The Equator of Alienation

 What modern capitalism—concentrated and fully established capitalism—inscribes within life’s setting, is the fusion of what had been opposed as the positive and negative poles of alienation into a sort of equator of alienation. —“Urbanism as Will and Representation” in Internationale Situationniste, 1964

The world only appears before my eyes as a solid “landscape,” lustrous like plastic. —Takuma Nakahira

That landscapes are manufactured or altered by human interests is not a discovery of late capitalism. Whether seen as pictorial genre or as ideology, the representation of landscape has allowed the modern subject to frame his mastery over nature—crucially by clearing the land of indigenous, insurgent, and independent inhabitants—in terms of a propertied metaphysics. But the representation of landscape also functions to depict human artifacts, imprints of social intercourse. When the landscape is not scoured for traces—aftermaths of trauma, indices of futures past—its indeterminacy is most often coded as indifference: the indifference of modularity and iteration across social
spaces, the indifference of concrete abstraction (pun intended). It is an indifference remarkable for its ubiquity and magnitude, as well as for the sheer scale of its continued reproduction—tract homes all the way into a vanished horizon, container terminals that never sleep, banks of screens in a stock exchange.

[The continuation of this essay, along with a number of articles relating to the Taipei Biennial 2012, here.]

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