Memphis hotel/ Evening’s empire

At a time that can only be described as the defining apex in the shift between two subsequent ages, I lived in an old warehouse. We called it the Memphis hotel/ workers lodge; Memphis hotel was an homage to another incarnation from its long history and the appendage that followed a nod to the proletariat designation of those who in one way or another, made it their home. As the world outside grew increasing unhinged, so did my fantasies projected upon this refuge become more elaborate. I’d imagine we were The Enterprise, with the power to put space between us and lesser worlds, safely tucked into a century several hundred years beyond this infernal historical hinge.

Every evening at the Memphis hotel the gathering darkness was pulled like a sieve through our growing apprehension (as we veered off the course of our promised progress) haunting our days, multiplied in the agitation of subsequent evenings. I wondered then, what future was taking shape over the course of these many evenings, mangled and mingled together in the making of my recollection, warped by unease and the passing of hours? I relinquished that discourse is what draws the bodies towards fire in the night lest we flee like roaches to a watery womb. But sharing a sound does not solidify into form for the future, words exchanged in your own home are not daggers that cleave into the cloying surface of the thought universe, carving our names with matches in the floating congestion, creating pockets of air that ascend to the surface like tremors in the paradise of someone else’s god. We suspected as much but knew naught what to do but gather like hornets in the street to see how many of us there really are or to whisper our most secret sadness to each other or to the swollen moon on the horizon, in words that sink below the electric blue of evening’s empire only to be consumed in flame and vanish into the smoldering atmosphere.

Hung in the long emptiness of some evening with the sun’s slippery tendrils pulled across 6th street in copper ribbons, I came across the headline, “Do you have to be rich to make it as an artist?” The world is filled with plenty of pointed commentary, identifying the cracks in the infrastructure through which the carnage of machination seeps.

Maybe I got high and started to deliberate on this, punching white to black on the flat monolithic surface of my phone–but I am suddenly turned away from such rigid protestations. I don’t want to talk about this. I want to talk about a field of particle suns winking through heavy drunken eyelids at a city be-speckled with the dusky shade of a streetlamp army (the old orange ones) or the sound (like tiny mute bells) of new snow falling on st. Nicholas avenue early on a December morning or what it feels like to read the word moon next to the word wistlessness. I want to tell a story using only the words of divine sublimation, which when strung together grow heavy in the liquid solution of meaning and desiccate out into a figuration of the night. But this is the stuff of previous centuries and that desiccated language has become a stone, a fossil that looks a lot like a newspaper sitting on the windowsill, near the flowers.

It feels so strange to lose the sound of your own voice to the rising crescendo of testimony after two thousand years of standing in plazas by a fountain or mausoleum listening to one guy talk about how to measure the passage of the sun. There are some words for whom the power of solicitation has been lost in the transition from this age to the next–moon. Windowsill. Streetlamp. King. These words drift uncertainly in the new dimensions of this strange, and as yet unqualified landscape of historical time. Stripped as they are now from the weight of their corresponding affects, new words ascend to status quo in the place of those expired–Interface. Memory. Triage. Imbroglio. We are deluged in a vast thicket of words. Fitful in their loneliness the words grow tactile members like long greasy fingers hoping to grab hold of something to bridge the gap between their sounds and our feelings. but the stringy appendages become crossed in all the hysteria and tied in knots around our ears and lips as they bind themselves and us in a heaving tangle of eyes, pupils spinning in search of the fundament. I confess, “I don’t regret the kingdoms but I will miss the kings.”

I can’t begin to conjure the likeness of a singular evening In the infinite archive of evenings past. In history, there is only one evening that exists. In considering its colors and dimensions, it’s ashtrays and empty bottles of wine, I am reminded of a conversation between calvino’s Kublai Khan and Marco Polo, men whose words wielded power over the passage of time reflected in the faces of stone cutters and rubbish collectors framed in every window in a sea of patchwork towers, multiplied in each city of their contemplation. Their musings are interrupted by the thought that their cities may only be as real as the resonant tones of their articulation, ringing in the great halls and rising from the balcony of the khan’s elaborate palace…

POLO: Everything I see and do assumes meaning in a mental space where the same calm reigns as here, the same penumbra, the same silence streaked by the rustling of leaves. At the moment when I contemplate and reflect, I find myself again, always, in this garden, at this hour of the evening, in your august presence, though I continue, without a moment’s pause, moving up a river green with crocodiles or counting the barrels of salted fish being lowered into the hold.)

POLO: …Perhaps the terraces of this garden overlook only the lake of our mind…

KUBLAI: …and however far our troubled enterprises as merchants may take us, we both harbor within ourselves this silent shade, this conversation of pauses, this evening that is always the same. (From Invisible cities)

Calvino, Invisible Cities, pg 103

Even the man behind the heavy velvet curtain of the Bastille looks to his own windowsill of restless contemplation to place his tumbler or big red button. Does he not know how the days pass en mass, under the drudgery of his despotism? How the sameness of every day that is swallowed in that moment of evening’s hesitation is as sterile and futile as the facsimiles of capital, the flagstones with which his empire is built? In the city the threat of duplication is ever-present. It is the kingdom of classifications for the empire’s manifold reproductions, its regalia emblazoned upon its spires and balustrades, endorsing its many luminous surfaces. For the moment, I have been dispatched to another city, but this one is very much the same as the one that, like a noose, wraps itself around the Memphis Hotel. All the cities belonging to this century and to this empire exist to perform the same basic function. Tucked into the city’s iron folds, I find ways to pass the time (a task for which our emperor, his grace, has benevolently provided a myriad of opportunity), often shirking from the tricky business of giving a carbon equivalent to the figurations of my mind’s eye, always wary of its inevitable duplication and the subsequent liquidation of the object from it’s hereditary associations, memory or fantasy, the peculiar flavor of my own experience, the history which carried forth my body to this place.

As the weeks pass and the spaces of my body’s occupation in this other city become swollen with a familiar intimacy I can see that the Memphis hotel has come to exists here too in its own benign duplicity. Here, it’s expats still make meals together, initiate exhibitions of our work in apartments emptied during opportune moments of transition and share with each other the fitful interlude at day’s end. Our work is still hung by our friends on the walls of the old Memphis hotel and in our corresponding cities at far corners of the continent we set things in motion and try to imagine a better world.

The Memphis hotel is not so much the old warehouse anymore as it is place that exists in the mind, available to conjure at any moment of perceived futility or resistance, a place to one day be built by our own hands in the hope that we might inhabit a space free of all that encroaches upon us; be it a freshly painted facade or the impromptu arrival of the building safety inspectors—attempts at refurbishment sanctioned with someone else in mind, some future tenant who has no fear of the worlds duplication, who easily describes their life with new words and who can wield his influence like a sword over a city and change its shape.