Tag Archives: Jack Kerouac

WikiSpace&WikiTime

According to alter modernism, time and space have lost their meaning through increased communication and the internet. Devices allow us to talk to each other when say, waiting for the train. Sounds obvious? Yes, I guess, but I don’t think most of us pause to consider the extent to which time and place have become obsolete.  Just take a breath and dive deeper into a situation at a train  platform. Say a hundred people are waiting for the train, out of which 30 are engaged in an activity with a portable gadget or gimmick, 35 daydream or read the free papers and the rest chat. Perhaps one person on the platform plays the peruvian panflute. How many people are actually “present” in the moment at the station? How many people are seizing the day? Perhaps the flute player, perhaps a few people here and there. The main thing is, many people live in the net or otherwise connected to other places while physically at the station. Time and space at the station are not self-evident. People have always been able to daydream while the physical body is doing something else, but there is a difference between drifting away in your thoughts and actually working, having conferences, replying to emails.

Another way to see how time and space are deconstructed and reconstructed is by considering the station as a Wikipedia entry. Somebody describes the physical dimensions of the station, another the history. Perhaps in the discussion field, there is even a controversy or two. People are discussing the station, out of which some may have been in the station at the time of writing, others not. The wikipedia page becomes a metaplace, with characteristics known to many people (who have visited the station, or seen pictures of it). In the metaplace, the presence at the station is no longer required.

David Horwitz’ artwork Public Access can be seen as an alter modern obliteration of time and space. Horwitz (physically) drove a car down the West Coast of the U.S. taking photographs of several nameless beach, with himself in them. Not in the dead center or in any way as the subject, but there nonetheless, in the background. He then added these pictures in the Wikipedia entries of these beaches. (see the link for images.) Within two weeks, they were taken down following a controversy from the wiki community. The argument was that wikipedia should not be used for self-promotion or artwork. The booklet in which Horwitz describes the artwork, he includes the wiki controversy, which is fascinating to read. So many people have so much time to discuss desolate beaches in the West Coast! How many of them have even been to these places? Does it matter that most people cannot possibly have been to the places they talk about? There are the numerous physical beaches, as lonesome and desolate as ever, and then there are the meta-beaches, little internet hotspots of small-scale controversy.

I tried to find a wikipedia entry for David Horwitz, but failed… Maybe there has never been one, or maybe there has been a page, but it’s been deleted too?

Another thought: The road trip as a phenomenon was originally a very modern rite of passage. I’m thinking Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson. Through Robert Pirsig the concept was postmodernized. Also, the architects Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi made a trip on the Route 66 before going on to becoming renowned postmodernists. David Horvitz is continuing on the tradition of the American Road Trip – but taking it to an alter modern level.

Life is like an open highway?

Once, getting a ride in Vancouver, I remember hearing Bon Jovi’s song It’s My Life on the radio. Sitting on the passenger seat with my seat belt tightly fitted, I spent a minute thinking about highways and the dreams associated with them. Several people I know, born before the 1970s, have a special relationship to their cars. Many young boys of yesteryear spent their adolescence clutching wrenches in oily hands with their backs bent over a car engine. They had broad grins, lighting cigarettes while driving cheap beaters. Many childhood and early adulthood memories out there are associated with the smell of leaded petrol. Having wheels meant freedom.

Open highway in California

I am of a different generation. I spent countless hours of my early life in traffic jams.

I leaned over to fidget with the car radio.  Minutes ticked away while we queued at the Port Mann Bridge.Vancouver rush-hour traffic is very far removed from anything that can even remotely be referred to as “freedom”.  I’ve heard that Toronto and Los Angeles traffic situations are even more unbearable.

The road networks were built when there were at least two billion people less on the planet. No matter how many lanes you add next to each other, there is a limit as to how many cars a transport network can sustain. Doing my travels by car, I only rarely experience the exhilaration of an open highway – except when driving at night to avoid traffic. (And that one time in an ambulance.)

Traffic Jam source: winged photography cc

One reason for why many people in my generation have a looser relationship to cars is that we didn’t trim, caress or fix our cars. The cars of today are way too complex; many functions are controlled by computers, meaning that malfunctions can no longer be fixed with a wrench and some oil. Also, the transit network is very sufficient in many places. It is not impossible to live without a car.

Drive-in cinemas, Jon Bon Jovi, Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Detroit, thank you all for your contribution. Something has happened, times have changed. Owning a car is just not what it used to be.