Astral Escapism, or “Collective Dreaming in The Visage of China”
“With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed, but even the most unexpected dream is a rebus that conceals a desire or, its reverse, a fear. Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.” – Italo Calvino
The realm of dream holds the appearance of escape from material reality. A movement from captivity in the perception of external circumstance to an apparent transcendence in virtual, and therefore total, control over any given object. A plane in which the desires, thus fears, of the I-and-Now is the singular namer of things and the pathogenic memory ever blamed on the other is discarded (or perversely upheld.) The real of the dream that is escape-to holds in its hands the unreal of the apparent objective: the traditional value reversal, i.e the beatitudes of Yeshua and Hegel’s impotent slave-master. In short, the dream’s power stands perception on its head. The cost of such a power is a trade that assumes self-forgetfulness.
The walls of a city were broken and were built; the streets of a city were earthen and were paved; the subjects of a city were hungry and were gorged, together. The Chinese Dream is bound by the same movements all other dreams are bound: movements away from an inherited state; the direct breaking (continuation?) of that state by the real seeing of objects severed and re-jointed with any given other, i.e. what does it mean when the birds fly likewise? Escape into dream is inseparable from return into reality and thus we simply see a motion of the fantastic into concrete; earthen brick again rendered obsolete by the planetary steel gifted from the Gods — both being blocks for building. But to summon such a power, one must forget why.
Speed as escape from, or the removal of obstacles to acceleration with force
“Speed’s only rule is to leave no trace behind. Triumph of forgetting over memory, an uncultivated, amnesic intoxication.” – Jean Baudrillard
Currently and in recent history, the socialist market economy of China is the world’s fastest-growing major economy. In the wake of egregious social restructuring, its ‘expansion’ has become of such marvelous spectacle to the world at large that its rate is a figure for the transnational neo-capitalist to laud over and the environmental-humanitarian idealist to condemn. Regardless of what opinion any given body has to offer on the matter, China is moving with acceleration as a quality. This speed, this urgency, this lack of immediate reflection is a collective escape; is an immediate need to forget a collectively understood set of conditions, in order to remember the envisioned object and become it. China’s speed is apparent only in contrast with its being ancient; to say the duration of its being wide in contrast with the age of other contemporary civilizations gives its acceleration a context in which to say speed.
The Three Gorges Damn as force of the dream or desire for terrestrial equivalence
The dream of taming the Yangtze is not new. Sun Yat-sen dreamed of it, Chiang Kai-shek dreamed of it, Mao Zedong dreamed of it. The theoretical preparation for the undertaking of this project is just short of a Century in the making. I posit: If humans cannot achieve symbolic control of their direct, terrestrial environment-signs, they did not transcend and they did not dream. Yet the dream is and speaks its power in an ability to continuously remove intangible, albeit physical, boundaries to realization. The projection of the direct environmental destruction is not quantifiable; neither is the directly related suffering of humans; neither is the direct destruction of historical relic. The singular vision is systematic, quantifiable control of the great waters and the absolute rush to seize that control. Other things are incidental as they can be quickly discarded and quickly escaped, via the force of the dream.
All cost gives way to — in the current visage — projected, immediate growth in GDP as a simple measure at which to marvel. A simple scale of distance traversed, a scale on which the causes of propulsion can be left behind and the dream-future can be seized. The dream is not GDP, as the object is simply a sign, but representation is how we mark our way through the desert; is how we see where we are going; is a shift towards self-reference in lieu of base, terrestrial circumstance. All to serve the dream-stronghold; to serve the city.
The auto-market as an indicator of collective motion or civic strength
China has recently created the largest automobile market in the world. The rapid production and accumulation of cars as a trend in China is taken as a sign of collective strength. It is a cultural measure, like the projected GDP of the Three Gorges Dam being a selfsame justification of force. The car is a symbol of literal speed, as much as for China it is a prized symbol of domestic growth. As it fosters production and consumption of automobiles, it celebrates its triumph of social sophistication and (meta?) modernity, in a fetish of Western-exoticism, read: “We’re capable too.”
