Centres of Condensation

Mar 12, 2023

I borrow the phrase "Centres of Condensation" Gaston Bachelard's Poetics of Space. Our institutions, Northstar and Raga, are thought of as, firstly, 'centres'. Taken in isolation and in the prevalent context, the word 'centre' has no gravitas, no weight. It is as banal as the centre of a hypothetical circle. But to me 'centre' means 'to centre', the act of centring. Where does this centre lie? Within us, within our situations, in our troubles? In our art and our brutal acts? One must leave the centre as imaginary as Pythagoras may have wanted in his mysterious reveries. Our institutions are companies too, but the word company takes away the soul of the institution. It becomes an agreement, a transaction. No, let us not call them companies. Names matter, sometimes even more than the thing it names. These institutions are like a house, doing all the biddings of a house; sheltering and shading, orderly and chaotic. But in the house, one is no longer aware of the storms outside. The storms that can lift us and beat us down. Our institutions must have windows. An inhabitant may wish to look out and, sometimes, leave. Our doors must be open. But windows are safe. Look out, see the storms, and then find solace in the house. Not ignorant of the storms, but not willing to enter the eye of it either. Gather strength, hold hands and then move out to face it, knowing the house exists. And my houses are not palaces. For as Baudelaire said, "In a palace, there is no place for intimacy.”
And we come to condensation, not the states before or after the process of condensing, namely vapour and water. But what is of interest to me is the act of condensing. The centre of condensing is neither vapour nor water. We are vapour and water both. And in our centres, we remain that with the hope of condensing to a more solid form, liquid being more solid than vapour. But we are in no hurry. Our institutions are Borgesian labyrinths. Showing a path but leading astray, or so it seems.
My institutions, like my kids at school, cannot be all that I dream. But it has the potential to be. And that it is key. Having potential is more valuable than the actuality of it. Giorgio Agamben has privileged potentiality over actuality: “that which is not (ta mē onta) is stronger than that which is”. As long as there is the potential of the Borgesian Pierre Menard, a Cervantes lives in me.