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Live dangerously, live long! - click opera
February 2010
 
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Tue, Apr. 24th, 2007 10:05 am
Live dangerously, live long!

16. I'm watching CNN. It has a feature about Japan's elderly boomers. The film crew visits the Reversible Destiny Lofts in Mitaka, designed (by Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins) to keep the people who live there on their toes.



7. In the Reversible Destiny Lofts, your destiny might reverse at any moment. You're aware you might slip. The floor isn't level, the light switches have been hidden, you have to crawl onto the balcony through a low door. It's like an adventure playground or an assault course.

2. Arakawa and Gins have also designed a theme park, Reversible Destiny Yoro Park. There are buildings shaped like maps, furniture on the ceiling of a maze, mounds and hollows to clamber over.

22. "Because the Site of Reversible Destiny-Yoro Park has many steep slopes, we advise that you wear rubber-heeled shoes."

3. Arakawa and Gins also have plans for a Reversible Destiny Hotel (the New York one is illustrated between bullet 16 and bullet 7. The bullets are out of sequence to keep you alert and alive. Bang! Bang!).

15. Arakawa says: "You'll learn to figure it out... The apartment makes you alert and awakens instincts, so you'll live better, longer and even forever." Wow! Live dangerously, live forever!

19. From a blog conversation about the Reversible Destiny concept:

A: "See? Being perpetually irritated will make you fucking immortal."
B: "For a second I thought I was reading imomus and you were being completely serious."

6. What could possibly make A and B think I'd take this stuff seriously? Well, maybe my essays about ostranenie and disorienteering. I'm always going on about how great it is to get lost, with quotes from the Situationists and so on.



4. See, I totally understand why Alin Huma would sleep out on his balcony one night, as if he were camping up on a mountain, and the freeway below were a stream in a crevasse, the Dentsu building opposite a crag. Habit, as Samuel Beckett put it, is a great deadener. Throwing people out of their habits is a way to keep them alive.

8. This obviously relates to what I was talking about in The energy of awkwardness the other day.

24. Had dinner the other night with a guy who was designing theme parks and zoos. We talked about crossing the road in Thailand. The secret is, he said, just to walk out into the traffic flow at a constant pace. The cars, bicycles and motorbikes will flow around you... as long as you pay no attention to them and just keep walking. I wish I'd known that when I was in Chiang Mai.

1. I responded with a description of the theories of Dutch traffic planner Hans Monderman, who's trying to make traffic safer by taking away all the signs and forcing drivers, pedestrians and other road users to look at and negotiate with each other, rather than obey signs.



9. Monderman redesigned the traffic flow in the Freisland city of Smallingerland. "Designing for negotiation requires the different users to "negotiate" the space they are about to occupy... Rather than zebra crossings, signs, lights, etc., Monderman strips the furniture from the streets - hence the term "naked streets" - making it easier for users to see and negotiate with one another. His goal is to enhance the conspicuousness and predictability of users, empowering them to cooperate with each another."



12. Aha! There we hit the paradox, or rather the dialectic. Unpredictable environments don't banish predictability, they force us to take responsibility for it ourselves. In Arakawa's buildings and Monderman's awkward square roundabouts, there's basically an existential message: act responsibly, act co-operatively, act socially. Don't assume that any institution or design is looking out for you. Do assume that people have a vested interest in getting on with each other, and that direct negotiation is the safest way for that to happen.

23. Monderman has some scandalous principles. Don't separate cars and pedestrians! Remove signs! Light everywhere, not just the road! Extend cafes right to the edge of the street, forcing more sharing of the space. Negotiate by eye contact! Eliminate raised curbs, just paint them instead!

13. I think someone else who's on this tip is Rem Koolhaas. His whole Learning from Lagos thing is anti-planning, pro-negotiation.

18. Today's Recursive Circle:

a. The way to live a long time is to stay safe. Safe is good!
b. No! The way to live a long time is to live dangerously. Dangerous is good!
c. In fact, negotiating danger is much safer than trying to eradicate it.
d. So it's "safety" that's truly dangerous. Safety is bad!
e. But our ultimate justification for the re-introduction of danger is that it keeps people safe.
f. So if living dangerously helps you live a long time, we're back to the original proposition: The way to live a long time is to stay safe.

25CommentReplyShare


imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Apr. 24th, 2007 09:26 am (UTC)
Re: "B" Speaks!

