Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Poetics of Space - Chapter 1 (I-IV)

I’m participating with some friends in a reading of Bachelard’s Poetics of Space. The intent is to both discuss the work and share the fruits of its inspiration on Google + and a Pintrest board. While we haven’t formally begun, I’m finding I can’t keep myself from reacting to what I read. Consequently I've already assembled a couple long-winded posts and related images, but I hate how disconnected they are on those sites so I plan on reposting some of that content here. Perhaps tangential to hedonism, it is none-the-less an activity at present that’s bringing me pleasure and satisfying my hedonic needs. Apologies for the cross posting.


Childhood Memories of Space

While Bachelard begins his phenomenological inquiry with the home, I realize that most of my earliest memories take place outside the home. My earliest memory (age 2) is of a bent post in a chain link fence. Home movies reveal this fence surrounded a pool, and while my father’s camera tends to drift toward the bikini clad neighbors, I’m unmistakably there despite my having no memories of this pool. Rather its exploring the curious bend in a post that haunts my memories. The other posts are all straight and proper, but this one – no doubt struck by someone paying more attention to the bikini clad bathers than their car – is bent in such a way that I cannot resist the temptation to curl my body into its form. Perhaps this is my container?

In our next home (age 3), a modern ranch style house in Cowan heights, I do remember the living room and it’s black and white checkered floor. It was like some giant game board. Still my strongest memories of this house are of its exterior. The unfinished backyard was up against a cliff face that dared to be climbed - or slowly dismantled with my Tonka toy dump truck and bulldozer. My first memorable dream is of this same backyard; a nightmare really in which our family was trapped in a circle of fire by Bedouins on horseback. I was afraid of fire for much of my childhood and could never bring myself to light a match without anxiety until well into adulthood.

When we moved again (age 5) to a garden apartment in Tustin, I can recall the kitchen and being served hot tea with milk and cinnamon toast for breakfast. The Kitchen could be entered from two different rooms. I loved that I was able to walk a continuous loop through all the rooms on the first floor, never having to retreat or turn around. Here is where I discovered looking at a mirror on the bridge of my nose, where I could travel this loop walking on an imaginary ceiling, stepping over reversed transoms as I entered each room.

We had a Sparklettes water cooler in the kitchen. My mother would remember this for a wild night of dreams when a friend of my sister’s added something to the five gallon bottle. I, however, would remember it for the mysterious way bubbles would gurgle forth randomly and seemingly unprovoked. It was certainly a place of childhood meditation. 

My only memory of the upstairs of this apartment was my parents’ bathroom. I could crawl into the cabinet under the sink and hide undetected for hours. Here I discovered the mechanics of my father’s razors, how to make them release their deceptively sharp blades that would stealthily slice my fingers as I traced back the origins of the increasing abundance of blood.

Perhaps this is an American phenomenology of space, but during this time (age 3-5) I have distinct recollections of riding in my parents cars. I used to stand on the transmission hump of the back seat of my mother’s Lincoln Continental because I couldn’t see past the back of my mom’s head if I were seated. My father’s car, a Chrysler New Yorker, had these wonderful interior door pulls. They were like levers some mad scientist would pull to animate his Frankenstein monster or initiate the human – primate brain transfer. I loved to ride in this car if for nothing else to pull that lever and open the door – something I got in trouble at least once for doing while the car was in motion.

Honestly though, despite having my own room from at least the age of three, the memories of my own room, my own space, don’t come till much later in life and seem mostly associated with my sexuality. The Playboy found dumpster diving stashed between my mattress and box springs (age 12?), or my father opening my door catching me masturbating. I have memories of an empty room that would become my bedroom as we moved to a new apartment, and the empty bedroom where I lost my virginity on the last night before we moved out. Perhaps these memories of this space only come because these are the moments when I desired my privacy? I remember friend’s bedrooms, Brian’s faux stone walls, David’s Major Matt Mason Moon Base, Reagan’s bunk beds – but my own bedrooms are still mostly a mystery to my memories.

I suppose if I take Bachelard’s premise, the home as a safe haven for daydreams, then perhaps the memories of the physical space is irrelevant, and really what matters is the memories I have of my play: constructing a Middle Earth of Lego fortresses and clay temples, or a bookshelf that served as the underground home to dragons and giants. But then again if these are the images I should place under phenomenological scrutiny, physical space becomes irrelevant as my imagination seldom contained itself to my room, or house, or other physical structure.

But I just started this chapter, so further reflection may come…

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