general orders no. 9

General Orders No. 9 is a fascinating art film that I find to be a stirring lamentation for a forgotten relationship of man and land in the State of Georgia. While the title (the order from General Lee to his soldiers to surrender) suggests an attachment to the erroneous  and offensive Lost Cause mythology, the film is more of a struggle with the change of relationship to the physical than an ode to the troubling human history of the land. I highly recommend the film, which juxtaposes vivid imagery with chilling poetry. I’ve attached some of my favorite quotes below.

The film is really a georgic elegy; a subtle diatribe against the urbanization of a once pristine and beautiful land. It begins as the slow settlement of the land, without judgment. But when the land is thoroughly urbanized, there is a sense of disconnect and isolation. The thing is one has to contextualize this much more for the State of Georgia and its largest city of Atlanta. This city is a prime example of the post modern decentralized and highway dependent metropolis. Its sprawl eats away at the land while the Interstate severs the land into parts. Perhaps we should view this anti urbanism as much more nuanced. Also, one of the quotes very much reminds me of Robert Venturi’s duck vs. shed and Simulation and Simulacra. The quote is something to the tune of why we prefer the sign of the thing to the thing itself. Let yourself decide how this is related to urbanism and land use.


“A forest season/A boundless palace,/From a wilderness to a state,/From unknown lands to chartered streets,/Deer trail becomes Indian trail becomes county road”

“From East to West, Indian land became English land,/And English land became American.”

“The county is a pattern./Medieval. Orbital. Ezekiel./A pattern of land, roads and people.”

“We are lost without a map, but well misplaced./Bring us doubt upon doubt,/Bless us and break us/With mystery upon mystery.”

“The interstate doesn’t serve; it possesses/It has the power to make the land invisible to our attention,/ The interstate made the city possible.” 

“Here, there is a sense of order,/From above and below,/From within and without./Not one brick out of true.”

“There are no words to describe the city./No words to describe its weight against you.”

“In the city, my heart was made desolate/ when I looked into the face of the sign.”

“One can look for some evidence of communion,/Some sign of belonging,/The relation of one’s part to the city’s whole,/But the answer to your question is no.”

“The city is not a place. It’s a thing./It has none of the marks of a place/,but all those of a machine.”

“Why is the sign of the thing preferred/ to the thing itself?”

“The county is at the center of the state./The town is at the center of the county./The courthouse is at the center of the town./The weathervane is the center of it all.”