Philosophy for (S)Lowriders


One of Infinite Thought’s recent posts on walking/stomping mentions some reflections of Alain Badiou’s that seem to channel Paul Virilio’s dromological musings:

 ‘To an epoch such as ours, nothing circulates as fast as capital, its merchandise and its communications, it exists as a particular oppression bearing time which is translated as the normal speed to which the subject must bend. I speak purposefully here of a structural speed. It is very different from the capacity for a sudden decision as is necessary for the subject exposed to an event. To this imposed rapidity, I oppose this maxim: ‘go slow/be slow/slowness’. A maxim which, remember, was already explicitly to the fore in certain workers struggles of the 1970s. ‘Go slow down the imposed speed of production needed for it to work its proper rhythm’.

In the same post, the friend who passed on this excerpt from a lecture on Plato to Infinite Thought recalled an anecdote about freedom and the pace of walking from an encounter with Badiou.

‘When Badiou was down here J Clemens and I were walking with him down the street. We had to keep stopping and turning to wait. He made a joke of us and he told us that for the Greeks to walk slowly was the privilege of free men.’


On the one hand, I couldn’t keep myself from thinking about the lowrider, that cybernetic Chicano contribution to car culture that is more signifier than tool.  In light of Badiou’s commens, the lowrider’s calling to cruise “low and slow” is more than a sign of resistance against a dominant culture consuming vehicles for commerce-oriented transport and circulation, i.e., for participation in the political economy.  The lowrider can also operate as a sign of freedom, using the car outside of the circuits of transport and work.   The lowrider’s not built for speed, but for show.  They are cars that precisely don’t work, revealing a leisure unavailable to capital’s rapid circulation.  I defy you to speed along in a bouncing or tilted car.   This, in spite of non-emancipatory tendencies within lowrider culture.  

One could only imagine Badiou at a lowrider show.

(For an example of “low and slow” see 0:24, 2:20, and 3:35 in the video below.)

On the other hand, thoughts return to walking.  Being harried, walking fast-really fast-is the mark of a typical commute.  Mercilessly, I slash through the spaces opened up between people on sidewalks or subway passage to at least think that I’m either dampering my habitual tardiness or even approaching punctuality.  It is a mark of my servitude to the wage, a monstrous Hyde-like tendency that gives way to a relaxed dawdle during the weekend, when I would like to not be hurried, entertaining the (not-so) decent Dr. Jekyll in me.  Captialism and schizophrenia?  Why yes, me thinks so.


The decisive matter in all of this, as mentioned by IT’s friend in the post, is the mastery of temporality, a concern that has dogged me since first hearing about the ‘moment’ in Kierkegaard as an undergraduate.  More on that later, perhaps.

Images: Lowrider from howstuffworks.com; Nicola Villa,“Walking”, 2007, “So f*cking lonely”, 2008.  (More fantastic images of walking at her site…)

Varnelis on the Closure of Post-Critical Architecture
November 24, 2008, 11:38 pm
Filed under: Aesthetics, Ideas, Politics | Tags: , , , , ,


Goodbye marketechture, um I mean, starchitechture: many hardly knew ye. 

At his blog, architecture theorist Kazys Varnelis shares some thoughts and questions on the post-critical moment in architecture, that lavish marriage of private wealth, tidal infusions of capital, technology, building, and design.  This movement might be mercifully on the wane, at least for the time being.  Varnelis summarizes:

Now that architecture has allied itself with a failed theory of the market, what will become of it? This isn’t an idle question. As society and culture reconfigure, an architecture that has little to offer except a direct representation of capital flows is unlikely to succeed. Moreover, the fascination that post-critical architects had with producing designs through software parallels the reduction of architecture to complex financial instruments that existed primarily in the network. This has already been called into question in the market. Architecture is, as usual, just a little behind.

The failure of markets to justly dispense goods and resources not only re-poses the question of a just political economy, but also with respect to the political significance of architecture.  Will we begin witnessing the dethronement of the starchitect as the paradigmatic figure of building and design in culture?  Can more critical perspectives on these relationships gain serious traction in architecture education, urban design, philosophy, and aesthetics?  I would like to believe so, and in the process make amends for fawning over the overwhelming and nearly stultifying triumphs of Gehry, Mirer, Koolhaas, and the market-driven architecture that defined my adolescence and early adulthood. [kazys.varnelis.net]

Image: The Frank Ghery designed Deutsche Bank building in Berlin.  As of this post, DB’s US stock closed today at $30.68 a share, down from a 52-week high of $135.49. Image source, Paw89, Flickr; stock source, Google Finance.