Random readings on society, politics and change – Jorge Carrillo
Defining the city requires a spanning of matter and meaning, corporeality and abstraction, tangibility and inaccessibility, humanity and nonhumanity. The most prominent difficulty in defining the city is that, while the city is often considered to be constituted by signs, it continually distances itself from them. Nobody puts this better than Italo Calvino in his description of the city of Tamara: “The entrance to the city is through streets full of signs coming out of the walls. The eye meets no things, but shapes of things that imply other things;…If a building has no signpost or figure on its walls, then its shape and position in the city plan are enough to reveal its function;…Even the merchandise the salesmen spread on their benches have a value, not in themselves but as signs of other things;…The stare runs through the streets as though they were written pages: the city dictates everything that you are supposed to think, it makes you repeat its own words, and while you think that you are actually visiting Tamara, you do nothing else but register the names with which the city defines itself and all its spaces.” While organising itself in terms of its signs, the city deliberately distances itself from them, disabling any enduring coincidence between signified and signifier. The city is located on the boundary between confluence and conflict, projecting itself on this very pulling and pushing with its signifiers. There is an urban revolt against the city’s own textual organisation, thus re-instituting the rupture between its description and its self-description -in other words, its signifiers and signifieds.
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