Split level, or, the predicament of dwelling

Summer 2010

This essay stages a dialogue between a handful of writers and artists whose works dramatize the ‘predicament of dwelling’. Soren Kierkegaard, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Franz Kafka, Charles Baudelaire, and Gordon Matta-Clark shared a common sensibility with respect to the difficulties of modern life. Benjamin’s ‘destruction of experience’ and Adorno’s ‘damaged life’ evoked images of modern subjectivity as something as deranged and mutilated as the creatures in Kafka’s stories. Matta-Clark’s lacerated homes and buildings combined the despair and disrepair of the city with complex images of intrusion and redemption in ways that echo the enmeshment of melancholia and delight in Baudelaire’s flaneur, in Kierkegaard’s interieur. Perhaps it would do to regard these as elaborations on the experience and the ironies of modern alienation, but what interests me here is the way we are presented with a subject that is ruptured, lacerated, and split, and whose splitting is reflected in the places and spaces in which it attempts to live. What is the nature of such living, and of the subjectivities appropriate to it?

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NF 70 Living Life in Pictures