“these noises moderate the inevitability of its construction”

November 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Just as the geography of the city conditions us to accept change or novelty despite the fact that change and novelty are rarely within our grasp, assigning to the present the fantastic ability to contain infinite occurrences, people feel compelled to make their predictions: the city as an innumerable series of events that take place within a defined space, and what is to come as a hypothetical realm in which occurrences proliferate at the heart of a hidden moment, impossible but nonetheless concrete, similar to those that occur all the time on the streets of distant neighborhoods. Even this seemingly forced metaphor between the future and the city allows for the idea of proximity and its effects: nearness and immediacy — essential relations for those anxious about what is to come. On the other hand, the city offers validation to those who do not make predictions: change, the bustle that grows more or less feverish depending on the hour and the circumstance, which can be represented — and contemplated — from a single point. This observation often takes place from a cafe table or — in the neighborhood — from chairs set up on the sidewalk, open windows, et cetera. The city is not only simultaneous — we know that at any moment, in any place, there are always a number of different things happening — but also spontaneous: events unfold without reason or accord, which makes them appear autonomous and random. Those who live in the moment find, in this exercise, the natural model for their lack of foresight. The same thing happens with noise: noises do not fade into the distance, die out, or grow, they simply stop or are drowned out by another, stronger one. Yet the city — which, if one must define it, could be said to be the place in which the greatest number of obstacles comes together — finds its promise of privacy eradicated by sound. . . . From bombs to the clap of thunder, via the drip of  faucet or the crackling sound of cars inching forward on the wet pavement — these noises moderate the inevitability of its construction. Geography is an art of vision; it is in its profound independence from geography, which is condemned to absorb it, that the difficulty of sound resides. Sound is equivalent to the future: that which one cannot see. M and I used to listen for sounds and reflect on this dubious philosophy, usually on our walks without a set destination — or with a destination that was so unknown that it ceased to be such — while we thought of ourselves as planets. It seems to me today that Buenos Aires had, at the time, a certain essential quality; it was a crystalline city. Now, though, its inhabitants are made of liquid.

— Sergio Chejfec, The Planets

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