Aleix Plademunt | Almost There
Essay excerpt from Almost There
… “ 3.
Saying that one ‘never arrives anywhere’ presupposes a certain idea of what a ‘place’ is. Or what it is not. A place is not a space. A space is merely a physical observation, an accidental intersection of coordinates, a plan. The place appears when one inhabits this space, when one lives in it, when one moves through it, when one fills it with discourse, when one digs through it. The space exists apart from us; the place, however, does not. The spaces supply the maps; the places, the memories. For this reason, going back to where that something happened – where you were raised, where you met a certain girl, where you think you were happiest – is always somewhat disappointing: we think we’re going back to the place, but we only find the space. Therefore, the only distance that is promoted is that which is measured between two spaces. It is the distance of travel agencies, of record books, of Google Maps. It is the only distance that is promoted because it is the only one that we can bear; the one that brings places closer and takes them further away. On the other hand, it’s the type of distance that is repressed, and which art, among other forums, works to bring back to the surface of the visible. It is repressed, perhaps, because we haven’t reached a consensus on any method to measure it. And our world is crazy about the measurable. As a result, it has ended up being the patrimony and problem of artists: because each one is obligated to define the valid terms of said measurement. And that requires a minimum of creativity, systematic risk, and passion for the question. In literature this measurement often contains something of autobiography, something of a language treatise and something of psychoanalysis2 – three ways of constantly arriving at a thing that always escapes us. Unlike the distance that separates spaces, the distance that separates places cannot be travelled for the same reasons that a person cannot fully know him or herself: not so much because of a late-romantic faith in the ‘impregnable ineffability of the individual’, but rather because of the same thing that, according to Zeno, happens to Achilles with the tortoise. We never fully get to know a person because the time we take finding out something about him or her has already changed said person. The question that reveals that something – the conversation, the situation, whatever it is that brings that previously unknown dimension of the person to light – modifies the person asked; between that person (the known) and the current one (unknown), the question, the conversation, the situation has taken place – we ourselves, who observe the person and ask the question and look at him or her in one manner or another. Thus, if a journey is truly a journey, it simultaneously brings us closer to, and takes us further away from, the place to which we are going. Perhaps this has to do with what we addressed previously: that the place is not a mere cartographic anecdote, but rather a cluster of imaginings, expectations, dialogies that change as we move – as we get closer. But this is not all: a place is also a delicate alchemy of proximities and distances. In order for a place to be a proper place, it must be far in certain ways and close in others. We must perceive this double tension between strangeness and familiarity, between what is us and what is beyond. If it falls on the side of the radically strange, it ceases to be a place and becomes a space. If it becomes radically familiar, it is no longer a place, but rather an extension of ourselves. This balance belongs to both the space and the person who inhabits it (that is, at its intersection: the space) and it is for this reason that it runs the risk of changing if we make a true experience of distance. We should not be surprised then that sometimes, halfway down the path, we realise that there is no longer any meaning to going where we wanted to go when we left the house. Or that sometimes we arrive at a space that, during the journey, has ceased to be a place – and has therefore ceased to have meaning.
In this sense, all journeys are initiation journeys, which explains why it is not promoted: one does not return from an initiation journey. One becomes someone else. Something of ourselves returns. Someone who is and is not us. The results-oriented journey, on the other hand, thrives on the opposite promise: it guarantees that you will return intact. It must be able to guarantee it. In order to do that, it will do whatever is necessary to avoid, from where you are to where you’re going – and during the time you’re there – anything happening to you that might threaten the integrity of who you are. Such a journey therefore seems convinced that one is ‘something’ before leaving the house. Based on that lie, results-oriented thinking allows us to eliminate distances, going wherever and returning with no metaphysical puzzles. It thinks it is not, but it is indeed stuck on the map. The journey of the Pequod, on the other hand, begins by discrediting all maps. It is the unsatisfied journey of the almost, one that explores the space that opens between the not yet and the no longer, one that accompanies the world in its delinquent transformations. It has no method or cartography. It is always on the verge of beginning and it has always already begun. Recognising the latter may be the challenge of a lifetime.
Borja Bagunyà “