Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Will Insley’s ONECITY

Image from ONECITY, via the nonist

Will Insley is (was?) an artist, architect, and engineer.  These images were taken from a collection of his that were exhibited back in the early 80s at the Guggenheim.  As the NYT reported at the time:

“ONECITY,” the chief project in the show, has, the artist says, “very little to do with advanced planning theories of the present” or with the “utopias of the future, but rather with the dark cities of mythology, which exist outside of normal times in some strange location of extremity.”

Image from ONECITY, via the nonist

An imaginary labyrinth 650 miles square, symbolized by a floor plan that paces off at about 30 feet, it … consists of many 2 1/2-mile-square structures, each divided into an “Over-building” and an “Under-building” and each containing nine arenas.

It's clear, however, that the city's inhabitants are segregated into day people, wholesome types who study at home with their children by means of electronic devices, and night people. “Tattered ghosts in phosphorescent clothing,” the night people sound a lot like the more Felliniesque denizens of the Lower East Side, being given to masks and elaborate makeup; they “mutter a lot” and “often carry around personal abstract structures” that they exchange “according to mysterious rituals.” And while they have homes in the Over-building, they frequently sleep in the cubby holes of the Under-building, ignored by day people going about their business.

Image from ONECITY, via the nonist

The article goes on to suggest that there is an allusion here to New York’s homeless (being the night people to the middle class day people).  But when I see these drawings of a claustrophobic city -especially something about it’s dense, square shape – I think of Howard’s Red Nails.  The description of the day/night people each moving through the city reminds me very much of the town of Kingsport from Lovecraft’s The Festival.

Amongst that NYT article, there is also a fleeting mention of the city’s ‘“Opaque Library”, which no one may enter’.  It’s not at all apparent to me what this ‘library’ actually is, but that name deserves to reappear in some gaming material, preferably attached to some Borgesian archive or information store.

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