Thursday, July 08, 2004

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.