I think that when Koolhaas says we can learn from Lagos, he really means something like "Considering what a shitty, dysfunctional city Lagos is generally -- and rightly -- considered to be, there are still some things we could take from the city and learn from." Rather than seeing his stance on Lagos as being an anti-planning one, let's just say that Koolhaas uses Lagos to foreground planning, to "start a dialogue about planning".

We have to get technical here, but the way we think is entirely conditioned by paired binaries in which one is generally good or powerful, the other bad or weak. This is a lie language forces us to tell about the world, because actually virtue and vice, strength and weakness are all tangled up in tremendously complicated ways with each other.

So people -- original polemical thinkers like Koolhaas, Arakawa, Monderman -- keep coming along and telling us that the assumptions built into binaries like "rich / poor" or "planned / chaotic" or "safe / dangerous" contain distortions, and that the reverse might be true -- the weak element of the binary might contain hidden strengths. But what tends to happen is that the arguments used to demonstrate this cannot escape from the binary relationships built into language and commonsense, and end up using the strong term of the binary to justify the supposed re-insertion of the weak one as "the new strong".

So the argument for "danger is the new safety" turns out to be that danger is safe, and safe is good, rather than that danger is really good. At best, such paradoxical arguments get by with temporary redefinitions which evoporate even as they're being explained, or with appeals to some possible reversal of the power relations within the binary at some date in the future.

In order to really change the power relations within the binary, you have to switch cultures and languages altogether. The question has to be framed in such a way that people privilege one element over the other as "commonsense", as a reflex. But then, of course, the privileged element becomes a bully, and it becomes the duty of radical thinkers to struggle against that bully.

What my "recursive circles" demonstrate is the impossibility of challenging the power relations within one culture's binaries, because the arguments one needs to challenge power actually just reconfirm it. They cannot escape the culture's dominant presuppositions, framings, "commonsense". But I salute those who try. And, you know, a demonstration in language may fail, but if you build a demonstration of how a dangerous house is better than a safe one, it may well work in practice. One would need to live there to find out. And that's why I think people dismissing such things sight unseen doesn't really take us anywhere. It's just the doxa reasserting itself in the face of a threat from the para-doxa.


ReplyThread Parent
zzberlin
zzberlin
hh
Wed, Apr. 25th, 2007 03:41 am (UTC)
wow momus

This comment makes me think you have moved from musician to essayist to philosopher! I love it when you write philosophy!


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Tue, Apr. 24th, 2007 08:50 am (UTC)

"d. So it's "safety" that's truly dangerous. Safety is bad!"

It's all down to who controls the statistics, and for what purpose.

According to me, the way to live a long and happy life is to smoke more. The Greeks are the heaviest smokers in Europe, and have the longest live spans in Europe. The Japs are the heaviest smokers in the world, and have the longest lifespans in the world...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UB4AGSQiELA


ReplyThread
sarmoung
sarmoung
The Empire Never Ended
Tue, Apr. 24th, 2007 09:11 am (UTC)

Sorry to be expressing unease about things again on these pages, but I find there's something unsettling about Arakawa and Gins and not in the way that they challenge expectation and habit. I do think their work wonderfully inspired and executed, but for all their talk of reversible destiny and extended life, some of the philosophy comes across as a millenarian esoteric Scientology that is death-making rather than life-affirming. That cultish whiff, particularly given the Japanese experience of new religious movements. I made the trip to Yoro Park once but had to leave after about fifteen minutes as I had an overpowering sense of "kimochi warui" about the place. Maybe just an attack of the vapours...

That said, if the venerable Jakucho is happy to move into one of those lofts in Mitaka, then my sensitivity may be misplaced.

I am though looking forward to the approaching LJ Berlin-Tokyo houseswap!


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Apr. 24th, 2007 09:38 am (UTC)

I made the trip to Yoro Park once but had to leave after about fifteen minutes as I had an overpowering sense of "kimochi warui" about the place. Maybe just an attack of the vapours...

I think the proof of the pudding really is in the eating, since, as I said above, language can't really justify fresh propositions without resorting to stale ones. But since the initial effect of something truly new is sure to be a disturbance of our habit and our perception, this kimoi reaction is only to be expected. I think you'd need to spend more than 15 minutes, because the point of disorientation is the slow process it forces us through, the process of adaptation and negotiation and reconciliation. It sounds like you weren't willing to go through that process.

I could imagine Hisae feeling the same way, if I dragged her there. Last night we were in an adventure playground and it took me about 20 minutes to persuade her to jump off a low platform clinging to a pulley on a metal rope. When she finally did it, of course, she loved it. And part of the fun was the knowledge that she'd overcome her fear.