However, cars have no literal speed in Chinese cities. Avenues of Nth-Lane Roads become car pools evolving at foot-walking pace. City walkways become un-walkable by tenuously parked zig-zags of sedans; the air filled with tail pipe excretion. Even so, the population rushes to own and consume automobiles at increasing rates. The dream is mobility, is acceleration, is breaking from its ancient and peasant-like functionality to make way for the new, the next, the coveted objects of the seen-as-powerful, seen-as-modern. Rush forward from the dream and the intangible, albeit physical, costs are non-consequential — until they are, of course.
Artificial paradise as escape to, or the removal of the obstacles to utopian space with national fantasy
“When we look back at this unashamed period of childhood it seems to us a Paradise; and Paradise itself is no more than a group phantasy of the child of the individual. That is why mankind were naked in Paradise and were without shame in one another’s presence; till a moment arrived when shame and anxiety awoke, expulsion followed, and sexual life and the tasks of cultural activity began. But we can regain this paradise every night in our dreams.” – Sigmund Freud
The perversion of a copy is not in the copy, for the copy is its own reality. The perversion exists as the dream of the one who copies and upholds the content of the creation as being selfsame to that of the original. There are manifold, yet genuine, notions of paradise, of return to that state of innocence of beginning, authenticity, and unmediated being. We observe it in the origins of things, in looking back to their birth, their conception, their initial becoming. We see and thus relate to health as homeostasis, as the ability to react to whatever stimulus with necessary and equal opposition. This is not to say a calculated counterattack, but a dispersed, intuitive and total fluidity that allows a general balance of comfortable sustenance to be realized; in essence to maintain an authentic existence. Paradise is the land in which equilibrium, not choice, sustains all; the land of dreams; in an equal and opposite sense the land of inhuman nightmare.
Yujiapu as dream-inference or precession of simulacrum
Yujiapu is a development. Yujiapu is on a peninsula. Yujiapu is a metamodel of Manhattan in northern proximity to Tianjin and is on a peninsula. Yujiapu is–in the way of the Manhattan-modeling–intended to become a world financial centre within the next decade, i.e. a rival to Manhattan as an economic culture-capital qua Manhattan. Its basis as a constructed form is such that in deriving the supposed authentic foundations of Manhattan as a ‘financial and cultural paradise’ it can mirror the fabled power of this authenticity and succeed. The escape into the dream of American paradise intentioned as a counter-act by its own appropriated properties is an apt dream logic: The fetishized will be mirrored and overcome, yet the reflected will survive. The logic is instantly fallacious and yet it will be built regardless — the returning from the dream into a reality sound in itself, the actual object erect, standing tall. What built it is not what it will be. What fear affected escape into dream and gave pleasure to the dreamers is not what the world will be upon return. The world will indeed be changed — 200 Billion Yuan’s worth of change, by one measure.
Simulacra-town as dream realised in actual habitation or reification
Jackson Hole is a place is Wyoming, USA. Its actual demarcation would be Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA. Jackson Hole, China is a place in Hebei Province. Its actuarial demarcation would be Hometown, USA, China. If “cowhide, antler chandeliers, saddle blankets, lodge pole chairs, wagon wheels, Navajo rugs, iron light fixtures, wildlife scene fireplace screens, wooden snowshoes, leather throw pillows, horseshoes, Charles Russell prints and plaid curtains” are taken from their native context and compiled in another, they can only be understood transcendentally. The polarities in which these object-symbols are in relation can be only scrambled, which is not to say that they don’t configure a reality — they do. Their reality is in coveting the origin, thus innocence, of another. This coveting is also innocent, is also an origin, but wholly different from the object coveted. Human beings live in Jackson Hole, China. Human beings own homes in Jackson Hole, China. Its escape is in the coveting dream; its return is the actualisation which is reification or grounding in the displacement and reconfiguration of its coveted dream-objects.
