The perils of the text infiltrate the spaces of the city. And somewhere between the experience and the perception of a text, Roland Barthes suggests the primacy of pleassure. For him, the text is an object to be consumed, and text-consumption is within the province of the reader or critic. The reader or critic does not rewrite a text; rather, he or she completes it by adding those final touches that help disseminate the text and help ensconce it firmly in popular (collective) memory. If we are to interpret the city then as a text, then a sampling of works by Bernard Tschumi, the Situationist par excellence Guy Debord, as well as Denis Hollier's interpretations of George Bataille's writings will serve as guides for navigating and consuming the text of the city.
And how, exactly, do we do this? In the most recent issue of October, Cooper Union dean Anthony Vidler describes Situationist space as wholly derived from Guy Debord's childhood ephemera. In "Terrés Inconnues: Cartographies of a Landscape to be Invented," Vidler demonstrates how an elementary school geography text, Albert Demangeon's and André Meynier's Géographie Generale: Clase de 6éme is Debord's own proto-Situationist text to the city.
Through various diagrams, plans, and aerial photographs of world cities that act as "objects of memory, reflection, and strategic plan," Debord used the Géographie Generale as a guide for manuvering through the complex conurbations of the contemporary city.
Debord even cut out and grafted images from the text onto his own Situationist maps. A childhood text literally maps the terrain of the Debordian dérive.
Yet the grafting of a text onto a city can be a subtler enterprise -- with devastating results. In Jorge Luis Borges' short fiction Death and The Compass, LÃ¶hnrot, a police investigator, uses clues from the Torah to pinpoint the exact geographical location of an upcoming murder. Detailing an exchange between LÃ¶hnrot and the criminal mastermind Scharlach, Borges writes:
"I know of a Greek labyrinth that is but one straight line, So many philosophies have been lost upon that line that a mere detective might be pardoned if he became lost as well. When you hunt me down in another avatar of our lives, Scharlach, I suggest you fake (or commit) one crime at A, a second crime at B, eight kilometers from A, then a third crime at C, four kilometers from A and B and half-way between them. Then wait for me at D, two kilometers from A and C, once again halfway between them. Kill me at D, as you are about to kill me a Triste-Le-Roy."
"The next time I kill you," Scharlach replied, "I promise you the labyrinth that consists of a single straight line that is invisible and endless."
When grafted onto the urban space of Borges' story, the above passage describes a rhombus formed by two equilateral triangles.
The shape forms a literal tetragrammaton. the Hebrew word for God (JHVH), that is superimposed on the city. And in order to decode the tetragrammaton, LÃ¶hnrot had to complete his very own psychogepgraphic dérive throught the city. The fact that it is a tetragrammaton that LÃ¶hnrot is completing is signifcant, as the final utterance and completion of the forsaken word is what literally spells out LÃ¶hnrot's demise
to be continued ....