Task Of Enchantment

This has become an old-fash­ioned thought but I’ll think it again: one key task of any art is to re-present the world and re-enchant it. By that I mean to make the rest of the world out­side the mag­ic cir­cle more close­ly rep­re­sent the mag­ic world inside. In mag­ic, you do in minia­ture what you will to be writ large – and so we have the hexed man dying of fear, effec­tive­ly a gar­den path to vio­lence. The rit­u­als of design – that is, the meet­ing, the design stu­dio, the com­pe­ti­tion – will with var­i­ous lev­els of effi­ca­cy anoth­er world out­side them­selves, to resem­ble their own visions. Such a vision will fail both to the degree that it can­not sur­vive out­side its cir­cle, to be repro­duced, or scaled up; but also accord­ing to the orig­i­nal par­tic­i­pants’ habit of see­ing it only with­in its orig­i­nal place, or their invest­ment in see­ing it con­fined to its orig­i­nal place. Art fails in that it becomes an ingot with­in a store­house, and suc­ceeds in that it sug­gests active ways to spend.

Spec­u­la­tive real­ism is a good name for what attracts me to the enter­prise, because it enchants the real sole­ly through dif­fer­ent sorts of descrip­tion. To that end, I would like it to not end with visions of panpsy­chi­cism, of rocks who smart when kicked, but to reg­u­lar­ly divide itself into oth­er ver­sions of the real, ver­sions of the real that cohab­it with and jos­tle against the habit­u­al real.

Land­scape prac­tice chiefly tries to enchant by pre­scrib­ing space. But it describes more than it thinks!

I say to you that sci­ence fic­tion does not cre­ate the urge to go to out­er space, to coop­er­ate or fight in space, but it does focus the will to enact the right con­di­tions for such sce­nar­ios to play out. If fic­tions of the undead, Bor­gias, vig­i­lantes do not come from nowhere, they also do not lack for agency. Like the fic­tions of design, they require a faith – not to believe whole­heart­ed­ly, only just to move in some way toward enact­ing – a faith that lacks time­li­ness, that stretch­es beyond the imme­di­ate media, beyond imme­di­ate reward and atten­tion, to shape a long social imag­i­nary. Know­ing that, I would like beyond mea­sure not to see design pro­pos­als that fit snug­ly in the present, or denun­ci­a­tions of a world nev­er very sound or good, but visions of what a life worth liv­ing would be like, in all its sep­a­rate stages of for­ma­tion, as we draw near it, from the close term to the far­thest; not for fris­son, not to shame the present, but with a real sense of how to pro­ceed from our start­ing position.

The most ambi­tious thing I could state for my pro­fes­sion would be this: that it aban­don the mod­els of archi­tec­ture or gar­den­ing, not a set of instruc­tions or a bet­ter world with­in a wall, not to be geo­de­sign, not to be land­scape sci­ence, but a mod­el around – what? Care, main­te­nance, check­ing, liv­ing with, dwelling, con­vers­ing? How to val­orize that in a two-fac­ing way – both appeal­ing to the present and point­ing toward a bet­ter future?

(January 2018)