To dale! or calmate…
A heartfelt attempt at intellectually engaging the idea of speed in relation to Miami
“…To empty the streets; it’s enough to promise everyone the highway.”
Literally everything is always moving. Sure, it’s a cliché statement, the sort of overwrought revelation likely to be had while congregating around the bong or bar or halls of academia; but nonetheless, it’s important to remember that movement is an indivisible property of existence, in terms physical, personal, cultural, political, spiritual, etc. For instance, imagine yourself standing on a street in Little Haiti and it’s 97 degrees at noon on a Sunday. You’re stunned because, at that moment, it’s so eerily quiet and empty, so very still that even the air seems immobile. Weird, right? It’s that feeling of unheimlich you get when some inhabited place just so happens to be completely devoid of life, despite all the built evidence to the contrary, the kind that strikes you deep when you’re the only soul around.
But even in those moments, you—well, the Earth, really—are in fact blasting through space at 1,000 miles per hour.1 Consider the micro end of this philosophical spectrum: atoms themselves are in a constant state of motion, even those that make up solid matter. There is a dizzying amount of movement in the universe, thank god there’s such a thing as relativity and perceptual fixes for reality’s utter chaos. It’s no wonder then that stillness and quietness are associated with being calm and stable—but why? There’s absolutely nothing in the cosmos or within us that is ever still, completely at rest. “What could be more queer than an atom?” asks Karen Barad, theorist and philosopher, in one of her papers. “And I don’t just mean strange. The very nature of an atom’s being, its very identity, is indeterminacy itself.”2
When my editor Nathaniel Sandler asked me to write about accelerationism—a dense thicket of postulations relating to po-mo concerns about capitalism, speed, and our collective hurdling towards some unknown inexplicable future—I was excited. A living wage to work on a mostly vague, too cerebral yet en vogue theoretical buzzword! On top of that, I get to write about it in relation to the city I was born and will probably die in.
However, my excitement morphed quickly into that species of dread that is only born from the sweetest irony: he told me I had a week to get it done. Full disclosure: I later found out that he said this as a way of encouraging me to write, to accelerate, not because it was a hard deadline. The method had the opposite effect; it stopped me dead in my tracks. (This, in a way, was a more perfect encapsulation of the times we live in than anything I could write, in the sense that we, as in all us humans and animals and clouds and robots, are being told that we face imminent threat and that we must make big changes before a looming deadline, but we’ve clearly missed the deadline, so what do we do?)
Three weeks later, this is what I wrote:
I was recently hanging out with artist Domingo Castillo3 in a park. Not in Miami, but in New York City, a place so entwined in Miami’s psycho-cultural development and expectations for itself. We were watching the pigeons swell up from one roof and land on another, when he pointed out that, in order to drive capital somewhere, you need to create desire first.
We got on the subject of Miami and he regaled me with a classic-if-little-known tale about Miami’s founding, one that some historians believe to be a myth. It was just after the great citrus freezes of 1894 and 1895, which severely devastated the orange industries just as they were poppin’ off. Julia Tuttle, the Mother of Miami, wanted to convince Henry Flagler (you guessed it—the Daddy) to extend his Florida East Coast Railway from Palm Beach. Henry was of course reluctant after seeing the damage that the freeze wrought, so Julia picked a bouquet of orange blossoms and sent them to him. “Here was proof, beautiful and fragrant, that there had been no freeze in the Biscayne Bay area.”4 Ah, what a romantic gesture, and for what is more sublimely enticing—the commodity, or the fetish?
Commissioned by the Miami Rail as part of its Field Perspectives series for Common Field