There is an order of such ‘towns’ scattered throughout China. Ju Jun — Orange County, Beijing is Orange County, California. It is a 143-unit housing development featuring American Style town houses and tract homes, replete with American objects for furnishings, brochure stating ‘Pure American.’ Thames town is River Thames, England, Songjiang District, Shanghai, China. English market town with Royal central square, with pub and fish/chips, with Bristol’s Christ Church, Clifton Down, with cobble streets, Victorian garbage. Thames town is only one of nine within the same extra-Shanghai zone: “One City, Nine Towns.” Anting is Germany , Pujiang New Town is Italy, Luodian is Sweden, Gaoqiao is Holland, Fenjing New Town is Canada…
National parks as escape into return, or trace as re-cycle
“Study the past if you would define the future.” – Confucius
We study the past through imagined objects. These objects are contentless form becoming symbol: trace. Meaning isn’t there until meaning is cultivated, and it is cultivated within trace, i.e. inherited form. Trace is already dead but is again given life as it is given grown meaning — a placeholder, an arrow, a sacrament, a virus. Many such signs are fashioned and left behind, but the ones we study, qua perception, are the ones that are alive — to say, we understand only what we are. We understand groupings of stars by casting the terrestrial demons, the animals, upon them. We understand a field of grass by turning it into a park, likewise a river into a dam. We understand what we are in history by sacrifice of our leaders so as to keep their memory alive. This is the land of demarcated National Park, Culture Park, Education Lab.
Terracotta Warriors as mass funeral for perma-future vigil
‘In those times of tight imperial control, each workshop was required to inscribe its name on items produced to ensure quality control.’ Objects inevitably end up with traces of other objects rubbed off on them, thus the hand of the creator is revealed. The creator is not a god, but a mere manipulator. Gods are what we escape to in dream, in return we are the manipulated (self-forgetfulness). The Emperor Qin’s dream was to kill his army so that they would exist for eternity in stone. Its a revelatory trace situating itself nicely with our knowledge of his reign. ‘Qin standardised coins, weights, and measures; interlinked the states with canals and roads…’ Measure is relationship of trace to trace and is understood as necessary for understanding. One could say the Emperor Qin was an intelligent man.
Enter present and see swaths of Han pilgrims rapidly taking photos of the likeness stones. Look closely and observe the detail in the faces. All the faces. All the Han faces. The Han faces of stone; the Han faces of flesh. The stone image of face, the picture image of stone face. The scene is subdued. People eat ice cream from plastic wrappers and drink water from plastic bottles and make their way in and their way out of the funeral site. For a moment, they are allowed to touch a dream that has been reified into stone, through the scope of distance between subject and object, into a timeless void to say ‘hello’ to the timeless void of themselves; ever-changing ever-present identity. Here is the escaping and the returning at once in unbroken motion. Through enough historicity we see the movement of nothing.
Hutong rebuild as selfsame structuring for perma-future structure
Deem a space, qua group of spaces inter se, as historic, i.e. as imbued with self-identical meaning. Mobilize a group of peasants to render the spaces into pieces. Take these pieces and put them somewhere else. Now, rebuild the space, qua rebuilding of the spaces inter se, in its self-identical form, with fresh pieces. Meaning is engendered; cultivated. Dream is preserved in the same way Qin’s dream was to preserve his army through his journey to heaven, or his return to dream. New-old people repopulate the old-new space, as the old people simply cannot afford to pay the rent in such a commodified dream space and we’re back to GDP as measure (reality?).
It is easily imaginable that this process will repeat itself within the same space, as it must have numerous times over since its conception. The strength of the dream is preservation. What is the space in and of itself but potential to be configured in any given way, though in order for it to remain “the space” it must maintain its trace? That the form of “this space” persists in the face of all possible forms is to say the strength of the dream. Here is identity as pathogen; as inherited, collected meaning. This is humanity as dream, as creative inhumanity, knowingly fearful of the inherent fragility of our dream cities. The city is a national park and we will cannot let it die. Instead, we will kill it and resurrect it in self-same form as if to affirm our absolute control over it.
Escape as an ideal motion is a non-object. Escape as a state is a point in and of itself, balanced and sustained by return to material reality which necessarily engenders the need for escape. The movement itself is mind, mediating a state of taut creation between dream and reality.