largest E-payment platform, Alipay. EMPTY was making deals on that platform, so it could accumulate capital paid by users. The more slowly it delivered goods, the more cash it would gather. Some ill-intended people said that Alipay was becoming a “cloud bank” that required no physical space, and claimed that my father was not trying to build a Special Economic Zone, but this placeless bank.
That incident didn’t stop EMPTY from becoming the most powerful enterprise in the world, but it did overwhelm my father. He said he had been deceived by his world, and that we were all probably fish in the world of smog that saw beauty through it.
House fly no more, he was a fly of the city now. But Phineas the Fly was not from the city, nor was he even acquainted with the difference between a city and elsewhere. Certainly, Phineas was familiar with the objects of elsewhere, and elsewhere was not here.
“Oh dear”, Phineas prattled with nervousness “if I don’t find anything to eat very soon I am going to be quite hungry.”
Phineas fluttered about the window in defiance, consistently striking the smooth glass pane again and again without result. He moved vertically across its excess in both directions, but the surface remained unchanged and inaccessible. For such a small fly, it was quite a large surface, not to mention the tragic deception of the transparent glazing which revealed a world of mystery beyond its division.
“Ohhh, how on earth did I end up here?” Phineas pondered with urgency, “I need to get back home right away.
Phineas continued to pound away at the glass stubbornly, when finally, a breach! Phineas stumbled upon an open window, his persistence once again rescuing him from yet another dire situation. Praise persistence!
He was now inside and out of the cold, (Phineas despised the cold), But he was not yet home. He scanned the environment for clues of his hopeful homecoming, but none such clues were present. A desperate search for nutrition was on, for if Phineas did not feed soon, he would surely perish. Frantically he flitzed about across a long and straight corridor, frequently interrupted by planes of smooth wood parceled away by ridgid square grids.
“Oh, where am I now?!” Phineas panicked, “This isn’t right either, I don’t recognize any of this stuff.”
Without warning the surface dropped away, Phineas desperately flapped his labored wings to arrest his descent. Just when his wings all but gave out he reached the ground, a lush blue environment aggregated into fields of softness.
“Praise persistence!” Phineas Exclaimed, “I’ve found food!”
Phineas lunged forth to the spherical feast before him– large crumbs of both bread and sugars awaited his arrival, ready to nourish a life in need. Just as Phineas was ready to absorb his newly found nutrients, a dull tone filled the silence—it was a kind of sound he had never heard before, and next he knew the air around him grew strange. An impassable wind which seemed to spawn from nowhere overtook his small figure and began to move his food source away as if some kind of divine intervention.
Phineas had to think quickly, he opened his wings to begin takeoff and allowed the divine airflow to give flight to his lifeless body. This kind of power he had never before experienced and the sheer magnitude of airflow sent him skyward without warning.
Spinning uncontrollably through the air, Phineas finally caught land with his legs. He was dizzy from flying, but suddenly everything seemed—upside down somehow. Phineas explored his surroundings by carefully walking around in repetitive strafes.
There was a source of heat around him, which he found to be comforting. Suddenly his eyes became overwhelmed with brightness, it became difficult to make out features of the surface visually—he would have to rely on tactility to navigate. The dull tone from the ground, the one that stole his food, seemed to be getting closer to him. Phineas ended his brief rest and ascended back into the air, so as to not meet the same fate that captured his meal-to-be.
Phineas caught sight of colossal portions of food, more food than he had ever seen intact all at once before– moving about in rhythm by a human carrier. He flurried forth to this food source with all of his might, keeping pace with the traveling sandwich as best he could. As he finally became within a few paces of his gluten packed (but zero trans-fats!) necessities, both the sandwich and the human carrier entered through a strange portal, doors closing quick behind.
The man, with his spoils, purposefully punched in a series of circular buttons, each becoming luminous beneath his fingertips.
“Phew, I am glad to have made it in time”, Phineas sighed with relief. “Now to collect my prize.”
Phineas made a move towards the food source, but exactly when his feet touched the surface of the bread, the mysterious doors opened once more and the sudden change in air pressure launched him into yet another unfamiliar area.
Thwarted again, Phineas maintained his search for food.
“I must remain persistent!” Phineas bellowed with courage.
His nostrils filled with a familiar aroma, one that reminded him of—home. Without hesitance Phineas dashed to the source as quickly as he could, encountering a rigidly cold space made up of repetitive elements. He darted around a hard-yellow prism that rose from the ground below. Moisture was in the air, a familiar sensation that Phineas had remembered from earlier in his lifetime.
A hard object swiftly came into contact with Phineas’s body, striking him cleanly out of the air and into a chasm. The chasm was filled to the brim with water, its circular confines impenetrable at such depths. Suddenly, more water began to fill the sure-to-become grave and Phineas was pulled downward by a powerful rotating motion. He could not escape its pull.
“Oh no! This is surely my end!” Phineas cried in desperation.
He was suddenly transported to a more constricted tube chamber, now filled wholly with water. Phineas’s senses deafened, the torrent of water overpowering his very thoughts. He panicked, thinking surely that he had breathed his final breath. The fears of Phineas the fly were unfounded, however, as his persistent efforts to return home were about to pay off. For you see—all pipes lead away from the confines of the city, all pipes do in fact lead elsewhere. Phineas the fly was homeward bound, and as a housefly, home was his favorite place to be.
I’d like to introduce you to my world. It is an extreme landscape of luminosity and charge, which can be described as a limbo-land. This is because it’s an amorphously fluctuating terrain of binary states; between liquid and solid, positive and negative, light and shadow.
You probably spend the majority of your day looking into my world, but you wouldn’t see me. Firstly you will most likely be looking past me into the virtual portal our world creates. Also, you are too far away. Perhaps if you came closer, much closer.
Even then you might not find me, amongst the rows and rows of my fellow Screenlanders. I may appear insignificant to you, but let me assure you I have my own identity. I was born as point (325,1108) a name given to me to indicate my position in space, as we are expressed by a number of columns and row of points from the top North-West corner of our world. I am composed of three sub-pixels, a Red, Green and Blue, making my full name (325,1108,0,255,170), although the latter part of me is constantly changing to embody the Spectrum.
The inhabitants of Screenland can be described as performers and entertainers in an electric stage set. We love to please as we glow amongst dancing crystals, putting huge pressure on timing and speed. A missed cue in a performance can lead to an overall delayed refresh rate, and as a pixel our biggest fear is to stand out. Although I am physically unable to travel across my world, I have pieced it together in my mind as stories are passed down from (0,0), the most privileged position to be. At the edges I hear it is glorious, the source of light and power. One day I might like to travel across the matrix, but it’s enough trouble negotiating each others space sandwiched between layers of amorphous crystals.
My grandparents become nostalgic as they talk of days when there were far less pixels, and we lived in much less density. It seems our world’s spatial edges are getting smaller, yet we are packed closer together. The population boom has happened over three generations where we have doubled in size. Although I feel we shouldn’t complain in comparison to the inhabitants of our world’s underbelly, a fast paced web of metallic highways and logic gates, where an exponential growth in productivity and mass labour has made it a stressful place to live.
Rising up from the underworld, the atmospheric strata here presents quite a unique climate. It is a temperature of polar opposites, extremely hot during the day and cooling down rapidly at night. The first impression you get is the vivid colours, where the air is thick with gradients of RGB, made luminous when light floods through from the lower stratum.
We pixels worship the skies in both awe and fear, interpreting the RGB auroras and LED eclipses as the Gods gesture our fate. Looming shadows swipe across the sky creating lightening bolts of electrical charge that transform and reconfigure our stage. We also experience the occasional dust storms of metallic particles, that leave the sky charged with static and noise.
Screenland is a paradoxical place. The perceived three dimensional reality it presents from afar unfolds into a disappointing illusion as soon as you enter its surface. I suppose our role is to be magicians, mimicking reality and distorting it to create a spellbinding attraction.
We are told that our ancient ancestors lived in a Flatland and our world has evolved to become an intimation of Spaceland, the highest form of spatial resolution. We’re proud of how far we’ve come, thickening our surface, operating with more efficiency and equality, but we know there is still a long way to go.
I do think about the future and our importance in this stage set. Particularly over the years I feel the Gods have become more demanding and less patient. At times the skies blaze with a overwhelming downpour of energy and pressure that leave us powerless to respond for a spilt second. Perhaps they are bored by our limitations or our simplemindedness to please.
