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Theory By Guy Horton: The Latest Architecture and News

Theory: Chapter 11

There wasn’t much time to reflect on the accident. The casualty was taken away in the hot daylight. There was an awkward group moment following. The instructor said a few words of encouragement and caution to the assembled and then chuckled a little to himself like he know what that was like, or like he had almost lost some fingers, too, at some moment in time. He then shook his head and said, Well…. But he said nothing further for a moment as he glanced around the little blood-spattered scene.

For an instant, Dean made the sickening association with the Reservoir Dogs warehouse. He couldn’t help looking at the machine with the slippery fluid on it’s clean steel. They didn’t belong together. That was one of the secrets to Reservoir Dogs and the whole Tarantino oeuvre, he thought. It wasn’t a new thing, but it was something familiar taken for a spin in a twisted way. Something irreconcilable. A little manipulative, he thought. But, he couldn’t stop the gaze. The scene in the car. Black suit, white seat, red blood. It had the effect of making the person disappear, turn into a stand-in. The kid with the paddle for a hand would now march through life with a deformity. His fingers would be found in the sawdust but it would be too late for them. The girl who found the one finger was endlessly rubbing her hands with anti-bacterial hand-gel. Everybody was fucked mentally. Just like Paul Auster had surmised the Greatest Generation was actually insane because of all the killing and destruction and broken homes from WW II. Their kids were the ones who launched the sixties. Most of Dean’s peers were born out of the sixties to seventies, which meant that all their parents were fucked up by their parents who were fucked up by the war in one way or another. Seems like there is always a war to fuck up a whole generation or a good group of them, anyway. Dean was pissed that he had to witness that and keep that awful paddle image in his mind. He wasn’t pissed at Tarantino, but he was pissed at the stupid kid for making him more fucked up than he already was.

Theory: Chapter 9

There is something absolutely terrifying and exhilarating about the sight of a million people in one place. Tiananmen Square is that big. Or at least it seemed like it. Surely hundreds of thousands in the Square itself. But more than a million in the streets, by many estimates. The numbers came much later. At the time it was just massive. While the Square once set the logic of official Beijing, it had, at that time, been transformed into a sprawling encampment of protest.

It is 1989 and Dean is seeing the Square for the first time in many months. That morning he had arrived at the station on a filthy train packed floor-to-ceiling with stinking, sweating students from far-flung regions west. Remarkably, the trains were still running like clockwork as they delivered the ragtag throngs to the capital—even as martial law was being laid down. This was all before the gunfire and the tanks. The optimism of “eight-squared,” the pro-democracy movement, still swelled, even as hunger-strikers were passing out and garbage was accumulating. The journalists were swarming and it felt like a turning point. It was. Just not in the obvious ways.

Theory: Chapter 8

Following the awe-inspiring and terrifying lecture, the troupe was shuffled into another trailer. Outside, a small Mexican in a blue jumpsuit was down on his knees painting over graffiti. All over the flimsy plywood gangway connecting the various trailers and shipping containers that comprised the little architecture colony, huge letters had been rolled out in red paint. It seemed to be an inside joke. “We encourage bad behavior here,” The Director remarked. “You are here to make meaning. Hopefully you can do better than that.” Dean was still feeling it was a little early to make any meaning.

The letters were huge as if designed to be read from the air. They were intentionally written at such a huge scale, for what reason Dean could not discern. There was nowhere to get above them. He walked along the gangway with the others as they chattered.

Theory: Chapter 6

He was becoming increasingly alarmed at the material achievements of his friends. What was also alarming and unsettling about this was that he once believed he was above such pettiness, such base feelings of jealously. Even though the middle-class was supposed to be dead, houses were being bought and Facebook postings were conveying a seemingly neat, linear, and rationally-planned ascendancy through what appeared to be the accepted stages of middle-class respectability. People were not getting divorced. They were not seeking exotic hardships in Third World post-colonies. They had stopped wearing backpacks after their undergraduate years and were succeeding at everything. He would console himself with the thought that, in fact, most of them had stopped at their undergraduate degrees, period, and, without any sense of regret or irony, started working, building families, settling down. They had stopped acting like life was summer. How boring that must all be.

Theory: Chapter 3

What was first apparent was that the trailers floated on little orange steel jacks, precariously sitting up on pins. Fat grey bodies on insect feet. They looked like they could have been knocked over by bullies in the night. Whomsoever wished to disturb these foreign elements could have penetrated their thin paneling and blown them apart, or burned them down. An angry mob could have scattered them over the city or put them in shopping carts and carted them away to underpasses and bus shelters. Such was the confidence and audacity of the academy, that it could abandon all shelter and camp out in this empty heart.

A failing, ragged chainlink fence ringed the perimeter of the dirt lot. There were tumbleweeds picking up little bits of indescribable trash and continuing along until they hit the fence where they formed sculpted dunes of tangled, dangerous-looking junk. This was ground zero of the new Green Zone in the bad backyard of Rayner Banham’s city—the fifth ecology, Darwinian drifter, evolved and sampled from the other four and distributed across the late-capitalist grid. This was the future. But other parts of the city had been promised similar futures in the past. Joan Didion would remember that. The school was counting on it. The kids would come. They would come with their student loans and their trust funds, their hair, Puma’s and hope.

Theory: Chapter 2

The question is whether to move forward, backward, or to remain in place. The house would be the place but now that his father had died the house was a question. Dean had been in and out of it, back and forth, for the past few months. He’d fixed some things. A coat of paint here and there. At first in preparation for his father to come home. Later for himself. Later still just for something to do.

With death comes division. The body’s cells, alarm clocks ticking down. All property follows the body into division. Collected things get distributed to other houses, other relatives. There are the morbid Craigslist strangers, those death shoppers who flock to death sales. They are related to garage sale prowlers and trash-heap diggers. They come baring claws to fight over the dead’s things, assigning new ownership and purifying.

Theory: Chapter 1

It might seem strange, but it started with a death. The death of the father precipitated the decision. The death was not unexpected but the outcomes were. Dean would sit in the hospital room with his leg next to his father’s dangling bag of piss. The tubes with fluids going in and out. The nurse periodically coming to vacuum the solid bits of phlegm to keep the ventilator clear. His father was in a hospital of no particular reputation in a sunny part of Los Angeles. IT was the wrong sort of hospital. The sort you come to die in rather than miraculously emerge from. Dean would sit in the room with the beeps and gurgling sounds. The family was there too. Not always at the same time. They had come from around the country. Stopping their lives momentarily, the last time they would visit this town they had visited many times.