Friday, April 17, 2015

Rediscover the city

Flâneurs don’t have any practical goals in mind, aren’t walking to get something, or to go somewhere. What flâneurs are doing is looking. Opening their eyes and ears to the scene around them, wondering about the lives of those they pass, constructing narratives about the houses, eavesdropping on conversations, studying how people dress and street life in general. Flâneurs relish what they discern and discover.’ - Alan Fletcher 

Fletcher describes the phenomenon of the flâneur and Charles Baudelaire also wrote about the city wanderer. Many writers and artists where fascinated by the effects of the city on its inhabitants and how the people use the spaces. But what about us as the viewers of the twenty-first century? Are we still into the city?

Mostly the people move through the city from A to B in order to achieve a specific goal. The way they move through the city becomes a routine. They have become familiar with the space, they don't notice anything new. 
There are different functions on the site and the different functions are used by different people:
The people they don’t see, the people that use the other functions, because of the time difference.
People of the modern society don’t pay attention to their surrounding and therefore it would be interesting to investigate the definition of the modern flâneur.

The aim of the research is to rediscover the city through photography. The local people that are familiar with the space, should perceive the city in a new way.
The images should show unseen or unnoticed physical features of the specific space.
It should also show how the spaces are used by different people over time, it will unite people that usually wouldn't meet due to the difference in time. In this way the viewer of these images will travel in time with the people in the images. 

The J. Paul Getty Museum explains that William Eggleston’s work ’monumentalize everyday subjects, everything is equally important; every detail deserves attention.’ His colour film photographs capture ’democratically’ unspectacular events of our everyday life. In his book ’Los Alamos’ Eggleston suggests through the arrangement of different images stories behind the images.

The project focuses on Findlater Place, a cleft place in Dublin 1, dividing different functions from each other. It can be seen as a transition space to other places.
The space is used in different ways because of different functions: Bord Pleannala is next to the Best Western Academy Plaza Hotel and DIT, College of Catering faces the St. Thomas Church.
All these diverse functions attract different people and draw them in.

The first idea was to stitch different focused images together as a collage to suggest a story. David Hockney, a well-known photographer, plays with perspective and details through overlaying images together. Nevertheless the assembled image appears too flat and looses its initial focus. Every image tells its own story and should take its own position.

Hence the new and final idea is to link images together and would be gathered in a book.
By combining one image on either side; a story is suggested. New ways of perceiving the space and events within a space should encourage the viewer to rediscover the familiar surrounding. Constructing narratives and lives beyond images are the main interests for our investigation. The city is more than a transition space.

Lucy Buratto, Arwin Hidding, Christina Kerr, Asal Mohtashami

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Portraiture photography of Dublin’s occupants

Beginning in 1930’s, a modest tailor tried his luck at street photography on Dublin’s main thoroughfare O’Connell Street and O’Connell’s Bridge providing the service of capturing special moments on camera for the masses. He did this all year round for 50 years and to the people of Dublin became known simply as the man on the bridge. 

Exploring the concept of photography as means to survey architecture within the city, our proposal has been derived from idea of using portraiture photography of Dublin’s occupants as a means of surveying the city at present. Arthur Fields, the man on the bridge, little to his knowledge was cataloguing with his photographs the people of Dublin spanning 50 years, individually these photographs were precious family objects but collectively the are a unique and comprehensive record of the people of Dublin City. We are using a large format home built camera which is rudimentary in its design and mechanics. It is simply light sealed box with a hole to place a lens and hole to act as a viewfinder. The lens we are using is a 610mm Bausch & Lomb Optical Aerial Reconnaissance lens from a WWII aircraft and exposing onto Ilford 8 x 10 photography paper. The photographic process itself takes roughly 5 minutes and presents challenges given that once the subject is in focus, they must remain completely still while the paper loaded and the exposed. We have conducted trial photographs in afternoon light on a clear day and estimated that the exposure time has to be between 30 – 35 se­conds.­

The site we have chosen to take the photographs is the General Post Office in the heart of Dublin city. This site offers us not only shelter if needed through the portico but also an historic and thought provoking setting. We aim to set the camera up between the two central columns. Before photographing someone we will ask a few simple questions such as “whats your name?” “Where are you from?” Etc. Just prior to the person sitting for the photograph we will ask a question such as “ Whats your earliest memory of this place?”. The person will then be asked to contemplate their answer for the duration of the cameras exposure. The answer will then be recorded for accurate transcription in the exhibition. Each participant will also receive a copy of their photograph by email and be invited to view the exhibition once open.

The primary element of our exhibition will be 9 photographs simply framed with a quote from the participant underneath. This quote will be taken from the question “ Whats your earliest memory of this place?”. The photographs will be­ chosen based on the quality of the image but also on the interaction which we had with the person and what we feel will contribute most to the exhibition as a whole. As well as the framed photographs we will also create a book with the entire collection of photographs and quotes as well as a documentation of the process which can be looked through in the exhibition but will also be put online. We also aim to exhibit the physical camera to properly tell the process of the image making.

Cianan Crowley, Adrian Cullen,  Hélène Guillemot

Test 1 - Portrait of Hélène Guillemot

Test 2 - Portrait of Adrian Cullen
Test 3 - Portrait of Cianan Crowley