I heard about an accident in the Southern districts, where apparently a whole town has retired. They have lost their colour. I fear it’s a spreading plague and we might be next. I wonder what death is like? But then again I don’t have too much time for an existential crisis, as its not often we get a rest. Most importantly, I wouldn’t want to disappoint the skies.
Tricha Tec the architect had not drawn anything for six and a half months. Her workshop was making her feel nauseous and the blank page on her desk had grown to the size of the room, covering the walls in a cold emptiness. Her tools had become a constant reminder of her inability to use them.
Once upon a time, Tricha had spent hours and hours observing, exploring, drawing and making. They had been the years of her studies and they were full of inspiration and fun.
But after Graduation came R E G U L A T I O N.
Tricha found resistance up a mountain of rules and laws. Competition changed everything. Clients became increasingly demanding and the controls more and more bombarding:
Doors a certain size to be measured on inspection
Always to be to be opened in the same direction
Precise heights for steps with specifics for different lands
E.g. Dutch people have long knees so require slightly different plans
Roofs with particular colours, and each particular distinct
Toilets large enough to include TVs (since living rooms will be extinct)
Squinting as she lit the gas stove, Tricha couldn’t bare to look through the windows. How would she ever build any monuments to change the stark landscape of the city?
As the moka’s steam rose, Tricha heard an awkward cough – as if someone had swallowed too much water. In the surprise she saw a strange face appearing in the vapours of the coffee fumes.
A Steam Genie appeared.
Blue and depressed, Tricha couldn’t help but tell him her woes. After absorbing her tales, the Steam Genie told Tricha that he would give her a new tool to help her start again. It was a machine that would allow her to draw faster, larger and more easily.
The machine was called Computer and it was the first of its kind. After the Steam Genie dissolved into a small cloud, Computer was revealed in another.
Finally, Tricha could make an army of plans… Computer demonstrated:
CTRL C – CTRL V
CTRL C – CTRL V
CTRL C – CTRL V
CTRL C – CTRL ME
Copy every drawing entity
From project A to project B
Simple and quick
CTRL C – CTRL V
No need to scrape tracing paper with old razor blades. No more blunders, no more smudges and no more silly mistakes. With a little finger gymnastics, everything could be modified on Computer’s keyboard.
Although the endless hours spent in front of the screen had starting causing Tricha some back pain (and she could have sworn that the worktops in the studio seemed slightly taller than usual), she didn’t care. In a week, clients were jostling through the door, competitors hated her and everyone wanted to discover what her secret was.
Unfortunately the joy did not last. It wasn’t long before Tricha was drained of ideas again and the novelty of Computer had faded. She felt a prisoner of a virtual world. She hadn’t even been outside to see the buildings that were built. The only drawings that looked real were the circles made by the cups of coffee on her desk.
Frustrated by Computer, Tricha returned to the hot vapours of the moka pot and the Steam Genie. Oddly, the stove was higher than before and she found herself reaching up on tiptoes to place the pot. She explained to the Steam Genie that she needed to see her designs for real and not on a lifeless screen. In another surprise cloud, a different machine appeared on the other side of the workshop. It was called Wire and it was the first in ‘hot wire foam cutter’ technology.
Excited once more, Tricha and Wire went to work on making models:
They cut rectangles and triangles.
They cut cubes
When they concentrated hard they even managed tubes.
The studio was soon full with small blue models. Wire was even making them by himself. As the mini blue skyline spread out across the workshop, giant versions of Tricha and Wire’s models began to appear in the city outside. Clients wanted towers, cubes, towers topped by cubes, hollowed rectangles, sliced rectangles and extrusion-shaped houses. Business was booming and Tricha was happy for a while.
Unfortunately, this happiness was cut short when clients began to turn away, stating that the buildings she created were not original; all combinations of geometric shapes and subtractions of geometric shapes had been exhausted.
The empty page was the workshop wallpaper once more.
Anxious and angry, Tricha went to see the Steam Genie once more. This time she found the moka pot had grown to be as big as her waist. After an awkward climb up the oven and another discussion, the Steam Genie proposed a new, exciting machine that could combine the two processes Tricha had already seen: a ‘laser cutter’ appeared from a steam cloud.
Tricha could draw on a computer and then the information would be sent directly to the machine. Once the parts were made, she would only be left to do the assembly…
Accurate and fast
All manner of shapes
One after the other, after another
Such complex space
Façades made from patterns, so detailed in design
Impressions of spaces when flat pieces combine
Alas, soon client’s complaints began to resurface; they were no longer able to clean the spaces and the crannies of the buildings, there were too many layers and it was all too complicated.
Buried under huge sheets of dust, Tricha and Laser’s buildings gradually disappeared. Close to bankruptcy, Tricha sold the rest of her laser-cut models; apparently some people found that they made excellent jewellery.
After an even more difficult climb up the oven, Tricha used all her strength to push the moka pot onto the hob. She exhausted herself turning the gas on, having to jump onto the oven spark to start the fire. This time, she begged the Steam Genie to conjure a tool from the clouds that would help to give life to her models; she wanted to be able to make curves and not just flat pieces; she wanted something closer to reality – in three dimensions.
So, the genie conjured the first 3D printer.
Optimistic, Tricha cleared the now familiar steam, introduced herself to 3D and set about working. They produced stunning models, with strange curves and shapes. 3D could do everything;
Distort space in all directions
Liquid and solid make seamless connections
CTRL is free
When it’s all in 3D
Her website was visited thousands of times; everyone admired the photos of her models. She hardly needed to do anything herself and could even work 3D from a remote control.
Unfortunately, Tricha’s luck turned once more; Construction companies were reluctant to work for Tricha and those who said yes were struggling to build what was requested. Materials did not agree with new forms. Carpets sprouted out in all directions, like wild moss without a plan – for the fitters couldn’t tell where the floors ended and where the walls began.
Tricha Tec the shrinking architect was angry and shouted that nothing being built looked like her beautiful models. Unfortunately she was so small now, no one seemed to see or hear her anymore.
Exhausted, Tricha climbed onto the sofa to think. The office cat was now much bigger than Tricha and she laid herself along his fluffy leg. She could do no more today, or tomorrow for that matter. She did not want another coffee. She did not want to stay awake. She just wanted to disappear into a long blue sleep.
Tricha had just enough strength to make herself a chamomile tea. Unexpectedly, out of the herbal fumes rose a new genie. Tricha sighed and told him her story; the moka pot genie and the machines and how she did not know what to do anymore. Her energy had disappeared. The office was close to closure. Nobody, except the cat could even see or hear her anymore.
The genie looked at Tricha for a while. Those moka genies never understood what humans really needed. Always causing trouble… He was thinking about what to conjure, when suddenly, he had an idea.
Why not shrink her even more? Then she could move into the model house of her choice and take some time to get some rest.
Tricha’s miniature, red-raw, architect’s eyes lit up.
It was a fantastic idea!
The herbal genie smiled and in a moment he had dissolved into farewell vapours. When everything cleared, Tricha had shrunk to 1/100 size.
After a long journey through the workshop’s metropolis of mess, Tricha finally found her favourite model house. The door opened before she could try it herself and stepping out to meet Tricha was another tiny model. “Hello Tricha. My name is Ludivine. Would you like a cup of tea?”
Tricha Tec, the model architect smiled and disappeared inside.
The heart quickened
to 100 beats per minute
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the black hole reopened.
The foundation of this imminent discovery was
– a set of infinite universes existing in parallel to the observable one. It was derived when a diversion in the observable universe (this one) transpired, and propelled onward down a new trajectory.
These diversions perpetuated exponentially defining a series of infinite universes; some with hereditary mutations and others unrecognizable.
The multiverse implied the existence of alternative
e.g. In the observable universe (this one), an Earthling with the variable “e1” defecated at 8:02. However, e1 could have defecated at:
7:41, 7:42. birthing forty-two universes
with forty-two new trajectories.
As the multiverse existed in parallel to the observable universe (this one), there was
but one threshold
– the black hole.
The black hole was the method of traversing
was that of
a black hole in the pineal gland of the mammalian brain.
was originally discounted
as error, as
the wavering was attributed to a glitch in the scientific apparatus.
The wavering was that of a black hole in the
– a spherical-like, grain-of-rice-sized gland
in the centre of the brain.*
*Note: after this discovery, the pineal gland’s definition was amended to include the locus of a black hole, activated in parallel to dreaming.
Upon this discovery,
– the activity
of the human existence
The complexity of this circumstance
e x p a n d e d.
