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USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

You cannot kill the everyday

Everyday I eat.

Everyday I sleep.

Everyday I work.

Everyday I kill.

Killing is not an everyday activity, is it? A person has to complete a series of necessary activities in order to maintain their individual survival. As an adult, eating, sleeping, and working are some of the staple activities that make up what Henri Lefebvre labels as the everydayness. The media plays a tremendous role in advocating the perception that the day-in, day-out human activities that become repetitive over time help create a droll, uninteresting, and unattractive lifestyle (the everydayness). This idea is countered by the constant almost Chinese Government-like observation of the rich and the famous of society. When every breath and action of these select few are constantly being sought after, there is a creation of juxtaposition between those living a life of the everydayness, and those who are not. This notion of repetition that the majority of society experiences is demonstrated more intensely in the form of digital media, such as television, but especially in the realm of cinema. It is by telling tales and stories of grandeur and adventure through the medium of film that the public is given a two-hour long glimpse into the thrilling life that they are not living.

Fallen Angels, a film by Kar Wai Wong, offers both conflicting perceptions of what the everydayness is. The film chronicles several character stories, mainly that of Wong-Chi Ming, who works as a contract killer in modern day Hong Kong. The film is narrated at times by Ming, who describes his line of work nonchalantly and without the gravity that typically surrounds taking the life of another person. Killing is his everydayness, his reality, and his repetition. This notion of murder as an element of everydayness directly contradicts Henri Lefebvre’s labeling of violence and killing as an element of ‘noneverydayness.’ It is this noneverydayness that the public witnesses everyday on the local news. World catastrophes and notable social events are the blips in the transmission of everyday occurrences. However, the killer’s character is not that of Neo walking through the artificial landscape of The Matrix as an anomaly. Instead, the film has cast his character as one cog in the entire machine, nothing more. The fact that the character’s occupation as a contract killer is so outlandish to the viewer is not a result of anything the film has done to alter our mental construct, but that of the construct that society has already embedded in us that violence is not apart of the norm. (**Spoiler alert**Yes, the killer ultimately faces his end at the end of the film and fulfills one of the classic film endings of a character living the noneverydayness. However, this writer is reminded of a Joe Valachi quote, “you live by the gun, you die by the gun,” which is applicable to the everyday as well.

There are other characters in the film that convey more of the everydayness that Lefebvre was discussing, but not to its fullest extent. The character of the mute young man, He Zhiwu, does not live to the extremity of Ming, but carries about his life in odd ways, particularly through his nocturnal habits. One activity he partakes in is breaking into businesses at night and working. He even steals an ice cream truck and force-feeds an unfortunate passer-by who doesn’t want any ice cream. Zhiwu’s character still operates within the framework used to portray someone who doesn’t live within the everydayness of society as demonstrated in film. He is still a character that does outlandish things. It is interesting though that the elements of the everydayness are still present and are intertwined with the experiences of Zhiwu’s character, who undergoes the death of his father, which on the other hand is a common human experience.

The film successfully mocks the contemporary idea of what everydayness is with the portrayal the killer’s character. The fact that the setting for the film, until the end, is completely set at night further extends the concept of noneverydayness. It also blurs the boundary of what everydayness means and this in turn questions if and how the concept of everydayness is transitioning in the realm of globalization and what Lefebvre refers to as ‘superhumanism.’ Will the everydayness transition from being normal and repetitive to outlandish and constantly enthralling on a day-to-day basis? Hardly. As a result of globalization (and in a further case as a result of supermodernism), we are more likely to see a blurring of the everydayness across societal and cultural boundaries as people begin to become more acquainted with their international counterparts. As Ibeling discusses in his writing on supermodernism, with globalization and the mobility and connectivity it has nurtured, familiarity will soar as a result traveling and information access. The noneverydayness will become scarcer as people experience more and acquire more knowledge of the world they live in. Therefore, we are bound to see an increase in the intensity as well as a proliferation of the everydayness on an international scale.

Will we live in a world where people like Ming are described as living the everydayness?

The thought of it is killing me.

-Christopher Glenn

 

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AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Director:
Andrew Liang
Instructors:
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Students:
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu

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