Site-Writing

City Embers (2020)
  • Elliot C. Mason | Manchester/London

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  • City Embers is a collection of poetry/essays about the end of architecture. Architecture has always been a social practice, the excess of the need to be sheltered. This has been grounded by the force of socially imbalanced power. Social housing categorizes resident bodies as not conforming to capitalism’s work regime. Non-Western architectural structures categorize their resident bodies as primitive in capitalism’s racial code. Castles accumulate power in their monumental stone, as do the exclusionary glass panels of City towers. In contemporary data capitalism, however, power wants to be invisible. The castle and the tower are far too seen. Silicon Valley tech execs have plans to transcend the body, transferring their minds into immortal connective energies and moving to Mars. The prize of capital now is to gain omniscience without a body. Having a body in the city, then, is as archaic as a dusty veteran telling war stories. Having a body, inhabiting a structure as architecture, that clearly visible physical regime, is so passé. 

    In this collection, I use poetry, essays, maps and images to experience architecture from the outside, from the cooling embers of solidity an invisible and omnipresent regime has left behind. But I also criticize my own position as observer of the city. How neutral is the act of seeing? What do I intend by poeticizing the spaces relegated to burnt embers by the newest brutality of capitalism? Some pieces are about the homeless people I work with in Tottenham; some are thinking exercises in London’s public tips; some are questions around the racial codes of ethnographic maps; some are adverts calling back fugitive emancipations. All the pieces in City Embers are attempts at balancing the brutal inequality of capital’s next step.


    Biography:

    Elliot C. Mason is a poet, playwright and essayist, working as a researcher and writer for state schools in south London. His essays focus on race, space and capitalism, and have been widely published, including in 3:AM, SPAM, and Review31. His poems are also available online and in print, with one upcoming in MAGMA issue 76. City Embers is his first poetry/essay collection. It is a practice of site-writing at a London homeless shelter, reading/writing the violence of neoliberal architecture from a place that is necessarily excluded from its interior, and produced by its exclusion. The full collection will be published by Death of Workers Whilst Building Skyscrapers in March 2020. Elliot will begin a PhD at the University of Brighton in 2020, in the departments of Philosophy and Architecture, using site-writing to research the space of Black Radicalism in Brixton. Elliot is the founder of Penny Drops Collective, an open space for critical productions. With the ever-changing collective, he has put on many exhibitions, performances, talks and plays. More information is available at www.pennydropscollective.org


    Practices:

    While Rendell’s own practice focuses on developing the critic into a particular kind of art user, I take Mariza Daouti’s site-writing suggestion of the critic as social user – a user of historical codes and the imbalanced violence of city space. Adding fugitive thinking from Black Radical theory, a White or property-owning user of social space becomes very different from a Black or homeless user. I try to find the construction of violent social codes (gender, race, ability, etc.) in the architecture of city space and the architecture of subjectivity. 


    Keywords:
    Homeless, race, Black Radicalism, poetics, housing, Anthropocene.

    References:

    Bratton, Benjamin H., Dispute Plan to Prevent Future Luxury Constitution (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2015).

    Grosz, Elizabeth, Architecture from the Outside: Essays on Virtual and Real Space (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2001).

    Harney, Stefano, and Moten, Fred, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (Wivenhoe: Minor Compositions, 2013).


    Other projects:
  • City Embers (2020)
  • Situated Writing as Theory and Method (2019)
  • Parts Apart Read Together (2019)
  • What Remains (2019)
  • 21 Orientations: An Atlas of Geographic Promiscuity (2019)
  • The Windowless Hotel Room (2018)
  • Shared Remains (April 2018)
  • Soft Landing (2018)
  • Spaces of Grief (2018)
  • Metropolitan Salem, Liuerpul (9 June – 18 August 2018)
  • Things Come Apart (21 – 24 March 2018)
  • Learn to Read Differently (2018)
  • Il Balcone. A site-writing performance (2018)
  • History begins with the vanity of kings (2018)
  • Dear Mr. Jung: Inhabiting Carl Jung’s ‘The Red Book’ (May 2018)
  • Heaton Hall: A Palimpsest (2017)
  • Location (+) (2017)
  • There’s Sand in My Infinity Pool (2017)
  • Talking Quilts (April 2017)
  • fifteen ways to cross the desert (2017)
  • Between Landscape and Confinement: Situating the Writings of Mary Wollstonecraft (2017)
  • A Ficto-Historical Theory of the London Underground (2017)
  • The Glorious Tomb to the Memory of Nothing (2016)
  • The Arrival’s Reader; A Visual Literary Criticism on The Arrival by Shaun Tan (2016)
  • Reading as Art (27 August-19 November 2016)
  • Kjemikerens død [The Death of the Chemist] (23 – 26 May 2016)
  • Kingsland High Street (2016)
  • Foray in a Modern Reserve: An Impounding Portrait of Landuse (2016 – 2018)
  • Fall of the Derwent (2016)
  • Away from Home – Home from Away (April 2016)
  • Penguin Pool (2015)
  • Geography Lessons: Liberian Landmarks 1953-2013 (2015)
  • Women’s Anarchist Nuisance Café (2014)
  • The Writing on the Wall (after Rembrandt) (2014)
  • The Italic I (2014)
  • Designing Architecture as a Performing-Ground (2014)
  • Urban Literacy (2013/2014/2016)
  • The Disappearance: Manfredo Tafuri’s The Sphere and the Labyrinth (April 2013)
  • Folded Ground: Escape from Cape Town (2013)
  • Phantom Railings (2012 – 2017)
  • In The Emptiness Between Them (2012)
  • 10/08/12 (multispecies event) (2012)
  • An Arcades Project (2011)
  • Tideline (2010-2012)
  • The Museum of Breath (2010)
  • Slab (2010)
  • One wound. Two wounds. The body as site for writing (2010)
  • The Fluid Pavement and Other Stories on Growing Old (2006)
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