The Medium City

The Medium City 

The grid of the streets, the numerical order of the avenues. The subway map. Ordered lines, everywhere.. The predictability patterns and the algorithms that govern the Stock Exchange, and by extension, much of our world. The assertiveness of the concrete skyscrapers. New York City seems to be the city where the trust in the powers of rational mind, human will and self-determination has attained its higher expression. Yet, everywhere one walks in the city, she sees adds for “Psychics”. Coming from Paris, I am struck by how many there are in NYC. Everywhere, in every neighborhood.  I have come to see them as the sign that the anthem that the city seems to be singing to positivism, is constantly playing on a very different background: one of uncertainty and longing to be comforted on what awaits for us – or, at least, foretold. 

I am not interested in the truthfulness of the psychics, the accuracy of their predictions, or the very existence of fate.

What I am interested in is the reason why the psychics flourish in this city. I want to link this practice to its social significance, in the very specific context of New York City. I see this exploration as an insight on the schizophrenia of contemporary society. On the one hand, our lives run more and more on computational predictability models. On the other hand, supernatural beliefs have never been as strong. What does this say about us, a Western society on the beginning of the 21st century?  I see here a tale of hidden resistance (though here the term is not to be intended politically) to the positivist spirit that dominates the Western capitalist culture, at least historically. But it is also the tale of a frailty that is both a social product – how is everyone supposed to “adapt” to the accelerating changes undergoing everywhere?- and an existential one – how are we to face without a flinch the unknown that awaits us ? 


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