THE FUTURE SHAPE OF CHILDREN

 

 

Under the skin, tunnels, chambers, hidden rooms.
Machinery. Ducts. Valves.
Pumps.
Units that produce the space of the body.

The child is a city under construction. Planned,
regulated and inspected, it grows suburbs, suffers sprawl. 

It is shaped by commerce. It has neighbourhoods.

There are places within the child where it is best not to go.
The body is contaminated. The body is exposed.
Some aspects of the child are dangerous.

When authority appears to rise from the unconscious,
without explanation, this splits the child.
From an official perspective
the child is easy to manipulate.

*     *     *

     The division of the child into parts –
    
     areas that can be touched by the mother,
     areas that can be touched by the father,
     the public spaces (squares, monuments and parks)
     that can be photographed by strangers
     and the industrial and commercial areas –

     embodies how the child is broken and controlled.

As each child develops it is redeveloped.
During periods of construction, and in each
successive phase of demolition, ideology informs
the inner workings of the child,
shaping the images that appear in its mind.
And in the body power creates and destroys value,
producing an ‘invisible architecture’, the institutions
that keep and contain the life of the child.

When walking through the city – excited
by crowds, bright colours and sudden sounds –
the child walks through a plan of the human body.

The city works within the child,
populating it, filling it with motion:

     in the commercial and administrative centres;
     in government buildings and council chambers;
     in the police stations, the courts and the prisons;
     in power stations,
     in the newspaper offices and print works,
     in broadcast media installations
     with their technological and cultural aspects;
     in the telecomms centres
     and other utilitarian organs;

     in the ancillary systems, the sewage works,
     the water works, the recycling centre and the dump;
     in the hospitals and asylums of the body;
     in the mortuaries, crematoria and cemeteries;
     in the schools, colleges and universities;
     in the pubs, clubs and cinemas,
     and in the brothels, the drug dens and the malls,
     aspects of the child are formed and the sum
     of these forces construct the momentary being of the child.

 

The child is a teeming city.

 
The child consumes resources.

 
The child needs growth.

*     *     *

It is as if the child exists within a fairy tale.
At sunrise each day, as the cock crows,
money fits itself to the shape of the child.

To invest: to clothe, cover or surround.

To invest: to give one’s capital a new form.

For those who invest, newly emergent areas
of the body – the breasts and the legs, the eyes,
the buttocks and the genitals – generate the most interest
and offer the highest returns.

*     *     *

Flows of capital, exchanges, deals, products.
The body of the child is shaped by what it contains.
And the child is necessarily an open system,
development cannot otherwise occur;
through contract and custom, authority is dispersed
throughout the child along federal lines
and influence is founded on powers defined
by needs and desires.

As the mind develops, structures of identity are provisional;
the child knows itself via the things it consumes.
The child consumes the mother,
the child is a unitary being. The child enters the market place
and then works ever harder to regain,
to purchase, what once it might have been.
Through the loss of the self, encountered
in time, the child learns to submit.

 

The child cannot bear the instability that is
essential to the free market system,
and the child knows that efficiencies relinquished
mean failure; plagued by doubts and fears,
the child requires reassurance, it is by nature vulnerable
and is easily engaged on adverse terms.

Profit and loss provide the child
with structures that seem natural,
the cognitive and emotional processes
the child calls ‘the self’.

 

The child embodies archaic meanings, it thinks
in terms of allegories, fables and naive motifs;
operating according to laws of cause and effect,
the child’s universe is essentially Newtonian.

Sexuality emerges from this profound simplicity;
the child learns how the body provides
‘exciting opportunities’, that forces flow
through gratifications once unknown, that
these pleasures involve complexity.

The child does not understand its own behaviour.

The body is experienced as a motive force,
powered unconsciously and prone
to respond in occult ways to bodies around it;
the pleasures of the body are found
to imply a potential threat.

Death, decay and physical corruption
haunt the mind of the child.

The child seeks to mitigate 
existential fears that emerge from beneath
basic bodily functions and
the urges connected to these.

 

And the child cannot go back.

The child must grow.

The business of growth is everything to the child.

 

Brands and logos that appear to extend from the body
channel sexual energy, curiosity, etc.
into diseases caused by consumption or work.

Always open for business, the child knows
how business involves intimacy and trust,
that there is nothing to fear within systems defined
by the freedom and choice
upon which trust must depend.

*     *     *

 

     Law enforcement, defence,
     religious administration,
     commerce and tourism,
     these provide employment within the body;
     in the art galleries, theatres and studios workers shift
     images within a prescribed system of perspectives
     to reify abstract space
     and nullify contradictions
     in the workings of the body.

Beset by products, the child dissociates

and the body becomes separate.

Pain and doubt restructure interiors once unknown.

The child identifies with what it desires, constructs narratives
that embody redemption, as if redemption were created
within the body and its needs
or was itself once
a function of the body.

 

Within the child’s form there are derelict and archaic structures:
obsolete industrial sites, tiny medieval churches,
ruins tucked behind shops – the past as it is preserved
or in how it happens to remain. The abandoned past. It is concealed
in the sense of ‘matters overlooked’ and in emblems,
ancient and persistent signs, each
with their own implied narratives of power.

