Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cars: Adorno, Numan, Kundera

'Technology is making gestures precise and brutal, and with them men. It expels from movements all hesitation, deliberation, civility. It subjects them to the implacable, as it were ahistorical demands of objects. Thus the ability is lost, for example, to close a door quietly and discreetly, yet firmly. Those of cars and refrigerators have to be slammed, others have the tendency to snap shut by themselves, imposing on those entering the bad manners of not looking behind them. The new human type cannot be properly understood without awareness of what he is continuously exposed to from the world of things about him, even in his most secret innervations... which driver is not tempted, merely by the power of his engine, to wipe out the vermin of the street, pedestrians, children and cyclists? The movements machines demand of their users already have the violent, hard-hitting, unresting jerkiness of Fascist maltreatment' (Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia: reflections on a damaged life, 1951).

Here in my car 
I feel safest of all 
I can lock all my doors 
It's the only way to live In cars
Here in my car 
I can only receive 
I can listen to you 
It keeps me stable for days 
In cars 
(Gary Numan, Cars, 1979) 

 'I was in my car and a couple of men in a van swerved round me, pulled up in front, got out and were clearly going to give me a bit of a hammering, trying to get me out, kicking the car and screaming and shouting. I was pretty scared, locked all my doors and ended up driving on to the pavement 'cos I couldn't go anywhere, people obviously leaping out of the way because I was in a bit of a panic. Cars is just a about feeling safe in amongst people in a car, cos no one can get to you in your own little bubble' (Gary Numan, quoted in BBC documentary Synth Britannia (2009). The narrator described the song as 'part eulogy to JG Ballard and part tesimtony to living in 70 s London'). 

 'The cars that fill the streets have narrowed the pavements, which are crowded with pedestrians. If they want to look at each other, they see cars in the background, if they want to look at the building across the street they see cars in the foreground; there isn't a single angle of view from which cars will not be visible, from the back, in front, on both sides. Their omnipresent noise corrodes every moment of contemplation like acid. Cars have made the former beauty of cities invisible' 
(Milan Kundera, Immortality, 1991)


bat020 said...

"One can conceive of a subsequent stage to this one, where the car is still a performative instrument - the stage at which it becomes an informing network. That is, the car which speaks to you, which informs you spontaneously of its general state and yours (eventually refusing to function if you are not functioning well); the advising, deliberating car, a partner for general negotiations on lifestyles; something (or someone, since at this stage there is no difference) to which you are wired... From here on neither speed nor travelling count any longer. In fact the desacralisation of the car has been going on for some time now in the sense that "Speed is out! Drive more and consume less." A kind of ecological ideal is taking over, an ideal of regulation, of moderate functionality, of solidarity between all elements of one and the same system, of the control and global management of the whole." -- Jean Baudrillard, 1987

Richard S. said...

My favorite article on the topic is still Andre Gorz's "The Social Ideology of the Motorcar." I was thinking they once had it posted on Reclaim the Streets' original Web site (which I used to go to a decade ago), but surely that can't still be up? Well, what do you know, it is!