Shane Reiner-Roth

The Domus and Illusion

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“The current domus is but a myth, a product of the megalopolis, the nostalgic yearning for what can now only be a mirage. With the advent of the megalopolis, the traditional values of the domus have been transformed, and the hegemony of the natural order has been supplanted by the artificial.”

-Neil Leach

The desire to disband from the megalopolis, even if only for a moment, produces a strange negation of everything that is found within the big city, including everything that is considered contemporary and therefore ‘virtual.’ In other words, the retreat is considered real while where one truly lives is considered fake (essentially the counter-argument to  Baudrillard’s assertion that Disneyland is designed to be convince Angelenos that their city is real and Disneyland is fake).  But whether in the form of a cottage, hut, or even just a camping trip, the retreat cannot be experienced without the language of the contemporary. Even Heidegger couldn’t help but talk about then-current technology, knowing full well that treating the Black Forest like a Renaissance Fair would be inappropriate.

“If the countryside,” Leach writes, ” – the realm of the domus – is seen increasingly in terms of tourism and vacation, then ‘place’ as difference could be understood in equally cynical, ironic terms, as the site of the exotic.” But rather than call the domus a totally mythical site, I will call it an exotic and illusory reality. Fortunately for this state, virtually every facet (the myth exempt) is successful in its desire for autonomy (though, again, this autonomy is clearly in opposition to the megalopolis). Because of its physical distance from the megalopolis, the vacationing urbanites cannot directly experience anything happening within their native city, nor can they indirectly experience them, because of their temporary sacrifice of technology. The only illusion therefore is that one can really in the countryside without any remorse and ‘revert.’

 The type of living I find to be more illusory is that of the domus within the megalopolis; either as a house with land or as a house with a view. Though all three are similar in their aesthetics of leisure and their status of wealth, the two types of domuses within the megalopolis are unique in their respective negations of their immediate environment.

The house with land always opens towards it on the site, and the microcosm utopia opens towards the house in a remarkably unnatural yet ultimately convenient way. The way this landscape is demarcated by shrubs and the walls behind them is much like the comically fake backdrops of 1950’s westerns. This house in its manufacured and private landscape is a more appropriate site of the mythic, for it gives the illusion that it is a domus in the countryside, while it sweeps the megalopolis under the rug and over the property walls. But even more illusory still is the land itself; it is designed to be perfectly manicured in its opposition to nature (with pools, cabanas, etc.). It is fantastical, and in its strict representation of nature it is unnatural selection.

The house with a view, then, appears to be the least illusory, yet it is in its presentation of its environs that makes it so mythical. The view is a very large image with little interface, for one can hardly be engaged with the sights or sounds of the city while within the very distanced and exclusive house with a view. In reference to the view, one either enjoys them or ignores as if the city was a television and the curtains an on/off switch. It does not have a landscape, but it does have seclusion.

In other words, these three building types illustrate the wealthy class’ desire to ignore reality – the reality of the contemporary and all of its affects – by either escaping to, creating, or highlighting the exotic, the beautiful, the perfect, or, to be clear, the spectacle. Wealth, in this sense, is synonymous with homogeneity, myth, and fantasy, while the middle and lower classes are synonymous with heterogeneity, inversion, and ‘reality.’ It is clear that the communitive nature of the latter state is established largely out of necessity, and anyone who climbs up the social ladder will want to escape the community of this state to one of more mythic proportions. But why is it so critically the case that wealth and the housing commune of the megalopolis hardly ever cross paths? Is wealth defined an an intentional indifference of the lower tropes?



Written by differance

August 2, 2011 at 7:26 AM

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