Wenn ich aus dem Haus gehe und ganz selbstverständlich die Rue Saint Jean hinuntergehe und der Bäcker grüßt mich beim Vorbeiehen, oder wenn ich nach Limoliou laufe und in den Aufzug du Faubourg steige und vorher schaue, ob neue Texte auf der gelben Wand dazugekommen sind; wenn ich also aus dem Haus gehe und die mir mittlerweile bekannten Wege gehe, denke ich daran, wie ich hier vor fünf Wochen ankam, das erste Mal zum Supermarkt ging, das erste Mal am Theater Periscope vorbei, das erste Mal ins Literaturhaus, dann denke ich auch daran, dass ich diese Angst hatte, die ich immer an unbekannten Orten habe. Wie ich versucht habe, mich zu zwingen, diese Angst nicht zu haben, ich sagte mir, langsam müsstest du doch wissen, wie es ist, an fremden Orten zu sein, sie tun dir nichts. Doch es half nichts.
Eine Leserin hat mir geschrieben, dass sie einen Ort nicht nur nicht nur über optische Eindrücke oder Ästhetik definiere, sondern gerade an diesen so bezeichneten „Nicht-Orten“ Gerüche und Temperatur, Menschenmassen oder Menschenleere wahrnehme.
13.09. In the Algonkin language, Kebec designates the place where the river becomes narrow. The Algonkin (also: Algonquin) are a tribe of northarmerican natives who belong to the First Nations of Canada and their language root is one of the widest-spread in North-America. Kebec ist not only a poetic depiction of a true place but also an appropriate description. Coming from Montreal and the Big Lakes, the Sankt-Laurence-River becomes quite narrow and measures at its most narrow spot 640 meters. And after that it does three really surprising things.
In the Galeries de la Capitale, it’s a mega shoppingmall as large as a village, you will find every known and unknown chain in the world.
And also in Place Saint-Foy, I was strolling around a mall without end; that is a place, where people don’t evenhold the door open for each other. They are the same people but the place gives their encounters another meaning. One walks straight through the mall without an aim, the place makes clear what it wants. Buy, buy, buy, don’t waste time on odds-and-ends.
In contrast, on the Escalier de Faubourg one may become unintentionally involved into conversations with strangers. For example the french-spanish speaking canadian, who asks me, where I come from and if I was going to Limoliou. Yes sure. Oh well Limoliou, he responded, as we were descending the staircase, he had lived there with his wife, before she threw him out. C’est dommage, I said, and he said, nous sommes encore des amis. We are still friends.
Places are places where you can tell your sad stories as well.
So why don’t we turn malls into real places where we can tell each other our saddest stories – even if it’s just a story about the shopping malls.
During my wild researches about place, space and identity I ran into the Canadian geographer Edward Relph. Already in the 1980s, he wrote the book Place and Placelessness, which deals with the topics of space and place and in this context he also was the first one to write about the phenomenon of placelessness. We maintain relationships to places as we do to people, but libraries are full of the latter and no one writes, let alone talks, about the former. Relph looks with growing concern at how non-places have taken over public space. Non-places are, for example, shopping malls, airports, highways, supermarkets, but also refugee camps and waiting halls in government offices – they are places whose aesthetics are defined by criteria of functionality and effectiveness. They look the same everywhere, they are immune to external influences and they do not change, in short: people who spend time there cannot identify with them.
Stairs are major elements of the landscape of Quebec-City, because upper town and downtown display tremendous differences in height and there are excentric stairs to connect the levels. For example, the oldest staircase in town is L’Escalier Casse-Cou translated as: the neckbreck stairs. Or L’Escalier du Faubourg, which is even more precipitous than the neckbreck stairs and which links the quarter Saint-Jean-Baptiste to Saint-Roch. Pedestrians who don’t feel like taking the stairs can use the lift on the Rue Saint-Vallier for free; its entry is hidden in a kiosk – an occurence I really deem remarkable.