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e-flux conversations

The Matter of Scale

It was 2016, and the scales of territories, cities, buildings, animals, plants and human started to simultaneously expand and contract. Proximity and narrative became the matter. So we decide to retreat and prepare for the usual post-apocalyptic era.

Entry 2316.018, Mardin
I turned onto my side to face the dark red sun peering through the sand-covered window. It’s been a long time since I've seen another human being. The city was ruined during the war, to the point where it’s virtually unrecognizable. Since then it’s been covered by sand brought up from the south. As the buildings were destroyed, towns, forests, even the weather also changed. A nearby water source lasted for a while, but the electrical station was bombed near the old border, so drawing water from afar wasn’t possible. But even if it was, the current of the Tigris decreased over time, eventually to nothing. The national borders that used to keep me from my neighbors have disappeared as well, but it’s not like there’s anyone else here. No one else survived.

Entry 2016.033, Athens
Before I knew I had to get out of city. Before it had failed, my friend told me we needed to “retreat”. I didn’t agree at the time. He spoke about a “house for doing nothing,” arguing that we should put a distance between ourselves and society—Withdrawal as a political act. I’ve since accepted the need to escape; I now live in this house. But for a long time I was unsure how to completely retreat. How is it possible that the form of a “house” can condition such a political act? A confined space, yet nevertheless connected to the outside by interdependent infrastructures? No, I told him; complete withdrawal is not possible. A home, house, a cave might cause physical distance—scale matters—but society is not only physical, but endlessly fluid; intertwined with infrastructure. His response is still memorable:

Withdrawal forms the cell whose multiplication creates today's communities. If this distance from the social is the presupposition of political thinking, and if today's sociality is defined by this distance, then we will miss the opportunity to formulate political thought because of a properly architectural problem. This condition, constructed as a house of thought, is an observatory that cannot observe the field it is supposed to contemplate from a distance.

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