A foliate mask on a heart-shaped shield.

An advert on a wall, once painted over, now showing through.

They inspire satisfying affects.

The ruins of childhood are evocative.

This has all been market tested.

*     *     *

When the light is right a child can seem to glow
as the ruins of a monastery might once have glowed –
a place found by chance on a walk,
when things ‘just happened’,
in the late autumn light –
to evoke a sweet sadness, a glance back.

We like to become wistful amongst the ruins of a child
and the child learns that this is a function of childhood.
The child, in its vanishing, knows of its own romance
through us; and through us it develops a sense of itself
as something isolated, imperilled, exploited.

This thing that has no history. It contains our past.

And the past, like the child, expands;
it is a self-producing commodity,
an endlessly exploitable market.

And we all look back.

Even the child craves the experience of innocence.

There is nothing more ‘retro’ than a child.

*     *     *

     The architecture of the child is both
     modern and traditional – conflicting styles
     clash. In the eyes and smile of the child
     we glimpse the unity of the whole that is lost,
     the simplicity, the innocence – and this
     prelapsarian, this ideal urbanism of
     the child refers to the rudimentary hovel,
     the primitive forest shelter, the cave.

 

As the child grows, and senses its power, the market shapes

each innocent urge to cruder and more direct forms.

This exchange occurs unconsciously.

The child cannot remember it.

The beauty of the child is by necessity displaced

into ideals, past ages, fantasies. Shaped by power

and how power moves through time, mimicking

the development of the body of the child, the child

is maimed or trained to require redemption.

We are seduced by notions of what the child might have been.

*     *     *

We can recall how we explored our own sexuality
as pre-teens – were curious of our bodies – and see
how this is replicated within the practice of tourism;
the endless search for the same novelty,
the exotic, something previously undiscovered
and thus unspoiled,
an experience inherently powerful and unmediated.

All excursions into childhood,
our own and other people’s, via holidays,
daydreams or psychological therapies
that are a variant of tourism, are an attempt
to find our way back.

From the first act of consumption we are compelled
to remember that sweetness and then, turning aside,
to re-enact the pleasures we knew then;
they take us to the portal of our individual Eden,
that privacy within which, newly born,
we first experienced the absorption of the mother.

This separation from the source, and its re-integration,
marks the birth of the erotic self.

Thus the child consumes, is initiated
into pleasures, their virtues and impurities;
they enter us first from the bottle or the breast.

And, as if mimicking a consequence, the urge to expel provides
a narrative that power replicates.
It is as if the waste products of the body,
and how they are expressed, were an augury
of the ways in which compulsion will shape our selves
as we grow older; in reflecting the life of the body,
power enters unseen; appearing to arise internally,
it seems natural and intimate, unconscious or even divine.

Shit, piss and vomit are the signifiers of the body politic.

The child cannot resist the workings of the body.

The child must always work more.

There is no rest, in sleep the child works.

The body is harnessed, the child endures subjugation;
in trying to negotiate a more comfortable arrangement,
the child learns to please those who exploit it
and thus the child learns of its charms.

*     *     *

In the consumer or post-industrial market
where productive areas of the city are obsolete,
cleared or still derelict, awaiting ‘upturn’,
or ‘regeneration’, the child, through its nostalgia,
creates and consumes sentiments;
maintaining the patterns of the past, and giving lost things
an imagined future life, the child enacts work roles, creating
symbolic value, imagined returns, new technologies.

Where capacity becomes obsolete,
or the locus of production has moved on
and the city has lost its traditional role,
profit follows sentiment.

The child must produce feelings on demand.
Emotions related to unfulfilled expectations
are suppressed as the child responds instantly,
and works flexibly, to please others, adding value
to their processes in a series of transactions that
involve discipline, the suppression of the self that feels.

So the child is negated by its own success.

It has nowhere to turn.

There are no faultlines.

The child desires containment.

*     *     *

When we have nothing else to do but aspire,
longing cleaves to the thrill
of non-productive labour, the arts, literature, etc.

Through new forms of art centred on the self

the child transforms redundant productive spaces,

making them contingent upon the things the self needs;

seeking gratification, the child conforms and thus

gains access to the boredom of the bourgeois aesthetic.

The child enters a dull erotic realm.

It goes through districts formerly forbidden.

The child experiences arousal.

Beset by mysteries, the child learns how the

aesthetics of love and work are the same.

In seeking to know what love might become,
the child explores the roles it perceives,
it enters the ducts and tunnels of the body – I said I could
remember it, the hearth of my pleasures.

*     *     *

In a fairy tale the child that comes unbidden signifies
‘the star that shines out of the depths’. It appears to emerge
from the bosom of Nature, as yet unstained, it comes
uncompromised into our world of liberties,
where the past is produced to bewilder the present
and social relations are roles that contain
a host of taboos that we never challenge.

     A dangerous thing, the subject of desire
     as ‘a derelict space’ now ‘re-imagined’
     in the body of a child.

The child has work to do.

The child does not need to be told.

Angry, resentful, or ‘cutely winsome’ ,
the child does its job
better, on the whole,
than the majority of workers.

Playing in the street it maintains the whole of the city.

 

Andrew Jordan

 Text and image

 


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