INGOLSTADT, or the anti-modern travel à la Mary Shelley.
On the eve of leaving for many months kicking and riding solitary, when a good bunch of parameters have been left open and a just a few milestones put down to ignite improvisation, while I don’t know yet if I’ll have the physical and material means to drive this Europe tour by fatback to its end, I have a certainty, though.
The quest throwing me into the adventure is and will be marked by strong moments, and I will try not to forget their ability to shed light, to indicate how one should wander on the path. There is a simple evidence of such moments, such beacons sparkling at the horizon, past and future. Thus I would like to place the beginning of the trip under the sign of the note I write in Ingolstadt, on the 23th of August 2015, during the Nantes-Budapest challenge. It was perhaps the most dense and lived to the full day, when everything seemed to fit together and make sense, with that passing evidence ethics requires, come the time of taking a first step (go into action):
D23- INGOLSTADT, or the anti-modern travel à la Mary Shelley. Note on an ongoing anarchist trip.
// nb: anarchist won’t mean (and rarely means) a world without law and order, but worlds that don’t rely on an etatic structure or on a multi-national logic to rise and cohabitate. An earth on which the making and justice of those worlds are the fact of many groups of individuals with shorts networks, rather than fact of a few individuals with long networks. A wild ethics of a civilized life. //
Sunday the 23rd of August, I stand at the heart of Bayern, in the town of Ingol, where I left my footbike in the closet for a day, after 1700km kicked through France, Switzerland and Germany. It’s a bit random that I’m resting here: the pause is dictated by the particular rythm and mean of my travel, and by the emerging memory of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein read, whose bold doctor elaborates a modern science from which he will suffer bad consequences, in that very town, regional and historical capital.
I travel alone, self supported, with the strict minimum, with my footbike and thanks to my own energy. I sleep in the fields, in the woods, under a roof sometimes in average and big towns, trying to live of few and simple things.
It’s not a temporary and floating whim: I’ve put most of my safe money in the project and stopped working as a freelance graphic designer. It’s a way of looking how to live well and act well, from the part of the world I was born in, and if possible in collaboration with my peers. I’m determined to experiment an elementary form of adventure, minimalist and based on solidarity, and to explore the possible meeting points between an initiatic trip and a public mobilization for urgent causes. A kind of experiment a wanderer from two centuries ago could probably not have made, unless he would have published regular stories in a newspaper thanks to the telegraph or the post, at a different pace, but without immediate feedbacks of a community. If I’m promoting such an alrernative (to tourism, organised trips, cars, planes, consomption of cutural products) way of discovering the world, it’s nonetheless exempt of artefacts and technics from my time, a time crazy about virtualized communication (the note for example is redacted in a phone, after I threw a plan on paper).
I have not taken stock yet, not drawn any conclusion about that strange mix of things, but I’ve thought, from memory and for two days, about what the Frankenstein of M. Shelley could tell me and why this restday becomes a strong symbol, a subjective punctuation at that point in the challenge.
Here is what came to mind, fighting on the kick scooter, and that I sum-up here, in Ingolstadt, on the Parade Platz, by a sunny and windy day, at the terrasse of a cafe I stumbled upon, gently named Tagtraume: awaken dream!
1 – General idea : Shelley or the anarchist traveler.
I reckon that it seemed to me, innocently reading the book, that Frankenstein was a classical critic of science immoderation, a romantic anti-modernist tale. Now I thought one could add another reading to the work: a real dialectical typology of the traveller. And it even seemed that M.S offered us a kind of medecine against the total locking, by the institutionnal and scientific discourses, of a number of fundamental issues: identities, the nature of things,
lifeforms and praxis, whether one would talk about nations, individuals, the world, the notion of “other”, or the living-together. That medecine would be the Monster without a name, the wanderer of territories. He who profundly wishes to be (more) human, elaborates his augmented humanity by the mean of the trip, of observation, of immediate encounters.
A making of one’s own not without a certain violence of emancipation… Perhaps one mirroring that of his creator-doctor. But passed to litterature by a tale made by a woman at the very beginning of the 19th century: I was very pleased to discover then a feminist, anarchist and incredibly ethical novel.
2 – The mainstream thesis: modern science victim of its own dementia.
