Region/Concept: Europe, Movement
Sub-Concepts: Suspension, Waiting, Futile Motion
Description: Austrian museum stages exhibition of black net staircases by the design collective Numen/For Use.
There are many well-known interpretive approaches to the history of the staircase: the obvious theological depictions of stairs ascending or descending toward heaven and hell, the cheap psychological symbolism of anxiety over a journey or transition, the more obscure phenomenological renderings of higher and lower spatialities (the attic, the basement), and the long-standing architectural fascination with stairs that fall apart, twist abrasively, skip levels, or go nowhere. And yet, far from these vertical meditations, we find ourselves confronted with a horizontal universe of black nets strung together as suspension bridges (there can be only unstable travelers/passengers here). Thus one enters the lattice, where the same encompassing material that forms the ground beneath also stretches round to shape frail walls against which one attempts to balance…all the while sinking and coiling in arrhythmic patterns. One places one’s hands through the perforations—surrendering to this fate of becoming wrapped, intertwined, entangled—trusting precisely what betrays and sabotages, and thereby advances in a kind of desperate though futile motion. There is no good procession to be had; the laws of choreography and navigation require more certainty than this string-grid flight allows. Indeed, all that remains from this experience of poor “walking” or “traversing” is to be reminded of two old experiential facts: 1) that when envisioning the philosophical image of “the abyss” in its presumed infinity, we must never forget to also eliminate the last crucial dimension (the earth below), so as to invite the sensation of bottomlessness and freefall; 2) that when trapped in the desert, as a thousand pieces of medieval Arabian poetry can confirm, when the rider’s horse has died and the dawn brings only the full inevitability of scorching, and one stands limitless miles from any trace of salvation or oasis…one walks anyway. Far less righteous than any defiant concept of “struggle” or “martyrdom,” this pointless movement across the sands, the cables, or the darkness.