Flotsam and jetsam
Kingston is a city which has exploded. The crater that is left at the centre has consumed the past. The owership of land is uncertain. Ownership has been expunged from official memory. During the seventies the rupure of property rights was promised and threatened with. Many people left for the US and Canada, on three planes a day.
Now much of the land lies uncertain in the centre of Kingston. A beautiful grid, partially filled with the squatters who live on the forgetfulness and fright of owners.
The squatters having taken over, cannot settle. They are frightened of being thrown off the land. It is not theirs. They are suspicious of everyone inquiring into the temporary shacks they build, especiallly historians.
They cannot afford the luxury of permanence. Not because of a lack of money, but because of a lack of the necessary sense of permanence.
Having taken over an existing house, the squatters live it. Consume it, but cannot feel secure enough to perpetuate the house, to renew it. They do only the barest minimum to keep the house standing. It is not theirs: ownership generates pride, pride as one of the great virtues, as the fuel for renewal.
Therefore the neglect of structures, and extraordinary neglect, which, in my experience, has never been driven to such extremes, becomes the sign of a way of life.
The neglect is prolonged and brought to unnnatural extremes by the fact that the houses are not abandoned, but inhabited.
They are driven to such an extreme by the fact that they are not abanaodoned. Abandonement would at last release the house to be returned, fully, to the soil it initially came from. But that is not alloed to happen. It has to keep the inhabitants on the threshold of the ability to dwell.
The eternal return. Walcott, the trace on the sand of the beach. So much of the best architecture of Jamaica, fits in with its opportunism, the way people cope, whatever the cost, with the status quo.
Both tolerance and
intolerance in Jamaican society are brought to an extreme. I have never seen
such a degree of tolerance for exploitation.
But it has its positive side. The ability to use anything that happens by. One sees men walking about with the strangest things, bits of wood, a single bit of wood, that anywhere else would have returned to the invisible, the indistinguishable.
Here it becomes the fraction of a fence. Fences.
Fences are works of art. They can be high, to ensure privacy, high to ensure security. But they ar decorated to serve as signs, or decorated as an act of sacrifice. The round disks of oild drums, rusting away, but making a fence which is beautiful. Old wheels, bicycle wheels with bet spokes, fitted into a wire fence. Why bother? Because it is there.
The Jamaican has an amazing use for the discarded. Arte povere. Commerce is framed and exhibited on structures which are gathered together in an eternal rehearsal of the beginnings of architecture.
That eternal rehearsal can even prove the argument of Laugier. See the market stalls: Greek street in Falmouth, easy structures planned according to an efficient geometry of control. The Control of ownership and exchange of property.
Structures which exist by virtue of the existence of flotsam and jetsam.
The influence of biblical empowerment sees the awful side of life but does not listen to it. It removes itself by making daily life into an encyclopedia events to learn from, and justifications for why things are the way they are. The events of daily life are rehearsals of the icons of the good and bad, their interpretation has been reduced to a catechism, interpreatation by something we might call retroductive reasoning. The particulars of experience are obeserved but do not expand knowledge, instead they feed back into a rigid personalised metaphysical landscape loosely informed by the axioms of religion, continually confirmed suspicions, superstitions and prejudices. and local fears.