Monday, 24 September 2007

Night Haunts
a nocturnal journal through 2006

Where have all the people gone?
If the focus on the hauntological is opening up visual spaces for perceptual attention, the peeling back of layers of accreted time that enact the divination of spectral residues are resulting in practices that are routinely leaving, perhaps even abandoning, some bodies to invisibility. The steady stockpiling through photographic residues of that which is slowly exiting from human and inhuman orders of habituation – hauntological gardens and abandoned urban zones – now clamor for our attention through visual labour and affective inducement.

What events are we (re)creating and ignoring through our (e)motion capturing? Are there not rhythms and pacings of invisible work at work in these spaces yet to be registered and recorded? What of the perceptual threshold that repeatedly locates as outside those rostered on the inside of the scaffold of the everyday we scrutinize as uncanny matter? What of the unseen orders organising the night workers toiling on the remains of the day?

In a remarkable way Night Haunts: a noucturnal journal through 2006 is an important corrective for becoming attuned to what's missing in the invocation of hauntoloigcal experiences. It enlists our attention to others otherwise.

The event of ghostly zones at night require from us day laborers a partaking of a marginalised imaginary that narrates the night as the straining effort of repeated movements and muscular microphysics committed to effecting the imperceptible – the work of hiding work done. Night cleaning in the city is an event with momentary portals onto it, the aquarium tank greens and blues of office building windows, and the in streets below the sweeping and shuffling additions to waiting landfills are accompanied by the sonic signatures of deep ocean nights, the sonar pings of traffic lights and the sonorous whale songs of transport rigs braking.

“I would like to call an event the face to face with nothingness. This sounds like death. Things are not so simple. There are many events whose occurrence doesn't offer any matter to be confronted, many happenings inside of which nothingness remains hidden and imperceptible, events without barricades. They come to us concealed under the appearance of everyday occurrences. To become sensitive to their quality as actual events, to become competent in listening to their sound underneath silence or noise, to become open to `It happens that' rather than to `What happens', requires at the very least a high degree of refinement in the perception of small differences.''

Jean-Francois Lyotard
Peregrinations: Law, Form, Event (Columbia University Press, New York)

From Night Cleaners...

"The night cleaners of London don't think of themselves as cleaners. They're sure, or at least they fervently hope, that stooping for a living while the rest of the city sleeps is just a temporary phase. The majority are from Africa. Memories of butchered relatives and hazardous exoduses are lodged raw in their minds. But they also harbour lofty ambitions of becoming retail champs and shipping magnates. In their few off-hours they watch CNN and pore over the international finance pages of the broadsheets hoping to glean information that they can use when they return to Africa to set up small import-export businesses. Few succeed.

"The London that they see is a negative universe of public assaults and of swaggering, feral kids. An ungodly realm of out-of-towners on the lash, out-of-control girls spewing obscenities and undercooked kebabs. A mental asylum where the pursuit of idiot pleasures has become, unknown to most of the people who live there, a fatal addiction. They dream of another place, an over-the-rainbow utopia which, more often than not, turns out to be...

"Each cleaner is an underpaid, under-liveried King Canute trying to push back the tide of over-consumption to which the city is prey. They talk with disbelief at the six tonnes of waste that the West End hotels produce each day of the week. They can rattle down a largely deserted street in their refuse trucks and know, according to which micro-section of the London borough they're in, how overflowing the pavements will be by 1am or 3am.

"Pleasure, far from being spontaneous and unpredictable, is easily calibrated. The end of each month is the worst time: Londoners are pay-check flush, waving wads of £20 notes or flashing their credit cards, celebrating their temporary liquidity by pissing and upchucking everywhere. The cleaners, present at a party from which they feel estranged, shake their heads at such ritualised abandon. The city's night-life seems to them to be a collective insanity. They see party goers as nocturnal creatures, reckless beasts who slip into the city under cover of darkness to cause mayhem.

"Cleaners strive to make early-commute Londoners think that there has been an overnight snowstorm. Every day should be a new day, a tabula rasa rather than a palimpsest. They try to abolish all traces of the previous day. If the city is a text, then cleaners do their best to erase the jottings and doodles that have been inscribed on it.

"They operate in the aftermath. After the gold rush. They are instant archaeologists, rapid-response stoopers for syringes, fag ends, gig stubs, demonstration placards. They're also alive to the present and future immiseration of the city, gazing impotently at an anti-spectacle of ragged trolls snouting through bins for half-smoked cigarettes and half-eaten burgers; homeless guys clambering into the bottle-recycling skips to sleep; crazies launching themselves head-first at brick walls. It's left to them to mop up after suicidees jump from high rises or deranged junkies hurl infant children from balconies. A hardened lot, not prone to sentiment, few can stop themselves holding back tears when they recall the first time they arrived on such a scene and were confronted with dispersed chunks of blood, bones and crushed cloth.

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