© 2013 Miro Roman

Rowe – Collage City and the Reconquest of Time

From Collage City, by Colin Rawe, Fred Koetter

Now a collage technique, by intention if not by definition, insists upon the centrality of just such a balancing act. A balancing act? But:

Wit, you know, is the unexpected copulation of ideas, the discovery of some occult relation between images in appearance remote from each other; and an effusion of wit, therefore, presupposes an accumulation of knowledge; a memory stored with notions, which the imagination may cull out to compose new assemblages. Whatever may be the native vigor of the mind, she can never form many combinations from few ideas, as many changes can never be rung upon a few bells. Accident may indeed sometimes produce a lucky parallel or a striking contrast; but these gifts of chance are not frequent, and he that has nothing of his own, and yet condemns himself to needless expenses must live upon loans or theft.28

Samuel Johnson, again, provides a far better definition of something very like collage than any we are capable of producing; and surely some such state of mind should inform all approaches to both utopia and tradition.

We think of Hadrian. We think of the “private” and diverse scene at Tivoli. At the same time we think of the Mausoleum (Castel Sant’Angelo) and the Pantheon in their metropolitan locations. And particularly we think of the Pantheon, of its oculus. Which may lead one to contemplate the publicity of necessarily singular intention (keeper of Empire) and the privacy of elaborate personal interests—a situation which is not at all like that of ville radieuse versus the Villa Stein at Garches.

Habitually utopia, whether platonic or Marxian, has been conceived of as axis mundi or as axis istoriae; but, if in this way it has operated like all totemic, traditionalist and uncriticized aggregations of ideas, if its existence has been poetically necessary and politically deplorable, then this is only to assert the idea that a collage technique, by accommodating a whole range of axes mundi (all of them vest pocket utopias—Swiss canton, New England village, Dome of the Rock, Place Vendome, Campidoglio, etc.) might be a means of permitting us the enjoyment of utopian poetics without our being obliged to suffer the embarrassment of utopian politics. Which is to say that, because collage is a method deriving its virtue from its irony, because it seems to be a technique for using things and simultaneously disbelieving in them, it is also a strategy which can allow utopia to be dealt with as image, to be dealt with in fragments without our having to accept it in toto, which is further to suggest that collage could even be a strategy which, by supporting the utopian illusion of changelessness and finality, might even fuel a reality of change, motion, action and history.

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