There existed a black hole in the mammalian brain, and the black hole was the method of traversing the multiverse,
the discovery of the black hole in the mammalian brain indoctrinated dreaming as a voyage into the multiverse.
And so, for
of the human existence, the dreamer was transported – through the black hole – from the observable universe (this one) to alternative universes where they could have:
The heart slowed
to 60 beats per minute
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the black hole closed.
I had once entered a dream as a young boy, a dream to escape my world, a dream entered into the unconscious. Tempted by fate and the lust of curiosity. I know very little of the world I had entered. A world much severely distinct from the one you and I are familiar with.
The dream smelled of dark cedar and damp dew grass, it was struck with an uncharacteristic beauty and a fascinating aura of frightening mystique. Constrictively constructed by stone stalactites, the world I encountered was made up of these mineral formed coarse pillars that appeared as if they were once the horns of an animal, now buried in soil. Its grounds, un-peripheral and its sky, indistinguishable, my new world seemed to be bound-less. Light festered through severed openings from countless directions, as if a body were punctured on the outside to introduce light to its interiors.
Let me start from the beginning, how I believe I arrived to that world.
It began on a fall day; I was flying my kite in the familiar sky on the horizontal farm, while my father tended the herd of sheep. The farm was vast, full of countless vegetation, two wooden barns and a single house, like objects placed on a table. The air felt particularly rapid from what I remember, the blue and white kite flew so gracefully. Until the wind cut the line that connected me to its flight, launching it into the deep fortresses of forests, it slowly sunk onto the roof leaves. I rushed towards its direction and discovered the kite, hostage to the clutches of a high branch. I grabbed onto the body of its trunk and made my way towards it. I reached and with great strain I managed to grab a bit of it. I quickly held onto the kite and as I had it in hand the branch cracked, like a bolt of lightening, braking off from its body, sending me tumbling down.
As I fell, I realized that at the base of the tree was a cold creek that I had entered. Fully lodged into the water, I sank downward into the pool. Its depth became unfathomably heavy and dark. I suddenly felt my body twist uncontrollably and turned to find that my kite had transformed into a magnificent jellyfish. In fear, I let go and let it wander away into the darkness. Realizing I was running short on breath, I pulled my body towards the surface. As I rose above the water, the forest I was once in had vanished and a new strange world had seemed to take its place.
I entered, pinched between weightless stone buttresses that forged various naves hovering above my head and gravity slowly lost its ever-lasting rule. As if the world had been stretched in its verticals, as though the ground pulled down the roots and fibers of its plants. I felt I had dug into a deep burrow, as if I had entered as an unsought guest. But I felt as though I belonged there. Was it a dream that I had fallen into?
The weightless pillars stood alone, sharing no common ground, individually carved as stone reliefs of architectural vignettes. It was a body and an organ, dealing with specific vital functions. Each stalactite perspired fluid that formed the body of water below, and each was formed by the inevitable deposition of memories. What became most apparent were the sounds present at the time. It sounded like I was inside a whale’s body, with the echoes of the multiple drips, the formation of a musical instrument in moisture, it all blended together.
My heart measures horizontals and verticals. My heart acknowledges the flat plane of the farms and the verticality of the stalactites. But my dreams are different from my realities, familiarities in unfamiliar settings. They become my:
My home is my heart, the tomb of my abyss. Where my consciousness lies and my demons wait. Presented as an ordinary door, subdued with impressions of temptation, security and uncertainty. The sudden haze are projections of my understanding of the elements of space, a room, wall, sky, ground, etc, metamorphosed into form, lines and surfaces understood by sensation, dwelling in dreams.
Memory is reborn in meaningless ciphers. Atop and through the stalactites I went, meandering through bridges made of parts from abandoned houses I once explored, faint recollections and impressions constructed this new world. All forgotten images, dark secrets, and fears now gathered and assembled. Contradictions and mysteries sliced into enigmatic cameos. They rose like extracted teeth. Layers of my unconscious buried and entombed in me, now built spaces. As my memories expanded, the stalactites slowly molded into their built form. Hung from the ceiling of my heart, built by the precipitation of memories, constructed slowly over time. The world is my age.
Sediments and soils mixed to form and mold the places most familiar to me, yet they were distorted and disillusioned, perspectives that coincided. Rooms built themselves. Self constructed idioms, memory banks unveiled. Every few rooms running water poured out of punctured openings and exposed plumbing pipes. Like a disturbing surfaced buoy, they appeared. The paths created were a coordinated map to the plot and acts of my dreams and realities. Every corner once inhabited was now haunted by shadows of my past. The walls reminisced. My home becomes the shelter of my dreams.
From the cornices I stood, gazing out onto the built world. The cellar of my house, the attic of the barn, windows in the kitchen, my tire swing, a peek into the horse stable, the set of drawers in my parents room, headers and jambs of places I once inhabited came to life. Some doors and gates kept away, locked.
Meandering, I suddenly stumbled upon a red barn door with cast iron handle. I reached and opened the door to find my bedroom. It looked the same, smelled the same and felt the same yet was interrupted by peculiar changes. One wall had an aqueduct where grains of sediments poured in, curing parts of the room. The room was scaled to about twice the size of what was normal to me. I ran my fingers along the walls and ground. Then came my bed, the sheets left disheveled similar to how I remember I had left them. I found myself falling into the common ritual of preparing myself for sleep, and without a doubt or second thought made myself comfortable in the bed of the mysterious yet familiar room. I later came to know that that very moment marked the end of my journey into the strange world.
The world is my age.
My home is my innocence, my security, my belonging, a return to my earliest thoughts I had gone.
– …It is like a reward after thirteen days walking. Thirteen days were over and still nothing. Wherever I looked, I barely saw the intense glow over the sea of dunes which extended around me. Behind me, our footprints were lost in the ripples of the desert. On the track, the sand had stuck to my skin, my clothes. The few drops of water left in the saddlebags and canteens were nothing but mud. I remember vividly how the dry air opened my throat with every breath. God, the thirst.
– It’s as you say. I couldn’t find any other flavour in my mouth than the salt carried by the air, and, after several days, I was so used to that itch on my tongue that I hardly noticed it. You know what I mean?
– Of course. Sometimes during a hard passage, the surroundings end up melting along with yourself. After all those long days of travel, within me, I began to resign, to belong to the desert itself, merging with it. I could feel in my body, in my luggage and my camel, how the transformation was befalling. Our souls waving with the heat released from the ground with each step. The clothes that covered us, before full of life from the colours, now were hardly distinguishable from our bodies covered with dust. As the sun beat mercilessly upon us I was tempted to embrace my new master, get carried away, give in and be one with the sand. My eyes yearned for rest from the overwhelming bright blue and gold that wrapped everything. I wanted to close them. It was then that I saw it, in the distance, on the horizon and on a vast ocean of fire.
– … the city!
– The Ship! I could see it, I could distinguish it. Not knowing if I had lost my mind, I headed towards it. As I approached, I could see the anchored ship, waiting to take me out of the desert. It stood on a huge rock from which emerged a large building that seemed to be the main mast with its sail. On the sides, the fore mast and mizzen mast with their sails yet to be unleashed. That ship had been there for long time. Like the strong trunks of palm trees from an oasis, their masts sprouted directly from the ground. At its feet, hundreds of carpets, stalls and shops surrounded the body of this vessel like the blue waters kissing the hull of a ship, stained by the foam of the waves.
Convinced that the wilderness journey had defeated me and sent me to where my soul would rest relieved, I discovered that I was still on earth and that this ship was indeed a city. A city full of life. The sea of shops and stalls that held abuzz with the colours of a cosmopolitan market. People swirled around the pallets with dates and smoked fish. The smells of damp wood, algae and salting floated in the air. Very high, on top of me, rose the sails of the boat that came to my rescue. From different parts of the city meshes hung with goods, supplying the boat. Hundreds, thousands of banners and flags fluttered in the wind, which brought with it the smell of a nearby harbour, water, life …
– That which gets to you my friend, is the wind across the city. A city that holds this duality that makes it so outstanding…
– My friend, we are in Despina, the city on the boundary of two great deserts. And now I will tell you the story of how I got here, how I discovered…
– … the city!