A short summary says well how we often remembers the book: an obsessive scientist (Frankenstein) gives life to a strange creatures made of bits and pieces. Before the horror of his work, he runs away, leaving the monster by himself. That one decides then to travel the world, from which he’s generally chased away, until he finds refugee in a hole at a farm, spending his whole time watching a family, learning their language and habits, reading books… Once again banished when found, he seeks Frankenstein to ask him for female fellow creature. But is said no, and promises to have revenge, by killing the whole doctor’s family, which he does, including Victor.
The usual morality: the promethean immoderation of modern science bears terrible consequences, and can not lead to a better world.
3 – another interpretation: a typology of travellers. Two journeys in tension.
I remembered then how the book is made of tales of journeys. Protagonists exploring, running away, looking for, chasing, hiding, making new paths, wanting to meet others… And I think it’s in the very nature of those movements that lie the discreet but philosophical lessons of Mary Shelley.
The educated man runs away from the radical alterity he’s given birth to, working alone at the laboratory on the laws of life and death, that is, by fantasizing the other and making him under his own personnal laws, to which he tries to add a total post-birth control! His journey is one of a man who’s afraid of an Other he has fabricated in order to control him.
On the other side, a creature without a name that wanders in the worlds, and tries desperatly to become absolutly human, by observing and getting close to civilization. With a key part about a life of frugality in a small shelter, observing the daily life of a family he would like to become a member of, reading, exchanging with his peer the blind father. His journey is that of an adventurer looking for answers, a sort of Bildungsroman, in which the hero gets close to the Other by becoming familiar with the others.
Two travellers then, two ways of being in contact with the other, each time fantasized and envied, but one ethical answer to the issue of origins, of the background, of the living in, of the acting: the dialectics of identity is violent, but it should be inscribed in a fair search of the similar humanity in the other, beyond the basic alterity, in the structure of the mutual fantasies, or by surpassing them, in order to fully become that human animal (an answer shared by the two of them, wanting to have a family or to protect one’s family), able to make meaning and relationships, with fairness and measure.
04 – To conclude, to you, to us: let us be that beast, that anarchist monster!
By overstepping the nihilistic attempt of Dr. F. at a total mastering of the living rules, the creature becomes a creator of humanity and possible worlds. It’s the anarchist lesson of the monster-traveller.
It happened whilst kicking through Bayern, that I wondered what I’d do, come to meet the famous creature. And then I felt like, I got conscious that I was that thing animated with life, getting across the grassy plains with a light foot, seeking refugee where no one was looking, when no one was looking, observing the moon and stars when suddenly waken up at night, loving my solitude of an emancipated woman, but always looking for contacts and peers, for practical answers to the finitude of a human life, curious of reading, of speaking, of understanding other languages, configurations, ideas, wishing to live simply, happily, like each one of us, but without the unfair violence of a system-world on autopilot mode, patenting, reducing and ruling the whole living world that includes us, in order to add profit to profit, to accumulate (infinite poverty of such a logic), when we should invent, give birth to an infinity of spaces, of relationships, of things that every one of us is capable of making.
One does not modify the trajectory a the spaceship planet alone. Many yet are acting, living, and debating so that a good life becomes possible. But it’s obviously not enough!
Thus I invite you to be a greater number, to experiment that type of travel, to invent your travel, your own action. Let us become beasts and monsters, let us populate countrysides paths and underwoods with our howlings, mountains and towns with our relentless laughs, deployed as happy remedies to the sadness of illusions, of false choices, let us dig and live in a hole near the village, or in a hut above the fields, under the moss in the deepest woods, or let us bring all that back into towns, or in a rudimentary home in the heart of a place, let’s track beings that live on our territories to meet them, look for the inhabitant that does not speak like us, learn to speak like him, let’s not say yes tomorrow maybe anymore, let’s begin, let’s continue at once to own back our particular languages, cultures, skills, families, groups, commons, far, so far away from the delusional pleasure of products consumption, from sluggish injonctions, from compulsory order to residence of deadly concepts, let us not still believe that one can do this or that when it’s exactly the same life path well traced, let us think about what we would really want to do, what really makes us dream, and so let us do it now, here, let us be, together, responsible creators of our trajectories, of our worlds, of our life!6 (Thanks, keep going !)