Scott Pound
Notes for a Talk on Place(less)ness


For me placenessness is very much the locus for actual communitites (as opposed to ideal communities which are always metaphorical). Placelessness is where the action is. What McLuhan emphasized as the "resonant interval", that middle distance where bodies collide, the bubble chamber and the diverse apparatuses of physics, placeless chambers where we learn how particles interact, and the shared space of two or more people talking which is never u-topian but always a-topian, neither yours nor mine nor ours but belonging to everyone and no-one, and the interval that persists as friction between two bodies that are touching.

"Place there is none; we go forward and backward and there is no place."

                                Augustine, _Confessions_

by way of the epigraph to MP's _Notes for Echo Lake_. From the Augustine quote you already have a micro-poetics, peripetaia, back and forthness (which Aristotle considered fundamental to tragedy) and the statement that the condition of placenessness is that of going back and forth, returning, repeating.

The one blurb on the back of _Notes_ sez: "The confident brilliance of this writing makes possible a PLACE where words initially engage their meanings--as if the edge of all 'creations' of all 'worlds'" (Robert Creeley). Strikes me that this PLACE, the place where word initially engage their meanings, is very much a placeless place, an atopian space, i.e. not really a place at all. Another micro-poetics

Placelessness should not be construed as a lack of place, i.e. forlorness or displacement per se, but as a productive and active thing that people feel and use, i.e. not a nothingness of any sort or means. Nor is placelessness the _opposite_ of place. So it's not the negation of some positive category. It is its own thing that lacks a name. It's very good the way it disassembles any attempt to put it somewhere, like the sense it seems to conjure.

Strikes me too that placelessness might productively linked with "outside(ness)" again thinking of Blaser, Agamben, and others, or relatedly, _désouvrée_. I think these notions form an assemblage: Nancy, Agamben and Blanchot all seem to want to talk about, without conceptualizing it, a placeless space that a) is active and does not issue from a lack, b) involves writing, and c) engages community.

"The taking place of things does not take place in the world. Utopia is the very topia of things" Agamben, The Coming Community

Blanchot's "the unworking" Agamben's "Whatever"


placelessness is the sense of place that is without category or necessary predicate and the incessant emergence that occurs there. McLuhan called it the "resonant interval."


place strongly implies occupation and propriety. A place you occupy that has proprietary limits: table 7, left-field, apartment 4b, head of the table, goal-tender, proper noun, room 212, the middle, by the door, in the band, master, slave, aisle 5, row 3, the hero, suite 700, husband, indirect object, inspector 7, out to lunch, animal-lover, tree-hugger, rag-picker, copula verb, leader of the free world, etc.

But placelessness also has its insidious aspects Bill Gates is trying to legislate a place in Windows for his Internet Explorer.

Floating capital

The so-called market _place_

Another essential feature of place is iterability: you can always make substitutions, the place will always be there, but the person or thing occupying it can change.

Place is easily represented on the dual axis of position: where it is and what is there: Joe Blow, district manager, Nanaimo. In this light, place is less an affirmation than a denial, a denial of force.

Place appropriates phenomena in their static moment.


        In March-
                        the rocks
                        the bare rocks
        speak! (242)

Let force appropriate phenomena in their active moment.

In fact place and representation, place and grammaticality, are inextricably linked. Place does not exist outside its own representabilty or without a grammar; place is representability, is grammar.

I've decided to create a map, using very broad strokes, of some of the features of placelessness in 20th C. thought. The apparent irony of mapping placelessnesses I will leave hanging, in a provacative way.

Why placelessness?

Increasingly, in order to do justice to the world in thinking/writing about it, there has to be recourse to an outside, a space outside the habitual domains of familiar discourses, phrase regimes, and logics. Heidegger made a wooly attempt at this and a not so wooly attempt. His theory of authenticity, the wooly attempt, posits a node deep within our being that calls us back from our throwness. A vital placelessness, which he calls 'care', calling us back from our lost placelessness in the prattle the world, or something like that. The not so wooly attempt, because it has been so influential, is the theory of ontological difference, the positioning of a gap between (small o) ontic and (capital O) Ontological being which gives us the distinction between small b and capital B Being. Heidegger may have been the first to try this: conceiving of an exigent non-place that was in no way transcendent in that it resided in language and spoke to us in a voice that was not our own and not the voice of God or
Nature. But that we heard a voice that was not our own is novel. Heidegger will be our archetypical schizophrenic.

What Lyotard calls the 'Inhuman'--a jolt to anthropomorphicism

"an other than the reasonable is said to enter into the real" (Blaser)

Kristeva takes about the 'outside' that is always already inside any closed set.

Perhaps place emerges out of our resentment for objects, loading objects with the weight of higher values like stability, permanence, and intelligibility. To love place is to despise objects?

But atoms know no place.

Olson's designation of Creeley as the "Figure of Outward," which is very interesting phrase

Placelessness is vital.

Clinamen, inflection, torque, force elude all sense of place as static /circumscribable / locatable.