If every place (topos) has its own particular way of being, its manner, then the particularity of the utopian consists in imagining a place that does not exist, at least not yet, anywhere in the world. Nonetheless, this place at least appears in the fantastic form of a reality, whose excess of possibility founds a place not entirely unimaginable. Since this place has not yet taken place it is at the same time the reverse side of an anywhere, showing up in long since buried or destroyed places. The eternally irretrievable loss of such places has left behind a wound deep enough to make us shudder at the mere thought of any better, i.e. utopian, worlds still vaguely testifying to those downfalls. Each utopia compulsively repeats a fully forgotten prototype that has always already been consigned to history. At the same time it remains in suspension, unceasingly pending its promised fulfilment in reality. One day, on the devastated surface of reality, like an island hidden in the depths of the soul, those possibilities will come back that reality once held out to us, and now, amidst inexplicable troubles, increasingly withholds, compelling us to seek their semblance in an entirely open future.

The reality of the utopia is thus nothing other than its unrealised potentialities. These produce the imaginary excess that invests utopian places with their particular appearance. Utopian thinking always takes its departure from the present reality that is to be left behind. This present always pre-structures the yearned for nowhere according to the constraints of its own possibilities, because the nowhere is the mere realisation of that excess determined by reality. The possible can become real because it is nothing more than a mode of the real. It distinguishes itself from the real solely in that it does not yet exist. Possibility and reality are not the two sides of the one coin supplying an event with present and future reality but rather constitute together, like twin stars, the world about us from which the utopia derives its magic.

The event, however, is more than its possible realisations. Its distinguishing feature is the intensity with which it causes all reality to lose control of itself, to go out of itself. This transgression in turn represents an excess over reality itself, an excess that has nothing in common with that of utopian possibility. It is the excess of the outer as it exceeds the inner and nevertheless appears and finally takes on real shape within this inside. All realisation or potentialisation is the figuration of this intensity, although never able to exhaust it, never able to cast the irrupting force of a haunting into perfected form. This inexhaustibility, which first appears when all possibilities have been exhausted, constitutes the other side of the event. As long as the utopia projects a possible reality it betrays that absolute intensity of the event, which by definition cannot be realised but instead tears open an indefinite, in-between space within the present reality. Such a space, occupying the differential zone between event and reality, is not existent but instead insistent within this reality as its own inexhaustible event. The manner of this in-between world, which puts on hold the process of realisation in order to transpose the world into a state of tension or tensed-up floating, is one of insistence or suspense - intensity without reality

So if utopia nowhere exists except as an excessive possibility, then atopia is that place that will take place neither anywhere nor anytime, precisely because it is a pure excess of the event and as such itself the very impossibility of taking place. In this sense, atopia designates not merely a place fundamentally without place, a place without the least territory, but rather precisely the sheer lessness of place in general: Vorort, Abort, Unort (pre-place, toilet, non-place). This place without place can no longer be grasped in terms of the real or the possible since it causes them to be overridden in order to reassume the point from which it itself came into being. Such an atopian operation, which counter-realises a world, suspends all realisations of the event and lets them enter a zone of indefiniteness, in which a world could occur at any moment, but has always already taken place. The atopia is a zone of intensity characterised less by its extension than by its tension, a tension it unfolds in the deepest interior of reality itself. In this it commits a type of treason against the present reality, while retaining its loyalty to the event of that reality by virtue of effecting a renewal of its intensity. The atopia repeats not only the as yet unrealised, which was also still possible, but thoroughly corrupts it by remaining unreservedly united with what expresses itself in the event, with the critical impulse of the happening itself, with its ethical exuberance.

What emerges into prominence in the thinking of the atopia is the attempt to grasp the singularity of an event even before it has become realised in inevitably specific structures of reality. Within this attempt the event manifests itself as the excessive intensity of a given situation, always continues to subsist in its realisations. That means it does not cease to seize or haunt these realisations by transposing them into a state of tension, suspending them there or exposing them to an uncanny suspension that penetrates the inner structures from without, decaying them, making them go out of themselves, lose control. It is in this way that the atopia designates the without, the lessness pertaining to any place. This in turn points to the way in which counter-realisation operates as radically distinct from utopia, which is phantasmatic realisation. Whereas utopia is specifically capable of being shaped, the particularity of the atopia is its radical formlessness, an indefiniteness that testifies to that zone of intensity in which all things are in continual becoming. However, this in no way means that atopia is incapable of becoming visible or being thought. The event possesses an explicit blurriness, like a fog enveloping an island whose emergence is inseparable from a continual submergence. We can equate this procedure with the event itself, whose force of tension exerts itself in two directions at once - toward the construction of reality and toward the pure potential of the happening itself. This makes immediately apparent how this movement creates a weird sort of place populated by uncanny creatures, ghostly forms and unnatural hybrids. Hence, Atopia is the contemplation of a zone as real as it is unreal, in which everything, before being something definite, exists as the excess of its own becoming. Not only do the beings (Wesen) that commit their misdeeds there (ihr Unwesen treiben) have an inter-existence, they also make manifest the border drawn between nothingness and being by virtue of being indistinguishable or indifferent. They thus provide testimony on a state of the world that never exhausts itself either in its possibilities or realities and which we must therefore think of as the inexhaustible in itself. The atopia is that place outside the world in which the world reaches beyond itself by reaching out of itself into itself in order to once again realise the impossible and so yield itself up to the inexhaustible.

Utopias describe places whose realisation is still pending within the temporal. However, the planning of what that will involve in detail has already begun to effect change. As though the plenitude of all the things that will go to make up our yearned-for reality, some evening in the far off future, were poking into time, emitting a fantastic force whose efficacy appears to issue forth from out lost and forgotten past. The time of utopia is accordingly without present because it connects the powerless loss of what never appeared with the agonising hope for that which never will happen, such that the presence of their intensity permanently distributes und divides itself into those times in which our being is torn apart. To resist this breaking test imposed by the utopian requires a precise blueprint of the place where happiness leaps over the present in the belief of its ability to conduct the past into a new future. Any definition of a utopia, of the measure of its possible realisation, constitutes the necessary veil that covers over the hole in time - the lack of intensity that obliterates the present in order, supposedly, to rediscover it in other times. Utopia means returning prior to turning away.

The atopia, on the contrary, possesses no place but rather the intensity of an event that bursts into time from the outside in order to provide space for another temporality. This temporality can only be defined as indefinable, quivering and rigid, inwardly vibrating, with all realisation within time suspended and incapacitated, so that the present receives a split whose opening reorganises the relation between past and future. The core of the atopian is that something happens. What it will be, however, remains, from the point of view of this event, entirely without reality. The intensity of all appearance not only effectively influences the future, which is ignited by the occurrence in order to convey it into a coming present, but influences also the past that is changed and reshaped according to the event, rising up as it does out of a fundamental forgetting, a past that has not passed, rising up to place kisses on our souls. In the end, the atopian is the fissure from which an intensity of the new, the other, the impossible, comes out, now tearing us really apart and making us lose control, as though happiness were only to be found in this crying out, the happiness of rising up out of heavy fog as a ghost that can't be told apart from it. From now on, in the atopia, haunting means becoming imperceptible.

Christian Driesen
Translation: Steven Black

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