Beyond the accumulation of monuments, the speed of trade or the fluidity of its networks, the city remains the place where populations flock in search of opportunity. While its physical enclosure lost importance in the transition to modernity, the exclusionary powers of the urbe have long surpassed the reach of classical sovereignty, relegating the state apparatus to (a position) be only one among the many contingencies that (engender) the urban milieu.
The city pulses an immense force field that manufactures and consumes freedom, feeding off precarity to transform speculative wealth into land and real-estate ownership. In the age of liquid capital and off-shore impunity, this apparently contradictory return to territory as an essential asset is revealing of the genealogy of the neoliberal art of government, which assumes that everything can be commodified.
The state, born out of the firmness of its immovable ground, has inscribed itself onto the earth as a bounded space — a limited territory. While the populations oscillate between resignation and resistance, the persistence of exceptional spatial conditions — smooth spaces and fluid zones that take the form of extraterritorial exemption — might offer an alternative to resilience as a permanent mode of existence.
The excluded subjects are a product of the city, and their reassembling constitutes the natural extension of metropolitan autopoiesis.
'Territory is not necessarily or not only associated with the sovereign space of the state. Rather, it is seen as a political technology for organizing social and economic relations that has both spatial and non-spatial elements.' (1)
Extraterritoriality, imposed by the increasingly tight mesh of border control, has expanded to reterritorialise the wrecks of physical surplus that resulted from the implosion of capital accumulation.
Through successive reiterations of machinic assemblage, scrap leftovers of old boats, twentieth century post-industrial machinery and oil burning engines are assembled at high sea outside the grip of national state sovereignty. Vertically piled sections of oil tankers scrape the skies with their organs plugged into the now abandoned oil platforms and sea ships; airplane carcasses levitate on helium and helios: the ecological is merged with its polluted environment.
A new relation with space is developed, one which re-inscribes the self within perpetually reassembling existing spatial hierarchies. How are we to conceive of a production of subjectivity in an environment that is in itself in a perpetual process of communality?
The new notion of city does not need to build new architectural extravagance but rather to exploit gaps and seams in the system and re-appropriate and co-opt existing architectural potential.
In the memory of Manuel Vicente
1. Mezzadra, Sandra, et al. "Extraction, logistics, finance." Radical Philosophy 178 (2013): 8-17.