– The Camel! It was an indescribable feeling when I saw it for the first time. Miles away, on the horizon. I squinted to make sure, as I grabbed the ropes without believing what I saw. A bloody camel on the sea! Had I gone crackers? Not that it mattered much, it had the colour of land, so I headed over there. I could recognize it better. From its humps hung golden fruit
gleaming from the light of the setting sun. Wares from a caravan that came to my rescue. His legs were sunk in the sea. All around, the water looked mottled by the blue and green reflexes of the oasis. As I advanced towards the city, it began to distinguish beside, other beasts of burden carrying coriander leaves, caraway seeds and saffron. A multitude of colourful fruit and spices adorned their humps.
As I wondered if the saltpetre had covered my brain completely, I discovered that I had not lost my mind and that the caravan that had been presented to me as a saviour miracle, was actually a city. From the golden domes, hung ornaments and tapestries of thousands of bright colours. From the stores hung bouquets of dates and the camel-coloured awnings made them look steppe. The city paved with tiles simulating the saddlebags of camels. Numerous monoliths shaped as camel hooves covered with leather hold the myths and legends of this city. From its foundation, piers were born with hundreds of sails coming and going. They were like roots that absorb nutrients from the sea and spread in lifestyle and movement to the streets, which are the veins of these camels.
Strap and in port, I entered the city duped by the atmosphere that reigned there. The smells of spices, stews and vegetables fuse with the sound of the drums and the coins of the dancers dresses, and in the distance, faintly perceived, the dry and warm aroma of shelter.
– I see!, the smells upon the wind that came to you, are from the other side of the city. Considering that this city appears different whether you came from the sea or you´re coming from the desert. It’s this double city that conquers whom is fortunate enough to reach her.
– … Especially after thirteen days. Thirteen days adrift under a blazing sun without a hint of wind. Everywhere the infinite sea stretched. A continuous line around me divided the blue of water and sky. Miles around … nothing. Fathoms to the bottom … nothing. Not a bird or a fish, nor water to drink. Just the sun, the creaking of the mast and the whitish salt that sticks to my skin. I still remember the salty air and taste …
– Yes, sand and salt always covering my body, cracking my lips and hands.
– But worst of all was the solitude. And the thirst. When the wind is not blowing for a while, you don’t know where to paddle or if it’s pointless, and you start to become insane. You are surrounded by water but you cannot drink a single drop. The sound of the sea and wood complaining become your companions. Sometimes you think you hear the quadrants or the frame talking . Drinking water from the ocean is bad, every sailor knows that. But not drinking is worse. After thirteen days one can’t detract the forces. The sun beat down relentlessly and I could barely stand upright. Supported on the rudder, that piece of pine and I rave about past times, of mainland, of a good tavern. My eyes closed and my legs were shaking so much that they seemed to be made of liquid. I watered. Caught at sea, I became the sea. The tide swallowed me from deck and the sirens called on me to rest on their couch. I could hear them. I sank into the depths, into the darkness of the cold ocean.
But, joining forces to sing one last goodbye to my proud vessel, I opened my eyes again.
And then I saw it. On the blue horizon…
Inspired by “The invisible cities”, Italo Calvino.
He came to pick me up morning of my sixteenth. He told me I should go to Coimbatore. The rumour had lasted too long, everyone talked about it; it was the only place to work. The only way to check it was to sink in. I had to for my parents and for my sisters, who were all gone too early. For this society who doesn’t like girls… We are all curses. My name is Aruna and I made a promise to do my best. It is my duty to get married. I have nothing more important to do in my countryside. Judged by my neighbourhood, I hang up to this expensive dream because I have nothing more. For my father, nothing would cost as much as selling his land. Cotton was his life. Once I get there, I will have to do the best I can. I will be precise and quick in the fabrics manufacture, as my mother had taught me. So only then, I will regain my composure.
My friends accompanied me to the centre of the village, and we walked along the river. I realized that it has never been so much black since laundries had invaded the region. As my friends offered me a spindle before I left, I quickly understood that it would become a relic to me. I could see a pick-up truck, in which other girls were already waiting. Five others soon arrived, held in the arms of two brokers. These men travelled around the region since this factory grew. We could finally leave.
The driver never spoke, only smirks when observing us with his colleague. I choose to keep my mouth shut. No conversations started, even though the other girls seemed to be the same age as me. I tightened the spindle in my pocket before I deeply fell asleep. Silence was my refuge. It seems that I haven’t yet woken up from that sleep. The next morning, I finally arrived in Coimbatore.
From far away, the factory was only a massive fog. Shadow disappeared as we approached. Then, I began to understand its scale from a mile away. Cotton fibers formed a perceivable mist through the growing dawn, in which only the towers and chimneys seemed to be able to penetrate. Following the immense concrete walls with barbed wire atop, we finally arrived at the entrance. Guards in a security post controlled access. From inside, the building looked like a citadel in decay. Different style of architecture appeared to collide as if it had been obliged to be transformed.
It was five o’clock in the morning when they took me to my room. Ten other workers had piled up on the ground. I was trying to talk to them but the tone of their voices, their expressions, seemed to have disappeared. There was something quite mechanical about their words; as if secretly, they were telling me that I should not be afraid of this place. I saw then, that all windows had bars. I quickly understood, due to the prison-like atmosphere and the strident heads of the services‘ sneer that the task would be extremely difficult.
The plant resumed its activity in the minutes that followed. A man came to pick me up and lead me to my place. The more we moved forward, the more the sound of the machines filled along the citadel corridors. Fibers saturated the air, and my eyes began to glow. We arrived in a room, at the centre of immense spinning machines. The man left me after only a brief explanation of the complexity of their operation. Then begun my apprenticeship, from which I would never be able to escape, in the middle of these macabre mechanical choreographies.
Days looked alike. Their length was always longer. We ate every day at the same time with the workers while several guards watched our every move. Some would disappear from one day to the next. A worker lost four fingers on the first day of her arrival; despite mentioning she had mentioned the deficiency of her machine many times, to her foreman. Nobody seemed shocked about what happened to her. Her hand was bleeding and the carding machine was being cleaned as she disappeared in the arms of two men. My boss saw me collapsing and assured me that she will definitely be cured and that everything will be fine… I still remember it today. We worked from 5:30am to midnight; prayer was my only time to escape. Fear invaded all the girls. I sometimes felt I could no longer recognize their faces. We were all becoming the same.
Several months after my arrival, a chief came to take me to another extension. I got accustomed to the continuous hiss that had bothered me during the first hours of my stay. We went to a highly remote part of plant, wandering through this maze of hallways. Machinery was completely different in the new room. I couldn’t understand its operation. The Chief did not want to explain it to me. Then, I understood what he wanted. I tried to get to my spindle but he stopped me violently. I shouted again and again… Nobody heard me. I was his prey, the object of his impulsive insanity. I couldn’t do anything other than cry. Time was endless. Before exiting, he found my spindle and poked my index finger with it. He said he would stop the day when each of my fingers will wear his signature. He finally slammed the door, just before I passed out, alone in this room that already seemed to be my Tomb.
I felt very blank, invaded by a sort of torpor that I though was due to the mechanical heat. I was starting to look like the other workers of this plant; half lethargic, browsing every day the same corridors, repeating the same movements. Why couldn’t we see the sky in this factory? Why were both doors always locked? Sometimes, I had the feeling that this place was designed to confuse the workers and to trap those who ventured there.
All of us were forever branded. I will never be able to get married, as no man will want me. This is why, for me as for these hundreds of women, going back is now impossible. I have to stay here. My tummy is growing now. The child is only my way out. On one condition though: he must be a boy…
In India, being born as a girl is a damnation. Society doesn’t want anyone who would bring misfortune and poverty. The only hope girls have is to be able to get married. However, they must pay a dowry, in spite of the prohibition of this practice over fifteen years ago.
The textile industry in this country is booming. This story shows its bloody gears. Flesh doesn’t cost more than fabric manufactured for other continents. The little girl fell into a wedding dream before hoping to have a boy. She had only one wish: to forget regretting her birth.
Once upon a time when Venus was in conjunction with Jupiter in the third house, mysterious holes appeared in the great desert. In that mystery which became a myth, there laid a city. This city was hidden deep under the desert surface with only exit marks visible on the outside. The Desert people lived inside because of the unbearable heat of the outside world. But that was a dark world for them to live in and they all dreamt of a sugar coated better place. Amongst others, one man stood out. This was a man called Joaquin and he was the ruler of everything and everyone.
He liked to sit. A lot. He had plenty of chairs. One chair for him to have breakfast, one for lunch and the biggest one for dinner. In one corner stood the Let’s take a break chair, and in the other one was the shoelace tying chair. The one standing alone was for sitting and thinking. But that was the smallest one so he didn’t use it at all for that.
