09 October 2020

City Living

"By and large working artists seek privacy and anonymity. But they also require exposure to all sides of life. These two benefits are available jointly only in the city. For artists solitude is not a vacuum, empty and meaningless. Isolating oneself in the country is contrary to experiencing and feeling the realities of the human condition, as beautiful as the country might be. Though it sounds contradictory, isolation in the midst of hyperactivity paradoxically means a chance to create one's own beauty, or to react against one's own choice of exposures; a little understood phenomenon among nonartists."
Robert Perine
Chouinard: An Art Vision Betrayed


Stefan Kac said...

Richard Sennett
The Fall of Public Man

"The design idea of the permeable wall is applied by many architects within their buildings as well as on the skin. Visual barriers are destroyed by doing away with office walls, so that whole floors will become one vast open space, or there will be a set of private offices on the perimeter with a large open area within. This destruction of walls, office planners are quick to say, increases office efficiency, because when people are all day long visually exposed to one another, they are less likely to gossip and chat, more likely to keep to themselves. When everyone has each other under surveillance, sociability decreases, silence being the only form of protection. The open-floor office plan brings the paradox of visibility and isolation to its height, a paradox which can also be stated in reverse. People are more sociable, the more they have some tangible barriers between them, just as they need specific places in public whose sole purpose is to bring them together. Let us put this another way again: Human beings need to have some distance from intimate observation by others in order to feel sociable. Increase intimate contact and you decrease sociability. Here is the logic of one form of bureaucratic efficiency.

"Dead public space is one reason, the most concrete one, that people will seek out on intimate terrain what is denied them on more alien ground. Isolation in the midst of public visibility and overemphasis on psychological transactions complement each other. To the extent, for instance, that a person feels he must protect himself from the surveillance of others in the public realm by silent isolation, he compensates by baring himself to those with whom he wants to make contact. The complementary relation exists because here are two expressions of a single, general transformation of social relations. I have sometimes thought about this complementary situation in terms of the masks of self which manners and the rituals of politeness create. These masks have ceased to matter in impersonal situations or seem to be the property only of snobs; in closer relationships, they appear to get in the way of knowing someone else. And I wonder if this contempt for ritual masks of sociability has not really made us more primitive culturally than the simplest tribe of hunters and gatherers."

(p. 15)

Stefan Kac said...

N.N. Taleb
The Black Swan

"[Opportunities] are rare, much rarer than you think. Remember that positive Black Swans have a necessary first step: you need to be exposed to them. ... Collect as many free nonlottery tickets (those with open-ended payoffs) as you can, and, once they start paying off, do not discard them. Work hard, not in grunt work, but in chasing such opportunities and maximizing exposure to them. This makes living in big cities invaluable because you increase the odds of serendipitous encounters—you gain exposure to the envelope of serendipity. The idea of settling in a rural area on the grounds that one has good communications "in the age of the Internet" tunnels out of such sources of positive uncertainty."

(p. 208-209)

Stefan Kac said...

Richard Sennett
Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the City (2018)

"While the metropolis certainly glitters for some, most people are driven there. The Irish who came to American cities after the potato famine of 1846 had no alternative but to leave their homes; so too the Jews who fled pogroms at the century's end. One set of statistics suggests that, once the trauma of Partition dividing India and Pakistan subsided, 65 per cent of urban Indians in more recent generations are 'involuntary migrants' from farms and villages to cities of more than one million, while another portrays Brazil's current wave of agricultural and mining land-grabs as decanting more than 70 per cent of the rural population into its cities within a decade."

(p. 99)

Stefan Kac said...

(Sennett, Building and Dwelling)

"It could be said that in a Heideggerian flight, who the Other is doesn't really matter. Jew then, Muslim now. ... If you are like Heidegger, you can't handle your own fantasy; indeed, the threat you feel grows stronger, the less tangible evidence you have for it. No Jew had ever done him an injury.

"In sum, the hut couples exclusion of people with simplification of form. In this, it represents a broad danger: in making clear, direct, simple forms,
Homo Faber practises social exclusion. More, the escape from the city to Nature can mask a rejection of others. Heidegger sought to evade taking responsibility for his actions by fleeing the city and embracing the simple life in the woods; his greatest ethical lapse is his evasiveness."

(p. 129)

Stefan Kac said...

(Sennett, Building and Dwelling)

"Peripheral vision is natural to most animals. In humans, the cone of vision is 60 degrees, whereas the depth of field is shorter in range, so we are always taking in more information than is in focus. In addition, the human animal has trouble making careful, individual scrutiny of more than seven objects simultaneously. At a walking pace, the Jamesian 'spotlight' in the brain therefore tends to narrow to three or four objects in accounting laterally. By contrast, travelling in a car at 50 mph narrows consciousness to a single signifying object. At a walking pace, the spotlit objects are 'round,' in the sense that we can dwell on them, studying their contours and context, whereas at a speeding pace the single spotlit object appears neurologically as 'flat'—a fleeting image with no depth or context. In this sense, walking slowly produces a deeper lateral consciousness than moving fast. Lateral accounting is one of the criteria for distinguishing place—a site in which you dwell—from space—a site you move through. It establishes the basic cognitive claim for privileging cyclists over motorists—the cyclist knows more, neurologically, about the city than the motorist."

(pp. 184-185)

Stefan Kac said...

Nicholas Carr
The Shallows (2011)

"A team of University of Michigan researchers, led by psychologist Marc Berman, recruited some three dozen people and subjected them to a rigorous, and mentally fatiguing, series of tests designed to measure the capacity of their working memory and their ability to exert top-down control over their attention. The subjects were then divided into two groups. Half of them spent about an hour walking through a secluded woodland park, and the other half spent an equal amount of time walking along busy downtown streets. Both groups then took the tests a second time. Spending time in the park, the researchers found, "significantly improved" people's performance on the cognitive tests, indicating a substantial increase in attentiveness. Walking in the city, by contrast, led to no improvement in test results.

"The researchers then conducted a similar experiment with another set of people. Rather than taking walks between the rounds of testing, these subjects simply looked at photographs of either calm rural scenes or busy urban ones. The results were the same. The people who looked at pictures of nature scenes were able to exert substantially stronger control over their attention, while those who looked at city scenes showed no improvement in their attentiveness."

(pp. 219-220)