Preliminary Notes on a Project for the Construction of Oarystis, the City of Desire

The conception of this city[1] takes its inspiration from the worlds of childhood and femininity, on a quest to free themselves from their secular oppression. It thus gives preeminence to the pleasure of play, the passion for creation, and the happiness of being oneself which, alone, allows the status of being to other people and contributing to their well-being. The project is presented here in the most summary fashion, open to the contributions of whoever desires to develop, illustrate or concretize it.

One only ever travels through and in one's body. The city is thus conceived as a corporeal unity, in which all the elements act in harmony. There is no hierarchical order in the distribution of the organs composing the individual, social, and urbanistic body, but each of these elements are comforted simultaneously by its own autonomy and by the solidarity they maintain with the whole.

The city responds to the desire to drift. It elaborates places propitious to the construction of situations, privileging the free exercise of the rights of the human being, games of apprenticeship, and psychogeography, in which the changing Carte du Tendre[2] will sketch itself out according to the passions. It has the form of a labyrinth, constructed on three levels, susceptible to aleatory modifications by a mechanism that opens and close the roads, transforming freely marked-out roads into dead-ends, and vice-versa. Thus solicited, wandering and adventure respond to the desire to facilitate for each person the discovery and refinement of his or her desires. One emerges from these roads into public places, according to the model of Venice, which reminds us that, by losing oneself, one finds oneself everywhere. The labyrinth includes diverticula that are particularly affected by variations of mood. One thus imagines a circuit of melancholy for entering into and leaving states of affliction.

Nothing is static. The houses can change form: according to the seasons, for example, or according to the desire of those who inhabit them. Some of them are able move over water, along rails, up spiral staircases, etc.

No technology endangers people's health. Everything is powered by the conjunction of natural energies (solar power, hydraulic motor-power, wind, methane, etc.). Creation-workshops are open to researchers, inventors and those who experiment with prototypes, or simply those who are curious.

Oarystis is an oasis-city. Biotopias, spread out everywhere, allow the attraction of fauna and the development of flora of the greatest diversity. One can thus maintain in their appropriate habitats animals reputed to be dangerous, with the result that only those who take the risk of venturing into their territory will cross their paths. Biotopias of bigger scope are assigned to the agriculture of vegetables, flowers and grains, thus to the husbandry of domesticated animals that furnish eggs and milk, and to the maintenance of animal companions.

Everything is subject to freedom of movement. The movements of beings and things are effectuated through water, earth and air routes. There are open sky roads and heated underground roads, the glass roofs of which form the paving of the roads above. Shallow canals provide circulation routes; they are endowed with hydraulic lifts that provide access to aerial routes, along which non-polluting automobiles circulate, leaving the majority of the roads to strollers. Elevators allow people to pass from one level to another and to reach rope-bridges set up between large trees. Circulation, in all senses of the word, will be privileged; little by little it breaks with the hierarchization of space and time, with its divisions into high and low, left and right, past and future. Perhaps the spiral is the form that best corresponds to the space-time of the living?

The interlacing of activities. Additional public places and street-houses, composed of particular colors and rooms, are used for citizens' assemblies. These places do not exclude the possibility of meeting, sleeping and eating in them. The forum, surrounded by colonnades, is the place for the large assemblies where decisions are discussed collectively.

Distribution. The streets present a large variety of booths, shops, stores and warehouses in which farmers, gardeners, artisans, artists, inventors, mechanics, cooks, poets and writers are pleased to offer the products born from their inventiveness and passion.

Provisions. Almost everywhere there are centers for exchange, reconversion of used goods and distribution of basic supplies. Every day tallies of the supply and demand for subsistence goods are communicated to all, with the result that the requirements of the sectors of priority production are clearly defined. Each sector is thus able -- according to its capacity -- to furnish the products and services necessary for the convenience of life. Collective gardens and agricultural fields are managed as centers for the production and consumption of the useful and pleasurable.

Permanent apprenticeship. The streets will be illuminated by the lights of knowledge: news is distributed there on the most diverse subjects. Not far away are those who, animated by the passion to teach and suited for the lavishing of their knowledge upon the young and the old, receive the collected information, correct it, discuss it, organize it and confer upon it the qualities demanded by the apprenticeship of life. Here, the child is not the king, but is at the center of attention, thought and the apprenticeship of destiny. The idea of creating one's own destiny is actually that which gives meaning to the institutes of mutual education at which children and parents compare their experiences.

Culture. The museums have given way to luxurious streets along which the works of art of the past are part of the everyday wonderment of the citizens. In the amphitheatre of memory, visions of ancient and recent history are presented, played and discussed. Paper chases solicit curiosity and allow each person to verify the state of his or her knowledge in the most diverse domains.

Creation. Through the pleasure that it allows, the city acts as an incitement to create. There are a profusion of automatons, musical boxes, playthings and games conceived for the pleasure of all. Each person has the right to add his or her creations.

The end of the urban enclosure. Large spaces occupied by fields, gardens, parks, forests and farms abolish the archaic separation between town and country.

The gratuity of travel. The means of transportation are available freely to all: electric cars, moving sidewalks, elevators and light railroads.

The maintenance of the body. Health clinics learn to prevent sickness and guarantee the necessary cures for those who do not succeed at staying healthy.

Houses of love.[3] The Oarystis are houses of tender love. Boys and girls meet and have their first amorous adventures there, initiating themselves into the refinements of sexual experience and discovering freely the affinities that will orient them, if they so desire, towards durable relationships and the choice to give birth to children.

Experimentation. Experimentation is presented everywhere in the greatest variety. It is engaged in on the sole condition that it responds to or accords with the project of the constant improvement of life and milieu (excluding recourse to the criteria of marketability, profit, competition, power and all practices that involve suffering, decay and death).

The city of the dead. On the outskirts of Oarystis there is a forest consecrated to the dead. For every dead person a tree is planted, according to that person's wishes. Microphones implanted amongst the foliage make the murmurs of the forest audible. One must be aware that the gardens and groves sprinkled about the city are, here and there, dotted with ears that perceive the amplified murmuring of the natural environment.

Writing and drawing. The blind walls are the blank pages on which each has the right to draw, write or engrave. The old advertising billboards are placed with poems, individual notes, calligraphy and dreamlike evocations. Everything responds to the pleasure of inhabiting, decorating, flowering and making the city into a work of art in which colors and sounds emanate from the interior landscapes that haunt the sensibility of the human being.

The principle of gratuity. Until its autarky is real, a collectively managed bank that possesses its own currency facilitates transactions with the territories still under the control of the market commodity. Anyone who finds themselves constrained to pass through the channels of payment have to obey the principle that all monies collected will be reinvested in the production of useful and pleasing goods.

[1] Translator's note: See Vaneigem's novel, illustrated by Giampiero Caiti, Voyage a Oarystis (Estuaire, 2005). The title refers to the ancient Greek play by Theocritus, The Oarystis.

[2] Translator's note: A depiction of courtship and love as a geographical exploration, the Carte du Tendre (the "Map of Tenderness") was engraved by Francois Chauveau and published in Madeleine de Scudery's romantic novel Clelie in 1654. The Carte was reprinted in Internationale situationniste #3, December 1959.

[3] Translator's note: The French here is Les maisons de rendez-vous, which literally means "houses for dating."

(Written by Raoul Vaneigem. Published 15 February 2002 by Bon-a-Tirer Translated from the French by NOT BORED! February 2007.)

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