sketches of a linear state


   “That is the corpse,
     […] why corpse?
     It’s made of wood,
     The electricity came from a tractor,
     The light always flickered to the rhythm of the engine”
       — Philipp Tolziner, Sotsgorod, cities for Utopia, 1995

The rhythm, a flywheel jumping as fuel ignites in the piston, then slowly relaxing. A coil of copper wire, which, an unintended microphone, catches the jump in amplitude, then passes it on to the light’s filaments, which glow brighter for a moment, then dim again. There is this unexpected sensitivity and incidental character in all machines, no matter how simple or provisional.

This is a collation of short comments, quotes, and images from two planned cities: Magnitogorsk, and Chandigarh. Both were picked because of their explicit purpose of forming the subjectivity of their inhabitants, and the wider population. Both sites use spatial ordering to produce mechanical, social, and ideological results. The work focuses on how these projects came unstuck from three directions, first, the mechanical and technical demands of the cities themselves; second, the gap between the ‘tabula rasa’ conception of the sites held by the planners, and the entrenched and complex historical reality; third, the ability of inhabitants to take the new structures and turn them to unpredictable ends.