The formal pursuit of this peripheral environment begins with the series entitled, The Girl Who Lived in a Sign, following a girl who builds a house in the space between the faces of a roadside billboard.  Here she is absolutely hidden, as not only is she out of sight visually, but also socially:  few people would consider the narrow sliver of air inside a billboard to be usable space, and so would never even register its existence as they drive by at sixty-five miles an hour.  However, the girl has designed a wholly acceptable dwelling within these odd dimensions and, in so doing, created the perfect place to both hide and watch the oblivious city move beneath her.  A story accompanies this series, recounting the girl's adventures as she finds the sign, builds her house, installs a watching machine, and then draws a map derived from her observations (Chapters 1-3).  In so doing, she discovers an entire system of motion in the world below (Chapter 4), invents a means to control this movement herself (Chapter 5), and finally realizes that she must create a new city in her own image (Chapter 7); possible only after she has first negated a specific group of urban elements by capturing them in a machine that is powered by a manufactured gravitational source (Chapter 6). “Self Portrait” (Chapter 8), is both a discourse on her self-conceived tripartite representation, and a portal into this new city. In Chapter 9, the girl moves from simply watching and manipulating, to actually interacting with her environment. She soon discovers that, in reversing her process of isolation, she must now adhere to established cultural norms, and is compelled to make herself clothes;  specifically, a dress.  Able, then, to move through the streets less conspicuously, she notices that her perceptions have become somehow kinetic, in that the information she receives from her eyes seems to differ from other, more intuitive and abstract sensations.  She attempts to resolve this rather disconcerting three-dimensional palimpsestic impression of direction by recovering her magnetic sense (Chapter 10);  a sensory organ that she hypothesizes must have originally been more prevalent among the human race, having de-evolved with the advent of cartography.  In order to be able to understand, and therefore use, this new sense, the girl builds a map-making machine that allows her to track the variations between her visual and magnetic perceptions.


Time passes, and the girl finds one day that she is finished.  She has detected, analyzed and documented all of the city's secrets.  In doing so, she finally resolves her peripheral relationship to it, establishing an omniscient, yet distinct, separation between herself and the organism.  A consequence of this resolution, however, is a change in the city, as it reacts to the redirection of the energy flow generated by these new voids.  To re-establish equilibrium, she will create her own secrets and insert them into the system.  This incorporation requires a conduit between her body and the city, a bridge that allows the girl to breach the boundary of the surface and anchor herself in the soil below.

So, the girl pierces a hole in the earth and digs a foundation.

The ability to predict―foreseeing, in advance, an outcome by means of special knowledge or inference―is the machine that drives sentient motion.  Without it, all movement would be frozen, obstructed by the lack of any decision-generative information.  A secret is an unpredictable condition, by definition―or, rather, "prévisible" (French; predictable), the existence of which may be assumed, even desired, but is deliberately prevented from becoming visible.  The city maintains these secrets, and the girl transforms them into empirically verifiable elements.

Now obliged to build, the girl designs conduit devices that anchor each structure into the whole.  She considers the two fundamental modes of construction, new and existing, focusing on the interaction between the states of predictability of existing environments and that of an hypothetical intervention.  These states range from unpredictable undisturbed earth, to partially (where visible) predictable existing foundations, to predictable existing structure above ground.  Reflecting the interdependent nature of the urban ecosystem, the girl adopts an organic nomenclature to describe these interactions:  Germinate, Graft and Splice.  Germination represents the abiogenetic generative potential between unpredictable undisturbed earth and a predictable new building;  grafting, the mutually beneficial exchange between a partially predictable state (via visual inspection above ground) and predictable new structure built upon it;  and splicing becomes an ectoparasitic relationship between the predictable nature of an existing structure and a predictable new structure that is dependent on the host, but not harmful to it.  Upon completion, new is transformed into prévisible, and entropy decelerates.

The devices are the architectural manifestations of these interstitial spaces, and act as conduits between the girl and the city.  Inserted secrets will be supported by one, or all three, of these foundations, as appropriate.




The girl is interested in secrets*.

*Secret,  (sē’krĭt):  A condition or phenomenon intentionally kept hidden from knowledge or view; concealed. 

[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin secretus, from past participle of secernere, to set aside : se-, apart; see s(w)e- in Indo-European roots + cernere, to separate.  Latin, secreta:  a prayer said in a low voice just before the preface of mass.]


Elizabeth Stevenson


5:29:00 PM