He liked to sit because he liked to eat. A lot.
He is a hedonist, a conformist, a lover of everything beautiful! Thus Beauty is in the eyes of others. Always groomed the same way – from front to back, then left to right, never missed a spot. Tightened tight and ironed right, his walk was gracious with manners of a king and posture of a winner! One might say he was a bit pretentious but He would say – “Never!” Always and forever… One might say he had no taste but He would say: “You never tasted such a thing to know”. One would say lah-de-dah, He would’n notice. He wants to create and He wants to create what He likes the most! He has one vice. His biggest vice is Food. He had real estate properties all over the plate. You name it. Big, small, flat, round, old, new, angled, blue.
One day, he got the chance to make a city tailored by his own measures. He wanted to build his own sweet sin called Sukkar. He told the Desert people and new citizens of the future town of Sukkar:“If you don’t have any bread to eat, eat some cake!”. So they started building it. It was yet to become the sweetest city on the plate. But, as time passed by, who would have thought something sweet could become so bitter. The people of Sukkar were building it for days, weeks, now months – working even on weekends! Yet not being allowed to have a piece of that cake. Anyone who would try to even sniff the cristal sugar from their doorstep would have been sent to the great desert and banned from the city.
To be banned or not to be. Was there a solution? – everyone wondered.
Then, one evening when their eyes were closed, a star in the sky arose. But
who was to see that rising star, for there was no one awake except the kitty cats in tinny flats. No one, but the little girl. “Kitty cats, li’l cats, why are you so nervous? Are you expecting someone?” asked the little girl. “Little girl..”- the voice whispered. “Little girl!” – this time a little louder. Little girl asked: “Who is that? Can it be true? A star at dawn is talking to me silently, this time a little louder?”. It was the sacred prophet who appeared above. The sacred prophet of the night sky and guardian of love gave the little girl a recipe. But not any recipe. This was the oldest grandma’s recipe for the finest and highest, sweetest castle ever wished for! The prophet whispered to her ear a thing or two and blew fairy dust in her face. As the little girl went away, the wise profit had something to say : “Remember, You are your own worst enemy”. These were words of wisdom. Now the little girl knew what had to be done for the careless Joaquin to be gone.
Next morning, she told the fellow men of Sukkar the prophet had shown itself and gave her a recipe to build a castle in Joaquin’s honor. That seemed like a crazy thing to do, but they didn’t question the prophet’s word. So they started building the finest, highest, sweetest castle ever baked! They were building it in Joaquin’s honor!
By the time the castle was done, spring was gone. The summer sun stroke above the peak. Finally – Joaquin saw it. He could not hide his excitement! An enchanting art crafted by hand, and it was all for Him. In His honor. He was so excited, he was blindsided. He started to eat the castle in all its glory. Bite by bite, piece by piece, slice by slice… He reached from the top on down eating everything on his way. And He liked to eat – A lot! He was so blindsided by the taste he started to eat people’s houses! Sukkar was vanishing before our own eyes! The desert was revealing itself more and more with every bite. What was about to happen next no one could foresee. They all stood there in silence with eyes wide open waiting for what they all wished for, but never have guessed would happen!
He was so big and heavy of all that eating that the sand couldn’t hold him anymore. His weight pulled him down as he disappeared in seconds. As something disappears another comes to fill its place. Was it just a mirage? No one wanted to question. All that was there now was a peaceful oasis. It gave everyone exactly as one needed, sometimes giving a little more.
“…the arts are simply imitations of nature and are, in a certain sense, concrete poetry.”
-Giambattista Vico, Scienza Nuova
It’s not possible to say exactly when or how the first city came to be. The origination of the city began long before the world had witnesses, and when there were finally witnesses there was still no speech, and when there was still no speech, well, communication of the past was entrusted to objects: An upturned stone, a fallen tree decaying, The negative of a thing stamped in mud — the short and longterm memories of the material world. So if time progressed before there was human record of its passing, its preservation and transmission owed itself to the substance of things, like frozen speech.
But do you see what this means? It’s as if the city spoke long before we did. It means we invented the city long before we invented history. So what a responsibility the city held! All the time recording before we ourselves thought to archive. Yet if the ancestry of the city were chronicled in a book, consider the endless chapters one would have to thumb through to reach pages written in an intelligible language. Without a translator, those first roots of civilization would remain eternally buried beneath sediments of time.
But translation is my task, for I was born in a time long before time itself was born. Before anyone thought to read the patterns of this world to invent the day, the year, the century and look to the sky for proof of their passing. Though I am perfectly able to experience the emotions that constitute the human condition, I’m not technically human, but rather an evolutionary ancestor, a prehuman, if you will. You might call us wanderers, vagabonds, vagrants: creatures too brutish to be called human yet to human-like to be called beasts. But live like one of us for a moment and feel hunger more deeply than you have ever felt famished, more fearful than you have ever felt afraid. The same is true for thirst, for sadness, for lust. For us however, this was simply what it meant to be.
Life is different when you’re not at the top of the food chain. My ancestors may not be much to speak of now, but in my day we were pioneers and visionaries. We looked into the blackness of the unknown and lit a fire there. Language, art, technology, science, philosophy and religion, culture and customs — No, I can’t claim that we invented these institutions but we certainly did prepare the ground for them to flourish. And I was there for the germination and the bloom. In other words, in my lifetime I lived to see the birth of the city.
Even before the city, though, we never lacked shelter. Deep in the caves, up in the trees, among the brush — we were in fact adequately protected. But the world in which we lived was not a place meant for standing still: we had to hunt and we had to forage, which meant that where the animals went, where the fruits and grains grew, there we went also. Even the most hospitable cave or potable spring could be at best a temporary dwelling place. We, like everyone in that time, operated under seemingly natural laws that determined the numbers within wandering groups such as ours: it was simply not possible to maintain a gathering as large as a village, let alone a city. “Why did you not tame the animals?” you might ask, “Why did you not plant the fields?” These ideas may seem obvious in the quietness of full bellies, but when you cannot plan your next meal, you discover you cannot plan much at all.
The developments were slow. We didn’t know what it was that we were advancing toward, but every novel idea seemed to speed us along, burgeon our numbers, open the world. For instance, the simple way that water puddles in footprints hardened by the sun stunned me: could we not shape vessels from the earth? The possibility to then stock and preserve, to eat
today what had been collected yesterday or even months prior, changed everything. Before long we were a band of capable potters. Soon after this, we chanced upon a separate group of wanderers. These were seldom peaceful encounters, but they at once noticed the various pots and carafes among our possessions, things they had never seen before. We showed them the many uses of a single pot, and they offered to teach us how to prevent meat from spoiling if we would teach them how to turn the soil into containers. Thus from them, we learned the virtues of salt – and moreover, they decided to join us in our wandering, doubling the size of our group.
I could name many other things, but I must tell you that the real development, the true impetus of our becoming, happened during a violent storm one night when it seemed the sun itself was cracking whips across the sky, ropes of light that split through the heavens and came crashing to the ground. One of these lights struck a group of nearby trees causing them to rupture with light from within. Terrified, we ran until we felt safe. Seeing that the light had not moved from the trees, but remained, shivering in bird-like wings, we cautiously approached and felt the warmth spread out from the light. We had discovered fire. As we gathered around it, we soon discovered the inborn magnetism that draws together man and flame, for within days thousands of wanderers had joined our circle.
The cold was all the worse for those who now knew of heat: there was simply no leaving the presence of the fire. And just as encountering others had once led to knowledge for us, these new wanderers, barbarians now tempered into civility, carried within them new knowledge as well. Chief among their ideas were those that concerned shelters of a more permanent nature. And because no man wanted to distance himself from the fire, we stacked dwellings on top of one another, building upward in the likeness of the flame. From that moment on, all of time would be understood as having passed either before or after fire’s discovery.
We began to see fire in many places. Yes, in the red dawn of fire new discoveries seemed to arise by the second, as if we were evolving many times over in the span of a single lifetime. And fire, it turns out, was only the beginning. It unlocked the potential of other elements — of earth, air, and water — elements we always knew but before fire could never fully harness. And when we learned how to transport fire from one place to another, it was then that our first sister cities were founded. With our budding yet nascent creeds, we were each naturally drawn to prefer one settlement over another. Some, for instance, who noticed the way in which flames turn all things into air and cause them to rise, who were perhaps also overcome by restlessness in the spell of fire’s fixity, thought it the natural order of things to ascend higher into the sky. Others, however, having observed that the primacy of fire lies in its base and noticing the tendency for heat to disperse evenly through solid material, thought it best to inhabit the earth as our cave-dwelling ancestors once did. While still others, who felt then as many feel now, were simply born to be companions of water, and so they carried the torch of their city to the sea.
