DISAPPEAR HERE – WHAT’S IN THE NAME?
Many people have asked us – Why is the project called “Disappear Here”? What does the phrase mean? Where does it come from? We un-pick the cultural genealogy of DH...
Disappear Here, appears most famously in Bret Easton-Ellis’ debut novel, Less Than Zero [the Catch-22 of the 80s Brat Pack generation]:
I come to a red light, tempted to go through it, then stop once I see a billboard sign that I don’t remember seeing and I look up at it. All it says is 'Disappear Here' and even though it’s probably an ad for some resort, it still freaks me out a little and I step on the gas really hard and the car screeches as I leave the light.
It also features as the title for a number of other projects, songs and albums and various other cultural ephemera; it is hardly new, but utterly apt for a project about Coventry the city and its relationship to the ringroad.
For starters, the phrase has a similar linguistic construction to the oft-repeated, and lazily employed, expression: “Sent to Coventry”. This refers to a medieval practice of sending mis-behaving monks to Coventry, perhaps because it was felt to be more or less the middle of England at that time, and even in the UK it remains more or less geographically central city of the UK. In short, it appears to have been a mixed blessing.
I take a more positive angle on this coincidental clash of city dialects, an accidental dialogue between LA and Cov. In the above passage from LTZ, Ellis appears to be talking about the ease with which the individual is (sometimes happily) lost or subsumed by the urban cityscape, how disorientation sparks the classic self-loathing of reflected alienation – people getting frustrated with people.
The car in, in particular, the transport blood vessels of all major American cities, and increasingly the rest of the world, offers anonymity, aside from underground train systems or football stadiums, no united human movement creates a more cohesive but also diffracting experiences as the car, the pure push and pull of human traffic. Everyone is stuck and ideally, heading in more or less the same direction.
The flip side of this is the pedestrian, working in and around and sometimes against the massive flow of vehicles. They pass through lonely subways, possibly observed, or not, by fellow walkers, CCTV cameras or homeless people, who are inclined to use the womb-like shelters of the ringroad as a relatively quiet space to bed down, out of the weather.
The two systems, walkers and drivers are grist to each other’s mill, goldfish in opposite tanks; but only aware of the other in passing. The liminal spaces and interstices of a ringroad, like J. G. Ballard’s Concrete Island, a large roundabout under orbit of satellite roads, offer numerous wasted areas, non-spaces that fulfil no direct function, but are necessary holes within the whole – scrub ground of embankment where nothing grows because it gets no water or sunlight, subway tunnels (pure A-B conduits) and large triangular forks of filter junctions where people cross=over or split off from the main ring – all of these points have little or no purpose, they just are.
Equally untouched by human interference they have their own weather systems – see above – flora or anti-fauna – sit relatively timeless and un-weathered – they are the new synthetic wild – unchanging and more or less unknowable – they are anti-locations/filler points (places where nothing happens, like anywhere – Larkin). Easy enough to forget about, and to be forgotten, only observed outside of a fine continuum of routine; traffic in and out of junctions, passengers gazing blankly out of windows to glancingly catch rare occurrences from the car [such as DH artists photographing the traffic that is watching them as they are being photographed – an invisible line – crossed].
So what does this mean in relation to naming of the project? On the surface – not a lot, but it is this absence, the accidental nihilism, places seemingly stripped of possibility, where it seems ironically where and “when” almost anything could be allowed to happen, although, in a slightly zen fashion, perhaps when no-one else is around to notice it.
This is the message of “Disappear Here” – to look, and look again – in the cities tall buildings are a given – like trees in a forest, and the sky reduced to glass fragments – we don’t bother to look up. The freeway, like the ringroad, is an ideal place to lose yourself and to become lost – and find something unexpected. Where you are moving towards meaningful existence, an appointment, a happening, you are as in a dream or as the philosopher David Hume said: when asleep, you might be said not to exist” between in-betweens of near-nothingness. Before arriving, after leaving; we are merely “on our way”. The first line of LTZ perhaps best sums-up this feeling of hurried disconnection, the congealing of a swarm upon a fluxing wound that seems to hurry us on:
“People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles.”
It evokes fleeting motion of alienated individuals connected by mutual situation, funnelled through the social-geography of urban planning, interrupted and swept along by lanes and walkways, cocooned in cars or deep thought, metal boxes wheeling along/head-cases (brains in vats), in parenthesis of one another but also jostling for space and position, a struggle of coherence wriggling within a system.
So that’s some of the background behind the name and concept of the Disappear Here project – the ringroad as connective muscle built from vibrating filaments of flux, transition trapped inside the rigour of stasis. The artists who will be thinking, researching and journeying-through the city will re-make the ringroad as performance space, blank canvas and a jumping-off point for new exploration – inviting us all to merge and to disappear here...