ReplyThread Parent
sarmoung
sarmoung
The Empire Never Ended
Tue, Apr. 24th, 2007 10:32 am (UTC)

It sounds like you weren't willing to go through that process

No, I don't think I was and I can certainly sympathise with Hisae. Except she has you by her side to encourage her and to trust in. I think the idea of less signing or rigid control in public space is a good one. I was in Palermo last week and, together with my friend, more used to a London style of road crossing (obey the lights or else dart across in between spaces before you're hit). But there weren't any lights here in many places. What to do? Well, like everyone else, just walk casually across and the mass of cars and scooters avoid you. It took a few days to get used to this.

Zoroastrians believe that following death the soul finally confronts the Chinvat Bridge, a perilous way (and surely free from handrails and the like) you must cross to gain entry to Paradise. It narrows for the evil and broadens for the righteous. Generally it's held that either Zoroaster himself or a guardian spirit act as your advocate at this potential vanishing point. This is similarly someone in whom to trust as you make your way. Just as what encourages me to cross the road in Sicily is wanting the company of the attractive woman who's now on the other side and waving at me to get on with it.

I was on my own at Yoro Park and could have done with similar encouragement, or at least a few tasty looking snack stands to aim for. Negotiating these unfamiliar spaces is best done in company, for it is a quite infantile experience to be faced with so much disturbing (in)familiarity. Okaaaaasan! At the same time, I don't think it was just novelty and isolation that made me feel that way. It was a murmuring sense of threat (a fairly uncommon experience for me in public Japan) and the design didn't seem to anticipate my interior need for a Jakucho, Zoroaster or girl in a summer dress.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Apr. 24th, 2007 10:48 am (UTC)

Ha, yes, "what's my motivation here?" I agree that challenge as a reward in itself is a bit of a hard sell on a summer day!


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Tue, Apr. 24th, 2007 09:24 am (UTC)

No bullet 5 ?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Apr. 24th, 2007 09:32 am (UTC)

I would like to designate my comment on the doxa and the para-doxa bullet 5... with a bullet!


ReplyThread Parent
mattbauman
mattbauman
Matthew j. Bauman
Tue, Apr. 24th, 2007 11:12 am (UTC)

i always wondered how they made road signs;
i should've known they grow them on farms like everything else..


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Apr. 24th, 2007 12:25 pm (UTC)

Loved this post! Thanks! The way Modernman uses square roundabouts to fight off the evil Prince Charles in issue #23 is my all-time favorite!


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kyburg
kyburg
Donna
Tue, Apr. 24th, 2007 02:17 pm (UTC)

The apartment building looks like it should be part of the Ghibli Museum....


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cheapsurrealist
cheapsurrealist
Dave Nold
Tue, Apr. 24th, 2007 02:59 pm (UTC)

When I moved from Pittsburgh to San Francisco in the 70's I learned that California had many new and strange laws like right turn on red and pedestrians have the right of way.

It doesn't matter if there is a sign or a law that say's you have the right of way, it's still going to hurt if you get run over by a bus.

Look both ways before you cross the street. That's what my mommy taught me. Oh and don't talk to strangers unless you're really really attracted to them.


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zzberlin
zzberlin
hh
Tue, Apr. 24th, 2007 05:26 pm (UTC)

<< It doesn't matter if there is a sign or a law that say's you have the right of way, it's still going to hurt if you get run over by a bus >>

I always look both ways, at least, peripherally. But it's not a question of whether or not a bus is coming; it's a question of whether or not it will stop. And in California, it will stop

Which is not to say it SHOULD stop

I have a friend that thinks that the needs of the pedestrian should always take precedence over the needs of the bicyclist/driver, because the pedestrian is vulnerable and unprotected. But does that mean a pedestrian should be able to walk out into an intersection, stopping five cars, when, if that pedestrian had waited ten seconds, no cars would have had to stop? It makes sense to let the cars go through the intersection first, both environmentally (it consumes resources to stop your vehicle) and because the greater good is served in this case if the pedestrian defers

I support California's forebearance toward pedestrians, as long as the pedestrian is in a marked space (crosswalk, of which there are many). But when they veer out into an intersection, not in a marked space, exuding arrogance by not even looking at the vehicles in their path, well, I just want to hit them


ReplyThread Parent

imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Apr. 24th, 2007 03:30 pm (UTC)

I don't know if it applies to guns -- two gunmen "negotiating" is not a pretty sight.


