ORPHEUS STREET

"In the case of everything perfect we are accustomed to abstain from asking how it became: We rejoice in the present fact as though it came out of the ground by magic." Nietzsche.

The city is a place of dead words, forgotten meanings that lie in the ossuary of use value. There is a usefulness to forgetting. It lies in the modularisation of metaphor; the annihilation of contingency, facts established as usable 'facts'.
Hidden archaic patterns criss-cross our everyday lives and we, as if in a dream, over look them constantly. Moreover, we risk completely forgetting the rich and diverse originary forms that offer themselves up through the names all around us. The supermarket shelf is example enough, abundant source, as it is, of what we might call 'slipped metaphors'. Yet the commodities upon these shelves are organised in such a way that these names, sneaking out from behind vaguely recalled pasts, rarely meet.
Roger Caillois, in 'The Mask of the Medusa', recognises the anthropometric fallibility of classification systems whose only purpose is to "useful". Caillois describes the 18th century practice of classifying animals according to the number of their legs, thus lizard and bear, tortoise and dog find themselves uncannily grouped together. This would seem more absurd were it not for abuses of this type that occur in our everyday lives... Any given order is not necessarily the correct order. If we were given access to the supermarket's system, say, might we not be able, by a simple realignment, to offer up a rich and previously disguised world of meaning? A free play of subject and object would find a MARS bar, a MERCURY phone, FLORA margarine, OLYMPUS camera, ECHO lard, a tin of AJAX scouring powder, and a pair of NIKE trainers all on the same shelf. Caillois calls this diagonal classification. A dilapidation of the object's status occurs wherein its use value as a commodity is thrown into doubt. The new relations these objects enjoy is a celebration of uselessness, it is reliant not on their function but the subjectivity of their names. Once doubt or play is in place then the sovereignty of exchange value likewise suffers; once doubted, or played with like a toy, it simply ceases to be sovereign. By the same token, a modern argonaut might navigate the streets not to get from A to B but purely to indulge in the reawakening of such mythological connections as ULYSSES road to APOLLO road, AGAMEMNON road to SCYLLA road, HERCULES street, NARCISSUS street; MEDUSA road to ORPHEUS street...

As Walter Benjamin noted, the city has indeed "become a cosmos of language through the names of its streets". Street names cease to be a convenient aide memoir to where we may live or work but instead become the site of a fragmented history, the surfacing of strange formations from a society's collective subconscious. This is an almost archaeological process, and the sighting of a hidden mythology can be quite as fascinating, confusing or instructive as the uncovering of fossilised remains: stone fish which lie within mountains. A secret history very different from the society's conscious projection of itself. Indeed, the forgetting of mythological names is no more than an illustration of a process that occurs throughout all forms of society: as the cardinal numbers are the forgotten digits on a hand that leads to the edifice of contemporary science, so too is the entire classificationary endeavour but a means of better picturing ourselves. Better picturing is in turn the image making device from which transformative processes and technologies arise. In fact, one might go so far as to suggest that the modus operandi of collecting and classifying, of taxonomy, is in effect a transformative one. More so than this process simply exposing the object(s) under scrutiny to the dangers of censorship, of being mislaid, mislabelled or over looked, all serious matters to be true; by coming under the will of they who name, can we not begin to see collecting and classifying as a close correlate of alchemy?(A magic like any other, good or bad, depending by whom and how it is used.) To know (possess) the names and hold (possess) the correct materials, is a (debased) base from which the impossible might proceed (gold, or explosion; remembrance, or oblivion).

Returning to the supermarket, we can see that diagonal classification need not confine itself to the names of things. One can easily imagine aisles devoted to peculiar physical attributes, foods made predominately from potato, reconstituted and reshaped foods, all the red food, the purple, the yellow. There might, for instance, be a place only for round or spherical things... Pizzas, footballs, Edam (which will also be found in the red aisle), toilet rolls (which might occur as well in a place for things that can be stood on their end so as to form towers), eggs, melons (yellow aisle), burgers, light bulbs, red cabbage (purple aisle), tubs of hand cream... Capitalism enacts sleights of hand no stranger, bullying commodities into spatial or edible categories, forcing yet others into those dictated by temperature. Things nestle together according to which space they are destined to be transposed to in the domestic environment: bathroom, kitchen, bedroom; cupboard, freezer, or garden. Such groupings can in fact be seen as an exploded plan of a metaphorical and over abundant house. House of an obsessive collector who must have all names, all things; the supermarket trying to reconstitute itself as the Platonic original. In short, the map of existing orders and groupings is more fantastic, more worthy of investigation than any orders of the 'merely' imagined. It is only through such mapping that a transformative imagination may be formed, that something 'not forgotten' can be grasped.

1. For a Sociology	- Vol.1 No.1
2. Predictive Nostagia	- Vol.1 No.2
3. I Kingsland Passage	- Vol.1 No.3
4. Orpheus Street	- Vol.2 No.1