Constance Book No.2

The Unconscious of
New Orleans

By Tim Lachin

The first maps of New Orleans show a city surrounded by levees: on one side, water; on the other side, a city. For New Orleans to come to be as a subject, the water had to be buried. But water cannot be buried. As a child I once dug a hole at the edge of Lake Pontchartrain. A few feet down, water began to seep up into the bottom of the hole. It was an ontologically disorienting experience. How can land stand on water?

The history of New Orleans is the history of the struggle against the swamp. The levees grew with the city that the French called the Island of New Orleans, and the water has always determined its contours. The recent history of the city has seen the total intramural banishment of water. The canal that linked downtown New Orleans with Lake Pontchartrain was filled in in the 1920’s. By 1950, the swamps that were located between the city and the lake had been entirely replaced by houses. Today, the levees are over twenty feet high. The Mississippi River is invisible, foreclosed from the city. Every single raindrop that falls from the sky in New Orleans must be pumped over the levee tops and into Lake Pontchartrain by mechanical means.

The expulsion of the water constitutes the act of inscription / expulsion that founded New Orleans. New Orleans has always fought and will always have to fight against this expelled substance. The water wants to return. The unconscious attempts to force its way back, manifesting itself through dreams, slips of the tongues, and hysterical afflictions. This endless striving of the unconscious to manifest itself is the final essence of drive. New Orleans only exists as such because it is always on the verge of drowning in its own unconscious.

Aerial rendering of Robert Moses’ plan for New Orleans: Steidinger Press Inc

At some moment in its history, New Orleans passed from a regime of repression, in which the unconscious returns periodically in small, controlled doses, to a regime of psychosis, in which an attempt is made to murder the unconscious. This attempt must fail. The unconscious is immortal, but its emissary is not. What is destroyed in the psychotic solution is not the unconscious but the symbol that would allow it to exist for itself. Castrated of its name, the unconscious can only return on dies nefasti to haunt reality in the form of psychic dark matter which exerts gravitation yet cannot be located. Ghost stories have their origin here. Psychosis constitutes a desperate survival technique: when the content of the unconscious is unbearable, its signifier must be destroyed. But the force with which the unconscious eventually returns is directly proportional to the force with which it has been banished. The psychotic mode of organization generates the desire for a violent breakdown that will sweep away reality and restore it on a more solid base. Here we find fantasies of apocalypse in which the yearned-for but thwarted dialectic of body and language is hallucinated in the mode of the Last Judgment: the sudden, brutal cataract of a lifetime’s worth of foreclosed drives.
Hurricane Katrina is the fundamental fantasy of New Orleans.

Excerpt Text: Tim Lachin, Image: Library of Congress, 1919

The Unconscious of New Orleans.

36pg. 2-color Risograph 1st Edition of 200.

The second in a series of trade-paperback publications that explore points of time within the New Orleans landscape- conceptually approaching them to allow us to rethink about less common tropes of what people feel our city is and isn't or ever was. $10.00 US.