NEW YEAR'S GREETINGS - OR THE ART OF ACCOMMODATING LEFTOVERS


Members occupying intermediary spaces,
Amateurs and experts in « third places »,

Wishing you a happy new year, I would like to address a short meditation. It’s more and more clear in everyone’s mind that our world is unsustainable. Whether we are talking about the modern world, a consumer society, a thermo-industrial civilization, the West, globalization, neo-liberalism, capitalist society or financial globalization, it is one and the same idea that comes back: that of the end.


New year’s greetings - or the art of accommodating leftovers

Picture : Ground, Gare au théâtre, Vitry-sur-Seine

As a consequence, our connection with the future is collapsing, which is illustrated by the increasing difficulty of the votive exercise to which I am committed. What can we still hope for each other? Professional success? Our relationship to work is so degraded! Happiness? That would be indecent! Health? That’s not enough! Courage ? It’s almost an indication that you’d run out of it for yourself! Remain the negative affects: I wish you well anger - rage and sorrow, this is not likely to miss, and therefore authorizes a wish that comes true! But then, who will still know how to distinguish a wish from a curse?

This generalized perspective of collapse - a new science has even been born, collapseology - brings up to date an era and a genre with which the whole 20th century has tried to distance itself: Romanticism. And it is in fact the Romantics who first experienced modernity as a disaster, which the immoderate love of this generation for ruin is the consequence, loves born in the founding crash of the Republic and pursued in the many fields of ruins that it has left in its wake - love whose ruin is the leg.

Musset, meditating on the Revolution and the Empire, with the hopes fled, thus complained about the Spirit of Time:

"Here is a man whose house is in ruins; he has destroyed it to build another. The rubble lies on his field, and he waits for new stones for his new building. As soon as he is ready to cut his rubble and make his cement, the pickaxe in his hands and his arms rolled up, he is told that the stones are missing and advised to whiten the old ones to take advantage of them. What do you want him to do, he who does not want ruins to make a nest for his brood? The quarry is however deep, the instruments too weak to draw the stones. Wait, they said to him, they will be pulled little by little; hope, work, move forward, back up. What isn’t he told? And in the meantime this man, having no longer his old house and not yet his new house, does not know how to defend himself from the rain, how to prepare his evening meal, where to work, where to rest, where to live, or where to die; and his children are newborn."

It is with horror that we see the ruin of our civilization coming. But this fear, our intermediary spaces can partly prevent it.

Aren’t our wastelands already the ruins of a collapsed industrial empire? Occupying old factories and making spaces, aren’t we the grandchildren of these great work collectives that have made the glory hours of the European industrial empire, its capitalism and its social contestation? Are we very different from these perennials which quickly regained the third spaces that civilization for a moment forsaken?

Our places are a way not only of meditating on the ruins, but of living among them. Our practices of occupation, collective reappropriation and reconversion of spaces are an art of living amidst the ruins. In our wastelands, decadent Viennas, we experience a buen vivir of which Diderot in his time knew leisure:

"If the place of ruin is perilous, I shudder. If I promise myself secrecy and security, I am freer, more alone, more to myself, closer to me. That’s where I call my friend. That’s when I regret my friend. It is there that we will enjoy ourselves without trouble, without witnesses, without inconveniences, without jealousy. That’s where I probe my heart. It is there that I question his, that I am alarmed and reassured. From this link, to the inhabitants of the cities, to the homes of the tumult, to the stay of the interest in passions, vices, crimes, prejudices, errors, there is a long way to go.

If my soul is warned of a tender feeling, I will indulge it without embarrassment. If my heart is calm, I will taste all the sweetness of his rest.

In this deserted, solitary and vast asylum, I hear nothing, I have broken with all the embarrassments of life. Nobody hurries and listens to me. I can talk to myself out loud, mourn my tears without constraint."

To frequent such spaces, one can not only guess that living in the ruins is possible, but also that there is no reason to fear the aftermath of the thermo-industrial civilization, because, considering both the size of the beast, the time it will take to skin it and the abundance promised by its remains, it is not for now. In the meantime, an intermediary space opens up, a time of collapse, the passage of which will require to know how to live in times of ruin.

« So my book - maybe it’s just a dream - is in my imagination linked to the image of the sun. (...) Warmth, clarity, purity, order, order, word for word, intermediary spaces also above all, sub-paragraphs, silence, peace. »

Peter Handke, in "Intermediary Spaces", Zürich, 1987.

To characterize this knowledge, the post-holiday period offers me a gastronomic metaphor: disaster management is essentially an art of accommodating leftovers. And every food lover knows how great the pleasure of tasting the leftovers is, what he has of singularity - removed from the forfantry of the ceremonial meal itself, all inventiveness is free in the art of accommodating the leftovers, all permitted fantasy, all contingency a new opportunity to try, a chance to discover, a small laboratory of fortune - this untamable fortune that our crazy society wanted to capture through wealth.

Thus, the contribution of the Intermediary Spaces to the discourse on collapse, which belongs to the literary genre of the meditation on the ruins, can be summed up as follows: we think of the before and after, but not the counterpart to the collapse. However, the experience of our space occupations teaches us that we can live on the body of the beast even a moment after it is dead. We can live into the ruins.

I therefore leave you wishing you to find all the leisure, through your practices, to accommodate leftovers !

Toulouse, january the 16th
Jules Desgoutte

Modified on Thursday 25 January 2018