From the very first city, the city of fire, came the city of air, the city of earth and the city of water; from these came more cities; from them, civilization. I have done my best here to let them live on through my words and my hand, knowledges that quickly followed the establishment of these cities, knowledges that sometimes forget the city altogether. But there is a bloodline of the elemental cities that still remains. I lay a hand on a tree and understand the seed from which it germinated, I put an ear to a shell and know the waters in which it calcified. We carry our origins within us, even if it requires another to read them.
There was a group named the Doomers. The Doomers believed in the inevitability of environmental collapse, and on witnessing humanity’s unceasing efforts toward its destruction, came to believe that we were powerlessness to escape our fate, entwined as it is with that of the environment’s own. When the environment collapses, the Doomers said, so shall civilisation. Their response in the face of apocalypse they faced was to ignore civilisation to death: to prepare (for want of a better term) their families and communities for the imminent fall of civilisation; to survive in remote settlements; to live apart in isolation.
The Doomers took control of an oil rig named Prirazlomnaya, nestled far above and away from the world in the shifting arctic ice floes. Their capturing and reinstatement of the rig was symbolic, of course, as they wished to turn the tools by which humanity destroyed its world, and itself, to their own purposes. And so it was that the Prirazlomnaya became the first of the Doomers settlements. An impenetrable fortress surrounded by ice, frozen in the glow of the aurora borealis – the northern lights.
The industrial innards of the Prirazlomnaya were transformed into a baroque world, decadent and bejewelled, its rooms ornate with the symbols of the civilisation they’d left behind. More Doomers’ arrived, bringing with them the looted possessions and chattels of the rich, the barons and bankers who did everything for oil, their black gold, and who the Doomers held above all as responsible for the Earth’s demise. Now these paintings, furnishings and luxuries were souvenirs of the world they had left behind. They were not pursued, of course: the attention of the world was elsewhere, attempting to undo, then contain, and finally adapt to the changing realities of their climate. Looting always prefigures catastrophe, and before long the world was embroiled in desperate war and turmoil.
The Doomers’ leader, far from this chaos, at the top of the world styled himself a Prince and took the name Prospero. He rejoiced at hearing news of the turbulent world he’d chosen to leave behind, and revelled in the ornate and elaborate décor of the Prirazlomnaya. In the cold and long nights, the frozen rig would be illuminated by the fluxing green glow of the borealis, and the Prince was so taken with this effect that he demanded that each of the rig’s seven main rooms would hold a lens that magnified this light, and altered it for joyous effect. Using nitrogen mixtures and other means, the Prince was able to transform the northern lights’ green glow into five additional colours which illuminated the rooms of the Doomers’ new home; blue, violet, purple, red and white. The seventh room, the dormant drilling tower at the centre of the rig whose tendrils still went far down into the earth below, was left in darkness. Onto the face of the tower the Doomers had installed a giant ebony clock-face (formerly of a grand City Hall, no doubt), which served as centrepiece of the new community.
Within these rooms, the Doomers celebrated their new home, and rejoiced in their cleverness and foresight in escaping the fate of the world outside, which by now was in a dire and desperate state. They had long known the
world was doomed, and rather than regret the losses of the lives they left behind, revelled in the world they were creating. In the appropriated apparel of the now-vanquished rich, the Doomers held an extravagant dance, a lavish ball through their six vibrantly coloured rooms. Some even ventured into the darkness of the seventh room, dancing carefully and slowly around the oil well; nervous laughs echoing metallically through the chamber. Every hour, the great clock adorning the tower would strike, startling the dancers as chimes resonated through the metal halls they promenaded within. The clangs resounded through the guts of the rig, forcing dancers to a standstill as long reverberations spread to its every corner. Each time the clock struck another hour, the clanging seemed to last longer still, accompanied now by the creaks and moans of old metal.
But when the chimes stopped the Doomers rejoiced, and partied, secure in the richly ornamented confines of their fortress; warm, well-supplied and fed. The Prince Prospero looked at the community he had helped create and was glad at its prospects. He knew that life could go on here in the arctic wilderness, and though humanity had almost sealed its own fate, he had helped avoid total catastrophe.
Eventually, the clock struck midnight, its chimes amplified with each strike by the chambers of the Prirazlomnaya. The Doomers stood, waiting for it to pass, but with every strike the accompaniment of creaks and groans grew louder, thundering through the seven rooms of the Doomers’ ball. The vibrations in the floor and walls grew into tremulous shudders, and old frozen pipes cracked and split as they were shaken in their holdings. On the twelfth strike, the rig, and all its rooms and occupants, shook one last time before slowly falling into a deep and echoing silence. The Doomers, and the Prince, calmed as the rig settled around them.
Suddenly, and with a deafening roar, the tower erupted into life. Oil burst upward from the well, spraying wildly across the rig. The clock-face was thrown from its fastenings. The rooms were painted black, their occupants suddenly in desperate struggle. Some tried to approach the well to attempt to stop the flow, but were drowned in the thick tide of darkness. Some tried to flee, but had nowhere to go as the rooms filled with the unrelenting oil. Some tried to prize doors and windows open, but most had long iced over, and those that did get outside froze in the arctic cold, their gowns and suits spread like phantoms around them. The Prince watched horrified as the world he had built succumbed to the darkness heaving from its centre. He stood transfixed as the oil washed over and into him, the colours of the ballrooms refracting on its glistening surface before turning a deep, unyielding black. And Darkness and Decay and the Black Gold held illimitable dominion over all.
Statement of Witness
Name of witness: Ziggy Wang
Occupation: Security guard
Address: 1st floor, Empire State Building, 350 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10118
Date of Birth: 27/5/1969
Police Officer: S. Johnston (005248)
This statement (consisting of pages each signed by me) is true to the best of my knowledge and belief and I make it knowing that, of it is tendered in evidence, I shall be liable to prosecution if I have willfully stated anything in it which I know to be false, or do not believe to be true.
I am a security guard in the Apple Store on the ground floor of the Empire State Building. The store usually closes at 10:00 p.m. When the customers are cleared and the store is about to close, I always hear loud noises as if the place is still crowded with people. All the screaming, crying, and quarreling caused me to question my own hearing. I thought I had intermittent auditory hallucinations, but after a thorough checkup at a hospital, my hearing was just as normal as anyone else’s. Since the first day I came here, I have been suffering from these noises, which only occur at closing time, and I fear this moment very much. One day I was locked in the store by accident, and those noises came again. I noticed that they came from below the escalator. This is the emergency escalator and is usually locked. Curiosity drove me to push the button, and surprisingly, it opened. I stepped in without realizing it, and felt myself being led to another world.
The escalator went slowly upward and stopped sometime later. When the door opened, I was shocked by what I saw: there was a tower hidden in the Empire State Building! I witnessed workers alongside the endless assembly line of iPhones; supervisors running around; those who jumped off the tower to commit suicide being caught by a huge net and sent right back to work; and those exhausted to death dragged to the end of the workshop and thrown out of the cave. Dead bodies slipped into the already packed morgue, and butchers chopped and cooked them before serving the meat to the living workers as food. The black market for electric products was selling E-trash that came from unknown sources. Above the market was a school with graduates standing in line to pass through the gate of “Unpredictability” in order to work in the factory. A prison stood above the school. Someone in the tower told me the most dangerous criminal was
imprisoned there: an architect who tried to open the windows of the building. A monster named “Relief” was rowing a boat in the river, holding a lantern to collect spirits deserted in various cheap hotels and abortion clinics. I would have never seen the night clubs and sex shops hidden in the police station if not led by a policeman to the tower. There was a grocery store at the entrance of the police station, and the secret code to enter was “the invisible apple”.
That was all I saw that night.
Statement of Purpose
From a capitalist point of view, Imperialism is characterized by the exploitation of unequal geographic territories—utilizing asymmetrical spatial relations for the accumulation of capital. Nowadays, this structural tension has been manipulated or hidden in many invisible dimensions. After the Cold War, the acceleration of capital flows and cost reduction in telecommunication and transportation fueled the continual expansion of offshore production. With coerced consumerism and cultural output, the manifestation of imperialism has become more and more secretive and complex. In this context, where is the boundary between Dongguan and New York, two cities that are closely linked but also fragmented by capitalist activity? Through reinterpreting the geography of the global-industrial chain of a typical global product, the iPhone, I intend to depict a panorama of capitalist activities in today’s era of globalization.