ReplyThread Parent
zzberlin
zzberlin
hh
Tue, Apr. 24th, 2007 05:13 pm (UTC)

<< Don't separate cars and pedestrians! Remove signs! Light everywhere, not just the road! Extend cafes right to the edge of the street, forcing more sharing of the space >>

And may the alpha dog win!

I haven't walked through dangerous intersections, blithely, but I've driven through them fast and without much concern for what I might hit. I've found the trick to speeding through intersections is to move as smoothly as possible, even in your head movements; no jerkiness!, no matter the hazard posed by your speed. I've never crashed or been ticketed for this (though I've had plenty of stupid car accidents that had nothing to do with speeding)

As for being safe to extend your life, well, I tend to think the spirit goes when it's ready to go. I think the spirit is ready to go once it's gotten what it needs from this life. So your spirit will seek safety while it is still learning, but once it has what it needs from this body, then things can get fun, because who gives a shit if you go, you're ready for the next lesson anyway. You've got what you need from this life, you're just coasting at this point, why not have as much fun as you can?

(oh, well,,, maybe because your fun endangers others? hmmm)

As for using eye contact to communicate better when we're on the street, I've discovered a few tricks at four-way stops. In the situation where it's not obvious, of two cars, who should proceed first, I've found if I glance at the other driver, then deflect my eyes, I signal deference to him, and he should proceed. Or I'll look at him and then act like I'm going to put in a new cassette tape, to show I'm not going to make the next move. But if I look at him and then look in the direction I want to go, it signals I am going to move first. (Usually, I do the eye-deferral trick because the fastest thing to do is to get the other person moving first)

I wish we had better eye contact signals between bicyclists and drivers, we are so at a loss there, the drivers hate the bicyclists and the bicyclists hate the drivers, and once you've been on both sides of that equation, you realize we're out there flying blind


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bikerbar
bikerbar
bikerbar
Tue, Apr. 24th, 2007 05:24 pm (UTC)

Those Reversible Destiny Lofts look like a pain in the ass to clean, or can you just hose it down?

I understand the basic idea, but I cant help imagine a lot of old people falling and breaking their hips. Once you've been there a while it becomes second nature, but try having gusests over and then every one starts knocking heads ...


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Apr. 24th, 2007 06:29 pm (UTC)

It's true that so many old people die "after a fall", but maybe that's a good reason to model falling on a daily basis? It would be interesting to see the stats in, say, 20 years time. Proportion of Reversible Destiny oldies who died "after a fall" versus proportion of normal oldies...


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Tue, Apr. 24th, 2007 06:30 pm (UTC)
City Museum

You may be interested in the City Museum of St. Louis, MO. It was designed by sculptors Bob and Gail Cassilly to convert an old shoe warehouse into a gigantic post-industrial playground, complete with secret tunnels, suspended airplanes, and other rejuvenating delights.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_Museum
http://www.citymuseum.org/home.asp

~Kyle


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Tue, Apr. 24th, 2007 07:49 pm (UTC)

The reason no-one´s dead yet from what he did in Smallingerland is that approximately -2 people live there.


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pay_option07
pay_option07
Tue, Apr. 24th, 2007 09:39 pm (UTC)
Reversible Destiny Lofts in Mitaka

It seems appropriate that the Ghibli Museum is just next door. I think Ami Onuki, and Yumi Yoshimura might be neighbours.


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Apr. 24th, 2007 11:27 pm (UTC)

At the risk of sounding a little cynical I have to applaud the artists use of an adroit auto-suggestive marketing gimmick to extract $763,000 from monied, gullible geriatrics.
That said I enjoyed your post's subliminal poke at the societal obsession with risk aversion.
Regards - Thomas.


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eustaceplimsoll
Eustace Plimsoll
Wed, Apr. 25th, 2007 01:08 am (UTC)

Apropos of Lagos, have you seen this documentary about Fela Kuti? I hope you'll enjoy it if not.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Mar. 25th, 2009 02:52 pm (UTC)
ponzi scheme

don't know if you saw this bit but apparently arakawa/gins were tied up with madoff and now their projects are in jeopardy:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123785033607519075.html


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Mar. 25th, 2009 05:00 pm (UTC)
Re: ponzi scheme

Wow, that's sad!

In a way, though, Arakawa and Madoff were both selling snake oil; one the idea of eternal life, the other the idea of endless profit. Arakawa's was the vastly preferable brand, though.


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