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Seen on Google Maps, the Chiasso railway network looks like a frayed rope. The route of the tracks follows the foothills of the Penz mountain and then, when it returns, it divides the map of this town located on the border between Switzerland and Italy. Amateur botanist Ernesto Schick (1925-1991) spent a decade studying the wild flora that grew in the vicinity of the Chiasso International Railway Station. Schick identified more than 700 plant species, some of them in danger of extinction. The conclusions of his meticulous work would later be published in the volume Railway Flora (1980), a study carried out outside of the academy but one which would exert a significant influence both in the field of science and in the field of landscape theory. In addition to its value in terms of the study of nomadic ecosystems, Schick´s research and the formulation of this new botanical category renewed interest, regardless of the discipline, in identifying and thinking about other forms of weak and mutant coexistence sustained by megastructures such as the Chiasso train station.
The aim of this issue, succinctly titled Transportation, is to broaden discussion about passenger transport and it does so, on the one hand, by playing with the notion of infrastructure and making it elastic and, on the other, favoring a form of writing that, due to its exploratory nature, assumes a weak and marginal position within the framework of the debate that concerns us. I think of these texts as if they were the herbs that Schick sketched in his notebook, growing in a place that apparently does not belong to them.
In Tracción (Traction), Antoni Hervás writes in first person about the impact of transportation on his artistic practice, at times a common thread that unites his work while at other times as a final phase of the production that affects the format of its presentation. Writing constitutes an important part of Pol Merchan´s work. In his Travel Diaries, he re-reads the writings of David Wojnarowicz and Ida Applebroog, texts that undo the separation between public and private events and which in their capacity to stir emotions expose another modality of mobility, that of the inner journey. Miquel À. Riera writes about “poorly communicated places” to reveal the unequal distribution of territory, establishing a link to the inability of generating meaning: what is the relationship between infrastructure and language? Huw Lemmey offers a brief history of the London Underground, with reference to episodes that have contributed to its definition as a cultural icon and as a total work of art. Lastly, in Feathery Body Logistics, Aimar Arriola describes Miguel Benlloch’s performance entitled Transit to speak about the transportation of bodies, of round trips, of “propagating capacity” and of flourishing and circulating without fear. The texts freely dialogue with infrastructure and at the same time describe the ambivalent, intimate but radically impersonal nature of our relationship with systems of mobility and with the possibility of transporting ourselves.
"A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world" (John Le Carré)