Chora Project

Considering that my presentation on Foucault yesterday went a bit long (sorry about that), we didn’t get a chance to talk about our chora projects in class. It was suggested that we could blog about them instead, though, so here we go.

The location I chose was Jane Bond in Waterloo, mainly because I have a lot of fond memories of the cafe it used to be back in 1994—Acid Sweetness. When I was in my last year of high school (during the aforementioned 1994), I ran with a very artistic crowd. One of the ideas we came up with was a concept we called the “Psychic Sandbox.” Basically, in a rather pretentious turn of phrase, a person’s Psychic Sandbox was where an artist found the voices of the muses spoke the loudest. It is where an artist does his or her creative thinking, where inspiration often strikes. Everybody had their own personal Psychic Sandbox (or a few of them), but we also identified certain places that were “Collective Psychic Sandboxes,” where we enjoyed working on collaborative artistic pursuits. One of those places was Acid Sweetness.

At the same time as exploring the relationship between the Psychic Sandbox and chora, I also explored the concept of the genius loci, the “spirit of place.” The three concepts actually dovetailed into each other rather nicely, even though it seems on the surface that chora and genius loci are pretty much polar opposites (chora being an unformed, non-physical, difficult-to-define thing and genius loci being embodied and defined by an actual physical space). I think I did a good job of explaining it in my concluding paragraph:

Even though “one cannot get to, acheive, expose, define, determine or reveal chora, one cannot ‘give form to the meaning of chora’” (Derrida 151), one can do all those things with genius loci. It can be gotten to, achieved, exposed, defined, and revealed. It is not just contained in a physical place, “The genius of places lurks there; or, more strictly, he is it” (Lee 13). Its meaning is its form. Chora and genius loci are opposites in many ways, but they can indeed be related, and even contain each other. Just as the Timaeus continually unravelled itself in imitation of chora, so too does the genius loci of a specific place reinvent itself over and over again. The genius loci of Acid Sweetness encompasses and contains chora. The concept of chora also encompasses and contains the idea of the Psychic Sandbox, a place for continual creation and the raw potential of new ideas. The Psychic Sandbox encompasses and contains genius loci, being tied to and unified with both physical place and spiritual purpose. All three encompass and contain each other, over and over again – a mise en abyme with no end.

One of the neat things I found while researching my topic was the Waterloo Directories in the Local History room at the Waterloo Public Library. There’s a volume for each year from the present day continuously back to 1960, and then sporradically from then to 1899. You can actually look up a specific address in either Kitchener (Berlin in the earlier directories) or Waterloo, and it will tell you what was there (company, or name and occupation of resident). I found myself looking up a bunch of completely unrelated places simply out of interest. A bit of a time-sink, but an interesting one.

— Sarah

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