The ground. What happens when it is pulled out and ‘worked on’ by materials scientists, physical chemists, and metaphysical alchemists; stretched and pressed, cooked and spread, stacked and strained? If a hole is that odd thing regarding which the more you take away from it the bigger it gets, the ground is always just as oddly what inexhaustibly remains. This is the strange spatial logic 154321_138837856171370_4491548_nof the underground: going under the ground one finds oneself surrounded by the ground. Even below ground we are above the ground, not of the ground. Not yet. Is one now in the ground? Or in a hole in the ground? A tunnel, a cave, hell, a grave, or a conduit, a building, a city, etc. It gets specific, but in each case we see that sort of thing which keeps getting bigger the more we pull out of it; the more we ‘bring to light’, or rationalize, the more we make communicable; the more we encode or encrypt. The more squalid prisoners we liberate from Plato’s infernal cave, the larger that voidal, infernal realm uncannily becomes; more complex in its systems of tunnels, more unexpected in its twists and turns, its conflations and its occlusions…

What happens to the material that is extracted, subtracted from the inexhaustible ground? We turn it into infrastructure; an essentially subterranean entity, occluded from us, like Heidegger’s hammer. We use it to make more holes, and to hold open and enlarge the ones we’ve made previously. The frames of tunnels resemble the hulls of ships in a way similar to how the branches of veins resemble the branches of rivers. The ground becomes an abyss, and history becomes a nightmare, as Joyce had Stephen Dedalus say. Perhaps then Hell is merely a fallen city? Or is it that a lower or inner city is like a kind of Hell (and memory a kind of dream)? This is the difficulty of talking. From deep in this gut, up through an opening, through a channel, into a resonant chamber–perhaps an ear canal–we are always already tunneling; the underground proves elusive, a figure of speech. The figure of speech (encryption).

coalintothemineJust what are we doing when we talk about the underground? What are we saying? And conversely what does the act of actually going underground say? Or of never going underground? The mythological force of the underground permeates our sense of things, and yet like the ground itself, evades our efforts. Tunneling, then, is always a kind of ‘quantum exploration’ involving discontinuities, strange counter-topological effects, teleportations, and retrodeterminations of the “now where have we gotten to?” variety. One never really knows where one might end up.

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