How to Live Together – Roland Barthes

As I start to research text that looks at the community, I have come across Roland Barthes collection of lectures entitled ‘How to Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of Some Everyday Spaces’ (Barthes, 2012). This text is a look at “idiorrhythmy” which is primarily a system of community related to how many religious groups co-exist, such as monasteries. When related to the broader community, it is how we as individuals, and our individual rhythm can live with others whilst respecting their individual rhythm withing the same spaces.

It would be good to consider those within certain communities that have been excluded. This according to Barthes as ‘Perhaps there is no such thing as a community without an integrated reject’ Roland Barthes discusses that any community that exists to include some, also excludes some as well, with some communities go as far as ‘guarding’ their rejects and preventing them from leaving, presumably so that a comparison to ‘The Other’ can be made of ones situation over another.  (Barthes, 2012, p.101).

Rectangle as the basic shape of power. (Barthes, 2012, p.114)

In nature, the rectangle shape does not exist (With limited exceptions). Barthes creates a view that the spaces that we build for ourselves are a form on control. Control of the environment, in the shaping of it, control by the state are formed of rectangles. The same could be said of photography that creates compositions within the bounds of a rectangle.
This is worth considering when looking at the buildings and architecture of community.

Barthes considers the typology of communities in ‘How to Live Together’ discussing the relationship that we all have with beds, as an example. The bed too, is a rectangle, a system of controlling our sleep. The object itself is a functional item, designed for a purpose, an impersonal object. it’s connotations are also deep in meaning and provide a gamut of meaning, for example in language, we refer to ‘Death Beds,’ ‘Marital Beds,’ and how one could ‘Make your bed, and the sleep in it.’ (Barthes, 2012, p. 114). When considering the objects that I will explore in this part of my project, I really need to consider the relationship that these objects and spaces represent.

Linking back to Todd Hido
Figure 1. #2133 by Todd Hido (Hido, 2001).

Reading ‘How to live together’ there is also a nice link back to the work of Todd Hido that I was reading. Barthes considers the night time and the need to be around other people. (Barthes, 2012, p. 129) Living in any community means that this is unavoidable, except at night. Living together is a way of avoiding the loneliness of the night time. Todd Hido’s work is primarily shot at night and leaves a sense of separateness and loneliness. His image of the two windows with television light illuminating them (Fig. 1) suggests that these are at least two people ‘living together’ but choosing to spend time apart (Hido, 2014).

Also very much related to the work of Hido is the idea of ‘space.’ Barthes notes that the ultimate possession that we have is space. Distance is valuable. Sometimes however, it is not a literal distance that is being referred to. This could be a distance between socio-economic groups, it could also be through how you define and be yourself, in what Barthes calls the “pathos of distance.” (Barthes, 2012, p. 132).

Bibliography

Barthes, R., 2012. How to Live Together: Novelistic Simulations of Some Everyday Spaces. Translation Edition ed. New York: Columbia University Press.

Hido, T., 2001. #2133. [Art].

Hido, T., 2014. Todd Hido on Landscapes, Interiors, and the Nude. New York: Aperture.

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