Urban Deflection

September 28, 2017

In his 1988 essay entitled “The City as Wave-Trough in the Image Flood”, Vilém Flusser offers a novel way to conceive of an urban centre: as a weighted place that imposes on a gravitational field and draws people towards it. This weight does not come from the city’s traditional institutions, rather it is created by an intersubjective field of [human] relations. In Gochenour’s translation he refers to this draw as a flection, which of course conjures its opposite: deflection.

Deflection or repulsion from a populated area could take the form of deportations, mass migrations, or expulsion from a country. In Rotman and Mauas’ Eternal Sukkah project, they attempted to represent the deflected in the religious gravity well of Jerusalem. Their reconstruction of a Bedouin hut during a Jewish holiday intended to reference the migration of the Jews from Egypt highlights the role of religion in ostracizing cultures in Israel. The Eternal Sukkah was an attempt to entangle the realities of people from neighbouring geographies, a knotting together of “intersubjective relationships”, as Flusser might describe it.

Michael Hardt sees this knotting together as a necessary condition for the heteropolis. When diverse populations knot together under a common political project, they transition from simply being a multiplicity to being a multitude, which in Flusser’s conception of the city carries additional weight. Hardt, however, hints at the sinister potential of planned homogeneity, which in the case of the Bedouins of the West Bank, only results in ongoing deflections.

The City as Wave-Trough in the Image Flood

Vilém Flusser, Aix-en-Provence, France 

Translated, with an introduction by Phil Gochenour. By permission of the University of Chicago Press. While theorists such as Niklas Luhmann, Norbert Bolz, and Friedrich Kittler have begun to rise in prominence, thanks in large part to translations of major...

Building “The Eternal Sukkah”

Graham Lawson, Tel Aviv, Israel 

This article was originally published in The Jerusalem Post. In July 2014, Diego Rotman and Lea Mauas, two Israeli artists who operate under the alias Sala-manca, began a process that involved the purchase of a Bedouin house, the materials of...

Creative Maintenance: an Interview with Michael Hardt

Michael Hardt, Durham, United States 

Michael Hardt in conversation with Jean-François Prost and Marie-Pier Boucher JFP (Jean-François Prost): The Heteropolis project specifically addresses the following paradox: as cities become increasingly heterogeneous, certain districts, or ghettos, continue to remain homogeneous. We can observe a very clear,...

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