IMG_4538

Chris Lukinbeal
School of Geography and Development
The University of Arizona

&

Laura L. Sharp
School of Geography and Development
The University of Arizona

“To saunter is a science; it is the gastronomy of the eye.  To take a walk is to vegetate; to saunter is to live.”

  (Balzac 2014 [1901, 48)

Gila Residence Hall (built 1937) is a three story, brick, Spanish colonial style building, fronted by large Eucalyptus trees, centrally located in the confines of the oldest part of The University of Arizona campus. A small, prickly pear cactus perches on top of Gila’s red tile roofed building. The architecture of the Hall relies on the idea of a seemless space, or thinking cinematically, an extended, uncut longshot. In contrast, montage relies on interruption or cutting of images to create space and meaning. Though this Spanish colonial campus dormitory may seem to be a fitting garden plot, the ungrounded cactus offers a moment of disruption, two clashing images that expose the concept of operational montage.IMG_4539

Operational montage is central to the argument put forward by Lorens Holm in his book Brunelleschi, Lacan, Le Corbusier: Architecture, Space and the Construction of Subjectivity. Here, Holm puts Lacan’s mirror stage into conversation with Brunelleschi’s linear perspective, teasing out the intersection of architecture and identity. Holm challenges us to confront the normative perspectival space of architecture by positioning the production of space as inside/out, a dialectic of subject in the world. By conceiving of our relationship to the world through operational montage, one is  always mediating between the inside and the outside.  As we project our inside outwardly, we  simultaneously appropriate the outside inwardly, producing space and the subject in a process of projection and introjection. Significantly, we never wholly occupy either the inside or the outside, but rather rely on montage to splice together our existence, our world.

IMG_4521

The montage of lived experience is perhaps best grasped through an example, a common event, going to lunch.  It’s Monday and our paths collide. One of us asks, “Are you hungry”? This question inevitably leads us on a regular spatial trajectory. While each time the path varies slightly, the experience is new each time. Making our way down Second Street we  experience a metric montage, a calculated use of time to depict events in the most efficient and explanatory way. The event up to this moment is about progressing to a determined point and an exchange of information. Shot reverse shot.  We occupy our landscape as space; the focus is on our social relation. Projection and introjection occur dialectically between us; we affect and are affected by one another. The streetscape is boring: sidewalks, functional buildings (bank, hotel, museum, office building) move passed unseen because our attention is on our sociality.  The cuts grow shorter and the pace more rapid as the debate on where to eat becomes more dire: Wilco, Pasco’s Kitchen, Firkin and Frogs, Sinbad’s, Chipotle… Heading West on a township and range grid, Chinese food beckons from beyond the Tucson Mountains. Our destination and ultimate goal becomes clear: Pei Wei.

In contrast, the return to work past Gila Hall is a tonal montage. Here, images that are technically superfluous to a linear progression become necessary to convey the overall feeling of the event. Satiated on food and dialogue, our movements, thoughts, and images become fluid, and we express ourselves outwardly. The addendum that is inherent to the tonal montage is similar to the inferential walk in that it brings in outside elements in order to create meaning.  However, thinking of Balzac’s epigraphic statement above, we no longer walk. Rather, we engage in an inferential saunter, which pulls us out of introjection, and impels us to project onto and produce the landscape. As we encounter the small patch of well-kept green grass beneath the shade of Maple trees our minds move to retrieve information from the past to create a coherency of space and meaning. The trees and grass are incongruous to the desert climate, becoming a little piece of Kansas for Laura, California for Chris. The world’s tiniest park, a utopic greenspace dropped into the Tucson urbanity.  Who mows this lawn?

Our inferential saunter has engaged us in the gastronomy of the eye, satiating our eyeballs on flying Spanish colonial cactuses, mundane streetscapes of a Western city, placeless parks that could exist in anywhere USA, all for the sake of lunch. We are full from lunch and a collage of projected and introjected images. Every waking moment in every day we are living montage.

References

De Balzac, Honore. 2014 [1901]. Analytical Studies: Physiology of Marriage and Petty Troubles of Married Life. Auckland: NZ: The Floating Press.

Holm, Lorens. 2010. Brunelleschi, Lacan, Le Corbusier: Architecture, Space and the Construction of Subjectivity.  New York, NY: Routledge.

Download the PDF of this article here: Lukinbeal & Sharp