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The Role of Megastructure in the Eschatology of John Frum (On OMA’s Master Plan for the Spratly Islands)

September 30, 2001

The South Pacific Ocean (which some call simply “the Ocean”) is composed by an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of geometric configurations with vast planes of salt water in between, surrounding very low carpets of sand. Among these are the Spratly Islands, claimed by no less than seven countries: China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Taiwan. From any of the Spratlys one can see, on the interminable horizon, the upper and lower registers of Chinese hegemony. The distribution of the populations is variable. Twenty thousand migrants and five languages per port, these are the land-bound sociologies; the height of their buildings, from floor to ceiling, scarcely exceeds that of a normal bookcase. One of the occupied archipelagos leads to a narrower chain of micronations, which opens onto another floating plateau of scientific equipment monitoring, in real time, the metagenomics of plankton, each device identical to the first and to all the rest.

To the left and right of the archipelago there are the otherwise identical capital buildings of two defunct kingdoms (one called the “Kingdom of Humanity”). In the left, the appointed legislature was known to work and sleep standing up; to the right, sitting, to satisfy their fecal necessities. Between the two capitals, above ground, winds a spiral stairway, which today sags abysmally overhead in some places and soars upward to remote distances in others, consuming a sunburnt canopy. In the hallway of the overhead stairway between the two, there is a non-reversing mirror that reflects all personal appearances so that its viewer sees oneself as truly seen by others, and not the lateral inversion presented by a normal mirror. Anthropologists have inferred from the positioning of the mirror that the still-ongoing decay of the dual indigenous kingdoms is to be taken as a profound measure of their success (if it were not, why this requirement to make the illusion of reflection more optically accurate?). I prefer to dream that its dirty, fingerprint-smudged surface represents and promises another absolute reversibility, working itself out through an architectural drama of legal authority situated as funereal diorama. Inside the equally dark twin royal chambers, artificial light is provided by glowing plastic fruits that in no way resemble lamps. In each room, separated by the sagging aboveground stairway, there are two of these, transversally placed. The light they emit is insufficient, flickering, and loud.

July 10, 2006

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