Date: July 14th, 2003


Location: pedestrian tunnel beneath the Granville St. bridge; Vancouver, BC


Duration: 8 hours


Text:  Mechanism of Utopia by E.M. Cioran.


Pages:  p.80 – 92 in the collection History and Utopia


Lines: 388


More images





   It is the morning of the 14th and it is raining. The poster for Utopia had a leaf in a puddle so I must have known. In fact, it was more than rain. It was a deluge. It was such that I felt something wanted me to say I’ll do it another day. But there is no such thing as another day and so I did not say this. I improvised and decided to do as much of the essay as I could in the pedestrian tunnel. It is 9:00 and I start. After two lines, after writing doomsday chaos, one of the city workers who is landscaping the park outside stands at the entrance to the tunnel and asks me what I am doing. I tell him. He asks me if I have to do it and if I have permission. I say yes to the first question and to the second, after considering saying God gave me permission, I answer no. He asks me if I will stop and I tell him that I definitely cannot stop. Someone has to clean this he says.  I will clean it for you after I am done I answer. But he tries to explain that he doesn’t want me to do his work for him. I thankfully don’t understand and continue writing… How can so many human beings coexist and the worker says if you don’t stop I will call the police. I tell him that he should do whatever makes him feel secure. A complex aesthetic discussion ensues involving graffiti and chalk and ephemerality and he seems a little confused by my allying myself with  little girls drawing hopscotch patterns on the sidewalk and all the little kids advertising their lemonade stands using chalk that is clearly sold as sidewalk chalk. Either we are all criminals or none of us are. The discussion ends and I keep writing. The worst is over. Now all I have to do is write on the ground for eight hours. The other workers seem either to like or not care what I am doing so perhaps they will talk him down.




   There are many people who pass through this tunnel. It is a place that is truly a no-place, a u-topia. People use it to get from here to there— as soon as they arrive in it they are out of it. It is an architectural representation of transition. With all the people, there and then not there, appearing like spectres, their echoes surviving them and lingering with me for a while longer, I discover something, another reason why I do these things. Since the writing is so slow and methodical each word or phrase seems to juxtapose itself with whatever is happening around me, with a person or a conversation or a sound. And this happens continually so that not only am I writing, and thinking about the text, and picturing the ramifications of this text in this location in this city on this day in history etc. but I am also in the midst of beholding a supreme collage in endless flux. This is very exhausting, more than I would have thought. All my other projects were in less-travelled areas and so this added dimension was absent thereby limiting the mental exhaustion.


- M. S.