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|[D I S C U R S I V E  S P A C E S ]| Residency project 

      [ Jayne Murray ] - January 2020

| Research from our writer in residence |

The priest is shuttered off from the confessor by a wooden screen. The analyst, in a redundant theatre of objectivity, places themselves behind the analysed. And for those of whom sexual satisfaction can only be arrived at by being outside the direct encounter with the provider of their gratification: we have the peep show. Religion, psychology, and sexual fantasies (well, those which we feel to be too gauche at any rate) have all used the apparatus of the absence of visibility, or rather the absence of the penetrating gaze of the big ‘Other’ [per Lacan] to make their own selves present in a liberating, and;- we are to assume; non-judgmental manner.

The necessary moments of personal anonymity then [voting, confessing, soul-sharing, love-making and so on] serves its purpose. So much the better for us in an age where one cannot [hardly] escape the digital eye. Is what is permissible for the private to be held to be permissible for those collectives of individuals who, though certainly existing as individuals in their own right; make decisions which impact upon the lives of millions?

It may be that we say with John Rawls, in his 1971 work A Theory of Justice, that the best, moral, way in which public officials must envision themselves carrying out their duty is by doing so behind a metaphysical ‘veil of ignorance’. Imagine a cake sliced by you, without one’s knowing which slice will be allocated to whom. It would be in your best interests to divide the thing as fairly as possible for all concerned, as you yourself do not know which piece you will receive once distribution occurs.

The idea is that objectivity about the final destination of the allocation of resources, leads to greater fairness in the initial distribution of those resources. Though this is problematic for:

‘Behind such a veil of ignorance all individuals are simply specified as rational, free, and morally equal beings. You do know that in the "real world", however, there will be a wide variety in the natural distribution of natural assets and abilities, and that there will be differences of sex, race, and culture that will distinguish groups of people from each other.’- [Maxcy, Spencer, J (2002) Ethical School Leadership p.93] (my italics).

We know what we don’t know about public bodies and the officials that (excuse me) ‘serve us’. We know that we don’t know, for example, the precise streams of recruiting, terms of office, and the nature of budget setting and allocation of funds that councils run by.

We know that we don’t know who lobbies our councils, central, and local government in order to secure parts of the aforementioned public funds, or planning permission, or road and traffic development.

If we do know (and you may) then how likely is it that you are already in some way connected to these hierarchies of decision making and distribution?

This question is more than a request for ‘greater transparency’ the transparency of most companies and bureaucratic organisations stop at the threshold of an index of names, stock photos of random individuals and ‘info@email’ buttons that lead to anonymous rabbit warrens of no-where's. 

How do open, living, and deeply human relations enter the processes, platforms, and decision-making points in the (so far) closed hierarchies of distribution in order to ensure that the places where we live, move, and have our being are developed in an organic, fluid, and open manner?

In short; how are people enfranchised to be in the position where they have an involved say in what gets changed in the places in which they live and how? Rather than, as is regularly the case; enacted upon, coerced, and told what is going to happen to their environmental surroundings by so many Wizards of City Council Oz

Artist Jayne Murray brings this question to bear upon a heterotopia found in almost every developed city in the United Kingdom, but most strikingly in Wolverhampton: Murray, powerfully cognizant of hyper-capitalism's preference of the commodity>over>the Human, states:

“The simple needs of [for example] automobiles are more easily understood and satisfied than the complex needs of cities, and a growing number of planners and officials have come to believe that if they can only solve the problems of traffic, they will have come to solve the problems of cities”.-Jane Jacobs (The death & Life of Great American cities)

Her research around the psycho-geographic nature of cities reminds us that, movement, place, space, buildings, access, and natural habitats are as intricately linked to the wellbeing of a city, as they are to us, the inhabitants of those cities.

Murray shows us, in particular by the medium of her floor-based artwork, a sort of microcosm of the wider movement of city-space and traffic in Wolverhampton. Places of contact, collision, sundering, marooning, isolation and (hoped for?) integration. She shows us contradictions of effect and affect:

sure, you may build a subway in order to move the pedestrian out of vehicle-based harm’s way, but if, by that very token of creating a dark and unobserved passage the pedestrian comes to another type of potential harm; ‘as they fear them (subways) they use them less’. - Jane Jacobs.

The balance between the privacy of our personal lives, the Oikos, and that which we require in our public services or utilities, the Agora, the problematic nature of merging the two, and the heterotopias created when that psycho-geographic unity breaks down; is central to the arguments we will be consolidating over the period of time leading up to our publication.

Not only this, but how living, feeling, human beings begin to reclaim the hierarchies of distribution and shatter the veil of ignorance that, so far protects the unseen agents of city planning here in Wolverhampton.

|Writer in residence| [Nathaniel Grant]  January 2020

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