As a metaphor, the Empire State Building is sectionally reconstructed into two interrelated parts/worlds unable to perceive the existence of each other. They are two ends of one chain: The Apple store (New York City) at the base, and the tower (Dongguan) above it. The shape of the tower is bounded by the limits of the Empire State Building. The program of the tower, containing the typical procedures/events of capitalist production, is organized by the logic of The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. The world in the tower is the projection and consequences of this common Apple beneath: the savage behind the elegance, the important and yet ignored “other” in the chain of capitalism, the heterotopia that is bandaged and disciplined by the imperial boundary, the phantom hidden behind the transparent curtain wall of the Apple store.
This project tries to express these contradictions and tensions in the geographic landscape of capitalist activity, the indoctrination and domestication of neo-colonialism, the questioning of globalization and the predicament of human beings.
Once upon time in the Zero-carbon Hedonistic Era, the entire world was finally sustainable. Clean-energy technologies were abundant and ubiquitous. Large quantity of energy-efficient light bulbs, wind turbines, electric car batteries and solar panels would come with a price, however. Since all of these clean-energy technologies relied on Rare Earths, a group of seventeen chemical elements and their abundant extraction from the earth’s surface, significant worldwide increase in their demand led to nt increase the scarcity of these minerals. Nearly all of the Rare Earths were discovered in the 19th century but their use mostly proliferated in the Zero-carbon Hedonistic Era because of their association with green technologies. Not alarmed by the possible tragic outcomes of the further mining of these minerals, the world celebrated their delirious consumption with more car batteries and solar panels until very little of these minerals were available. Soon after the depletion of this precious resource was officially announced, in an attempt to prevent major geopolitical conflicts, United Council of Rare Earths was established to promote international co-operation regarding this matter.
In its inaugural meeting, the Council members drafted the text of the Declaration by the United Council of Rare Earths, which was signed by all countries. After a long meeting, the unanimous vote was held to ban further Rare Earth mining and to build a museum that would house and preserve remaining Rare Earth mines of the world, and would carry their legacy to future generations. The museum was named as the Museum of Lost Volumes.
The Museum of Lost Volumes was composed of many rooms. Each room of the Museum was dedicated to different minerals while exhibiting a particular spatial quality regarding these mines. The first room was divided into three parts and was connected with a single bridge that looked over the three different minerals. The bridge felt so small in this large space, and so did the visitors. While the mines were placed into the underground exhibiting the extraction processes of how they are removed from the earth, the visitors walked through the bridge observing them. The section profile of these colossal rooms was a monument to the mines as well, as they resembled the profile of a particular resource extraction. While walking along the bridge, the visitors felt as if they were floating in between the gigantic hollowness of the volume underneath and the massive spatiality of the ceiling above. Admiring the commemoration of these mines as volumes, visitors left the room completely mesmerized.
The next room of the museum showcased inverted pieces of Rare Earth mines from each of the seventeen mineral types that were placed carefully in preserved glass boxes. Varying in size, shape, and texture, each mine piece was filled with different stories and different lives. Visitors walked from one box to another, analyzing these glowing mountains so up close. One child put his nose up to the glass box, trying to get a much closer view to one of the minerals. “Why are these monuments trapped?” he asked to his mother. The mother looked thoughtfully. “If you are preserved and showcased, that means you are rare and very precious,” she said. “These monuments are actually at peace.”
The final room was a large continuous surface from which large platonic volumes were carved out. While each volume represented a particular Rare Earth mine in the world, the mine sizes were compared to one another in scale within the space of the room. Walking along the edges of these volumes, one visitor thought about the amount of neodymium extracted from one particular mine because of the sheer mass of the volume represented. “How many wind turbines would this make?” he said to himself. In this room, the represented lost volume was not bounded by a box or had to be viewed from a bridge like the other rooms. Having the chance to walk on the actual matter and to be able to touch it was in itself a sublime feeling. The surface of the mineral felt smooth, but looked textured. The visitors were both astounded and heartbroken that these volumes were all lost.
ONCE upon a time, on an uninhabited Brutalist serviscape buiding called The Archipelago on the shores of Lake Algonquin, there lived a Baba-Ji from whose Fedora the rays of the sun were reflected in more-than-oriental splendour.
As Baba-Ji was a Professor of By-Gone Architecture and Challenged Ideals, he lived by the lake with nothing but his hat and his G-Tec 0.4mm and a journal of onion paper that you must particularly never touch.
And one day he took pen and paper and cursor and pointer, powerpoint and prezi and made himself with the hlp of his partner Abba-Jan, one building which was two universe across and an earth thick.
It was indeed a Superior Rendering (that’s magic), and he put it on the concrete wall because he was allowed to touch the wall and feel the blood and sweat that had gone into this building so smeltly sentimental.
But just as he was going to enter this Superior Rendering (it’s still magic) there came down to the lakeshore from the Altogether Uninhabited Interior Street known as the School of Architecture, one Rhino with a horn on its program, more than two piggy eyes, and very few manners.
In those days the Rhino skin fitted quite tightly. There were no wrinkles in it anywhere in Super Photo-Reaist fashion. It looked exactly like the architecture of a Noah’s Ark Rhino that went interstellar when you touched it, but of course much bigger.
All the same, this Architecture had no manners then, and it has no manners now, and it is quite likely it never will have any manners.
The Rhino shrieked, Abba-Jan swerved and Baba-Ji left that onion skin journal out in the rain and climbed to the top of the Next Tallest but One building in the world like a palm tree, with nothing on but his Fedora, from which the rays of the sun were now reflected in even more-than-oriental but senior splendour.
And the Rhino sensing a rogue move with stars in its eyes upset the concrete wall, the school of architecture, the lakeshore drive and all the beavers’ tails huts as it rolled out larger and larger intestines of a building that could curl up like a therapy kitten or jump like those animals about to become one of those three firm zeros; an object-orienteted ontological desire.
The Rhino was now so cunning and clever it spiked that Altogether Uninhabited School of Architectural Thought on the horn of its self-determining software, and forced others to wave their therapy puppy tails and exit the Desolate and Exclusively Uninhabited Interiors, which used to be schools of architecture.
But Baba-Ji came down from the tallest palm-tree buiding in the world, Abba-Jan entered an alternative reality and they struck out the rendered life and began reciting the following Unreachable Chora, which, as you have not heard, I will now proceed to relate:
Them that takes words
Which the Rhino imagines
Makes dreadful mistakes.
So THIS is the picture of Baba-Ji, the professor and Abba-Jan and the young Whippersnapper Speedalong beginning to have their Dundee cake and eating it and rhinoing the jingo out of all architecture-to-come on the Uninhabited Dark Side of the Archipalago on a very cold day; and this is the picture of the Rhino softwaring its skin and crashing down from the Altogether Uninhabited Architecture of the Three Firm Zeros, which, as you can truthfully see, is all slickly Rocky VI.
The Rhino now produces skins so smooth, so photo-bubbly and realistic and the three buttons that make up its undercarriage are of course underneath, so you can’t quite ever see them in the building that will be produced.
The squiggly things on Baba-Ji’s hat are now re-produced by the Rhino and Abba-Jan and Speedalong have concocted even more rays of the architectural sun reflected in more-than-oriental splendour, because if we had drawn real rays they would have actually removed the need for this Magical Render from the Uninhabited Interior of what has now become the Architect’s Mind.
Rhino as we now know it has a strong current, and the wheelie-thing lying on the sand in front of the Unimaginable Interior of the Reproduced Building belonged to one of Vitrivius’ chariots when he tried to cross Lakeshore Drive. This picture shows that quite clearly.
Baba-Ji found it, Abba-Jan sketched it, Speedalong fed it and they all kept the building on Archipelago and used it to play with a new version of Strictly Adult Minecraft.
Baba-ji’s name was James Vertigo and the Rhinoceros was called Raven because it breathed through the computer instead of its nose. I wouldn’t ask anything about the G-Tec 0.44 ceramic tipped black pen if I were you.
And there is a great deal more in that than you would think.
Because, five weeks later, there was a Polar Vortex on Lake Algonquin and everybody put on all the layers of clothes they had.
Baba-Ji put on his hat and Abba-Jan put on his gloves; but the Rhino finally shed its shiny, bubbly skin, abandoned architecture as we know it and carried what was left of the rays of sunshine and splendour over its shoulder as it went into a New Cave to avoid the cold.
