Category Archives: Hartog


People in search of a presentist experience need only look around them at certain cityscapes, replicated across the globe, for which the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas has invented the concept “Generic City,” associated with the notion of “Junkspace.” This is where presentism is really at home, eating up space and reducing or banishing time. The Generic City, freed from its enslavement to the center, is without history, even if it goes to great lengths to advertise its pseudo-historical district, where history is a service provided, complete with quaint trains and horse-drawn carriages. And if, despite everything, a center survives, it has to be at once “the most old and the most new,” “the most fixed and the most dynamic.” As the product of “an encounter between escalator and air-conditioning, conceived in an incubator of Sheetrock,” Junkspace never ages: it knows only self-destruction and on-site rebuilding or else almost instantaneous dilapidation. Airports, completed or (constantly) under construction (the ubiquitous “Work in progress. We apologize for the temporary inconvenience caused”) have become emblematic of the Generic City. They are forever transforming and mutating, while imposing ever more complex trajectories on their temporary inhabitants. As bubbles of expanding, transformable space, they epitomize Junkspace, and are its principle producers. Such space leaves no trace in our memories, because “its refusal to freeze ensures instant amnesia.” But can one actually live in a presentist city?

— Hartog, Regimes of Historicity (tr. Brown)