An excerpt of a text written in 2015 for the MRes in Social Anthropology supervised by Tim Ingold. Published for students in the University of Alicante.

San Juan Playa Urbanismo

With its 6 km. of fine sand San Juan Beach is used the whole year to walk and run with the sea by your side. In winter Sundays, when there’s not so many people on the same shore because of lower temperatures, is quite a pleasure to walk barefoot on the sand. Luckily, low waves will have deposited new sand that is not still compacted and your feet will gently dip in the springy sand in every step, leaving behind a perfect trace of your pace. In fact this is a recommended exercise for recovering from a twisted ankle as you can tune up each step correctly. But this won’t happen all along the beach, most parts will be compacted making every step an impact felt on your knees, also there are normally parts of it with a steep slope that make it uncomfortable to walk more than 300 m. Then, there’s the option of going inside the water, which is nice and refreshing for a while before freezing your feet, or climbing up the slope and walking on the drier loose sand with grains scraping in between your fingers and making every step seem a step back.

This zig-zagging search for the perfect step course has to be changed permanently as new landforms appear in the beach. One of them is a surprising delight: the traces of the tires of the beach cleaning bulldozer. At sight and if thought about, it seems a bit disgusting, as walking barefoot into a heavy traffic road. But if done without noticing it feels as comfortable as the best springy sections. It carries along all the beach allowing you to forget the searching for a while but leading you through interesting detours. Then it becomes a game, following the pronounced traces you feel like you’re trampling the tires themselves and though the sand is clean it still makes you uneasy.

San Juan Playa Urbanismo

Next week after your experience with the bulldozer tires’ traces you find yourself again coming back and forth the several parallel lines while you, without even realizing, play to adapting your pace sometimes to the smooth sand dunes, other to human traces but also to the pattern of the tires. Feeling how they start to disappear under the sole of your bare feet, you realize you even like them and the following week you may even search for them in the first place when you start your walk along the beach cheering up when you see the bulldozer making its last pass.

You have started a relation with the bulldozer through the traces of its tires.

Now, let’s look again to the aerial pictures.

Could not the asphalt roads be also thought as a relation between people, cars and land? As the plough had done during many many years before it, cars started to pass and grow together with the asphalt below their tyres. In the same sense, pools, just as the almond trees that we see in the oldest photograph grew roots, have also grown the underground pipes that will bring water to them. In the meantime,  the car driver and the pool diver have also grown in this environment. These two characters didn’t exist in the 50s.

This is the argument that Keller Easterling makes when studying the “interstices of the network” of global infrastructures. Following the development of the companies and “families” that build and inhabit what she calls the “extrastate” (Easterling 2014), we can see how, for example, the companies that are competing to bring bandwidth access in East Africa grow and evolve in time while they are laying the cable itself (Easterling 2009). Just as Sergio Leone showed us in Once upon a time on the west: the building of the railway infrastructure gathers together and along its line of growth all types of people, animals, resources and materials. It is nor an immaterial line drawn on the void neither immediate deployment on the ground’s surface. Infrastructures, for being material relations not predefined objects or abstract plans, take time to make them and, while we grow them, they grow us to different beings. Or as Ingold would say, following Ortega and Llull we are together and all the time becoming a something else (Ingold 2015, 117)

 

  • Easterling, K., 2014. ‘Zone: The Spatial Softwares of Extrastatecraft’. Places Journal.
  • Easterling, K., 2009. ‘Cable’ in: Turan, N., Ramos, S. (Eds.), New geographies. 1, After
    zero. Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Ingold, T., 2015. Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture. Abingdon:
    Routledge.

Aerial and Satellite images from the Area known as Altea Hills in the Province of
Alicante. 1956, 1989, 2000, 2012. Source: http://terrasit.gva.es/ . The other images are mine.

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