The Rhino of course was misunderstood and said nothing whatever about architecture-to-come, the School of Architecture now known as The Cheese Factory
led by The Czarina or the Brutalist building because it had rudely frozen over. As the envelope was slipped over the old building we kind of know the result: the Rhino has never had any manners, then, since, or henceforward.
The Rhino, not content with ruling the Photo-Realist World got even more frisky, experimented with three more firm zeros and waded straight into the ice waste and blew bubbles through its nose, leaving the architectural skin stretched out on the frozen lakeshore.
Presently Baba-Ji, one of those Masking Tape True Critics of Architecture, came by and found the skin, and with Abba-Jan they smiled one smile that ran all round their faces two times as around all the buidings that were now being demolished.
Then Baba-Ji danced three times round the skin of architecture and rubbed his hands. Then he went to his camp and filled his fedora with Dundee cake-crumbs, for Baba-Ji never ate anything but crumbs, and never swept out his camp.
He took that skin, and he shook that skin, and he scrubbed that skin, and he rubbed that skin just as full of old, dry, stale, tickly cake-crumbs and some burned currants as ever it could possibly hold.
Then he climbed to the top of his Palm-Tree Architectural Wafer-Thin World called Packard and waited for the Rhino to come out of the digital water and put it on.
THIS is Baba-Ji exiting the Packard, brandishing the Wafer, lifting the Archipelago and crashing the Uninhabited Interior of the School of Architecture after raising ruckus whilst watching the Rhino Ravens bathing near the beach of the Altogether Uninhabited Algonquin Lake. This is the picture after the Ravens had taken off with what was never to become the world’s architectural skin.
Baba-Ji managed to get cake-crumbs all over the Rhino, they got into the skin and affected greatly the after effects; they went into all the layers and Baba-Ji smiles now when ge thinks how they will tickle the Raven when she enters the Rhino again.
The skin that is the Rhino’s architecture is just under the rocks below the palm-tree in a cool place; that is why you can’t see it. The Render is now wearing a new more-than-oriental-splendour of the sort (that’s magic again) that was well known in the Packard and everything is ready to leave the Rhino operators’s name on palm-trees.
The black things on the Archipelago are all out on the frozen lake and are bits of ships and architecture, nights and dawns that got wrecked going down the Red Sea; but all the architects apparently were saved and went home without quite knowing it. And without ever telling their story!
The black thing in the water close to the Lakeshore is not a wreck at all, it is the Raven and the Rhino making jingo with each other and another Three Firm Zero; they are cavorting in digital heaven without their skins. They were just as black underneath as they were outside.
I wouldn’t ask anything about the G-Tec 0.4 mm ceramic tipped pen if I were you.
And the Rhino pulled it off quite unlike anything had gone before. It buttoned up Architecture with the Three Zero moves as it tickled like cake crumbs in bed.
The Rhino wanted to scratch this magic, but that made it worse. So all it could do was to lay wide its Expanded Renders of the Unmentionable World and continue to lie down on the sands and roll and roll and roll, and every time the Rhino rolled, the cake crumbs tickled worse and worse and worse, and the more AND MORE Architecture took to the folds in the Rhino’s skin.
Then the Rhino ran back to the Palm-tree World Hotel and rubbed and rubbed and rubbed against it. It rubbed so much and so hard that it rubbed the skin of the Architecture into a greater and greater fold, and another fold underneath, where the buttons used to be (but the buttons were also rubbed off).
And all this spoiled this digital temper and damaged the reputation of the Altogether Uninhabited School of Architecture, yet it didn’t make the least difference to the architecture of the cake-crumbs. They were inside this skin and they tickled.
So Baba-Ji went home, very angry indeed inside (that’s magic too) and horribly scratchy at the thought of not being able to Teach how the Rhino can Jingo the world out of anyting and become Three Zero Architecture. It is written in the Developer’s Code of the Unmentionable Conduct and from that day to this every Rhino has great folds in its skin and a very bad temper, all on account of the photo-reaistic cake-crumbs inside this Architecture of Never-ending bubble and squeek.
So Baba-Ji, Profoessor for Unknown Life, days numbered in the onion skin world of journals, writing and Poems to the Raven, came out of the tallest palm-tree hotel in the world, wearing his Fedora, from which the rays of the sun were reflected in more-than-oriental splendour, packed up his cycle, and went away in the direction of Orotavo, Oudawa, Algonquin, away from the Upland Meadows of Arriviste Architecture, away from the Altogether Uninhabited School of Architecture, the Czarina and the Marshes of Stayput.
THIS Uninhabited Archipelago
Is off Cape Ravishment,
By the frozen wastes of Adobe
And the Pink Ceramic Sea:
But it’s hot-too hot from Rendering
For the likes of you and me
Ever to go
In an unmannered Rhino
And call on
Professor James Vertigo
A woman believed to have been taken to the “Death Parade”
A woman in her 20s has died from falling off the sky at the cross road of Inokashira Dori at Shibuya in Tokyo. It happened shortly before 19:30 UTC on Tuesday. It is believed that the woman was dropped from a ripple on the sky. Within 30 minutes, witnesses pointed out that a group of 16 spirits dressed in white mofuku arrived at the site. They picked her up and put her on a Japanese sedan chair. They lighted up the red lantern on the top and then marched to the west along the Inokashira Dori, few minutes later they gradually disappeared in front of the witnesses eyes. The Tokyo police department and scientists are looking for a logical explanation for the event.
“We believe that the deceased have been taken to the death parade,” stated Tomoyuki Hasegawa, former senior police officer in the Tokyo Police Department. A similar event has been reported 10 years ago, in which the deceased-to-be woke up mid way and found himself in a hospital. He is Kazuaki Hattori who is now living in Kyoto. When he reported his adventure to us, we could hardly believe in it,” Hasegawa San continued. “He saw a huge watermill-like metallic structure, in which he described ‘the spirits’ put him on the deck. He felt his body was losing weight as the deck was rising. He was picked up by a huge crane when he reached the top.
“The watermill-like metallic structure should be ‘The Weighing Bridge’,” said Kosuke Nishijima, professor of Japanese Mythology Studies in the University of Tokyo. “Each person’s soul weighed exactly 21 grams. In the transit world, ‘The Weighing Bridge’ is to determine the moment of death when one loses 21 grams, when one’s soul departed from the body.”
‘The Canning Forest’
“He was then taken to a forest by the crane,” Hasegawa San continued, “he described the forest as exactly like the Aokigahara forest under the Fuji Mountain. He was put on a wooden plate runs on a conveyor belt. He was being weighed, cleansed by water and wiped by a huge towel. He was then dressed up in mofuku by machine hands and makeup was applied on him while he was transferred into a coffin.”
‘Law of Conservation of Energy’
“The next minute I find my coffin rising into the air, I look back to the forest from the top, the trees become shorter and shorter, and the Mount Fuji comes closer and closer to my eyes,” said Hasegawa San, quoting what Hattori told him before. “When I look up, I see an opening on top, I enter into a dark chamber that I can’t even see my hands. The air is hot and humid, I can only hear the sound of wave. As I feel myself rising higher and higher, I can see light casting from a small opening on the top. Inside, a bunch of people are floating aimlessly, and one of them look exactly like me. All of a sudden, I am dragged to the top into the bright light.” According to Nishijima San, he believed that Hattori San had entered the ‘Energy Chamber’, as he felt himself dissolving, ‘the other him’ was forming in the transit world. It is because according to the Law of Conservation of Energy, in an isolated system, the total energy is conserved. Every sound wave, every vibration, every heat energy of you will be remained but transmitted after you died. The one that he saw was actually himself in the transit world.
‘The Decay Chest’
“When I open my eyes again, I see a girl being hang on the frame. I think she is already dead, I saw her body dissolving and the pieces float like a snowflake and shine like a star. I try to walk closer to her and before my hand can reach her, everything in front of me starts to fade, and I find myself laying on a bed in a hospital. That’s all what Hattori San told me,” said Hasegawa San, “I believe it is the journey of dying before we depart from our world.”
‘We are all stardust’
Nishijima San stated that the atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are not figuratively, but literally stardust. This is why Hattori San saw the body of the girl fragmented into pieces of stars.
Up till now the scientists and police are still trying to verify Hattori San’s journey and to search for the 20s woman who is believed to be already dead tonight. But one thing is sure, that is when we die, we all return to be stardust. Goodnight. The JP News report.