Task Of Enchantment

This has become an old-fashioned thought but I’ll think it again: one key task of any art is to re-present the world and re-enchant it. By that I mean to make the rest of the world outside the magic circle more closely represent the magic world inside. In magic, you do in miniature what you will to be writ large – and so we have the hexed man dying of fear, effectively a garden path to violence. The rituals of design – that is, the meeting, the design studio, the competition – will with various levels of efficacy another world outside themselves, to resemble their own visions. Such a vision will fail both to the degree that it cannot survive outside its circle, to be reproduced, or scaled up; but also according to the original participants’ habit of seeing it only within its original place, or their investment in seeing it confined to its original place. Art fails in that it becomes an ingot within a storehouse, and succeeds in that it suggests active ways to spend.

Speculative realism is a good name for what attracts me to the enterprise, because it enchants the real solely through different sorts of description. To that end, I would like it to not end with visions of panpsychicism, of rocks who smart when kicked, but to regularly divide itself into other versions of the real, versions of the real that cohabit with and jostle against the habitual real.

Landscape practice chiefly tries to enchant by prescribing space. But it describes more than it thinks!

I say to you that science fiction does not create the urge to go to outer space, to cooperate or fight in space, but it does focus the will to enact the right conditions for such scenarios to play out. If fictions of the undead, Borgias, vigilantes do not come from nowhere, they also do not lack for agency. Like the fictions of design, they require a faith – not to believe wholeheartedly, only just to move in some way toward enacting – a faith that lacks timeliness, that stretches beyond the immediate media, beyond immediate reward and attention, to shape a long social imaginary. Knowing that, I would like beyond measure not to see design proposals that fit snugly in the present, or denunciations of a world never very sound or good, but visions of what a life worth living would be like, in all its separate stages of formation, as we draw near it, from the close term to the farthest; not for frisson, not to shame the present, but with a real sense of how to proceed from our starting position.

The most ambitious thing I could state for my profession would be this: that it abandon the models of architecture or gardening, not a set of instructions or a better world within a wall, not to be geodesign, not to be landscape science, but a model around – what? Care, maintenance, checking, living with, dwelling, conversing? How to valorize that in a two-facing way – both appealing to the present and pointing toward a better future?

(January 2018)