Thursday, April 16, 2015

A View of the City

 “When I lived in the suburbs of the city, I used to walk a lot, I found it cathartic, walking through streets upon streets of rowed houses allows you to understand the area in which you live” [1]

Nick Papadimitriou

Memorial Inscription to underside of Fusilier's Arch, St. Stephens green

Grafton street is a primary thoroughfare through the city, it is a street which the visual urbanist would call an embodied local route, by which I mean, the people who use this route have a cognizant sense of place and embeddedness of identity through the transition from Trinity College to St. Stephens green. As noted by John Berger in his 1972 BBC series, Ways of Seeinga large part of seeing depends on habit and convention [2]. The route becomes a remembered ‘street’ whereby the user has an ‘a priori’ visual image of the street in their mind. This visual image may have been subconsciously developed and over time allows itself to become numb to its surroundings. Guy Debord and the Situationalist international influenced by post modernism theorised that modem cities are constructed around commercial imperatives, suitably described by Belgian philosopher Raoul Vaneigem, another principal theoretician of the Situationist movement [3];

 “Work to survive, survive by consuming, survive to consume; the hellish cycle is complete.”

... a sentiment which has become diluted to – Work , Consume, die. In many respects it has a lot of truth for Dublin city centre, we have areas which focus short linear narratives of; work, shop, entertain, home. Therefore we never really see the city as a whole anymore, we don’t exist in the city as it was truly planned out to be. To counter this theory, Debord and his group of friends would drink wine and then acting as flâneurs, create a dérive through the city, from north to south with no real objective, thereby disassembling the edifice of the capitalist society. Walking is unique in the modern fast paced world, it is one of the few times where you have the possibility to have a continuous narrated linear journey in real time, allowing oneself to gain hidden knowledge of the city thus giving it a sense of depth and dimension [4]. In many ways it is the antithesis to other visual mediums, modern motion pictures with regard to representation of an urban setting for instance, are jump cut, with a non-linear narrative. The space and time are meaningless, with little to no regard for true narrative lineage. The act of planning a perfect real time filmed archive of the city street is almost impossible, as the city will always contain its own unplanned intervention [5]. Whether it be someone walking into shot, a car moving across the frame or construction works screening of a usually interesting route.
The visual archive of the city is important as it captures moments of urban and social encounters. This exposure to city life is essential to the understanding of visual urbanism. To revisit places and spaces, to instigate the activation of memories after long periods of absence is vitally important to the nature of the derive. In describing a place, transition or ritual it allows one to retrieve memories which have been physically left there, as if it were a tangible object as opposed to its true nature, which is a chemically encoded process [6]. Carl Jung theorised that we may have access to a universal consciousness, that relates to time and space [7]. The scrapes on the granite slabs which pave the street, the heavy weathering of the stone walls and bricks above the shop-fronts, these are aesthetic nostalgia, all of which are spaces, places and moments left behind by the passage of history. They allow us to access memories of a place in time, even if we are fully disconnected from them. By removing the modern shop-fronts of Grafton street from the field of view, and looking up at the mostly historic fabric of the street, can we then reinterpret the act of the visual archive. As this can no longer be placed to a time scale if the buildings have remained unchanged. Time and space in this sense are extremely complex fixed mathematically sciences set firmly within the ‘real’ world. T.S Elliot describes his understanding of ‘real’ time in his work 'Four Quarters - Burnt Norton (1935)' as “...time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future and time future contained in time past.” [8]. Which can be understood as the past no longer exists in any physical sense, but is manifested through the metaphysical. We require the works of writers, painters , poets and visual artists to interpret and represent the city ‘of the time’. The concept of our project is the viewing of the quotidian using an uncommon view. To make a visual experience which will allow one to understand the space through an embodied experience which engages with routes and transitions to allow us to represent the primary location for urban encounters, the street. In Kevin Lynch’s ‘The Image of the City’ he says that visual representation should act as a form of engagement with the urban setting, by using the mental image of the walk as an event. In doing this we can engage with the urban sensorium, a multi layered, multi sensory experience which weaves geography, psychology and autobiography together to produce a phenomenological fabric of the city [9]. The rational and outcome of this visual representation of Grafton street should be to encourage a dialogue on the topic of visual urbanism, of the image as evidence and the image as archive. It should question the role of location, politics and ethics along these routes of urban encounters.
Transforming the View of Grafton Street

Using a bike as a filming device for smooth video, a goPro camera will be mounted looking in two different directions. The first view will be mounted to the back of the bicycle at saddle height and looking up. The second view will look to the ground from a height. The go pro will be mounted to a telescopic pole at a height decided on site. The route for filming will begin at St. Stephens Green, attempting to film centrally through Grafton Street and ending just after crossing Suffolk Street.

To exhibit our work we will use two projectors mounted on the bicycle/ bicycles used for filming.  A white screen may be mounted to project on to, or the white walls of our exhibition site used. The projectors will show the video in an unfamiliar way, projecting the videos on the vertical plane as opposed to the horizontal plane they were filmed on. 

Work method

Aitana Perez, Kevin O'Brien, Cormac Friel


[1] - Papadimitriou, Nick - excerpt on walking from “The London Perambulator” - 2009 - Film
[2] - Berger, John - excerpt from BBC series ‘Ways of Seeing’ - 1972 - Television series
[3] - Debord , Guy - Internationale Situationniste #2 (December 1958)
[4] - Papadimitriou, Nick - excerpt on walking from “The London Perambulator” - 2009 - Film
[5] - Halliday, Paul - excerpt from TATE modern ‘Urban Encounters - Routes and transitions - 2013 - Annual Conference
[6] - Till,Jeremy - Thick time , Collected Writings , 1999
[7] - Jung, Carl - “La Structure de l’inconscient” in Archives de Psychologie XVI - 1916
[8] - Elliot, T.S - Four Quartets, Burnt Norton - 1935

[9] - Lynch, Kevin - The Image of the City – 1960