Dark Matters explores the city at night as a place and time within which escape from the confines of the daytime is possible. More specifically, it is a state of being.
There is a long history of nightwalking, often integral to shady worlds of miscreants, shift workers and transgressors. Yet the night offers much to be enjoyed beyond vice. Night by definition contrasts day, summoning notions of darkness and fear. But another night exists out there.
Liberation and exhilaration in the urban landscape is increasingly rare when so much of our attention and actions are controlled. Rather than consider darkness as negative, opposed to illumination and enlightenment, this book explores the rich potential of the dark for our senses. The question may no longer be about what spaces we wish to engage with but when we do?
REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
A brilliant book. Dark Matters is an adventure into the heart of the city at night – the time when the true nature of the beast reveals itself. ~ John Robb, Louder Than War
A must read for anyone who's starting with hauntology, dérive or urbanism in general. It's short, urgent and written with poetic sensibility. ~ Nicolas Diaz, NetGalley
Dunn trained as an architect and this is a crucial part of what is at play here: Out in the dark, walking himself to sleep – he hopes – the architect coincidentally has the buildings removed for him by the lack of light, and then delivered again anew, in flashes. Here, sleepless, the city becomes something else. Another nocturnal Manchester urbanaut, Mark E. Smith, wrote of ‘entrances uncovered’ and ‘street signs you never saw’, all ‘courtesy of winter.’ There is nothing gothic about this book, despite its dark title and cover. In some ways, night time does exactly what snow does to the urban landscape. It makes it strange, it makes you see anew.
Whiteout or blackout, the space is transformed, momentarily, and this impermanence of states is important to its power to ‘other’ your view of it. If it were always daytime there would be no other side to cast this transformed view against. The title implies the night as another dimension, ‘dark matter’ as the invisible glue of the social. But that is not all this book does. It ‘makes manifest’ the urban night by shuttling between theory and description.
So much leftist writing hides what it really thinks in abstraction, or older, tried and tested rhetorics. This book does not make any wincingly worthy cultural capital out of hauntology, the problem seems to be, actually – and chillingly – that in the night city there are no ghosts left and the few that remain are becoming even more fugitive: ‘Far better to embrace the world and its contradictions, difficulties, untidiness and dirtiness, physical and psychic, than to summon long-vanished ghosts.’
The equally chilling thesis is that the only way to escape from the ‘intoxicating pathologies’ of the city, is to vanish into ‘night practices beyond consumption’, to an edge zone almost completely drained of light, in order to ‘be’. But this is the manifesto, that in nightwalking the city we might find the black mirror of the everyday, which might teach us more about that everyday than we could have imagined before going out there. ‘Urban areas are pathological’, the ‘nocturnal dowser can summon these neuroses…’
This book is useful, it is both open and closed. Closed in that its form as a manifesto really puts its cards on tables. Open in that it advises particular spatial practices in the interests of seeing anew. Open in that it encourages others to develop that way of working further.
Now it’s over to you, on the night shift. ~ Steve Hanson, Manchester Review of Books