A Blog by Virgilio Rivas

Contour or Abyssal: The Future Ecology of Cities

In the background of rapid geological transformation modern urban cities are aggressively simulating planetary change in ways that attempt to either refract or absorb or condense into new planes of compositions various conjunctive techniques to bear the cost of mutation. Here, conjunctive techniques are meant to emphasize what Deleuze argued about lines of continuity in the midst of a breaking point, such as a planetary mutation, a tectonic threat, or a natural disaster. Deleuze said about saving the contour in order to avoid being dragged by chaos to suicidal collapse. This may ideally translate into urban planning and management that offer exits to creation that planetary change threatens to block out by erasing traces of human encounters and the lineaments that make up a distinct cartography of a people.

But contours can be negated by underground pressures. What may suffice as bearing the cost of planetary change in this encounter with the abysmal is a redrawing of the city, not in terms of repeating a kind of rhizomorphous exit to new planes of composition, from one surface to another, rather of grounding the city deep into the earth. This much is portrayed in Gabriel Tarde’s Underground Man, a novel of fortunate catastrophe, in which caves function as new planes of composition in the wake of the death of the sun. By grounding the city deep into the earth, nature is recomposed from out of solar death into an encounter with geologic materiality, not to re-purpose the planet but to simulate the death of the city that mimics a dead planet. In the background of these models of adaptation lies the present city. Does it need recomposition or simulation of its demise? This is not to exclude the question whether the outer reaches have redemptive potentials that far outweigh the urban question—contour or abyssal?

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