If we didn’t know that the local was local it would be for us a little globality. The local is revealed as the global makes itself possible, and necessary. Go to work, do your shopping, travel far from home, this is what constitutes the local, which otherwise would more modestly be the place where we live. All the same, we live strictly speaking nowhere. Our existence is simply divided into layers of schedules and topologies, in slices of tailored life.
Tiqqun, Notes on the Local
How do we make ourselves feel “at home” in the world?
Consider how we decorate the interiors of our homes or our rooms. If you are like me, you design posters and create collages to draft up on your walls. You might take a piece someone else created and mash it up a bit with your own material, and hang that somewhere you’ll always run into it. You may write notes to yourself and tac them up near your desk. These are just some of the things people do. Maybe you paint images directly on the wall, or place objects in a specific ordering. The arrangement of objects can be like a ritual. I know someone who makes paper roses and place them into jars, and someone who maps out their menstrual cycle and draws it on the ceiling.
In any case, we have sincerely personalized the space around us, to make it our own. We are the artists of our own lives, at least in this space, at least in this respect. Thus far we are solitary practioners of this personal art.
What disturbs me is that I am not an artist of the world around me, beyond my solitary confinements, as much as I try. I am not an artist of the public space, and no one else is either. Nothing around me is personalized, though for some reason people talk about it like it is. “My city,” “My neighborhood,” etc. Even so, why should we feel “at home” in the world anyway? The only spaces we are supposed to feel at home in are monitored spaces, shopping spaces, and spaces we pay someone else directly to use. The parks we cannot make ourselves at home in. The streets neither. None of the spaces around us can be personalized at all, and hence we cannot be artists of these spaces.
I have tried to interject my ideas into mundane spaces as I conquer my layered schedule, as I wander through slices of the alienated life. I think that by extending my personal space into the world, I can transform the things around me into my personal wall, my personal stairwell, my personal desk. In fact there are many layers of personalization, because they do not belong to just me, but everyone else who’s life they’re apart of too. I want my world to feel personally intersected with other peoples’ world because it makes me feel connected to these surroundings, and by extension, to other people. It makes my surroundings feel lived in, cared for. I consider this a tiny revolution worth fighting, a small victory for raising consciousness.
So what is the local, if not something that could be profoundly personal? Personalization is the advantage the local has over the global, which by sheer proximity is entirely impersonal, and entirely representational. “The world is becoming global, but it is also shrinking,” the Tiqqun author says. Local space is becoming a tool for global space, and at the same time, the local is becoming untouchable for us who live here. And after we become artists of the local, artists of the spaces we inhabit, we still have a much greater art to realize — namely, to become artists of the social and economic situation altogether.