The traveller's gaze
Marc Auge declares that the Internet, or at least the cables that carry it*, is a non-place. The relationships between space and place and non-place are intertwined with language and narrative and personal experience.
The street is "geometrically defined as a place by town planners" but becomes a space through usage and presence of life. Auge goes on to refer to Merleau-Ponty's writing in 'Phenomenologie de la Perception’:
"... a distinction between 'geometric space' and 'anthropological space' in the sense of 'existential' space, the scene of an experience of relations with the world on the part of being essentially situated 'in relation to a milieu'." p.80 ‘Non-Places, introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity’
This brings me to many of the questions that have been raised through the practical implementation of Left within the two very distinct milieu of Leeds and Kellerberrin. How does one associate oneself to an area when you are situating yourself outside of it? By this I am talking about the conscious and sub-conscious romaniticism of what is being seen and a desire to place that within a context and milieu that is unknown to us first hand. By defracting the physical experience of walking in a specific place, through the non-place of digital communications and instantaneous photography, we are turning these ‘spaces’ in to ‘non-places’ for another to experience and be familiar with. It is like the traveller that Auge describes, where he garners “a series of snapshots piled hurriedly into his memory and, literally, recomposed in the account he gives of them…Travel constructs a fictional relationship between gaze and landscape…The traveller’s space must then be the archetype of non-place.” P.86 ‘Non-Places, introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity’
For me Left has become not a physical experience of Leeds, although I have become more aware of a couple of geographical areas of the city, but an experience of being a spectator and a reporter, a provider of the means for others to gaze upon what I am recording. I feel like I have built a false narrative which allows me to fictionalise a truth which can be understood within the viewers own individual context and milieu.
* perhaps an idea which could be picked apart or questioned as we move in to the wireless age. Yesterday it was announced that 9 GNER trains would be getting wi-fi to allow passengers to surf the net whilst travelling at speeds of 125 miles per hour. Here the cables have become mobile and the non-place of the train is just one layer of non-places that are infiltrating and sieving the passengers gaze.
Day 4 : Leeds, wandering
As the pain wearies me, I become increasingly aware of my physicality within the city, so my walk was today was about me, about how I fit in to the city. I took a random route and stopped off to look in shops, to go for lunch, to talk to friends. I went about looking to collaborate with the city, wihtin the reflections and its people. Using purely quicktime movies to document I was able to drift within my own narrative, the discourse entirely selfish.
musings on an umbrella....
The weather doesn't know what to do with itself. I am walking to the gallery and one minute I am sweating and fishing out my sunglasses, the next huddled under my umbrella as the rain thrashes down as I walk the deserted campus. The umbrella has become an icon to my time with this part of Left. Discussing it with people, it is interesting how this iconic yet simple and almost domestic object can actually be quite powerful. There are a number of things which arise when I consider this.
Having a long standing interest in what we wear and how it offers a form of non verbal communication between us and the world around us, I am fascinated by the lack of ingeniuity or concern over the umbrella. There is standard issue black and a few variations in between. People balk at the idea of wearing an uncool rain coat but would often not think twice about what this appendage they are holding might say about them. It has long been an icon of the British gentleman, the sturdy black umbrella with a wooden handle and in times past it was an essential accessory for the woman to have a specific parasol in the sun or rain. Now it seems to be a necessary evil much of the time and I can't understand why you should want to put a black piece of fabric over your head when it rains, surely you would want something to brighten up the otherwise dull day?
When it rains your vision is framed by the umbrella. Should you choose to use one you become instantly restricted in your field of vision and you are also intwined with the elements as you have to fight the wind and rian to hold it steady and keep dry. The city becomes framed by the fabric and your presence within the city defined by it.
This leads on to the point that came up which mosts interests me, the idea of personal space. When one walks in the city there is an undetermined amount of personal space which you are designated by society. This is sometimes disregarded and can cause upset or anger, but it is a highly personal thing and can be different from one person to the next. But when you put up an umbrella this space is instantly defined physically. You suddenly have a set boundary around you and people do not cross this, even when they know you. As the curator at the Met Gallery was saying yesterday, when you stop to talk to someone in the rain they won't come under the umbrella unless asked, it is a visible boundary in the city space.